It is easy enough, no doubt, for any one who is so inclined, to neutralize all that the Church can say, by a dexterous use of party-feeling: easy, to call it a device of the State for upholding a particular set of opinions. But the matter may be brought to a short issue. If attachment to the cause of our injured King, and sympathy with his high-minded patience, were not in entire harmony with the principles inculcated in all other parts of the Prayer-Book: if Sanderson, Hammond, and Taylor, those Restorers of our fallen Church, spoke otherwise on the duty of subjects, than as former generations of true Churchmen had spoken: then we might perhaps have cause to fear, that Feeling had got the better of Reason, in this one portion of our yearly solemnities. But if they “all speak the same thing, and there be no division among them;” and (what is infinitely more) if what they speak be altogether scriptural: if the doctrine of submission and loyal obedience be only one inseparable branch of the universal doctrine of resignation and contentment—an ingredient of that unreserved Faith, without which it is impossible to please God—then let us bless our Preserver, for not leaving us without special witness to a part of our duty, where all experience has proved us so likely to go wrong. Let us trust our civil welfare to the Gospel rule of non-resistance, as fearlessly as we trust our domestic happiness to the kindred rule of filial obedience. Such conduct, if universal, would be a perfect security to liberty: inasmuch as the same principle which forbids illegal resistance, would equally forbid being agents in illegal oppression. And they who abide by it, be they many or few, have for their warrant the general tenor and express word of Revelation, the example of our Blessed Lord, His Apostles, and His suffering Church. In every case, the burthen of proof lies wholly on those who plead for resistance.
And what if young men—the high-born especially—instead of that degrading ambition of commencing, early, “men of the world,” would consent to shape their own conduct by the noble simplicity and downright goodness of him, whom we this day commemorate? the secret of whose excellence lay, chiefly, in two qualities, by them most imitable: consistent purity of heart and demeanour, and strict constancy in devotional duties, under the guidance of his and our Church? Does any one believe that such a change would leave society at all a loser, in point of true generosity and courtesy, or whatever else makes life engaging?
But if all this must still be unheard—if the instruction of the day be quite drowned, in men’s eager cry for what is called Freedom: at least the service answers the purpose of a solemn appeal from human prejudice, to Him, before whom king and subject must ere long appear together. To whose final and unerring decision, not, it is hoped, with presumptuous confidence, nor yet with any uncharitable thought, but in cheerful assurance that resignation and loyalty can “in no wise lose their reward,” we desire, now and always, to “commit our cause.”
Sermon V. Danger of Sympathizing with Rebellion. Preached by John Keble before the University of Oxford, 30 January 1831.