Who is like the LORD our God, the One enthroned on high?
made things; and the maker is always grander than the things he makes. No manufactured article can ever do more than suggest something about the man who designed or made it; it can never give an adequate and complete impression of him. Think of the sun as the sublimest of all created things, but it is no more fitting to represent God, it is no more worthily a likeness of God, than the images, hideous or beautiful, which idolatry or paganism may design God absolutely refuses to permit any likeness to be made of him after anything in heaven, or earth, or under the earth. Nothing material must be permitted to limit our large, free, spiritual thought of him.
I. LIKENESSES TO GOD IN THE HEAVENS. Men naturally look up into the heavens first, because that is the sphere of mystery, and that inspires awe and leads to adoration. It does so to the uncultured, but how much more it does to the cultured, who know that the seemingly little star Uranus is eighty times larger than the earth, Neptune a hundred and fifty times larger, Saturn more than seven hundred times larger, and Jupiter more than fourteen hundred times larger! The general sentiment of humanity has found in our sun the best likeness of God; but, though this should bring to men sublime ideas of grandeur, purity, and power, even the sun is unworthy to represent God.
II. LIKENESSES TO GOD IN THE EARTH. The apostle regards it as a degrading descent, that men, unsatisfied with sun-figures, "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." It is an impressive proof of the uselessness of the material to represent the immaterial, that men who once look to the material for figures of God always tend to go lower and lower in the scale. Nowadays, though we are not likely to worship the sun or manufactured idols, there are still thought-ideals, thought-idols, which may be as unworthy to represent the eternal God as the images of our heathen brothers. - R.T.
etc. There God and man met. And when we know this, and enter into the spirit of this great truth, then we know that there is a philanthropy, a love of man, in God; an intense, a boundless love even of creatures low and degraded as they are; then we wonder no longer how it is that He who exalteth Himself to dwell on high should humble Himself to behold, not only the things which are in heaven, but those also upon the earth.
I. THE UNEQUALLED MAJESTY AND GLORY OF GOD.
Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high?I. HIS INCONCEIVABLE GREATNESS (ver. 5).
1. The place of His habitation. With great propriety, heaven, and the heaven of heavens, though they cannot contain God's essence, are represented to us as the place of His immediate abode; there His glory dwells. This heaven is called the high and the holy place. "He dwelleth on high," far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named.
2. His infinite superiority to the greatest of beings and the greatest of things. The purest and loftiest angel that stands in the presence of God is far removed beneath Him. How much more must He stoop, then, to behold the things that are done on the earth, things of the greatest interests — things that in our view swell into the mightiest importance.
II. HIS MATCHLESS GOODNESS (vers. 6-8).
1. The ministrations of His providence.
2. The manifestations of His grace. Consider not only the general scheme of our recovery by grace Divine, through the humiliation, and suffering, and death, and burial of the Divine Redeemer, but consider the manner in which this salvation is applied by the sovereign and gracious operations of the Holy Spirit.
3. The revelations of eternity. "Eye hath not seen," etc.
III. WHAT PRACTICAL LESSONS MAY WE LEARN FROM THE COMBINED OR ASSOCIATED DISPLAY OF THE GREATNESS AND GOODNESS OF GOD.
1. Let it fix on our minds a deep sense of our own insignificance, meanness, and vileness.
2. Let it promote reverence in worship.
3. Let it nourish in our bosoms confidence towards God.
4. Let it scatter —(1) Those doubts of scepticism, and those hesitations of infidelity which are too industriously spread amongst us at the present day. The minute observation which God's providence takes of the affairs of men.(2) The efficacy of believing prayer.
1. He dwelleth on high. He is described as "seated on a throne high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1). The residence of His glory is in the heavenly world. From thence He beholds the whole universe, reigneth over it; and all creatures, and all worlds are under His government and control.
2. There is none like Him. It is impossible, in the nature of things, that there should be any more than one eternal, self-existent Being.
II. HIS GREAT AND AMAZING CONDESCENSION.
1. It is great condescension in God to behold the things that are in heaven — the saints and angels; for they are creatures, and fall infinitely short of Him in perfection. They cannot by searching find out God, nor have they minds capacious enough to receive Him, Besides, their best services, though not sinful and polluted, are yet imperfect. They are not equal to His glory; for "He is exalted above all blessing and praise."
2. It is greater and more wonderful condescension to behold the things on earth. They derive their being from the dust; dwell in houses of clay; at their best estate they are altogether vanity; will soon be laid in the grave and turned to corruption. They have lost their innocence and are become unclean; have lost their order and are become irregular. They often desire, judge, and act wrong; and there is not one that perfectly doeth good, no, not one. By the generality of men God is affronted, neglected, or forgotten. Even the worship and obedience of His saints, of the best of His saints, are imperfect and polluted. Who, then, is like to the Lord our God, that stoops to regard such creatures, and be so good to a world so full of vanity, sin, and pollution?
