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The CHARGE of SEDITION and FACTION against good MEN, especially faithful MINISTERS, Confidered and accounted for.
Preached in the Abbey Church of Paisley, on Thursday, September 7th, 1758, at the Ordination of Mr. ARCHIBALD DAVIDSON, as one of the Minifters of that Church. To which is fubjoined, the charge to the Minister, and the Exhortation to the People. Publifhed at the defire of thofe who heard it.
These that have turned the world upside down are come hither
YOU have had, of late, frequent opportunities of hearing difcourfes on the ministerial character and office. Thefe fubjects, indeed, have, on occafions of this and a fimilar nature, been fo often and fo well handled, that it is hard to fay any thing on them, which fhall not be either bare repetition, or an alteration very much for the worse. I have therefore made choice at this time of a fubject fomewhat different, but the usefulness of which, both to ministers and people may be easily discerned.
A great part of the facred volume confifts of hiftory. And, as the knowledge of past events, and the hiftory of mankind in general, is an improving ftudy; fo there is
no object of study more pleafant or more profitable, than that extenfive view of the great plan of Providence which is exhibited to us in the word of God. There we have accefs to obferve the power, the wifdom, and the grace of the various revelations of the divine will, given in fucceffive ages, their correfpondence one to another, and how well each is fuited to the feafon, and other circumftances of its discovery. Above all, it is useful and delightful to obferve, the perfect union and harmony of the whole, and the several striking and diftinguishing characters that are to be found on all the works of the one, eternal and unchangeable God.
This uniformity is in nothing more remarkable, than in the fufferings of good men, and their caufes. True religion being the fame in fubftance in every age, we may expect to find a very ftrong likeness in all the real fervants of God, however diftant the periods in which they make their appearance. A conformity of flate also may be expected, as well as a fimilarity of character. They have the fame end in view, they tread in the fame path, and therefore must meet with refiftance from the fame enemies. There was from the beginning, and there will be to the end of the world, a ftrife and conflict between the righteous and the wicked, between "the feed of the "woman, and the feed of the ferpent." And, in particular, it is natural to suppose, that flander and calumny will be always one of the weapons used by the enemies of the truth. We have no reason then to be furprised, that every good man fhould have occafion to fay with the Pfalm. ift David, and with a greater than he, the Son of David, "They laid to my charge things that I knew not."
This was the cafe with the apoftle Paul and his companion, in the passage of hiftory of which my text is a part. But the nature of the accufation here brought against them feems to be fingular, and to merit particular attention. They were the fervants and the minifters of the Prince of peace. Their office was to preach and publifh the gofpel of peace. Their doctrine was full of meeknefs and love. They difcovered the love of God to men; and, after the example of their mafter, they charged men to
love one another. They were mean in their outward appearance, and neither poffeffed, nor claimed any earthly dominion. In one word, they had nothing about them that one would think could give jealoufy to the civil power, that could feem formidable or dangerous to any character or clafs of men. Yet here they are charged as feditious, as disturbers to the public peace, as enemies to the government. "Thefe that have turned the world upfide
down are come hither alfo.-Thefe all do contrary to the "decrees of Cæfar, faying, That there is another king, ઠંડ one Jefus." What fort of an accufation is this? not only falfe but improbable. Does not the arch-enemy, the accufer of the brethren, feem to have failed in his usual fkill? Is there the leaft profpect of fuccefs in fo groundless a charge?
But what fhall we fay, if, upon an accurate examination it be found, that the fame charge hath been brought against the fervants of God in every age? That none hath been advanced with greater boldnefs, and none with greater fuccefs? Nay, perhaps, that it is the fingle ftanding charge, from which their enemies have never departed fince the beginning of the world, and which, of all others, hath been most readily and most universally believed. In other inftances, the reproaches thrown upon the children of God have been oppofite, and mutually deftructive of each other. Chrift himself, when his zeal in his Father's business made him forget to eat bread, was faid to be befide himfelf, and mad. At other times he was called a cunning deceiver and mafter of the curious arts. But in this, his enemies, and those of his people, have never varied. And their fuccefs has been equal to their malice. They crucified him as an enemy to Cæfar, with the title of ufurpation written over him; and they have compelled all his difciples after him, to bear his crofs, and to groan under the weight of the fame unjuft and flanderous charge.
