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in the book of Revelations, “ Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no inore out." Does he mean, that he will make him as stupid and unfeeling as is a pillar of wood or stone ? and not rather, that he shall have the same rank and beauty, and be of the same use, in the spiritual temple, that the pillar of marble is in the natural? When God compares Ephraim to a deceitful bow, does he mean that he is like a piece of elastic wood, which may be put to many uses or to none? which may be bent, or burnt in the fire, or left to rot upon the ground? The comparison evidently reaches to the properties of the bow, as an instrument of war, or as adapted to the disGharing of arrows, and to nothing else. If God likens wicked men to instruments, of whatever kind, it proves that they are in. struments, or else the comparison utterly fails, and no instruction is communicated. We will, therefore, proceed to call up some of the instances on divine record, in which we have this kind of proof, that the wicked are instruments, by which God executes the purposes of his moral government.
The first that offers itself for consideration is in the words of our text. battle-axe and weapons of war : for with thee will I break in pieces the nations ; and with thee will I destroy kingdoms,” &c. How expressly does God here assert the complete subserviency of the Chaldean pow. er to the governing influence of his provi
“ Thou art my
dence ? that, as conflicting armies use the battle axe and other weapons of war against their enemies, to break them in pieces, and destroy their force; so he will use that proud and imperious nation to bring desolation upon others, until his almighty arm has humbled and subdued them? All that was done by Nebuchadnezzar, his princes and servants, in attacking, conquering, and ravaging, the countries, against which their successful arms were carried, was as really done by the hand of God, in which they were but mere instruments; as the blood, which flowed at the point of their swords, was shed by their hands, by means of the weapons they used. Would you say, that the sword of the Chaldean made women childless by its own innate and unborrowed strength ? that it cut through and laid prostrate whole slaughtered hosts by a self-directing energy of its own, as if no arm of man was necessary to wield it? No man ever entertained such a thought, The slaughter is attributed to the sword as an instrument. He, who wields it, is the agent of destruction. And what are the armies of Chaldea, triumphing over abased and exterpated nations, but the sword of him, who ruleth the nations with a rod of iron, and breaketh them to pieces like the potter's vessel ? " Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war."
Pious David, under the grievous trials he met with from persecutors, took sanctuary for hope and consolation, in the belief, that wicked men cid nothing and
could do nothing, any farther than they were carried on by the invisible hand of God; that in their greatest outrages and oppressions, they acted as the instruments of a just and holy providence, which opened to him a door for carrying his complaint to God, who, as he had originated the evil, was able to bring it to an end. “ Arise, O Lord; disappoint him, cast him down : deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword : From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasures.".. If God resembles the wicked to weapons of war, as we have seen, proving that they are the instruments, by which he inflicts his wrath upon those, who are already fitted to destruction; so also does he liken them to other kinds of instruments. “ O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.” He, who, in one place, is styled God's battleax, is here called a rod of correction, with which he will chastise the heathen, and correct his own backslidden people. A little further on, in the same prophecy, this same power is likened to instruments still more, which adds increased evidence to the doctrine, that wicked men are useful in God's kingdom, as instruments of his glory. Af ter predicting what should befall the land of Judea, the prophet proceeds, “ Wherefore it shall come to pass, that, when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zin
on, and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom ; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man." What is the guilt implied in this self-applauding language, coming from the lips of an illustrious conqueror ? It is in this, that he honoured himself as acting in a higher sphere than that of a mere instrument in the hand of Providence; which arrogance and impiety the prophet goes on to reprove.
“ Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith ? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift itup, or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were no wood." If the Assyrian monarch : has overrun kingdoms, and reduced them to a degraded state of subjection to himself, shall he ascribe it to his own power, as if he had acted independently, or were any more than an instrument, by which God was pleased to humble the haughty tyrants of the earth, and deal out stores of wrath upon the ungodly? This would be, as it the axe should boast itself against him that heweth therewith, &c. Nebuchadnezzar is, therefore, as much an instrument in the hand of God, to bring down princes and people, such as God chuses to abase, as the axe is in the hand of
him, who heweth therewith : and the axe gan as well fell timber and hew it without the workman, as Nebuchadnezzar could con. quer states and kingdoms without God. However different a creature man is from an axe, a saw, or rod, he is not less an instrument. The power of Babylon, after its fall, is acknowledged to have served as an instrument in the hand of God against all people, even as the event was foretold in earlier times. “ How is the hammer of the whole earth cut assunder and broken ! how is Bab. ylon become a desolation among the nations! Besides being likened to instruments of the determinate kinds, which have been men.' tioned, men, as to their moral nature, are also denominated vessels. This, though some. thing more of a general term, is expressive, equally with those already considered, of certain instruments, used upon divers occasions, in the ordinary pursuits of life. А vessel, whatever be its peculiar capacity or structure, is always for the convenience and use of its owner. We have no notion of vessels, of any description, without persons to use them. To think of their existing for their own sake, or in relation to themselves only, would be palpably absurd. Their usefulness will admit of as many kinds and degrees, as there are diversities in their natures, forms, and dimensions ; but they are absolutely of no account, unless they are capable of being put to some use ; which implies, that they may have an owner, to whose pleas