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National Benefits of Hearing the Word.
BESIDES those reasons which have been already noticed, affecting us as individuals, there are other considerations, on the Importance of Hearing the Word, which affect us as members of society. The constant preaching and full reception of the word of God, is one great means of advancing national prosperity.
We will not enter at large into the beneficial influence of Christianity on the temporal happiness of man. It has already been sufficiently shewn* how prejudicial has been the tendency of Paganism in all domestic relations, and in civil and social life: and that the improvement made since the introduction of Christianity can only be attributed to the Gospel. Nor will we dwell on the general benefits arising from the pastoral office of faithful ministers in their respective parishes through a country. Their residence, their personal intercourse, their domestic and ministerial visits both among rich and poor; their principles, and conversation, and labours, have an immense local influence of the most beneficial kind. We would chiefly confine our remarks in this chapter to national advantages connected with that
*See Bishop Porteus' Beneficial Effects of Christianity on the Temporal Concerns of Mankind, proved from History and from Facts.
scriptural preaching and faithful hearing, which will ever be found to be the most lively, powerful, and effective means of imparting and maintaining genuine Christianity, with all its blessings. We say scriptural preaching, because human devices, mere controversy, novelties of pretended philosophy, cold statements of truth, superstition, or enthusiasm, have no efficacy to do good. Only the doctrine of a crucified Saviour, with all its connections and lessons, delivered in simple dependance on the grace of the Holy Ghost, is the wisdom of God, and the power of God.
The preaching of the word BRINGS DIVINE TRUTH PROMINENTLY BEFORE ALL RANKS AND ALL CLASSES. Its very nature is, that it must be done in public, and must therefore be known. It is like lifting up a standard which all may see, or sounding a trumpet which all must hear. Persons may, or may not, read books; may, or may not, meditate on what they read ; may, or may not, hear private religious conversations : but where large towns are filled with places of worship, and every village has its church, they must know that there is a public declaration of religious truth. The attendance of their neighbours is calculated to rouse them to attend, or at least to bring the subject before their minds. This prominent and aggressive character of public preaching is especially valuable, as men are naturally disposed to put off and lay aside all religious consideration.
MINISTERS, in the discharge of their office, HAVE FULLY TO STATE RELATIVE AND SOCIAL DUTIES, and are able to inforce them WITH OBLIGATIONS OPERATING IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, AND WHERE HUMAN MOTIVES CANNOT REACH. Without entering at large into the minute details which the Holy
Scriptures give of all the relative duties of Kings, Magistrates, Judges, and Subjects; of Parents and Children; of the married state; of Masters and Servants; nothing can be more clear than that those principles and that conduct which is eminently calculated to promote integrity, humanity, harmony, mutual benevolence, active diligence in every station, and the universal good of the whole state, are in that holy book every where inculcated. If the spirit of the Christian Religion animated any nation, the people would be united, the rulers righteous, and the kingdom prosperous, peaceful, and blessed in the highest degree.
Look at its efficacy with regard to Rulers, and all having power over others. Christianity turns them from ambition, and lust of dominion, and desire of mere human glory. It rectifies the great principles which direct and regulate their conduct, and puts them under an authority which no merely human constitution can impart, even that of an Almighty King, God over all, shewing that all power is received from him, is held under him, and must be accounted for to him. It brings them under the influence of those high and holy principles which tend to make men just and peaceful, righteous and merciful, restrainers of every evil, and promoters of every good; and thus puts all the weight of power, rank and elevation, on the side of the real welfare of the state.*
* Augustine, in his Treatise on the City of God, (Book 5, chap 24.) shews, in his account of the truly happy Emperor, what is the real happiness of those in authority, which he afterwards illustrates by the examples of Constantine, Theodosius, and other Christian Emperors; he says, "We Christians do not say that Christian Emperors are happy because they have a long reign; or die leaving their sons in quiet possession of their empires, or have been ever victorious, or powerful, against all
And with regard to Subjects, the Scriptures place loyalty and obedience to rulers on a ground far higher than mere human legislation; they shew that the powers that are among men are ordained of God, and make obedience to human authority a part of the will of God. Thus submission, and honour, and tribute, are to be rendered not from fear, but for conscience; as a divine obligation; as a part of the law of God.
Let seriptural truth then prevail, and it is impossible that either tyranny or treason, oppression or insubordination, can extensively prevail. In fact, as nations consist of individuals, families, and neighbours, that
their opposers. These are but gifts and solaces of this laborious joyless life. Idolaters, and such as belong not to God, may enjoy them because God in his mercy will not have those that know him to believe that such things are the best goods he gives. But happy they are, say we, if they reign justly, free from being puffed up with the exaltations of their attendants, or the cringing of their subjects, if they know and remember themselves to be but men. If they make their power a means to promote the true adoration of God's majesty; if they love, fear, and honour him; if they long most for that empire where they need not fear to have partners; if they be slack to revenge, quick to forgive; if they use correction for the public good, and not for private hate; if their pardons promise not liberty of offending, but, indeed, only hope of reformation; if they counterpoise their enforced acts of severity, with the like weight of bounty and clemency; if their lusts be the less, because they have the larger licence; if they desire to rule their own, rather than others' estates; and if they do all things, not for glory, but for charity, and, with all, and before all, give God the due sacrifice of prayer for their imperfections: such Christian Emperors we call happy; here in hope, and hereafter, when what we look for comes indeed."
The Reformer Bullinger takes a similar view, in an address to Edward VI. prefixed to the second volume of his Decades, bidding him hold it for a most undoubted truth, that true prosperity was to be procured by him no other way than by submitting himself and his whole kingdom to Christ, the highest Prince, and by framing all matters of religion and justice throughout his dominions according to the rule of God's word. The whole of the address (published in 1550) is a striking display of true Christian politics.
which eminently promotes the happiness and prosperity of the lesser circles, at the same time advances the general welfare of the whole country. As the parlour is, so will be the family, the social circle, the neighbourhood, the province, and the Country; it is the circle nearest to the centre, which propels each concentric circle to the utmost border of the lake; let family religion flourish, and the country must flourish; let social and relative duties be discharged, and national righteousness will elevate and bless the whole empire: and nothing but the divine authority of God's word has majesty, and power, and efficacy to accomplish these results. Those individuals who are most constant and regular in their attendance on the ministry of the word, are those who are most diligent as rulers, most loyal as subjects, most honest as tradesmen, most faithful as husbands and wives, most liberal as men of benevolence, and most active in every good work, as well as most backward to every evil work.
The preaching of the word has A
POWER OVER ALL THOSE EVILS INTO WHICH NATION MAY HAVE SUNK.* I'S A NATION SUNK
Bishop Middleton, in a Sermon preached at Calcutta, în 1820, powerfully urges this principle. He says, "What is the difference between the state of the world at present, and as it existed two thousand years ago? It is the difference which has been made by the preaching of the Gospel. If any doubt this assertion, let him turn his eyes to the condition of those regions on which the Sun of righteousness has not yet risen. Some profess to expect all improvement from a natural expansion of the human powers: but is it not constantly affirmed and believed that the state of this country is precisely such as it was in the days of Alexander? unless indeed there be reason to suspect that it is somewhat deteriorated. On the other hand, do we not know that the highest degree of knowledge and holiness, of civil lfberty and of social happiness, do actually exist, where at that period a state of things prevailed, as bad perhaps in all