Thomas Wilson.

The works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) online

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the world and all things in it, having given to certain persons
power over the bodies, goods, estates, and even over the lives
of their fellow-creatures ; lest these, finding themselves vested
with such high powers, should forget themselves and abuse
their authority, as the Wise Man saith wicked men will be
Wisd. 2. n. apt to do, and say. Our strength and power shall be the law of
justice ; most nations have found it necessary, and have agreed,
to have laws to direct both those that are to govern, and those
that are to obey.

Now, the two great ends of these laws should be, as we said
before, first, the glory of God; and secondly, the good of man-

First, THE GLORY OF GoD : such are laws, to secure, as far
as possible, the honour of God, His name, His worship, His
ordinances, from being made light of, and profaned, by men
who are given over to a reprobate mind.

Such also are laws, to secure true religion, and its ministers,
from contempt, by punishing those that, forgetting themselves
and their character, make the service of God to be despised :
and by encouraging and securing the rights of such as serve
faithfully at the altar against the sacrilegious attempts of
covetous men.

Such are laws, which are proper to prevent wicked men
from corrupting the principles and manners of weak and
ignorant people ; by punishing the crimes against the majesty
of the great God, with at least the same degree of severity
as crimes against the civil governors or private men.

And here, it must not be passed over in silence, that too
many come amongst us, who bring all those evil dispositions
and bad qualities along with them, which were the cause of
their misfortunes at home.


Now, too many of these, instead of enjoying tlie happiness
of a safe and undisturbed retreat and liberty, set up for
directors or censurers of our magistrates and constitution
both in Church and state; ridiculing the religion and dis-
cipline established amongst us ; meddling with matters they
do not understand ; and, which is still worse, corrupting our
youth with the basest examples of debauchery and profane-
ness ; making a mock of sin ; propagating the very vilest
opinions ; hardening young people against the advice of
friends, against their own interest, and the fear of God and

And a sad truth it is, these, many of them, meet Avith too
much countenance and encouragement, for the sake, as is
pretended, of the advantages we receive from them.

Whether any advantages of this kind will countervail for
the dishonour done to God, the mischiefs done to our people,
and the judgments we have to fear, is what should ver}'-
seriously be considered by all such as wish for the con-
tinuance of the happiness of this place.

The express condition of King Solomon^s prosperity was
this — "If thou wilt execute My judgments, then will I per- [i Kings
form My word which I spake unto David thy father.^^ And ' '-'
the only secui'ity which the people of God had for their pros-
perity and God's blessing Avas this — " That thou put away [Deut. 13.
evil from among you." "-'

From all which it appears, not from our reasoning, but
from the infallible Word of God, that the welfare and happi-
ness of nations depend upon the restraint that is put upon
vice and impiety, by good and wholesome laws, whereby the
honour of God is secured from contempt.

And indeed, wherever God has placed any share of power
or authority, it is for this very end, that He may not be pro-
voked, by the dishonour done to Him and His laws, to pour
down His judgments upon men and nations.

Next to the glory of God, the great end of laws and of civil
government is, the good of mankind ; to secure the persons,
the properties, and the peace of honest and well-meaning
men, against the power, or the craft, of such as would invade
or disturb them.

It is a good deal more than an hundred years since the


SERM. historian, Mr. Camden, s:ave the following' account of the
xr IX • • • •
1-, people of this Isle : " The inhabitants in general/' says he,

" have a very good character ; not given either to lewdness,
cheating, or thievery ; so that every man possesseth his own
in peace and safety, none living in fear of losing what he
has/' " This island," the historian adds, "is happier on an-
other account than we are in England; for the people are
free from vexatious and unnecessary law-suits; from long
and dilatory pleas, and from frivolous feeing of lawyers, proc-
tors, and attornies ; all controversies being determined, with-
out long process, every man pleading his own cause viva

Now this, we are too sure, is neither the case nor the cha-
racter of the times we live in. Very late and melancholy in-
stances we have had to the contrary. Many honest men's
properties have been invaded, some by force, and some by
fraud. The civil magistrate can tell us, how very litigious
the people are grown of late, to the great increase of his bur-
den, and the expense of his time ; and the people, too many
of them, have smarted by the mal-practice of such as live
and gain by contention. The ecclesiastical magistrate meets
every day with new, and heretofore unheard of, instances of
the contempt of God and of religion.

