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innocent. We trace it in the establishment of thrones and in the subversion of empires, in the turning a fruitful land into a wilderness, the making a desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose; and we trace it also in the review of our own past experience. Every one that believeth has here the witness in himself how deep are the thoughts of God. He has it in the perils which he has escaped, in the deliverances which he has experienced, in the blessings which he has enjoyed, in the mercies which he has received, in the strange and inscrutable process of that inward discipline which, running parallel with life, has brought good out of evil, and caused evil to be overcome of good, yea, which has made all things, however in appearance adverse and disastrous, to “ work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose."
Why, however, it may be asked—why are we now especially to consider the greatness of God's works, in connection with the deepness of God's thoughts? For this reason : because the works of God, so far as they come within the scope of human cognizance, are objects of sense, while the thoughts of God, whether as partially developed in his word, or disclosed at intervals throughout the course of his providential government, are of necessity the objects of faith. We are enjoined to walk indeed not by sight, but by faith ; but then sight may come in aid of faith. “ Consider," said the Lord himself, “the lilies of the field how they grow," and learn from these a lesson of trust in the all-disposing providence of God. And as God is essentially the same in his works and in his thoughts, for with him is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning," we may warrantably argue from what we do see to what we do not see, and assume that the very same attributes of God's nature, the yery same principles of God's action, which are clearly manifested in the one case, are equally operative, if not equally conspicuous in the other. If, therefore, when we “consider the heavens, the work of God's fingers, the moon and the stars which he hath ordained"—if, when we consider all that is above us in the air, and all that is around us in the earth, and all that is beneath us in the ocean, and all that is within us in the heart-if when we consider this we are constrained to exclaim, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works; in wisdom thou hast made them all," so must we have conceived the same goodness and the same wisdom to have combined and to have wrought, however mysteriously, in that scheme and dispensation of events which yet, as we look around, seems to present but a mighty maze, and all without a plan. Hence the practical conclusion will be--and it brings unspeakable consolation to many suffering Christian hearts and homes—I say the practical conclusion will be, that we shall combine the lowliest and most implicit adoration of God's mysterious providence in the administration of the world with the liveliest impression of his mercy manifested to every individual believer, and that while in special cases we are constrained to acknowledge that his judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out, we shall not be on that account the less practically, the less personally convinced that “all his ways are mercy and truth to them that keep his covenant and his testimonies." Yes, heaven and earth bear witness to this truth; for easier were it for both to pass away than for one jot or tittle of God's word to fail-than for one name to be
obliterated which is written in the Lamb's book of life, for one light to be extinguished, one jewel to be lost which God hath ordained from the creation of the world to sparkle in the Redeemer's eternal crown.
It is St. Paul who has taught us the first and most important lesson, that the deepness of God's thoughts is most clearly to be understood, and the difficulties resulting therefrom to be most effectually met, by considering God's greatness in his works. “ The invisible things of him from the creation of the world,” said the apostle, “ are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” So that those are without excuse who, when they thus knew God, glorified him not as God, but became vain in their imaginations, for their foolish heart was darkened. Who can doubt, after this, that the deepness of God's thoughts is so far in accordance with the greatness of God's works, that they who cannot charge bim with any lack of wisdom and goodness in the one, ought not to dishonour him by even surmising any lack of goodness and of wisdom in the other? If indeed it were not so in pature, if the ordinances of heaven did not abide, unchanging and unchanged, if provision were not still made, as of old, for the sustenance of the many millions which people this teeming globe, if the earth did not possess within itself a power of reproduction and replenishment which repairs the waste of each succeeding generation, and after the lapse of six thousand years has proved to be unexhausted, and therefore to be inexhaustible, then there might be some shadow of pretext for arraigning, even at the bar of man's short-sighted judgment, a deity whose providence we could not understand, while yet his own creation showed him to be capable of change, or incapable of averting it. But now, whatever difficulties, whatever mysteries, whatever apparent contradictions even, may exist in the working out of God's secret and inscrutable designs, it only needs to be