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plans, involuntarily gives himself up to his own chimeras, and derives a pleasure from these ingenious shadows, which, for a few moments, compensates for their want of substance: but, when his reverie is over, he finds real beings inferior to ideal ones, and thus his genius serves to make him miserable. A man is much to be pitied, in my opinion, when the penetration of his mind, and the fruitfulness of his invention, furnish him with ideas of a delightful society cemented by a faithful, solid and delicate friendship. Recal him to this world, above which his imagination had just now raised him ; consider him among men who know nothing of friendship but its name, or, who have at best, only a superficial knowledge of it, and you will be convinced that the art of inventing is often the art of self-tormenting, or, as I said before, that greatness of counsels destitute of abundance of power is a source of infelicity.
It is just the same with abundance of power without greatness of counsels. What doth it avail to possess great riches, to reign over a great people, to command formidable fleets and armies, when this power is not accompanied with wisdom.
In God, the Supreme Being, there is a perfect harmony of wisdom and power: The efficiency of his will, and the extent of his knowledge are equal. But, I own, I am afraid, were I to pursue my meditation, and to attempt to establish this proposition by proofs taken from the divine nature, that I should lose, if not myself, at least one part of my hearers, by aiming to conduct them into a world, with which they are entirely unacquainted. However, I must say, it is with reluctance I make this sacrifice, for 1 suppress speculations, which would afford no small degree of pleasure to such as could pursue them. It is delightful to elevate our souls by meditaring on the grandeurs of God; and although God dwelleth in a light which no man can approach unto, 1 Tim. vi. 16. although it is impossible for feeble mortals to have a free access to him ; yet it is pleasing to endeavour to diminish the distance that separates them. I cannot but think, that, without presuming too much upon natural reason, any ond, who habituates himself to consult it, may assure himself of finding sufficient evidence of this truth, that the efficiency of God's will is equal to the extensiveness of his ideas, and, by close and necessary consequence, that he is as mighty in work as he is great in counsel.
Carry your thoughts back into those periods in which the perfect Being existed alone. Sound reason must allow, he hath so existed. What could then have been the rule or inodei of beings which should in future exist? The ideas of God were those models. And what could cause those beings, that had only an ideal existence in the intelligence of God, actually to exist out of it? The efficiency of his will was the cause. The will of the same Being then, whose ideas have been the exemplars, or models, of the attributes of creatures, caused their existence. The Supreme Being therefore, who is great in counsel, is mighty in work.
This being granted, consider now the ocean of God's power, as you have already considered the greatness of his counsel. God not only knows what motion of your brain will excite such or such an idea in your mind, but he excites or prevents that idea as he pleaseth, because he produceth or preventeth that motion of your brain as he pleaseth. God not only knows what objects will excite certain passions within you, but he excites or diverts those passions as he pleaseth. God not only knows what projects, your passions will produce, when they have gained an ascendency over you, but he inclines you to form, or not to form, such projects, because, as it seems best to him, he excites those passions, or he curbs them.
What we affirm of inen, we affirm also of all other inlelligent beings: they are no less the objects of the knowledge of God than men are, and, like them, are equally subject to his efficient will: and hence it is that God knows how to make all fulfil his designs. It is by this that he makes every thing subservient to his glory; Herod and Pilate, our hatred and our love, our aversions and our desires; the ten ihousand times ten thousand intelligences, some of which are superior to us, and others inferior, all they are and all they have, the praises of the blessed and the blasphemies of the damned, all by this mean are instrumental in the execution of his designs, because the determinations of his will are efficient, because to will and to do, to form a plan and to have the power of executing it, is the same thing with the Supreme Being, with him whose ideas were the only models of the attributes of all creatures, as his will was the only cause of their existence.
But perhaps I am falling into what I meant to avoid : perhaps I am bewildering my hearers and myself in speculative labyrinths too intricate for us all. Let us reason then no
longer longer on the nature of God; this object is too high-for us ; let us take another method, (and here I alledge the second proof of the truth of my text, that is, the history of the world, or as I said before, the history of the church:) Let us take, I say, another method of proving that God, who is great in counsel, is also mighty in work. What counsel can you imagine too great for God to execute, or which he hath not really executed ? Let the inost fruitful imagination exert its fertility to the utmost; let it make every possible effort to forın plans worthy of an inanite intelligence, it can invent nothing so difficult that God hath not realized.
It should seem, according to our manner of reasoning, that greatness of wisdom and sufficiency of power never appear in greater harmony in an intelligent being, than when that intelligence produceth effects by means, in all appearance, more likely to produce contrary effects. This, we are sure, God hath effected, and doth effect every day. And that we may proportion this discourse, not to the extent of my subject, but to the length of these exercises, we will briefly remark, that God hath the power of making, 1. The deepest afflictions of his children produce their highest happiness. 2. The contrivances of tyrants to oppress the church procure its establishment. 3. The triumphs of Satan turn to the destruction of his empire.