Whether it be for want of better laws, to put a stop to
these growing evils, with which an holy and righteous God
must be highly displeased ; or for any other cause, it will be
worth the care of the legislature, in the first place, to make
more effectual provision, that God in all things may be glo-
rified; ever remembering, that there is neither wisdom, nor
understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord; that is, where
there is not a regard to His honour.

But even the best laws that can be made will be of little
use, unless they are faithfully put in execution, and by men
of religion and integrity.

It was said of the Athenians (as a learned man has ob-
served), that they shewed a great deal of wisdom in making
excellent laws, but a much greater folly in not observing
them; and this was owing, in a great measure, to the negli-
gence or corruption of the inferior magistrates. This the
Romans took care to prevent in the beginning of their com-


monwealth, by requiring, under the severest penalties, that
magistrates should be examples of that behaviour which they
required of others. " If this," saith their great lawyer Cicero,
" if this be observed, we have all that we can wish for."

And indeed, it is the highest false step that men in power
and authority can make, to give any manner of countenance
to men of wicked lives, or of loose and wicked principles.
For, to be sure, that man who makes light of God, of His
Word and laws, will, when he can do it with impunity, de-
spise the magistrate, who is God's representative, and those
laws which are made by him for the good gov ernment of the

Magistrates therefore, and all in authority, are above all
others obliged to be upon their guard, because the lesser
world will too readily follow their example, especially if bad ;
for so the corruption of human nature, which is prone to evil
continually, will lead them too forcibly.

And what will be the natural consequence of this ? Why,
the fear of God will be forgotten ; men will be left to them-
selves, and to the conduct of Satan ; pride and luxury will
follow ; and to support these, covetousness, injustice, fraud,
and knavery, will succeed ; as also a litigious temper, a dis-
regard for oaths, perjury, and oppressing one another; and
lastly, which must ever be remembered by people of any con-
sideration, the judgments of God upon a sinful nation, if these
sins go unpunished ; which they will be too apt to do, if the
magistrate himself is wanting to his duty to Him Whom he

To prevent this, it should be considered, that no one man
on earth can claim the obedience of others by any natural
right of his own, but as he is invested with authority and
power from God, Who has ordained some to govern, and for
that end to make righteous laws ; and others to obey, and
this on pain of His great displeasure.

If this were considered as it should be, those in authority
would always govern with truth and justice ; and such whose
duty it is to obey, would obey for conscience' sake.

It was a powerful argument which Joseph, then governor
of all Egypt, made use of to his brethren, who, not knowing
him, were in the utmost fear for their lives and liberty : " This ^en. 42. 18.


SERM. do," says he, " and live ; for I fear God." That is, you may

'— expect nothing but justice from one who professes to live in

the fear of God. And what a powerful influence will this
naturally have upon those who seek for justice.

When a man is secure of the magistrate's integrity, and
that he shall not suffer in his rights, either by jjartialily, cor-
ruption, or the overbearing power of others, he will depend
upon the justice of his cause, without employing men of no
conscience to puzzle or mislead the magistrate with false as-
sertions, suspected evidences, and doubtful precedents not
warranted by law or justice.

And here I cannot but mention a passage which we have
recorded in Scripture, to the praise of the greatest prince
then on earth, as we find it in Esther i. 15 ; the king asks
this question of his counsellors, " What shall we do unto the
queen according to law?" How careful was this mighty
prince to do nothing which the law would not justify; and
set a rare example of justice to all about him, to make the
law the rule of his conscience, and conscience the rule of his
conduct !

