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MORAL POWER OF THE WORD OF GOD.
"Is not my word like as a fire ? saith the Lord ; and like a hammer that
breaketh the rock in pieces."—Jer. xxiii. 29.
UNDER the Old Testament dispensation, God employed prophets to reveal his will to his people. The true prophets were divinely inspired, and delivered the truths which he suggested in the very words which he dictated. So that all they taught the people was the pure word of God, without the least mixture of human ignorance, error, or falsehood. But there were false prophets as well as true, who pretended to divine inspiration, of which they were entirely destitute; and who pretended to deliver the word of God, while they taught nothing but their own inventions and delusions. Though the people were fond of the false prophets, yet God severely reproved them, and appealed to the people themselves, whether they found the words of the false prophets to be as weighty and powerful as the words of the true prophets, who faithfully delivered the divine messages to them.
“The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully : what is the chaff to the wheat ? saith the Lord.” It follows, "Is not my word like as a fire ? sạith the Lord; and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces ?” As the rocks, which are some of the hardest substances in nature, cannot resist the force of fire and a hammer, so God says there is nothing which can make so deep impression upon the minds of men as his word. Accordingly, it will be my object to show, that the word of God is calculated to make the deepest impression upon every human mind. Here it may be observed, ,
1. That the inspired writers represent the word of God as calculated to make the deepest impression upon the minds of
David says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” The apostle says,
The apostle says, “ The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Again he says, “ The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds : casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” These are strong representations of the power and energy of divine truth to affect and impress every human heart.
2. It is the design of the word of God to impress the minds of men.
God took this method of instructing mankind, on purpose to make the deepest impressions on their minds. He knew that his works and providence would be disregarded ; and therefore he determined to speak to men in a more plain and pungent manner. As he perfectly knew the views, the feelings, and the conduct of all classes of men; so he was able to dictate such words as should lay open their hearts, describe their characters, and exhibit the dreadful consequences of impeni. tence and unbelief in the most impressive manner.
And we appeal to all who have ever seriously read the scriptures, whether they have ever found such weighty, solemn, interest ing truths as they have found in the Bible; or such as have made so deep impressions on their minds. This leads me to observe,
3. That the word of God has produced the deepest impressions upon the minds of men wherever it has been heard or read. When the law was delivered at mount Sinai, it produced a surprising effect upon the minds of three millions of people. They not only trembled at the view of the divine appearance, but inwardly yielded to the force of divine truth. They solemnly declared, “ All that the Lord our God hath said, we will do, and be obedient.” When the book of the Law was found in the temple, in the reign of Josiah, and was read before him, it struck him with astonishment. And when he caused it to be read in public, it made a deep impression on every mind, and produced a general reformation. When Ezra read the word of God in public, it carried conviction to the hearts and consciences of multitudes, and brought them to genuine repent.
When Baruch read the word of the Lord by Jeremiah to Jehoiakim, it was more than he could bear. It awakened all the enmity of his heart, and led him to the most presumptuous act. He took his penknife, and cut the roll, page after
page, and threw it into the fire. After Christ's ascension, the word of God produced astonishing effects. It awakened the consciences and subdued the stubborn hearts of thousands. When Stephen preached his last sermon, the word of God which he delivered was sharper than a two-edged sword. For we are told, that those who heard it were cut to the heart, and gnashed with their teeth. After the apostles carried the gospel among distant and stupid nations, the word of God was mighty to the pulling down of strong holds, and demolishing the usurped kingdom of Satan. Though civil power, religious superstition, and all the learning and philosophy of the world, unitedly opposed the gospel; yet the doctrines of divine revelation triumphed over all these combined obstacles, and bowed the hearts of men to the sceptre of the crucified Saviour. Human learning and wisdom had long been tried in vain, to reform the lives and subdue the hearts of men. No human means could bring the nations of the earth to the knowledge of their Creator, and of their own characters and condition. But when the
gospel was carried among them, it overthrew the heathen temples, false religion, and vain philosophy; and brought high and low, small and great, the learned and unlearned, to the knowledge and worship of the only living and true God. And though the world were soon alarmed, and united all their power
and malice to counteract the force of divine truth; and raised ten severe persecutions against the preachers and professors of Christianity; yet the word of God gradually overturned Paganism through the whole Roman empire, and established the kingdom of Christ where Satan's seat was. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. : This was such a signal display of the power and efficacy of the gospel, as the most learned infidels have never been able to account for, on the supposition that the word of God is a cunningly devised fable. Nor has the word of God lost its irresistible power to impress the minds of the most hardened and obstinate sinners. And this will more fully appear, if we consider,
