By Horace Bushnell
LIGHT ON THE CLOUD.
THE argument is, let man be silent when God is dealing with him; for he can not fathom God's inscrutable wisdom. Behold, God is great, and we know him not. God thundereth marvelously with his voice: great things doeth he which we can not comprehend. Dost thou know the wondrous works of him that is perfect in knowledge? Teach us what we shall say unto him; for we can not order our speech by reason of darkness. If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.
Then follows the text, representing man's life under the figure of a cloudy day. The sun is in the heavens, and there is always a bright light on the other side of the clouds; but only a dull, pale beam pierces through. Still, as the wind comes at length to the natural day of clouds, clearing them all away, and pouring in, from the whole firmament, a glorious and joyful light, so will a grand clearing come to the cloudy and dark day of life, and a full effulgence of light, from the throne of God, will irradiate all the objects of knowledge and experience.
Our reading of the text, you will observe, substitutes for cleansing, clearing away, which is more intelligible. Perhaps, also, it is better to read "on the clouds," and not "in." Still, the meaning is virtually the same. The words, thus explained, offer three points which invite our attention.
I. We live under a cloud, and see God's way only dim light.
II. God shines, at all times, with a bright light, above the cloud, and on the other side of it.
III. This cloud of obscuration is finally to be cleared away.
I. We live under a cloud, and see God's way only by a dim light.
As beings of intelligence, we find ourselves hedged in by mystery on every side. All our seeming knowledge is skirted, close at hand, by dark confines of ignorance. However drunk with conceit we may be, however ready to judge every thing, we still comprehend almost nothing.
What then does it mean? Is God jealous of intelligence in us? Has he purposely drawn a cloud over his ways, to baffle the search of our understanding? Exactly contrary to this; he is a being who dwelleth in light, and calls as to walk in the light with him. He has set his works about us, to be a revelation to us always of his power and glory. His word he gives us, to be the expression of his will and character, and bring us into acquaintance with himself. His Spirit he gives us, to be a teacher and illuminator within. By all his providential works, he is training intelligence in us and making us capable of knowledge.
No view of the subject, therefore, can be true that accuses him. The true account appears to be that the cloud, under which we are shut down, is not heavier than it must be. How can a being infinite be understood, or comprehended, by a being finite? And, when this being infinite has plans that include infinite quantities, times and relations, in which every present event is the last link of a train of causes reaching downward from a past eternity, and is to be connected also with every future event of a future eternity, how can a mortal, placed between these two eternities, without knowing either, understand the present fact, whatever it be, whose reasons are in both?
Besides, we have only just begun to be; and a begun existence is, by the supposition, one that has just begun to know, and has every thing to learn. How then can we expect, in a few short years, to master the knowledge of God and his universal kingdom? What can he be to such but a mystery? If we could think him out, without any experience, as we do the truths of arithmetic and geometry, we might get on faster and more easily. But God is not a mere thought of our own brain, as these truths are, but a being in the world of substance, fact and event, and all such knowledge has to be gotten slowly, through the rub of experience. We open, after a few days, our infantile eyes and begin to look about, perceive, handle, suffer, act and be acted on, and, proceeding in this manner, we gather in, by degrees, our data and material of knowledge; and so, by trial, comparison, distinction, the study of effects and wants, of rights and wrongs, of uses and abuses, we frame judgments of things, and begin to pass our verdict on the matters we know. But how long will it take us to penetrate, in this manner, the real significance of God's dealings with us and. the world, and pass a really illuminated judgment on them? And yet, if we but love the right, as the first father did before his sin, God will be revealed in us internally, as the object of our love and trust, even from the first hour. He will not appear to be distant, or difficult. We shall know him as a friendly presence in our heart's love, and we shall have such a blessed confidence in him that if, in the outer world of fact and event, clouds and darkness appear to be round about him, we shall have the certainty within that justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne. Meanwhile, he will be teaching us graciously, and drawing us insensibly, through our holy sympathies, into the sense of his ways, and widening, as fast as possible, the circle of our human limitation, that we may expatiate in discoveries more free. And thus it comes to pass that, as the eyelids of the infant are shut down, at first, over his unpracticed eyes, which are finally strengthened for the open day, by the little, faint light that shines through them, so our finite, childish mind, saved from being dazzled, or struck blind, by God's powerful effulgence, and quickened by the gentle light that streams through his cloud, is prepared to gaze on the fullness of his glory, and receive his piercing brightness undimmed.
