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dead to the attractions of eternal glory; have you no desire to be advanced to the dignity of the song of God? Oh! trifle not with your happiness ; pour out your prayers to God: we also will
you, that your lot may be among his children, and that their inheritanee may be your portion.
Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel,
When the Holy Scriptures represent the Lord to us, or describe any of the more splendid manifestations of himself, we find united together the fire and the cloud, light and darkness. If God descends in majesty upon Sinai, you behold there these two to- . kens of his presence; the fire and the lightnings blaze before the eyes of the terrified people, and the cloud envelopes the mountain : if he displays his presence in the tabernacle, it is by a cloud covering it by day and a fire by night; if David describes to us his interpositions for his people, he exclaims, “ Fire out of his mouth devoured, and brightness
went before him, while darkness was under his feet, and he made darkness his secret place.” (Ps. xviii.) This is a proper representation of the Being of beings, both in his nature and in his conduct. An ancient philosopher with propriety said, “ that nothing was at once so known and so concealed as God!" Do we ask, “ Is there a God ?” here is light; do we endeavour thoroughly to fathom his perfections? here is darkness. That he exists, is a truth that shines with a lustre brighter than that of the sun; but in endeavouring to comprehend his essence, to have a thorough knowledge of his attributes, to understand all the schemes of his providence, to comprehend his designs and aims, we find a profound and venerable darkness which we cannot penetrate. But still, from this darkness a light proceeds which discovers him who makes it his pavilion, and which justifies his providence. It is this admirable union which Isaiah exhibits in the impressive words of my text : “ Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour!"
We need not pause long in showing the connexion of these words with the context. The prophet had been predicting the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, and the re-establishment of the temple-worship by Cyrus, a pagan prince, who disregarded their religion ; who had no interest in their return to their native land ; who, from ambition, led his forces against Babylon, and who unconsciously accomplished the designs of Providence: filled with admiration at the surprising mode in which God fulfilled his purposes and promises, the prophet uses this impressive address to the Lord. In many passages of scripture, God is said “ to hide his face from his people,” when he withholds from them those spiritual consolations and joys of which they had partaken. This is not, however, the import of the phrase in this place; it here denotes the incomprehensibility of Providence, the obscurity of God's ways and dealings with the children of men.
Two important and interesting truths are contained in the verse :
I. That God the Saviour of Israel, is a God that hideth himself.
II. That though he hideth himself, he is always the Saviour of his people. The illustration and improvement of these truths will occupy your attention during the remainder of this discourse.
1. That the Lord is a God that hideth himself; that his dispensations, though wise and merciful, are often mysterious, would be supposed by reason, and is proved by experience.
1. Reason, deducing her proofs from the nature of God, and from the character and situation of man, would conclude that the proceedings of Providence must often be incomprehensible to us.
For who is the God of providence? He whose wisdom is infinite; whose “ thoughts are as much above our thoughts, and his ways above our ways," as the heavens which he inhabits, are above the earth on which we tread; who holds in his hands the chain connecting an eternity past with an eternity to come; whose vast plans have respect, not merely to a few persons of the present age, but to all generations, to all times,and to all worlds! And is this the Being whose purposes and counsels can be fully comprehended by short-sighted mortals, who “ are but of yesterday, and know nothing;" whose philosophy finds insuperable difficulties in every pebble and every gnat, and who perpetually err in the opinions which they form in this their contracted sphere of the designs of little mortals like themselves ? Is it not to be supposed that, as the essence of God is incomprehensible, so his operations would frequently be inscrutable to them? Is it not the height of folly, as well as of profane arrogance, for them to summon the AllWise to their tribunal, to judge him by their limited ideas, and to murmur or condemn him, if they cannot perfectly understand the wisdom or the good. ness of his proceedings ? Are we able certainly to tell the end which God proposes to himself in his mysterious dispensations ? No; frequently what we suppose to be his ultimate design, is only a means which he employs for the attainment of some more important object. Are we able to assign the reasons of his procedure? To judge of the innumerable motives which can decide the Supreme Intelligence, we must evidently ourselves be omniscient. Can we know the effect which will be produced upon ourselves by his proceedings, and is the whole scheme of his government so developed to us that we can tell their effect on the whole system of beings ? And besides the narrow limits of our knowledge, do not our corruption, our passions, our self-love, our attachment to earth, render us incompetent to be impartial judges of the rectitude or benevolence of many of the divine dispensations which relate to us? Ah! sink into thy nothingness, worm of the dust! Respect the darkness with which the Eternal surrounds his throne; and “ when his judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out,” humbly bend and adore.
Let me add, that since we are in a state of probation, in which we must “walk by faith and not by sight," the wisdom of God requires him, in conformity with this condition in which he has placed us, often to
hide himself. If he never were incomprehensible in his proceedings, faith and trust in him would lose all their value. But it is the lustre of faith, and it glorifies God, to believe what we do not see, and thus elevate ourselves above the senses of a feeble
Then we truly believe, when we approve the wisdom, the justice, and the mercy of God, even in those events which contradict our desires, and transcend our understanding; when we rest upon his goodness, and rely upon his aid in those very occurrences in which he seems most directly to oppose our hopes. Besides, the mysterious dispensations of God tend to excite in us submission and reverence, to humble our proud but limited reason, and to teach us how little we are in comparison with Jehovah.
2. We should suppose, then, even before looking around us in the world, that God, the Saviour of Israel, would frequently hide himself; that the proceedings of his providence would often be mysterious: and little observation is necessary to convince us that this is actually the case. How often is “ his way in the sea, and his path in the deep wa6 ters!” How many things occur, which we would suppose his tenderness and infinite love to his people would prevent, which yet are permitted by him.
Why does he suffer wickedness to prosper, and his church to languish? Why does he not heal the desolations of Zion, carry conviction to the hearts of the impenitent, cause the enemies of the cross to flee to it for safety, and gloriously revive his work in all places where his gospel is preached?
Why does he so often visit those children, whom he so tenderly loves, with calamity and distress ;