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afflicted; but when you come to be placed in affliction yourself, you will find something more to be necessary for your support than a mere notional preparation; you will then need an actual experience of the truth of its gracious power, and its consolatory influence. This alone can strengthen and fortify the mind.
THE MYSTERY CONNECTED WITH
Thy ways, O Lord, with wise design,
Are fram'd upon thy throne above,
Meets in the centre of thy love.
With feeble light, and half obscure,
Poor mortals thy arrangement view,
And the mysterious just and true.
My favour'd soul shall meekly learn
To lay her reason at thy throne;
I'll trust thee for my guide alone.
O THE DEPTHS OF THE RICHES BOTH OF THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD! HOW UNSEARCHABLE ARE HIS JUDGMENTS, AND HIS WAYS PAST FINDING OUT."
ROM. XI., XXXIII.
The degree in which the Almighty hath revealed himself to man furnishes ample proof of divine wisdom. In many instances we clearly perceive that either more or less would have proved injurious rather than beneficial. Were we left in total ignorance, we should fall into irreligion, doubt, and despair. Werę we to receive complete discovery, it would
THE MYSTERY CONNECTED WITH AFFLICTION.
raise us above our condition, as probationers for eternity; it would prove inconsistent with the actions we have to perform, and the duties we have to fulfil; it would overthrow the whole design of our being placed in the present world. We are placed here under the trial of our virtue. While on earth, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight. Ignorance of the events that are ordained to befall us,-ignorance of the plans and ways of God, enters necessarily into a state where the great test is, whether we will believe, on the authority of God, the things which our reasoning powers cannot comprehend, and which the mental eye cannot penetrate. If it were possible for all the obscurity that surrounds us to be dispelled, so that the works and ways of God should appear to us in the same bright and unmingled light in which they are seen by himself, what room would be left for the exercise of faith? If his designs and operations could be comprehended by us as fully and as clearly as a mathematical theorem, the mere application of our mental powers, independent of divine aid, would be sufficient for the attainment of divine knowledge, and faith would be expunged from the list of christian graces.
e are, therefore, permitted to “know only in part," and to “ see through a glass darkly.” We are left in that state of conjecture and partial information, which, though it may subject us occasionally to distress, yet, on the whole, conduces best to the exercise of our graces and the improvement of our character. The remark holds good, whether we examine the system of nature, of grace, or of providence.
Tlie scenes of nature lie open to our view ; they solicit our senses, and present us with innumerable facts illustrative of the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Creator ; but, at the same time, they exhibit mysteries which the wisdom of man, however richly endowed, or highly cultivated, has never been able to penetrate, or to reveal. We have obtained a slight acquaintance with the superficial appearances and sensible
properties of things, but of their substance and essence we know nothing. The minute and the vast are to us alike inscrutable. We can no more comprehend an insect than we can grasp a world. After all the investigations of the wise, they have got but a few steps beyond the vulgar. A true philosopher will say, in the language of one of the brightest ornaments of the philosophic school, “all we know is, that we know nothing." Nature, indeed, distinctly points out to us a God, but she will reply to none of the questions which curiosity may dictate. She says to reason, thus far shalt thou and no farther.”
Revelation, while it affords us the knowledge of God, and of his purposes of grace to the children of men, maintains the same character, and mingles, in almost equal proportions, obscurity and brightness. Revelation, indeed, by its very nature is intended to impart information; it professedly makes known to many of us the “ deep things of God," and we are under unspeakable obligations for that “day spring from on high which las visited us, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The information, however, which revelation con. tains, relates only to facts, not to the theory of those facts, or their original causes. They rest solely on the basis of divine authority, and we are left as much in the dark with respect to the mode of their existence as if they were not revealed. How a trinity of persons exists in one nature,--how God was made flesh and dwelt among us,—how God was united to man,-how the fore-knowledge of God can consist with the free agency of man,-how the dead shall be raised, and with what body they shall come,-in what manner spirits exist in a separate state,-and what will be our exact condition in another state of things; these are revealed as facts, and are doctrines which we must admit, but the theory of these facts is utterly beyond our comprehension. Equally with nature, revelation brings implicit obedience to the test. It proceeds
to a certain extent in addressing and soothing the understanding, just so far as to satisfy every impartial inquirer of its divine origin; but, in its peculiar doctrines, it requires the implicit confidence of reason, and the sacrifice of prejudice. If we presume to doubt, or reason, it only condescends to remind us, that “the ways of God are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts.”
But the mysteries of nature and revelation are evident as light, when compared with those of providence. By providence, I mean that branch of it that relates to God's government of man as a moral agent. This, though it presents many evident marks of wisdom and design, and makes manifest to every reflecting mind, that "verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth; " yet it is every where so replete with enigmas, that the best and wisest of men have often found themselves involved in the deepest perplexity, whilst others, of unsanctified minds, have availed themselves of the circumstance for the purpose of invalidating the truth of his government and perfections. We know that providence superintends and controls all events, that all the divine proceedings are the result of unerring wisdom and unbounded goodness, and that God invariably connects his own glory with the happiness of his creatures ; but when we attempt to apply these general principles to many particular cases, we find ourselves baffled and confounded. Many events present themselves to our notice which we are utterly unable to reconcile with the principles of the divine government, and for which we can assign no adequate reason. We know not why it was that evil was permitted to enter into the world; why true religion was so soon corrupted; why, when the redeeming scheme was announced, it was so partially received; why the religion of Christ is yet so partially diffused; why idolatry has been suffered so extensively to desolate the earth, and the mystery of iniquity to overspread so large a portion of Christendom; why millions