God has spoken once; I have heard this twice: that power belongs to God,
Power belongeth unto God.
I. EXCLUSIVE POSSESSION. All around us we see evidences of power. Much of it can be traced to man. But besides, mark the forces that are continually at work, in the earth and in the heavens, - and behind all these is God. He is the Force of all forces. Even with man, in sight of all his works, boasting is excluded. What have we that we have not received? "In God we live and move and have our being."
II. EMPLOYED FOR THE HIGHEST INTERESTS OF MEN. Power in bad hands is a curse. But in good hands it is a blessing. God alone is capable of using power in the wisest manner, and for the best and holiest ends. It is true that, as God works by means, he of necessity limits himself. He has established a certain order of things, and by this he is pleased, so far, to bind himself in his actions. But in everything we may see his mercy and truth. In the material, the mental, and the spiritual world he is ever working, animating, upholding, and controlling all things for the advancement of his own holy ends and for the highest good of his creatures.
III. SECURING THE ETERNAL BLESSEDNESS OF THE GOOD. Power without love is brutality. Love without power is weakness. God's power is in Christ - for our redemption (Romans 1:4; Acts 10:38; Ephesians 1:19; Matthew 28:18; John 17:2). This power is quickening (Ephesians 2:1), regulating (Acts 9:1-9), energizing (Philippians 4:19), elevating (Ephesians 1:19), consoling (2 Corinthians 12:9). It rests as a beneficent influence on God's people, for time and for eternity. - W.F.
There are two theories, differing widely, with regard to the Divine power. According to the one view, the Almighty has lodged in the various agencies of the material world capacities and tendencies, by virtue of which they prolong the order and harmony of nature, perpetuate the races of organized and animated being, and work out a course of events, incidentally disastrous, yet in the main beneficial, and adapted to produce a vast and ever-increasing preponderance of happiness over misery, and of good over evil. According to the other view, God is actively present in the entire universe, upholding all things by the word of His power, guiding the course of events by His own perpetual fiat — preserving, indeed, a certain uniformity in sequences which we call cause and effect, so far as is needed to assist human calculation and to give definite aim to human endeavour, but behind the order of visible causes adjusting whatever takes place with immediate and constant reference to the needs, the deserts, and the ultimate well-being of His creatures; ordaining the seeming evil no less than the seeming good, making even wicked men His sword. I hardly need say that this last is the view directly sanctioned by the express language and the entire tenor of Scripture. Indeed, as much as this is admitted by the Christian advocates of the former theory, who regard the sacred writers as by a bold, yet legitimate figure ascribing to the direct action of the Almighty whatever takes place under a system initiated by His power and sanctioned by His wisdom. But there was, it seems to me, immeasurably more than figure in their minds. To them the curtain of general laws, which hangs in so dense drapery before the eyes of modern philosophy, was transparent, and they saw no intervening agency, no intermediate force, between the Creator and the development of His purposes in nature and in providence. Our view of the direct administration and perfect providence of God is confirmed by the results, or rather by the non-results, of science. Six thousand years of research have failed to reveal the latent forces, to lay bare the hidden springs, of nature. Gravitation, cohesion, crystallization, organization, decomposition, — these are but names for our ignorance, — fence-words set up at the extremest limits of our knowledge. That Nature pursues her course and events take place under such and such conditions is the utmost that we can say. We find it impossible to conceive of any innate or permanently inherent force in brute matter, but by the very laws of thought we are constrained to attribute all power to mind, intelligence, volition. But what shall we say of man's power over outward nature and events? We are conscious of free volition. Is it ours to execute our own volitions; or is it literally in God that we live, and move, and have our being? I cannot conceive of divided power, of concurrent sovereignty, in the same domain — of our ability to do what He would not have us do, That we can will what He wills not we know only too well; but must we not reach the conclusion that He executes our volitions for us whether they be good or evil — nay, that the execution of these volitions, whatever they are, is always good — that He literally makes "the wrath of man" to praise Him, and "the remainder of wrath" — that whose mission would be unavailing for the purposes of His righteous administration — He will so "restrain" as to frustrate of its end? In thousands of ways His providence may and does make void the thought of evil, the counsel of violence — avert the blow which guilty man would aim at the peace of his fellow-men. Evil and death come to none for whom it is not the fit time and way in the counsels of retributive justice, or the best time and way in the counsels of paternal love. There are indeed mysteries in Providence — heights which we cannot scale, depths which we cannot fathom. We seek only to look between the leaves of the immeasurable volume, where Jesus has unloosed the seals. I have barely endeavoured to develop what we must believe, if we would receive our Saviour's lessons, and imbibe His spirit of implicit trust and self-surrender. Where Reason fails, let Faith usurp her place, and let us rest in the calm assurance that what we know not now we shall know hereafter. This we do know now — that our times are in our Father's hands, our path through life marked and guarded by His watchful providence, and that to the soul that stays itself on Him all things must work together for good.
