William S. Plumer, 1865
PRACTICAL REMARKS ON THE MYSTERIES OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE
Among some of the ancients, the emblem of justice was
an old man, strong but lame, with a sharp sword, proceeding slowly to his
work. "May the Lord bring their flattery to an end and silence their proud
tongues. They say, "We will lie to our hearts' content. Our lips are our
own—who can stop us?" The Lord replies, "I have seen violence done to the
helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to
rescue them, as they have longed for me to do." Psalm 12:3-5. The Lord will
not always chide his people, neither will he always let the wicked go
unpunished. He sees that their day is coming. The wonder is that they do not
see it also.
I. Let not the wicked infer that a change will never come.
II. Let us not judge the Lord at all, but let us judge
this—that we are very ignorant and foolish, and that if we would be wise, we
must listen, and study, and learn our lessons from the infallible Teacher.
If we will not be candid and diligent
students of God's word and providence, we must live and die without wisdom.
Oh that every man knew that he himself is a fool—and that Jehovah alone is
God. We are indeed poor judges of what is best. We cannot see afar off. Not
a single event of Providence is completed. We know but in part. How can we
competently decide upon the whole by the little fragments we possess? An axe
by itself, and the saw by itself, are alike useless to the woodman; but
properly unite them, and the monarch of the forest soon bows his majestic
head before him who wields this little instrument. Man's glory is not the
ultimate end of any of the divine proceedings. All things are made for the
pleasure and the glory of him who has called us into being, and governs us
with his almighty hand.
III. Let us possess our souls in patience.
Were we required to govern the world with our present
darkness of mind, we might well despair. But as our duty is not to rule but
to submit. What we need is a quiet mind to stand and adoringly view the
majesty and government of him who works all things after the counsel of his
own will. Promises do you need? Here they are—
"As your days, so shall your strength be."
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shall you dwell in
the land, and verily you shall be fed."
"Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you
the desires of your heart."
"Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he
shall bring it to pass."
"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
"I will make you my wife forever, showing you
righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful
to you and make you mine."
"I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak comfortably unto her."
"I will be as the dew unto Israel."
"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the
Lean on these promises—and hope to the end.
IV. Let us rejoice in hope of God's glory.
It is coming. It is surely coming. All the combinations
of the wicked cannot hinder it. We shall see it, only let us believe. We may
shout the victor's song, even here. God shall be glorified, and we shall see
him honored. If we are truly his, we shall be honored with him. Come, O
long-expected Deliverer, come to be admired in all your saints. Pious soul,
do you need encouragement to hope? You have it, "Fear not those things,
which you shall suffer." "He who endures to the end—shall be saved."
"Father, I will that they whom you have given me, be with me that they may
behold my glory." O pilgrim of the narrow way! Rejoice, for your redemption
V. Let us never arrogantly claim to understand the
counsels of the Most High God. "As the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways higher than our ways,
and God's thoughts than our thoughts." "The secret things belong to the Lord
our God." Clearly the finite can never comprehend the infinite. Yet,
VI. Let us study and observe the ways of the Almighty.
"Who is wise? He will realize these things.
Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right;
the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them." Hosea 14:9.
Though we cannot grasp the heavens, yet we may look up to them, and see some
of the wonders they reveal, and learn at least our own nothingness. "The
fainter our light is, the more intent we should be in looking; the knottier
the subject, the more earnest should be our study on it." Yet as a jury, in
a criminal cause, may receive impressions in the progress of the trial—but
should feel bound to suspend judgment until the whole facts of the case are
submitted; so nothing can warrant us in pronouncing upon the ways of God
until we either see them finished, or understand their import by a
revelation from himself.
VII. Let us be very careful to guard both against
presumption and despair; against
presumption, in venturing to make our calculations on things not revealed;
against despair, into which we may be led by supposing that we already see
the end from the beginning. The darkest hour is just before day.
VIII. Meditation on God's providence "should prevent our
taking offence, or being discontented at any events rising up before us;
for to be displeased at that, which a superior wisdom, unsearchable to us,
does order—is to be displeased at we know not what, or why—which is childish
weakness. To fret and wail at that which, for all we can see, proceeded from
good intention, and tends to a good outcome, is pitiful frowardness."
IX. Let us embrace that mystery of mysteries—the Cross of
Christ. He that will reject all mysteries
must reject salvation. Let us not cavil—but believe. Wisely did Sir Humphrey
Davy say, "If I would choose what would be most delightful, and I believe
most useful to me—I would prefer a firm Christian belief to every other
blessing." And the great Teacher, who shall also be our final judge, said,
"Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall never
enter therein." Will you humbly believe the Gospel? Will you renounce your
self-will, your self-sufficiency and your self-righteousness? Well does Mr.
Locke say, "Pride of opinion, and arrogance of spirit, are entirely opposed
to the humility of true science." Surely then they are opposed to true
religion, which has for its basis the sublimest of all knowledge. Will you
bow down your haughty spirit and be saved from wrath—by the blood and
righteousness of the humblest, meekest and most mysterious sufferer the
world ever saw? Oh that you would now be wise! You have but one lifetime,
and that will soon be gone. Time flies—Heaven invites—Jesus calls—the Spirit
strives—conscience warns—angels wait for your conversion—devils seek your
ruin—hell threatens—death approaches—eternity is at the door—the judgment is
coming. O humble yourself and believe the Gospel. Believe it Now,
"A point of time, a moment's space,
Removes you to yon heavenly place,
Or shuts you up in hell."
He who rejects the mystery of providence must ever be in
perplexity. But he, who rejects the mystery of the cross—must lie down in