Copyright
John Burns.

The principles of Christian philosophy : containing the doctrines, duties, admonitions and consolations of the Christian religion online

. (page 22 of 36)
Online LibraryJohn BurnsThe principles of Christian philosophy : containing the doctrines, duties, admonitions and consolations of the Christian religion → online text (page 22 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to oppress them, or exact more than they can give ;
to pay them, faithfully, just w^ages ; to treat them
exactly as they would, themselves, wish to be treated,
were they in the same situation ; and to give them
religious instruction, and watch over their moral
conduct. Those, who are harsh, passionate, or peevish,
who are hard taskmasters, proud, and contemptuous,
unjust in their conduct, are admonished to remember,
that they also have a Master in heaven. They are
called to treat servants, as members of the family, to
comfort their dependent situation with kindness, and
to improve them by instruction. " Servants, be
obedient to them that are your masters, according to
the flesh, Avith fear and trembling, in singleness of
your heart, as unto Christ. Not with eye-service,
as men-pleasers, but, as the servants of Christ, doing
the will of God fi'om the heart, with good will, doing
service as to the Lord, and not to man ;" " be subject
to your masters with all fear, not only to the good
and gentle, but also to the froward." It is the duty
of servants to fulfil every lawful command, to attend
to every order, to be faithful and honest, respectful
and obliging. Those who loiter their time, who



272 CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

neglect their duties, who injure their master's pro-
perty, and do not promote his interest, are dishonest,
and break the command of God. A servant, who
engages to do that, which he knows he cannot do,
who wastes what is intrusted to him, who gives away,
that, which he is not permitted to give, who does not
conscientiously perform his duty, as he would wish
it to be done to him, were he a master, is not actuated
by a sj)ii'it, either of honour, or of Clmstianity.



XV.

The duty of magistrates and rulers, is to govern
according to the natural principles of equity, and the
special laws of the realm. Men in society have
certain rights, which none may wantonly deprive
them of. Life, liberty, and property, are secured to
every man, by the natural principles of justice, but
may be forfeited, by transgressing those general and
universal laws, which are founded on morality, or by
infringing those peculiar statutes, which a society has
framed, for its preservation and welfare. The duty
of rulers, may be comprehended in obeying them-
selves, and making others obey these laws, whether
general or special, in deciding justly between man
and man according to these rules, and in directing
the resources of the state, to the civil and religious
prosperity of the community. They are vested with
a power, more or less uncontrolled, according to the
constitution of the society, of modifying special laws,
according to the exigencies of the times, provided
tliese variations are never contrary to the fundamen-
tal principles of equity, and the interest of religion.
The welfare of the community, and the ^^reservation
of the constitution, are the trusts vested in the govern-
ment. Governors are not to violate fundamental



OF RELATIVE DUTIES. 273

liiws, or abridge the national liberty ; still less are
they on the other hand, to permit that misrule which
is not fi'eedom, but licentiousness. They are not to
interfere with the religion of individuals, but are to
allow every man to worship God, according to the
dictates of his conscience. At the same time, should
the opinions and principles of any class of men, be
hostile to the constitution of the country, it is their
duty, whilst they permit the exercise of their religion,
to prevent by interposition, the means of carrying
such principles into practice. They are not to make
war unnecessarily, or in any respect to do that which,
were they subjects, they would disapprove of, and,
consequently, never can sanction any measm'e, Avhich
is to be more for their own advantage than that of
the people. They are to be careful to avoid, what-
ever can lessen the good opinion of the people, or,
justly, diminish their attachment. They are faith-
fully to do justice, in all things, and to all men, that
they may be a terror to evil-doers, but for the praise
of them that do well. Above all, they are to watch
over and defend the national religion, for it is piety
which exalteth a nation, and, as a most essential duty,
are to prevent the dissemination of works, subversive
of morality and Christianity. They are to favour
the cause of God, repress vice, and set a good
example to the people ; showing, by their conduct,
that they fear God, and endeavour to resemble him.
Christians, in all things, are to be followers of God,
and christian rulers are to follow Him, in their spu'it
of ruling, as well as in then* private life. They
must remember the a-vvful responsibility, which rests
on them, to promote faithfully, and correctly, and
unremittingly, the interest of religion. For all
history, whether ancient or modern, confirms the
declaration of him, whose word is truth, and whose
power is omnipotent, that as certainly as religion