God hath spoken once: twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God.
First allow me to remind you of the definition of power which is adopted by the most approved writers. They instruct us to consider power as divided into two kinds, active and passive power. By active power we are to understand the capacity possessed by any substance or being of effecting change or alteration upon any other substance or being; so that it is an instance of active power when we speak of fire as having the capacity of melting gold, for we mean that fire has the capacity of effecting on gold that alteration of its consistency which we denominate melting. So it is also an instance of passive power when we speak of the capacity of any substance to undergo changes; as when we say of gold that it possesses the power of becoming melted, or of having its consistency altered by the influence of fire. From this statement of the most approved definition of power we advance to an attempt to illustrate the power of the Deity as far as we are enabled to do so, first, from the appearances of nature. The first of these is the vastness of its extent. According to the modern doctrines of astronomy, the solar system, of which the globe on which we live forms a portion, consists of several worlds, most of them larger than our own, and many of them very much so; and that these severally are carried round the sun in different orbits at an equable but rapid speed. The agency, whether immediately exerted or resulting from the constitution of self-acting causes, which could effect such amazing alterations of the originally confused and undistributed matter of the universe, which could continue them in this state of action, overwhelms the imagination. Another characteristic of the power of the Deity, as illustrated in the works of nature, is that of the variety of modes by which it is displayed. The insatiable variety of nature has ever been considered one of the most wonderful of the qualities of the universe. This is exhibited in nothing more strikingly than in the ability exerted to secure the same ends by widely different means. Astronomers, for instance, tell us that the general provision ,made for giving light to a planet during the absence of the sun is by moons similar to .our own, differing in number in proportion to the size of the planet round which they revolve. In the case, however, of the planet Saturn, this purpose is accomplished partly by numerous moons, and partly by a most singular deviation — namely, by a ring of such size as would reach from our earth to the moon, which is suspended at the distance of twenty thousand miles above the planet itself, and revolves and reflects the .light of the absent sun upon its immense regions. Another characteristic of the power of the Deity, as illustrated in the works of nature, is that of complexity. Nothing, perhaps, more effectually demonstrates power than the arrangement and combination of numerous portions of machinery so as to produce, by their relative action, one result. The display of power will, of course, be in proportion to the extent of the complexity, and will he augmented according as the materials adopted are of a varying nature; in proportion, also, as they are difficult of management, and as the result is successful. It may be most safely asserted that all these qualities pre-eminently distinguish the works of the Creator,
"God hatch spoken once." This is a description of sovereignty. The oriental despot speaks once, decisively, unequivocally, and only once. If the inferior does not instantly understand and obey, off with his head! But though 'the old divines laid all the stress on the sovereignty of God, this does not constitute His chief glory. There are other and diviner elements in Deity than this. According to the psalmist, God stretches a point in pity for human weakness and .incapacity. He speaks more than once. If His first message is misunderstood, He repeats it. "Twice have I heard this." God spoke once as a Sovereign, the second time as a Father. And "twice" stands as a figure of speech, not for one repetition, but for many. "Once, twice." Some people cannot wait for God's second word. They seize on a text for controversial purposes, tear it out of its connection and proper sequence, and imagine they have proved something by it. But wait! Is there not another text? Has not the truth another phase? IS there not a New Testament as well as an Old? Is there not s Church as well as a Bible? Is there not a Spirit as well as a Church? The true "mind of the Spirit" lies in the consensus of all the texts, in the harmony of all the voices. Not only is there the reiterated message, but there is twice hearing for every message. "Twice have I heard;" once with the ear, once with the heart. It is the sympathetic intelligence, the spiritual faculty alone that hears. When you knock at a door, it is not the door that hears, but the resident within. Much truth falls upon men's ears but as the tap of the knocker upon the unconscious door. Now observe the first element in that idea which had thus impressed itself upon his mind. "Power belongeth unto God." That was a natural impression. That is, as a rule, the first truth that the human mind lays hold of in its attempt to conceive a first cause. It deifies power. But While the Hebrew conception began here, it did not stop here. It included the idea of mercy as well. Now, as it cannot be said that we find this idea in nature, it is all the more remarkable that these Hebrew seers and poets should have had, not merely a glimpse, but so firm a grasp Of it. This was the thought of God in which they exulted, and to which they sometimes gave utterance in sublimest fashion. "He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names." "He bindeth up the broken in heart, He healeth all their wounds." Isaiah 40
. is a beautiful poem of reconciliations; of the reconciliation of the majesty and mercy, the power and tenderness of God. But now I ask your attention to the psalmist's enlightened conception of mercy as well as of God, "for thou renderest to every man according to his work." That is not at all the conventional idea. We rather think of mercy as "letting off" the criminal, and shielding him from the deserts of his transgression. But that is really an altogether mistaken view. The truest mercy is to let him suffer, and let him learn by his suffering. Otherwise, mercy to him is wrong to the other members of the community. Further, the unkindest thing to any man himself is to leave the roots of evil in his nature, there to spring up and bring forth all their baleful harvest. This is what we do, however, when we only relieve him from the painful results of his wrong-doing. The sooner he perceives the real quality and tendency of his actions, and the more rigorously he therefore seeks to eradicate the last fibre of evil propension from his being, the sooner will he come to a healthy and happy moral condition. And all this arrives through the experience of that suffering which is the inevitable consequence of moral guilt, and the purpose of which is disciplinary and not vindictive. And so the psalmist mentions it as an essential element in the Divine mercy, that it "renders to every man according to his work."
