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Art. I.—The Element of Time in Interpreting the Ways of
God.—“One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and
a thousand years as one day.” THE schemes of the Divine Government are doubtless all formed in infinite wisdom and goodness, and must, therefore, necessarily be holy, just, and good. But, why should creatures like us expect to comprehend them so perfectly as, in all cases, to perceive their goodness or their wisdom? They concern a whole universe. They reach through eternity. To beings of our limited capacity it may be impossible to give so complete a view of many of the vast designs of God, that no darkness or clouds shall surround them. Why should they not often prove baffling to our reason, and full of mystery? Besides this, the Lord intends to exercise and prove our faith.
What is true of the great purposes of the Divine Government, should seem to be also necessarily true of the great lessons embraced in the essential doctrines of Revelation. The
the ruin of mankind by the sin of their first parents ; the union of the two natures--the Godhead and Manhoodin the one person of Christ; the satisfaction of Divine Justice by the sacrifice of Christ, instead of the punishment of the VOL. XLII.-NO. II.
sinner :-doubtless there are mysteries in these which man cannot yet fathom; and questions may be asked which we are, as yet, unable to answer. The counsels of the Lord
in many cases, too deep and too far reaching for our full comprehension. If so, it is at least idle for us to presume to sit in judgment upon them, or to try to alter, or evade, whatever he reveals concerning them. We may greatly err in so doing. We may do immense mischief to our own souls, and to the souls of our fellow-men. We may greatly dishonor God.
Probably, also, many things are dark to us at present, not because of our want of intellectual capacity, but becanse of our brief experience. Time has been wanting to unfold the scheme sufficiently to our comprehension. Wait till the day reveals it; and, if it be best, what we know not now we may know hereafter; and perhaps what is now dark shall then disclose brighter glories than we are as yet able to imagine.
The Apostle Peter calls us to the consideration of this value of time, in forming our judgment of the Divine providences. On the delay of threatened judgments there come scoffers, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” They forget how the old world perished in the deluge. They do not believe that the same heavens and the earth are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. On the other hand, the people of God, looking to the completion of some promised scheme of glory and beneficence, and seeing the wicked long triumphant, and the righteous suffering long affliction, sometimes give way to impatience, and cry, “How long, O Lord, how long ?” But the delay, either of judgment or of promised blessings, is no evidence of slackness on the part of God. Often he delays judgment because he is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. If judgment had always been speedily executed, how many who are now saved would have been lost? Had Saul of Tarsus been cut down wbile breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the church, it would have been just : but what a revenue of praise and glory to God,—what songs of salvation over all the earth and
in heaven would have been lost! And, as to the delay of promised blessings, the harvest comes when it is ripe. In the mean time, there must be the toils of the husbandman, and days of sunshine and of storm. God is not unfaithful. He does not forget. His purpose is not changed, nor defeated, nor delayed. “The vision is for an appointed time: but, at the end, it shall speak and not lie. Though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come; it will not tarry.” The apostle, therefore, calls us to the consideration of this element of time, in forming our judgment of the Divine providences : “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
To us, time is a matter of great account. Ten, twenty years, is a great stage in the career of human life. But the Lord, in the eternity of his being, and the immensity of his plans, counts not time. From infinity it matters not whether you take away ten, or ten times ten thousand millions. A drop of water may bear some proportion to the whole ocean; a grain of sand to the bulk, not only of our earth, but to the aggregate bulk of all worlds and suns in the universe. But millions of ages bear no proportion to eternity. The scheme of man's recovery from sin has already advanced six thousand years, during which we can trace one purpose of Jehovah. Prophecy unfolds long ages yet to come, ages of blessedness and glory, -after the world's redemption, before that part of the scheme limited by time shall be finished. Then the world shall be consumed and vanish away: but the glories of redemption have then but just begun. The short-lived actors in these transitory scenes are to outlive this earth and these heavens. The transitory events of this earth are to exert their influence in another world, ages without end.