But there is another fact less welcome that must not be forgot, when we speak of the darkness that obscures our knowledge of God. There is not only a necessary, but a guilty limitation upon us. And therefore we are not only obliged to learn, but, as being under sin, are also in a temper that forbids learning, having our mind disordered and clouded by evil. Hence, come our perplexities; for, as the sun can not show distinctly what it is in the bottom of a muddy pool, so God can never be distinctly revealed in the depths of a foul and earthly mind. To understand a philosopher requires, they tell us, a philosopher; to understand patriotism, requires a patriot; to understand purity, one that is pure; so, to understand God, requires a godlike spirit. Having this, God will as certainly be revealed in the soul, as light through a transparent window. He that loveth knoweth God, for God is love. What darkness then must be upon a mind that is not congenially tempered, a mind unlike to God, opposite to God, selfish, lustful, remorseful, and malignant! Even as an apostle says--Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.
The very activity of reason, which ought to beget knowledge, begets only darkness now, artificial darkness. We begin a quarrel with limitation itself, and so with God. le is not only hid behind thick walls of mystery, but he is dreaded as a power unfriendly, suspected, doubted, repugnantly conceived. Whatever can not be comprehended, and how very little can be, is construed as one construes an enemy, or as an ill-natured child construes the authority of a faithful father. An evil judgement taken up yesterday prepares another to-day, and this another tomorrow, and so a vast complicated web of false judgments, in' the name of reason, ia spread over all the subjects of knowledge. We fall into a state thus of general confusion, in which even the distinctions of knowledge are lost. Presenting our little mirror to the clear light of God, we might have received true images of things, and gotten by degrees a glorious wealth of knowledge, but we break the mirror, in the perversity of our sin, and offer only the shivered fragments to the light; when, of course, we see distinctly nothing. Then, probably enough, we begin to sympathize with ourselves and justify the ignorance we are in, wondering, if there be a God, that he should be so dark to us, or that he should fall behind these walls of silence, and suffer himself to be only doubtfully guessed, through fogs of ignorance and obscurity. Reminded than he is and must be a mystery, we take it as a great hardship, or, it may be, an absurdity, that we are required to believe what we can not comprehend. We are perplexed by the mode of his existence and action--how can he fill all things, and yet have no dimensions? How is it that he knows all things, before the things known exist? Foreknowing what we will do, how can we be blamed for what we were thus certain beforehand to do? How is it that he creates, governs, redeems, and yet never forms a new purpose, or originates a new act, which is not from eternity? How is he infinitely happy, when a great many things ought to be, and are declared to be, repugnant or abhorrent to his feeling? How does he produce worlds out of nothing, or out of himself, when nothing else exists? How did he invent forms and colors, never having seen them?
Entering the field of supposed revelation, the difficulties are increased in number, and the mysteries are piled higher than before. God is here declared to be incarnate, in the person of Jesus Christ, and the whole history of this wonderful person is made up of things logically incompatible. He is the eternal son of God, and the son of Mary; he is Lord of all, and is born in a manger; stills the sea by his word, and traveling on foot is weary; asks, who convinceth me of sin? and prays like one wading through all the deepest evils of sin; dies like a man and rises like a god, bursting the bars of death by his power. Even God himself is no more simply God, but a threefold mystery that mocks all understanding,--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Is it revelation, then, that only burdens faith with mysteries more nearly impossible? Exactly so; nothing is more clear to any really thoughtful person than that, until some high point is passed, God ought to be enveloped in greater mystery, and will be, the closer he is brought to the mind. Knowing nothing of him, he is no mystery at all; knowing a little, he is mystery begun; knowing more, he is a great and manifold deep, not to be fathomed. We are, and ought to be, overwhelmed by his magnitudes, till we are able to mount higher summits of intelligence than now. Or, if it be answered that, in some of these things, we have contradictions, and not mere difficulties, it is enough to reply that the highest truths are wont to be expressed in forms of thought and language that, as forms, are repugnant. Nor is it any fault of these mere instrumental contradictions that we can not reconcile them, if only they roll upon us senses of God's deep majesty and love, otherwise impossible. Our amazement itself is but the vehicle of his truth.