274 CHIIISTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

decays in any nation, so surely shall that nation sink,
or, if very ^vicked, totally perish. " Behold, the
eyes of the Lord are upon the sinful kingdom, and I
will destroy it from off the face of the earth, saving,
that I vnU. not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,
saitli the Lord." There is only exception then,
from the full extent of this punishment, and that is
in favom' of the Jews, who, after the period of their
calamities is over, shall yet be re-established as a
kingdom, probably the most influential in the world. ^
Obedience, respect, and support, are the duties
subjects owe to the government, and to the laws.
Society cannot subsist without government, which is
an institution of God, and as such, demands respect
and supi^ort. The powers that be are appointed of
God ; and Peter expressly says, that governors are
sent by him. Christians, therefore, when they are
commanded to fear God, are likewise enjoined to
honour the king, and respect their rulers. It is a
most ignorant mistake to suppose, that a man is at
liberty to do what he pleases. In a desert, he may
enjoy this liberty, but, whenever he enters into
society, he joins those who have equal liberty mth
himself, and, therefore, it becomes necessary, for the
good of the whole, that each be restrained, fi'om
injuring his neighbour, either by his actions or
omissions. All restraint indeed, beyond this, is
despotic ; but there is no despotism, in preventing a
man from robbing or killing his neighbour — from
wronging or slandering him — from endeavouring to
subvert the constitution of the society to which he
belongs, or to destroy the religious establishment of
his country. There is no despotism in making every
man contribute, to bear the burden of the community,
or obliging him to obey those laws, which have been
devised, and enacted, for the benefit of all. Liberty,
in society, never can exist, at the expense of justice



OF RELATIVE DUTIES. 275

and morality. God hath, by his own laws, prevented
men from doing whatever they please, and from
foUoAving all the imaginations of their hearts, and no
man can pretend to unconditional liberty, without
sweeping away moral laws, relating both to God
and man.

A Christian always obeys and respects the laws,
honours his rulers, and gives a cordial support to his
country, and its constitution. No selfish motives, no
private considerations, will lead him to weaken the
attachment of others, by seditious or inflammatory
expressions, by exaggerating the faults, or misrepre-
senting the misfortunes, of government, by decrying
its merit, or slandering its intentions. When he is
firmly persuaded that government is wrong, he will,
if his situation in life call for it, express his senti-
ments, with candour and indej^endence ; but he must
do so, from his conscience, purely, for the good of
his country, and 'v\athout any sinister motives. Let
those who endeavour to spread a spirit of discontent,
seriously reflect on the anarchy and horrors, attend-
ant on the dissolution of the bands of society, and, on
their responsibility, for all the bloodshed and misery,
which may be produced.

XVI.

The ministers of God, and their flock, are con-
nected by a spiritual tie. To the pastor is com-
mitted, the preaching of the everlasting word, and
the instruction of the people in the means of salva-
tion. He is responsible for the consequences, and
God, himself, hath solemnly declared, that he -wall
require the souls of his flock at his hand. He
undertakes a very dangerous oflice, and will do well
to consider the consequences. He is a minister of
Christ, a successor of the apostles, and if he preach



276 CPIRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

any other doctrine than they j)reached, it is at his
peril. He is to show men their natural state, to
convmce them of their guilt, and lead them to that
Saviour, who alone can redeem them. Cold themes
of morality can do little good in any respect, but
none at all in rousing sinners, and bringing them to
the fountain, opened for sin and pollution. The
duty of a clergyman is, to make himself well ac-
quainted ^vith the word of God, to pray for the aid
of the Spu'it of Avisdom and understanding, to satisfy
himself how his own soul is to be saved, and to re-
commend that method to others, which he himself is
honestly resolved to trust to, for his own salvation.
He is neither to preach a dead faith, nor the efficacy
of works, but a living faith, and the fruit, which
proves that Christ dwells in the soul. His first and
only object is to save sinners, for that was the object
of his Master, and li6 is to do so by bringing them
to him. He must earnestly endeavour to convince
men, that they require a vSaviour, for, if they do not,
surely the Son of God had not consented to die for
them, and, he must show them, that Jesus is the only
Saviour, the way, the truth, and the life. If he feel
not this himself, he cannot teach others ; if he do, he
will enforce the doctrine of the cross. Let him dili-
gently, studiously, and with fervent prayer, prejDare
his exliortations and discourses, and let him preach
them earnestly and plainly. I can conceive no
greater mark of folly, and a weak judgment, as well
as a cold heart, than a man bestomng all his attention,
to what may be called stage effect. How miserably,
in general, do these orators fail. Their affectation,
theu' attempts at sublimity, at pathos, at action,
excite the pity of every man of taste. He who is
aware of the importance of his subject, never can
have his attention fixed on attitudes, and modulation
of the voice. He who mounts the pulpit, to preach



