« PreviousContinue »
thing, or rather, which is itself all in all, because its efficiency communicates to all ? Who would not fear thee, ( king of nations ? Doth not fear appertain to thee alone Perhaps the proving of a self-efficient will
may be more than is necessary to the exhibiting of an object of human fear. Must such a grand spring move to destroy such a contemptible creature as man: He is only a vapor, a particle of air is sufficient to dissipate it : he is only a flower, a blast of wind is sufficient to make it fade. This is undeniable in regard to the material and visible man, in which we too often place all our glory. It is not only, then, to the infinite God, it is not only to him whose will is self-efficient, that man owes the homage of fear : it may be said that he owes it, in a sense, to all those creatures, to which Providence hath given a presidency over his happiness or his misery. He ought not only to say ; Who would not fear thee, O king of nations ? for to thee doth it appertain ! But he ought also to say, Who would not fear thee, O particle of air? Who would not fear thee, O blast of wind ? Who would not fear thee, O crushing of a moth? Job. iv. 19. Because there needs only a particle of air, there needs only a puff of wind, there needs only the crushing of a moth, to subvert his happiness, and to destroy his life. But you would entertain very different notions of human happiness and misery, were you to consider man in a nobler light; and to attend to our second notion of God, as an object of fear.
God the only Object of Fear.
Jeremiah x. 7.
Who would not fear thee, O King of nations ? For to thee doth
II. OD is the only Being who hath a supreme
dominion over the operations of a spiritual and immortal soul. The discussion of this article would lead us into observations too abstract for this place; and therefore we make it a law to abridge our reflections. We must beg leave to remark, however, that we ought to think so highly of the nature of man as to admit this principle : God alone is able to exercise an absolute dominion over a spiritual and immortal soul.
From this principle we conclude, that God alone hath the happiness and misery of man in his power. God alone merits the supreme homage of fear. God alone, not only in opposition to all the imaginary gods of paganism, but also in opposition to every being that really exists, is worthy of this part of the adoration of a spiritual and immortal creature. Who would not fear thee, O King of nations ?
Weigh the emphatical words, which we just now quoted, Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die? Who art thou, immaterial spirit, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man? Who
art thou, immortal spirit, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die?
Who art thou, immaterial spirit, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man? Man hath no immediate power over a spirit ; he can affect it only by means of body. It is only by the body that a tyrant can cause a little anguish in the soul. It is only by the body as a mean that he can flatter some of the propensities of the soul, and propose himself to it as an object of its hope and fear. But, beside that this power is infinitely small while the soul is subject to it; beside that the soul is capable of a thousand pleasures and a thousand pains, during its union to the body, which man cannot excite; beside these advantages, it is beyond a doubt, that this power of a tyrant can endure no longer than the union of the soul to the body doth, by the means of which the tyrant affects it. If a tyrant exercise his power to a certain degree, he loseth it. When he has carried to a certain degree that violent motion, which he produceth in the body in order to afflict the soul, which is united to it, he breaks the bond that unites the soul to the body, and frees his captive by overloading him with chains. The union being dissolved, the soul is free; it no longer depends on the tyrant, because he communicates with it only by means of body. After the destruction of the organs of the body, the soul is superior to every effort of a despot's rage. Death removes the soul beyond the reach of the most powerful monarch. After death, the soul becomes invisible, and a tyrant's eye searcheth for it in vain: it ceaseth to be tangible, his chains and his fetters can hold it no more : it is no more divisible, his gibbets and his racks, his pincers and his wheels, can rend it no more: none of his fires can burn it, for
it is not combustible: nor can any of his dungeons confine it, for it is immaterial.
Would to God, my brethren, we were 'well acquainted with our real grandeur, and, perceiving our own excellence, were above trembling at those contemptible worms of the earth, who fancy they know how to terrify us, only because they have acquired the audacity of addressing us with insolence and pride. There is no extravagance, there is not even a shadow of extravagance, in what we have advanced on the grandeur of an immaterial spirit. We have not said enough. It is not enough to say that a soul can neither be disordered by chains, nor racks, nor gibbets, nor pincers, nor fires; it defies the united power of universal nature. Yea, were all the waters that hang in the clouds, and that roll in the sea, were every drop collected into one prodigious deluge to overwhelm it, it would not be drowned. Were mountains the most huge, were masses the most enormous, were all matter, to compose, if I may speak so, one vast ponderous weight to fall on and to crush it, it would not be bruised, yea, it would not be moved. Were all the cedars of Lebanon, with all the brimstone of Asphaltites, and with every other inflammable matter, kindled in one blaze to consume it, it would not be burnt. Yea, when the heavens pass away with a great noise, when the constellations of heaven fall, when the elements melt with fervent heat, when the earth, and all the works that are therein, are burnt up, 2 Pet. iii. 10. when all these things are dissolved, thou, human soul ! shalt surmount all these vicissitudes and rise above all their ruins ! Who art thou ? Immaterial spirit! Who art thou to be afraid of a man?
But, if the soul, considered in its nature; if the soul, as a spiritual being, be superior to human tyran
ny; what homage, on this very account, what submission and abasement, or, to confine ourselves to the text, what fear ought we not to exercise toward the Supreme Being? Who would not fear thee, () King of nations ? God alone hath the power of destroying an immaterial soul; God alone hath the power of preserving it. God is the only Father of spirits, Fear not them which kill the body : but fear him which is able to destroy the soul. Yea, I say unto you, fear him, Luke xii. 5. God alone can act immediately on a spiritual creature. He needs neither the fragrance of flowers, nor the savor of foods, nor any of the mediums of matter, to communicate agreeable sensations to the soul. He needs neither the action of fire, the rigor of racks, nor the galling of chains, to produce sensations of pain. He acts immediately to the soul. It is he, human soul! It is he, who, by leaving thee to revolve in the dark void of thine unenlightened mind, can deliver thee up to all the torments that usually follow ignorance, uncertainty, and doubt. But the same God can expand thine intelligence just when he pleaseth, and enable it to lay down principles, to infer consequences, to establish conclusions. It is he, who can impart new ideas to thee, teach thee to combine those which thou hast already acquired, enable thee to multiply numbers, shew thee how to conceive the infinitely various arrangements of matter, acquaint thee with the essence of thy thoughts, its different modifications and its endless operations. It is he, who can grant thee new revelations, develope those which he hath already given thee, but which have hitherto lain in obscurity; he can inform thee of his purposes, his counsels, and decrees, and lay before thee, if I may venture to say so, the whole history of time and eternity: For nothing, either