Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Great as any man's duties are which he is called to discharge, or great as his sins may be on account of their past neglect, he is not left either without the hope of forgiveness or the promise of succour. This passage was intended as a rebuke for the neglect of a duty seen and acknowledged. That duty was a pious and holy regard for the temple and service of the Lord. The neglect was that, while they were anxious about the splendour and comfort of their own dwellings, they suffered the Lord's house to lie waste. The fault lay not with the people only, but also with their princes and rulers. Taking all the circumstances of this case into due account, the following propositions are offered for our due consideration —
1. That rulers and heads of nations, being the servants of God, and bound to conform to His will, and to seek above all things to promote His glory, are as responsible to God for all their ways and works, both individually, officially, and supremely, as any other person whatsoever. But we live in strange times. Principles of the most dangerous character, and utterly subversive of all holy feeling and good government, are openly broached and boldly patronised in the grand assemblies of the nation. A double duty is therefore incumbent upon all who wish well for the nation's good, and for the true welfare of their fellow-beings. The mutual responsibilities of each, the governing and the governed, must be plainly and practically enforced, on the ground of the Divine Word, which is their proper authority.
(1) We maintain that all men, everywhere, are account able to God. All souls are in the hand of God. Man cannot be divested of this responsibility, wherever he may be placed, or however he may be circumstanced.
(2) This obligation and responsibility rest with a far greater weight upon some. Where more is given, more will be required.
(3) Rulers and heads of nations are as responsible in their individual capacity as others, and in their official capacity even more than others.
(4) They are the positive servants of God. Not in the saving sense of the word, but in the responsible sense of the term.
(5) Therefore rulers and heads of nations are under the positive, unvariable, and unchanging obligation of seeking above all things to promote the Divine honour and glory. Nothing can release them from these demands; nothing can lessen or alienate these claims.
(6) They are as responsible to God for all their ways and works in their ruling or official, as they and others are accountable to God for all their doings in their merely personal or individual capacity. It is often said that the ruling power is above law, and therefore accountable to none. But this is a most dangerous doctrine, and calculated to lead to the most lawless licentiousness.
2. That they are bound, by every motive and consideration, both of alarm and encouragement, seriously to lay this to heart; to consider how the matter stands with them; and to inquire what may be its probable termination, both with themselves and others; whether in judgment or mercy; whether in the gracious approbations, or the heavy wrath of Almighty God.
(1) Can any man with safety neglect the duties which God requires at his hands?
(2) Must it not be a fearful thing to incur the displeasure of Almighty God? His wrath is like a consuming fire.
(3) Will not God, in the final day of account, deal as impartially and justly with the mighty and great as with the humble and mean?
(4) Can any man set aside the Divine authority, or nullify the creature's responsibility?
(5) Will the Lord ever leave any man, who sincerely aims to do His will, without His help and blessing?
(6) What blessings might not the exercise of such an authority, in such a manner, be the means of diffusing! Reflections —
1. How needful is it that princes and rulers should be clearly informed of what God requires at their hands.
2. How careful they should be not to abuse the power with which they are charged!
3. How great must be the guilt of all who attempt to hinder such princes and rulers in the conscientious discharge of their duties.
4. How very far are we yet from that state of things which ought to exist.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,