OF RELATIVE DUTIES. 277

Jesus Christ, loses all thought of himself. He goes
not there to exliibit himself. He goes to call sinners
to salvation, to preach repentance and remission of
sins, through the infinite mercy of God, and the
atonement of Jesus Christ ; to call them fi-om the
vanities of time, to the glories of eternity. On these
subjects he must have eloquence, he must speak mth
the force of truth. As he feels himself, he must
make others feel also, and as Paul, when he reasoned,
made Felix tremble, so, wiil he make his hearers
listen vnth interest, to that important doctrine, which
comes from God himself. He will so blend doctrine
with practice, that the connexion, of the one with
the other, may never be forgotten. Whilst he con-
stantly maintains Christ to be the vine, he wall also
uniformly prove, that those who abide in him, must
bring forth fruit. He will not be satisfied -svith
preachmg the gospel in the pulpit, but will be care-
ful to discharge all the other duties of his office. He
will Aisit the sick, instruct the ignorant, encourage
the weak, comfort the affiicted, excite the faithful,
relieve the poor, and set, in himself, an example of
love to God, love to men, faith in Christ. He will
study the word of God diligently, that he may well
understand it, and he i^dll pray for the blessing of
God on all his labours. I know not language, suffi-
ciently powerful, to express the value of a christian
ministry. The most elevated flight of the imagina-
tion cannot reach, far less surmount, the high, and
the responsible station, of one of the humblest
ministers of Christ. He is sent in Christ's stead:
awful thought ! He is sent, as a special messenger,
from Him who died for the sins of men. He is sent
with the promise of an accompanying Spirit. He is
ordained to promulgate the glad tidings of salvation
to the guilty, to cheer and comfort the drooping
soul, to instruct the ignorant, to plead vnih the



278 CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

impenitent and careless, and to confirm, and build
np in the faith, the chosen people of God. Coming
in the name of Christ, he says, and he ought to feel
the force of what he says, " The Spirit of the Lord
God is ujoon me." The commission is fi'om Jesus
himself, and the subject of the message is, that this
same Jesus died to save sinners. In the contempla-
tion of the gi-eatness of the subject, and the awful
resi^onsibility which devolves upon him, it is not
surprising that the mind should, for a time, sink
under the apprehension, that no man is sufficient for
these things. But the promise of the Spirit comes
to his aid, and in proportion to the illumination of
that Spirit, and the grace given to behold the mystery
of reconciliation, will be the earnestness of his labour,
and, from morning to night, from the beginning to
the end of each successive year, he will point, with
unceasing solicitation, to the cross of Christ. Jesus,
in all his love, his obedience, his sufferings, and his
free gi^ace, must be the perpetual end, and object, of
his ministration. To the learned and the ignorant,
to the careless and the awakened, to the impenitent
and the godly, he calls alike, in the name of his
Master, to come, and behold the glories of salvation.
His whole soul, is devoted, to the cause of Him who
hath called him — he knows not how to do enough
for his crucified Redeemer — he knows not where to
stop, when he offers a full and a free deliverance —
he is checked, not by worldly thoughts or weakness
of body, but rather overpowered, in his utterance, by
the intensity of that love and rich mercy, he is the
lionoui'ed instrument of declaring — he feels that life
is too short, that his powers and his strength are too
feeble, to enable him to do, for the sake of one
immortal soul, what the interest of multitudes
requires at his hands. His public service, and his
ministration from house to house, in the season of



OF KELATIVE DUTIES. 279

dangerous gladness, and in the days of adversity, are
indeed a transcript, however faint in impression, of
the life and conduct, of our Saviour on earth.

