« 上一頁繼續 »
voluntary instrument of promoting the cause of religion, and the happiness of the world. Hence it appears from this prediction, taken in connexion with its wonderful accomplishment,
That God justly claims a sovereign right, to make great men the instruments of executing his wise and benevolent designs.
To illustrate this sentiment, and to impress it upon your minds, my hearers, will be the business of the ensuing discourse.
God claims a supreme right to the services of great men, in almost every page of his word. How often do we hear him saying of this, of that; and of the other great character, he is my servant? How often do we meet with this sovereign language, my servant Moses? my servant Job? my servant Jacob? my servant Israel? my servant Isaiah? my servant Ne
? buchadnezzar? By such a mode of speaking, God holds up his sovereign right to employ great men just as he pleases, in executing the designs of his provi dence. But he more fully displays this prerogative, by publishing to the world what great men shall do, before they are brought into being. He claimed the services of Solomon, the wisest of men, and appointed the business of his life, before he was born. Thus he addressed his royal father. “Behold a son shall be born unto thee, who shall be a man of rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.” In the prediction concerning Nebuchadnezzar, God claimed a sovereign right to employ him as the minister of his vengeance,
4, 5, 331 in punishing the people of his wrath. He asserted his absolute divinity and sovereignty, in his prophetic address to Cyrus. “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no god beside me. I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.” And he displayed the same sovereign right to the powers and influence of great men, in his predictions of Alexander the great, of Augustus Cæsar, of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, of Constantine the great, of Mahomet, and of the man of sin. The Bible abounds in predictions of future events, to be brought about by the instrumentality of moral agents; and in all such predictions, God has made an absolute claim to the services of those, whom he has appointed to fulfil them.
It now appears sufficiertly plain, we trust, that God does claim a sovereign right, to make great men the instruments of executing his wise and benevolent de. signs; but our doctrine further asserts, that this claim is absolutely just. We are now come to the most important branch of our subject. And in order to make it appear, that God justly claims the high prerogative of making great men the instruments of doing great good in the world, permit me to observe,
1. That he gives them their superior natural capacity of doing good. He inspires them with that bright and glowing genius, which is the essence of mental greatness, and which distinguishes them from the general mass of mankind. As one star differs from another star in glory, so one man differs from another in the original frame and strength of his mind, There is convincing evidence, that this difference in the intellectual powers of men is not the fruit of cultivation and improvement, but the peculiar gift of Heaven. A great and capacious mind often makes an early appearance, before secondary causes have time to operate upon it. This was observable in Cyrus. Even in his childhood, he discovered an uncommonly strong and elevated genius, which excited the attention and admiration of the best judges of the human understanding. Hence we may justly conclude, the Father of spirits formed his mind, and endowed it with those great and astonishing talents, which he displayed in the course of his extensively useful and important life. In the same manner, God furnishes all great men, with all their natural powers and abilities to do great and noble actions.
2. He presides over their education, and gives them the means of improving their superior talents, and forming themselves for eminent usefulness. There is reason to think, that a vast many minds of the first magnitude have been buried in obscurity, for the want of proper education and refinement. Had Solomon or Socrates been denied the means of refining and invigorating their original talents, it is altogether probable, that they never would have arisen to that peculiar pre-eminence, which they will justly, and always hold in the great family of man. Hence, in forming great men, God takes particular care, that they shall receive such an education, as will best qualify them for their high stations in society. This appears from one or two memorable instances. Moses was the appointed instrument of delivering his nation from the depression and misery of bondage. And though in his infancy he discovered a lovely mind in a beautiful body; yet God saw it necessary that both should be refined in the court of Pharaoh And God took particular care of the education of Cyrus. He placed and kept him under the instruction of his father Cambyses, who early instilled into his mind the principles of sobriety, temperance, and every other moral virtue. This vir
tuous education proved an effectual guard against that luxury, prodigality, and dissipation, to which he was exposed at twelve years old, in the court of Persia. Though his grandfather and his nobility united their efforts to eradicate his virtuous habits, and corrupt his morals; yet they could make no impression upon him. He despised their customs and manners, and resolved to escape their pernicious influence, by taking shelter under the authority and example of his virtuous father, Here he pursued his studies, and collected a large store of that general knowledge of human nature and the affairs of the world, which eminently qualified him for that exalted sphere, in which he was ordained to
As God had anointed and set him apart for himself; so he presided over every part of his educațion, and adapted it to the designs of his providence. This is one step, which God always takes, in making great men the instruments of great good.
3. God gives them the disposition, which they at any time have, to employ their superior abilities, in promoting the happiness of mankind. We read, “the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” And we are told, “tke preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” God constantly superintends great men, and guides all the motions of their hearts. He gave Cyrus his amiable disposition, as well as his great abilities. He put it into his heart to devise, adopt, and prosecute the great designs of subduing and delivering nations. And he always exercises the same supreme control over the affections, views, and pursuits of those, whom he employs in executing the wise and benevolent designs of providence. Without exercising this sovereign dominion over the secret springs of action in great men, he could not justly claim the prerogative of making them his sword, his rod, his staff, or his shepherds. Great men "are not sufficient of themselves, to think any thing as of themselves; but their sufficiency is of God." He gives them that amiable disposition, which prompts them, to seek the general welfare of a society, country, or nation; and which renders them the objects of general admiration, esteem, and affection. In order to do great good, great men must have the love and confidence of great numbers. Cyrus was the idol of his country, of his friends, and of his foes. By his amiable manners, and friendly conduct, he captivated the hearts of high and low, and drew whole armies over to his side. This was of the Lord's doing, and absolutely necessary, to enable him to execute the designs of Heaven.
4. God gives great men the opportunity of employing all their power and influence, in executing his wise and benevolent designs. Men may possess great talents, and yet never find a proper opportunity of displaying them to the best advantage. There must be an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, in order to give great men a proper sphere of action. It is only now and then, that a scene opens, to draw forth the latent energies of a great mind. In the history of the world, we find a few such scenes.
There was a time, when God gave one man an opportunity of saving not only his family, but his race. This was the time of the flood, when Noah was made the father and Saviour of the world. There was a time, when whole nations were to be destroyed, to pave the way for the deliverance and prosperity of the church. That was the time of Moses, and that was the opportunity, which God gave him to display all his greatness. God appointed a time to destroy the enemies of his chosen