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CCCCLXXIV. GOD'S WAYS ABOVE OURS.
Isai. lv. 8, 9. My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are
your ways my ways, saith the Lord: for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
EN are apt to judge of God by themselves, and
to suppose him restricted by such laws as they deem proper for their own observance. The wicked almost reduce him to a level with themselves in a moral view:' and even the godly form very inadequate conceptions of his ways and works. Of this God himself ap. prises us in the words before us; which we shall elucidate by shewing how different his thoughts and ways are from what we should have expected with respect to 1. The objects of his choice
(If we thought to take a person into the nearest relation to ourselves, we should be inclined to prefer one of high rank: if we undertook to instruct a person, we should select one who was intelligent and docile: or if we purposed to confer any favour, we should look out for an object that was worthy of it. But God acts in a very different manner. He takes the poor in preference to the rich ---the ignorant before the wise mand, in many instances, the vile before those whose lives have been more morald—--Not that God disregards morality, where it flows from proper principles, and has respece to his glory: but his grace is his own;e and he will impart it to whomsoever he will, without ac
Ps. l. 21.
b Matt. xi. 5. James ii. 5. Jobn vii. 48. e Matt. xi. 25, 26, 1 Cor. i. 19, 20. d Matt. xxi. 31, 32. and xix. 20-22. contrasted with Luke vii. 37, 47. and i Tim. i. 13. • Matt. xx. 15.
! Rom. ix, 15, 16. VOL. V.
counting himself responsible to any for the distribution of his favours.8
This exactly accords with the experience of the primitive saints, and with the church of God in every age and place
-] II. The extent of his love
[If it were told us that God would shew mercy to our fallen race, what should we have been led to expect at his hands? We should scarcely have raised our thoughts higher than an exemption from punishment. Indeed, this is the limit which unenlightened men universally assign to God's mercy; “ He is merciful, therefore he will not punish.” But who would have ever thought, that he should so love us, as to give his only dear Son to die for us.-~-Who would have conceived, that he should moreover send his holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts as our instructor, sanctifier, and comforter?Who would have imagined that he should give himself to us, with all that he is, and all that he has, as our present and everlasting portion?----Is not all this “ as much above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth:"] III. The methods by which he accomplishes towards us the purposes of his grace
[Supposing us informed that God would take us to heaven, we should be ready to think, that certainly he would deliver us at once from temporal affliction, and more especially from spiritual conflicts. Would it ever enter our minds, that the objects of his eternal love should be left to endure the pressures of want, or the agonies of a cruel death? Could we once imagine, that they should be exposed, year after year, to the assaults of Satan; and be suffered, on many occasions, to wound their consciences, to defile their souls, and to grieve his good Spirit, by the commission of sin? Yet these are the ways in which he deals with them, and it is by these means that he “fulbls in them the good pleasure of his goodness."i Nor is this a mere arbitrary appointment: for, by these means, he discovers to us far more abundantly the riches of his grace, and affords us more ample grounds for praise and thanksgiving. The way is circuitous indeed; but it is the right way to the promised land.'] IMPROVEMENT
& Job xxxiii. 13. Rom. ix. 20.
b See 2 Sam. vii. 18, 19. 1 Cor. i. 26-29. i God does not approve of sin, or tempt to sin: but he makes use of the sins which men commit, to humble them in the dust, and to magnify his own super-abounding mercy. Rom. v. 20, 21. Thus he permitted the fall of Peter, and overruled it for good; Luke xxii. 31, 32. but that permission neither excused, nor extenuated Peter's guilt. The sin was the samc, whether it were pardoned or punished: but the Grace of Christ was eminently displayed in the pardon of it; and backsliders have ever since derived much encouragement from thence (not to deny their Lord, but) to repent, and turn to God.
1. How should we magnify and adore our God for the blessings of his grace!
[Well may every child of God exclaim with wonder, “ Why me, Lord? why hast thou chosen me, and plucked me as a brand out of the burning? Why too didst thou use such methods for my recovery and salvation? What manner of love is this where with thou hast loved me, that thou shouldest give thine only dear Son to redeem me by his blood, and thine eternal Spirit to sanctify me by his grace!” “ Bless the Lord, O my soul; let all that is within me bless his holy name.”]