If such be the character of a christian minister,
what ought to be the rejoicing of a christian people?
Ought they not to prize, above all things, this pre-
cious gift of God, and give, to this man of apostolic
labour, all the spiritual encouragement, and affec-
tionate support in their power ? Happy are they
who are indulged Tvdth this precious blessing, and
long may they enjoy it. But a time may come,
when, from various causes, they may be deprived of
it, and then one consolation remains, that in the day
of mercy and of favour, they did not neglect, or
undervalue, the blessing they enjoyed.

It is the duty of the flock to esteem their pastor,
to encourage him in his work, to aid him in his
endeavour to promote the success of the gospel, to
respect and honour him, as having the rule over
them, to supply his wants freely, to be charitable to
his failings, not given to censure, diligent in the
improvement of the blessings they enjoy under his
ministry, and to join A\atli him in prayer, and in
active endeavours for the reformation of manners,
the propagation of the gospel, and the advancement
of the kingdom of Christ.



280 christia:n philosophy.



CHAPTER Vin.

OF THE DUTIES 3L4JS" OWES TO GOD.
I.

The first duty Tve owe to God, is to become acquainted
with him, to listen to his revelation, and learn his
promises. The solemn admonition, given bj a dying
father to a son, whom he left in a land surrounded
by the worshippers of idols, was this, " Thou, Solo-
mon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and
serve him with a perfect heart, and with a ^^nlling
mind ; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and under-
standeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. If
thou seek him, he will be found of thee, but if thou
forsake him, he vnB. cast thee off."

Unless we know God, and his attributes, and his
statutes, we cannot afford a reasonable service, nor
be acquainted with the ground, on which we are to
love him. Paul, on this principle, asks, " How shall
they believe in him, of whom they have not heard?"
but immediately inquires, '•• Have they not heard?"
" Yes, verily," he replies, " their sound went into
all the earth, and their words unto the end of the
earth." The answer, is a quotation, from the nine-
teenth Psalm, in which the heavens are said to
declare the glory of God. The universe, proclaims
his being and perfections, and the consciences of
men, admit the knowledge of his existence and law.
The preachers also have, as represented by this
metaphor, gone through the earth, and proclaimed



OF THE DUTIES MAN OWES TO GOD. 281

tlie knowledge of God. The heart of man, admits
the existence of a God, and teaches him a moral laAv%
more or less perfect. Paul, in his epistle to the
Romans, insists on two points; namely, that the
works of God ai-e manifest to all men, by which they
might discover him ; and, that, amongst the Gentiles,
there was a law ^^i-itten in theii' heart, by which
the conscience, either approved, or condemned their
conduct. Moses, after rehearsing to the children of
Israel, the conduct of God towards them, and reciting
his law, promises blessings to those who observe it,
for, says he, the commandment, which I command
thee this day, is not hidden from thee, neither is it
far off. It is not in heaven, neither is it beyond the
sea, but it is nigh unto thee, in thy heart. Paul, in
his epistle to the Romans, adverts to this passage,
after testifpng of the Jews, that they had a zeal of
God, but not according to knowledge, and this want
of knowledge, which they might have supplied, led
them to seek to establish their own righteousness,
instead of that which is of God. The righteousness
of the law, says Paul, is this, '' The man, that doeth
these things, shall live by them." But neither Jew
nor Gentile, could do these tilings, and, therefore,
could not live by the law. "The righteousness,
which is of faith, speaketh in tliis way ; say not,
who shall ascend to heaven, to Iji-ing down Christ,
or descend, to bring him from the dead, but the word
is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that if
thou shalt confess Avith thy mouth, and believe in thy
heart in Jesus, thou shalt be saved." There is,
therefore, no excuse for not knowing God, and what
is required by him for salvation, for he hath revealed
himself, and his offer of redemption, so plainly, that
all who hear may know; and he who refuseth or
neglecteth to listen, is contemptuous towards God,
and most unjust, and unwise, toward himself. The



2S2 CHKISTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

consequence of this conduct, with regard to indi-
viduals, in a christian country, must be an in-
difference to e^ery thing which is good, perhaps
Atheism, and all its dreadful effects. To a nation
at large, the consequences must be the same as
those, which befell the descendents of Noah, a
degeneration into idolatry or infidelity. Paul, tells
the Romans, that because when men knew God, but
glorified him not as God, and did not like to retain
him in their knowledge, God gave them over to a
reprobate mind. The same must be the case -with
all nations and individuals, who disregard the know-
ledge of God.