Thus stands the duty of superiors with respect to their

But there is another branch of duty, and a very important
one, which, in a more especial manner, regards the honour
and laws of God, as we before hinted.

The will of God is, that the laws which He has given for
setting forth His own glory, and for the good of mankind,
should be reverenced and obeyed by all; that sin be made
uneasy to those upon whom reason and the fear of God have
no effect ; that wickedness of every kind be punished accord-
ing to the nature of the offence ; that the evil examples of
such as scorn to be hypocrites in impiety, who make a mock
of sin and damnation, and glory in making proselytes to
Satan, that such be hindered by the severest penalties from
corrupting others ; that growing vices be carefully observed,
and a timely stop put to them, before they become too many
or too strong to be cured by any methods, except national

These are the undoubted duties of the civil magistrate,
who, being in the place of God, stands bound to make His


will the rule of his actions, remembering the account he
must one day give.

For our part, we are in duty bound, to keep awake the
consciences of men with the remembrance of God's glorious
attributes, and of a judgment to come ; of His all-seeing eye ;
of His justice and vengeance upon hardened sinners ; of His
power to destroy both body and soul in hell ; of the sad and
certain consequence of dishonest gain ; of the wasting vices
of idleness and luxury; of the damning sin of blaspheming
the name of the great God ; of the great evil of vexatious
controversies, and giving men trouble without cause; and
lastly, of the absolute necessity of making restitution for in-
juries done our neighbour, to the best of our power, as ever
we hope for salvation.

To conclude : let these things be considered as they should
be, and we shall soon see the happy effects of taking God
along with us, in all our actions and councils.

They that are in a superior rank will remember, that they
are in the place of God, and will be careful not to bring con-
tempt on Him Whose place they supply ; the fear and regard
for God and His laws being the best support of their own

On the other side, they that are to obey will consider, that
their superiors are in the place of God, and are bound to
consult His glory; their obedience, therefore, will be more
cheerful, their behaviour peaceable; and thankful will they
be for the blessing of such a government.

And may God, the great governor of the world, give all
His substitutes grace and a spirit to discern what will be most
for His glory, and such as He will approve of at the great
day ; through Jesus Christ our Lord : to Whom, with the
Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory. Amen.




Genesis vi. 1 — 3, 7.

S?eiChron. And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of
17. 8—10 ; the earth, and daughters were horn tmto them ; that the sons of
Jer. 5." 1 ;' ^od saw the daughters of men, that they were fair : and they
|t^^27^ 30 • ^^^^ ^'^^^^ wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said,
33; Hosea My Spirit shall not always strive with man. — And the Lord

4; Wisd. 5. . \ ^

23 ; Matt. said, 1 Will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of
Luke 17. the earth, SjX.


This text will be better understood, and will have no diffi-
culty in it, when it is read according to the most ancient
versions and paraphrases, which thus render or explain the
Hebrew : — And it came to pass, when men began to multiply
upon the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them;
that the sons of the sovereigns {who in Holy Scripture are called
gods) seeing the daughters of the inferior sort, that they were
fair, they took them by force, and ravished them at their plea-
sure; — which thing was so provoking in the sight of God,
that He declares [ver. 7], "I will destroy man, whom I have
created, from the face of the earth ;" which accordingly He
did by the flood.

Why was God so provoked with these sins, and these sin-
ners, above all others ? There must be something very sin-
gular and very provoking, which could draw down so amazing.


and so general a judgment upon the wliole race of mankind.
And the reason was plainly this, — The utter improbability
that ever there would be a reformation, that ever the world
would mend ; since they that were in power, and in the place
of God, and whose duty it was to restrain and punish wicked-
ness, were the very persons who promoted vice, by suffering
it to go unpunished in their own children and families, or by
their own evil example gave countenance to it ; so that there
was no way left to cure the e^dl, but by destroying the sin-

And that this was the very cause of so universal a judg-
ment is plain, from other instances of divine vengeance re-
corded in sacred Scripture, Avhich were then executed, when
wickedness became so universal that there were none to
punish or to restrain it.

