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completion; and that, so far is a previous knowledge of it from being necessary, that it would, in many instances, prove hurtful, and often prevent the accomplishment. "It is not for us to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put into his own power.
In the course of a few years, only, how have all our conjectures been disappointed! More than once we imagined that we had seized the clew, and the skein of Providence seemed likely to be unravelled-but suddenly we found it more entangled than before. And would any one now undertake to determine, what will be the state of the nations of the earth a few months hence?
Sometimes a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, has overspread the heavens; and from apparently inadequate causes, events have arisen the most astonishing: while, on the other hand, the best concerted plans, and the most powerful resources have failed. Some are offended at the word chance; but the scripture employs it, and it is as proper a term as we can use. If, indeed, we apply it to God, it is profane-for "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning. His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure." But what is counsel to him, is chance to us: we know nothing before it arrives. The consequences of things would be known, if these things themselves moved on in one even, gular course, and always terminated in the same manner; but when we see them often turning up contrary to their natural tendency-when we see that" The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favour to men of skill"-our anticipations must be always liable
to uncertainty: Time and chance happeneth to them all.
What says your own history? He has led you, but it has been by a way which you knew notand perhaps you hardly know it now. How wonderful have been the removals of your habitation, and the connexions which you have formed! How strange and unlooked for have been both your friends and your enemies! Some have acquired wealth, and others filled offices, towards which they could not have formerly aspired. Had these changes, a few years before, been foretold, they would have appeared incredible, and we would have said, "If the Lord should make windows in heaven, might this thing be."
So little have we been capable of judging aright, that we have in a thousand instances mistaken our real welfare: we have desired enjoyments, which would have been a snare; and have been afraid of trials, which have proved to be some of our chief mercies. When he was approaching, to empty us from vessel to vessel-to keep us from settling upon our lees; when he came to prune away our suckers-that we might bring forth more fruit, we mistook the friend for an enemy; and said, All these things are against me, when they were all working together for our good.
Nor have you any information that can enable you to see how things will go with you for a single year.
You know not how it will go with your health this year-what seeds of disorder may spring up in your frame-what accidents may befall your
You know not how it will go with your circumstances this year-what losses or successes you
may experience-what new scenes of enjoyment may be opened, or what old ones may be dried up. You know not how it will go with your relations this year-whether you will be indulged with their continuance, or stripped of their company.-Perhaps the eye of Providence now sees the hearse standing before your door; and you trying to go in to take a last view of your happiness, before it be committed to the house appointed for all living. The Lord preserves this family-but in what different circumstances may the members of it assemble together on the return of this day! The wife may be seen in widowed weeds! The children may appear fatherless orphans! The sister may say, Alas! my brother!
Let us, II., show what use we should make of this ignorance.
Let us learn from it our littleness; let us confess that we are nothing, and that God is all in all. Vain man would be wise, and there is nothing of which he is so proud as his knowledgebut there is nothing that should make him more humble. For what can he know? Who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?" Can he distinguish between appearances, and reality? Can he see the combination, the dependencies, and the effects of things? Does he boast himself of to-morrow? when he "knoweth not what a day may bring forth.-The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. "Are we then qualified to be our own guides, or to manage our own affairs? Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In
all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. He shall choose our inheritance for us. Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother; my soul is even as a weaned child.” with
Since we cannot see how things will go us, we should beware of presumption. "Go to, now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain; whereas, ye know not what shall be on the morrow." The apostle here gives us the scheme of an unsanctified tradesman. He resolves to go, without delay, to some place where he can carry on business to advantage. His aim is not fraud, but fair gain in the lawful way of buying and selling. And where is the harm of all this? Is not diligence laudable? And are we not commanded to provide for our own houses? Wherein, then, does this man appear blameable? Perhaps he was actuated by avarice, and was seeking, not a subsistence, but a splendid independence. Perhaps he was influenced by imprudence, and was not aware of the bad effects of roving abroad, or of changing our scene of action: "For as a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place;" and "A rolling stone gathers no moss. This may be true, and often is truebut what this man is here condemned for, is this— God is not in all his thoughts. These words, I will, are too big for him. Regardless of God, he engages to live a year, and all the year to be successful. He seems to exclude the possibility of
sickness or accidents: of unfaithful servants, or insolvent debtors: of dear purchases, and cheap sales: as if he foresaw and secured all the events of the year himself:-while he was not sure that he should be able even to begin his journey, and knew not what should be even on the morrow. Well does the apostle call this rejoicing boasting, and say, that all such rejoicing is evil.
Things may be within the reach of our knowledge, and not of our power-but how can that be within the reach of our power, that does not fall under our knowledge? How can we ward off dangers, of which we are not apprized? How can we arrange and regulate occurrences of which we can have no foresight? Now, this is our case. We know only the present: and what superstructure can we build on such a narrow foundation? How often, even while forming a plan, has the lapse of a few days so varied circumstances, that we have been compelled to new-model it, or to abandon it altogether! "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And, again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools."
We dare not infer the future from the present. David erred here. After he had been delivered from Saul, and other enemies, he tells us that he had too much confidence. "In my prosperity, I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour, thou hast made my mountain to stand strong" but hear what he adds: "Thou didst