Preach’d at the
Abby–Church of Westminster,
April XXIII. MDCCII.
By the Most Reverend Father in God,
JOHN Lord Archbishop of York.
ISAIAH XLIX. 23.
Kings shall be thy Nursing-Fathers, and their Queens thy Nursing Mothers.
Am aware how much Time the following Solemnity will take up, and therefore I mean to give as little Interruption to it as possible; being very sensible that the Shortness of my Sermon will be the best Recommendation of it. Three Things I beg leave to do upon this Occasion.
First, To give some Account of the Promise here made in my Text; and what Obligation it lays upon Princes with relation to their Subjects.
Secondly, To Congratulate with You and the whole Kingdom, the happy Prospect we have of God’s making good this Promise to us at this day, in setting Her Present Majesty upon the Throne of Her Ancestors.
Thirdly, To shew what Returns of Duty and Gratitude, and Filial Obedience, this Consideration of the Queen‘s being a Nursing-Mother to Her People, doth call for from us, and all other Her Subjects.
I begin with the First.
This Chapter out of which I have taken my Text, hath always been understood to be, and it certainly is, a Prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Propagation of his Religion, and the spreading of his Church throughout the World. And it teacheth us, That though the Beginnings of this Religion, this Church of Christ, were very small and inconsiderable; yet in due time a vast number of Nations and Peoples should be brought in to it: So that Kings and Queens should submit their Scepters to that of Jesus Christ, and become Nursing-Fathers and Nursing-Mothers to his Church and People.
As for the fulfilling of this Promise, especially among Us of this Nation, I shall say something by and by. That which I now desire to take notice of, is the Terms by which the Relation between Christian Princes and their People is here expressed; Nursing Fathers and Nursing Mothers.
Let us take these Terms in what sense we will; whether for Natural Parents, or for those that supply the place of Parents in the taking care of Children, that is to say, Guardians or Nurses; yet the Relation in both these Notions, doth imply a wonderful Trust reposed in Princes; and a wonderful Care, and Solicitude, and Tenderness required of them, on the behalf of their Subjects.
Kings shall be thy Nursing-Fathers and Queens thy Nursing-Mothers! O if all Christian Princes consider’d this, and looked upon themselves as placed by God on their Thrones for the making good this Office and Character; with what a Zeal would it inspire them for their Peoples Good?
They would then look upon the whole Kingdom as their own Family, and concern themselves as much for the welfare of their Subjects as Parents do for their Children, or Guardians for their Pupils.
It would be impossible upon this Supposition, that ever they should make their own Interests distinct or separate from those of their People. How great soever their Powers or Prerogatives were, yet they would never think them well employed but when the publick Good was promoted by them. Nor could they propose any other End to defend themselves in their Government, but to defend those under their Charge from all Insults from abroad; and to maintain them in Peace at home; and to make every Soul of them as happy as their condition will bear.
And for the doing of this, they would think themselves obliged above all things to take care of the Church of God; remembering that it is chiefly with respect to That that they have the Charge of being Nursing-Fathers and Nursing-Mothers. As such therefore, they would make it their business to maintain and defend the true Religion; To encourage Piety and Virtue; To oppose and discountenance all Atheism and Infidelity, all Heresies and Schisms, and all Vice and Wickedness and Impiety of what nature soever. They would use their utmost Endeavour to make all their Subjects good Men and good Christians, as knowing that it is impossible for them to be happy even in this World without being so.
And in order to this, they would be sure in their own Persons to set good Examples to their Subjects of Piety and Devotion, of Temperance and Moderation, and all other Virtues. And they would likewise take care as much as in them lay, that all that are about them did the like.
They would be continually thinking of that Psalm of David, which he composed upon his being advanced to the Kingdom of Israel, and wherein he declares the Rules he resolved to observe in his Government. It is the Hundred and First Psalm, I will Sing (saith he) of Mercy and Judgment, unto thee, O Lord will I sing. O let me have nnderstanding in the way of Godliness. When wilt thou come unto me? I will walk in my house with a perfect heart. I will take no wicked thing in hand, I will hate the works of the unfaithful, no such shall cleave unto me. A froward heart shall depart from me, I will not know a wicked person——-My eyes look upon such as are faithful in the land that they may dwell with me. Who so leadeth a Godly life he shall be my servant.—-I shall soon destroy all the ungodly that are in the land, that I may root out all wicked doers from the City of the Lord.
And as such Nursing-Fathers and Nursing-Mothers as we are speaking of, would thus concern themselves for God and his Religion and the Spiritual Interests of their people; So no less solicitous would they be to secure and promote their temporal Peace and Happiness. And accordingly they would think themselves obliged, as much as they could, to look into the Affairs of the Kingdom with their own Eyes; and to see that all the Magistrates under them did their duty in their respective Stations and Offices. They would take care not to suffer their Favourites to encroach upon them, nor ever to make use of their Credit with the Prince for the oppressing the meanest of the People. But they would provide that impartial Justice should be administered to all their Subjects; but yet such Justice as is tempered with Mercy. Remembring what God hath told them in the Scriptures, that their Thrones shall be upholden by Mercy [Prov. 20. 28].
