« AnteriorContinuar »
FREE CHURCH MAGAZINE.
THE DANGERS OF THE FREE CHURCH. tical law, but to the word of Christ, as the authority
on which that law was founded, and by which it was The following communication was addressed to the to be directed and controlled. I need not speak of Edinburgh Free Church Presbytery, at a late con- the arduous conflict, that exercised the Church for ference, by the Rev. Dr. Grey, and is presented here, some years before the Disruption, and that found with the view of inviting attention generally to an
its termination in that event. important subject :
God has, no doubt, called us now to an important
and conspicuous position; and it is of the highest “THE DANGERS OF A CHURCH SITUATED AS ours, moment that we should be well instructed how to AYTER AN EARNEST STRUGGLE, ATTENDED WITH SOME occupy and improve it. We have seen manifest ATTAINMENT IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF IMPORTANT good effects of our recent change, in an awakened PRINCIPLES; TOGETHER WITH THE CALL ADDRESSED TO and revived power of religion in the souls of indiUS BY PROVIDENCE IN RECENT AFFECTING EVENTS.'
viduals, and, by their influence and example, throughI enter on this subject at the request of your com
out the land. Those who are on the Lord's side mittee, not feeling qualified to enlighten you on among us are now more separated to him and his topics with which you are all conversant, and to cause than they were--more alive to spiritual intewhich we naturally give many serious thoughts, but rests, active and strenuous in exertion-freer from to draw on discussion and bring out such suggestions as worldly thoughts and anxieties—more generous and inay occur for the practical guidance of our proceed-catholic iu their love --more open-hearted in their ings. The subject prescribed assumes that we have charity--living, we trust, more decidedly under the been engaged in earnest contendings, and have made powers of the world to come, and fitter by that means some progress in upholding the cause of Christ and of to be soldiers of Jesus Christ and actors for him in his truth-facts which, to the honour of God, we every undertaking. We may, I think, appeal to the cannot but humbly and thankfully own. If the im- facts of the case, in the rapid rise of churches, pressions I received while attending college, and in in the provision made on the emergency for the supthe first years of my ministry, did not deceive me, port of the ministry, in the extended care for foreign our Church, at and after the close of the last century, stations, in the improved zeal of missionaries, and was, to a great extent, lukewarm, unfaithful, and in the general interest felt in all that concerns the efficienta secular, rather than a spiritual institute. Church and cause of Christ. I state these things, asMany of her ministers, it is true, were deservedly I trust here I may, to the honour of God, in testiand highly esteemed; and their piety and zeal were mony, so far, of his acceptance of our work, and as the more conspicuous from contrast with surround fixing our obligation to push forward, striving witli ing deadness: men who, in respect of the govern- him for the furthering of these advantages. For if ment of the Church, still upheld in argument those we should now stand still, how soon mighit it coine sound principles which had been departed from in to be said that we had done nothing --nothing practice, and who devoted themselves more entirely might appear, þut mischief- unsettling the Church to their pulpit and pastoral duties, from feeling with divisions, raising what would be called a new they could effect little in Church courts. - The sect, while leaving the work of Christ to find its own present century witnessed a gradual improvement, instruments
, and to shift for itself in the base arena both in the number of faithful men and in their of human strife and party contention! But God has zeal and influence; a few chosen . instruments, summoned us, I trust, to a higher and nobler vocareared by the special favour of God, leading the way, tion. · Our care must be to work with him--to find and attracting kindred spirits to the cause of truth out what he would have us to do, that we may fill and godliness. This salutary infusion, operating at up the wider sphere, the sacred opportunity, he has first in particular parishes and localities, extended opened before us. its influence by degrees, and began to show itself Now, in a position like ours, dangers arise, not only more and more openly in our presbyteries, synods, from the general instability and weakness of human and General Assemblies—where important principles nature, but from various circumstances, both prosaffecting the honour and authority of the great Ilead perous and adverse. It strikes me, first, that we are of the Church, and the privileges and duties of his in danger of overlooking and undervaluing the signal professing people, became the subject of frequent help given us of God, the marked answers vouchsafed and earnest discussion; while the appeal for final to our united supplications, when in circumstances of decision was made, not only, as had been too exclu- perplexity, the events occurring so seasonably at critisively the mode in a preceding period, to ecclesias- I cal moments for guiding our views and confirming No. LI.
