To you it was showed, that you might know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.
I. THAT WHILE ALL NATIONS AND ALL PEOPLE ARE BOUND TO SERVE THE LORD, and are accountable to Him for so doing or not, according to the opportunities they possess and the privileges with which they are favoured for knowing His character and learning His truth and will, SOME NATIONS AND PEOPLE ARE MORE PECULIARLY ENGAGED THUS TO SERVE HIM, AND ARE UNDER A CORRESPONDENT DEGREE OF RESPONSIBILITY FOR DOING SO OR NOT; because some nations and people are more highly favoured than others in all these respects, and are distinguished by greater privileges and opportunities for knowing and doing the Divine will than many others, who are, notwithstanding, all accountable unto God. Now, in order to place this truth in its proper light, let us suppose a case whose propriety and certainty few, we expect, will be disposed to dispute. And, to begin with —
1. Individuals, let us suppose the case of one man, born and bred a pure heathen; another, brought up with some degree of opportunity for gaining the true knowledge of God, etc., in civilised life; and a third, in the same condition, in full possession of the Word of truth and salvation. The great law of man's universal responsibility, amidst all this variety of condition, equally applies to them all. But the advantages which the one possesses over the other bind the one in a more powerful manner to the duty enforced. And when you arrive at the greatest measure of privilege, do you not behold its accompanying claims rising to the same point, and bearing an even requisition with the highest elevation?
2. Nations. Nations are nothing more than vast numbers of individuals, located in various parts of the earth, and cemented by certain laws and regulations in orderly and social compact. The same truths, therefore, which apply to one person will surely extend to ten thousand, or to as many millions, of the human family thus connected together.
3. Whether the doctrine we inculcate is founded upon, and stands in agreement with, the pure Word of God. Did not the very mercies and privileges which the Lord bestowed upon Israel lay them under peculiar obligations, and bind them in an especial manner to love and serve Him?
II. WHERE DOES THE TRUTH THUS PROPOUNDED AND ESTABLISHED FALL IN ITS FULL WEIGHT; AND TO WHOM DOES IT MORE PECULIARLY APPLY IN ALL ITS AUTHORITY AND AGGRAVATION? The inquiry evidently regards the past and the present time.
1. The past time. Where, in the ages that are passed, are we to look for such a nation or people? Must we not at once fix our attention upon Israel of old, and say, Thou art that nation, and thou art that people? What wonders did God work on their behalf! What large and unmerited mercies did He bestow on them! What astonishing deliverances did He vouchsafe to them! But must our inquiries terminate here?
2. The present time. Many nations are presented to our view. Some great and strong; others weak and debased. Some altogether enshrouded in heathen blindness; others groaning under Mohammedan tyranny and delusion. Some rent with internal convulsions; others sitting down in comparative quiet. Some, once mighty and renowned, merged in the general streams of rival powers, and known no more as separate kingdoms, except in the records of their ancient exploits and fame. But amidst all this national and political chaos presented to our view can we fix on no spot which in a more especial manner is more highly favoured than any other? Yes, we can. Like some tall majestic oak amidst the under wood of the forest, or like the cloud-capped mountain contrasted with the hillocks of the plain, or like the stately man-of-war amidst the wharfage of the port, there is one nation amidst all the diversified tribes of man which stands thus conspicuous in the view, and thus crowned with privileges and blessings! Oh England, my beloved place and nation, thou wearest this crown! thou standest on this elevation! Not only in common with all others, but above and beyond all others, hast thou been blessed and crowned with loving kindness and tender mercies! What hath not the Lord done for thee?
(1) As a nation. Hath He not raised thee from small beginnings to unexampled greatness? Hath He not brought thee from a poor degraded state of heathen misery, in which thy forefathers were sunk, to be at once the mistress, the envy, and the glory of the world? And in the course of thy experience, from thy low original to thy present greatness, hath not the Lord often wrought for thee by a mighty hand and by a stretched-out arm? And art thou not bound, in proportion to what He hath done for thee? Oh! beware lest thou stand as conspicuous in ingratitude and guilt as thou art in privilege and blessing! But are national distinctions and advantages all that the Lord hath done for thee? Are not thy privileges —
2. As a church, as great as thy mercies as a nation? He hath not left thee without witness; not merely, as He testified to the heathen, "giving rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, and filling our hearts with food and gladness"; but as He deals with His own inheritance, sending to thee the truths of His Word and the messages of His salvation. Do we, as a nation, church, or people, live up to these privileges, and bring forth the fruit which God so justly requires at our hands? Are the mercies we possess prized as they ought to be? Are they improved as they ought to be? Is God honoured and glorified as tie ought to be? Is the Gospel of peace valued as it ought to be? Is the Word of life received as it ought to be? Do we walk in the statutes and ordinances of God as we ought to do?
Parallel VersesKJV: Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.