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USE 1. Let us therefore wholly resign the disposal of our lot to Jesus Christ the great Counsellor; Psalm xlvii. 4, " He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved." Let us not carve for ourselves, but leave that to him; believing that to be best for us, which he sees best. First commit your souls to him for eternal salvation, and then put a blank into his hand as to all other concerns. If we are his children, let our Father dispose of us; if his subjects, let our King rule us. "The Father has committed all judgment to the Son," John v. 22. Let not us refuse for our part.
2. Let us wait on him patiently in the way of his dispensation towards ourselves, and towards the church; Isa. xxvi. 8. The church. of God, and the interest of religion, are at a very low pass at this day; we are rowed into deep waters, from which no human skill can row us out again. But Christ is the great Counsellor; let him alone; he will see to his own work, and will awake as a giant refreshed with wine. Are we in depths of affliction, trials, and difficulties? The storm is never so boisterous, nor the passage so hazardous, as the pilot Christ needs to call a council what to do.
3. Let us beware of murmuring and fretting at, and quarrelling his conduct. There may be pieces of it which we cannot account for; but there is nothing in it that is wrong, Deut. xxxii. 4. Though we cannot see how all is well that he does, let us believe that he does all well, Jer. xii. 1. Murmuring is a charging of the great Councillor foolishly, as if he were not wise enough for to manage us; and that we might pretend to direct him. Remember his name, and be silent, and satisfied in all his disposals.
Fourthly, His manner of conduct, and method of management, is deep and uncommon. Solomon tells us, that "counsel in the heart of man is like deep waters," Prov. xx. 5. Christ's name is Counsellor, pointing out his counsels as great deeps; and so they are; Psalm xcii. 5, " O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep." The contrivances of the greatest wits among men, are but thin and shallow, in comparison of the way of the great Counsellor; Psalm lxxvii. 19, "Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known."
1. It is not easily seen into. His way in his conduct of matters is truly mysterious; there is need of wisdom to discern it; Psalm cvii. 43, and carnal wisdom will not do it; 1 Cor. ii. 14, "For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they
are spiritually discerned." Earthly princes have their secrets of government; and therefore no wonder that Christ has his secrets of government, who is the great Counsellor. It is such a deep, and so hard to be seen into, that,
(1.) Carnal, unrenewed men make wretched blunders about it, and quite mistake it. They cannot at all see into the mystery; it is as a parable to them that they cannot understand, Mark iv. 11. They are none of the king's friends, and they cannot penetrate into his counsels, nor find out his designs, in his dispensations; Psalm xcii. 5-7," O Lord, how great are thy works, and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this. When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever." Yea, they quite mistake the matter to their own destruction; Mal. iii. 14, 15, "Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness, are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered." Hos. xiv. 9, “Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein."
(2.) Even the godly themselves are often mightily puzzled and perplexed about it, they know not what to make of it. How was Asaph plunged in the case of the prosperity of the wicked, and adversity of the godly? He was brought to the borders of Atheism by it. And there was no recovering, till he gave over looking with the eye of carnal wisdom, and looked with the eye of faith, Psalm 1xxiii. 12, &c.
2. His manner of conduct, and method of management, is not to be seen through while we are here, by any whatsoever; Rom. xi. 33, "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!" Even those who see into his conduct, cannot see through it. There are many plies of the manifold wisdom of God that they cannot unfold; but will remain hid till the light of glory do discover them. By faith we may see so far as to say, "He does all things well." But when the whole web of providence being cut out, is laid before the saints in the light of the upper house, they will doubtless discern a great deal of beauties therein, which they do not now see. For a swatch of these depths, you may take these. 1. Things let go on to the utmost point of hopelessness, before a
hand is put to, to work the delivery. This is not the manner of men, whose maxim is, to withstand the beginnings, before the disease grows desperate :
Principiis obsta: sero medicina paratur,
But nothing is more ordinary in the conduct of the great counsellor, than to let things go on to the utmost extremity, and then to take the opportunity; Deut. xxxii. 36, "For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants; when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left." The chief thing in the dispensation was about himself; before he was delivered, he was dead, and buried, the stone sealed, the watch set, he lying still so long in the grave; and after that pattern, the greatest deliverances his church or any believer gets, is wrought, as in the case of Joseph.
