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When we consider attentively the institution of Moses, we perceive that it comprehends every thing necessary for form. ing a civil establishment; not only precepts regarding the dis, position and morals of the people, and the publick and private offices of religion, but also laws of jurisprudence ; such as regulate the formalities of private contracts, inheritance, succes. sion, and purchases ; such as fix the limits of jurisdiction and subordination of judicatories, appoint the method of procedure in trials, both sivil and criminal, and the punishments to be awarded by the judges to the several crimes. I may add, it comprehends also a sort of law of nations for the use of that people, in adjusting the terms of their intercourse with other states and kingdoms, and prescribing rules to be observed in making and conducting peace and war, entering into publick treaties and the like. In this polity or state, however, we find that what concerns religion forms an essential, or rather the principal part. Every thing in their constitution seems to act in subserviency to this great end, the preservation of the purity of their faith and worship. In this there was a very material difference between them and pagan nations. In these last, the established superstition, in whatever popular traditions, it may have been originally founded, was modelled by the ruling powers in such a manner, as that it might best answer the purpose of an engine of govern ment. The religion of such nations, therefore, can be considered in no other light, than as one of those political machines which in various ways co-operated for the support of the whole. With the Jews, indeed, the case was totally different : for, in their establishment, the religion was manifestly not the means but the end.
God hath been considered as in some respect the chief ma. gistrate or head of that community, and the government for that reason has been not unfitly termed a theocracy. Thus much seems even implied in the words of God to Samuel, when the people became solicitous to have a king. And even when the kingly sway was established among them, the preservation of their religion, and of their code of laws, contained in the Pentateuch, (for they had no other) effectually prevented this change from being a subversion of their polity. The king himself was considered (though in a way somewhat different) as a minister of religion. His office was holy, and he was inaugurated with the like religious ceremony of unction, with which the high-priest was separated for the discharge of the duties of his sacred function; and the king's person, in consequence of this rite, was accounted holy as well as the priests. A strong evidence of the influence of this circum. stance we have in the behaviour of David to king Saul, hisi enemy, who sought his life. David found him asleep and un. attended in the cave of Engeddi ; and when desired by some of his followers to kill him, answered, “ The Lord forbid that " I should do this thing unto my master, the Lord's anointed,
to stretch forth my hand against him, seeing he is the anoint66 ed of the Lord: so David stayed his servants with these 66 words.” Nevertheless the legislative power was not in the monarch. God was the sole legislator; for, as was observed, they had no permanent body of laws other than the books of Moses: besides, on every emergency of importance, the Deity was consulted by Urim and Thummin.
It must be acknowledged, that this original constitution was gradually corrupted by them. Having found means, in prejudice to the divine commandments, to foist in rules and precepts of their own devising, under the specious name of oral traditions, they rendered them equivalent to laws; but still, as appears from the name they gave them, under the pretended sanction of divine authority. Thus their religious and civil rights were so blended, as not to admit a separation : the same judges indiscriminately took cognizance of both. These were the elders of the city in smaller matters, and in the first instance ; and the great sanhedrim, senate, or council of the nation, composed of seventy senators and a president, commonly called the elders of the people, in greater matters, and in the last resort. And in this body there was generally a considerable number, though not any fixed proportior, of priests, levites, and scribes. I mention, in conformity to our modes of thinking, the religious and the civil as different kinds of rights. Their customs and modes of thinking, on the contrary, prevented their making this distinction ; all being alike comprehended in the same code, established by the same authority, and under the jurisdiction of the same magistrates. An attention to this is necessary, in order to make us understand the import of some expressions used in the New Testament. Thus the terms vouexor and rouodidesna101, which our translators render lawyers and doctors of law, are precisely equivalent to what would be termed by us theologists and doctors of divini. ty. Not that the words are mistranslated in our version : it was even proper in this case, by paying a regard to the etymo. logy of the names, in rendering them into English, to suggest to the unlearned reader the coincidence of the two professions, divinity and law, among the Hebrews. With them, therefore, the divine and the jurist, the lawyer and the scribe, were terms which denoted nearly the same character ; inasmuch as they had no other law of nations, or municipal law, but their religion, and no other religion but their law. Of any of the Pagan nations we may say with justice, that their religion was a political religion ; but of the Jews we should say more properly, that their polity was a religious polity. · What may serve to give us an idea of such a constitution is the present state of the Mahometan world. Though Mahometism, in regard to its doctrine and its rites, borrows somewhat both from Judaism and from Christianity, it is, as an establishment, raised more on the Jewish model than on the Christian. With them the Alcoran is the only standing or statute law of the country ; and as it is conceived by them to be of divine authority, and therefore unrepealable, it is both the only rule in all judiciary proceedings, and the only check upon the despotism of their princes. Hence it has happened, that though there never arose such a conception among the Jews, as what I may call the history of the synagogue, or among the Mahometans, as the history of the mosque, distinct from the histories of their different nations; the christian church and christian empires, or commonwealths, form histories, which, though connected as those of neighbouring republicks or kingdoms may be, are in their nature perfectly distinct. It is worth while to inquire, what has given rise to this peculiarity in the religion of Jesus. An inquiry of this kind is a proper introduction to the study of ecclesiastical history. It will serve to throw light on the spirit and genius of our religion, and may lead to the detection of the latent springs, whence originally flowed that amazing torrent of corruption, by which, in process of time, this most amiable religion has been so miserably defaced. .