4. The nature of the great truths contained in the word of God. They are of all truths the most important and interesting to mankind. Any truth is impressive in proportion to its nature, magnitude, and importance. Truths respecting divine and eternal objects are infinitely more weighty, than truths respecting time and the things of time; and calculated to make a far deeper impression on the minds of men. The truths contained in the Bible respect the greatest beings and greatest objects in the universe, and consequently are the greatest and most important truths, that God himself could reveal to mankind, for the purpose of enlightening and impressing their minds. Here I would observe,
1. The word of God reveals the truth respecting his great and amiable character. Pagans and infidels have acknowl- . edged the existence of an eternal Being; but they have not acknowledged all his natural and moral perfections. Some heathen and infidels have supposed that God is eternal and comprises all things, and is not distinct from all things, but all things are a part of his existence. And those of this opinion, deny that God is the Creator and Governor of the world. Others have supposed, that though God has made the world, yet that he does not concern himself in the government of it, but sits an idle spectator of the creatures, the scenes, and objects that exist on the earth. But such an eternal Being may be as unimportant as any creature or object he has made. Though the light of nature might have discovered to the heathen the character as well as the being of God; yet they never did discover his true character, but have sunk down in inexcusable ignorance and darkness. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; ; so that they are without excuse." But in the word of God, his character is clearly revealed. There he is represented as the Creator, Preserver, and Disposer of all things; and as constantly carrying on his wise and holy designs in the course of his universal providence over all his creatures and all his works. Those who have been led to believe the existence of the Deity, by the mere light of nature, have always been disposed to form a low, mean, inconsistent, and absurd idea of his natural and moral character. But the inspired writers represent the natural and moral character of the supreme Sovereign of the universe in the most amiable, glorious, and formidable light. Isaiah represents God as measuring the waters in the hollow of his hand, as meting out heaven with a span, and comprehending the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighing the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance; as sitting upon the circle of the earth, as viewing the inhabitants thereof as grasshoppers, and as bringing princes to nothing, and making judges vanity. This plain truth concerning the supremely glorious and awfully sublime character of the only living and ever-living God, is infinitely weighty, and can never enter any created mind, without making a powerful and deep impression on it. It is like as a fire, and like a hammer, to break the hardest and most adamantine heart in pieces.
2. The word of God reveals the divine purposes, as well as
delineates the divine character. These are adapted to affect the interests, and consequently the hearts of all intelligent creatures. They never can be realized without exciting a deep sensibility. The truth respecting the being and even the per. fections of God, makes a less impression on the minds of men, than his decrees. These set all the attributes of the Deity in the most interesting attitude, in respect to all his dependent, and especially his sinful creatures. They immutably fix their future and eternal destiny. They are highly pleasing to all the friends of God, but infinitely terrible and alarming to all his incorrigible enemies. For if he has decreed one thing, he has decreed all things. If has appointed things temporal, he has appointed things eternal. If he has fixed the state of one world, he has fixed the state of all worlds. If he has elected one man, he has reprobated another. If he has determined that one thing shall promote his own glory, he has determined that all things shall promote his own glory. In a word, if he has decreed all things, then all things are under his absolute control. And this plain and important truth is fully revealed in his word, which gives it peculiar force and energy. Men cannot understand the doctrine of divine decrees, without being sensibly affected. This truth always finds the heart, and excites either love or hatred to God. For it carries in it life or death, heaven or hell, to every one who feels its weight. It is a fire in the breast of every sinner, and a hammer to break his purposes, and demolish his hopes of heaven.
3. The word of God teaches his universal and irresistible influence over all his creatures, which is extremely interesting to them. The scripture represents all men as being in the hand of God, as the clay is in the hand of the potter. It represents God as working in the hearts of all men, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. This truth runs through the Bible, and gives energy to everything said in it. For if men were independent of God, they would be little concerned about his being, his perfections, and his purposes. But if he have a constant and absolute control over all their views, determinations and actions, then it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps, nor of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. This truth throws all men equally into the hands of God, which is extremely disagreeable to a corrupt heart. There is no truth, which can be found in any other book, so interesting and weighty, as the doctrine of the divine agency.
And it never is clearly exhibited and understood, without making a deep and powerful impression.
4. The Bible contains the divine commands. These are ex