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struck with the surprise, I say, and with the anguish of this un. expected blow, which yet it was natural to consider as coming from the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the great Sovereign of his church, and Holds the keys of the unseen world and of death*, these words immediately presented themselves to me: And therefore I determined to offer you some plain and serious meditations upon them; and shall accordingly raise three observations from them, which I shall endeavour to illustrate and improve.
I. That there may be some things in the conduct of the blessed Redeemer towards his people, which they may not at present be able fully to understand.
II. That nevertheless the time will come, when they shal have much clearer views of the reasons of his dispensations.
III. That in the expectation of this, it is highly fit the; should acquiesce in what he does, how unknown soever the rea sons may at present be. These several observations I shal briefly speak to, and then,
IV. Apply all this to the present occasion.
1. There may be some things in the conduct of our Blessed Redeemer towards his people now, which they may not at pr. sent be able fully to understand. It is a supposable case, and when we come to consider the thing, it is also evidenty fact.
1. It is in the nature of things a very supposable case; as will appear, when we consider, who the Lord Jesus Chist is, who and what we are and the relation in which he stands to us as our Lord and Sovereign.
Consider who he is; no less a person than the only begoten Son of God, In whom are hid all the treasures of divine wisom and knowledge t: And can it be thought wonderful, thatthe counsels of God are unsearchable? We know, that his natue is so; for IVho can by searching find out God? who can fing out the Almighty to perfection 1? And well may we conclude bis schemes must be so; and therefore say with the apostle laul; Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his way. past finding out! The God of Israel, and the Saviour, is oftertimes a God that hïdeth himself ll. His way is in the sea, and hopath in the deep waters --The angels themselves cannot trace all
* Rev. i. 18. || Isa. xlv. 15.
his footsteps, and how much less can we poor frail mortals, so often perplexed in our own counsels, so often brought as it were to our wrt's end, with difficulties and entanglements, that arise from the management of our own little affairs, in this narrow and contracted circle! Can we expect then to fathom his depths? to comprehend his schemes?', to form a perfect judgment of his royal, his imperial plan? --How little a portion is it, that is known of him*, who is the king of all the world, and Head over all things to the church +? God has subjected to him all things via sible and invisible, nor are we capable of discerning how one wheel touches another in this complex scheme; how the concerns of one province of his kingdom may be interwoven, as it were, with those of another; or what curious wheels may be within other wheels, and give them a motion which we know not of, and which it would be very unfit we should know. It is a Jabyrinth intricate in proportion to the art and design with which it is wrought up. We may in reason then expect it, should be thus. And again,
2. It is also what we see in fact to be so. We know not in numberless instances what our Lord intends: We know not what the event will be. And we do in fact see, that though all things are under the government of Christ, yet many things happen, which we should have imagined his kindness and tenderness to his people would have prevented, as we are sure that his power could do it.
We often see his dearest children afflicted; we see the most holy, humble, watchful, spiritual souls often drooping and dejected; when yet we know, that he could in a moment pour in the oil of gladness to heal their wounds, and cause their faces to shine and their hearts to overflow with a divine joy.
We see generous and public spirited christians, who could delight with a liberal hand to relieve his poor members, themselves poor, themselves perbaps, after many a worthy service reduced to need that assistance from others, which they have once so readily imparted; though we know, that all riches are in the hand of Christ, that all events and all hearts are under his influence.
We see most useful and excellent persons removed and taken off, many of them in the prime of life, soine in the midst of their usefulness, and some in the very beginnings of it; and these, not only persons amiable and exemplary in private life, but of public character, adorned by the hand of Christ himself with much
* Job xxvi, 14.
of his own image, and with that rich furniture, which qualifies them for being, as we should imagine, most proper instruments to bring in souls to himself, and greatly to build up his languish. ing church and interest. We see some of them perhaps cut off before they have made any public appearance at all; and others, when they have just began to speak in the name of the Lord : And with regard to others, He weakens their strength in the midst of the way *; diseases arrest them, and make them prisoners; and threaten, perhaps, in a little while longer to bring them down to the dust with their departed brethren: Yet we know, Jesus is the universal Lord, to whom belong the issues from death t; that he knows all the secret springs of life, and all the secret sources of disease, and could easily by one powerful word remove the causes of the complaint, or direct to means most efficacious for recovery.