2. How submissive should we be under the darkest dispensations of his Providence!
[While we are saying, with Jacob, “ All these things are against me," perhaps the very dispensations, of which we so complain, are absolutely necessary to our eternal welfare. Let this thought silence every murmur, and encourage us to say, even in the most afflictive circumstances, “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”)
3. How should we acknowledge God even in the most trivial occurrences!
[There is no occurrence really trivial, or unimportant: for there is such a concatenation of causes and effects fixed in the divine purpose, that the most important events depend on circumstances, which seem to us altogether trifling and contingent." Let the life of Joseph be surveyed, and we shall find that a thousand different things, apparently casual and independent, concurred to accomplish God's promises towards him. Thus it is with respect to us; and it is our privilege to “ acknowledge God in all our ways," and to commit ourselves wholly to his guidance.] 4. What a glorious place will heaven be!
[There the whole of the divine dispensations towards us will be opened to our view. There God's “ ways, which were in the great deep, and his footsteps, which were not known," or perhaps capable of being comprehended by us in this world, will be clearly seen. 0! what wonders of love and
k The deliverance vouchsafed to the Israelites was not a little enhanced by their oppression in Egypt, and their subsequent em. barrassments.
Ps. cyii. 7.
m Job xiii. 15. Luke xix. 3, 4, 9,
shall we then behold! With what rapture shall we then exclaim, o the depths! Let us then wait a few days; and the most painful events of this life shall be a source of everlasting joy.]
Exod. xxxiii. 14. And he said, My presence shall go with thee,
and I will give thee rest.
IT is not in the power of words to express, or of any finite imagination to conceive, the extent and riches of divine grace—The instances in which it was mani. fested to the Israelites of old, inasmuch as they were obvious to the eye of sense, are more calculated to excite our admiration; but the church at this time, and every believer in it, experiences equal tokens of God's kind. ness, if we can but view them with the eye of faith-It was under circumstances, wherein the Israelites had justly incurred God's heavy displeasure, that the promise in the text was made to them: and to us, if we do but use the proper means of attaining an interest in it, is the same promise given, notwithstanding our heinous backslidings, and innumerable provocations
That we may be stirred up to improve it, we shall point out I. The blessings here promis
Though the promise was given immediately to Moses, yet it was not literally fulfilled either to him or to the people of that generation; since both he, and they, died in the wilderness—This circumstance alone would lead us to look for some mystical accomplishment, which it should receive; and while the scripture warrants, it will also fully satisfy, our enquiries on this head—The promise has relation to us, as well as to the Israelites; and teaches us to expect
1. God's presence in our way
(God had refused to proceed any further with the Israelites, on account of their worshipping the golden calf-In answer however to the supplications of Moses, he had condescended to say, that he would “send an angel” in his stead But when Moses would not be satisfied with that, and continued to plead for a complete restoration of his favour to Israel, God, overcome, as it were, by his importunity, promised to go before them still in the pillar and the clouda - More than this they did not need; and less than this could never satisfy one, who had ever experienced the divine guidance and protection -And has not our blessed Lord made the same promise to us? Has he not said, “Lo, I am with you alway even to the end of the world?”—Has he not assigned this as a reason why we should dissipate our fears, and look forward to the eternal world with confidence and joy?—On this promise then let us rely; and let us know, that if we have God for our guide, our protector, and provider, we have all that can be necessary for us in this dreary wilderness-] 2. His glory as our end
(Canaan was a place of rest to the Israelites after the many difficulties that they sustained in their way to it-And heaven will be indeed a glorious rest to us after our weary pilgrimage in this world—Now as the prospect of the land flowing with milk and honey, sweetened all the fatigues and dangers of their journey in the wilderness, so the hope of “ that rest which remaineth for God's children,” encourages us to persevere in our labours to attain it--And this rest is promised us, in spite of all the 'exertions of men or devils to deprive us of it-Our conflicts may be many, and our trials great; but our rest is sure; for God hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee'd_]
These blessings being so necessary, we should anxiously enquire into II. The means of attaining them
Moses is here to be considered in a double view, as a type of Christ, and as an example to us: and, in these two capacities, he teaches us to look for these blessings 1. Through the intercession of Christ
[Christ, like Moses, has immediate access to that divine Being who is wholly inaccessible to us;e and it is owing to his entrance within the tabernacle to appear in the presence of God for us,” that the wrath of the Almighty has not
· Chap. xxxii. 34. with the text. b Matt. xxviii. 20. c Isai. xli, 10. Compare Josh. i. 5. with Heb. xiv. 5, 8. • 1 Tim. vi, 16.