considered, that as in nature, so in providence, he sees the whole, while man discerns only a part, so that we might more rationally think to weigh the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance, to sound the central depths of the ocean, and project a measuring line to the remotest of the planets, as by searching to find out God, to find out the Almighty to perfection, to apprehend by finite reason the mind that fills eternity, to note the measureless grasp of the hand that spans infinity. Consequently, to deny the wisdom and the goodness of God, just because no effort of our puny intellect can reconcile certain events in the order of providence with our conceptions of either of these attributes, why, this were a lie against the very ordinances of nature, against those whose “sound has gone out into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.” To doubt God's goodness in his providence, would be a lie against the glory of the sun, and the glory of the moon, and the glory of the stars—a lie against the revolutions of the seasons and the alternations of day and night-a lie against the sunbeams that gladden, and the showers that refresh, and the dews ibat fertilize the earth. If we can prove that any of God's works in nature were not made in wisdom and in goodness, that they are susceptible to change or liable to decay, in default or in despite of him who made them, then, and not till then, whatever be the unfathomable depths of the provi
dential dispensations of the Most High, then, and only then, can we conceire the possibility of a negative answer to the question “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
When, therefore, even in the development of mysterious events, like those which are witnessed at ibis time in the fair regions of the East, and the tidings of which, like the roll of the prophet, are “written within and without," and the writing thereof is “lamentation and mourning and woe"-when men essay, like the Psalmist, to understand this, and like the Psalmist find it too painful for them-let them bear in mind that infidelity, or, to call it by a milder name, weakness of faith, as to God's perfection in his providence, arises not so much from imperfection in human knowledge as from the wrong estimate that is formed of the degree of human ignorance. Man is prone to overrate his owa works because they suffice to apprehend God in nature, to discern the glory which the heavens declare, and to explore, though but in part, the handiwork which the firmament displays. But in order to understand equally the dispensation of God in providence man should be able to do two things, each of which is alike beyond his power—to look backward, so as to develop all the causes of events, and to look forward, so as to foresee all the consequences otherwise he niust arrive at one of two conclusions, the first of which would prove him a madman, while the other, if carried out, would make him a believer. He must either deny God's wisdom in his works, which we hold to be impossible, or acknowledge God's wisdom in his thoughts ; for if the first of these be impossible, then the second is inevitable. And we can illustrate this by example. When Abraham was once convinced that the strange and startling command was of God, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall tell thee of," he never thought of doubting the faithfulness of God's promise, much less the perfection of God's goodness, because he could not explore the mysteries of God's providence. He had never witnessed the return from death to life, as in the case of the widow's son, and the ruler's daughter, and the beloved Lazarus, but he knew-he “counted,” said St. Paul_" that God was able to raise" the ch ild of promise “ from the dead, from whence also be received him in a figure." In like manner the venerable Eli, when forewarned of the ruin of his son and the desolation of his house, returned no other answer to the message, when once be knew it to be Divine, than an expression of perfect submission and acquiesence—“It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good ;" and when the prophet Jeremiah, astounded and perplexed by the malignity of his countrymen—a malignity as unrelenting as it was unprovoked, finding its parallel in that base ingratitude which has imbrued the hands of our Indian subjects in the blood of their best benefactors—when, I say, Jeremiah entered into controversy with his Maker, saying—“ Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thon hast planted them, yea, they have taken root : they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit," the answer of the Lord clearly reveals, whilst it gently reproves, the faint-heartedness and short-sightedness of the prophet: “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee
then how canst thou contend with horses ? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they have wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan ?" If thou art thus disquieted at the prosperity of the wicked, what wilt thou do when thine enemies shall be those of thine own house, when thine own familiar friend, in whom thou trusted, shall lie in wait for thee, when the men of thine own city shall gather themselves against thee, saying, “ Prophecy thou not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand ?” So in our own case: after giving long quietness, whether to a nation or to a man, when God is pleased to make trouble, and when in so doing he hideth his face, so that none can behold him, what can man do? Where can man seek refuge but in that which was the consolation of the Psalmist, “ When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path ?” Nay, we who live in the light of the gospel dispensation may take up the language of the Apostle Paul, who struck a note so much higher than the Psalmist as he lived under a brighter dispensation. “I reckon," said he, so far from being cast down by suffering, so far from thinking it any proof or evidence that God was disposed to turn away his face'_“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.” “Our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look," and because we look, “not to the things which are seen, but to the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