There are few fubjects more worthy of the ferious attention of those who firmly believe the word of God. None which will afford greater occafion to adore the mysterious depth of divine Providence, or furnish more instructive leffons to fuch as defire to hold on with fteadinefs in the
paths of true religion. Above all, this fubject may be useful to minifters of the gospel. It will contribute to af certain the character which they ought to bear; to direct them in their duty; to prepare them for, and fortify them against the trials which it is impoffible they can avoid.
In difcourfing further upon this fubject it is propofed, through the affiftance of divine grace,
I. By a fhort hiftorical deduction, chiefly from the holy Scriptures, to fhew, That the character of feditious, troublefome, and diforderly, hath been conftantly given by wicked men to the fervants of God.
II. To enquire, and endeavor to point out, what it is in true religion that gives occafion to this charge, and makes the world prone to believe it.
In the laft place, To make fome practical improvement of what may be faid.
I return to the firft of thefe, viz.
I. By a fhort hiftorical deduction, to fhew, That the character of feditious, troublefome, and diforderly, hath been conftantly given by wicked men to the fervants of God. It would not be difficult to point out fomething of this fpirit prevailing in the world, from the life of almoft every good man, whofe name ftands upon record, how. ever fhort and general the account be, that is given of many of them in Scripture. But, as much of what might properly enough fall under this head, will be necessary in the illuftration of the fecond; to prevent confufion and repetition, I fhall content myself with fome leading in. flances, in very different ages, from the earlieft to the latest times.
The first I fhall mention is, a paffage as extraordinary in its nature, and as fingular in its circumftances, as any that hiflory affords. It is the meeting of Ahab and Elijah, in the time of a great famine in the land of Ifrael. Ahab, that profane prince, had by his apoftacy and idolatry, brought down the judgment of a righteous God, both on
his kingdom and on his houfe. We are told, "That he "did more to provoke the Lord God of Ifrael to anger, "than all the kings of Ifrael that were before him."a He had perfecuted the worshippers of the true God with unrelenting violence; and, as it was natural to expect, he hated with uncommon rancor, and diftinguished by uncommon severity, all the prophets who continued ftedfaft in the cause of truth. As many of them as he could lay hold of, he had put to death. He had hunted for Elijah, not only through all the kingdom of Ifrael, but through the neighboring nations, as we find related by Obadiah his principal fervant, "As the Lord thy God “liveth, there is no nation or kingdom whither my lord "hath not fent to feek thee: and when they said, He "is not there he took an oath of the kingdom and na"tion that they found thee not."b After all this feverity on his part, when Elijah, by the command of God went out to meet him, fee the form of his falutation; "And "it came to pafs, when Ahab faw Elijah, that Ahab faid. "unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Ifrael?"c To this the prophet makes the following strong and just reply, "I have not troubled Ifrael; but thou and thy father's houfe, have troubled Ifrael, in that thou haft forfaken the "commandments of the Lord; and thou haft followed "Baalim."
Another inftance fimilar to the former may be found in Jehoshaphat and Ahab's confultation before going out to battle." And Jehoshaphat faid, Is there not here a pro"phet of the Lord befides, that we may enquire of him? "And the king of Ifrael faid unto Jehoshaphat, There is "yet one man (Micaiah the fon of Imlah) by whom we
may enquire of the Lord; but I hate him, for he doth "not prophefy good concerning me, but evil."d Here, you fee, Micaiah was the object of hatred and averfion, because he denounced the judgment of God against the king's wickedness. That vengeance which he himself not only merited, but folicited by his crimes, was attribųted to malice in the prophet.
1 Kings xvi. 33.
61 Kings xviii. 10. d1 Kings xxii. 7, 8.
e Ibid. ver. 17.