Thus you are to tell them: "The gods that did not make heaven or earth will perish from this earth and from under these heavens."
I. IN WHAT RESPECTS JEHOVAH IN UNIQUE.
1. In idea. It is a wondrous conception - a being so great, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. As a conception it stands alone, commands respect, and invites reverent investigation. Such goodness with such power and wisdom!
2. In pretensions.
(1) He claims our sole worship;
(2) our highest and holiest service is his by right, and is unworthy of him;
(3) our welfare and destiny are in his hands.
3. In works. There is nothing he has claimed to be which he has not made good in his works - creation, providence, grace.
II. THIS CONCEPTION OF GOD AS UNIQUE HARMONIZES WITH THE INSTINCTS OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT, AND THE TEACHINGS OF HISTORY AND NATURE. It has cast its spell over the mightiest intellects, and commanded the homage of the purest and best of men. In the worship of him whom it represents the highest longings are satisfied, and the most characteristically human sympathies and principles encouraged. The unity of nature; the mental principle that traces everything to a great First Cause; the manner in which the system of religion of which he is center and dominating principle explains this, and harmonizes the life of man with his surroundings; - are all indications that point to the same conclusion. - M.
Thus shall ye say, etc.
I. THE PROCLAIMING ITSELF.
II. THE SUM OF THE PROCLAMATION. The proclaiming in these words, "Thus shall ye say unto them." Here are three things —
1. The persons who, namely, Ye Jews, who are the worshippers of the living God; ye captive Jews, carried out of your own land, and living as slaves and vassals under your proud lords the Babylonians; "Ye shall say unto them."
2. The persons to whom, namely, your lordly masters of Babylon.
3. The manner how; "thus," that is, not in cryptic, or mystical terms, or in your own Hebrew mutterings, a language which they understand not, but in the vulgar tongue of Babylon.
4. In the sum of the proclamation are two things contained —(1) A description of false gods in these words, "The gods which made not the heavens and the earth."(2) Their doom in these words, "They shall perish from the earth and from these heavens.
(J. Mede, B. D.)
The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish.I. THE NECESSARY AND UNIFORM EFFECTS OF IDOLATRY, of the worship of "the gods who have not made the heavens and the earth"; and if the fact is granted, which I believe not to be questioned, that this has been the universal practice of pagans, I ask no other principle to enable me to spread before you a scene of dark and pitiable wretchedness, which must excite our commiseration.
1. Where there is idolatry there is no God. All the wants you feel, and which God only can supply, they feel too. You take your wants to God; they take theirs to an idol; and an idol is nothing. You go to the fountain of living water; they, to broken cisterns. They apply parched lips to an empty vessel; they are hungry, and they dream they eat; they awake, and are not satisfied.
2. Where there is idolatry, there are no morals. The true foundation of morals is the will of God. That will is holy, because He is holy; and a holy God being known, His will is known also to be such. There is no knowledge of morals but where there is a knowledge of God; and there is no sanction of them. It is true, that in countries where God is known we may find morals without immediate reference to God and His will. The conduct may be correct out of regard to public opinion and character; but this public opinion as to morals is created by the acknowledged fact, that there is a God that hateth iniquity; and this acknowledgment is produced by the knowledge of His will. From idolatry no morality can issue, because there is no superior will in its favour. Vice meets no check from conscience, none from fear, none from a superior Being watching every act of man, and registering it for judgment. To be like the "gods who have not made the heavens and the earth," is to be unfit for the society of men. The worshippers of idols "are filled with all unrighteousness." This is the language of inspiration and of history.
3. Where there is idolatry there is a fatal mistake on the subject of religion. True religion, indeed, there is not, nor indeed can be. Idolatry and superstition are not, therefore, as they have sometimes been represented, only different means of accomplishing the same end, giving men the control and benefits of religion, though by a different process. This, I fear, has been a too common notion: The same principles of piety have been supposed to be expressed by the worship of God and of idols; and he who has returned from an idol-temple has been regarded as bearing away with him to his home and to his business, a conscience as satisfied, a spirit as refreshed and comforted, as he who departs from beholding the power and glory of God in the sanctuary. What corrective control can be expected except that which results from the presence of a God of purity, of one who hateth iniquity, and who will everlastingly punish it?
4. Idolatry is inconsistent with religious comfort. For polytheism admits no providence. It peoples heaven with gods who war with each other, and each other's worshippers. There is no superintending mind in that heaven, no common plan, no regular discipline; and there can be no trust.