1. Learn to reverence this great and glorious Being, since He dwelleth on high, and there is none like Him.
2. Learn the odious nature of pride.
3. The condescension of God affords much comfort to His people.
4. How strongly should the condescension of God attract our hearts to Him, and make our gratitude and love to Him warm and constant.
5. Learn to imitate the condescension of God. To be friendly and affable to all, and stoop with a grace, is to be polite, to be a gentleman; yea, what is better, it is to be a Christian; to be so far like God. Condescension is not meanness. The very word implies dignity. As you owe more to God than others, for His bounty to you, show your gratitude this way. By kindness and condescension you will be esteemed and beloved; for "before honour is humility; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
(Job Orton, D.D.)
I. GOD DWELLETH ON HIGH.
1. This is a declaration of the Divine majesty, designed to rebuke that thoughtlessness which we are so apt to indulge, and to impress us with that reverence which is at once so becoming and so necessary.
2. This is a revelation of His power. Everything being subject to Him who is high above all, whose almighty power has hitherto controlled all things, and continues to control and regulate them, this revelation of the Divine power is made, that man — the man that trusts in God, and rests upon His almighty power — may be afraid of nothing; and that, when he has to believe any express promise which is made to him in the Word of God, whose accomplishment, to the man of the world, seems altogether impossible, he may say, "Is any thing too hard for the Lord?"
3. This is a revelation of His wisdom, of His infinite and arranging wisdom. It is connected with our comfort, as to individual life; connected with our confidence, as to God's Church; and connected with all our views of Providence, as to the management and issues of the affairs of this world.
II. AS IS THE MAJESTY, SO ALSO IS THE MERCY OF OUR GOD (ver. 7).
1. This condescension of God to things on earth respects, the regard which He has had for our race, for the race fallen indeed as it is, poor, and seated in the dust, and lying on the dunghill.
2. There is, no doubt, also, a reference in this to the respect which God pays even to the lower ranks of the race, seeing that He raiseth up the poor, and lifteth up the needy.
3. The text includes a reference, also, to the condescension of God in His relation to man in circumstances of trouble. His eye penetrates through the ranks of angels, and fixes upon a trembling, humble, contrite sinner.
4. The expressions of the text refer to our nature. Christ, who is the head, cannot be exalted without the members; and therefore Christ's exaltation is the pattern of ours; His body, now incorruptible, the pattern of our body to be glorified; His stainless glorified spirit the pattern of ours, which is to be without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, pure as the light in which God dwells in the kingdom of heaven, the very place into which He has entered; this glory is to be the residence of His people for ever.
I. For the evidence of this position, we appeal, in the first place, to the personal history of each individual. His eye is upon every hour of my existence. His Spirit is intimately present with every thought of my heart. His inspiration gives birth to every purpose within me. His hand impresses a direction on every footstep of my goings. Every breath I inhale is drawn by an energy which God deals out to me. And what God is doing with me, He is doing with every individual.
2. But, secondly, were the mind of God so fatigued, and so occupied with the care of other worlds, as the objection presumes Him to be, should we not see some traces of neglect or of carelessness in His management of ours? Should we not behold, in many a field of observation, the evidence of its Master being overcrowded with the variety of His other engagements?
3. But, thirdly, it was the telescope, that, by piercing the obscurity which lies between us and distant worlds, put infidelity in possession of the argument against which we are now contending. But, about the time of its invention, another instrument was formed which laid open a scene no less wonderful, and rewarded the inquisitive spirit of man with a discovery which serves to neutralize the whole of this argument. This was the microscope. The one led me to see a system in every star. The other leads me to see a world in every atom. The one taught me that this mighty globe, with the whole burden of its people and of its countries, is but a grain of sand on the high field of immensity. The other teaches me that every grain of sand may harbour within it the tribes and the families of a busy population. They, therefore, who think that God will not put forth such a power, and such a goodness, and such a condescension in behalf of this world, as are ascribed to Him in the New Testament, because He has so many other worlds to attend to, think of Him as a man. They confine their view to the informations of the telescope, and forget altogether the informations of the other instruments. They only find room in their minds for His one attribute of a large and general superintendence; and keep out of their remembrance the equally impressive proofs we have for His other attribute, of a minute and multiplied attention to all that diversity of operations, where it is He that worketh all in all. And when I think that as one of the instruments of philosophy has heightened our every impression of the first of these attributes, so another instrument has no less heightened our impression of the second of them — then I can no longer resist the conclusion, that it would be a transgression of sound argument, as well as a daring of impiety, to draw a limit around the doings of this unsearchable God — and should a professed revelation from heaven tell me of an act of condescension in behalf of some separate world, so wonderful that angels desired to look into it, and the Eternal Son had to move from His seat of glory to carry it into accomplishment, all I ask is the evidence of such a revelation; for, let it tell me as much as it may of God letting Himself down for the benefit of one single province of His dominions, this is no more than what I see lying scattered, in numberless examples before me — and running through the whole line of my recollections — and meeting me in every walk of observation to which I can betake myself; and, now that the microscope has unveiled the wonders of another region, I see strewed around me, with a profusion which baffles my every attempt to comprehend it, the evidence that there is no one portion of the universe of God too minute for His notice, nor too humble for the visitations of His care. What a grandeur does it throw over every step in the redemption of a fallen world, to think of its being done by Him who unrobed Him of the glories of so wide a monarchy, and came to this humblest of its provinces, in the disguise of a servant, and took upon Him the form of our degraded species, and let Himself down to sorrows and to sufferings and to death for us!