Turning next to the creative works of God, we find the cloud also upon these. The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth, by understanding hath he established the heavens, there is no searching of his understanding; why he created the worlds when he did, and not before; what he could have been doing, or what enjoyment having, previous to their creation; and, if all things are governed by inherent laws, what more, as the universal governor, he can find any place to do since:--these are questions, again, before which speculative reason reels in amazement. If the baffled inquirer then drops out the search after God. as many do, and says,--I will go down to nature, and it shall, at least, be my comfort that nature is intelligible, and even a subject of definite science, he shortly discovers that science only changes the place of mystery and leaves it unresolved. Hearing, with a kind of scientific pity, Job's question about the thunder,--who can understand the noise of his tabernacle? he at first thinks it something of consequence to say that thunder is the noise of electricity, and not of God's tabernacle at all. But he shortly finds himself asking, who can understand electricity? and then, at last, he is with Job again. So, when he hears Job ask, Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven,-he recollects the great Newtonian discovery of gravity, and how, by aid of that principle, even the weights of the stars have been exactly measured, and their times predicted, and imagines that, now the secrets of astronomy are out, the ordinances of heaven are understood. But here, again, it finally occurs to him to ask, what is gravity? and forth with he is lost in a depth of mystery as profound as that of Job himself. And so, asking what is matter,--what is life, animal and vegetable,--what is heat, light, attraction, affinity,--he discovers that, as yet, we really comprehend nothing, and that nature is a realm as truly mysterious even as God. Not a living thing grows out of the earth, or walks upon it, or flies above it; not an inanimate object exists, in heaven, earth, or sea, which is not filled and circled about with mystery as truly as in the days of Adam or Job, and which is not really as much above the under standing of science, as the deepest things of God's eternity or of his secret life.
But there is, at least, one subject that he must understand and know even to its center; viz., himself. Is he not a self-conscious being, and how can there be a cloud over that which is comprehended even by consciousness itself? Precisely contrary to this, there are more mysteries and dark questions grouped in his own person, than he has ever met in the whole universe beside. He can not even trace, with any exactness, the process by which he has been trained to be what he is, or the subtle forces by which his character has been shaped. Only the smallest fraction of his past history can he distinctly remember, all the rest is gone. Even the sins for which he must answer before God are gone out of his reach, and can no more be reckoned up in order, till the forgotten past gives up its dead things, to be again remembered. As little can he discover the manner of his own spirit, how he remembers, perceives objects, compares them, and, above all, how he wills and what it is that drives him to a sentence against himself when he wills the wrong. He knows too that, in wrong, he is after self-advantage; and every wrong, he also knew at the time, must be to his disadvantage; why then did he do it? He an not tell. The sin of his sin will be, when he is judged before God, that he can not tell. Even the familiar fact of his connection with a body is altogether inexplicable; and why any act of his will should produce a motion of his body, he can no more discover than why it should produce a motion among the stars. The beating of his heart and the heaving of his lungs are equally mysterious In his whole nature and experience, he is, in fact, a deep and inscrutable mystery to himself. God breathes unseen in his heart, and yet he wonders that God is so far off. Death comes in stealthily, and distills the fatal poison that will end his life, unseen and unsuspected. He goes down to his grave, not knowing, by any judgment of his own, apart from God's promise, (which he does not believe,) that he shall live again. What shall be the manner of his resurrection and with what body he shall come, he can as little comprehend, as he can the mystery of the incarnation.