All these vast schemes of time and eternity God beholds at once. Amid changes whicla to man appear naught but confusion and chaos, the Lord sees order and plan. Man faints and is discouraged. God looks on unmoved, beholding in every thing parts of his stupendons and perfect scheme. When this shall be completed we may wonder and adore. Indeed, to us, these schemes may never be completed. They may be, in
eternity, only unfolding more and more the wonders of the infinite God, and the amazing reach of his eternal purpose.
Designs which lie wholly within the scope of ten, twenty, or fifty years, are not altogether beyond our comprehension. Yet these are, to the greater purposes of God, only subordinate and comparatively insignificant: for when they seem to us to have spent their force and to have done their work, a hundred or five hundred years after they are seen to have relations, and to bear an importance and significance in the great scheme, which no mortal could have dreamed possible while the events were transpiring. After-ages discover that the history of the world turns as much upon unnoted and apparently trifling events, as upon things which in their day filled the hearts of mankind with expectation or with dread for the destinies of the world; till at length we begin to doubt which shall be in the end most pregnant with mighty results, the overturning of an empire or the fall of a sparrow. As we trace out the works of God our vision enlarges. We learn to connect apparently isolated events with great schemes extending over thousands of years; to trust God, and to judge nothing before the time. Now nothing is insignificant. If the bow is drawn at a venture, Jehovah guides the arrow; and, as yet, Jehovah alone comprehends the design, and the results depending. We begin to see how important it is that the Lord should work all things after the counsel of his own will; that not a mote floating in the sunbeam should stray beyond his control ; and that the very hairs of our head should all be numbered. We begin to see that our lives are too short to judge of schemes which show their significance only after the lapse of ages. The period will arrive, in our eternal existence, when a thousand years will be to us what one day is now. We shall look back and count thousands, myriads, millions of ages; and the period will seem short. Doubtless we shall then be able to comprehend many of the Divine providences which now, to most of mankind, seem dark or painful: and they may appear clearly to be wise and glorious, beyond what man has as yet been able to conceive.
Let us try to illustrate these things more clearly. It is said that some insects of this world have a mere ephemeral exist
ence. They live one day, and expire. Suppose such an existence endowed with human capacities; differing from man in nothing save in the brevity of its life. How impossible it would be for such a creature to comprehend many of the arrangements so familiar to us : e. g. of our seasons. One lives his day in the spring : the earth is beautiful, but where is its food for man? Another passes his day of existence in summer : how poorly does he judge of the unripe fruits and grains! Another passes his day in autumn: and cannot comprehend why mankind are laying up the productions of the earth in store-bouses. Another lives his day in the winter : what a dismal world it is to him? Another spends his day in some terrific storm: what a judgment he forms of the cheerlessness and chaos that reign in this lower world!
A child, among us, soon learns, that, as the sun goes down, and darkness and damp mists rest upon the chilly air, the sun is once more to resume his circuit in the heavens; and that day and night are to run their rounds according to the appointment of a wise and beneficent creator. But if man were, like some insects, ephemeral, these things he could not know. Sunset would be to bim like the end of the world. Or living only in the night, or in winter, or in some terrific storm, he could not understand the divine order and harmony of these things. He would be unable to discern the glorious and beneficent design, by which the Creator makes the night, the winter, and the storm, parts of his orderly and excellent plan. What is the world to such a being? It is night! It is winter! It is storm! He sees no wisdom. He comprehends no goodness. He discerns no consistent and glorious plan in the creation and government of this world. Give to such ephemeral existence all the intellectual capacities of men; let their reasoning powers be developed to the full; only by the brief period of their existence shut them out from nature's book of knowledge; and even the simple and beneficent arrangements of day and night, and of the seasons, would be beyond the limits of their comprehension.
It is true, that if you give them letters, some philosophers may begin to record their observations; and when these records shall have accumulated for as many centuries as have