For the Pillars of the Earth are the Lord’s, and He hath set the World upon them.
1 Samuel. 2:8.
The words are part of a rapturous and heavenly song uttered by a devout, inspired, and transported mother in Israel upon a great and joyful occasion. If the Divine Eternal Spirit please to inspire and speak by a gracious woman, it is the same thing to [us] and requires our reverent attention as much, as [if] He raise up a Moses or an Elias or make His revelations by a Paul or John.
Samuel, the rare and wonderful son of inspired Hannah, never outspoke his lovely mother in any of his prayers or acts of praise. Eli would have sat at her feet and laid himself in the dust at the hearing of this flowing torrent of fervent devotion from her beauteous lips, and saints through all ages hang on the heavenly music of her tongue.
Great things are here said of God and of His Government in the families and kingdoms of men, and such wise and just observations are made as are worthy of deep contemplation by the greatest and best of men. Had she like Deborah been the princess of the tribes of Israel, she could not have spoken with more loftiness and majesty, with more authority and command, nor better have addressed the nobles and rulers, the captains and the mighty men, to humble and lay them low before God.
“She celebrates the Lord God of Israel, his unspotted purity, his Almighty power, his unsearchable wisdom, and his unerring justice” ([Matthew] Henry).
In the praises of these she joys and triumphs; her heart was exalted and her mouth enlarged [overflowing with words].
“She adores the Divine Sovereignty in its disposals in the affairs of the children of men, in the strange and sudden turns given to them, in the rise and fall of persons, families, and countries.”
“She observes how the strong are soon weakened, and the weak are soon strengthened, when God pleases: How the rich are soon impoverished, and the poor enriched on a sudden: How empty families are replenished, and numerous families diminished.”
All this is of the Lord: “He maketh rich, He bringeth low and lifteth up: He raiseth up the poor out of dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill; to set them among princes, and make them inherit the throne of glory;”
“For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He hath set the World upon them.”
Thus my text is introduced as a reason for those dispensations of God towards a person, a family, or a people, which at any time are to us most surprising and admirable. . . .
DOCTRINE: The great God has made the governments and rulers of the Earth its pillars, and has set the world upon them.
1. The governments and rulers of the Earth are its pillars.
2. These pillars of the Earth are the Lord’s.
3. He has set the world upon them.
1. The governments and rulers of the Earth are its pillars.
The pillar is a part of great use and honor in the building: So is magistracy in the world. One style [figure of speech] in Scripture for it is: foundations and cornerstones. Where we read of “the chief of all the people” (Judges 20:2), in the Hebrew it is “the corners.” We read also of the “foundations of the earth being out of course” (Psalm 82:5). The meaning is, the government of it was so. Kings bear up and support the inferior pillars of government, and a righteous administration restores a dissolving state: Psalm 75:3: “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it.”
In like manner, wise and faithful ministers are pillars in the church, which “is built on the prophets and apostles, JESUS CHRIST being the chief Cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet Jeremiah was made by God “an iron pillar,” and of Peter, James, and John we read that “they seemed to be pillars” (Galatians 2:9). They were deservedly so reputed, and truly so, in the Church of Christ. Famous are the Lord’s words to Peter, Matthew 16:18: “Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my church.” And when John had the vision of the New Jerusalem descending out of Heaven from God, it is said that “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14). . . .
2. Are magistrates the pillars of the earth? Are they the Lord’s? And has He set the world upon them? Let us then devoutly observe the governing Providence of God in the disposing of persons and offices, both with respect unto ourselves and others.
As to ourselves, let God lead and Providence open our way, and let us follow humbly and obediently. Let us think soberly of ourselves, and not vainly pine after honor and power or wickedly push for it like Absalom. But neither need we hide ourselves like Saul when the Divine call is plain, nor insist on excuses like the meek and accomplished Moses. Or if again Providence lays us by, why should we not retire with Samuel’s humility and greatness of soul.
And then as to others, let us not think ourselves neglected or overlooked, be envious and discontent, if God prefer them. Suffer the Most High to rule in the kingdoms of men and to give the provinces that belong to them to whomsoever He will. Let us know and keep our own place and do our duty to those whom God sets over us.
