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ited in a strong light the greatness and perfection of Jehovah; and urged, irresistibly, the duty of implicit submission to his will.
When Elihu had closed his discourse, God manifested himself to this assembly of disputants in a storm, accompanied with thunder and lightning; and answered Job out of the whirlwind, by which they were borne along. In a series of sublime and wonderful observations he displayed his own supreme excellence; the immeasurable greatness, the incomprehensible multitude, and the unfathomably mysterious nature, of the works of creation and providence. With these observations he interwove, also, strong and overwhelming proofs of the littleness, ignorance, and imbecility, of man; and shewed, unanswerably, how impossible it was, that such a being should judge, with any propriety, concerning the divine dispensations.
By these discoveries of the true, great, and perfect character of God, Job, as we might well expect, was deeply humbled, and led to genuine self-abhorrence, and sincere repentance.
The great evangelical truth, which is contained in this passage, thus illustrated, and on which I mean to insist in the following discourse, is this:
That clear and just views of the character, and presence, of God naturally produce in the mind abasing and penitential thoughts concerning ourselves.
This doctrine I shall attempt to illustrate by the following observations.
God is our Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor. He formed us out of nothing ; breathed into our nostrils the breath of life ; and caused us to become living souls. He made us wiser than the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven; and enabled us by
1 the light of reason to discern his character and his agency; and, by our moral powers, to love, and serve, and glorify, him forever. The being which he gave, he upholds by the word of his power ; and renders desirable by the exercise of his goodness. His mercies to us are new every morning, and fresh every moment. Life, and breath, and all things which we enjoy, are among the good gifts, which come down from the Father of lights, with whom is
no variableness, neither shadow of turning. All these considerations prove, indubitably, that in the highest possible sense we are the property of this great and glorious Being ; in such a sense, as nothing is ours. Indeed, nothing is ours, except what he has given us; and all the property which Intelligent creatures possess or can possess, in any thing, is created solely by the gift of God.
From these considerations, it is evident, God has an absolute right to dispose of us in whatever manner seems good in his sight: Particularly, he has an unquestionable right to prescribe for us such laws, and require of us such services, as he pleases. Whatever he prescribes we are bound by the highest possible obligation to obey : whatever he requires, we are by the same obligation bound to perform.
This unlimited right God is infinitely able to vindicate. His power is immeasurable. Disobedience to his commands he can punish without bounds, and without end. He knows every avenue to the heart ; and can make every thought and every nerve, a channel of suffering. To escape from his eye or his hand, is alike impossible. Every element, every faculty, and even every enjoyment, he can convert into a minister of vengeance. He needs not the famine nor the pestilence, the storm nor the thunder-bolt, the volcano nor the earthquake, the sword nor the sceptre of tyranny ; to execute his wrath upon his rebellious creatures. He needs no lake of fire and brimstone to torment the workers of iniquity. He can arm an insect, he can commission an atom, to be the minister of his anger. He can make the body its own tormentor. He can convert the mind itself into a world of perdition, where the gloom of despair shall overcast all the faculties; the sigh of anguish heave, and the stream of sorrow flow forever.
In the possession of this mighty power he is still just. No intelligent creature will ever find a solid reason for complaining of God. His commandments concerning all things are absolutely right. I do not intend, that they are right, because they are his commandments : they are right in themselves. The things
which they require, are the very things which wisdom sufficiently informed, and virtue sufficiently pure, would choose to do in preference to all others. In themselves therefore, they contain am ple reasons why they should be done by us.
At the same time he is infinitely good." Thou art good, " says David, " and thou dost good ; and thy tender mercies are over all thy works.” Even in this rebellious world he has not left himself without abundant witness, “in that he gives us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and fills our hearts with food and gladness.” Our health, our food, our raiment, our friends, our hopes ; the nameless and numberless enjoyments which succeed each other without intermission, and flow in an unceasing stream through the period of life ; and peculiarly, the means and proffers of life beyond the grave; are all daily and divine proofs of the kindness of our great Benefactor. From Him who does these things, to such beings as we are, what blessings would not descend were we better. Were we innocent; can we doubt, that our thorns and briers would bloom with the beauty of Paradise? Were we of an angelic disposition ; can we hesitate to believe that earth would be changed into heaven?