In a word, As the Ends they proposed to themselves in their Government, would be the Good of their People; so the Measures they pitched upon for the administration of it would be accordingly. That is to say, in such a Constitution as ours, where the People have their fixed Rights and Liberties and Properties, the standing Laws of the Kingdom would always be the Rule of their Actions. Nor would they either violate those Laws themselves, nor give any dispensation, or even encouragement to others to do it.
O how happy is that People that have such Princes to reign over them! They are out of all fears of Despotick or Arbitrary proceedings. Indeed Arbitrariness is a word fit for none but God; for all his Creatures are under Laws by which they must be Governed. And yet I think it is an affront to God to say, that even he himself ever acts arbitrarily in the sense we commonly use the word.
God doth, indeed, whatsoever pleaseth him both in Heaven and in Earth [Psal. 135. 6]. But then that pleasure of his, is always Governed by the eternal Laws of Wisdom and Righteousness and Goodness which are essential to his own Mind.
We may likewise truly say, that God doth all things both in Heaven and in Earth for his own Glory; But then that Glory doth only consist in the manifestation of Excellencies and Perfections to his Creatures and doing them they greatest Good they are capable of.
Now such a Glory as this, it is allowable to every man in his Sphere to be ambitious of, but Princes ought to be so above all others. For by this, they truly imitate God, and make good their Character of being his Representatives upon earth; a sort of Gods among men, as the Scripture often calls them. And by Governing after this way, they render themselves truly Glorious, in being esteemed and loved and honoured while they live, and transmitting their memories with a grateful odour to all succeeding generations.
But for the most absolute Princes upon Earth, to use their Power for the most oppressing, or doing hurt to the meanest of Mankind; or to think of advancing their Glory by any other Methods, than by doing all the Good they can to all the World, and especially to their own Subjects: This is being Arbitrary in a wicked sense, and gives such a notion of Glory, as was not known among the Creatures of GOD till the Revolt of the fallen Angels, from whom some of the corrupted Mass of Mankind, by their Instigation, have since taken it.
But I proceed to my second Point; to speak something of the fulfilling of this Prophecy in my Text, of GOD’s raising up Kings and Queens to be our Nursing-Fathers and Nursing-Mothers.
And blessed be GOD this Promise hath for many Ages, from time to time, been made good to abundance of Nations and Peoples: But to none more amply, more signally, than to us of this Kingdom.
As the Christian Faith was planted here as early almost as in any Nation, (for it was planted here in the time of the Apostles, and probably by one of them) so if we may believe our Histories, it was this Country of ours to which GOD vouchsafed the Honour of having the first Christian King [K. Lucius] in Europe, and consequently the first Nursing-Father. And likewise the Honour of giving Birth to that Emperor [Constantine] who was the first Nursing-Father to all Christendom; so early was this Promise of GOD to his Church fulfilled among us.
It is not likewise a little to the Honour of our Nation, nor a little Argument of GOD’s Care over us, that when the Liberties of all Christian Kings and People were invaded and oppressed by the Papal Userpations; and Christianity it self was corrupted by Superstition and Idolatry; It was an English King that first threw off the Foreign Yoak; and it was an English King also, that first begun the Reformation of Religion.
But the Honour of perfecting that great Work was reserved for a Queen. You all know who I mean, the Immortal Elizabeth, whose Name will be precious, not only in this Nation, but in all the Reformed Countries of Europe, as long as time shall last.
Her Reign alone will let us see, that it was not without great reason, that in my Text Queens are joyn’d as equal Sharers with Kings, in making up the Blessing which is here promis’d to GOD’s People.
And such another QUEEN we trust GOD has now given us.
We ought indeed to admire GOD’s Goodness to us: Often have we provoked him by our manifold Sins and Impieties. And often hath he punished us for them. But yet in his Judgments he hath always remembered Mercy. When we have been in our greatest Distress, he hath always raised up Deliverers to us
Even then when our Constitution was not long since (not so long since but that many here present may remember it) quite subverted by Factions at Home; yet in a little time did he Restore our lawful King, and with him our Church, and Laws, and Liberties.
And when upon his Death, all of them were again in danger by a Faction from another Quarter; and we had no prospect but of sinking under the Calamity; yet then he raised up our late King and Queen, of glorious Memory, to rescue us from our Dangers, and to secure us in the Possession of all that was dear and valuable to us.
So that, blessed be GOD, we still continue upon the same Bottom we were: We have still the same Religion, the same Church, the same Government: We still enjoy the same Rights and Liberties, and Properties, that ever we did. O may they for ever be continued to us and our Posterity. And we hope in GOD’s Mercy that they will.
