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worship ye know not what,”* was the heavy charge brought by our Lord Jesus Christ against the Samaritans, who imagined themselves acquainted with God. If this charge were now brought against us, what have we to say in vindication of our worship? Have we been praying to a known or to an unknown God? to a real or to an imaginary Being? This inquiry is well deserving of our most serious attention. Let us not be offended by its plainness, but let us endeavour really to think of its meaning, to use the gifts of reason and understanding which God hath bestowed upon us, and discover whether we are indeed true worshippers of the only true God, or whether we are still ignorant idolaters. If we find good scriptural grounds for believing that we worship according to knowledge, the examination will be productive of satisfaction and establishment to our souls: but if not, the sooner we are acquainted with our idolatry the better; for the first effectual step towards truth, is an unfeigned conviction of having been hitherto in error.

The Bible reveals God's character chiefly by recording God's works. The history with which the words of our text stand connected, describes him as exercising the most uncontrollable sovereignty over the affairs of men.

* John iv, 22.

“ Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon walked in the palace of his kingdom, and the king spake and said, Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken ; the kingdom is departed from thee; and they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar; and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation : and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in

the army

of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou ?”

It is to this awful feature in the character of our God, as it refers to his dealings with his intelligent creatures, that I would, on the present occasion, invite your attention. Unspeakably awful, indeed, it is to such apprehensions as ours, yet it is undeniably true, that Jehovah, the universal and absolute Sovereign over the works of his own hands, ordereth all things in heaven, earth, and hell, after the counsel of his own will: that where Omniscience and Omnipotence are combined, any distinction between permitting and doing, is to us an unintelligible distinction. Much has been said in explanation of it; volumes of metaphysical subtlety have been written upon the subject, and volumes of angry controversy, yet the difficulty remains undiminished. Strange expressions have been resorted to, and some men have imagined that the whole mystery was solved by the talismanic sounds of necessary defectibility on the part of the creature, and judicial hardening on God's part. Yet after all, the difficulty is rather evaded than explained, and the true turning point of the subject remains still untouched. The Lord of Hosts hideth himself: he hath made darkness his pavilion round about him:

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his paths are in the deep waters, and his footsteps are not known.* But although we cannot explain this attribute of the Almighty in connexion and consistency with other parts of revealed truth, we are not at liberty to deny it. The statement in itself is plainly and explicitly made on the authority of God; and the more decidedly beyond the reach of our reason it is, the more do we honour God as a God of truth by simply believing it. |


* Isaiah xlv. 15. Psalms xviii. 11. and lxxvii. 19. The pious Archbishop Leighton felt this, when commenting on the concluding clause of 1 Pet. ii. 8. he said, “ This the Apostle adds for the further satisfaction of believers in this point, how it is that so many reject Christ, and stumble at him; telling them plainly, that the secret purpose of God is accomplished in this, having determined to glorify his justice on impenitent sinners, as he shews his rich mercy in them that believe. Here it were easier to lead you into a deep, than to lead you forth again. I will rather stand on the shore and silently admire it than enter into it. This is certain, that the thoughts of God are all no less just in themselves than deep and unsoundable by us.

His justice appears clear, in that man's destruction is always the fruit of his own sin : but to give causes of God's decrees without himself, is neither agreeable with the primitive being of the nature of God, nor with the doctrine of the Scriptures; this is sure, that God is not bound to give us further account of these things, and we are bound not to ask it. Let these two words (as St. Augustine saith) answer all, “ What art thou O man?” and “ O the depth!”

+ Prærogativa Dei totum hominem complectitur : nec minus ad rationem quam ad voluntatem humanam extenditur. Quare, sicut legi divinæ obedire tenemur, licet eluctetur

I. First then, with regard to the army of heaven mentioned in our text.

voluntas; ita et verbo Dei fidem habere, licet reluctetur ratio. Etenim si ea duntaxat cedamus quæ sunt rationi nostræ consentanea, rebus adsentimur non Auctori : quod etiam suspectæ fidei testibus præstare solemus. Quanto igitur mysterium aliquod divinum fuerit magis absonum et incredibile, tanto plus in credendo exhibetur honoris Deo, et fit victoria fidei nobilior.” Lord Bacon. De Augm. Scient. lìb. ix.

It is to be observed, however, that this cannot in fairness be applied to support any statement, which can be proved absurd. If the subject of the proposition be within the grasp of our intellect, then it is no longer a mystery; and to apply this observation to such subjects would be to put our reason in bondage.

Many such subjects are spoken of in the Scriptures, and therefore the Scriptures frequently reason with us, and invite us to reason; and we are perfectly justified in withholding our assent from many interpretations and pretensions, on this ground; that they are unreasonable. But all the subjects discussed in the sacred volume are not of this description. Is God, or are the ways of God fully within the grasp of our intellect?

Very remarkable are the words of the celebrated Bishop Horsley upon this subject. Their value will excuse the length of this note.

“ The liberty of man, and the foreknowledge and providence of God, are equally certain, although the proof of each rests on different principles.

Our feelings prove to every one of us, that we are free: reason and revelation teach us that the Deity knows and governs all things; that

* the thoughts of man he understandeth long before,'— long before the thoughts arise-long before the man himself is born who is to think them. Now, when two distinct pro


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