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SERMON IX..

On our Present IGNORANCE of the Ways

of God.

John xiii. 7.
Jesus answered and said unto him, What I

do, thou knowest not now; but thou shalt
know hereafter.

SERM. THESE words of our Lord were ocIX. I casioned by a circumstance in his

behaviour which appeared mysterious to his disciples. When about to celebrate his last passover, he meant to give them an instructive lesson of condescension and humility. The mode which he chose for

: delivering

IX.

delivering this instruction, was the em-SERM. blematical action of washing their feet. When Simon Peter saw his Master addressing himself to the performance of so menial an office, he exclaims with the greatest surprise, Lord, doft thou wash my feet? Our Lord replies, in the words of the text, What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. My “ 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 knowejt 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 Thall come M2

when

IX. wa

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 obis 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

IX.

appears not to pursue any regular or con- SE R M. sistent plan. An unaccountable mixture

urem 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 uneasiness and remorse to the bad; and it sooths and supports the righteous with self-approbation and peace. The ordinary course of human things is made to coincide in some degree with this constig tution of our nature. The worthy and the good are, in general, honoured and

esteemed

IX.

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 pnner's own wick-
edness is made, sooner or later, to reprove
him, and his backslidings to correct him.
· All this carries the impress of a just
Providence, of a wise and a benevolent
administration of the universe. We can-
not avoid perceiving that the Almighty
hath set his throne for judgment. At
the same time, when we pursue our in-
quiries, 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 correfpon-
ding 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

ignorance

. *Job xxvi. 9.

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