Let people reverence and honor their worthy rulers, and let the highest among men be very humble before God. They are pillars, but of the Earth. The Earth and its pillars are dissolving together. Government abides in a succession of men, while the Earth endures, but the persons, however good and great, must die like other men. We must not look too much at the loftiness of any, nor lean too much on any earthly pillar: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man in whom there is no help: His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his dust.” Nor may the highest among mortals behold themselves with elation and security, as the vain king of Babylon [did] once, but let them fear and tremble before the God of Heaven, who inherits all nations and stands in the congregation of the mighty and judges among the gods.
3. Are rulers the pillars of the earth; are they the Lord’s? And has He set the world upon them? Let all that are in public offices consider their obligations to be PILLARS in the places wherein Providence has set them.
Let rulers consider what they owe to God, who has reared and set them up, and to the public which God has set upon them. Let them seek wisdom and strength, grace and conduct from God, that they may answer the title given them in my text. Let them stand and bear and act for God, whose they are and who has set them where they are. Let the public good be their just care, that it may be seen that God has set the world in their hearts as well as laid it on their shoulders. Let them act uprightly, that they may stand secure and strong. Let them fear God and rule by His Word, that they may be approved by God and accepted always by men with all thankfulness.
As government is the pillar of the earth, so religion is the pillar of government. Take away the fear of God’s government and judgment, and human rule utterly falls or corrupts into tyranny. But if religion rules in the hearts and lives of rulers, God will have glory, and the people be made happy.
FATHERS of our country, let me freely say to you that the devotion and virtue [morality] of our humble, but illustrious ancestors (the first planters [settlers] of New England), laid the foundation of our greatness among the provinces: And it is this that must continue and establish it under the Divine favor and blessing. Emulate their piety and godliness and generous regards to the public, and be acknowledged the pillars, the strength and ornament of your country!
But let me move you by a greater argument, even a “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” which the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit] has set before you in a most illustrious promise: Revelation 3:12: “Him that overcometh will I make a PILLAR in the temple of my GOD, and he shall go no more out: And I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the City of my God, which is New Jerusalem; which cometh down out of Heaven from my God: And I will write upon him my new name.”
CHRIST will erect a monumental pillar that shall stand forever in honor of all [those] who in their station here, be they high or low, faithfully endeavor to uphold His church and Kingdom.
It is a triumphant promise taken from the Roman manner of pillars reared to the memory of illustrious persons and PATRIOTS, on which were inscribed their names and worthy deeds, together with that of the empire, city, or province which they were so happy as to serve and help to save.
Infinitely more glory and honor shall be done to Him who serves the Lord CHRIST, His kingdom, people, and interest, in his life here on earth: When he comes into His temple above he shall have a pillar of celestial glory reared to eternalize his name, and on it shall be written (O divine honor!) “THIS WAS A FAITHFUL SERVANT OF HIS GOD AND SAVIOR AND OF THE CHURCH ON EARTH.”
There let him stand forever, “A monument of free grace, never to be defaced or removed.” While the names of famous emperors, kings, and generals, graven in brass or cut in marble on stately pillars and triumphant arches, shall molder into dust.
So the pillars in Solomon’s porch were broken down and carried away by the Chaldeans: But he that is made a pillar in the celestial temple shall “go no more out.” Yes, the pillars of the literal earth and heavens will shortly tremble and be shaken out of their place, but he that believes in CHRIST and has His glorious Name written on him shall remain unshaken and immoveable, and remain, like his living Savior, steadfast forever.
This infinite and eternal GLORY we wish to all in this worshiping assembly, the greater and the less, high and low, rich and poor together, as in the act of worship, we are all on a level before the throne of God. And the lowest in outward condition may be the highest in grace and in the honors that come from above.
But in a more especial manner we wish this mercy and blessing of our GOD and KING out of His house to YOUR EXCELLENCY OUR GOVERNOR, whose return to your country, and your advancement to the government of it, we cannot but congratulate in the most public manner, with hearts full of joy and sincere thankfulness to GOD.
The Lord God of our fathers, who has “spread our heavens,” and “laid the foundations of our earth,” make you a PILLAR to US both in the state and church.
As it has pleased HIM to choose, adorn, and set you up, so may He please to fix and establish you, and long continue you a FATHER and illustrious blessing to your people.
And may the Name of CHRIST and of those churches of our Lord JESUS be graven deep upon your heart, and your faithful services to them be an everlasting name to you, “which shall not be cut off.”
So, not only erect yourself a Pillar in every pious and grateful heart that loves our civil and religious liberties, and let their prayers and blessings come upon you, but also lay a good foundation [for] the world to come, for everlasting fame and renown, and “to be called GREAT in the Kingdom of Heaven.”