Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

but in the whole felicity of that believer, martyrdom was a happiness, yea an inestimable happiness : by suffering the pain of a few moments, he hath escaped those eternal torments which would have attended his apostacy: the bearing of a light affliction, which was but for a moment, hath wrought out a far more erceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2. Cor. iv. 17.

Let us sum up these reflections. To consider a being as capable of rendering us happy or miserable, in the general sense that we have given of the words happiness and misery, is to fear that Being, in the third sense which we have given to the term fear. This is the sense of the word fear, in the text, and in many other passages of the holy scriptures. Thus Isaiah useth it, Say ye not a confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say a confederacy: neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread, chap. viii. 12. 13. So again, Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be made as grass ? chap. li. 12. And again in these well-known words of our Saviour, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul : but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, Matt. x. 28. To kill the body is to cause a particular evil; and to fear them which kill the body is to regard the death of the body as a general evil, determining the whole of our felicity. To fear him which is able to destroy the soul, is to consider the loss of the soul as the general evil, and him who is able to destroy the soul as alone able to determine the whole of our felicity or misery. In this sense we understand the text, and this sense seems most agreeable to the scope of the place.

The prophet was endeavoring to abase false gods in the eyes of his countrymen, while the true God was suffering their worshippers to carry his people into captivity. He was aiming to excite the Jews to worship the God of heaven and earth, and to despise idols even amidst the trophies and the triumphs of idolaters. He was trying to convince · them fully that idols could procure neither happiness nor misery to mankind; and that, if their worshippers should inflict any punishments on the captives, they would be only particular evils permitted by the providence of God: Be not dismayed at the signs of heaven because the heathen are dismayed at them. One cutteth a tree out of the forest with the are to make idols; another decks them with silver and with gold, and fastens them with nails and rvith hammers that they move not. They are upright as the palm-tree, but speak not. They must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good, ver. 2, &c. Remark here the double motive of not fearing them: on the one hand they cannot do evil ; on the other, neither is it in them to do good. This justifies the idea, that we give you of fear, by representing it as that disposition, which considers its object as having our happiness and our misery in its power. Instead of fearing they should destroy you, announce you their destruction, and say unto them, in the language of the Babylonians, who worship them,* the Gods that have not made the heaven, and the earth, eren they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens, ver. 11. Having thus shewn that heathen gods could not be the object of that fear, which considereth a being as able to procure happiness and misery: the prophet represents the

• These words are in the Chaldean language in the originah

God of Israel as alone worthy of such an homage, He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth : he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures. Molten images are falshood and vanity. The portion of Jacob is not like them ; for he is the former of all things, and Israel is the rod of his inheritance ; the Lord of Hosts is his name, ver. 12, &c. The prophet, his own mind being filled with those ideas, supposes every other mind filled with them too; and in an ecstacy exclaims, Who would not fear thee, O King of nations for to thee doth it appertain ?

Fear, then, taken in this third sense, is an homage that cannot be paid to a creature without falling into idolatry. To regard a being, as capable of determining the happiness, or misery, of an immortal soul, is to pay the honors of adoration to him. As it can be said of none but God, it is my happiness to draw near to him, Psal. lxxiii. 28. so of him alone can it be truly said, it is my misery to depart from him. Moreover, this homage belongeth to him in a complete and eminent manner. He possesseth all without restriction that can contribute to our felicity, or to our misery. Three ideas, under which we are going to consider God, will prove what we have affirmed.

I. God is a Being, whose will is self-efficient.

II. God is the only Being, who can act immediately on spiritual souls.

III. God is the only Being, who can make all. creatures concur with his designs. From these

three notions of God follows this consequence, Who would not fear thee, 0 King of nations? · I. God is a Being, whose will is self-efficient, We call that will self-efficient, which infallibly produceth its effect. By this efficiency of will we distinguish God from every other being, either real, or possible. No one but God hath a self-efficient will. There is no one but God of whom the argument from the will to the act is demonstrative. Of none but God can we reason in this manner: he willeth, therefore he doth. Every intelligent being hath some degree of efficiency in his will: my will hath an efficiency on my arm ; I will to move my arm, my arm instantly moves. But there is as great a difference between the efficiency of the will of a creature, and the efficiency of the will of the Creator, as there is between a finite and an infinite being. The will of a created intelligence, properly speaking, is not self-efficient, for it hath only a borrowed efficiency. When he, from whom it is derived, restrains it, this created intelligence will have only a vain, weak, inefficient will. I have to-day a will efficient to move my arm : but if that Being, from whom I derive this will, should contract, or relax the fibres of this arm, my will to move it would become vain, weak and inefficient. I have a will efficient on the whole mass of this body, to which it hath pleased the Creator to unite my immortal soul: but were God to dissolve the bond, by which he hath united these two parts of me together, all that I might then will in regard to this body would be vain, weak, and destitute of any effect. When the intelligence, who united my soul to my body, shall have once pronounced the word return, Psal. xc. 3. that portion of matter to which my soul was united, will be as free from the power of my will as the matter that constitutes the body

of the sun, or as that which constitutes bodies, to which neither my senses nor my imagination can attain. All this comes to pass, because the efficiency of a creature is a borrowed efficiency, whereas that of the Creator is self-efficient and underived.

Further, the efficiency of a creature's will is finite. My will is efficient in regard to the portion of matter to which I am united; but how contracted is my empire ! how limited is my sovereignty! It extends no farther than the mass of my body extends; and the mass of my body is only a few inches broad, and a few cubits high. What if those mortals, who are called kings, monarchs, emperors, could by foreign aid extend the efficiency of their wills to the most distant places; what if they were able to extend it to the extremities of this planet, which we inhabit; how little a way, after all, is it to the extremities of this planet? What if, by the power of sulphur and saltpetre, these men extend the efficiency of their wills to a little height in the air ; how low, after all, is that height? Were a sovereign to unite every degree of power, that he could procure, to extend his efficiency to the nearest planet, all his efforts would be useless. The efficiency of a creature's will is finite, as well as borrowed: that of the Creator is independent and universal; it extends to the most remote beings, as well as to those that surround us, it extends alike to all actual and to all possible beings. My brethren, are you stricken with this idea? Do you perceive its relation to our subject? Who would not fear thee, O King of nations ?

Our low and groveling minds, low and groveling as they are, have yet some notion of the grand and the marvellous; and nothing can impede, nothing can limit, nothing can equal our notion of it: when we give it scope it presently gets beyond every

« EdellinenJatka »