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SERMON XIII.

Psalm xcvii. 2. Clouds and darkness are round about him: right

eousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.

THE moral government of the world by an all-wise and all-powerful Disposer of events is one of those incontrovertible truths, of which no sincere believer in revealed religion can be supposed to entertain a doubt. It is a truth not only discernible in every page

of holy writ, but virtually recognised in every perfection we ascribe to the Almighty, every service we acknowledge to be due to Him, every promise on which we rely for his favour, every threatening which constrains us to stand in awe of his displeasure. None of these can consist with the notion that the Supreme Being wraps himself up in abstracted contemplation of his own nature and attributes, regardless of the concerns and the conduct of his creatures; or with the persuasion that whatever befalls us is the result of blind fatality, or philosophical necessity, affording no scope for wisdom, for foresight, or for moral retribution, in the occurrences of this sublunary world. Such theories are in direct contradiction to the very supposition of infinite knowledge, power, or goodness in Him, “ in whom we live, and move, and have our

being;” and can only be maintained on principles hardly separable from atheism itself. They are worthy only of the libertine or scoffer, who “ careth not for God, neither “ is God in all his thoughts ."

But however consonant this great truth may be with every just principle of reasoning, or however congenial with the best feelings of our nature, it is not always in its results perceptible to human observation. It is a matter of faith, rather than of sight; not presented to us as an object of our immediate apprehension, but deducible from a belief of those attributes of the Deity, his omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence, which are in themselves inscrutable to mortal faculties. Intimately, therefore, as this truth is connected with our daily and hourly concerns, with our best encouragements to welldoing, and the strongest restraints upon our evil propensities, it is nevertheless to the light of Revelation that we are indebted for that certainty and assurance which can render it effectually operative upon our conduct.

a Psalm x. 4.

In the Scriptures the doctrine of a moral governor of the universe, superintending all its concerns, and rendering every thing subservient to His will, is written in characters so legible, “ that he may run who readeth.” It is reiterated in every variety of expression, and with reference to every kind of occur

6 Who is like unto the Lord our « God, who hath his dwelling so high, and “ --He bringeth down to the grave, and he bringeth up.”—“ Fire and hail, snow and

rence.

yet humbleth himself to behold the things " that are upon the earth ?”—“ Whatsoever “ the Lord pleaseth, that doth he in heaven, “ in the earth, in the sea, and in all deep “ places.”—“ He doth according to his will s in the army of heaven, and among the in“ habitants of the earth.”_6 The Lord in“ creaseth the nations, and destroyeth them : “ He enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth “ them again.”—“ God is the Judge: he put“ teth down one, and setteth up another.”— “ The horse is prepared against the day of “ battle: but safety is of the Lord.”—“ He “ delivereth and rescueth.”—“ He maketh

wars to cease, and restraineth the wrath of “ man.”—“ He killeth, and he maketh alive.”

He woundeth, and his hands make whole.”

vapour, wind and storm, fulfil his word.”— “ He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, “ and herb for the service of man.”—The “ Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich.” “ The race is not always to the swift, nor the “ battle to the strong, neither yet bread to “ the wise, nor yet riches to men of under

standing, nor yet favour to men of skill.”. “ Who knoweth not in all these, that the 6 hand of the Lord hath done this b?"

These declarations are abundantly suffcient to remove every doubt from the mind of the sincere believer. Whence is it, then, that difficulties still seem to attach to the doctrine, when we endeavour to apply it to human affairs; and that the manifestations of it are so frequently clouded and obscured, as to be not only indistinct to our perceptions, but occasionally so perplexing as to render it almost hazardous to form a judgment of their purpose and design ? How is it, that in any instance we are at a loss to reconcile passing events with the acknowledged attributes of the Deity, or with that distribution of moral good and evil which cannot but be the object of all the Divine dispensations?

b Ps. cxiii. 56. Ps. cxxxv. 6. Dan. iv. 35. Job xü. 23. Ps. lxxv. 7. Prov. xxi. 31. Dan. vi, 27. Ps. xlvi. 9. Ps. Ixxvi. 10. 1 Sam. ii. 6, 7. Job v. 18. Ps. cxlviii. 8. Eccles. ix, 11. Job xii. 9.

The direct answer to these questions is contained in the words of the text;—“Clouds “ and darkness are round about Him; right“ eousness and judgment are the habitation “ of His throne.” The appeal lies from man's finite and imperfect conceptions to those attributes of the Godhead which are perfect and infinite. Faith propounds this solution ; and reason accepts it in deference to that authority which is supreme. Nevertheless, having thus accepted it with reverence and submission, reason is not precluded from an humble endeavour to explore such indications of Divine wisdom in these proceedings as are not altogether hidden from our view.

It is indeed emphatically said of the Most High, that “ His ways are not as our ways, “ nor His thoughts as our thoughts,” that “ His judgments are unsearchable, and His

ways past finding out;" that His “path is “ in the great waters, and His footsteps are 6 not known." And how should it be otherwise ? Can it be that the wonders of providence, like the wonders of creation, should not surpass human conception? They be

c Isa. lv. 8. Rom. xi. 33. Ps. lxxvii. 19.

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