« PreviousContinue »
uncharitable to our brethren; and it is presumption, if not blasphemy, towards God, for us to decide on the reasons of his providence, which he has thought proper to conceal from our view; and which probably we should be unable to comprehend. Such was the judgment which some were disposed to form of those, on whom the tower of Siloam fell. But that judgment, our Lord, who was infinitely more capable to take right views of his father's ways, not only contradicted, but reproved. "Think "ye that they were sinners above all men that "dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you nay: but except
ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."*
4. This consideration should also serve to confirm our faith in those doctrines of the gospel, which lie beyond the reach of human understanding. If, in the ordinary dispensations of his providence, God hideth himself from us, on the right hand and on the left; we are to expect that, in a revelation of his will, many truths will be too sublime for our comprehension, too profound for our penetration. And as well may we deny the existence of objects in nature, or of events in life, because inexplicable ; as dispute any revealed doctrine, merely because we are unable fully to comprehend it. Besides, we have shewn that many things, both in the ordi nary providence of God, and in the scheme of redemption, which once were mysterious and perplexing, were afterwards rendered clear and satisfactory. So, I doubt not, shall many doctrines, which now exceed our capacities, become more obvious to our apprehension, when we shall have
Luke xiii. 4, 5.
attained to a higher state of perfection and holiness. Nay, I may appeal to all who are "instructed unto "the kingdom of heaven," whether this does not accord with their personal experience: whether many things, which once they were ready to account "hard sayings," do not now appear to them both reasonable in themselves, and easy to be understood. These reflections suggest sufficient answers to all the cavils that have been brought on the ground of incomprehensibility, against the doctrines of the decrees of God, the divinity, the incarnation, and atonement of Christ, and other truths of revelation. 5. Lastly; let the obscurity, which in many instances, hangs over the present dispen tions of Providence, incline us to look forward to that state, in which all our doubts and difficulties shall be resolved. We do not, in this life, see distributive justice always exercised; right always prevalent; iniquity always suppressed. If we did, we should be cut of from the prospect of a day of account to We evidently see but a part, and that a small part of an immense scheme: yet we may discern in it a progress and tendency towards something future, a reference to a state, in which things are perfect and consistent. In that, let us be assured, the profound wisdom, the equal justice, and perfect goodness of Jehovah, shall be displayed to the satisfaction of every intelligent being. Then shall every work be tried, and duly recompensed. Divine patience despised, divine grace and privileges abused, shall then be avenged; the divine honour completely vindicated; and God himself glorified in all his dispensations. Let us "therefore
judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come:" but "be patient," "and hope to the end;"† looking for that blessed hope, and "the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”‡ "Now we see through a glass, darkly but then, face to face. Now I "know in part: but then shall I know even as also "I am known."§ In the operations of God, it is probable that there are many things incomprehensible, even by the highest finite intelligence. But of this we may be assured, that our discernment shall then be enlarged to a degree which our imaginations cannot now conceive; and that through the ages of eternity, the plans of divine Providence, and the riches of redeeming grace, shall be the objects of our contemplation, and continually unfold to us new scenes of wonder and delight. While rising, with endless progression, in intelligence and holiness, we shall draw nearer and nearer to that perfect Being," in whom are hid all the treasures "of wisdom and knowledge!"||
Now, unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless, before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy; to the
only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion, and power, both now and ever.
*I Cor. iv. 5.
1 Tit. ii. 13.
ŞI Cor. xiii. 12.
THE SOURCES OF THE CHRISTIAN'S JOY.
1 THESS. V. 16.-Rejoice evermore. HAPPINESS is the object which all pursue; and a command to rejoice seems, at first view, unnecessary, as the wishes and endeavours of every sensitive being are uniformly directed to the end which it prescribes. The formality of law, we may be apt to argue, might well be spared, and the superfluousness of repetition avoided, with respect to an injunction, which all are predetermined, by the universal impulse of nature, to obey. But if we look abroad into the world, and attend to facts, we shall find reason to conclude, that neither the precept itself is superfluous, nor the obedience of it easy. For even, though the inclination of nature be supported by the positive injunction of God, we shall see a great part of mankind wilfully oppress themselves with care, and grief, and mortification; as if the object of their solicitude were misery rather than joy.
By what principle shall we account for this perversity of conduct; this contradiction in our nature? The words of the psalmist may direct us to a solution of the difficulty: "There be many that say, Who "will shew us any good?" but how few seek happiness as the psalmist sought it: " Lord, lift thou
up the light of thy countenance upon us?"* Happiness in general, all, whether learned or ignorant, good or bad, are alike desirous to obtain: but many mistake both the object in which it is to be found, and the road which leads to its attainment. Our nature furnishes us with the desire; but affords us little farther assistance or direction: nay rather, it immediately, misleads us. We are no sooner capable of thought, than we feel the inclination, and begin the pursuit. But most, without examining the nature of the object which they pursue, yield, each to the peculiar bias of his temper; and imagine that, in the indulgence of the reigning propensity, happiness may be found. Some seek it in the fields of science; some, in the exercise of the powers of fancy. Some endeavour to secure it by the accumulation of riches, and the increase of their temporal possessions; some, by grasping after power; some, by sensual indulgence, or by indolent repose; some, by amusements, either frivolous or cruel; and not a few, by contending for glory, in the field of blood, and endeavouring to erect their fame on the destruction of their fellow creatures. Often do they fail in the pursuit: and then it becomes misery unmingled. And even when they seize the muchwished prize, enjoyment falls beneath expectation; ceases, after a transient possession; and is succeed`ed by disgust or remorse. As said Zophar of old, "Their triumphing is short; and their joy but for "a moment. Though wickedness be sweet in their mouths, yet their meat in their bowels is turned: it "is as the gall of asps within them."+ To " rejoice ↑ Job xx. 5, 14.
Psalm iv. 6.