« PreviousContinue »
But God is all this, because he eminently possesseth all this, An ancient heathen said of Camillus, that he was the whole Roman republic to him: and Toxaris, when he had procured Anacharsis the acquaintance of Solon, said to him : This is Athens, this is Greece; thou art no longer a stranger, thou hast seen the whole. Let us sanctify this thought by applying it to God. God is all the Roman republic, all Greece, the whole world and all its inhabitants. Yes, he is the beauty of the stars, the brightness of the sun, the purity of fire, the subtilty of ethereal matter, the expanse of heaven and the law of fate; he is the sagacity of the politician, the penetration of the philosopher, the bravery of the soldier, the undaunted courage, and the cautious coolness of the general. If, among these qualities, there be any incoinpatible with the purity of his essence, and therefore inapplicable to him, yet in this sense they belong to him, all are subject to his empire, and act only by his will. He is,
an ancient writer expresseth it, à boundless ocean of existence. From this ocean of existence all created beings, like so many rivulets, flow. From this ocean of light proceeded the sun with its brightness, the stars with their glitter, along with all the brilliancies of other beings that approach their nature. From this ocean of wisdomn come those profound politicians, who penetrate the deepest recesses of the human heart; hence those sublime philosophers, who explore the heavens by the marvels of dioptricks, and descend into the bowels of the earth by their knowledge of nature; and hence all those superior geniusses, who' cultivate the sciences, and the liberal arts, and who constitute the beauty of the intelligent world. In him we live, and move, and have our being, Acts xvii. 28. We breathe his air, and we are animated by his spirit; it is his power that upholds, his knowledge that informs, and his wisdom that conducts us.
3. The Essence of God is unchangeable in its exercise. Creatures only pass from nothing to existence. and from existence to nothing. Their existence is rather a continual variation than a permanent state ; and they are all carried away with the same vicissitudes. Hardly are we children before we become men: hardly are we arrived at manhood before we become old; and as soon as we become old we die. We love to-day what we hated yesterday, and to-morrow we shall hate what to-day we love. David hath given us a just definition of inan. He defines him a phantom, who
only appears, and who appears only in a vain show, Psalm
But I the Lord change not: Mal. iii. 6. the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, Heb. xiii. 8. He is, as it were, the fixed point, on which revolve all the creatures in the universe, without partaking himself of their revolutions.
4. Finally, the divine Essence is eternal in its duration : Hast thou known, saith our prophet, that he is the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth? When we attempt to measure the duration of God, by tracing it beyond the first periods of this universe, we lose ourselves in the unfathomable depths of eternity : we heap ages upon ages, millions of years upon millions of years : but no beginning of his existence can we find. And when we endeavour to stretch our thoughts, and to penetrate the most remote futurity, again we heap ages upon ages, millions of years millions of
and lose ourselves again in the abyss, perceiving, that he can have no end, as he had no beginning. He is the Ancient of Days, Dan. vii. 9. The Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last; he is, he was, he is to come, Rev. i. 8. Before the mountains were brought forth, before the earth and the world were formed, even from everlasting to everlasting he is God, Psal. xc. 2. And when the mountains shall be dissolved, when the foundations of the earth shall be destroyed, when all sensible objects shall be folded up like a vesture, Heb. i. 12. he will be the everlasting God, will be, when they exist no more, as he was before they existed at all.
Secondly, Having judged of the grandeur of God by the sublimity of his essence, judge of it by the immiensity of his works. The prophet invites us to this meditation in the words of
text. It is he that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things. It is he who bringeth out their host by number, he calleth them all by names. By the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power, not one faileth. But who can pretend to discuss, in a single article of one sermon, a subject, which whole volumes could not contain? For if there be a subject, in which simple narration resembles rhetorical bombast, it is undoubtedly this.
A novice is frightened at hearing what astronomiers assert; that the sun is a million times bigger than the earth : that the naked eye discovers more than a thousand fixed stars, which VOL. I. P
are so many suns to enlighten unknown systems: that with the help of glasses we may discover an almost infinite number : that two thousand have been reckoned in one constellation ; and that, without exaggerating, they inay be numhered at inore than two millions : that what are called nebuļous stars, of which there is an innumerable multitude, that appear to us as if they were involved in little misty clouds, are all assemblages of stars.
A novice is frightened, when he is told, that there is such a prodigious distance between the earth and the sun, that a body, inoving with the greatest rapidity that art could produce, would take up twenty-five years in passing from the one to the other : that it would take up seven hundred and fifty thousand to pass from the earth to the nearest of the fixed stars : and to the most distant more than a hundred millions of years.