5. Where there is idolatry, there is no hope.
II. IN WHAT ITS REMEDY LIES.
1. Consider the means which human wisdom, resting only upon human resources, has proposed to adopt in order to raise the condition of the barbarous or semi-civilised pagan nations of the earth. Hope has rested —(1) On forms of government. As these improve, and the principles of right and power are better understood, the moral and civil condition of nations is expected to advance. The best forms are vain, where public virtue is wanting; public virtue is the sum of private virtue; and that is the product only of a true and efficient religion. But good government supposes laws; and —(2) From laws the effect has been hoped. Consider then the operation of laws without religion. Allow that you introduce principles of right and wrong between men, restrain violence, correct fraud, establish order. Suppose all this to be done: Can the institutions of law reach the thought? Can the security of law give peace to the conscience? Can human judicature absolve from guilt?(3) But these evils have been traced to ignorance and the revival and diffusion of science have been depended upon as the means of improving the moral condition of the pagan world. There is no moral influence in science, merely as such: It may be an instrument either of good or of evil; but is in itself, and that from its very nature, indifferent. It is an instrument, however, which, if a good agent does not seize, an evil one will; and he who sends the light of knowledge, and consequently power, among the heathen, is bound to send with it that higher science, and those principles of religious fear and hope, by which only it can be employed to moral and beneficial purposes.
2. Where, then, is the remedy? It is in the Gospel of the grace of God. There the deep and pressing want of the world is met.
III. CONSIDER HOW FAR IT LIES WITH US TO APPLY IT. It will not be difficult to show, both that it is laid upon us to contribute with all our power to the moral improvement of the world; and that Christian missions are the means appointed for this purpose, which have the authentication of Divine authority.
1. They unquestionably accord with the standing rule of the Divine government, to help man by man.
2. This is still farther confirmed, by a fact of no small importance in determining our duties on this subject. No nation, lapsed from the light and knowledge of religion, has ever regained it, while left to itself. On the contrary, we see a constant sinking.
3. The Christian ministry is the means Divinely appointed for this purpose.
(J. Mede, B. D.)
II. IT IS THE DUTY OF EVERYONE TO PROMOTE VIRTUE AND RELIGION IN OTHERS TO THE UTMOST OF HIS POWER. If our desires to do this be earnest, and our behaviour be upright, we shall in some measure succeed; for goodness is of its own nature communicative, and it commands love and respect, and on both accounts it will have some weight and influence.
III. THE WORDS OF THE TEXT ARE DIRECTED TO AN UNHAPPY PEOPLE, stripped of their possessions, surviving the destruction of their fellow citizens, cast out of their own land, carried into captivity by their proud conquerors, and seemingly forsaken of God. These persons are exhorted to make profession of their faith, and to hold fast their religion. If we apply this direction to ourselves, we may learn that we ought in time of affliction to honour God, and submit to the dispensations of His providence. By this behaviour we both recommend ourselves to God's favour, and do signal service to religion.
IV. The next observation arising from the text is, THAT GOD MAY BE KNOWN BY HIS WORKS, and that the human understanding may discover, upon a serious and careful examination, that there is one God, Maker and Governor of the universe; that all other gods beside Him are gods which made not the heavens and the earth, that is, no gods in reality.
V. The words of the text are a most illustrious and remarkable prophecy, THAT THE GODS OF THE GENTILES WHO WERE THEN ADORED SHOULD ENTIRELY PERISH AND CONSEQUENTLY THAT THE HONOUR WHICH HAD BEEN PAID TO THEM SHOULD BE GIVEN TO GOD ALONE.
1. It was a time when the knowledge of the true God was confined to very narrow bounds, and His dominion was almost become invisible. Upon many accounts, then, and according to human probability, it seemed mere to be expected that the Jews together with their religion should perish, than that the Gentiles should forsake their idolatry.
2. Concerning the accomplishment of the prophecy, we may observe that it hath been in a great measure manifested. For the gods of the Gentiles so often mentioned in sacred and profane history, the gods of Europe and Asia, of Greece and Italy, the gods of Babylon, and of all the nations surrounding the Jews, and with which the Jews were so often concerned, have entirely perished. This great event hath been produced by the Gospel:
(1) (2) (3) 3. But the descriptions which the prophets have made of this revolution are so magnificent, that they seem not yet to have received a total completion. It is generally and justly supposed that a more glorious age shall come; when the Jews shall be converted, and the fulness of the Gentiles shall flow into the Church, and the kingdoms of the earth shall be the kingdom of Christ. (J. Jortin, D. D.) (H. Melvill, B. D.)
(2) (3) 3. But the descriptions which the prophets have made of this revolution are so magnificent, that they seem not yet to have received a total completion. It is generally and justly supposed that a more glorious age shall come; when the Jews shall be converted, and the fulness of the Gentiles shall flow into the Church, and the kingdoms of the earth shall be the kingdom of Christ. (J. Jortin, D. D.) (H. Melvill, B. D.)
(3) 3. But the descriptions which the prophets have made of this revolution are so magnificent, that they seem not yet to have received a total completion. It is generally and justly supposed that a more glorious age shall come; when the Jews shall be converted, and the fulness of the Gentiles shall flow into the Church, and the kingdoms of the earth shall be the kingdom of Christ. (J. Jortin, D. D.) (H. Melvill, B. D.)
(J. Jortin, D. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)