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for ever hidden from my eyes! Beware, lest that come upon you which is written ; “Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish.”* “Kiss the Son, , lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.”+ Acts xiii. 40, 41.
† Psalm ii. 12.
GOD'S WAYS, THOUGH OFTEN INSCRUTABLE, ARE
RIGHTEOUS AND JUST.*
[PREACHED AT LUTON, MAY, 1815.]
Psalm xcvii., 2.-Clouds and darkness are round about him :
righteousness and judgement are the habitation of his throne,
This Psalm commences with a statement of the most important doctrine of religion ; a doctrine which is the foundation of all serious piety ;—the rule and dominion of God over his creatures. It then calls to rejoicing in that great fact. In every
time of trouble this is the Christian's consolation; and it is his chief joy in his best moments. He who is “above all,” continually conducts the machine of providence, and superintends all things in every part of the universe. This is the unfailing source of comfort to a good man,—“ The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.”
Printed from the notes of the Rev. Samuel Hillyard.
In the text we have a concession made, perfectly consistent with the great truth before propounded : “Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgement are the habitation of his throne.” Two propositions are contained in this text, to which I now propose calling your attention.
I. “ Clouds and darkness are round about God.”
II. “Righteousness and judgement are the habitation of his throne.”
I. “Clouds and darkness are round about God.” The figurative language in the poetical parts of the Old Testament is frequently taken from the historical books, and refers to the facts therein recorded : thus the appearances of God to the saints and patriarchs in old times, is the origin of the figure in our text. If you look at the history of these appearances, you will find they were all accompanied with clouds and darkness. The cloud of the Lord went before the children of Israel when they departed from the land of bondage. This cloud had a dark and a bright side, and was a symbol of the divine presence : thus it preceded the people in all their marches, as a pillar of fire by night, and of a cloud by day.* When Solomon dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord filled the house, and the priest could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the house. f When God descended upon Mount Sinai, “ there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of * Exod. xiv. 19, 20.
† 1 Kings viii. 10, 11.
the trumpet exceeding loud. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, upon the top of the mount.” * When our Saviour was transfigured before three of his disciples, “a bright cloud overshadowed them,” from which proceeded the voice of the Father, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”+ And Peter, who was present there, afterwards referring to this fact, says, that the voice proceeded “from the excellent glory.”. Thus, in all the symbols of the divine presence, there was a mixture of splendour with darkness and obscurity. So it is in the operations of providence: in a moral and figurative sense we may say, that clouds and darkness surround all the operations of divine power and wisdom.
Clouds are emblems of obscurity ; darkness, of distress. The works of God's providence are often obscure and productive of distress to mankind, though “righteousness and judgement are the habitation of his throne.”
In the present state of the affairs of the nations we see the interference of Divine Providence; and yet it is surrounded with clouds and darkness. Never was the hand of God more conspicuous, yet never were men less able to penetrate and comprehend his deep and unfathomable designs.
† Matt. xvii. 5.
* Exod. xix. 16, 18, 20.
# 2 Pet. i. 17.
As this is the divine method of government with respect to affairs of a larger scale, so it is also in instances of a smaller and inferior kind: it is thus in the removal of the most eminent, holy, and useful characters, that while we acknowledge the hand of God, we say “clouds and darkness are round about him.” Such removals we have experienced : “ The fathers, where are they; and the prophets, do they live for ever ?” No. Such as seemed most necessary in the church, the pillars of the temple, are removed, and many are trembling for the ark of God. We are taught to “be still, and know that he is God,” since “what we know not now we shall know hereafter :” and we feel it necessary, in our obscurity and distress, to refer to the great principles of his government, “ Judgement and righteousness are the habitation of his throne.”
The course of events has not been such as might have been expected from the known character of God. If we look into the book of history we shall perceive that there is much disorder in earthly scenes, much confusion in the affairs of
and was this to be expected from a God of order and wisdom? We know that he is a Being of infinite mercy, that out of his infinite fulness he loves to communicate happiness to his creatures; yet we see them oppressed with calamity, surrounded by miseries; and we find that man has, in all ages and in all stations, been “born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward."
Again, we know that God, in his great love to our world, has devised a plan to raise men to
happiness and glory ; his regard to this plan, and the objects of it, appears in all the doctrines of revelation, in all the miracles by which they are supported, and in all the prophecies and glorious things that are spoken concerning the church, by which our expectations have been greatly raised. But how have those expectations fallen short of their accomplishment; what a small part of the world is enlightened by the beams of the “Sun of Righteousness;" how narrow are the limits of the gospel; how little has been done by christianity, compared with what might have been anticipated from the divine principles, the character of the Author, and from the interest it possesses in the heart of God. We have, as yet, wrought almost no deliverance in the earth; Paganism yet strikes deep its roots in various lands ; Mahometanism has plucked up the “good seed of the kingdom” in countries where that seed brought forth fruit abundantly : even in what is called Christendom, how little have the known and blessed effects of the gospel been manifested. Jesus Christ came to reconcile all who receive him into one family ; to make, of many, one body; to compose discords, to allay violent passions and animosities, to make wars to cease, and to give peace, and love, and harmony, to his followers; but those called christians have been inflamed and armed against each other. From the beginning, dangerous errors have produced noxious effects; the “mystery of iniquity” began to work; those who “named the name of Christ” have inflicted greater barbarities upon one