« PredošláPokračovať »
tions. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand $ years; and a thousand years as one day."
These general observations suffice to shew, that those general facts, in the ways of heaven, which a hasty judgment would condemn as unreasonable or severe, are, notwithstanding, wise and good. Let us now endeavour farther to illustrate the wisdom, foresight, and beneficence of Providence, in some particular facts, which have fallen within our knowledge; and which, at first, wore the aspect of harshness or injustice.
Joseph was the favourite child of his father: and his character was such as to merit pecular affection. By his brethren, he was sold as a slave, and carried in bonds to Egypt; while his afflicted parent believed him to have been slain. What other cause would many assign for this, than the envy of his brethren? and in similar circumstances, would not most be disposed to join with Jacob in his complaint," all these things are against me;" and like him, to " refuse to be comforted?" Yet besides the immediate design of all this, in teaching the patriarch the evil of an excessive attachment to any earthly blessing, and of exhibiting to one child, above others, a partiality too marked; we learn from the words of Joseph, to whom God had given the spirit of wisdom and of prophecy, that his captivity was the mean, by which Providence had determined the accomplishment of a most important end; important, not only to Jacob and his household, to Pharoah and his kingdom, but to the distant ages of posterity. "Be not grieved, nor
* 2 Peter iii. 8, 9.
† Gen. xlii. 36,
†bid. xxxvii. 35.
* angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: "for God did send me before you, to preserve life. "For these two years hath the famine been in the "land; and yet there are five years, in the which, "there shall be neither earing nor harvest: and God "sent me before you, to preserve you a posterity “in the earth, and to save your lives by a great "deliverance. So So now, it was not you that sent
me hither, but God: and he hath made me a fa"ther to Pharoah, and lord of all his house, and a "ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."* The conduct of Joseph's brethren too, let us not forget, formed a necessary step, towards the accomplishment of the great scheme of our redemption. For to the family whose posterity was thus preserved in the earth, was the promise of the Messiah's birth confined. How strikingly then, does this whole history exemplify the declaration of the psalmist! Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the "remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."+
Few men, had they heard Shimei curse his king, would have thought of ascribing it to any other cause, but to the malignity and vengefulness of his disposition; or of assigning to it any other end, but the unworthy gratification which he derived from their indulgence. Read, however, the account which David himself gave of the transaction. "Let him alone; and let him curse: for the Lord "hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will "look on mine affliction; and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day." The issue shews that David's humble expectation was not disappointed.
* Gen. xlv. 5, 8.
Psalm lxxvi. 19.
† 2 Sam. xvi. 11, 12
The grievous and complicated afflictions, which harassed Job, seemed long a mystery. And for the cause of those which affected his outward estate, a superficial observer would have looked no farther, than to the plundering disposition of the Arabs, and the violence of the elements; or for that of those which distressed his person, than to the redundancy of morbid humours in his constitution. But attend to their effects; "I have uttered," said he, that "I understood not; things too wonderful for me, " which I knew not. Wherefore I abhor myself; and repent in dust and ashes."* Thy dealings have manifested to me thy wisdom, righteousness, and power. They have brought me to a practical sense of my corruption by nature, and of my guilt by practice and "the Lord blessed the latter end "of Job, more than his beginning;" for "the "Lord turned the captivity of Job: also the Lord $6 gave Job twice as much as he had before." Job's sufferings had also a higher end in the scheme of Providence. They have been signally useful to mankind, in all succeeding ages, by the lessons which they teach, of patience, and submission to the divine will; and by the encouragement which they afford, to wait resignedly the issue of the divine dispensations. "Ye have heard of the patience "of Job; and have seen the end of the Lord; that
the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."§ From his unprecedented degradation, Nebuchadnezzar derived an instruction more valuable to him than his crown; and the practical effects of which added a greater lustre to his character, than all the splendours of royalty. "Now I Nebuchadnezzar Ibid, 10. § James V. II.
* Job xlii. 3, 6. + Ibid. 12.
praise, and extol, and honour, the King of heaven, "all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment; " and those that walk in pride, he is able to abase."*
But above all, the sufferings of the holy Jesus, considered merely in themselves, would seem a blot and a mystery in Providence. Had we not better information, we would ascribe them wholly to the rage of the Jews, the treachery and avarice of Iscariot, and the selfish timidity of Pilate while we would, at the same time, conclude that Providence, forgetting the protection due to innocence and integrity, had abandoned them unpitied, to the assaults of foes so contemptible and unworthy. His very apostles, in their ignorance, could not brook the idea. "Be it far from thee, Lord! This shall not be unto 66 thee." But these events formed the most important part of the providence of God to man; and Jesus voluntarily subjected himself to their operation. "Crucify him, crucify him,"‡ cried the furious multitude. "He that sitteth in the heavens "held them in derision."§ Execute your purpose, said the Almighty. But thus will I accomplish my great designs.
These, and a thousand other instances, which time forbids us to enumerate, evidently shew us that, however much human agency, or other secondary means, may be concerned in any great event, the hand of God is in all that comes to pass; that every particular which falls under our observation, is part of a mighty scheme, planned and executed by him, "of "whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things;" a scheme, therefore, which, both in the
Rom. xi. 36.
Dan. iv. 37.
Luke xxiii. 21. § Psalm ii. 4.
whole, and in every particular part, has been contrived by infinite benignity and skill, and accomplished by boundless power.
Were an Indian, from some distant isle, unacquainted with the arts of civilized life, to behold the construction of a mound, by which the salutary streams, that descend to water the valleys and the flocks, were arrested in their course, and converted into a stagnant pool; he would exclaim against a labour, apparently malevolent in its principle, and mischievous in its effects. But, were he shewn the sluice which regulates the discharge of the collected waters, and conducted to the mill, where they cheaply prepare the food of thousands; his displeasure would be changed into admiration, and his censure into praise. Thus, in the acts of Providence, which we have reviewed, the first steps seemed mysterious or unworthy, but, when traced to their final consequences, appear full of wisdom and of good. -We proceed,
3. To state to you some important steps in the progress of the scheme of redemption, which were involved in mystery; till, respectively elucidated by those which succeeded, the whole were exhibited in their beauty and perfection, in the fulness of time, by Jesus Christ.
The first mention which we have of the dispensation of grace, is that which was made by God to our first parents, immediately before their banishment from Paradise. Though by transgression, they had fallen from their original state of happiness and immortality, and had involved their posterity in their fall; their merciful Creator did not