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He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
52. He hath cast down the nobles This translation has been adopted, for the sake of avoiding ambiguity: for though the Greek word δυνάσται is derived from δύναμις, power, it denotes governors and eminent rulers.5858 “Le mot Grec (δυνάσται) vient de Puissance, comme si on disoit, Les puissans: mais il signifie les gouverneurs et gras seigneurs.” — “The Greek word comes from power, as if she had said, ‘The Mighty:' but it means governors and great lords.” Many persons think that δυνάστας is a participle. They are said by Mary to be cast down from their thrones, that obscure and unknown persons may be elevated in their room; and so she ascribes to the providence and judgments of God what ungodly men can the game of Fortune.5959 “Ludam Fortunae;” — “le jeu ou la roue de la Fortune;” — “the game or wheel of Fortune.” Let us understand, that she does not ascribe to God a despotic power,—as if men were tossed and thrown up and down like balls by a tyrannical authority,—but a just government, founded on the best reasons, though they frequently escape our notice. God does not delight in changes, or elevate in mockery to a lofty station, those whom he has determined immediately to throw down.6060 “Il ne faut pas penser que pour se jouer des hommes il les esleve amsi haut, et puis les abaisse.” — “We must not imagine that, to amuse himself with men, he raises them so high, and then sinks them low.” It is rather the depravity of men that overturns the state of things, because nobody acknowledges that the disposal of every one is placed in His will and power.
Those who occupy a higher station than others are not only chargeable with disdainfully and cruelly insulting their neighbors, but act in a daring manner towards Him to whom they owe their elevation. To instruct us by facts, that whatever is lofty and elevated in the world is subject to God, and that the whole world is governed by his dominion, some are exalted to high honor, while others either come down in a gradual manner, or else fall headlong from their thrones. Such is the cause and object of the changes which is assigned by David, “He poureth contempt upon princes,” (Psalm 107:39;) and by Daniel,
“He changeth the times and the seasons:
he removeth kings, and setteth up kings,” (Daniel 2:21.)
We see, indeed, how the princes of the world grow extravagantly insolent, indulge in luxury, swell with pride, and are intoxicated with the sweets of prosperity. If the Lord cannot tolerate such ingratitude, we need not be surprised.
The usual consequence is, that those whom God has raised to a high estate do not occupy it long. Again, the dazzling luster of kings and princes so overpowers the multitude, that there are few who consider that there is a God above. But if princes brought a scepter with them from the womb, and if the stability of their thrones were perpetual, all acknowledgment of God and of his providence would immediately disappear. When the Lord raises mean persons to exalted rank, he triumphs over the pride of the world, and at the same time encourages simplicity and modesty in his own people.
Thus, when Mary says, that it is God who casteth down nobles from their thrones, and exalteth mean persons, she teaches us, that the world does not move and revolve by a blind impulse of Fortune, but that all the revolutions observed in it are brought about by the Providence of God, and that those judgments, which appear to us to disturb and overthrow the entire framework of soclety, are regulated by God with unerring justice. This is confirmed by the following verse, He hath filled the hungry with good things, and hath sent the rich away empty: for hence we infer that it is not in themselves, but for a good reason, that God takes pleasure in these changes. It is because the great, and rich, and powerful, lifted up by their abundance, ascribe all the praise to themselves, and leave nothing to God. We ought therefore to be scrupulously on our guard against being carried away by prosperity, and against a vain satisfaction of the flesh, lest God suddenly deprive us of what we enjoy. To such godly persons as feel poverty and almost famine, and lift up their cry to God, no small consolation is afforded by this doctrine, that he filleth the hungry with good things