WHAT WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND BY THE POWER OF GOD.
1. As to the principle. It is an ability to do all things, the doing of which speaks power and perfection; that is, whatever is not repugnant either to the nature of things, or of God; whatever does not imply a contradiction in the thing, or an imperfection in the doer; an ability to do all things which are consistent with itself, and with the Divine nature and perfection. To help our conception —(1) Let us imagine a principle from which all other power is derived, and upon which it depends, and to which it is perfectly subject and subordinate.(2) A perfect active principle, which can do, not only what any finite being or creature can do, but what all beings joined together can do; nay, more and greater things than they all can do.(3) A perfect active principle, to which nothing can make any considerable, much less effectual resistance, which can check and countermand at pleasure, and carry down before it, and annihilate all other powers that we can imagine besides this; because we cannot imagine any other power that is not derived from this, and does not depend upon it.(4) A perfect active principle, which can do all things in a most perfect manner, and can do all things at once, and in an instants, and that with ease.(5) The most perfect active principle we can imagine, the utmost bounds and limits of whose perfection we cannot imagine, that is, when we have imagined it to be as perfect, and to act in as perfect a manner as we can imagine, yet we have not reached the perfection of it; but after all this, that it can do many things more than we can imagine, and in such a manner much more perfect than we can imagine.
2. As to the exercise of it. The Divine will determines it to its exercise, the Divine wisdom directs and regulates the exercise of it; that is, God exerciseth His power willingly, and not by necessity, and in such manner, for the producing such effects, and in order to such ends and purposes, as seem best to His wisdom. Hence He is said to act all things according to His good pleasure, and according to the counsel of His will; that is, freely and wisely.
II. THIS PERFECTION BELONGS TO GOD. This I shall show —
1. From the dictates of natural light. This was one of the most usual titles which the heathens gave to their supreme deity, "Optimus Maximus"; next to his goodness they placed his greatness, which does chiefly appear in his power; and they did not only attribute a great power to him, but an omnipotence. Now their natural reason did convince them that this perfection did belong to God by these three arguments —(1) From those two great instances and expressions of His power, creation and providence; for the heathens did generally acknowledge the making of the world, and the preservation and government of it, to be the effects of power, determined by goodness, and regulated by wisdom.(2) Because all other perfections, without this, would be insignificant and ineffectual, or else could not be at all. Without this, goodness would be an empty piece of good meaning, and not able to give any demonstration of itself; knowledge would be an idle speculation; and wisdom to contrive things, without power to effect them, would be an useless thing.(3) Without this there could be no religion.
2. From Scripture.(1) Texts which in general ascribe power, might, strength to God — Psalm 24:8; Psalm 29:1; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Matthew 6:18.(2) Those which ascribe this to God in an eminent degree — Job 9:4.(3) Those which ascribe such a power as transcends any human or created power. Such as those which express all the power which men have to be derived from God — John 19:11. And those which advance the power of God above the power of men — Luke 18:27; Ephesians 3:20; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 9:4. Those which declare all things to be equally easy to him, and nothing difficult — Jeremiah 32:17; 2 Chronicles 14:11; 1 Samuel 14:6.(4) Those which ascribe all power to Him, by the titles of "Almighty, All-sufficient" — Genesis 17:1. Revelation 4:8, 11; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:16. Job 42:2. "Thou ernst do all things" — Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37.
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