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for he giveth not account of any of his matters.” Solomon says, “Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Christ says to his apostles, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.” The wise man says, “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” Again he says, “Then I beheld all the work of God, that no man can find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet shall he not find it; yea, farther, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it out.” And the apostle exclaims, in the view of the divine incomprehensibility, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” These declarations of scripture are perfectly agreeable to our natural conceptions of our Creator; for it is as impossible for us to know the reasons why he preserves and governs us as he does, as to know why he has made us what we are. No intelligent creatures in the universe can know why God has made them as they are, unless he pleases to inform them; nor can they know why he governs them as he does, unless he pleases to inform them. And he has told us in his word, that “he giveth not account of any of his matters.” And we have good ground to believe that he never will make known the reasons of his conduct in creation and providence, until the great and last day. Then Christ assures us that we shall know what we know not now. God is doubtless as incomprehensible in the dispensations of his providence towards angels, as he is in the dispensations of his providence towards mankind in this world. As God made the world, in a manner, above the comprehension of all his intelligent creatures, so he has a right to govern it and does govern it, in a manner above their comprehension. 2. It appears to be a dictate of reason, that God is incomprehensible in the exercise of his universal providence. Reason and scripture both teach us, that God governs all things systematically. He formed, as a wise agent, the whole plan of his conduct, before he began to create any material or immaterial object. His universal providence, therefore, is only carrying into execution his original comprehensive, consistent, and infinitely wise and benevolent design. Accordingly, the apostle expressly asserts, that “God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” His eternal purpose comprised all created beings, objects and events, and bound them together in one uniform, harmonious, and perfectly connected system; and this system he governs systematically, or just as he originally intended to govern it. There never has been, and never will be, one unconnected creature, object, or event, in any part of the universe, or in any period of duration. All things that ever have existed, or ever will exist, are constituent parts of one and the same great and perfect system. God intuitively and constantly sees the whole of this great and complicated system, and governs every particle and part of it in connection and conformity with the whole. He never suffers one link in this chain to be broken, nor one wheel in this machine to move slower or faster, or in any other direction, than he always intended. He governs all objects from the greatest to the smallest, and all creatures from the highest to the lowest; not as distinct and separate individuals, but as connected and constituent parts of his immense creation. Every dispensation of his universal providence, which is thus systematically administered towards any individual of mankind, may sensibly and deeply affect thousands and millions more. We know that this has been the case in times past. His dispensations towards Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, had a great and extensive influence upon their friends, their nation, and other nations for ages, and ages afterwards; and that influence still continues, and will continue to the end of the world. As God treated those eminent men systematically, so he treats every individual of the human race systematically. He always acts, in the dispensations of his providence, from reasons drawn from the greatest good of the whole intelligent system. Now if God always acts from these reasons, it is certain, to a demonstration, that he might appear incomprehensible in all the dispensations of his providence, to all his intelligent creatures; for they cannot comprehend these reasons without comprehending his whole system, and they cannot comprehend his whole system without possessing the same infinite wisdom that formed it. Though God always has wise and good reasons for all the dispensations of his providence towards kingdoms and nations, and smaller societies and individuals, yet no human wisdom can discover any of his wise and good reasons which he has not been pleased to reveal. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts higher than our thoughts. He has not told us why he converts one man and not another; why he sends the gospel to one nation and not to another; why he sends the sword to one kingdom and not to another; why he sends the pestilence to one city and not to another; why he sends sickness to one family and not to another; why he prolongs one person's life and shortens WOL. III. 24
another's; or why he treats almost every individualso differently at different times and in different respects. In these and ten thousand similar cases, the reasons of his conduct are past finding out, because they are derived from his supreme regard to the highest good of the whole universe, which is an object too large for any created beings to comprehend. It is the plain dictate of reason, that God is necessarily incomprehensible, both in forming his original purpose, and in carrying that purpose into execution in the course of his universal providence. As all the motions in a watch originate from the mainspring, so all the reasons of God's conduct, in preserving and governing the world, originate from his ultimate design in creation, which is too great, too wise, and too good, for any created being to grasp, and therefore must necessarily and for ever remain incomprehensible. I may add, 3. That this appears, not only from scripture and reason, but from fact. The ways of providence have always been found to be unsearchable, by o intelligent creatures. The angels, who are the greatest, the wisest and best of created beings, and who have been looking into, and scrutinizing the ways of providence for several thousand years, are still but beginning to learn what they will never fully comprehend. And if the inhabitants of heaven have never been able to comprehend the mysteries of providence, we may safely conclude that the inhabitants of this lower world have never been able to do it. Mankind have always had strong desires to pry into the designs of God, and especially into his designs in his conduct toward themselves. When he has sorely afflicted them, they have anxiously desired to know the reasons of his treating them with peculiar severity. Job wanted to know why God set him as a mark, and pointed the arrows of his wrath against him; but neither he nor his friends could discover the reasons of the divine conduct towards him. Jacob entirely misconstrued God's designs in the complicated evils he brought upon him. When he said, “all these things are against me,” and will bring down my gray hairs to the grave, God was then seeking to promote his personal happiness, both in time and eternity. David could not discover the reasons why God treated the wicked so much better than the righteous, in this life. And the prophet Jeremiah acknowledged his ignorance upon this subject, and very submissively desired God to explain it. “Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper ? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously 2” The godly have always been unable to explain the reasons of the superior prosperity of the ungodly. The whole world are still in the dark respecting the good and
evil that fall to the lot of the whole human family. The experience of all men in all situations of life plainly teaches them, that they cannot comprehend the ways of providence. There is scarcely a day passes, but every person sees something in respect to himself, or in respect to others, which excites his admiration, and surpasses his comprehension. So that scripture, and reason, and universal experience, concur to prove, that God governs the world incomprehensibly; and that his way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not and cannot be known.
