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from mysteries and difficulties, amid the plans and government of the Infinite God?
Suppose we see clearly whatever lies wholly within a sphere of one mile in diameter; and all that we fully comprehend is wise and glorious. But there are things, parts of which are apparent in that sphere, while the other parts lie mainly beyond it. These things, partly seen, appear dark and forbidding. We cannot reconcile them with the goodness of God.
Enlarge the diameter of our sphere to ten miles : the things partly seen before are now seen completely. The darkness vanishes. They are more glorious than any thing we had before conceived of. But by enlarging our sphere we have increased our difficulties. For now there are a hundred times more things lying partly within and partly without our sphere, and these more dark and difficult than those which disturbed us before; and, unless our faith keeps pace with the increase of our knowledge, it turns out true that “He that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.”
Enlarge our sphere to a diameter of ten thousand miles; or to the sphere of knowledge open to an archangel. We have increased the number of things lying partly without and partly within our sphere, in the duplicate ratio of the increased diameter, and these things are still more wonderful and difficult.
Where shall we stop? Where shall we reach the point where we may grasp and comprehend all the plans of the Infinite God? Plainly, there can never be a point where, to creatures, clouds and darkness shall not be round about the Throne of God. Whatever be the reach of our knowledge, we shall still be obliged to trust God, because we cannot fully know. What necessity, then, for solving all mysteries, before we can know that we have a Father in heaven? Or for removing all difficulties, or for altering the fair import of what our Father teaches, before we can receive his teachings as the truth? These difficulties may reveal the richest glories, when our knowledge shall be but a little more enlarged. They may be difficulties only to our narrow views, our ignorance, our prejudice,-or worse,—to our wickedness. To such beings as
we, either the Divine glories must be limited to a narrow compass, or they must extend beyond our narrow vision. Somewhere we must have faith. Nay, everywhere we must have faith. And whatever God may do, or whatever he may reveal, there is ever enough known to him to warrant the most implicit trust.
Even the little part which lies wholly within the history of this world has, to us, many deep mysteries. Shut out from us the light of prophecy; let us read the Divine purposes only from human history; and what a dismal chaos does the government of this world, in many parts appear? What a chaos it must appear without the Bible? What can we judge of wars, of changes, of the rise and fall of nations, of the wisdom or order of these things, any better than the insect of a day can judge of the winter or of the storm, or of the utility of these to the earth, to its fruits, or to the salubrity of its atmosphere, or to the well being of the people who inhabit it? Close the volume of inspiration; let no voice from heaven reveal the connection of any great event with the Divine purpose, the Divine justice, or the Divine government ; let no prophecy point to the consummation of a scheme of glory and blessedness in the ages to come; and what can the people of any age know of the meaning and utility of the events passing before their eyes? Had the Israelites in their bondage in Egypt known of no promise of deliverance, and of no covenant with their fathers, nor of any divine purpose in that sojourning in bondage; what judgment could they have formed of its significance or design ? So, when they were passing through the wilderness, and in their subsequent history under the judges and kings, the eye of faith alone, trusting to what God had revealed, could see any order, or justice, or government, or goodness in the current events of their history while these events were transpiring. Such darkness rests upon our minds still, with regard to the long deferred destinies of India and China. Such darkness rests still on the government of a just and holy God with regard to benighted Africa. Why her long-continued blindness and woes? Why have wickedness and woe reigned so long in this world? Who could see any end, or hope, were it not that God has declared that the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea ? Taught by revelation something concerning such a vast and beneficent design on the part of Jehovah, we do begin at length to see light dawning upon the otherwise dark and chaotic history of this world. Plans reaching from generation to generation, for thousands of years, seem to be verging toward their completion. Christ is manifestly setting up his kingdom. We begin to see how disastrous events had their part in preparing the way, or in hastening on the work. We begin to see that there has been a devising mind and a guiding hand. We begin to trace out the connection and design of events, which, as they were passing, seemed without order or law; as though mankind had been left the sport of chance, or given up, without guidance or control, to their blindness and wickedness. Who, that has intelligently read Edwards’ “History of Redemption," has not felt his soul comforted and joyful as he has seen a chain of the Divine purposes running through the earth's whole history, marking Jehovah's reign and Jehovah's plan in every thing; and discovering in all things an ultimate bearing upon that one point—the glory of God in the redemption of a fallen world? Perhaps the time will come when the book of the Divine Providence in the government of this world will be completed; and what we have hitherto read, even in Bible history, shall be almost lost in the flood of light that shall then burst upon the vision of the sons of God. Nay, when this world's history is complete, then the Divine providences will hold on their way through purposes not yet imagined by mortal man, unfolding the glories of the Divine wisdom and goodness more and more for ever and ever. With what rapture, as the redeemed behold these things, will they shout, “ Alleluia ! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!”
It is interesting to see that, as men advance to a wider survey of the physical history of our earth, the same far-reaching purpose of God is apparent in the ages before man was made.
In this respect the comprehensive survey of Edwards, in his “ History of Redemption,” has its counterpart in the work of Guyot, “The Earth and Man.” God was preparing the earth for man in the slow ages during which, in obedience to his word, the waters were gathering themselves together in one place, and the dry land appeared. Continents, islands, headlands, all conformed themselves to the great design for man's development and trial; as though in God's book all the members of the great scheme were written while as yet there was none of them, Nor is there any end of wonders, of knowledge and wisdom open to the discovery of man, if he will but patiently trace the great design. During the period when the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep,-long, long before man was made,-could even the angels tell the meaning of the convulsions and throes with which the earth was heaving? In the hot,.damp periods, while the beds of coal were forming, who could have told in these the purposes of the Creator? The metals and metallic oxides injected into the veins of the rocks, or mingled with earthy substances—who could have seen in these any significance beyond chance, or sport, or caprice? Yet without the waterfalls, caused by the upheavings or irregular deposits of earth ; without the coal, the iron, the silver, the copper, the gold, where would have been the arts, the commerce, the development, the history of man! Nothing appears to have been left out of the Lord's plan! Nothing undesigned ! Nothing without amazing foresight, and amazing reach of wisdom! Yet had beings like us stood by at any of these periods, what could they have comprehended of the wonders of Jehovah's works that were transpiring before their eyes ? Very likely they would have said that chance or chaos reigns, and that such works are altogether incompatible with the wisdom and dignity of any Being whom they could acknowl. edge as God. Is it impossible that even the witnessing angels had such a trial of their faith? And then the slow process ! and the delay even after the design begins to be manifest! There is doubtless wisdom in these slow processes ; and yet wisdom that is not, to finite minds, immediately apparent. But beings like us must consider, that with the Lord there is no proper delay, but that with him one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
In mercy to us, and probably to strengthen our faith, the Lord, in some subordinate purposes, permits us to see the beginning, the middle, and the end of the plan. At the end we see the wisdom and goodness of the design ; while at the beginning, or at the middle, we see nothing but darkness. Thus it was dark when Joseph was thrown into the pit; when he was sold into Egypt; when by a false accusation he was cast into prison. The lingering days of that imprisonment were dark; but they lasted not one moment too long. Had one of the links in the chain of Providence been omitted, Joseph might never have been ruler in Egypt, nor his father and his father's house been kept alive from famine. Joseph's faith must have been sorely tried, as he could not foresee the end of the Lord, nor the reason of these dealings. Yet that trial and chastening might have been necessary to fit him for his subsequent advancement to power; and without them his exaltation might have been his ruin for time and eternity. God meant it all for good. And see how the subordinate purposes of God entwine together, and interweave themselves with the great purpose of the main scheme. Joseph was blessed, his father's house was saved; but God was also preparing a history by which men may believe his goodness while as yet they are unable to perceive it. The benefits conferred upon Joseph and his family were, perhaps, as nothing, compared with the greater and more enduring benefits to them who read his history. Perhaps, even now, his heart rejoices and is glad ; perhaps he thanks God, and will be forever grateful for those providences which at the time were so distressing, but which have been for ages bringing such a revenue of glory to God. They may be a blessing to mankind forever.
We must work while the day lasts. The night cometh when no man can work. To our purposes delay is often defeat or ruin. It is not so with Jehovah. A day, a thousand years is with him all the same. Thus, the Messiah is promised: he comes pot till nations have risen and fallen, and a hundred generations are in their graves. Not that the Lord is slack or hindered, but that his plans required four thousand years. And when the Messiah comes, the world is not at once wholly redeemed. There is a part for Antichrist to act, and a part for false teachers and false prophets; the blood of martyrs
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