This was the case of Sodom, and the neighbouring cities ;
they were destroyed by fire from heaven. And that posterity
might not be ignorant of the cause of so terrible a judgment,
the sacred Scripture is so particular as to inform us, " that [Gen.i9.4.]
all the people both old and young," that is, both fathers
and their children, both magistrates and the common people,
Avere gathered together from every quarter, to commit a sin
abominable to be named.

This is plain from God's own declaration, " If there be [chap, la
found TEN RIGHTEOUS PERSONS amougst them/' that is, if
there be any amongst them who will execute justice and
judgment upon the wicked, so that there may be any possi-
bility of a reformation, " I will not destroy them, I will spare
the whole for their sakes."

There was indeed one, and but one, who had the heart or
the courage to reprove them ; but he wanted power to re-
strain them; and the people plainly told him so; "This one Gen. 19. 9.
fellow came to sojourn amongst us, and he will needs be
judge ;" that is, he will take upon him to reprove, and to
restrain us ; " now will we deal worse with thee than with

Now, here being no possibility of a reformation, when they
who should have put a stop to the wickedness, were at the
head of those that committed it. Almighty God interposed
His power, and utterly destroyed them by fire from heaven.


SEEM. The Scripture saith expressly of the people of Laish : "That
there was no magistrate to put any man to shame in any

Judges 18. ^ijjjjg >^ ^jjj ^^Q ^gj,y ^gj^^ ^]j-jjg ^Ye hear of them is, that
they were utterly, every soul of them, destroyed.

Another instance we have in the ruin of the whole tribe of
Judges 20. Benjamin, except a very few men. There had been a most
' ^' abominable sin committed by some sons of Belial ; the rest
of the tribes desired that those men might be punished as
they deserved, so that God's judgments might be turned
away from the whole land. This righteous demand was de-
nied; and they that should have punished them took part
with them. And the consequence was, they became partners
with them in their utter destruction, which soon after fol-

And to add no more instances : this one declaration of
God, by His Prophet, shews plainly, what are the true causes
of general judgments upon any land.

God, for the sins of the Jews, had resolved to send them
into captivity ; and to shew them the cause of their approach-
[chap.5.1.] ing misery, he bids the Prophet Jeremiah, "See now and
know, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh
the truth, and I will pardon them." It seems there were
none such to be found, and their calamity and captivity very
soon followed.

And as the negligence or wickedness of those in authority
did, in these and many other instances, provoke God to pour
down His judgments ; so has the zeal of magistrates, either
in punishing offenders, or in bringing men to repentance,
saved whole nations from destruction. Thus we have it,
Ps. 106. 30. " Then stood up Phineas, and executed judgment, and so the
plague was stayed."

And when God had fully determined, and tvithin a limited
time, to destroy the city of Nineveh, He was prevailed on to
defer the execution of that judgment, by the king's procla-
mation, "that every one should turn from his evil way;"
Jonah 3. the king himself setting them the good example, " covering
himself with sackcloth, sitting in ashes, and crying mightily
to God."

This would now be made a jest of, and even by some who
call themselves christians. A king in sackcloth and ashes !


Yes, any thing rather than the vengeance of God upon his
kingdom, than provoke Him who can destroy both body and [Matt. 10.
soul in hell.

But to proceed : The very condition of King Solomon's
prosperity, and of the continuance of the crown in his family,
was this : "If thou wilt execute My judgments, then will 1 1 Kings 6.
perform My word which I spake unto David thy father."

And the only security which the people of God had for the
continuance of His protection and blessing, was the often re-
peated condition, '' If thou put away evil from among you." [Deut. 17.
This was their, and this is our, best and only security.

From what has been said, it appears, not from our reason-
ing, but from the infallible Word of God, that the welfare
and happiness of nations depend upon their obedience to the
laws of God and nature, and upon the restraint that is put
upon vice and impiety, by such as are commissioned by God
in His place.

