« PreviousContinue »
ditation. His psalm is not composed in scholastic form, in which the author confines himself to fixed rules, and scrupulously following a philosophical method, lays down principles, and infers consequences. However, he establisheth principles the most proper to give us sublime ideas of the Creator; and he speaks with more precision of the works and attributes of God than the greatest philosophers have spoken them.
How absurdly have philosophers treated of the origin of the world? How few of them have reasoned conclusively on this important subject ? Our prophet solves the important question by one single principle, and what is more remarkable, this principle, which is nobly expressed, carries the clearest evidence with it. The principle is this : By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. This is the most rational account that was ever given of the world. The world is the work of a selfefficient will, and it is this principle alone that can account for its creation. The most simple appearances in nature are sufficient to lead us to this principle. Either my will is self-efficient, or there is some other being whose will is self-efficient.
What I say of myself, I say of my parents, and what I affirm of my parents, I affirm of my more remote ancestors, and of all the finite creatures from whom they derived their existence. Most certainly, either finite beings have self-efficient wills, which it is impossible to suppose, for a finite creature with a self-efficient will is a contradiction : either, I say, a finite creature hath a self-efficient will; or there is a first cause who hath a self-efficient will; and that there is such a being is the principle. of the psalmist : By the word of the Lord were the
heavens made : and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
If philosophers have reasoned inconclusively on the origin of the world, they have spoken of its government with equal uncertainty. The psalmist determines this question with great facility, by a single principle, which results from the former, and which, like the former, carries its evidence with it. The Lord looketh from heaven : he considereth all the works of all the inhabitants of the earth, ver. 13, 14. This is the doctrine of Providence. And on what is the doctrine of Providence founded ? On this principle : God fashioneth their hearts alike, ver. 15. “Attend a moment to the evidence of this reasoning, my brethren. The doctrine of Providence, expressed in these words, God considereth the works of the inhabitants of the earth, is a necessary consequence of this principle, God fashioneth their hearts alike, and this principle is a necessary consequence of that which the psalmist had before laid down to account for the origin of the world. Yes! from the doctrine of God the Creator of men, follows that of God the inspector, the director, the rewarder, and the punisher of their actions. One of the most specious objections, that hath ever been opposed to the doctrine of Providence, is a contrast between the grandeur of God and the meanness of men. How can such an insignificant creature as man be an object of the care and attention of such a magnificent Being as God? No objection can be more specious, or, in appearance, more invincible. The distance between the meanest insect and mightiest monarch, who treads and crushes reptiles to death withont the least regard to them, is a very imperfect image of the distance between God and man. That which proves that it would be beneath the dignity of a
monarch to observe the motions of ants, or worms,
Unenlightened philosophers have treated of the
follow such a method as that which we follow to prove his existence. When we would prove the existence of God, we say, there are creatures; therefore, there is a Creator. In like manner, when we would prove, that the Creator is a just, and a good Being, we say, there are qualities of goodness and justice in creatures; therefore, he from whom these creatures derive their existence, is a Being just and good. Now this is the reasoning of the psalmist, in this psalm: The Lord loveth righteousness and judgment, the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord, ver. 5. that is to say, it is impossible to consider the works of the Creator, without receiving evidence of his goodness. And the works of nature, which demonstrate the goodness of God, prove his justice also : for God hath created us with such dispositions, that we cannot enjoy the gifts of his goodness without obeying the laws of his righteousness. The happiness of an individual, who procures a pleasure by disobeying the laws of equity, is a violent happiness, which cannot be of long duration : and the prosperity of public bodies ,when it is founded in iniquity, is an edifice, which with its bases will be presently sunk and gone.
But what we would particularly remark is, that the excellent principles of the psalmist, concerning God, are not mere speculations: but truths from which he derives practical inferences : and he aims to extend their influence beyond private persons, even to legislators and conquerors. One would think, considering the conduct of mankind, that the consequences which are drawn from the doctrines of which we have been speaking, belong to none but to the dregs of the people ; that law-givers and conquerors have a plan of morality peculiar to themselves, and are above the rules to which other
men must submit. Our prophet had other notions. What are his maxims of policy? They are all included in these words : Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance, ver. 12. What are his military maxims? They are all included in these words : There is no king saved by the multitude of an host : a mighty man is not delivered by much strength : An horse is a vain thing for safety ; neither shall he deliver any by his great strength, ver. 16, 17. Who proposeth these maxims ? A hermit, who never appeared on the theatre of the world? or a man destitute of the talents necessary to shine there? No: one of the wisest of kings; one of the most bold and able generals ; a man whom God himself elected to govern his chosen people, and to command those armies, which fought the most obstinate battles, and gained the most complete victories. Were I to proceed in explaining the system of the psalmist, I might prove, that as he had a right to infer the doctrine of providence from the works of nature, and that of the moral attributes of God from the works of creation ; so, from the doctrines of the moral attributes of God, of providence, and of the works of creation, he had a right to conclude, that no conquerors or law-givers could be truly happy but those, who acted agreeably to the laws of the just and good Supreme. But I shall not enlarge on this article.
Permit me only to place in one point of view the different phrases, by which the psalınist describes the Deity in this psalm. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made : and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together, as an heap: he