The moral precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ are remarkably sublime and pure. They are admirably calculated for regulating the passions and affections of the heart, out of which, as Solomon has observed, are the issues of life. The doctrines he taught, which are the motives whereby an observance of the precepts is enforced, are all purely spiritual, arising from considerations of the divine nature, and of our own; especially of God's placability and favour, of the testimony of conscience, of the blessedness which the principles of true religion, faith, and hope, love to God, and love to man, infuse into the heart; and from considerations regarding the future retribution both of the righteous and of the wicked. The positive institutions or ceremonies he appointed, are both few and simple, serving as the expressions of the love and grati. tude of his disciples to God, their common parent, and ta Jesus their master, the oracle of God; of their engagements to the christian life, and their perfect union among themselves. And that whilst these institutions were suffered to remain in their native simplicity, which constituted their true beauty and
excellence, it was impossible they should be misunderstood. With regard to the founding of what might be called a polity or state, it is manifest that nothing could be farther from his intention. " His kingdom," he acquaints us, “is not of this world.” . It is not of a secular nature, to be either propagated or defended by the arm of flesh, or to have its laws enforced by human sanctions, or any such temporal punishments as merely human authority can inflict.
It is impossible to conceive a greater contrast between the spirit which his instructions breathe, and that spirit of pride and domination, which not many centuries afterwards became the predominant spirit of what then came to be denomi. nated the church. Again and again did Christ admonish his apostles, and other followers, to live as brethren and equals, not to affect a superiority over their fellow-disciples, or over one another; inasmuch as in this, his kingdom would differ in its fundamental maxims from all the kingdoms of the world : that that person alone would there be deemed the greatest whose deportment should be the humblest, and he alone superiour, who should prove most serviceable to the rest. As to worldly monarchies or commonwealths, of whatever kind, he taught them to regard it as their duty, to submit to such pow. ers as providence should set over them; cheerfully paying tribute, and yielding obedience to every human ordinance and command that should not be found to contradict the law of God. “ Render to Cæsar,” said he, “ the things which are “ Cæsar's, and to God the things which are God's." Far from affecting any secular power himself, he refused a royalty of this sort, when the people would have conferred it, and would not take upon him to decide in a matter of civil right and property, though desired, “ Man," said he to the person who applied to him, who made me a judge or a divider over “ you?" Then he said to the people, « take heed and beware “ of covetousness :"-Supporting his admonition as usual by an affecting parable. It was the end of his institution to puri. fy the heart, and his lessons were ever calculated for extirpat. ing the seeds of evil that remained there. In a similar man. ner, when the disciples privately contended among themselves who should be greatest, he took occasion to warn them against ambition. Jesus calling to him a child, placed him in the midst of them, and said, “ Verily I say unto you ; unless ye be converted," quite changed in your notions and conceptions of things, 66 and become as children, ye shall never enter the " kingdom of heaven. Whosoever, therefore, shall become $6 humble as this child, shall be the greatest there.” The same maxims were warmly inculcated by his apostles ; and
in their time, under the happy infuence of their instructions, generally prevailed among christians.
Now indeed was formed a community of the disciples of Jesus, which was called his church, a word that denotes no more than society or assembly, and is sometimes used in the New Testament with evident analogy to the common use, to signify the whole community of christians considered as one body, of which Christ is denominated the head, and sometimes only a particular congregation of christians. In this general society, founded in the unity of their faith, their hope, their love, cemented, as it were, by a communion or joint para ticipation, as occasion offered, in religious offices, in adoration, in baptism, and in the commemoration of the sufferings of their Lord, preserved by a most friendly intercourse, and by frequent instructions, admonitions, reproofs when necessary, and even by the exclusion of those who had violated such powerful and solemn engagements : in all this, I say, there was nothing that interfered with the temporal powers. They claimed no jurisdiction over the person, the liberty, or the property of any man. And if they expelled out of their own society, and, on satisfying their conditions, re-admitted those who had been expelled, they did in this only exercise a right, which (if we may compare great things with small, and heavenly things with earthly) any private company, like a knot of artists or philosophers, may freely exercise ; namely, to give the benefit of their own company and conversation to whom, and on what terms, they judge proper: a right which can never justly be considered as in the least infringing on the secular powers. The christians every where acknowledged themselves the subjects of the state, whether monarchical or republican, absolute or free, under which they lived; entitled to the same privileges with their fellow-subjects, and bound as much as any of them (I might say more, in respect of the peculiar obligation which their religion laid them under) to the observance of the laws of their country. They pleaded no exemption but in one case ; a case wherein every man, though not a christian, has a natural title to exemption; that is, not to obey a law which is unjust in itself, and which he is persuaded in his conscience to be so. But in regard to rights merely of a person. al or private nature, over which the individual has a greater power, far from being pertinacious asserters of these, they held it for an invariable maxim, that it is much better to suffer wrong, than either to commit or to avenge it. This, in my judgment, is the true footing on which the apostolical church stood in relation to the secular powers,' To what causes the wonderful change afterwards produced, ought to be attributed, I intend to make the subject of another prelecțion.