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AMERICAN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS.
Boston, Ms., OCTOBER, 1860. Resolved, That the thanks of the Board be presented to the Rev. Dr. FISHER for his Sermon, preached on Tuesday evening, and that he be requested to furnish a copy for publication.
SAMUEL M. WORCESTER, Rec. Secretary.
ISAIAH XLV. 1-6.-XLIII. 21.
Tuus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron : And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.
It is an obvious fact that, for the enlargement of his church, God often selects special instruments. In setting into motion a whole system of agencies, this is almost uniformly the case. We recognize the fact all along the history of the church. We see men raised up with peculiar gifts, and clothed with peculiar powers, to effect certain great works. The text gives us a remarkable illustration of this method of divine procedure. Cyrus was a heathen; but there was that in his character, training and circumstances, that pre-eminently fitted him for the special work he was to perform as the restorer of the church. His magnanimity, his love of
justice, his respect for religion according to his light, the fact that he belonged to neither of the races that had done most to crush out the life of God's chosen people, but was himself their conqueror, qualified him for the work to which God had anointed him.
In the bosom of the church itself there are two still more remarkable examples of this law; the two men who bore the largest part in the inauguration and establishment of the chief dispensations. Moses and Paul were not indifferent characters; nor were their training and position like that of the multitude. They stand out boldly in history as men of peculiar natural gifts and attainments. Their early discipline exalted their intrinsic power; while their relation to the people among whom their work was to be performed, and to the science of the age in which they lived, imparted special qualifications for their great mission. It was not merely the fact that divine grace had consecrated them, that made them all they were. Back of their conversion, the providence of God, never, like man, neglectful of the minor things of life, had chosen, guided, disciplined and trained them in respect to those qualifications which belonged to them rather as men than as prophets and apostles. There is here a completeness, a symmetry of character and position wonderfully characteristic of the divine agency. Nor in all this do we see anything derogatory to the divine Word, or the divine Spirit. These are indeed vital to the progress of the church. It is their prerogative to give strength to weakness, courage to timidity, and,
with the worm that man treads upon, to thresh down the mountains of human pride and power. Beside these, all things else are as weakness. But if, when exalting these, we practically affirm the uselessness of all things else, we shall betray an ignorance of the method of Providence in the conversion of men only less great than that shown by its opposite error.
It is not that the human is thus exalted above the divine, but simply that the divine uses that kind and measure of humanity which are best fitted to accomplish its purposes. It is nothing more than that common law which in all things else God has established ; the law of means adapted to ends, from which in the natural world we ascend to the idea of his wisdom; the law which makes a sharp sword cut better than one that is dull; which makes a wedge split the gnarled oak, when a blunt surface would only bruise it; which hollows the bones of a bird and gives its wings their force and working, in order easily to rise on the elastic air; which makes a word spoken in one manner, better fitted to move the soul than the same word spoken in a different manner; it is this law exalted into the supernatural which God uses in his nobler work of leading his church onward to conquest. Just as he chose the passionate, magnanimous, courageous Luther to tear down the vast structure of Romish superstition; just as he chose the acute, constructive Calvin to make and build up, out of the chaos of scholastic theology, the glorious temple of Christian science; just as he chose the impassioned Whitfield to breathe new life into a dying church,
just so he works all through the world and the church, subsidizing the natural gifts and powers of his own creation, to bring forth the elevation of the race into the light of his glorious gospel. This is the first lesson I derive from the passages before us.
The second is but an expansion of the first. It is just as certain that the great Sovereign chooses particular nations to effect certain parts of his work in the final triumph of the gospel, as that he choses certain individuals for some special operation. “ This people have I FORMED for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” We place the emphasis here on the fact that he has formed this people for himself. He may not select as his agent this or that nation indifferently. His sovereignty reaches back of the immediate work. It chooses according to the character of the nation ; it reaches to the antecedent training and the natural characteristics which combine to prepare the nation most fully for the work; nay, this sovereignty in its far-reaching wisdom has been busy all along the history of the people in so ordering the moulding influences under which character and position are attained, that when the time comes for them to enter into his special work, they will be found all ripe for his purpose.
This nation, to whom the passage before us refers, is a marked illustration of this thought. The Jew was designed to be the conservator of the word of God. He was chosen for this purpose. The object was not propagation, but conservation. The race, by nature and education, had just those