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in power, not one faileth. Why sayest thou, Jacob, and speakesi, O Israel: My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God ? hast thou not known: hast thou not heard that the Lord is the everlasting God?
THE words, the lofty words of the text, require
two sorts of observations: the first are necessary to explain and confirm the prophet's notions of God; the second to determine and to enforce his design in describing the Deity with so much pomp.
The prophet's notions of God are diffused through all the verses of the text. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out haven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure ? Who hath weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Behold, the nations are as the drop of a bucket. Behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers.
The prophet's design in describing the Deity with so much magnificence is to discountenance idolatry, of which there are two sorts. The first, I call religious idolatry, which consists in rendering that religious worship to a creature, which is due to none but God. The second, I call moral idolatry, which consists in distrusting the promises of God in dangerous crises, and in expecting that assitance from men which cannot be expected from God. In order to discountenance idolatry in religion, the prophet contents himself with describing it. The workman melteth a graven image, the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold.
For the purpose of discrediting idolatry in morals, he opposeth the grandeur of God to the most grand objects among men, I mean earthly kings. God, saith the prophet, bringeth the princes to nothing, he shall blow upon them, and the whirlwind shall
take them away as stubble. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel ; My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? and so on.
This subject may seem perhaps too copious for one discourse, however, it will not exceed the limits of this; and we will venture to detain you a moment, before we attend to the natter, in remarking the manner, that is, the style of our prophet, and the expressive sublimity of our text. It is a composition, which not only surpasses the finest passages of the most celebrated profane authors, but perhaps exceeds the loftiest parts of the holy scriptures.
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand ? Who hath meted out heaven with a span? Who hath comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure? Who hath weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ? All nations before him are as the drop of a bucket. He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. He sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers. What loftiness of expression! The deference we pay to the sacred writers is not founded on the beauty of their diction. They do not affect to come to us with the enticing words of man's wisdom, 1 Cor. i. 4. We cannot help observing, however, in some of their writings, the most perfect models of eloquence. God seems to have dispensed talents of this kind, in the same manner as he hath sometimes bestowed temporal blessings of another kind. Riches and grandeurs are too mean, and too unsatisfying to consitute the felicity of a creature formed in the image of God. Immortal men, who are called to participate felicity and glory with their God, are indifferent to the part they act, during their short existence on the stage of time. To them it is a matter of very little importance, whether they occupy the highest or the lowest, the most conspicuous or the most obscure posts in society. It signifies but little to them, whether they ride in sumptuous equipages or walk on foot. To them it is a matter of very little consequence, whether superb processions attend their funerals, or their carcasses be laid in their graves without pomp and parade. Yet, when it pleaseth God to signalize any by gifts of this kind, he doth it like a God, if you will allow the expression, he doth it so as to shew that his mighty hands hold all that can contribute to ennoble, and to elevate mankind. Observe his munificence to Solomon. I have given thee riches and glory, said the Lord to him, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee, 1 Kings ii. 12, 13. In virtue of this promise, God loaded Solomon with temporal blessings: he gave him all. In virtue of this promise, silver was no more esteemed than stones in Jerusalem (the capital of this favorite of heaven) nor the cedars of Lebanon than the sycamore trees of the plain, % Chron. ix. 27.
God hath observed the same conduct to the heralds of religion, in regard to the talents that form an orator. The truths they teach are too serious, and too interesting, to need the help of ornaments. The treasures of religion, which God committed to them, are so valuable, that it is needless for us to examine whether they be presented to us in earthen vessels, 2 Cor. iv. 7. But when the holy Spirit deigns to distinguish any one of his servants by gifts of this kind, my God! with what a rich profusion hath he the power of doing it! He fires the orator's imagination with a flame altogether divine; he elevates his ideas to the least accessible region of the universe, and dictates language above inortal mouths.
What kind of elocution can you alledge, of which the sacred authors have not given us the most perfect models?
Is it the style proper for history? A historian must assume, it should seem, as many different forms of speaking as there are different events in the subjects of his narration. And whoever gave such beautiful models of this style as Moses? Witness these words, which have acquired him the eulogium of a pagan critic:* God said, let there be light, and there was light, Gen. i. 3. Witness these, Isaac said, my father ; Abraham answered, Here am I my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering, chap. xxii. 7, 8. Witness these words : Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him, and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me : and there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren. And he lifted up his voice and wept, and said unto his brethren, I am Joseph : doth my father yet live? Come near to me, I pray you, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt, chap. xlv. 1.
Is it the tender style? Who gave such beautiful models as the prophet Jeremiah? Witness the pathetic descriptions, and the affecting complaints in, the Lamentations : The ways of Zion mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts : All her gates are desolate : her priests sigh: her virgins are afflicted : and she is in bitterness. Is it nothing
* Longinus, Sect. ix.
to you all
ye that pass by? behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. For these things I weep, mine eye, mine eye runneth down, ch. i. 4, 12, 16.
Is it a style proper to terrify and confound? Who ever gave more beautiful models of this style than Ezekiel ? Witness, among many others, these expressions : How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou dost all these things : the work of an imperious whorish woman? A wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all wehores : but thou givest thy gifts to all lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom, chap. xvi. 30, 32, 33.
Above all, is it the lofty, noble, and sublime style? Whose models are comparable to the prophet Isaiah's ? Christian preacher, thou who studiest to convince, to persuade, to carry away the hearts of the people to whom God hath sent thee, neither make Cicero nor Demosthenes thy models; investigate the ideas, and appropriate the language of the inspired writers. Heat thine imagination at the fire which inflamed them, and with them endeavor to elevate thy mind to the mansions of God, to the light which no man can approach unto, 1 Tim. vi. 16. Learn of these great masters to handle the sword of the Spirit, and to manage the word of God quick and powerful, even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, Heb. iv. 12.
But, when I propose my text as a pattern of elo cution, far from your minds be the idea of a trifling orator's fraudulent art, whose ambition it is to exceed his subject, and to lend his hero the virtues he wants. The portrait drawn by the prophet is infinitely inferior to his original. You will be fully