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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 thousands, to the ten thousand times ten thousand intelligences that he hath made ? Dan. vii. 10.
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 are as grasshoppers : yea, they are still less considerable, all nations before him are as nothing.
Thirdly. The immensity of the Creator's works lead us to the efficiency of his will : and the idea of the real world conducts us 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 favor 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 inarched through them. Cyrus had been appointed by the Lord, and nominated by the prophets, to stop his career, and to subdue those 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 perform such prodigious enterprizes? This is not all: Astyages was afraid that Mandana's son should fulfil å 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 wife, affected with the beauty of young Cyrus, prevailed with her husband to expose her own son in his stead.
Thus, by a train of miracles, was this anointed of God preserved, and by a train of greater miracles still, did he stir up the Persians against the Medes, march at the head of them against the. cruel Astyages, defeat him, conquer Media, and at length besiege Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had surrounded that city with a triple wall, and had replaced the bricks of Semiramis with freestone, which contributed, says Dion, less to the magnificence
than to the eternity of the empire. The walls were an hundred feet high, and fifty broad, so that it was said of that great city, it was alike incredible how art could form, or art destroy it. But what walls, what fortifications, can resist the blows of an arm supported by the greatness of the might, the strength of the power of the omnipotent God! Every thing submits to the valor of Cyrus : he takes Babylon, and before he hath well secured his conquest, does homage for the victory to the God who had foretold it; and releases the Jews from captivity. These accounts are related by heathen authors, and particularly by Herodotus, and Justin: God having determined that the bitterest enemies of revelation should preserve those monuments which demonstrate the divinity of our prophecies.
But I said just now, that the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, was only a shadow of that deliverance which the Messiah was to bring into the world : and that the mighty acts, which God wrought in the first period, were only faint images of what he would operate in the second. Accordingly, our prophet had the second of these periods much more in view than the first in the words of my text. It is not a love for the marvellous: it is neither a prejudice of education, nor a blind submission to confessions of faith ; (motives that produce so much superstition among christians) these are not the reasons of our comment: it is the nature of the thing; it is the magnificence of the prophecies connected with my text; it is the authority of St. Paul, who, in the eleventh chapter of his epistle to the Romans, ver. 34. and in the second of his first epistle to the Corinthians, ver. 16. interprets these words of my text of the gospel, Who hath known the mind of the Lord? who hath been his counsellor ? Accordingly, in this second period, God hath displayed treasures of wisdom and knowledge. But we have elsewhere treated this subject at large, and we chuse rather only to hint this article to-day than to incur the just reproach of treating of it imperfectly.
Such then are the grandeurs of God; and all that I have lisped out is more properly the title of the subject, upon which I would fix your attention, than the subject itself well digested. Nevertheless, how imperfect soever the sketch may be, it may serve to convince us, that there is no extravagance in the prophet's ideas; that if his language is lofty, it is not hyperbolical, and that he is always below the truth, even when he uses these sublime expressions, Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand ? meted the heavens with a span, comprehended the dust of the earth with a measure, weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? But why doth he describe the Deity
? with so much pomp? This remains to be considered in the second part of this discourse, which shall also be the application.
II. We observed in the beginning, that the prophet's design was to render two sorts of idolatry odious: idolatry in religion; and idolatry in morals.
Idolatry in religion consists in rendering those religious homages to creatures, which are due to the Creator only. To discredit this kind of idolatry, the prophet contents himself with describing it. He shames the idolater by reminding him of the origin of idols, and of the pains taken to preserve them. What is the origin of idols? The workman melteth an image, saith our prophet, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold. What pains doth the idolater take to preserve his idols ? He casteth silver chains to fasten them, and to prevent thieves from stealing them, or perhaps for