our purposes. Some fresh inroad on the Church's | wrench, as it might appear to them, which proved rights aroused our jealousy; some perverse acquies- ultimately the only way by which it could be attained. cence on the part of subservient presbyters required They might even approve and admire in us, who to be withstood; some successful assertion of prin- saw our way clear, step which their convictions ciple on our part encouraged the prosecution of our did not impel them to take along with us. They let claims. On many occasions we felt assured, I trust the opportunity slip—we know not with what misnot mistakenly, that God had heard our prayers and givings and sorrow of heart in some instances. We marked out our path, so that, having put our hand are not judges in other men's matters; and are not to the plough, we were not at liberty to look back. to reject but receive those that are weak in the faith, But if so, must we not regard the work as his ? And who may be acting honestly according to their light, is it not a solemn thing to have his cause intrusted to and who, we may have reason to believe, labour useus, and to be called to act as fellow-workers with fully and live holily. Where we have not met with him? Nothing could more defeat our object and dissimulation, double-mindedness, or persecuting anineutralize our past attainments, than that we should, mosity, we may discard all party feeling, and think like the unfaithful Israelites, lose sight of the arm how we may best promote in them, as in others, whatof the Lord so peculiarly held out for our defence ever is good, not denying to any who wish it communiand guidance, and sink into the position of men acting cation and conference with us. We have seen most forth emselves, in their own cause, for their own ends. reforming and seceding movements come too soon to a
Again; with respect to the great principles which close, confining themselves to a band of zealous adhecompelled our separation from the Establishment, rents, whose numbers were seldom increased by acfounded in the Word of God, and countenanced, as cessions from without. We are not so peculiar and we have experienced, by the divine approbation, distinct from all other Protestant and Presbyterian there may be danger on the one hand-now that bodies as to hold association only with those of our the contest is over, and the object, as far as we are own name, or, like Papists and Protestants after the concerned in it, in great measure attained – of Reformation, to shun all contact with the opposite slighting their importance; or, on the other hand, of ranks. It is not by cold and alienated demeanour, too greatly magnifying it. The example of a Church but by cordiality and attraction, that strangers will so entire and well constituted as ours, and drawing be engaged to inquire into our principles, and to its support wholly from the attachment of the peo- feel happy in uniting with us. Let it not be remarked ple, is an object of interest to the whole of Christen- of us, as of too many theological polemics, that the dom. • Its honour, consistency, and preservation, less the difference the stronger the antipathy and the should be very precious to us. Our youth should stricter the separation.-It should be a point indubigrow up instructed in its principles, and the ministry tably fixed with us, that we never again form a be qualified at all times for their exposition and de Church halfModerate and half Evangelical. The mixfence. Yet subjects which we have been led closely ture of this kind that has subsisted in times past, to study, from their requiring a practical decision at fully accounts in my mind for the deterioration and our hands-points of conscience in regard to what we decay of the Church under all its former revivals and have been called to contend and suffer for-may have restorations. Let us be, at all events, pure, single attained disproportionate magnitude in our eyes, hearted, and united, whether poor and depressed or and become endeared to us beyond other points, not prosperous and advancing; and as to the rest, less valuable, that have not been placed in jeopardy. guarding against bigotry and needless isolation, we We may be api to give them a higher or more ex- may leave it to our almighty Guide to shape our clusive position in our creed than their general or re- course and direct our steps in matters of alliance and lative importance entitles them to; or to press their association. acceptance on others not circumstanced as we have
Again; the hardships and sufferings of our own been, with stronger urgency than their case requires; ministers, affecting them in different degrees, may be or to under-rate those who do not see their import- ranked among the occasions of danger. We all ance, and are still tolerant of the abuses which our know that trials of any kind, if severe and protracted, principles lead us to renounce and condemn. If we
prove temptations. When compelled to encounter have been led, by the teaching of God's providence, lengthened toils, we grow weary and sigh for rest; as well as of his Word, to important conclusions, it when subjected to losses and disasters, we become becomes us to regard with candour those who have
dissatisfied and impatient; when treated unkindly not had the same lessons pressed upon them, and, and injuriously, we resent and perhaps retort the while maintaining the truth against error on either injury. If this is natural and almost unavoidable, it side, to avoid indiscriminate censure of those who is the more necessary to guard well our spirits, that differ from us.
If we think that others have some- we be not foiled in the conflict; that we do not grow thing to learn of us, we should consider that we also
weary before the victory is won, nor cease, though may have something to learn of them. We are the faint, to continue pursuing; that when offended, we modement party, the reformers, who should hold our
"be angry and sin not;" that when pressed with selves in a state of progress. We are yet in the con- many hardships, we “ bé not overcome of evil, but flict, have thrown away the scabbard, and must not overcome evil with good.” Some of our brethren think of self-satisfied repose when so much remains have been called to the arduous duties prescribed to be done.
the first Christians, to guffer loss for Christ's sake And with respect to those who were formerly with many anxieties and privations, and yet to reunited with
us by a closer tie than their sitting on turn good for evil, benefits for injuries, blessings the same side with us in Church courts, it becomes and prayers for contumely and reproach. But this us to be modest as well as tender in our conclusions. is a task peculiarly requiring divine assistance, and Men may err morally, or they may err intellectually, fulfilled only by those who walk closely and humbly They might see our object to be very desirable, and with God.—It ought to be an unceasing care with yet recoil from the strong, almost self-destroying us to keep our congregations in a lively and exerting
position with respect to the interests of the Church, good, have entitled themselves to a lasting and and the suitable support of her ministry: and as the honourable name among the servants and labourers talent and influence necessary for these ends are not in Christ's vineyard. Others of inferior note have found in every locality, it is the more important that started, not without a similar aim; but, being defecall our districts be visited periodically by deputations tive in sound principle, and betrayed by vanity into -to inspect congregations as to their general pro- divisive paths, their little light has soon gone out, gress and improvement, their arrangements with leaving no continuing effect. Of this class we might regard to elders, deacons, and collectors, and their instance, in our own days, our friends the Rowites, practical attention to the duties imposed upon them and those called Plymouth Brethren, comprising by the peculiar circumstances of the Free Church. good men, but molesting the Church with folly and As in the case of Missionary and Bible Societies, the needless peculiarities; whose course is likely to close spirit of the cause is enlivened, and the returns be- with their existing race of adherents. Those, who come more liberal, through the appeals of strangers, have gone before, are for example and for warning : concurring with the general recommendations of those who stand, whoever they be, must stand by their regular pastors.
faith and in faithfulness. Again; our change of situation exposes us to the It will not answer our purpose to have had great danger of contracting our views of ministerial obli- leaders, a righteous cause, a good beginning, if we gation; of withdrawing our concern from the popu- fall from our first works. God is not the partisan of lation at large, to fix it too exclusively on our con- any of our Christian denominations, as such. He gregations and those who range themselves among may appear again where we are least disposed to the adherents of the Free Church; and of foregoing expect him. The true temple was at Jerusalem; but the benefit of that territorial or parochial division Samaria was not left without her warning messages which we have been used to deem of high account, and her august prophets. The Lord is sometimes as bringing all the inhabitants of every portion of found of those who sought not after him, and rethe land under moral and religious superintendence. news his grace to the descendants of his ancient We should guard in this quarter against any loss to servants who seemed out of the way to find it. He the general interests of religion, or to our own fruit-may again provoke his slumbering hosts, as in the fulness and increase. Our interests and obligations most eminent instance upon record, by calling in are by no means diminished toward those who ac- those who seem not a people, and bringing in a knowledge no ministry, and for whose souls no man foolish nation to anger them.” The lesson I would careth. As far as means and ability admit, we are deduce, my brethren, is, that we walk humbly and debtors to all men, and should have in view to pro- circumspectly, if we would walk surely: not looking secute every where the work of Christ. In the behind, to boast or to be cast down: not troubling meantime, the undertaking is large; and I know not ourselves with others, whether they honour or dewhether the result might not be more effective by spise us, whether they err or act wisely: but, with a strengthening and perfecting what we take in hand, loving and Christ-like spirit to all who love and are rather than weakening our efforts by too widely ex- like him, that we fix our eyes on the Lord's work tending them. I would not make a point, in the around us on the scattered multitudes who are not first instance, of having a Free Church everywhere; gathered, but left as outcasts from all Churches-on but with full consideration of the importance of the the devotion he claims of us on the work that is sphere, the urgency of the call, and the means of yet to be done ere his word and will are accomgrace that may be otherwise in operation.