Finding, therefore, God, nature, himself, overhung with this same cloud, it is not wonderful that he suffers bitter afflictions and galls himself against every corner of God's purposes. Why is society a weight so oppressive on the weak and the poor? If sin is such an evil, as it certainly is, why did the Creator, being Almighty, suffer it? Indeed, there is almost nothing that meets us, between our first breathing and our graves, that does not, to an evil mind, connect, in one way or another, some perplexity, some accusing or questioning thought, some inference that m painful, or perhaps atheistical. Can it be? Why should it be? How can a good God let it be? If he means to have it otherwise, is he not defeated? if defeated, is he God? If he has no plan, how can I trust him? if his plan will suffer such things, how then can I trust him?--these are the questions that are continually crowding upon us. The cloud is all the while over us. He hath made darkness his pavilion and thick clouds of the skies. This man's prosperity is dark; that man's adversity is dark. The persecutions of the good, the afflictions of the righteous, the desolations of conquest, the fall of nations and their liberties, the extinction of churches, the sufferings of innocence, the pains of animals, the removal by death of genius and character just ripened to bless the world--there is no end to our dark questions. There are times, too, when our own personal experience becomes enveloped in darkness. We not only can not guess what it means, or what God will do with us in it, but it wears a look contrary to what appear to be our just expectations. We are grieved. perplexed, confounded. Other men are blessed in things much worse. We ourselves have been successful in things far more questionable, and when our deserts were less. What does it mean that God is covering his way, under these thick clouds of mystery and seeming caprice? In short, we may sum it up, as a general truth, that nothing in the world is really luminous, to a mind unilluminated by religion; and, if we say that the Christian walks in the light, it is not so much that he can always understand God as it is that he has confidence in him, and has him always near.
Thus we live. Practically, much is known about God and his ways, all that we need to know; but, speculatively, or by the mere understanding, almost nothing, save that we can not know. The believing mind dwells in continual light; for, when God is revealed within, curious and perplexing questions are silent. But the mind that judges God, or demands a right to comprehend him before it believes, stumbles, complains, wrangles, and finds no issue to its labor. Still there is light, and we pass on now to show,--
II. That there is abundance of light on the other side of the cloud, and above it.
This we might readily infer, from the fact that so much of light shines through. When the clouds overhead are utterly black, too black to be visible, we understand that it is night, or that the sun is absent; but, when there is a practical and sufficient light for our works, we know that the sun is behind them, and we call it day. So it is when God spreadeth a cloud upon his throne. We could not see even the mystery, if there were no light behind it, just as we could not see the clouds if no light shone through.
The experience of every soul that turns to God is a convincing proof that there is light somewhere, and that which is bright and clear. Was it a man struggling with great afflictions, an injured man crushed by heavy wrongs; was it a man desolated and broken down by domestic sorrows; was it a rich man stripped by sore losses and calamities, was it a proud man blasted by slander; was it an atheist groping after curious knowledge and starving on the chaff of questions unresolved--be it one or another of these, for all alike were tormented in the same perplexities of the darkened understanding, every thing was dark and dry and empty; but when they come to Christ and believe in him, it is their common surprise to find how suddenly every thing becomes luminous. Speculatively, they understand nothing which before was hidden, and yet there is a wondrous glory shining on their path. God is revealed within, and God is light. The flaming circle of eternal day skirts the horizon of the mind. Their dark questions are forgot, or left behind. They are even become insignificant. Their dignity is gone, and the soul, basking in the blessed sunshine of God's love, thinks it nothing, any more, if it could understand all mysteries. In all which it is made plain that, if we are under the cloud, there is yet a bright light above.
It will also be found, as another indication, that things which, at some time, appeared to be dark,--afflictions, losses, trials, wrongs, defeated prayers, and deeds of suffering patience yielding no fruit,--are very apt, afterward, to change color and become visitations of mercy. And so where God was specially dark, he commonly brings out, in the end, some good, or blessing in which the subject discovers that his Heavenly Father only understood his wants better than he did himself. God was dark in his way, only because his goodness was too deep in counsel, for him to follow it to its mark. It is with him as with Joseph, sold into slavery, and so into the rule of a kingdom; or as it was with Job, whose latter end, after he had been stripped of every thing, was more blessed than his beginning; or as with Nehemiah, whose sorrowing and disconsolate look itself brought him the opportunity to restore the desolations over which he sorrowed. Even the salvation of the world is accomplished through treachery, false witness, and a cross. All our experience in life goes to show that the better understanding we have of God's dealings, the more satisfactory they appear. Things which seemed dark or inexplicable, or even impossible for God to suffer without wrong in himself, are really bright with goodness in the end. What then shall we conclude, but that, on the other side of the cloud, there is always a bright and glorious light, however dark it is underneath.
