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On our Present IGNORANCE of the Ways
John xiii. 7. Fesus answered and said unto him, What I do, thou knowest not now; but thou
shalt know hereafter.
HESE words of our Lord'were oc
cafioned by a circumstance in his behaviour which appeared mysterious to his disciples. When about to celebrate his last pafsover, he meant to give them an instructive lesson of condescension and humility. The mode which he chose for
delivering this instruction, was the em-SERM. blematical action of washing their feet. When Simon Peter faw his Master addressing himself to the performance of so menial an office, he exclaims with the greatest surprise, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Our Lord replies, in the words of the text, What I do thou knowejt not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. “My o behaviour in this instance, may seem “ unaccountable to you at present; but
you shall afterwards receive a satis
factory explication of the intent of that “ fymbol which I now employ.”
The expressions of a divine person, on this occasion, can very naturally and properly be applied to various instances, where the conduct of Providence, in the administration of human affairs, remains dark and mysterious to us.
What I do, thou knoweft not now.
We must for a while be kept in ignorance of the defigns of heaven. But this ignorance, though necessary at present, is not always to continue. A time shall come
SER M. when a commentary shall be afforded on
all that is now obscure ; when the veil of mystery shall be removed; and full fatisfaction be given to every rational mind. Thou shalt know hereafter. This is the doctrine which I purpose to illustrate in the following discourse.
I. OUR Saviour's words lead us to obi ferve, that many things in the conduct of Providence are at present mysterious and unintelligible. The truth of this observation will not be called in question. It is indeed very readily admitted by all; and ever since the beginning of the world has been the foundation of many a complaint, and of much scepticism concerning the government of heaven. That human affairs are not left to roll on according to mere chance, and that Providence interposes in them to a certain degree, is made evident by various tokens to every candid mind. But the perplexity and trouble of the thoughtful iniquirer arises from observing that Providence
appears not to pursue any regular or con- SERM. sistent plan. An unaccountable mixture of light and darkness presents itself to us, when we attempt to trace the affairs of the world up to any wise and righteous administration. We see justice and order begun; but on many occasions they seem to be deserted. The ray of light which we had traced for a while, suddenly forfakes us; and, where we had looked for the continuance of order, we meet with confusion and disappointment.--For inftance; when we examine the constitution of the human mind, we discern evident marks of its being framed with a view to favour and reward virtue, Conscience is endowed with signal authority to check vice. It brings home uncasiness and remorse to the bad; and it fooths and supports the righteous with self-approbation and peace.
The ordinary course of human things is made to coincide in some degree with this constiş tution of our nature. The worthy and the good are, in general, honoured and
SER M.esteemed. He that walketh uprightly, is,
for the most part, found to walk surely. The chief misfortunes that befal us in life can be traced to some vices or follies which we have committed; and it almost never happens but the finner's own wickedness is made, sooner or later, to reprove him, and his backsidings to correct him.
All this carries the impress of a just Providence, of a wise and a benevolent administration of the universe. We cannot avoid perceiving that the Almighty hath set his throne for judgment. At the same time, when we pursue our inquiries, the Almighty appears to hold back the face of his throne, and to spread his cloud upon it*. For in looking abroad into the world, how many scenes do we behold, which are far from corresponding with any ideas we could form of the government of Heaven? Many nations of the earth we see lying in a state of barbarity and misery; sunk in such gross
Job xxvi. 9.