Of the goodness of God his mercy is the consummation and glory. When we had ruined ourselves, and had none to save, or even to pity us; he sent his Son, his only beloved, to redeem us from our sins, and to rescue us from perdition. He sent him to endure the contradiction of sinners, and to undergo the death of the cross. At the tidings of this wonderful work heaven opened
. its gates to receive mankind; and thousands and millions of re
l penting sinners entered the path, which leads to immortal life; and found themselves welcomed in that happy world, with a joy, never exercised over just persons who need no repentance.
He is also our Ruler, our Judge, and our Rewarder. The universe which he has made, is his own empire. All the beings by which it is inhabited, are his subjects. The dominion which he exercises over them, is dictated by the glorious perfections which I have mentioned. To rebel against it, is to oppose the excellence and authority of the Ruler, and the interests of his immense
and eternal kingdom. Those, who rebel, he will therefore summon to judgment; and demand from them an account of all the deeds, done in the body. According to these deeds they will be judged and rewarded.
From these considerations, he, who realizes them, will perceive in the clearest light that in every sin, he is guilty of gross injustice to his Maker, in refusing him that which is his by the highest and most unquestionable right; an injustice, at which he would start, were it practised upon his neighbour ; of bold and impious rebellion against his righteous government; of gross and dreadful ingratitude to his goodness and mercy; and of an impious disregard to his perfect and glorious character.
The guilt, inherent in all this wickedness, will be mightily enhanced by distinct perceptions of the purity of God. Behold, the heavens are not clean in his sight; and his Angels are charged with folly! How abominable then, ought every sinner to exclaim, how filthy am I, who drink iniquity like water. That every Intelligent creature ought, in some good measure, to resemble his Maker in this attribute, will not be questioned, except by a mind peculiarly gross and guilty. It cannot be soberly doubted, that both our thoughts and our lives ought to be clean. Accordingly, we are taught that good men, of course, aim assiduously at this character. “ Every man that hath this hope in him,” saith St. John, “purifieth himself, even as God is pure.” But nothing can more strongly enhance the sense of our impurity, than a comparison of our own character with that of God. We cannot but discern that the all-perfect Mind, infinitely distant from every stain, must demand an absolute freedom from pollution in those who are to dwell with him, and obtain an interest in his everlasting love. What abasing views of himself must this consideration, strongly realized, awaken in the mind of every sinful being ?
The same effect will be exceedingly increased by just apprehensions of the transcendent Greatness of God. The importance which a sinner attributes to himself has no existence, except to the jaundiced eye of pride. Yesterday we were formed of the dust: tomorrow we go down to the grave. From our birth to
our death we are frail, dependant, helpless, little, ignorant, and polluted from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. Still we are proud of ourselves, and of our circumstances. How strange is this conduct! How weak; how sinful ; how unhappy! There is no method in which this miserable spirit can be extinguished, er even lessened, so effectually, as by bringing God before our eyes. To the view of solemn thought what a being must He be, who called the Universe out of darkness; who spoke, and it was filled with inhabitants; who himself fills immensity ; who inhabits eternity ; whose smile makes heaven ; whose frown makes hell? Who can be profitable to such a Being? Who can be necessary? Were heaven to be emptied of its Angels at once ; his word would replenish it again with others equally wise, great, and good. What then must we be ? Nothing, less than nothing, and vanity.
As it is impossible, that he should need us or our services, it is certain that he requires nothing of us for himself; and that all his commands are given for our good, and not his. Of course, all the advantages, derived from our obedience, must be our own. He will not be benefited. We shall be better, and of course happier.
But from his hand we need all things. We are of yesterday, and know nothing. If our mental darkness is illumined, the light must come from heaven. Our strength is weakness; and of ourselves we can do nothing. All our sufficiency is from God. His breath animated our lifeless forms. His power quickened our souls into thought, and action. We breathe his air ; we live upon his food. His arm guides us ; his hand sustains us; his mercy calls us to the possession of eternal life. We are nothing, we have nothing, we hope for nothing, but what he is pleased to give. With these considerations in view, our importance and our pride sink in the dust. In this manner good men have, in all ages, learned and loved to abase themselves. Thus David, in the eighth Psalm, strongly affected with a sense of the greatness of God as displayed in the works of his hands, cries out with the deepest humility: “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy