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power? Doubts and fears, respecting both, overwhelmed the minds even of those, who had followed him in his ministry, who had enjoyed the most ample and most endearing proofs of his divine mission. Their hopes were buried in his sepulchre. “ We trusted,” said they, with mournful recollection, " that it had been he, which should have re“ deemed Israel."* Thick darkness covered that day, when the Shepherd was smitten, and the flock was scattered abroad. But the third morn appears : and the shadows flee away. He bursts the bands of death. He rises triumphant from the grave; and life and immortality are brought to light.
After the ascension of Jesus, another cloud soon covered the christian world. A fierce persecution arose, which threatened destruction to all who confessed him as their Lord. But, observe the overruling wisdom of God. Did the persecution answer its end? Yes: the end which the Almighty proposed. Some it cut off to be patterns to others of patient faith, and exulting hope. The rest it dispersed: and “they that were scattered abroad, * went every where preaching the word.”+
In the dispensation of redemption, there are also other particulars, to which much mystery is still attached. Conjectures might be offered concerning them: but the season of their elucidation is not yet arrived. Of these, the state of the Jews is one. They, alone, were once the peculiar people of God: yet, as a people, they have been long excluded from his covenant. They still hold sacred those scriptures, in which Christ is so frequently foretold ; and from Luke xxiv, 21,
+ Acts viii,
It has not per
which, many of the most striking evidences of his mission are derived : yet his character and his name are the objects only of their hatred and contempt. Providence has adopted, with respect to them, a proceeding unexampled in every other case. It has scattered them among all people: yet has suf . fered them to be absorbed by none. mitted them any where to exist, as a nation; yet has kept them as effectually distinct from every other race, as if the Mosaical polity and worship had still subsisted ; and princes of the house of David had still governed at Jerusalem. For all this, it is true, reasons might be assigned : and some have been expressly pointed out in the word of God. But for the full explanation of the mystery, that word has taught us to wait a future period : when “ the ful"ness of the Gentiles having come in, all Israel also u shall be saved."* Then, too, shall they be gau thered from the lands of their dispersion, and restored to their privileges as a people and a church. But in what manner events, so difficult in accomplishment, and in themselves apparently so improbable, shall be effected, is not for us to say: nor shall we know, till“ the day declare it.” Till then the
prophecy is sealed.
“ The mystery of iniquity,” also, still continues to work. “ The man of sin”+ still reigns. Nor shall all the attempts of worldly power pull him down from his throne, till his appointed time. His end shall not be by fire and sword; but by the preaching of the word, and the prevalence of truth. “The “ Lord shall consume him with the spirit of his mouth, Romxi, 25, 26.
+ 2 Thess. ii. 3, 7.
" and destroy him with the brightness of his comi:
ing.”* And let what we know of the truth, powa er, and faithfulness of God, in the completion of predictions already fulfilled, assure our minds that all those, whose events are yet future, shall likewise be infallibly accomplished : that“ the mystery of God “ shall be finished:"† that the holy city, the new
Jerusalem, shall come down from him, out of heaven;
and his tabernacle shall be with men.”I It appears, then, that in the developement and completion of the scheme of redemption, the Allwise acts agreeable to the same method, which we have traced in his works of nature, and in the proceedings of his providence, enumerated in the
preceding division of this discourse. In all,
In all, many circumstances, originally dark and mysterious, occur ; which, notwithstanding, are explained, their wisdom proved, and their rectitude vindicated, by the progress of time, and the succession of events. This harmony of method, in the several ways of God, forms a pleasing and consolatory subject of meditation. And, in the instance of redemption, it is particularly worthy of our attentive consideration: for redemption, we should remember, is the chief branch of his providence to man. If, therefore, not only in more subordinate proceedings, but in the most important part of his providential government, we find this method prevail, we have good reason to conclude it universal ; and to infer, that the most perplexing dispensations, by which we may. be affected, will, in process of time, be unfolded : and that the justice, goodness, and wisdom of their
+ Rev. X. 7,
* Ibid. xxi. 2, 3.
2 Thess. ii. 8.
author, in their appointment and in their conduct, shall become not less conspicuous than his sovereignty and his power.
Thus the investigations which we have pursued, of the various means, by which the divine character is exhibited to our contemplation, concur to prove that, though “ his way be in the sea, and his
paths in the great waters,” “ justice and judgment " are the habitation of his throne ; mercy and truth go before his face."*
This conclusion leads to many important lessons, for the regulation of both our sentiments and practice. To one of these, as deducible from the topics illustrated in the first discourse from the text, your attention has been already called.We now proceed, more particularly, to fulfil what was proposed under the last general head of discourse, by pointing out,
III. In a few instances, the practical application of the subject.—The length to which the preceding discussions have extended, will vindicate, bè. cause it renders necessary, brevity in this.
1. Then, the unsearchableness of the ways of God should guard us against despondency and doubt, under the calamities of life. Were we sufficient judges of the proceedings of God, and were we able to ascertain that no good effect could arise from our afflictions; then might it be lawful for us, when oppressed with ills, to question his goodness, and to indulge despondency. But when we are assured that he, though in ways inscrutable to us, makes “ all things to work together for good, to
* Psalm Lxxxix. 14.
" them that love him, "* it is unreasonable in the extreme, for his people to murmur or despond, whatever their situation may become. Whether, then, in private calamity, or in public álărm, let us not question the goodness of the issue. Appearances may be unfavourable. But of these we can neither judge the full reason, nor discern the final result. “And we have, in scripture, abundant examples of holy men of old, who, in both respects, suffered more than we have ever been called to endure; who yet, in the mean time, enjoyed good hope, and praised God in the end.
2. Are God's ways past finding out ? Then ought we to check a vain curiosity in prying into his counsels, and the secrets of his providence. “ cret things belong unto God ; those which are “ revealed, unto us.”+ It is both unprofitable and sinful, to seek to be wise above what is written: for thereby, we not only lose our time and pains, but are apt to wander into doubt and error. Would to God, that we sufficiently exerted ourselves to acquire the knowledge of what has been revealed! Then should our labour neither be in vain, nor would we be so much disposed to indulge in useless and presumptuous speculations.
3. The consideration of the unsearchableness of the Almighty's ways should render us cautious, in our judgment of providential occurrences. Though afflictions, peculiarly severe, should befall ourselves or others, we are not justified in concluding that, therefore, we or they are under the peculiar displeasure of heaven. It may be most unjust and
+ Deut. xxix. 29,
* Rom. viii. 28.