2. The prince's friends treated like enemies, and his enemies treated like friends. Solomon observes it; Eccl. viii. 14, "There is a vanity which is done upon the earth, that there be just men unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous." This is not the way of men neither, to caress their enemies, and heap favours on them; and to pinch, and lay their hand heavy on their friends. But this is one of the counsellor's depths of management. The ungrateful butler is at court in favour, but Joseph in the dungeon; waters of a full cup wrung out to the ungodly, but godly Asaph plagued every day; Herodias dancing and making merry, but John Baptist's head struck off in a prison.
3. The most unlikely instruments and means chosen, and the most promising laid by. This is not the way of men neither, who choose what bids fairest for the purpose; but it is the way of the counsellor. When the people choose a king, he was one that was the most stately man among them; but not so was the counsellor's choice, 1 Sam. xvi. 7. Cain was rejected, and Abel accepted. Sarah, who had no procreative faculty, is chosen, when wasted and worn with age, to be the mother of the seed promised to Abraham; and not Hagar, who was in the bloom of youth. So Mary espoused to a carpenter, and none of the ladies of Judea, was pitched upon to be the mother of our Lord. He chose his apostles from among fishermen generally, not from among the learned men of the age, Paul only excepted.
4. Things brought about by means in their own nature, and in
the eyes of men, quite contrary to the design. Neither is this the manner of men, but it is his. The blind man is cured with clay laid on his eyes. Joseph is advanced by means of his being sold as a slave, and put into the dungeon. The wheel of providence that seems to drive away from the design, doth often but take an unknown road to it.
USE I. Let us judge nothing before the time, nor be hasty in our conclusions on the conduct of providence. It will but proclaim our rashness and folly, and we will be forced at length to retract our censures; Psalm cxvi. 11, 12, "I said in my haste, All men are liars." His method of management is often what we cannot rightly judge of till we see the end; Jam. v. 11, “ Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."
2. Let us beware of penning up the great counsellor to our known roads. Hence God's people often torment themselves in vain, thinking that, because they cannot see him in all the roads within their view, he is not coming to them at all. In the meantime, he may be making speed towards them, though in a darkened road, where they look not for him, as in the conduct of Jesus towards the disciples; Matth. xiv. 25-27, " And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went unto them walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid." There are many methods of deliverance known to the counsellor, that fall not within the compass of our narrow view; and when we are set on them, we know not whither they do lead; Isa. xlii. 16, "And I will bring the blind by a way that they know not, I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."
3. See here the necessity of acquaintance with the Scriptures, and of faith; 2 Pet. i. 19, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts." There the mysteries of the kingdom are unfolded, and by faith the beauty of them is perceived. Those who are strangers to the book of the word, cannot miss to blunder in the book of providence to their own soul's hurt; and unbelief of the word makes beautiful pieces of providence look very odd; for it fixes men's eyes, as if one should stare on the wrong side of arras
hangings, having no power to turn up the right side of them; Psalm lxxiii. 16, 17, "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me. Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end."
Fifthly. He does nothing without a becoming reason. There is not one random stroke in the whole of the conduct of providence; Eph. i. 11, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." The red and black horses came out between the mountains of brass, as well as the rest, Zech. vi. 1, 2, and every event is written in the sealed book, Rev. v. There is a reason for every dispensation, and it is a reason that is good and valid. This appears, if ye consider that,
1. His infinite wisdom sees all things at once perfectly; Psalm cxlvii. 5. "His understanding is infinite." The fitness of a means for compassing an end, cannot be hid to him, as it is often unto men; and he cannot be liable to mistake in that matter, though men, through their weaknes, as often pitch on means unfit as fit, Ezek. i. 18, and x. 12. Therefore he does all fitly and reasonably, since he is withal infinitely good.
2. Even those things which sometimes cannot be discerned to have a fitness in them for any good purpose, do in end appear beautiful; those that appear confused at first, when done out appear orderly, so that in end his people are made to say, He has done all things well. So was the dispensation anent Joseph; Gen. 1. 20, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." All of them, whatever compasses they make, do by virtue of the promise concenter in God's glory and his people's good, Rom. viii. 28, and ix. 22, 23.
Thus are the mysterious steps of providence before named all managed, and may be accounted for.
1. Things are let go on to the utmost point of hopelessness, that the power of God may appear the more in bringing about the delivery, and that it may be the more signal mercy to his people, and fill them the more with joy and wonder, John xi. 14, 15. The Lord left his people in Babylon, till they were like dry bones lying about the graves; why? see Ezek. xxxvii. 13, "And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves." Psalm cxxvi. 1. 4, "When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south." Deliverance is sweet at any time; but the more hopeless, the more sweet and surprising is it when it comes.