Page images
PDF
EPUB

.

our being placed in this world. We are placed here under the trial of our virtue. Ignorance of the events that are-ordained to befal us, ignorance of the plans and decrees of heaven, enter necessarily into a state of trial. In order to exercise both our intellectual and moral powers, and to carry them forward to improvement, we must be left to find our way in the midst of difficulties and doubts, of hardships and sufferings. We must be taught to act our part with constancy, though the reward of our constancy be distant. We must learn to bear with patience whatever our Creator judges proper to lay upon us, though we see not the reason of the hardships he inflicts. If we were let into the secret of the whole plan of Providence; if the justice of Heaven were, in every step of its procedure, made manifest to our view, man would no longer be the creature he now is, nor would his present state answer any purpose of discipline or trial.

Mystery and darkness, therefore, must of necessity now take place in the course of things. Our present state can be no other than a state of twilight or dawn, where dubious forms shall often present them

, selves to us, and where we shall find ourselves in a middle condition between complete light and total darkness. Had we enjoyed no evidence of a just Judge ruling the earth, and of his providence interposing in our affairs, virtue would have been altogether deprived of its encouragement and support. Had the evidence, on the other hand, been so strong as to place the hand of the Almighty constantly before our eyes, the intention of our present existence would have been defeated, and no trial of virtue have remained. Instead, therefore, of complaining of the obscurity which at present covers the conduct of Providence, we see that on the whole, we have reason to submit and adore.

II. The text suggests that, though what God is doing, or what he intends to do, we know not now, yet there is ground to believe, that at some future period we shall receive information. What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. The question here arises, what that hereafter is, to which we are to look for the solution of our present doubts ?

In the first place, hereafter may, on some occasions, refer to the subsequent course of events in this world. It often happens that the consequences of things throw light on the designs of God. The history of Providence, in proportion as it advances, disembroils itself. Though our present condition forbids extensive and complete information, yet as much is sometimes allowed to appear as gives us favourable openings into the righteous and benevolent counsels of Heaven. — Thus in the public affairs of the world it has been frequently seen, that from the most unpromising causes important and beneficent effects have, in the sequel, arisen. In our own country, at one period, the violent passions of a prince gave beginning to the Reformation. At another period, arbitrary attempts against religion and liberty occasioned that happy Revolution which has formed the æra of national prosperity. In many

. instances, the wrath of man has been made to praise God. Those wars and commotions that shake the moral world have answered similar purposes with tempests in the natural world, of purging the air from noxious vapours, and restoring it to a temperature more sound and wholesome. From the midst of confusion, order has been made to spring; and from temporary mischief, lasting advantages to arise.

In all cases of this nature, with which sacred , and civil history abounds, secret designs of Heaven were going on, which were unfolded in the end. The wheel was always in motion. The hand of the clock was advancing with unperceived progress, till the moment came of its striking the appointed hour.

In like manner, with respect to individuals, there is often a hereafter in the course of their lives, which discloses and justifies the ways of God. Not to mention the good effects which misfortunes are found to produce on the minds of men, by checking their vices, and correcting their errors, innumerable exemplifications can be given, of misfortunes paving their way to future advancement in the world. We are always querulous and impatient when designs succeed not according to our wish. Ignorance of what futurity is to bring forward, occupied with nothing but the present, we exclaim, Where is God ? Where the sceptre of righteousness? Hath he forgotten to be gracious ? or doth he indeed see, and is there knowledge in the Most High? God seeth not as man seeth : He looketh not merely to what you suffer, but to what the effect of these sufferings is to be. Consider only in how different a light the patriarch Joseph would view the events of his life, after he had seen in what they had terminated, from the light in which he saw them when led away by the Ishmaelites as a slave, or when thrown by Potiphar into the Egyptian prison. We murmur against Providence,

just as the impetuous youth frets against his instructors and tutors, who are keeping him under a strict, and, as he thinks, a needless, discipline. He knows not that, by their instruction and discipline, they are laying the foundation of his future fortunes; of the wealth which he is to acquire, and of the advancement to which he is to rise in the world. What may justly be said to him by his tutors and instructors, is equally applicable to us all under our present state of education; What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. - Regarding, then, the unknown issue of all worldly events in this light, let us never despair ; let us never think dishonourably of the government of God; but have patience till his providence accomplish its designs in its own way and at its own time. Although thou sayest thou shalt not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust thou in him. *

In the second place, The expression of hereafter in the text must be understood to refer, in its full extent, not to future events in this life, but to a subsequent state of being. For this life is no more than the beginning of the mighty and extensive plans of Providence. The seeds are only now sown, of what is to ripen and come forth, at the harvest of the world, when the revolution of the great moral year shall be finished, and the government of God shall obtain its full completion. It is the chief scope

of religion to direct our view to this period; and it hath often taught us, that the knowledge of the ways of God, then enjoyed by the blessed, shall constitute a

* Job, xxxv. 14.

*

chief article of their felicity. Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face. Nore we know in part ; but then we shall know even as we are known. When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. In God's light we shall see light. * The reasons that required obscurity to remain for a while on the ways of God no longer subsist. The education of good men is completed; and the intention of those steps of education, which once they could not comprehend, now becomes apparent. Why this man was prematurely carried away from the world in the beginning of a promising course; why that deserving family were left overwhelmed with grief and despair, by the loss of one who was their sole benefactor and support; why friendships cemented by tender ties were suddenly torn asunder by death; these are enquiries to which

1; we can now make no reply; and which throw a dark gloom over the conduct of the Almighty. But the spirits of the just above, who are admitted to a larger view of the ways of God, see the reasons of such counsels. They see that one man was seasonably taken away from dangers and evils to come, which, unknown to him, were hovering over his head. They see that Providence was in secret preparing unexpected blessings for the family who appeared to be left disconsolate and hopeless. They see that it was time for friendships to be dissolved, when their longer continuance would to some of the parties have proved a snare. Where we behold nothing but the rod of power stretched forth, they discern an interposition of the hand of mercy.

*

1 Cor. xiii. 10. 12. Psalm xxxvi. 9.

« PreviousContinue »