plished in the world. Furthermore; we had need of all our strength in I would venture to say that I rejoice in the meaexercise, if, having made some progress, we would sure of progress we have made, greatly aided by not slide back again, and lose the things that we have our Disruption, towards a right state of feeling in rewrought. Times of degeneracy have often trodden gard to those religious professors who differ from us fast on the heels of times of revival. The men who and adhere to other communions. It is not by an were instruments in restoring the work of God have assumption of superiority, or by a struggle for a seemed to carry their work away with them, not name, that we attain to honour, or convince others leaving a race of successors to support and bear it that the Lord is on our side. It is by our fruits in forward after they were removed. We know the the world and in the Church at large, that we must be rises and falls that have been experienced in our content to be known; and not by the fruits already own Church and land; and how unequal the returns, matured and gathered in, but by the fresh harvest in a national point of view, to the apparent power or each succeeding year, by untiring assiduity, and put forth, the energy of the leaders, the examples ever-wakeful perseverance. It does not signify to us exhibited, the instrumentality called into exercise ! | whether the Free Church, in time to come, draw the I speak of facts, not at present investigating their other Churches into communion with herself; or causes. In England, the decayed state of religion whether, by the extension of pure and catholic prinhas, from time to time, made room for the rise of ciples everywhere, she come to be absorbed by any new forms of Christian profession, originating with larger and more prevalent party. It will be well those whose hearts impelled them to seek for more for her if she has done the Lord's work in its seaeffective and vital godliness. From this necessity son—testified for and sustained important truths, of conscience, as one may say, sprung forth, centu- and the honour and consistency of Scotland's Naries ago, numerous classes of Nonconformists, com- tional Church through times of pressure and triala posed extensively of serious and earnest Christians; Her work cannot be thrown away. It rests with the and, in later times, the Methodists, followers of Lord of all to determine how he will use and disa Whitefield and Wesley, who, in their different com- pose of her We see that other parties that have munities, have redeemed the land in many parts risen and attained to great eminence, have been from absolute heathenism, have stirred up the latent brought, through their very popularity and the exenergies of the Church, and by accomplishing great | tent of their influence, to relax their purity; and, embracing too much of the worldly element, have the cause to which we are pledged. O let us throw come, in the course of time, to be no better than aside every weight-all that shuts us in and contracts others; so that the being one of them implies no our usefulness-all that might withhold other good higher character than the being one of any other men from cordially approving and joining with us denomination. Whether or not it may be so with all that might in any wise limit our affections and us must depend entirely on the energy of divine straiten us in our bowels of kindness and brothergrace imparted, and the wisdom, fervency, and mode. hood toward them. ration with which our work is pursued and our posi- Among the graces that distinguished the beloved tion maintained.
Chalmers, none, we all feel, added so much to the Our prescribed subject further suggests for our result of the whole, as that cordial impulsive outconsideration the Lord's more recent dealings with us, going of the heart toward all good men-ihat instinct and the call they address to us. In surveying the late which led him, without mistake, to fix upon what dispensations of Providence, we cannot but deeply was good in them--that hopefulness which tends to deplore the removal of valued and eminent men from make men better by making the best of them. He among us; yet can hardly, perhaps, regard these events knew full well wherein creeds differ; but the differas chastisements or tokens of evil import. For is ences betwixt good men of different Churches seemed there not cause, in the case of our revered fathers hardly known to him. His aspect was that of welwithdrawn, greatly to rejoice in their work accom- come and benevolent esteem of all right-hearted plished, in the time they were continued with us, Christians, of joy in their usefulness, and hearty apand even in the appropriate season of their depar- preciation of all that was applicable to good purposes ture, that seemed in a manner to banish tears, to fix in their plans. His wide British and European reour eyes on their reward, and to beckon us to come putation was greatly enhanced by these Christian after? We may speak again of our beloved Chalmers, manifestations. Personal intercourse never failed to since he has gone from us. Did not his term seem rivet and increase the attraction that had been extended, his pristine vigour again renewed, in appli- awakened by his name. cation to our circumstances ? To what eminent pur- These numerous losses summon us to humiliation pose has he since lived ! How effectively has he and prayer, and an earnest inquiry what the Lord thought, spoken, written, and acted! The fire and would have us do; and they remind us of dangers splendour of his earlier eloquence seemed to me in that may rise out of them. Is there not danger of a degree outdone by the practical directness, the divided opinions, and perhaps conflicting parties, now vigorous sense, the winning but inspiriting simpli- that those are gone whose tried wisdom and legiticity of his late productions-in what he wrote, for mate influence used to unite us? Are we sure to instance, in the “Monthly Communications,” not less yield to prudent counsel, on the ground of its own than in his more sacred meditations. And what a worth, the respect we could not withhold from it when blessing and benefit must we esteem it, that, having commended by the acknowledged eminence of the seen his plaus matured and put into successful opera- | counsellor! In such circumstances the apostle's tion, he had an opportunity of bearing his dying warnings are especially applicable: “Let no man testimony, as it proved, in our favour before a Com- think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” mittee of the Legislature appointed to inquire into -“Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; our wrongs.
