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ISAIAH xlv. 56
I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God. besides me..
HAT the honour of God's name might not be tarnished, and his glory lie bu. ried under the superstitions of idolatry, prophets have been commissioned and sent, and testimonies given, to prove to the most stupid and infidel among men, that Jehovah is God alone, and that to him all dominion belongs. To this end are adapted the words of Isaiah to Cyrus, the Persian monarch, viz. to convince the king and all his realms, that the God of Israel is infinitely superior to all the gods of the heathen world; that hi government is universal; and that he take
care to order and bring about all events, not in one nation only, but in every nation, as well among idolaters, as among the people called by his own name. The words in ques. tion are directed to one, who, in addition to a general ignorance of the doctrines of Moses and the prophets, was under the influence of a false scheme of religion, having been edu. cated in the belief of such a theology, as was embraced and taught, in the kingdom of Persia. Though he had no belief of the existence, perfections, and providence, of such a God, as Jehovah ; yet by the prophet he is assured, that this God, the God of that. people, who were scattered into various parts of his empire, and held in a state of captivity, is the being, to whom alone he is indebted for his strength, wisdom, and success in war. Instead of superstitiously acknowledging a dependence on the gods of his own country for his conquests and all the splendid fruits of his valour, he is instructed to look up to the God of Israel as the Power, that had strengthened his arm and weakened that of his enemies. “I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.” To carry conviction to his mind in favour of a doctrine, so con. trary to all his former ideas, a prediction, in the name of the Lord of hosts, of many years standing, appears on record, and is exactly fulfilled in himself. We may, probably enough, suppose it to have been agreeable to usage, and to his own sentiments and feel
ings, as a friend to the religion of his own country, to make some graetful acknowledgments to the gods of Persia for aiding him in the day of battle and conducting him to victory; but the word of the Lord, by the prophet, is to convince him, that all things are from the providential interference of one God, who, besides being King in Zion, is also the governor among the nations. The Persian king is solemnly invited and urged by the most weighty argument, derived from the spirit of prophesy, to abjure the gods of his own nation and of all other countries, and pay
adoration to the God of Israel, as the only being, who, is able to declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, who has the King's heart in his hand, and as the rivers of water turneth it whithersoever he will.. Jehovah will not only be honoured, as pos. sessing absolute divinity ; but as being God alone. “I am the Lord, and there is none. else, there is no God besides me." The bus siness of this discourse will be to inquire
What are the prerogatives, which properly belong to Deity.
With respect to this inquiry, viz. what the proper prerogatives of Deity are, perhaps we shall not find the opinions of men very diverse one from another. What those things are, by which a being, who is truly divine, is to be distinguished from all other beings, is, I believe, so obvious, that whether we bea lieve in one God or many, in the God of the
Bible; or in some fictitious god, we shall not be likely to differ, materially, upon this par ticular point. All inen will admit, that those influences and operations, which are above the human capacity, or the capacities of crextures, must be divine. And what those en ergies are, which are common to men, or to other creatures, of which we have any knowl. edge, one will about as readily perceive, as another. The heathen, who venerate a multiplicity of deities, or some one, in character unlike the true God, place their gods in a.. sphere, which, in point of natural elevation, does not essentially differ from the one, in which Jehovah acts; that is, they represent their gods as doing for them what the true God does for his people. We will, therefore, proceed to enquire into those prerogatives, which are properly divine..
1. It is a prerogative and proper work of Deity to give being to all things, whose ex. istence has a beginning. Although many of the deities, worshipped in the heathen world, have not pretended to creative powers ; yet this is only in consequence of their not hold. ing the first rank. The beginning of exist ence, in any thing whatever, must be resolv. ed into the will of some being,. who is able to cause it to be. And this power, in whomsoever it is found, must be reckoned divine. It far transcends any thing known to be.pošsessed by creatures. He, who can give be. ing to what before did not exist, under any
cm, does, in this particular instance, give :
incontestible proof of divinity. It is by contrasting himself with idols, in regard to this particular, that God declares his own infinite superiority to them, and that they are but vanity, not what they should be to entitle them to divine honours. " The Portion of Jacob is not like them ; for he is the former of all things ; and Israel is the rod of his in. heritance ; the Lord of hosts is his name." The Persian faith put the work of creation into the hands of the gods they served. They did not ascribe the creation of all things to a single deity. They divided universal empire between two contrary and conflicing powers. One held his dominion over light, and was adored as the author and fountain of all good; while the other was considered as malignant, the origin of darkness, and the creator of all evil. This accounts for the language addressed to Cyrus, in which he is admonished ac gainst the absurd doctrines taught by the Persian Magi, and directed to explode the i. dea of two or more gods, and adopt the more rational belief, that all effects are produced by one supreme and all-sufficient cause; that the same being, who gives light to the world, causes the darkness also and that he, who makes peace, is the Creator of evil. As these are works of too great magnitude for finite powers, so God expressly claims them as his own. “I the Lord do all these things.”
2. Providence, in its largest extent, is a divine prerogative. The work of rearing up