We see churches made desolate by the enemy, whom we know he could restrain ; we see them polluted with scandals, which we know he could prevent; we see their numbers dimi. nished, though we know that he could easily Send out his spirit, and renew the face of them I, and cause many to enter for one that he removes : Yea, we see among those whom we must hope to be his little flock, many divisions, many errors, many imprudences and follies, that alienate the hearts of christians one from another, and bring religion into disgrace, though Christ could easily let in beams of light which should guide into truth, beams of love which should sweetly unite and cement multitudes, so that they should sensibly be one in him.--So mysterious is his conduct, and so different the face of his poor church, as well as the state of many of its members, from what we should expect it to have been under the government of such an Head. What he does, we know not now. But then it was observed,
II. That nevertheless the time will come, when we shall have much clearer views of the reasons of his dispensations Thou shalt know hereafter. And to illustrate this I would observe,— that sometimes these reasons open, even while we continue in this world; but we may expect to know it in many other instances, when the present scenes are closed, and we enter on that which is within the veil.
1. Sometimes the reasons of Christ's mysterious dispensa. tions open upon us, even while we are here in this world.
So in this instance that the text refers to, it was but a few minutes, and our Lord laid aside the towel with which he was
girded, and sat down and told them, why He had washed their feet; that it was to teach them to wash one another's feet *; that is, to promote their humility, and their readiness to serve one another in love, even in the most condescending offices they might have an opportunity of performing. And thus in many other instances, though the great end of Christ's dispensations be in regard to the eternal world, yet there are subordinate ends which may be answered here; and when we come to find they are answered, we may learn the design of providence in these means which we did not before understand. As when the disciples saw the honourable manner in which Christ dismissed the poor Canaanitish woman at last t, they saw the reasons why he seemed to neglect her so long; it was, that her faith might be displayed by the trial, that they might see she was a more excellent woman than they could otherwise bave imagined ; and that the mercy might be sweeter to her in proportion to the delay.
And do I not now speak to the experience of some that hear me ? - Cannot many of you reflect with me upon strange dispensations of providence, which have at length produced the happiest effects? It is a known story of a person, who having lost all his wealth, was led to apply himself to philosophy, and in consequence of that, attained such a government of himself, such wisdom, and such reputation, as made him abundantly happier than he ever had been; so as to make him say, “I had been undone, if I had not been undone.” And thus perhaps one and another of us may say, “ The Lord took away my parents when I was young, and I thought I had lost my only friends: But he raised up those for me, who did more and better for me than my parents could have done, and shewed his special love and care in Taking me up when my father and my mother forsook me I.”
Another may say, “In younger life he exercised me with many disappointments, he stripped me of many of my comforts, and withered many of my hopes: But I found It good to bear the yoke in my youthş. And by unthought of turns, it may be, in relative life he has done much better for me, than with my fond passions I should have done for myself.” .
“ He has been pleased," may a third say, “ to take away my dear children, perhaps several of them successively, and those of them that were peculiarly the delight of my eyes: But
he has drawn my heart more powerfully to himself by it, and he is better to me than ten children.”
“He has blasted the work of my hands,” may another say, " I have insensibly lost, perhaps what I painfully got; or I have been stripped of some considerable part of my possessions at once: But my poverty has enriched me; I have learned the vanity of the world more, and have been more fully convinced that it cannot be my happiness.”
“My constitution has been much impaired,” may another say, “ I have passed solitary sabbaths, I have kıown a great deal of pain and languishing: But it has taught me to submit to my father's will; it has directed my eyes to that world, where The inhabitants shall not say, I am sick *, and where I shall be fixed as a Pillar in the temple of my Godt.”. . " I would not have been without afflictions,” may they all say; “ nor without this and that particular affliction,” may each perhaps reply, “ upon any terms. I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness has afflicted me I: Thou hast Humbled me, thou hast taught me to know what was in my heart ; and I know by my afflictions, more than prosperity might have taught me, of the love that is in thine heart to me.” But then,
2. We may expect to know the reasons of Christ's dispensations in many other instances, when we shall come into the future world. In thy light shall we see light|l: And I doubt not, but in the heavenly state many circumstances will concur to give us a much better acquaintance with the methods of the divine dealings, than it is possible for us to attain upon earth:Our eye will be strengthened ; our prospect will be extended; our company will be improved ;- and our Lord may perhaps give us plainer lessons by immediate discovery from himself.
In heaven, the eye of the soul will be strengthened, and our faculties raised to unutterable degrees. All indolence will be done away, and we shall be awakened into everlasting attention. All prejudices will be quite removed; and we shall be willing to admit truth in all its lustre, and to follow it wherever it may lead us.
Our prospect there will be enlarged, and we shall have much more extensive views of things: For we shall see the conduct of Christ, in its influence upon scenes, that lie at present