A novice is frightened: (do not accuse me, mny brethren, of wandering from the subject of this discourse, for the saints, who are proposed in scripture as patterns to us, cherished their devotions with meditations of this kind : at the sight of these grand objects they exclainied, O Lord, when we consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; what is man that thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man that thou visitest him ? Psal. viii. 3, 4. And my text engageth me to fix your attention upon these objects : lift up your eyes on high and behold.) A novice is frightened, when he is assured, that, although the stars, which form a constellation, seem to touch one another, yet the distance of those that are nearest together cannot be ascertained, and that even words are wanting to express the spaces which separate those that are at the greatest distances from each other: that if two men were observing two fixed stars, from two parts of the earth, the moạt distant from each other, the lines that went from their eyes, and terminated on that star, would be confounded together; that it would be the saine with two men, were one of them on the earth, and the other in the sun, though the sun and the earth arę at such a prodigious distance from each other; so inconsiderable is that distance in comparison of the space which separates both from the star, All this startles a novice: and yet, what are these bodies, countless in their number, and enormous in their size What are these unmeasurable spaces, which absorb our
senses senses and imaginations? What are all these in comparison of what reason discovers ? Shall we be puerile enough to persuade ourselves that there is nothing beyond what we see? Have we not reason to think, that there are spaces far, far beyond, full of the Creator's wonders, and affording matter of contemplation to the thousand thousanıls, to the ten thousand times ten thousand intelligences that he hath made ? Dan. vii. 10.
Here'let us pause. Over all this universe God reigns. But what is man even in the comparison of this earth? “ Let " him reflect on himself,” (I borrow the words of a modern author) “ let him consider what he is in comparison of " the whole that exists beside : let him regard himself as "' confined in this obscure by-corner of nature: and from the “ appearance of the little dungeon where he is lodged, that is, “ of this visible world, let him learn to estimate the world, “ its kingdoms, and himself at their real value.”
Isaiah estimates their real value in the words of my text. Behold, says he, all nations before him are as a drop of a bucket: they are of no more value than the small dust that cleaves to the balance : God sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof aré as grasshoppers : yea, they are still less considerable, all nations before him are as nothing.
Thirdly. The immensity ofthe Creator's works leads us to the efficiency of his will : and the idea of the real world conducts its to that of the possible world. There needs no train of propositions to discover a connection between what God hath done, and what he can do. The idea of a creature leads to that of a Creator : for, in supposing that some beings have been created, we suppose an author of their creation. The idea of a creative Being includes the idea of a Being whose will is efficient : for as soon as you suppose a creative Being, you suppose a Being whose will is self-efficient. But a Being, whose will is self-efficient, is a Being who, by a single act of his will, can create all possible beings: that is, all the existence of which implies no contradiction; there being no reason for limiting the power of a will that hath been once efficient of itself. So that as soon as you conceive a Being who hath once created, you conceive a Being who can always create.
Let us then form this notion of God : a Being who, by a single act of his will, can create now in empty space, as he hath formerly created. He can say, of light which doth not
exist, what he once said of that which doth exist, Let there be light; and there shall be light, like that which actually is. He can say, of luminaries which are not, what he hath said of luminaries which already are, Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven; and luminaries, that are not, shall be, as those that once were not are now, and will owe their existence to that will, which is always irresistible, and always efficient; or, as the prophet saith in the words of my text, to the greatness of his might, to the strength of his power.
Lastly, to convince you of the grandeur of God, I am to remark to you the magnificence of some of his mighty acts, at certain periods, in favour of his church. The prophet had two of these periods in view. The first was the return of the Jews from that captivity in Babylon which he had denounced: and the second, the coming of the Messiah, of which their return from captivity was only a shadow.
What wonders did God work in the first of these periods ! Nebuchadnezzar, the tyrant of the Jews, had obtained universal monarchy, or as the prophet Jeremiah expresseth it, he was become the hammer of the whole earth, chap. i. 23. The inspired writers represent the rapidity of his victories under the emblem of the swiftness of an eagle. We can hardly imagine the speed with which he over-ran Ethiopia, Arabia, Palestine, Persia, Media, Egypt, Idumea, Syria, and almost all Asia, and with which he conquered all those extensive countries as he marched through thein. Cyrus had been appointed by the Lord, and nominated by the prophets, to stop his career, and to subdue tbose Babylonians, who had subdued so many nations. But who was this Cyrus ? Son of a father, whose meanness and obscurity had prevailed with Astyages, king of Media, to give him his daughter Mandana in marriage; how will he performn such prodigious enterprizes? This is not all : Astyages was afraid that Mandana's son should fulfil a dream, of which his diviners had given him frightful interpretations. He caused her therefore to reside at court during her pregnancy, and commanded Harpagus, one of his most devoted courtiers, to put the child to death as soon as he should be born. But God preserved the child, and all the power of Astyages could not make one hair fall from his head without the Divine permission. Harpagus trembled at his commission, resigned it to the overseer of the king's flocks, and ordered him to expose Mandana’s son: but when he was preparing to obey him, his