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is more natural than for those, who believe in a divine superintending power, to have recourse to it for relief in a time of distress. To intimidate the Jews, and induce them to a voluntary submission, the Chaldeans haughtily rehearsed, how they had prevailed over the gods of other nations, not because they had neglected to act in defence of their res pective nations; but because they were not able to deliver their people. This implies, that the gods of those vanquished nations would have protected the objects of their care, or recovered them from their down-fall, had it been in their power. And because it is in the power of Jehovah to save, he may be relied on for redemption from the most aggravated evils. That this is the peculiar and exclusive prerogative of divinity is conceded by Nebuchadnezzar in the following decree. "Therefore I make a decree, That every people, language, and nation, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dung-hill; because there is no other god that can deliver after this fort."
Having considered it a divine prerogative to do good to creatures; we now proceed to observe,
2. That to do evil, is also a work of the Godhead. By doing evil is not here meant, acting sinfully, or committing wrong. Imputing iniquity to the divine being, would, in effect, divest him of divinity. The idea
is, that all those effects, which among men are termed evils, owe their existence to the efficient will of a being, who is uncreated, and therefore divine. The superstition, in which Cyrus was educated, ascribed evil as well as good to the influence of a divine power, and, in this respect, the prophet charges no error upon that otherwise false and absurd theory in religion. The Persian theology is not condemned for supposing, that evil as well as good must be the effect of some invisible and uncreated power; the absurdity is in tracing them to opposite causes, rather than to one and the same. The mistake is rectified in the words of Jehovah, shewing the mysterious and large extent of his government: "I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things." What is evil in the world is as much from the divine counsel, as that which is good. God expressly declares his own agency in the calamities, which befall mankind, whether they accrue in some special channel, or in one which is altogether common; whether they are through the instrumentality of intelligent or unintelligent creatures. "Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you." Other texts are to the same import, viz. the following. "Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it ?" Again." For the in
habitant of Maroth waited carefully for good; but evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem." That doing evil, or, in other words, inflicting judgments upon mankind, is a part of the proper work of God, is signified in the challenge given by the Most High to idols, claiming devout adoration from men, to support their pretensions, by such divine operations, as properly belong to Deity. "Do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together." As there is no system, or order of things, known, in which evil does not mingle itself with the good that is experienced, whatever power claims supremacy, or exercises rule, must be considered as originating evil, as absolutely as the good that takes place..
3. It is a prerogative of divinity to comprehend, in one entire plan, things past, present, and future. Heathen idolatry has confined this honor to that nature,which is purely divine. Superstition, therefore, never dreampt of getting along, and giving extent to its empire over the minds of men, without oracles. The gods must needs be consulted, and enquired of, respecting matters of remote date, especially about things still to come. Divinity was rarely ever ascribed to one, who was not believed to have a view of things future, as well as of those past and present, and consequently capable of making known what should take place at a future day But what is mere fiction and pretence in pagan deities, attributed to them to exalt
their natures to an equality with their names, is, in Jehovah, a bright and splendid reality. "Thus saith the Lord, the holy One of Israel, and his Maker; Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." It is by giving indubitable proofs. of his familiar acquaintance with all things, whether past, present, or future, that the God of Israel evinces his own absolute divinity; and, in the following words by the prophet, he requires all, who would dispute preeminence with him, to substantiate their claims in the same way. "Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. "Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen let them shew the former things what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods.” As no one can reasonably pretend to divinity, whose mind does not pervade all duration, and clearly survey all being; so this extent of thought is peculiar to the Godhead. It is a genuine and infallible test of divinity.
From the view thus taken of divinity and divine prerogatives we are led to the conclusion,
1. That the government of the world is in the hands of one God, who is absolute in authority, wise in counsel, and excellent in working.
2. That his government is not so partial and limited as to be capable of being illustrated by any government that is instituted by man, or can be executed by a finite agent; and
3. That it is a thing desirable to have enlightened and enlarged conceptions of those modes of divine conduct, in which effect is given to the wise and righteous determinations of the Most High. Under this impression, let us proceed to a serious and careful examination of the subject-matter of the ensuing discourses.