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ly afflicted him: for no peculiar errors were discernible in his conduct, those excepted, to which their uncharitable censures provoked him. Reflecting, however, that, notwithstanding his afflictions were heavier than any which had before happened to man, yet his character was at least not inferior to that of others; and comparing the conduct of God in providence, with his operations in nature, he at last obtained an argument, satisfactory to his own mind, and such as could not be overturned by his friends. " Lo, these are parts of his ways; but “ how little a portion is heard of him !"*
The psalmist appears to have been, like Job, in a situation of distress and perplexity, when he wrote this psalm. The first part of it is occupied with his complaints; and his affliction so overpowers. him, that, in the bitterness of his heart, he is tempted, for a moment, to question the mercy and faithfulness of God. 56 Will the Lord cast off for ever? 6 and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy « clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for "evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? “ Hath he, in anger, shut up his tender mercies?”+ But not daring to proceed, in a strain so nearly approaching to impiety, he immediately corrects himself, by considering his inability to judge of the counsels of him, who is incomprehensible; and fortifies. his mind in the persuasion of the divine love and faithfulness, by calling to his remembrance the kindnesses and deliverances of former times. " And I said, this is mine infirmity: but I will re* member the years of the right hand of the most * Job xxvi, IA
f Ibid. ver. 7, 8, 9
high. I will remember the works of the Lord :
surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I “ will meditate also of thy works; and talk of thy
And in the conclusion of the psalm, he entirely satisfies himself, by having recourse to the incomprehensible nature of the providence of God. "
Thy way is in the sea; and thy path in the great waters; and thy footsteps are not known!"
The three clauses, of which this verse consists, all evidently express the same idea. This kind of repetition is very common in the sacred writings; and serves not only to adorn a sentiment, but to impress it with additional force. Numerous instances will readily occur to every reader of scripture.
Although the language of the text be highly figurative, its meaning is sufficiently plain. “ ways of God,” indeed, sometimes signify the rules of life, which he hath given us to observe; as in Psalm cxix. 3. “They walk in his ways.” But the term way has also a more comprehensive import, both in scripture, and in common language; and signifies a course of action, a constitution, or mode of procedure. Thus, in Prov. xii. 26. “ The way
of the wicked" denotes their course of action. When Hosea says to Israel, “ Thou didst trust “ in thy way,”+ he means the schemes and methods, to which that people had had recourse. And when, in Habakkuk's song of praise, it is said of Jehovah, “ His ways are everlasting,”I the expression is evidently to be understood, not of his actions or dis“pensations, which are necessarily temporary and # Job, ver. 10, 11, 12.
+ Hosea X. 13.
#Hab. iii. 6.
successive; but of the constitution, or fixed principles of his government. In our text, way may be considered as signifying any, or all of these. “ Thy
way, the course of action, which thou hast chosen " to adopt, the manner of thy procedure, and the “constitution of Providence, which thou hast form
ed, cannot be fully traced or comprehended. It “ is like the path of a ship in the sea, of which a "small part only can be discerned; that which “ stretches before, and that which lies behind, being " alike hidden from the view."
To shew the folly and impiety of arraigning the mode of the divine procedure, in the dispensations of Providencethe propriety of submitting curselves to its will, and of relying on its wisdom and beneficence-we shall
I. Illustrate the assertion in the text, that the ways of God are incomprehensible ; which will afford a general answer to all the objections which men may raise against their goodness and justice.
II. We shall state some particulars in the divine dispensations, of which we may have been informed by observation, experience, or scripture ; and of which the wisdom and goodness are sufficiently discernible: from which a particular argument may be drawn, for the justice, goodness, and wisdom of the whole.
HII. We shall conclude with a practical application of the subject.
L. We are to illustrate the assertion, that the
ways of God are incomprehensible. This appears,
1. From the nature of the Deity.
“ No man hath seen God at any time, nor can
see."* Infinite in all his attributes, our imaginations, expanded to the utmost, cannot comprehend him: and the wisest of the sons of men must join with the meanest in understanding, in the exclamation, “ Canst thou by searching find out God? “ Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfec“ tion?”# He exists; yet without a cause. The world is the effect of his eternal will and power; yet once, and nature was not. There is an order of day and night in his works; and his operations are all successive: yet his eternity is without succession. He ever acts; yet is still unchangeable, “ the same
yesterday, to-day, and for ever."I Motion, or alteration of place, is incident every moment to all his productions; yet his own essence is ever at rest : for who can say that here God is not, or, from thence he has removed? His being fills immensity; yet is indivisible, or without parts. These are mysteries beyond the power of the human mind to conceive; and when we contemplate them, we must adopt the language of David, while meditating on the same theme. “ Such knowledge is too wonder66 ful for me. It is high I cannot attain unto it.”g Thus there are in God certain natural modes of being and operation, which our faculties cannot comprehend : and this gives us reason to believe that his moral attributes and operations are, in many things, also above our reach. The conduct of men, eminent for their wisdom and penetration, is often founded upon principles the most just; # John i. 18. I Tim. vi. I.
Heb. xiii. 8.
$ Psalm cxxxis, 6.
which yet are not easily comprehended by inferior minds: and from this we may conclude that God, whose "
judgments are as a great deep,”* may carry on his plans, according to rules of wisdom and of justice, which our limited powers cannot embrace. This he himself assures us. " As the “ heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts " than your thoughts.”+ A general often.commands movements, the purpose of which the common soldier cannot conceive; the teacher enjoins tasks, whose utility the scholar does not always comprehend; and in many situations in life, particular offices are assigned to individuals, of the propriety of which, the director, or superintendent of the pending operation, is alone able to judge. And as we suppose God will not impart to a substitute the power of doing every thing possible, so he certainly does not communicate a degree of understanding capable of knowing all things intelligible. To do either, indeed, were to undeify himself: for, in the one case, he would have a rival
and in the other, an equal in wisdom. It is because his ways can be perfectly comprehended only by himself, that he is styled in scripture, “ The only: “ wise God;"I and is said to " dwell in light inac
cessible :"while the most exalted spirits “ desire
to look”|| into his wonderful dispensations; and he is represented as “ charging, even his angels, " with folly."! This view of the unsearchable nature of God, and the inferences which it suggests
I Tim. i. 17. ll i Peter i. 12.
• Psalm xxxvi. 6.