And indeed, wherever God has placed any share of power
and authority, it is for this very end — to keep the world in
order, that He may not be provoked by their wickedness to
send His judgments upon them.

From hence also it follows, that the sins of private people
become the sins of the whole nation, and are the cause of
national judgments, when the guilty continue unpunished
by those who should call them to an account.

It is for this reason that the government of England, at
this very time ", has ordered that certain abominable sins shall
be prosecuted at the expense of the croivn : concluding, very
truly, that when justice and judgment are duly executed upon
wicked men, by such as have authority, God will not plague
Ijiat nation, however He may punish particular offenders.

It behoves therefore every body, to whom God has im-
parted any share of His power and authority, from the king
that sitteth upon the throne to the lowest ; it behoves them,
as they value the honour of God, the welfare of the society,
or their own salvation, to make use of that power to dis-
countenance and to punish vice and impiety.

Now, the authority which men have from God to restrain
or punish sin, is either natural, ecclesiastical, or civil.

" In the year 1728.



SERM. God has given parents a power over their own children

'■ — and families ; and a great deal they may do, if they have any

grace themselves, towards reforming the wc^tld, by a sober
and good example ; by bringing up their children in the fear
of God ; by stifling the seeds of corrupt nature when they
first begin to spring up; and, by salutary chastisements,
making every degree of sin uneasy to them, until they shall
be able to understand the danger of sin with respect to an-
other world.

And a sad account parents will have to make, if instead of
doing so, they suffer their children, as they grow in years, to
grow in sin ; and either by an evil example, or by furnishing
them with means of nourishing their natural corruptions,
they leave a generation behind them more wicked than

But when parents (as it happens too often) do prove thus
unnatural to their own children, God in mercy has provided
other means to instruct, and to reclaim them, if men are not
extremely wanting to their duty.

And these are, first, His ministers, who are commissioned
to teach, and to administer the means of grace and salvation
to all such as are willing to receive them.

And secondly, His magistrates, who have their poAver
from Him to restrain and to punish such as will not be
taught and governed by milder means, by the ministry of
the Word, and the discipline of the Church.

It is certain, that the well-being of the world, if not its
SUBSISTING, depends upon the due and faithful exercise of
these TWO powers. It will therefore be very proper to con-
sider the duties both of those that are appointed by God to
exercise these powers, and of those that are bound to obey^

We will first consider the powers which God, by His Son
Jesus Christ, has given to His ministers, in order to regu-
late the manners of christians, and to keep men from bring-
ing ruin upon themselves by their wickedness.

Their commission is recorded by St. Matthew in these

chap,28. 19. words: ''Go ye," saith our Lord to His Apostles, "and

make disciples to Me in all nations, baptizing them, and

teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have com-

1 Cor. 5. 13.


manded you ; and lo ! I am with you alway even unto the
end of the world j" that is, with them and their successors.

Jesus Christ knew very well to what a perverse world He
sent them ; and therefore, to guard them and His own
authority and commission from contempt, He declares, that
He will always look upon Himself as injured, in the con-
tempt any one shews to His ministers: "He that despiseth Luke 10. 16.
you, despiseth Me, and Him that sent Me.^'

But does their power consist in this only, to teach men
their duty, and to set before them the terrors of the world to
come; and so to leave them to themselves? Very far from
it. God has been more merciful to His poor creatures ; and
knowing how subject men are to sin, to forfeit His favour,
and to make themselves liable to His anger, both in this
world and the next ; He has therefore invested His minis-
ters with the power of discipline ; that is, with a power not
only to exhort and to rebuke ivith all authority, but to put tm. 2. lb;
away from among christians such as are an offence and a
scandal to their profession, and to hinder them from ruining
others. And he must be a person of a very profane spirit,
who would set light by an ordinance which has God for its
author, as Church discipline most certainly has.

St. Paul's epistles are an unquestionable proof of this ;
and the practice of the pure primitive Church shewed how

Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 48 of 49)