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each grows with its own blade; and how each extracts, from the same soil, virtues peculiar to itself, is what we can neither tell nor comprehend. When you detach a stone from your hand, you know that it falls to the ground; but this is all you know. By what secret energy this effect is always and uniformly produced, you are wholly ignorant. We know that in the fire there is something called heat, which warms and burns. But what is heat? You may describe it by its effect: but in itself, it eludes inquiry. In fire, there is also light: and this too is equally mysterious. Nay, attend to matter, of which the whole variety of sensible objects is composed : you may perhaps suppose yourselves perfectly acquainted with its nature. You see colour, length, breadth, thickness, and shape; but you see no more: yet these are only qualities of matter. Of matter itself, its essence or substance, you know as little as you know of spirits; that is, nothing. Every word which you may utter, every motion i which you make; every insect that flits by you on the breeze, every plant on which you tread, presents you with mysteries, which baffle every effort of human ingenuity to comprehend or explain. but a little of the outside of things that we can know. We walk as on the shore of a mighty sea. We descry a few islands that are near: but of their soil and their productions we have a scanty knowledge; and of what lies beyond, in the boundless deep, we are wholly ignorant.

This incomprehensibility of the works of God in nature is frequently taken notice of in scripture, both as an argument for humility, and in the view

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in which it has now been mentioned. In the expostulations of Elihu, and especially in the address of the Almighty to Job, it is urged, to convict him of his ignorance, and to prevent his rashly blaming what he could not fully comprehend. “ Hearken

unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the " wondrous works of God! Dost thou know when “God disposed them; and caused the light of his es cloud to shine? Dost thou know the balancing of " the clouds, the wondrous works of him, which is

perfect in knowledge ? Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out. He is excellent in

power and in judgment.”*_“ Where wast thou, « when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, * if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the “ measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath “ stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the « foundations thereof fastened? or who hath laid “ the corner-stone thereof? Hast thou entered “ into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked “ in the search of the depth? Have the gates of “ death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen 6 the doors of the shadow of death? What is the “ way where light dvielleth ? and as for darkness, " where is the place thereof? Hast thou entered is into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen - the treasures of the hail? Who hath divided a “ water course for the overflowing of waters, or a

way for the lightning of thunder? Hath the rain

a father; or who hath begotten the drops of dew? * Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary 65.frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? Knowest

• Job Ixxvii. 14, 15, 16, 23.


t thou the ordinances of heaven ? canst thou set “ the dominion thereof in the earth? Shall he,” then, “ that contendeth with the Almighty, instruct “ him? He that reproveth God, let him answer “ it!"* The wise king of Israel felt the force of the same argument.

“ As thou knowest not what " is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones grow “ in the womb of her that is with child, even so “ thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh “ all.”+ And by the same consideration, does our Lord himself obviate the objections of Nicodemus to his doctrine. “ The wind bloweth where it

listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the spirit.” I

Creation and providence are both the works of God. Now, when we find one production of an author too profound for our comprehension, we decide on his character; and infer that, in his other productions, we shall find him equally exceeding our capacity. But the works of creation we are unable to comprehend. Those of Providence, therefore, we conclude, must be too vast for our conceptions to measure ; too deep for our penetration to investigate. Nay, more; the works of creation, or of nature, lie open to the cognizance of every faculty, whether of our bodies or our minds. We taste, we see, we hear, we feel them, Every moment they are present with us; and are necessarily the objects of our continual attention, Those of Providence are less discernible in them.

* Job xxxviii. 4, 5, 6, 16, 17, 19, 22, 25, 28, 29, 33, and xl, 2.
+ Eccl. xi. 5.

John iii, 8.

selves; and at the same time, are less frequently and less carefully studied. If the former, therefore, present to us mysteries inscrutable, our minds must, of consequence, be even still more incapable of investigating the latter.

Thus, whether we attend to the narrowness of our capacities, or reflect on the infinite nature of the Deity, and the incomprehensibility of his other works, we are led to this conclusion, that the scheme of Providence is also incomprehensible; and that in this, as in every other instance, “ His way is in “the sea, his path in the great waters; and his footsteps are not known.”

One general observation, of much practical utility, will occur to you, as deducible from the unsearchableness of Providence: That we ought to beware of charging with impropriety, injustice, or severity, the dispensations of the Almighty. It argues a bad heart, or what is nearly allied to it, a very prejudiced mind, to find fault with what we do not understand; or to form a judgment, where our information is imperfect. This is the reason of the excellent counsel of the son of Sirach. “ Blame not before thou hast examined the truth. “ Understand first; and then rebuke."*

We are placed in the middle of a great scheme of Providence, which is to us, in every view of it, incomprehersible; incomprehensible alike with respect to the past, the present, and the future. There is but little of it falls within our view: and that little is connected both with what has been, and with that which is to come. To judge of it, therefore,

* Ecclus, xi. 7.

we ought to be able, not only to measure its adaptation to the present; but to embrace, in our knowledge, all the past, and to penetrate all the future. We have a common and homely, but significant proverb, by the spirit of which it were well that we should be guided, when we presume to examine the providence of God—“ Fools and children " should not see things half done.” For in contemplating the divine dispensations, the wisest of men are but in the situation of children, who gaze on the intricate operations of some profound mechanician, or skilful artist. Something of what is done they may see: but into its reasons they cannot enter. In the works of art, we allow the impropriety of accusing their utility or their fitness, when it is only a small part of them that we have seen. In general, we acquiesce in a similar sentiment, with regard to the operations of nature. To what, then, can we attribute our backwardness to submit to the wisdom of God, in the conduct of his providence, or in the mystery of redemption by Jesus Christ? To what, but to a perversity of disposition, a corrupted nature, “ an evil heart of unbelief?” for there is equal reason for our acquiescence, in the latter, as in the former cases. Let us study, then, to restrain these perverse principles; and to imitate the conduct of patient Job, who submitted to what he understood not; and, in his severest trials, “sinned not with his lips, neither charged God foolishly."*

“ To God, only wise, the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, be honour and glory, for ever and ever, Amen."

And now,

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• Job i. 22, and ii. 10.


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