1. If God be incomprehensible in the government of the world, then this is a complete answer to all the objections that have ever been made against his universal providence. It is extremely absurd for any of the creatures of God to complain of his making, preserving and governing them, as he has done. For he has created, preserved and governed them according to the counsel of his own will, or his eternal purpose, which was founded in infinite wisdom and goodness. He has always treated them, in all respects, as well as infinite wisdom and goodness could treat them. And surely there never has been any good ground to object against such treatment as this. But ever since the first apostacy, all mankind have been continually complaining of God, and saying, in their hearts at least, that the ways f the Lord are not equal. They have complained that he ever suffered sin and misery to come into the world; that he has suffered these evils to prevail so much in the world; and that he does more for one than for another, and too little for all. But who, in the whole circle of creation, “hath known the mind of the Lord 2 or who hath been his counsellor 2 " It is as absurd for the highest as for the lowest of his creatures, to call the wisdom or goodness of his providence in question, without knowing the reasons of his conduct, which they cannot possibly know. His absolute incomprehensibility demonstrates that all their objections are founded in profound ignorance. If they knew all the reasons of God's conduct, they might be allowed to examine the ways of his providence; but to presume to examine and censure them, without knowing the infinitely wise and holy reasons upon which they are founded, is criminal folly and presumption. The incomprehensibility of God not only allows but obliges God to act as an absolute sovereign in governing the world. He always sees greater and better reasons for treating every one of mankind in the manner he does, than any which creatures can see for his not treating him so ; and therefore he is under moral obligations to act agreeably to his own perfect wisdom and goodness, rather than to act agreeably to the ignorance or imperfect wisdom and goodness of any of his creatures. It is at first view extremely absurd and criminal for any of mankind to feel or express a single objection or complaint against the perfectly wise, and holy and incomprehensible providence of God. Paul's answer to a particular objection of a particular objector, is sufficient to silence every objection that ever has been or can be made against divine providence. “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God?” 2. If God be incomprehensible in his providence, then it is as difficult for mankind to know why he bestows favors upon them, as why he takes them away. God is continually filling the earth with his goodness, and bestowing ten thousand favors upon the children of men. But he bestows his favors upon different persons for very different reasons, which none of them can comprehend. While he sends prosperity to some, for their temporal, spiritual and eternal benefit, he sends prosperity to others to destroy them. Though God always has wise and good reasons for dispensing the blessings of providence, yet those who have the largest share of these blessings do not know the reasons why God bestows them upon them, and denies them to others. God both gives and takes away systematically, and his reasons for both originate from his supreme regard to the good of the whole of his intelligent creation, and not from any partiality he feels towards one person rather than another. He is no respecter of persons in giving, denying, or taking away favors. He may give in mercy, or take away in mercy; or he may give in judgment, or take away in judgment. And in all these cases, he has equally wise and good reasons for his conduct; but they are reasons derived from a source which the subjects of his favors and frowns cannot comprehend. Solomon considered, understood and declared all this: “That the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked.” Mankind are so fond of receiving good at the hand of God, that they seldom inquire why he bestows good upon them; but they are so reluctant to receive evil at the hand of God, that they are very anxious to know why he visits them with evil. It as much concerns them, however, to inquire why he bestows, as why he takes away favors. For the reasons of God's conduct in both cases may be the same. So Job thought and felt; and said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be