For tho’ it hath pleased him to deprive us of these two great Blessings, by taking to himself, first our incomparable QUEEN, and now lately our KING, who was the great support not only of these Kingdoms, but of all Europe: yet such is his Goodness, that he hath preserved to us another Branch of the same Royal Stock to repair our Losses. Ramo uno avulso deficit alter Aureus.
A Sister of our never to be forgotten QUEEN is yet left us. Of whom if we may make Presages, either from the long experience we have had of her many personal Virtues express’d in a more private Condition, and particularly her Firmness to the English Church, and English Interest, in the most difficult times:
Or from the Instances she has already given since her accession to the Throne;
Of Her Zeal for the supporting of the common Cause of Europe, against the exorbitant Power of France;
Of Her tender Love to Her People, express’d in such a Donative, as is hardly to be parallel’d by any thing heretofore seen in this Kingdom;
Of Her concern for our Religion, our Laws, our Liberties; for the continuance of the Crown in the Protestant Line; for the Government in Church and State as by Law establish’d: All which She has assur’d us in her Gracious Declaration, and from the Throne, are as dear to her, as to any Person whatsoever, and that no Pains nor Diligence shall ever be wanting on her part to preserve and maintain them.
Lastly, Of Her solemn Resolution (declar’d in her Proclamation) to discountenance and punish all manner of Vice, and Profaneness, and Immorality in all Persons of whatsoever Degree or Quality; and particularly, in such as are employ’d near Her Royal Person And that for the greater encouragement of Religion and Morality, She will upon all occasions distinguish Persons of Piety and Vertue, by Marks of Her Royal Favour.
I say if we may draw good Omens from those former Experiences of her Majesties Life, and from these Auspicious Beginnings of her Reign; There is just reason for us all to Congratulate with the whole Kingdom, the Happy Prospect that we have, that God in setting Her upon the Throne, hath again fulfilled his Promise in my Text; hath given us in Her another Nursing-Mother to his Church and People; and one who will make good that Character in all the Instances I have before mentioned.
What have we now to do, but to thank God heartily for all the repeated Instances of his Favour to us, and particularly this last one. And to pray earnestly for Her Majesty, that her following Reign may be suitable to these Happy Beginnings.
But in order to these Prayers being effectual, there is something else required of Us; which is fit here to be mentioned, as being a Natural Application of what I have already said.
And that is, that we take care not to hinder or obstruct the happy Effects of Her Majesty’s Gracious Intentions to her People, by any unbecoming Carriage of ours: But always bear in Mind what returns of Duty, and Gratitude, and Filial Obedience, this Consideration of the Queen’s being a Nursing-Mother to her People doth call for from us, and all other her Subjects.
This is the Third and last thing I proposed to speak to, but for fear of being too long, I shall but just touch upon it.
If all Subjects did seriously consider this Relation between their Princes and them, they would think themselves obliged to bear the same Love and Affection, to pay the same Honour and Reverence, and Obedience to their Nursing-Fathers and Nursing-Mothers, as they do to their Natural Parents.
They would endeavour to make their Reigns as easy as was possible, by contributing every Man in his Sphere, what Assistance they could to their Prince, for the promoting the common Good.
They would make it their study to live in as much Peace and Unity with their Fellow-Subjects, as if they dwelt together in one Family. They would have no Interests separate from the Common-wealth; nor would they for the advancing themselves, ever seek the ruin of others.
They would not for difference in Opinion, about the Methods of the publick Conduct, break out into Parties and Factions: much less in Case of such Divisions, would they Sacrifice the Peace of the Kingdom, to their own private Resentments, and mingle Heaven and Earth for the supporting of a Side.
They would seriously remember the Caution which St. Paul hath given us, and which indeed concerns every one of this Nation, but especially those that are concern’d in the publick Management, often to think of. If (saith he) ye bite and devour one another, have a care that ye be not consumed one of another [Gal. 5. 15]. Nothing can ever so much endanger this Kingdom as our own Divisions. And if ever we be ruin’d, in all probability it is these will be the cause of it.
It is one very good Omen (among the rest that I have mentioned) of her Majesty’s Happy Reign, that no Prince ever came to the Throne, with a more general Satisfaction, and with more good Wishes of the People.
And it must be said to the Honour of this Parliament, that never any Parliament gave more extraordinary Testimonies of their sincere Affection, and Duty, and Kindness to their Prince, than this Parliament hath given to the Queen.
O may this good Understanding, these mutual Endearments between the Queen and her People for ever continue. And abhorred be the Memory of that Man, that makes the first step towards the breaking of them.
Then shall we be happy: As happy as the Vicissitudes of this World will allow us to be. And as the Queen will rejoyce in her People; so it will be her Peoples daily Prayer that God would long long preserve Queen ANNE.