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3. The properties of metals are very considerable, and would afford us much instruction, if the limits of this discourse would admit of it. As gold stands the test of fire, such is the constancy of true piety, which grows brighter and purer with every trial. And, as gold cannot be pure without being refined in the furnace, so cannot any man be fit for God's acceptance, till he hath first endured temptation. The father of the faithful was put to the fiery trial of offering up his own son for a sacrifice, that he might be an example to all his children; to whom this warning is given by the son of Sirach, My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare they soul for temptation-for gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity *. I suppose this rule to be so certain, that human life never did, nor ever will, admit an instance to the contrary.
4. In the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the four great monarchies of the world are signified by the four principal metals, gold, silver, brass, and iron. The Assyrian monarchy has the pre-eminence, as well in dignity as in order of time, and is com
* Ecclus. ii. 1-5.
pared to gold. Thou, said the prophet Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, art this head of gold : from which interpretation, his image of gold seems to have been presumptuously derived ; the proud king, not content with being the head, assumed to himself the whole body of worldly empire.
As silver, brass, and iron, have less value than gold, the monarchies of Persia, Greece, and Rome, which succeeded, must have had less splendor and dignity than the Assyrian ; and the Roman must have been the basest of all, if the Scripture is just in its comparison. If we were to enter into the question, how kingdoms are debased, we might obtain some light from the case of the Roman empire, as it is stated in this prophecy. This empire then, though strong as iron in war, was of a baser nature than those which preceded, because it was unnaturally compounded of miry clay mixed with its iron; which two would never incorporate. It was compounded of military power and popular authority; to unite which, all attempts were unsuccessful; and, consequently, with all that hardness of iron, with which it bruised and broke in pieces other nations, there was a constitutional weakness; by reason of which, it was vesed and broken
at home with eternal balancings and divisions : and, when it had conquered the world, it became its own executioner. The words of this prophecy are very remarkable, when applied to the character and constitution of the Roman state. It was partly strong as iron in military force, and partly broken, from this unnatural mixture in the materials of its government. By the mingling of iron with miry clay, as it is interpreted for us by the prophet, it was signified, that they of this kingdom should mingle themselves with the seed of men, and not cleave to one another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. Imperial power, in the Scripture, is a divine institution, of heavenly original; and to suppose it an human thing, and derive it from the power of the people, as the Romans did, is to mingle it with the seed of men, and debase the nature of it; of which the certain consequence is disunion and weakness : for no state can be strong in itself, which is founded on principles subversive of God's authority. Under the Assyrian monarchy and the Persian, and the kingdoms of Greece, in the age of Homer, there was no question concerning the origin of power; it arose afterwards amongst the Greeks; and the popular scheme attained its highest degree
of absurdity under the Romans. Would to · God it had never found its way amongst Christians; where it has done infinite mischief, and will probably continue so to do, till it has undermined the peace of all mankind, and unhinged the whole political world ! Majesty, when it is in kings, is where God hath placed it: honour is then in the fountain of honour; but the majesty of the people, which the enthusiastic vanity of the Romans hath so magnified, and in which they have been followed, for selfish ends, by libertines and deistical philosophers, is contrary to all the ideas of revelation, and is inconsistent with common sense. A people may seem to themselves to rise higher, as the power of government sinks lower; but it is all a deception; for nothing can be more evident than that nations are debased in the estimation of the world, by the doctrines of anarchy. For which of the two is the most respectable; the house wherein there is a proper respect kept up; or that where there is none? The family of the nobleman, whose doinestics are under his authority, preserves an appearance of greatness and elegance: but the publick house, where the people who fill it are upon a
level with the householder, is a scene of vulgarity and disorder.
5. And now, what should be the end of all our researches into Nature and the Scripture, but to delight in giving God the honour that is due to him? For his pleasure all things were made; and he will be pleased with men when they glorify him in his works. We should therefore call upon all nature to join with us in a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving, after the example of the royal prophet: Praise the Lord, ye mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle-Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; for the name of the Lord is excellent, and his praise is above heaven and earth.
To Him therefore, &c.