We have a much more clear, and complete revela-
tion, than was possessed by the Patriarchs and the
Jews of old, and, therefore, it still more becomes us,
to discover the perfections, and believe the promises,
of God. He revealed himself to the Patriarchs, as
the Almighty God, the God of theu* fathers, but to
their descendents, in the days of Moses, he revealed
himself as Jehovah. To us, he is more clearly known,
as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as
the Redeemer and Sanctifier of his people. K God
hath condescended to give a revelation to man, it
becomes man to hear it, and make himself acquainted
with it. It is a duty he owes to himself, as well
as to God, for his happiness is interested in it. The
power, Avisdom, and goodness of God, are manifested
by his works, whicli man is to behold, as a volume
of instruction. But he is, especially, to make himself
acquainted vnih the revealed word, and the offer of
salvation in the gospel. No man, therefore, performs
his duty to God, nor to himself, who does not dili-
gently study the scriptures, with a candid mind,
and earnest prayer, for that influence of the Spirit,
which is promised for the instruction of the ignorant.
The Scriptures inform man, as fully as he can com-



OF THE DUTIES MAN OWES TO GOD. 283

preliend, of the nature of God, of his attributes and
perfections, of what he requii-es of man, and intends
to do with him. They give clear prospects of futu-
rity, and discover the fountain of everhisting life. We
are not to worship an unknown God, to serve a
varying master, to obey a changeable law, to trust
to an indefinite promise, to a doubtful protector, or
to hope for an uncertain mheritance. All that we
require to know, is clearly and fully unfolded to us,
all that we can desire, more, indeed, than we can
conceive, has been done for us, all that we hope for,
is firmly secured; mercy and justice have met to-
gether ; death hath been abolished, its sting destroyed,
and the glory of immortal life, hath been made siu-e
to man.

From the Scriptures, we learn that God is a spirit,
invisible to mortal eyes, eternal, immortal, omnipre-
sent, and omniscient; most holy, most just, and true,
most wise, most j^erfect, free, and absolute, almighty,
and without change; infinite in love, grace, mercy,
long-suffering, and faithfulness; just and terrible in
his judgment, and infinite in his hatred to sin. He
hath in himself, all glory, goodness, and felicity, and
needeth nothing from his creatures, seeing he giveth
to all life, and is himself the source of every perfec-
tion, and of all happiness. Ho is holy and wise in
his counsels, in his works, and in his commandments,
and to him are due, from every creature, praise and
love, trust, and obedience.

There are three persons in the Godhead, Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, who are the same in substance,
and equal in power and glory; the Son, begotten
from all eternity by the Father; the Spirit, proceed-
ing from all eternity from the Father and the Son;
three divine persons, but one God.

From our relation to God, we are, in this world,
led to behold him, chiefly, in the works of creation



284 CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

and redemption, and in the circumstances connected
with these. Other beings, and we ourselves, here-
after, may, perhaps, have additional views of the
glory, i^ower, and goodness of God, but at present,
our conceptions of him, and of his attributes and per-
fections, are intimately connected with these works.

We view the Father, as planning the work of crea-
tion and redem^^tion, as givuig the Son for a sacrifice,
accej^ting of his obedience and atonement, and gi^dng
to him, as a peoj^le, those who are elect, according
to his foreknowledge, that they may be adopted, jus-
tified, and sanctified.

We view the Son, as creating and redeeming, as
uniting himself to a human soul, taking a human
body, bearing the punishment of sinners, substituting
his righteousness in their behalf, acting as a prophet,
priest, and king, to the peoj)le he hath purchased;
sending forth his Spirit unto them, and continually
interceding for them, until he receives them into the
place which he hath j^repared for them, where their
souls shall be kept in happiness, until the end of the
world, when, in the great day of judgment, he wdll
raise their bodies, fashion them like his own, and
reunite their souls unto them.

We view the Spirit, as enlightening the mind,
working repentance and faith in the elect, sanctifying,
comforting, and preserving them, by dwelling in them,
as the Sjnrit of Christ. Saints, then, are called,
adopted, justified, and sanctified by the Trinity, the
Spirit being, with regard to tliem, tlie active power;
the Son, the mean by which all blessing is procured;



Online LibraryJohn BurnsThe principles of Christian philosophy : containing the doctrines, duties, admonitions and consolations of the Christian religion → online text (page 22 of 36)