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better If we would speak of others, honoured and be- than himself."--" Be of one mind and of one judgloved, who have disappeared from our circle, as Drs. ment.”—“Let all your things be done in charity.” Brown, Duncan, Muirhead, Brewster, we cannot say Another matter suggests itself as demanding cirbut that their years were crowned with increase, and cumspection. From the lowly condition of our that they fell ripe in good fruits, though not when Church in respect of the good things of this life, we the Church below was willing to part with them. As may expect that the ministry will be re-inforced to those valued brethren, too soon withdrawn-the generally from the humbler walks of society; and honoured Speirs, the amiable Hamilton; Stewart, on such, for the most part, is the place occupied by whom desiring eyes were set; Macdonald, not less Christ's followers in the world. From among these, lamented than any, though falling in a distant land— through God's favour, have sprung up apostles and and him, never to be forgotten, who, as moderator, leaders whose honoured names transcend all distincstood in the van, and led the ranks of the secession- tions of parentage and descent. But we should be the stroke seems more premature; and if the pro. watchful, for the honour of the ministry, not to inmise of any term of years were among the conditions troduce into it those who are unfit to sustain it, while of the new covenant, would appear to us more de- we seek by all means to promote to it those whom solating and afflictive: but with respect to them we God has endowed with gifts suitable for the office; must say that, in his good time, the Lord took them, and, above all, whom he has baptized with his Holy and they art not, for they are with him, and we Spirit, to carry about with them the savour of the would not keep them back from their reward. Yet | Gospel they teach. It would be well, with this it is right we should question ourselves if there be view, that bursaries and exhibitions should be connot a voice of judgment in these dispensations, fined to their peculiar object of encouraging scholarwhen God recalls his best gifts, and impoverishes our ship and superior attainments in connection with vineyard by cutting down our choicest plants. What piety, and not bestowed as a bounty on poverty, or a we want is, a race of successors; that, whether as a lure to mistaken ambition. And if, as a true Church, distinctive branch of the Church below, or embrac- we leaven and bend the hearts of the community to ing and amalgamating with others like-minded with us, and engage some of the rich as well as the poor, ourselves, no blank may appear, no lack be sustained, in this land of aristocratic distinctions, it should be but the work of the Lord be borne up and carried deemed an honour among these to contribute, not of forward, with extended ranks and deepened files, their substance only, but of themselves, to the Lord; corresponding with the compass and magnitude of ! that there may not be wanting at any time means of access, through social and family connection, to all a detailed account, it may be well to give a brief out orders in the community; that our statements may line of the memorable event. obtain attention from the Legislature when we have For a considerable time past the policy of Louis occasion to appeal to it; and that the higher classes Philippe has given great and increasing dissatisfaction be not unnecessarily alienated or excluded from our to the popular party in France. He has been too religious intercourse. I should regret to see among evidently aiming at the aggrandizement of his family, us what I have observed among the Dissenters in as was peculiarly manifest in the base case of the young England-that the ministry is left to recruit its ranks Queen of Spain and the Montpensier marriage; and almost entirely from humble life, and by means of he has been entering into intimate relations with the education obtained at eleemosynary institutions, despotic governments of Europe. Certain recent scarcely any Dissenters who have advanced them- events have also tended to cast discredit and suspiselves in society wishing that destination for their cion upon the conduct of the court, the ministry, and sons, nor themselves honouring their Church with the supporters of its retrogressive policy. Instances such liberality as might recommend it to those who of gross corruption on a very large scale have been have otherwise the means of doing well in the world. proved against the ministry, too glaring for even We would desire that our adherents were, through French morality to endure; and some of the late God's grace, more generously minded toward his atrocious scenes of infamy and murder, perpetrated cause, and the ministry held in the highest honour as by the nobility, have tended greatly to increase the a profession by all who desire its benefits.