Hence it is that the scriptures make so much of God's character as a light-giving power, and turn the figure about into so many forms. In God, they say, is light and no darkness at all. According to John's vision of the Lord--His countenance was as the sun that shineth in his strength. The image of him given by. another apostle is even more sublime,--Who only hath immortality dwelling in light that no man can approach unto,--language, possibly, in which he had some reference to his own conversion, a when light, above the brightness of the sun, bursting upon him and shining round about him, seared his eye-balls so that afterward there fell off from them, as it had been scales of cinder. God, therefore, he conceives to be light inapproachable, as figured in that experience. And probably enough he would say that, as the astronomers in looking at the sun arm their sight with a smoky or colored medium, so the very clouds we complain of are mercifully Interposed, in part, and rather assist than hinder our vision.
It is little therefore to say, and should never be a fact incredible, that however dark our lot may be, there is light enough on the other side of the cloud, in that pure empyrean where God dwells, to irradiate every darkness of the world; light enough to clear every difficult question, remove every ground of obscurity, conquer every atheistic suspicion, silence every hard judgment; light enough to satisfy, nay to ravish the mind forever. Even the darkest things God has explanations for, and it is only necessary to be let into his views and designs, as when we are made capable of being we certainly shall, to see a transcendent wisdom and beauty in them all. At present, we have no capacity broad enough to comprehend such a revelation. We see through a glass darkly, but we see what we can. When we can see more, there is more to be seen. On the other side of the cloud there is abundance of light. This brings me to say,--
III. That the cloud we arc under will finally break way aid be cleared.
On this point we have many distinct indications. Thus it coincides with the general analogy of God's works, to look for obscurity first, and light afterward. According to the scripture account of the creation, there was, first, a period of complete darkness; then a period of mist and cloud, where the day light is visible, but not the sun; then the sun beams out in a clear open sky, which is called, in a way of external description, the creation of the sun. How many of the animals begin their life at birth with their eyes closed, which are afterward opened to behold the world into which they have come. How many myriads of insects begin their existence underground, emerging afterward from their dark abode, to take wings and glitter in the golden light of day. If we observe the manner too of our own intellectual discoveries, we shall generally see the inquirer groping long and painfully under a cloud, trying and experimenting in a thousand guesses to no purpose, till finally a thought takes him and behold the difficulty is solved! At a single flash, so to speak, the light breaks in, and what before was dark is clear and simple as the day. Darkness first and light afterward, this is the law of science universally. By so many and various analogies, we are led to expect that the cloud, under which we live in things spiritual, will finally be lifted, and the splendor of eternal glory poured around us.
Our desire of knowledge, and the manner in which God manages to inflame that desire, indicate the same thing. This desire he has planted naturally in us, as hunger is natural in our bodies, or the want of light in our eyes. And the eye is not a more certain indication that light is to be given, than our desire to know divine things is that we shall be permitted to know them. And the evidence is yet further increased, in the fact that the good have a stronger desire of this knowledge than mere nature kindles. And if we say, with the scripture, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, doubtless the body of it is to come after. It is the glory of God, indeed, to conceal a thing, but not absolutely, or for the sake of concealment. He does it only till a mind and appetite for the truth is prepared, to make his revelation to. He gives us a dim light and sets us prying at the walls of mystery, that he may create an appetite and relish in us for true knowledge. Then it shall be a joyful and glorious gift--drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, light to the prisoner's cell. And he will pour it in from the whole firmament of his glory. He will open his secret things, open the boundaries of universal order, open his own glorious mind and his eternal purposes.
