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rant. Our blessed Lord, therefore, whom God, in his wisdom and goodness, hath appointed to be our leader and commander, sees it to be as necessary for us as it was for the children of Israel in the wilderness, to exercise our faith, patience, and submission, in order to humble us and to prove us, that we may be the better prepared to understand, and to profit by, those designs of mercy and loving kindness which he will, at a future and no very distant
pe: riod, fully disclose to our view.
When our Lord uttered the words of the text, he was employed in an act of most astonishing condescension—that of washing his disciples' feet. Peter could not think of permitting his Lord and Master to stoop to so menial, and, as he imagined, so degrading an office. Upon which he addressed him in the words which we have chosen as the subject of our present discourse. It was to teach his disciples a lesson of humility, that our Lord condescended to this menial office; and it is in order to humble and prove his people, that God visits them with his chastening rod. The proper light in which we are taught to consider the present life, as it regards the children of God, the objects of his everlasting and unchangeable love, is that of a state of discipline and preparation for the heavenly happiness. And the words of our text may be regarded as a general proposition, expressive of the manner in which he conducts the dispensations of his providence and grace towards them, that they may be made meet for being partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. The two leading principles adapted to their present circumstances and character, and necessary to be kept alive in their hearts, are humility and faith. They are pardoned sinners, who have passed from death to life, and, from being children of wrath, are become the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus. It becomes them, therefore, to walk humbly with God, who hath translated them from darkness to light, and from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of his dear Son; and at all times to exercise a firm trust and confidence in that gracious and compassionate Saviour on whom he hath laid their help, and who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him. The methods which he employs for this purpose may often be to them mysterious and painful, but they are all intended for the wisest and the best of ends. What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
This declaration of our Saviour evidently implies—1. That there are many things in his conduct towards his people, which they may not be able at present fully to understand ; and, 2. That the time will come when they shall have much elearer views of the reasons of his dispensations towards them : of some of them, perhaps, even in the present life, and certainly of all of them in that which is to come.
These two particulars I shall endeavour briefly to illustrate, and shall then deduce such practical instructions from the subject as it seems to be chiefly intended to convey.
1. We are to consider this declaration of our Lord as implying, that there are many things in his conduct towards his people which they may not be able at present fully to understand.
We might infer thus much from the transcendent dignity of the Saviour himself; from the nature of the work in which he is employed; and from the character and conduct of those in whose behalf he is engaged.
1. From the transcendent dignity of the Saviour himself.
He is the brightness of the Father's glory, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead, and all the treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge. And must not his plans and operations, therefore, infinitely transcend our conceptions? We cannot, by searching, find out his nature; how then shall we attempt to explore his ways or his thoughts, which are as far above our ways and our thoughts as the heavens are higher than the earth ?
2. When we consider the nature of the work in which he is engaged, this too must appear past finding out.
It is a work which occupied the eternal mind from everlasting ages; a work into which the angels desire to look, and from which they learn the manifold wisdom of God. And if these glorious and exalted beings who excel in knowledge, are unable to comprehend the height and depth, the length and breadth, of the love of God in Christ Jesus to our fallen and guilty race, how is it possible for us to comprehend it, or to avoid exclaim
ing with the apostle, O the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !-And,
3. When we further consider the character and conduct of those in whose behalf he is engaged, how incapable are we of knowing in what manner he actuates their minds, and inclines their hearts to the things which belong to their peace, without depriving them of that freedom and liberty of choice which is necessary to constitute them moral agents, and to make them both willing and obedient in the day of his power ?
Pride must be mortified, the spirit of independence subdued, self-will abased, and impatient desires and anxious cares changed into holy resignation and humble trust. Christ must be rendered precious to the soul, and all knowledge esteemed as dross in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. But what means are necessary for this purpose, what mercies and what judgments, he only knows, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, and maketh all things work together for good to them that love him, and are called according to his purpose.
From each of these particulars, therefore; from the transcendent dignity and wisdom of the mighty One on whom God has laid our help; from the nature of the work in which he is employed; and from the character and circumstances of those in whose behalf he is engaged--we might infer, that his ways are unsearchable, and his judgments a great deep. We might not only infer thus much with respect to the deep things of God, (which must remain for ever a secret to the most exalted of his creatures,) but even with respect to those things in which we are most nearly concerned, and which we seem best to understand.
In human affairs, we usually judge of the end or the effect to be produced by the means that are employed in order to accomplish it. But in the divine administration, the end is often concealed in the obscurity of the means that are employed in bringing it to pass. The sacred history abounds with examples of this sort. Who, for instance, that had seen the infant Moses in the ark, or basket of bulrushes, would have supposed that this was he whom God had destined to humble the pride of Pharaoh, and to accomplish a great deliverance for Israel ? Who, that had seen a helpless babe lying in a manger, and destitute of the accommodations common to those of the meanest rank, would have imagined that this was the child born, the Son given, the mighty God, the Father of the everlasting age, the Prince of peace, the Desire of all nations, of whose kingdom there shall be no end? Yet this is He by whom God has accomplished the glorious scheme of our redemption, whom he has exalted at his own right hand, and invested with all power in heaven and earth, angels, principalities and powers, being made subject to him. And how weak and inconsiderable in themselves were the instruments which he chose to lay the foundations of his kingdom, and to propagate the knowledge and blessings of it in the