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'' Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well."—1 Peter ii. 13, 14.
A FAMILY is the first and simplest form of "^ society; and the fifth commandment is the law of heaven by which it is to be regulated. According as that law is observed or violated, the little community is happy or miserable—continues to exist or goes to dissolution. The duty of children is there expressly enjoined, but the duty of parents is plainly implied. While children are required to honour their parents, parents are required to perform honourably the part which God has assigned them. But the family, though the first and simplest, is not the only form of human society. In the constitution of this world, God has placed us in other relationships. We are all members of one great community called the nation, and each member is dependent upon the peace and prosperity of the whole. There can be no peace and no prosperity, however, without order. It is necessary that authority be vested somewhere in the nation as well as in the family, otherwise it will fall into confusion and trouble. Thus the relationship of rulers and subjects is constituted, and the duties of both are enjoined by the law of heaven.
The fifth commandment sets forth the great principle of respect for constituted authority in one of its applications. But it is to be understood that the Lord of all requires that the same principle be acted upon in every other instance in which He has intrusted to particular persons power over others for the general good. The same law which makes and maintains the family, makes and maintains also the nation. The same voice which commands us to honour our parents, commands us also to honour our rulers. "Submit yourselves," says the apostle Peter, "to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; F
or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well."
"The powers that be," says the apostle Paul, "are ordained of God" And this ordinance of civil government, like every other ordinance of God, is designed to serve wise and important ends. He has made many most valuable benefits to the human race depend upon its proper maintenance. He has made it the string by means of which He hangs about the neck of each of us daily a thousand excellent gifts more precious than the rarest diamonds; so that if that string were broken they would all be scattered and lost. It is the will of God that power and authority be vested in certain members of the community for the general good; and we have had the happiness to enjoy without interruption the benefits flowing from that arrangement. But suppose that a complete change were introduced; suppose that the will of God that order be preserved in every country by constituted authority were utterly disregarded—that power to uphold that which is good, and to restrain that which is evil, were withdrawn from every hand, and that all men, whatever their characters might be, were at liberty to follow the impulses of their own hearts; suppose that every national assembly for the consideration and framing of laws were dispersed and were not again to meet —that the chair of every judge were overturned —that the decision of every magistrate were treated with contempt—that the doors of every prison were opened—that every brave soldier were disarmed, and every terrible ship of war were sunk in the depths of the sea,—would not the consequences of such a change be of the most disastrous kind? Our peace would then be at an end,—that peace on the bosom of which we now rest night and day. We should be continually like persons clinging to a ship in a storm,—a ship which had already lost her helm, and whose captain and officers had all been thrown overboard. With no protection to property, property would soon cease to exist. Labour would be of little or no value if you had no security that you would be permitted to reap the fruits of it. If any one who chose to lay hands upon your crop in harvest could carry it off without fear of punishment, you would soon consider it useless to plough and to sow in spring. If any one could take possession of your flocks and herds at his pleasure, so that when you went to bed at night you were utterly uncertain whether you would find any of them on your fields in the morning, you would in that case soon give up the vain work of attempting to rear them. You would pay no rent for the land, the produce of which you could not call your own; and you would pay no wages for labour, the fruits of which you might any day be deprived of by violent hands. Life in those circumstances would be as insecure as property. In the general scramble the weak would fall helplessly, and the strong would devour one another or be caught in some unguarded hour by means of snares and stratagems. In short, society would be completely broken up. Men would be everywhere separated from their fellows. That mighty chain by which we are now linked to one another, and which makes us so powerful for promoting the good of all and for protecting each member, even the weakest, from evil, would become like a rope of sand. The upright portion of the community, who feared God and followed the dictates of conscience, being surrounded by no protecting arm, would speedily be swept off the face of the world by the loose and unprincipled, and the