1. God hath the power of making the deepest afflictions of his children produce their highest happiness,
The felicity of the children of God, and in general the felicity of all intelligent beings, is founded upon order, All happiness that is not founded upon order is a violent state, and must needs be of short duration. But the essence of order, among intelligent beings, is the assigning of that place in their affections to every relative being which is fit for it. Now there is a fitness in having a higher esteem for a being of great excellencies than for one of small. There is a fitness in iny having a higher degree of affection for one of whoin. I have received imore benefits, and from whom I still expect to receive more, than for one of whom I have received, and still hope to receive, fewer. But God is a Being of the highest excellence, to God therefore I owe the highest degree of esteem. God is the Being of whom I have received the most benefits, and of whom I expect to receive the most ; consequently, to God I owe the highest degree of affectionate gratitude.
Yet how often do the children of God lose sight of this
grand principle! I do not speak only of a few absent mo. ments, in which the power of thought and reflection is, in a manner, gone; nor do I mean only those violent passions which criminal objects excite : I speak of a poison much less sensible, and therefore perhaps much more dangerous. We will give you one example out of many.
Two pious persons enter into the honourable state of marriage on principles of virtue, and compose a family that reveres the Creator by considering him as the only source of all the blessings they enjoy. Their happiness consists in celebrating the beneficence and perfections of the adorable God, and all their possessions they devote to his glory. He blesseth their union by multiplying those who compose it, and their children imbibe knowledge and virtue from the womb. The parents taste the most delicious pleasure in the world, in cultivating the promising geniusses of their children, and in seeing the good grain, which they sow in a field favoured of heaven, produce in one thirty, in another sirty, in another an hundred fold, and they delight theinselves with the hopes of giving one child to the state, and another to the church, this to an art, and that to a science, and thus of enriching society with the most valuable of all treasures, virtuous and capable citizens. All on a sudden this delicious union is impoisoned and dissolved; this amiable fondness is interrupted; those likely projects are disconcerted; an unexpected catastrophe sweeps away that fortune, by which alone their designs for their family could have been accomplished ; the child of their greatest hopes is cut down in the beginning of his race; the head of the family expires at a time in which his life is most necessary to it. A disconsolate widow, an helpless family exposed to every danger, are the sad remains of a house just now the model of the highest human happiness, and in all appearance, of the purest piety. Is not this the depth of misery?
From this depth of misery, however, ariseth the highest felicity. The prosperity of which we have been speaking, was so much the more dangerous by how much the more innocent it appeared; for if the persons in question had founded it in vice, they would have quickly forsaken it, as wholly incompatible with their pious principles; but as they had founded it in piety, there is great reason to fear they had placed too much of their happiness in earthly prosperity, and that it had almost entirely engaged the attention of their minds, and set bounds to the desires of their hearts. Bur what is it to engage the mind too much in temporal prosperity? It is to lose sight of God our chief good in a world where at best we can obtain but an imperfect knowledge of him. What is it to confine the desires of our hearts to earthly happiness? It is to forget our best interest in a world, where, when we have carried that love, which God so abundantly inerits, to the highest pitch, we can offer him but a very imperfect service. Every object that produceth such an effect occupies a place in the heart, which is due to none but God. And while any other fills the seat of God in the heart, we may indeed have a kind of happiness, but it must be a happiness contrary to order; it is violent, and it must be short. I am aware that the loss will be bitter in the same degree as the enjoyment had been sweet; but the bitterness will produce ineffable pleasures, infinitely preferable to all those that have been taken away. It will reclaim us again to God, the only object worthy of our love, the alone fountain of all our felicity. This may be inferred from many declarations of scripture, and from the lives of many exemplary saints, as well as from your own experience, if indeed, my dear hearers, when God hath torn away the objects of your tenderest affection, you have been so wise as to make this use of your losses, to re-establish order in your. hearts, and to give that place to God in your souls which the object held of which you have been deprived.
2. God establisheth his church by the very means that tyrants use to destroy it. But the reflections which naturally belong to this article, you heard a few weeks ago, when we explained these words in the Revelation, Here is the patience of the saints, * Rev. xiii. 10. We endeavoured then to prevent the gloomy fears that might be occasioned in your minds by those new edicts, which Rome, always intent upon making the kings of the earth drunk with her fornication, chap. xvii. 2. had extorted against your brethren. We exhorted you, in the greatest tribulations of the church, never to lose sight of that divine providence, which watches to preserve it.
We reminded you of some great truths that proceeded from the inouth of God himself: such as, that the Assyrian was only the rod of his anger, Isa. x. 5. that Herod and Pilate did only what his hand and his counsel determined
before * This is the seventh sermon of the twelfth volume, and is entitled, Les Nouveaux Malbeurs de l'Eglife.