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conciliate people's esteem to it. He commanded him to avail himself of the right, which every Israelite .enjoyed, when his nearest relation offered an estate to sale : a right founded upon an institute recorded in Leviticus, ch. xxv. God required the Israelites to consider him as their sovereign, and his sovereignty over them was absolute. They cannot be said to have possessed any thing as proper owners; they held every thing conditionally, and in trust; and they had no other right in their patrimonial estates than what they derived from the arbitrary will of God. In order to preserve in them a sense of this dependence, they were forbidden to sell the lands, which they inherited from their ancestors : The land shall not be sold for ever, saith the levitical law, for the land is mine, and ye are strangers and sojourners with me, ver. 23. This was unknown to the heathens, for Diodorous says, that the Jews could not sell their inheritances. * • But as it might happen, that a landholder might become indigent, and be reduced by this prohibition to the danger of dying with hunger, even while he had enough to supply all his wants, God had provided, that, in such a case, the lånds might be sold under certain restrictions, which were proper to convince the seller of that sovereignty, from which he would never depart. The principal of those restrictions were two; one, that the estate sould be rather mortgaged than sold; and, at the Jubilee, should return to its first master: and hence it is, that, to sell am estate for ever, in the style of the Jewish jurisprudence, is to mortgage it till the Jubilee. The other restriction was, that the near
• The case of the daughters of Zelopbedad, related in Numb. xxvii, 8, procured a geneBeral law of inheritance. If a man died without a son, his daughters weie to inherit: if without children, his brethren were to inherit : if without brethren, his uncle was to inherit: if without uncle his nearest relation was his heir. Grotius says, that this law, which preferred an uncle before a nephew, passed from the Jews to the Phenicians, and from the Lenucians into all Africa. Sawin. Dissert. Tom. III. Disc, vii.
est relation of him, who was obliged to sell his land, should have the right of purchasing it before any others, either more distant relations or strangers.
In virtue of this law, Jeremiah had a right to purchase an estate, which Hanameel, the son of Shallum, had offered to sale. The land lay at Anathoth, a town in the tribe of Benjamin, where our prophet was born, and was actually occupied by the Chaldeans at that time. Jerusalem was besieged, and Jeremiah was fully persuaded, and had even foretold, that it would be taken ; that the Jews would be carried away into captivity; and would not be re-established in their own country till their return from Babylon at the expiration of seventy years. What a time to purchase an estate! What a season to improve a right of redemption !
But this command of God to the prophet was full of meaning; God gave it with views similar to, but incomparably surer than, those which the Romans had, when they publicly offered to sell the land where Hannibal was encamped when he was besieging the city of Rome. What the prophet was commanded to do, was designed to be an image of what the Jews should have the liberty of doing after their re-establishment. You may asa certain that this was the design of the command given to Jeremiah, by attending to the words, which he addressed to God himself, in the twenty-fourth verse of this chapter: Behold the mounts, the city is given into the hands of the Chaldeans : and thou hast said unto me, O Lord God, Buy thee the field for money. To this the Lord answers, Behold, i am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is there any thing too hard for me? Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye. say, It is desolate without man or beas.' it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans. Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, ver. 25, 27, 42, 43, 44.
Jeremiah entered into these views, obeyed the command, and believed the promise ; but to fortify himself against such doubts as the distance of its accomplishment might perhaps produce in his mind, he recollected the eminent perfections, and the magnificent works of him, from whom the promise came. Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch, says the prophet, I prayed unto the Lord, saying, Ah ! Lord God, behold thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched-out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee . . Thou art the great, the mighty God, the Lord of hosts is thy name, great in counsel and mighty in work.
The considering of the circumstances that attended the text is a sufficient determination of its end and design. The prophet's meaning, which is quite clear, is, that the wisdom of God perfectly comprehended all that would be necessary to reestablish the Jewish exiles in their own land; and that his power could effect it. The words are, however, capable of a nobler and more extensive meaning, and in this larger view we intend to consider them. God is great in counsel, either, as the words may be translated, great in designing and mighty in executing ; or, as the same phrase is rendered in Isaiah, wonderful in council, and excellent in working, ch. xxvij. 29. We will endeavor to give you a just notion of the sublime subject in two different views.
I. We will consider the subject speculatively. II. We will consider it in a practical light.
We intend, by considering the subject specula-tively, to evince the truth of the subject, the demonstration of which is very important to us. By considering it practically, we intend to convince yon, on the one hand, of the monstrous extravagance of those men, those little rays of intelligence, who, according to the wise man, pretend to set their wisdom and counsel against the Lord, Prov. xxi. 30. and, on the other, of the wisdom of those, who, while they regulate their conduct by his laws. alone, commit their peace, their life, and their sal-vation to the care of his providence. This is what I propose to lay before you.
I. O Lord, thou art great in counsel, and mighty in work. Let us consider this proposition speculatively. I shall establish it on two kinds of proofs. The first shall be taken from the nature of God; the second from the history of the world, or. rather from the history of the church.
1. My first proofs shall be taken from the nature of God; not that it belongs to a preacher to go very deeply into so profound a subject, nor to his auditors to follow all the reflections he could make: yet we wish, when we speak of the Supreme Being, that we might not be always obliged to speak superficially, under pretence that we always speak to plain people. We wish you had sometimes the laudable ambition, especially when you assist in this sacred place, of elevating your minds to those sublime objects, of the meditation of which, the occupations, to which your frailties and miseries; or, shall I rather say, your vitiated tastes enslave you, you are deprived in the ordinary course of your
The nature of God proves that he is great in counsel. Consider the perfect knowledge that he hath of all possible beings, as well as of all the -Beings which do actually exist. We are not only
incapable of thoroughly understanding the knowledge that he hath of possible beings; but we are even incapable of forming any idea of it. I am not sure that the reduction of all the objects of our knowledge to two ideas is founded in reason. I do not know whether we be not guilty of some degree of temerity in comprising all real existences in two classes : a class of bodies, and a class of spirits. I leave this question to philosophers; But I maintain, that it argues the highest presumption to affirm, even allowing that every being within our knowledge is either body or spirit, that every thing must be reducible to one of these classes, that not only all real existence, but even all possible existence, must necessarily be either body or spirit. I wonder how human capacities, contracted as they are within limits so narrow, dare be so bold as to prescribe bonnds to their Creator, and restrain his intelligence within their own sphere. If it were allowable to advance any thing upon the most abstract subject that can be proposed, I would venture to say, it is highly probable, that the same depth of divine intelligence, which conceived the ideas of body and spirit, conceiveth other ideas without end : it is highly probable, that possibility, fif I may be allowed to say so) hath no other bounds than the infinite knowledge of the Supreme Being. What an unfathomable depth of meditation, my brethren! to glance at it is to confound one's self. What would our perplexity be if we should attempt to enter it? The knowledge of all possible beings, diversified without end by the same intelligence that imagines them: What designs, or, as our prophet expresseth himself, What greatness of counset doth it afford the Supreme Being ?