1. Magistrates uphold and adorn the world, as pillars do a fabrick, by employing their superior wisdom and knowledge, skill and prudence, discretion and judgment for the publick good. These accomplishments are to be supposed in the civil order, and they render ’em the pillars of the earth.
Wisdom is both strength and beauty, a defence and ornament. So Solomon shines among kings, for the Wisdom of God was in Him. God gave him Wisdom and Knowledge exceeding much, and Largeness of Heart even as the Sand upon the Sea-shore. Angels excel in strength, and rulers should be wise as the angels of God. The government is laid on Christ because in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the wisdom of God and the power of God. As God at first founded the earth by his wisdom, and by his understanding established the heavens; so by the communication of wisdom and understanding to some, he preserves the order and happiness of others on it. What is said of a house is true of a state,
Thro’ Wisdom it is builded, and by Understanding it is established, and by Knowledge shall the Chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant Riches: A wise Man is strong, yea a Man of Knowledge increaseth Strength.*
But then, Is the pillar for ornament? What is more beautiful than knowledge and wisdom? What more adorns a man, a place, a country? The queen of Sheba came far to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and Huram was as much struck as she was: 2 Chron. ii. 12. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath given to David the King a wise Son, endued with Prudence and Understanding, who may build a House for the Lord, and an House for the Kingdom.
2. Integrity, uprightness, faithfulness added to knowledge and wisdom, makes men strong and beautiful pillars, whether in church or state. Every man is ready to pretend to a competency of wisdom, and as ready to proclaim his own Goodness; but a faithful Man who can find? Prov. xx. 6. He is a rare and beauteous spectacle, as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Jehojada, Hezekiah and Nehemiah, in their times, and to the end of time. All that rule over men should be like to these, just men ruling in the fear of the Lord, and then they are to the world as the light and rain, without which the earth must perish. As darkness vanishes before the light, so a King that sitteth upon the Throne of Judgment scattereth away all Evil with his Eyes. David, that pillar of Israel, came into the government with that noble purpose and resolution, Psal. lxxv. 3. When I shall receive the Congregation, I will judge uprightly. So he fed them in the integrity of his heart, and led them by the skilfulness of his hands. God’s righteousness and faithfulness, justice and judgment, are the foundation of his everlasting government, the habitation of his throne. See the pillars of the divine government; Psal. xxxvi. 5, 6. Thy Faithfulness reacheth to the Clouds, thy Righteousness is as the great Mountains. Nor can the kingdoms and provinces on the earth stand, but on the like basis of a just and righteous humane government. Psal. lxxii. 3. The Mountains shall bring Peace to the People, and the little Hills by Righteousness. “Both the superior and inferior magistrates shall minister abundantly to the stability and tranquility of the state.[”]
3.A publick and enlarged spirit for the common weal and a single regard thereunto, without suffering our selves to be misled by private and selfish views. This renders men pillars to the world, in the places wherein Providence sets ’em. And so,
4. A spirit of peace and love, meekness and humility, candour and gentleness; whereby persons are ready to unite their counsels, and act in concert with one another; paying a just deference one to another and preferring one another in honour; glad to receive light from any one, and well pleased to reflect it from them; all pursuing one end, as the many pillars in a great house stand quietly near to one another, and all help to bear it up: This spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, render men strong and beautiful pillars of the earth. But if the peace of God rule not in mens hearts; if their passions shake ’em and they clash with one another; the house totters, the high arches above cleave asunder, and the roof falls in; as when Sampson bow’d the pillars of Dagons house, and buried the lewd assembly in one vast ruine.
5. A pillar implies fortitude and patience; resolution, firmness and strength of mind, under weight and burden: Not to be soon shaken in mind, nor moved away from what is right and just; but giving our reason in the meekness of wisdom, and hearing the reasons of others in the same spirit of meekness, to form an impartial judgment, and abide by it; But yet with submission to the publick judgment and determination. The unstable are as water, and more fitly likened to the waves of the sea, than to a pillar on shore. And the irresolute, discouraged and sinking mind is at best but a pillar built upon the sand; which falls when the wind blows and the storm beats upon it, because of its weak foundation.
There is a passive courage, ever necessary in an accomplish’d ruler, as much it may be as an active. The pillar stands regardless thro’ the weather beat on it, or tho’ dirt be cast on it. True it will wear under the injuries of time, but it looks still great, and stands while it wears away. The wise, the meek & strong Moses stood as many shocks, as ever man did from an impatient, murmuring, ungrateful people.
Excerpt from Benjamin Colman’s 1730 Sermon, Government the Pillar of the Earth. His full sermon can be read here.