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ignorance as degrades them below the S E RM. tank of rational beings; or abandoned is. to be the prey of cruel oppression and tyranny. When we look to the state of individuals around us, we hear the lamentations of the unhappy on every hand. We meet with weeping parents, and mourning friends. We behold the young cut off in the flower of their days, and the aged left desolate in the midst of sorrows. The useful and virtuous are fwept away, and the worthless left to flourish. The lives of the best men are often filled with diseouragements and disappointed hopes. Merit languishes in neglected solitude ; and vanity and presumption gain the admiration of the world. From the scourge of calumny, and from the hand of violence, the injured look up to God as the Avenger of their cause ; but often they look up in vain. He is a God that hideth himself, He dwelleth, as to them, in the secret place of darkness; or, if he dwelleth in
SER M. light, it is in light to which no man can IX. , approach. Resignation may seal up their
lips ; but in silence they drop the tear, and mourn while they adore.
Such, it must not be dissembled, are the difficulties which encounter us when we attempt to trace the present ways of God. At the same time, upon reflection, we may be satisfied that causes can be assigned for things appearing in this unfavourable light; and that there is no reason to be surprised at the divine conduct being mysterious at present.
The monarchy of the universe is a great and complicated system. It comprehends numberless generations of men, who are brought forth to act their parts for purposes unknown to us. It includes two worlds at once; the world that now is, and which is only a small portion of existence; and a world that is to come, which endures for eternity. To us, no more than the beginnings of things arę visible. We see only some broken parts
of a great whole. We trace but a few S ER M. links of that chain of being, which,, IX., by secret connections, binds together the present and the future. Such knowledge is afforded us as is sufficient for supplying the exigencies and wants of our present state; but it does no more. Peeping abroad from a dark corner of the universe, we attempt in vain to explore the counsels that govern the world. It is an attempt to found an unfathomable deep with a scanty line; and with a feeble wing to ascend above the stars. In any complicated work, even of human art, it is found necessary to be acquainted with the design of the whole, in order to judge of the fitness of its parts, In a scheme so complex as the administration of the world, where all the parts refer to one another, and where what is seen is often subordinate to what is invisible, how is it possible but our judgments must be often erroneous, and our complaints ill founded? If a peasant or a cottager be incapable of judging of the go
S E R M.vernment of a mighty empire, is it sur-, in prising that we should be at loss concern
ing the conduct of the Almighty towards his creatures? What I do thou knowesi not now.
But, on this argument still more can be faid for our satisfaction. We are to observe, that complete information respecting the ways of God, not only was not to be expected here; but, moreover, that it would have been hurtful, if granted to us in our present state. It would have proved inconsistent with that state; with the actions which we have to perform in it, and the duties we have to fulfil. It would indeed have overthrown the whole design of our being placed in this world. We are placed here under the trial of our virtue. Ignorance of the events that are ordained to befal us, ignorance of the plans and the decrees of heaven, enter necessarily into a state of trial. In order to exercise both our intellectual and moral powers, and to carry them forward to
improvement, we must be left to find S E R M.
IX. our way in the midst of difficulties and doubts, of hardships, and sufferings. We must be taught to act our part with constancy, though the reward of our constancy be distant. We must learn to bear with patience whatever our Creator judges proper to lay upon us, though we see not the reason of the hardships he inflicts. If we were let into the secret of the whole plan of Providence; if the justice of Heaven were, in every step of its procedure, made manifest to our view, man would no longer be the creature he now is, nor would his present state answer any purpose of discipline or trial.
Mystery and darkness, therefore, must of necessity now take place in the course of things. Our present state can be no other than a state of twilight or dawn, where dubious forms shall often present themselves to us, and where we shall find ourselves in a middle condition between complete light and total darkness. Had we enjoyed no evidence of a just Judge