But, my brethren, there is another view at once of the greatness of God in his works, and the deepness of God in his thoughts, which is that which might be presented to us in the contemplation of ourselves. As there is a natural, so there is a spiritual creation, and in each the agent is the same Omnipotent being, and his work is great in each; for, says St. Paul, “God, who caused the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Every converted sinner, every genuine penitent, every lively believer, is a great and wonderful work of God. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature," a new creation ; “old things have passed away, and all things have become new.” The awakened sinner hath been “turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God;" and this is a moral change as contrary to the law of nature, as superior to the power of man, as the blanching of the Ethiopian's skin, as the effacing of the leopard's spots. The great work of God in the conversion of the sinner is the quickening of a dead soul, a soul “ dead in trespasses and sins," the turning of him to good who was “accustomed only to do evil.” It is the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking, the leper cleansed, the dead alive. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” It is of such persons, each of whom is a wonder unto many, but most of all a wonder to himself-it is of such persons that the true holy catholic church throughout the wide world is composed. True believers are “God's husbandry," though they flourish in a desert; they are God's building, though all is shifting and treacherous around ; they are “ the light of the world,” seen only the more brightly in it because of the encircling darkness; they are “ the salt of the earth," arresting the progress of moral putrefaction so far as their influence may extend; they are, as St. Peter declares, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people," and the ungodly world itself will scarcely look upon the believer who holds forth the word of life in his conduct and conversation, without the involuntary tribute of admiration and approval, “What hath God wrought ?"
And yet here even the deepness of God's thoughts must be taken in connection with the greatness of God's works. Why is it, we may askah! none can answer, but we may ask, Why is it that in the same family, in the same church, under the same training, with the same opportunities and with the same advantages, one child may grow up like Timothy, “ in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," knowing from a child the Holy Scriptures, which “are able to make wise unto salvation," and so reflecting them in his conduct as to be the benefactor of society, the blessing of the parents, the ornament of the home, while another child of the same parents, baptized into the same church, like the prodigal in the parable may have no other thought or care than to indulge in the pleasures of sin, and may realize in its full deformity the most impressive but fearful portraiture of the wise Solomon, “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him ?” How are we to account for this? We all know that among the deepest things of God, the things hardest to be understood and most difficult to be reconciled, has ever been the declaration by the mouth of the prophet Malachi, “Was not Esau Jacob's brother ? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” Now, why did God love the one, and why did he hate the other? Who can answer the question? This is a deep thought; it is a startling thought, and St. Paul felt it to be so, when he commented upon it in the Epistle to the Romans. “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” And what is his conclusion, at the summing up of his argument, but that which under existing circumstances may well come home with power to our own hearts? “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdoin and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding
As, then, we admire the greatness of God in his works, so must we adore the deepness of God in his thoughts; and if one of the most perplexing questions of all be asked, Why hath God given to one what he hath withholden from another ? or if it be asked, why the wonderful works were worse than lost in Chorazio and Bethsaida, which would have sufficed for the repentance and conversion of Tyre and Sidon—why the miracles of mercy which would have averted the catastrophe of Sodom were wrought only to aggravate the guilt and increase the condemnation of Capernaum ; I say, if questions like these are asked, and a child might multiply them to any extent, we have no esource but to answer each for himself, minister and hearer, in the words of the Psalmist, “ Such knowledge is too excellent for me; it is high, I cannot