« EdellinenJatka »
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, I'ho hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand ? meted the heavens with a span, comprehended the dust of the carth with a measure, weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? But why doth be 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 prophct 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 prevcat thieves froin stealing them, or perhaps for
fear they should escape through their own inconstancy. The heathens had been accustomed, when they besieged a city, to evoke the tutelary gods; (Macrobius has preserved a long form of these evocations *) and the besieged, to prevent the effects of these evocations, and to secure their gods from going into their enemies camps, used to fasten their images with chains. Many proofs of this might be alledged, but one passage of Quintus Curtius shall suffice. He tells us, that a citizen of Tyre having publicly declared that he had seen in a dream the image of Appollo quitting the city, the citizens immediately used the precaution of fastening it with a chain of gold.t · But the prophet no less intended to shame iciolatry in morals which consists in distrusting the promises of God in extreme dangers, and in expecting from men a succor that cannot be expected from God. A man is guilty of moral idolatry, when in dangerous crises he says, My way is hid from the Lord; my judgment is passed over from my God. Be not surprized at my giving so odious a name to a disposition of mind, which is toocommon even among those whose piety is the least suspected, and the best established. The essence of idolatry, in general, is to disrobe the Deity of his perfections and to adorn a creature with them. There are indeed many degrees of this disposition. He who renders divine honors to the glimmering light of a taper, is guilty perhaps of a more gross idolatry, than he who worships the sun. The Egyptian who worships a rat, is perhaps more absurd than the Roman, who ranks a Caesar with the Gods. But after all, there is so small a difference between the meanest insect and the greatest emperor, the glimmering of a taper and the glory of the sun, when compared with the Supreme Being, that there can be no great difference between these two sorts of idolatry.
* Saturn. III. 9 The following is the form of the incantation :-“If you be a god or a. goddess, under whose guardianship the people and the city of the Carthaginians is, and you, particularly, wbo haye uken upon you the protection of that people and city. I worship you, and humbly beg you would be pleased to forsake the people and city of the Car. thaginians, to abandon thisir places, temples, re.igious ceremonies and cities, and come away," &C.Bayle. Soranus. Rem. E.
+ L. IV. 3. 21. Metu aurea catena devin eie simulacrum, aræque Herculis, cujus numini urbem dicaverant, inseruere vinculum, quasi illo Deo Apolliacin retenturi.
Let us apply this to our subject. God is the sole arbiter of events. Whenever you think, that any more powerful being directs them to comfort you, you put the creature in the Creator's place; whether you do it in a manner niore or less absurd; whether they be formidable armies, impregnable fortresses, and well-stored magazines, which you thus exalt into deities; or whether it be a small circle of friends, an easy income, or a country house; it does not signify, you are alike idolaters.
The Jews were often guilty of the first sort of idolatry. The captivity in Babylon was the last curb to that fatal propensity. But this miserable people, whose existence and preservation, whose prosperities and adversities were one continued train of obvious miracles, immediately from heaven; this miserable people, whose whole history should have prevailed with them to have feared God, only, and to have confided in him entirely; this miserable people trembled at Nebuchadnezzar and his army, as if both had acted independently on God. Their imaginations prostrated themselves before these second causes, and they shuddered at the sight of the Chaldean Marmosets, as if they had offered assistance to their worshippers, and had occasioned their triumphs over the church.
Thanks be to God, my dear brethren, the light of the gospel hath opened the eyes of a great number of christians, in regard to idolatry in religion. I say a great number, and not all : for how many parts of the christian world still deserve the prophet's reproach? The workman melteth a graven image, the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold. Have you not known ? have you not heard ? Blessed be God, we are quite free from this kind of idolatry! But how many idolaters of the second kind do I see ? :
You, who in order to avert public calamities, satisfy yourselves with a few precautions of worldly prudence, and oppose provisions to scarcity, medicines to mortality, an active vigilance to the danger of a contagion; and take no pains to extirpate those horrible crimes, which provoke the vengeance of heaven to inflict punishments on public bodies; you are guilty of this second kind of idolatry ; you stand exposed to this malediction, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, Jer. xvii. 5. Were your confidence placed in God, you would endeavor to avert national judgments by purging the state of those scandalous commerces, those barbarous extortions, and all those other wicked practices, which are the surest forerunners, and the principal causes of famine, and pestilence, and war. . ., · Desolate family, you, who rested all your expectations upon one single head; you, who made one single person the axis of all your schemes and hopes; you, who lately saw that person cut down in the midst of his race, and carried away with the torrent of human vicissitudes; you, who see nothing around you but indigence, misery, and famine; who ery in the bitterness of your grief, No more support, no more protector, no more father; you are guilty of this second kind of idolatry. You trusted in man, you made flesh your arm. Were God the object of your trust, you would recollect, amidst all your grief, that providence is not inclosed in your patron's tomb; you would remember, that an invisible eye incessantly watches over, and go