(T. Chalmers, D.D.)I. STATE THE DOCTRINE OF A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE.
1. We must not expect that God's particular providence would interpose, where our own endeavours are sufficient. For that would be to encourage sloth and idleness, instead of countenancing and supporting virtue. Nor ought we to expect to be relieved from difficulties and distresses, into which our own mismanagement and criminal conduct have plunged us.
2. We must not expect that Providence would so far consult our private interest, as to counterwork that of the whole.
3. We are not to expect that Providence upon our repeated requests would grant what we imagine a blessing; there being several things which we think to be blessings, that are not so upon the whole, or not so to us. And Providence is not like an over-indulgent parent, who destroys the future happiness of His children, by complying with their importunate petitions, and removing their present uneasiness.
4. Nor must we hope that Providence will prevent every calamity that may befall good men. All that the assertors of a particular providence contend for is that, if He does not think fit to prevent it, He will either support them under it, or rescue them from it; or make all things, at the last winding up of the drama, work together for good to them who love Him.
II. Having stated the doctrine of a particular providence, PROVE THE POSSIBILITY OF IT. We must distinguish between the grand and fundamental laws of nature, and those of an inferior and subordinate nature. The economy of Nature may be in a great measure unalterable, as to the grand and fundamental laws, by which the universe is steered: such are those respecting the revolution of the heavenly bodies, the succession of day and night, and the round of the seasons. But there are subordinate and inferior laws, which God may alter without any seeming or visible alteration. And to recede from them, under proper limitations, occasionally at the instance of particular persons, may be no detriment to the universe, and yet of great importance to them. Such are the laws relating to the course of infectious and pestilential vapours, the state of the atmosphere, etc.
III. PROVE THE TRUTH AND CERTAINTY OF A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE.
1. That the Deity should not grant every particular good man what is really for his good upon the whole, and no ways inconsistent with that of the public, must either argue that He is unwilling or that He is unable to grant it. Infinite goodness cannot but be willing to communicate happiness to every individual, who is not wanting to himself, and infinite power cannot but be able to bring about whatever His goodness wills.
2. God will respect and treat every man agreeably to what he is, and therefore there can be no irrespective course of things.
3. Instinct is a proof that providence extends itself to every particular brute; instinct being the immediate energy of the Deity acting upon each of the brute creation. Now, if Providence condescends to regard every individual in the brute creation so far as to act constantly in it and upon it, shall He not much more extend His care to every particular person in the rational world, and adapt His dispensations to the necessities of each single person in it?
4. Those who admit a general providence, but deny a particular one, seem to forget that generals are nothing but a collection of particulars; they are nothing but the sum total of individuals. And consequently as generals include particulars, a general providence must imply a particular one.
5. The surprising discoveries of murder, the fall of the wicked into the pit which they made for others; the strange and judicial infatuation of men, wise at all other times, when some great event was to be brought about, which can only be resolved into His power, who maketh the knowledge of the wise foolish, and turneth their counsels backwards; the indiscretion of others succeeding, when well-concerted plots have failed; the disproportion of the visible means to the effect; these are so many arguments to prove a particular providence at the helm, who has a perfect view of all things, whether great or small, at all times, and in all places, with infinitely more ease, than we can attend to one thing at once.
1. Let. us learn from hence to form the most august ideas of the Divine nature of which ours is capable.
2. Instead of scaring yourself with melancholy views, let it be a matter of joy and comfort to you, that, amidst all the confusion and madness of the world, men cannot faster perplex and entangle things than God can unravel them; or embroil the world, than He can bring order out of confusion.
3. Let us never do anything to throw ourselves out of His protection. While we enjoy the light of the Divine countenance, we need not be dejected at the frowns of the whole world. For if God be for us, it will in a short time signify little or nothing who was against us: but if He be against us, what will it signify who was for us?
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