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following Christ at Christ's time.
[Preached at S. Giles' on the Sunday before Easter, March 10, 1842.]
S. John xüi. 36, “WHITHER I GO, THOU CANST NOT FOLLOW ME NOW; BUT THOU SHALT
FOLLOW ME AFTERWARDS."
In withholding from us the knowledge of the future, how evidently is shown the kindness of a merciful God, who knows whereof we are made,' and so in His goodness give us not that, which would only prove our misery, did we possess it.
If we merely regarded our passage through life without any especial reference to religion, or without considering it as the pathway to a future world, it would be dreadful to have pictured before us at the out-set all that we must afterwards undergo. To be clearly conscious of every alternation of weal and woe, to know in every moment of pleasure how soon that pleasure must cease, in days of misfortune to foresee at each downward step the calamity which is about to befal us, to have ever before us the exact hour of our death, so as to be able to count the very minutes and seconds of our existence,—such a knowledge of futurity as this who could bear? whose heart would not sink beneath the burden of all its happiness and all its adversities in one moment by anticipation endured ?
For instance, how would it dash all our joys, and throw a shade over all our affections, did we know beforehand everything that would happen to those whom we love or regard ! To point to that friend, as yet, perhaps, unsullied by vice, unstained by crime, and to be able to foretell each event in the sad story of his life,-how by degrees the Tempter, unresisted, gained power over him, and how at last he completely fell, the very slave of Satan, in the deepest bondage of sin. Or, while health is yet all-apparent in the features of another, to see certainly behind the grim figure of death. Or, to know in the case of another, now loved, that the hour of estrangement is at hand. God deals very mercifully with us, when He withholds from us the knowledge of things to come, and preserves the times and the seasons' in the keeping of Himself, who knoweth all things. And we should feel this to be the case even did we look upon the circumstances of life without any regar to the worship of God, or the claims of religion, or the trial of ourselves. Were we as certain that death is an everlasting sleep, and that the grave closes over us never more to open, as we now are that we shall rise again, and answer for the deeds done in the body, we should yet account it a blessing that a thick veil was spread over the future, that the foresight of coming events was withheld from us.
But we must regard God's dealings with uş far otherwise than thus. Sons of God, Christians,-believers in the love of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son, the power and influences of the Holy Spirit, as all concurring in the work of our salvation,—we, who have confidence that our heavenly Father careth for us,--we, who owe everything to God, every earthly comfort, every sanctifying trial, every spiritual grace, every bright hope of happiness hereafter,—we look upon the ordering of God's Providence over us very differently from the cold regards of the sceptic or infidel. As Christians, then, let us consider the words of our Lord in the text. They will furnish us, by the blessing of God, with useful and comfortable subject of meditation. They will lead us to less carefulness about the future, and more undoubting trust in the love of God. They will enable us to give Him more glory, as we see more clearly, how He fulfils His blessed promise, that all things shall work together for good to those that love Him.
Let us look more carefully into the passage whence the text is taken.
The season, at which the words were spoken, may well affect us. Our Lord uttered them at that last supper to which He sat down with His disciples on the eve of His betrayal and death. The consummation
was at hand, and, before many hours were over, His enemies would have evil-intreated and crucified Him, His disciples would have forsaken Him and fled. He had come to His own, but His own refused to receive Him. And all that bitter Cross and Passion was now, by His foreknowledge, present to His mind. Was this a time when, according to the judgment of man, He would have overflowed with love? Would not the heart of man have been estranged somewhat at the thought, that those, for whom he should die, would forsake him, scorn him, kill him? Such might have been, such no doubt would have been, the bitterness of man's reflections; but God's ways are not as our ways, for o when Jesus knew that the hour was come, that He should depart out of the world unto the Father, having loved His own, He loved them unto the end."
You will observe, then, the time at which Jesus spoke the words in our text, and the overflowing love, which, though He ever loved us, and in Him is no change nor shadow of turning, yet seems then most remarkably conspicuous.