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EZEKIEL i. 16.
Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
THE prophet Ezekiel was carried to Babylon among fome of the firft of the captive Jews. Before his captivity he faw many changes; and afterward by a spirit of prophecy he forefaw many more, which are recorded in this book.
The great events in providence, which awaited his own, and fome other countries, are represented to him in an emblematic vifion. He faw "a whirlwind rifing out of the north," or out of Babylon, which lay northward of Judea. This betokened new calamities coming on his country from that quarter. "There was a great cloud and fire infolding itfelf;" or rolling in wreaths of fmoke, as when clouds are blown by a whirlwind. This denoted the terrible majefty and irrefiftible power of God's judgments executed on à guilty land. From the midft of the fiery cloud
"he faw four living creatures come forth," reprefenting the angels of God, who were the minif ters of his providence and the executioners of his wrath on guilty nations. These living creatures, in all their movements, were under the direction of one governing Spirit. All the angels are "minifters of God, hearkening to his voice, obeying his commands, and doing his pleasure." They "had each four wings," with two of which they covered their bodies in token of their profound reverence, and with two they flew to perform the divine behefts. "Their wings were stretched out, and the wings of one touched those of another," to fignify that they moved in concert. "Whither the Spirit was to go they went, and they turned not, when they went ; but proceeded with fteadiness in their work, till it was accomplished. To express the alacrity and rapidity of their motions, the prophet fays, "Their appearance was as a flash of lightening."
In defcribing the scenery of the vifion, Ezekiel · further adds, that "by each of the living creatures there was a wheel." As there were four living creatures, fo there were four wheels. "And their appearance and their work were as the colour of Beryl, and they four had one likeness, and there was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel." This description is defigned to reprefent the mysterious, but regular manner, in which God guides and orders events in relation to the nations of the earth.
To illuftrate and improve this figurative reprefentation of God's providence, is what we now defign.
I. The providence of God is represented by a wheel, to fignify, that it is always in motion-always operating, to effectuate its various designs.
The Being, who made the world at first, “works hitherto," and will continue forever to work, He upholds and governs the world, and fuperintends all events, great and finall, which take place in it. If he fhould fufpend his influence and withdraw his hand, the fyftem of nature would be diffolved, the ftars would ftart from their orbs, planets run lawless through the void, and creation retura to chaos.
The fame providence which fuftains the universe, overrules all events in our world. Not only the armies of heaven, but alfo the inhabitants of the earth, are fubject to its power. The revolutions of ftates and kingdoms are under its controul. "There are many devices in the hearts of men; but the counfel of the Lord fhall ftand." They have neither wisdom to guide, nor power to effect their purposes without his fupport and permiffion. He raises up one, and cafts down another; whatsoever he pleafes, that he does, and none can stay his hand. He weakens the ftrength of the mighty, and turns to foolishness the devices of the crafty. He gives power to the faint, and to them who have no might he increafes ftrength. The great events, which are often brought about by difproportionate means, are proofs of an almighty, fuperintending providence.
The prophet, defcribing the wheel of providence, fays, "It was on the earth, and its rings were so high, that it was dreadful." All things were comprehended within its vaft circumference, and moved with its motions. There is a fimilar reprefentation in the book of Job. "Who can by fearching find out God? Who can find out the almighty to perfection? It is high as heaven; what can we do? Deeper than hell; what can we know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and
broader than the fea." The majesty of providence is described in the like elevated language by the prophet Ifaiah. "God fits on the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as graffhoppers. He weigheth the mountains in fcales, and the hills in a balance. All nations before him are as a drop in a bucket, or a small dust in a balance. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts, and his ways above ours."
II. Providence is compared to a wheel, to fignify the mutability of all things on earth.
As the condition of particular perfons, fo the state of nations and kingdoms is always changing. They are all on this mighty, ftupendous wheel, All are in motion. None are stationary. Some are rifing; others falling. They who rife, exult in their afcending progrefs, and forget that their motion will foon be reverfed, and that the nations, which now feem to lie under them in the duft, will, at a future time, change places with them.
There was a time, when the Jews were high above all nations. In Ezekiel's day they had funk to the lowest degradation. They were at the bottom of the wheel. They had loft their power, their government, their liberty. Many were carried captive to a distant land; those who remained at home, were flaves there. But they were to rise again, and their enemies were to fall. The Affyrians, now their masters, were afterward conquered by the Perfians. At that time the Jews were released from bondage, and allowed to return to their own country. The Perfians foon funk from their elevated position on the wheel and the Grecians rofe over them. Thefe, in their turn, rolled down, and the Romans afcended. Thus
the nations of the earth have been, ftill are, and, for a time, will be in continual rotation.
Thefe changes are the immediate effects of the pride, ambition and avarice of men; but they are all under the fuperintendency of a wife and righteous providence. "The rings of its wheels are full of eyes." Their motions are not cafual, but intelligent; the effects, not of blind impulfe, but of rational defign. "The Spirit of life is in the wheels, and whitherfoever the Spirt goes, they go."
God has fome great and benevolent design in all his works. Men have defigns too, but they are often very different from his. The end, which divine wisdom has in view, is the protection and enlargement of the church, the diffufion of knowledge, and the eventual establishment of virtue and righteoufnefs. The objects, which earthly powers are pursuing, are the enlargement of territory, the extenfion of dominion, the accumulation of wealth. But all their purposes God overrules to the furtherance of his own holy and benevolent ends. "The wrath of men he makes to praise him, and the remainder of their wrath he restrains.” Powerful kings are often "the rods of his anger to chaftife the people of his wrath; howbeit they mean not fo, neither doth their heart think fo, but it is in their heart to deftroy and cut off nations not a few." And when they have accomplished God's righteous design in the punishment of guilty nations, then "he will punish the fruit of their ftout heart, and the glory of their high looks."
III. The text fuggefts to us, that there is a wonderful order and connexion in the works of providence.
The wheels in Ezekiel's vision were fo nicely framed and adjusted, that they moved in concert,