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on, and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his bigh looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom ; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man.” What is the guilt implied in this self-applauding language, coming from the lips of an illustrious conqueror ? It is in this, that he honoured himself as acting in a higher sphere than that of a mere instrument in the hand of Providence; which arrogance and impie. ty the prophet goes on to reprove. “ Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith ? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it ? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were no wood."* If the Assyrian monarch
. has overrun kingdoms, and reduced them to a degraded state of subjection to himself, shall he ascribe it to his own power, as if he had acted independently, or were any more than an instrument, by which God was pleased to humble the haughty tyrants of the earth, and deal out stores of wrath upon the ungodly? This would be, as if the axe should boast itself against him that heweth there. with, &c. Nebuchadnezzar is, therefore, as much an instrument in the hand of God, to
down princes and people, such as God ses to abase, as the axe is in the hand of
him, who heweth therewith : and the axe can as well fell timber and hew it without the workman, as Nebuchadnezzar could con., quer states and kingdoms without God. However different a creature man is from an axe, a saw, or rod, he is not less an instru. ment. The
The power of Babylon, after its fall, is acknowledged to have served as an instrument in the hand of God against all people, even as the event was foretold in earlier times. 66 How is the hammer of the whole earth cut assunder and broken ! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!”
a Besides being likened to instruments of the determinate kinds, which have been men. tioned, men, as to their moral nature, are also denominated vessels. This, though some. thing more of a general term, is expressive, equally with those already considered, of certain instruments, used upon divers occasions, in the ordinary pursuits of life. A vessel, whatever be its peculiar capacity or structure, is always for the convenience and use of its owner. We have no notion of vessels, of any description, without persons to use them. To think of their existing for their own sake, or in relation to themselves only, would be palpably absurd. Their usefulness will admit of as many kinds and degrees,
as there are diversities in their natures, forms, and dimensions ; but they are absolutely of no account, unless they are capable of being put to some use ; which implies, that they may have an owner, to wlose pleas.
ure they are entirely subservient. are vessels, they do not exist for themselves, but for another, to whom they belong by an absolute right, and whose prerogative it is to use thein out of regard to his own sove. reign will. The scriptures assure us, that all inen are vessels from the hand of God the great artist; but some are unto honour, and others unto dishonour. The wicked are of the latter description, and are termed vessels of wrath. " Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour ? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endared with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ?" If we learn any thing from this text, it is this ; that God has a use for the wicked as really as he has for the righteous, a truth which may be illustrated and explained by the different sorts and qualities of vessels used among mer.. The vile are chosen and made useful in their place, ds really as the finer and more elegant
" But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour and some to dishonour." It would not be just to say, the vessel unto honour is of use, and those of the other description quite unnecessary and useless. This would be ruining the apostle's illustration, and overturning the position he had laid down. As well might
that the householder has occasion for
none but the most elegant and costly furnis ture, and actually uses no other in any department of his house, not even in the lowest branches of household business; as that God makes no use of the wicked, as instruments, in managing the vast concerns of his kingdom. We proceed to a
3d. Argument in support of the doctrine we are attempting to vindicate, which is, that God actually makes use of the wicked in fulfilling the scriptures.
If this be true, who will say, that he does not work by their means, as much as any labourer does by means of the implements, which belong to his peculiar calling? If the Spirit of God has indited the scriptures, no doubt it is his will that they should be completely and exactly fulfilled. But if they cannot be fulfilled only through the agency of wicked men and devils, will not God make use of them to support his own veracity, and bring to pass the wise designs of his providence ? It is not supposed, that the wicked do, or can, perform any thing, in fulfilment of the scriptures, with a view to this end. Their being under any such motive, would be directly contrary to the doctrine, and the suppo
, sition we are now upon.
It would imply such a regard to God, and his word, as is not compatible with the character of a wicked man. Jehu did; indeed, pretend to have
, in view the fulfilment of prophecy against the house of Ahab, when he was pursuing that devoted race with the terror of his
sword; but his real motive, no boubt, was the establishment of himself in the kingdom. When God accomplishes his word by the instrumentality of wicked agents, though he does it not without any will in them, yet he does it without any concurrence of their will with his. Accordingly, when God speaks of sending the Assyrian against the Land of Judah, to fulfil his word against them, it is added ; “ Yet he meaneth not so, neither does his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy orations not a few." God could gird him, as he did Cyrus afterwards, though he knew him not. In many cases, it seems absolutely necessary, that those, who are fulfilling the scriptures, under the control and direction of a divine hand, should be totally ignorant of what they are about. Thus Paul, addressing persons of the stock of Abraham, says, “ For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath-day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.” Here it is stated, that the crucisers of Christ were led on to that barbarous deed, putting to death the Lord of life, through ignorance of his char, acter, and of the scriptures concerning him, and in no other circumstances could they have so proceeded against him, as to have fulfilled what was written. The apostle gives. a further hint upon this point in the following words ; “ But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom,