Page images

acquainted with the individuals who contributed to form this varied greatness, and devote themselves through life to the perusal of their works ;—they mention with enthusiasm the names of a Solon, a Lycurgus, a Socrates, a Plato, a Homer, a Sophocles, a Miltiades, Demosthenes, Pompey, Cæsar, Cicero, Virgil, and the rest, and leading us to the giant figures of the states to which these belonged, show

“How thro' the great, the labour'd whole,

Each mighty master pour'd his soul.”

Yet they do not hear a voice from heaven, constantly and loudly inviting them to behold the hand of God engaged in building a nation, and they overlook a phenomenon of those times, the most remarkable that had ever been witnessed by the human species, of a civil community constructed in all its parts under the direction of the all-wise Jehovah, and of which he declared himself the political Head. This was truly a wonder of the world, which commends itself to us as an object of investigation big with promise.

When, however, we point to Judea as the scene of such operations, and to the Jews as the people thus divinely formed, men cry, Tush! and turn away. There is something too unclassic in the sound of Israel, of which they do not read any thing in heathen authors, but what is calculated to move their aversion and contempt; yet to this race the inspired passage on which we are meditating alludes. When God left the kindreds of the earth to their own dark ways, he reserved a scanty few among whom to preserve

the memorial of his name; he chose the descendants of Abraham as his portion, and the lot of his inheritance; he made known his word unto Jacob, and his statutes unto Israel, He dealt not so with any nation, and as for his judgments, they did not know them; of these only it can be said, God was their Captain, Lawgiver, and King

“ They, and they only, of all mankind,

Receiv'd the transcript of the Eternal Mind,
Were trusted with his own engraven laws,
And constituted guardians of his cause."

Of these only Jehovah says in our text,--" This people have I formed,” and “for myself;” and as the founders of other states are so highly magnified through the earth, “they shall shew forth my praise.”

And they did so. His glory burst forth from Jerusalem with an effulgence that made all the world besides seem a chaos. See the polished Athenians, so ignorant of the Creator as to inscribe upon his altar-“To the unknown God;"_see the wisest pagan sages, in endeavouring to penetrate the mystery and reveal the truth, losing themselves and their disciples in endless mazes of error, darkness, and doubt, whilst the Jews, centuries behind them in human learning, had clear conceptions of Jeho. vah,--walked in lucid paths of his knowledge,-and had all their religious atmosphere full of glorious light;--survey the monstrous, unclean, and childish rights, falsely called sacred, that were in practice among the scientific Gentiles, and contrasting them with the Jewish worship,--so pure, so magnificent, so sublime, so worthy God and becoming man,may you not ask, amazed, whence came this difference and this superior excellency? How heathen ethics lose their crested pride! How insignificant, compared with the tables of the moral law and the economy of Moses !

Would you know the national strength of Israel ? Think you behold the plagues of Egypt;-think you see the chosen seed marching, with unwet feet, across the Red Sea, and the same waters that receded to leave a channel for them to pass over, returning to overwhelm the host of Pharaoh. How many wonders of this kind shall we rehearse ? Behold them finally planted in Canaan, against the united efforts of warlike and numerous states, which panted for their destruction ;-see a multitude of armed men often cut to pieces by a few hundred Jews, as in the case of Gideon ;-see their foes vanquished by a single arm, as in the case of Samson,—by a shepherd lad, as in the instance of David, or without mortal effort so, a hundred and forty-five thousand Assyrians sat down to besiege the capital of Judea, Hezekiah prayed, and in the morning they were all dead men. How justly exclaims the Psalmist-"Lo, the kings were assembled; they passed by together; they saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away; fear took hold upon them there, and pain as of a woman in travail." Had this people remained obedient to their God, no earthly power could have shook the fabric; Titus and Vespasian had fought in vain.

“The proud eagles of all-conquering Rome
Had found one city not to be o'ercome;
And the twelve standards of the tribes unfurl'd
Had bid defiance to a warring world.”

All this unrivalled glory points to God,-all utters those words of the Great Supreme, and announces their fulfilment: “ This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”

[ocr errors]

But, my brethren, if we have attempted to justify this passage in its primary reference, we shall not detain you here. It is capable of another application. He who distinguished his skill and power in rearing and preserving the Jewish polity, is from the beginning to the end of time engaged in collecting and forming a spiritual nation, a holy priesthood, a peculiar people. This is the grandest display of his perfections,—this the crowning point of all his works. The carnal man knows not what is going forward and holding in breathless expectation the heavenly world; but God has revealed the secret, unfolded the plan, and discovered these actings of divinity to those who revere his name, and believe upon his Son. The great performance is not as yet complete; as yet it is imperfect, but in progress; ere long it will be finished, and when unveiled, will be presented to the universe a manifestation that shall astonish all finite intelligences.

A kingdom is establishing, whose centre and throne is in the hearts of men, and that shall stretch itself from the eastern to the western, from the northern to the southern boundaries of the earth, irrespective of casts, and differing complexions, and temporal governments, and worldly conditions. Even now the Spirit of God has gone forth, and is brooding over the mass of fallen humanity ;already he is calling his sons from far, and his daughters from the ends of the earth ;--at this day there exists a people in the South Sea Isles, amid Arabian sands, among African Hottentots, and West Indian Negroes, in the burning soil of India, and in Lapland snows, and throughout the isles and continents of Europe, unknown personally to each other, yet all the offspring of the same Spirit, all possessing the same features of mind, actuated by the same feelings, inspired with the same hope, participating the same privileges, obeying the same laws, acknowledging the same King, members of the same family, alike separate from the rest of their fellow-mortals, integral portions of the same great community, of which Jehovah says, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”

Are you anxious to know whether you belong to

« PreviousContinue »