nation's dislike of such persons, and distrust of a While we ask from each other the word of advice government in which they could exercise influence. and admonition, and desire to have deeply impressed Many of the public measures of the administration on our hearts a sense of our duties and obligations, were unpopular, both with regard to foreign diplowe should do ill to forget the high encouragements macy, and with regard to the mode in which the which our peculiar circumstances have called forth; elections of the deputies, or members of parliament, for what manifestations of power and goodness have were carried on. The wind of the community began the last five years brought us acquainted with, which to be directed towards measures of electoral reform; would have been lost but for the bereaved and deso- and for some time past it had become a favourite late circumstances in which we were placed! How method of rousing the attention of the public to hold little could we tell, as the crisis drew near, what reform dinners, at which speeches were made of a were to be its consequences ! yet how little, as the highly exciting character, not only indicating the event has proved, had we to fearl nay, what causes feeling which had become prevalent, but greatly inof joy and thankfulness beyond our expectation ! creasing and confirming it. This might have been None of us has had cause to tire of the Master we regarded as sufficiently alarming to demand some serve, or of the work he gives us to do; or would concessions. But the King of the French appears to even wish to exchange our circumstances of trust have foreseen such a possibility some years since, and dependence for the things in which the world and to have devised the means of suppressing it, places its confidence. Mountains of difficulty have should it arise. On the pretext of guarding Paris been moved out of the way--the rough places made against the contingent danger of being again taken smooth; and whatever work presented itself to be by invaders, as it had been in 1814, before Napoleon's done, the means were as readily supplied for carrying first abdication, it was proposed to surround it with it into effect. Should not this establish our faith, fortifications. The Parisians received this proposal and lead us to walk on in simplicity wherever duty with delight; and for several years past the utmost calls us? We see great things to be done, but the skill of military science has been employed in the thought of the work need not oppress us; it falls not construction of a complete ring of defensive works to us to distribute and arrange it. We have seen it around that city. Some thoughtful persons regarded adjust itself-the work to the day, and the day to the these military works as more likely to be used for the work. When much was to be accomplished, strength purpose of commanding Paris, than for its defence. has been given in proportion; so that what were It seemed tolerably evident, that if these works were great things came to appear small, passing over with held by an army devoted to the King, it would be out baste or perturbation, and giving place to what very easy to suppress any revolutionary movement in was next required; which, in its turn, though arduous, Paris, not by attacking the people in the streets, but proved again, through strength received, equally easy by locking them in within the girdle of circumvallaof accomplishment. When the Lord himself directed tion, and starving them to a surrender. These fortithe casting of the net, however great the multitude fications had been finished, and the King of the of the fishes, “yet was not the net broken.” We French appears to have thought that he might now know, by experience, that it is blessed to live in his bid defiance to any popular and insurrectionary moveservice, and have confidence that to die in it, when- ment. ever he calls, is great gain. Let our motto be,"Fear The Chambers had met, and commenced their denot; only believe : all things are possible to him that liberative duties. The ministry had declared against believeth."
the agitations for reform which had been going on
throughout the kingdom. The opposition members THE THIRD FRENCH REVOLUTION.
had intimated the design of holding a great reform
banquet in Paris itself. This the ministry resolved ANOTHER French Revolution has taken place. The to prevent; and as there existed a law forbidding throne of Louis Philippe, founded on the famous more than twenty persons to meet together and disthree days of July, 1830, has been overturned by cuss public affairs, recourse was had to this law as three days, destined to be not less famous, in Feb. authority for preventing the intended reform banquet ruary, 1845. Most of our readers will, ere this, be in from being held. On Monday, 21st February, the King possession of the general fact thus stated; but though determined to suppress the banquet by force if necesour limits do not permit us to attempt anything like I sary; and placards were issued, one by the Government