The scriptures also notify us of a grand assize, or judgment, when the merit of all his doings with us, as of our doings toward: him, will be revised, and it appears to be a demand of natural reason that some grand exposition of the kind should be made, that we may be let into the manner of his government far enough to do it honor. This will require him to take away the cloud, in regard to all that is darkest in our earthly state. Every perplexity must now be cleared, and the whole moral administration of God, as related to the soul, must be sufficiently explained. Sin, the fall, the pains and penalties and disabilities consequent, redemption, grace, the discipline of the righteous, the abandonment of the incorrigibly wicked--all these must now be understood. God has light enough to shed on all these things, and he will not conceal it. He will shine forth in glorious and transcendent brightness, unmasked by cloud, and all created minds, but the incorrigible outcasts and enemies of his government, will respond;--Alleluia, salvation, and glory, and honor, and power be unto the Lord our God; for just and true are his judgments.
Precisely what is to be the manner and measure of out knowledge, in this fuller and more glorious revelation of the future, is not clear to us now, for that is one of the dark things, or mysteries, of our present state. But the language of scripture is remarkable.. It even declares that we shall see God as he is; and the intensity of the expression is augmented, if possible, by the effects attributed to the sight--we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. We shall be so irradiated and penetrated, in other words, by his glory, as to be transformed into a spiritual resemblance; partaking his purity, reflecting his beauty, ennobled by his divinity. It is even declared that our knowledge of him shall be complete. Now we know in part, then shall we know even as also we are known. To say that we shall know God as he knows us, is certainly the strongest declaration possible, and it is probably hyperbolical; for it would seem to be incredible that a finite mind should at once, or even at any time in its eternity, comprehend the infinite, as it is comprehended by the infinite. It is also more agreeable to suppose that there will be an everlasting growth in knowledge, and that the bless ed minds will be forever penetrating new depths of discovery, clearing up wider fields of obscurity, attaining to a higher converse with God and a deeper insight of his works, and that this breaking forth of light and beauty in them by degrees and upon search, will both occupy their powers and feed their joy. Still, that there will be a great and sudden clearing of God's way, as we enter that world, and a real dispersion of all the clouds that darken us here, is doubtless to be expected; for when our sin is completely taken away, (as we know it then will be,) all our guilty blindness will go with it, and that of itself will prepare a glorious unveiling of God and a vision of his beauty as it is.
In what manner we shall become acquainted with God's mind, or the secrets of his interior life, whether through some manifestation by the Eternal Word, like the incarnate appearing of Jesus, or partly in some way more direct, we can not tell. But the divine nature and plan will be open, doubtless, in some way most appropriate, for our everlasting study and our everlasting progress in discovery. The whole system of his moral purposes and providential decrees, his penal distributions and redeeming works, will be accessible to us, and all the creatures and creations of his power offered to our acquaintance and free inspection. Our present difficulties and hard questions will soon be solved and passed by. Even the world itself, so difficult to penetrate, so clouded with mystery, will become a transparency to us, through which God's light will pour as the sun through the open sky. John knew no better way of describing the perfectly luminous state of the blessed minds than to say,--and there shall be no night there, and they have no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light. They dwell thus in the eternal daylight of love and reason; for they are so let into the mind of God, and the glorious mysteries of his nature, that every thing is lighted up as they come to it even as the earth and its objects by the sun--The Lord God giveth them light.
In closing the review of such a subject as this, let us first of all receive a lesson of modesty, and particularly such as are most wont to complain of God, and boldest in their judgments against him. Which way soever we turn, in our search after knowledge, we run against mystery at the second or third step. And a great part of our misery, a still greater of our unbelief, and all the lunatic rage of our skepticism, arises in the fact that we either do not, or will not see it to be so. Ignorance trying to comprehend what is inscrutable, and out of patience, that it can not make the high things of God come down to its own petty measures, is the definition of all atheism. There is no true comfort in life, no dignity in reason, apart from modesty. We wrangle with providence and call it reason, we rush upon God's mysteries, and tear ourselves against the appointments of his throne, and then, because we bleed, complain that he cruelly mocks our understanding. All our disputings and hard speeches are the frothing of our ignorance, maddened by our pride. O, if we could see our own limitations, and how little it is possible for us to know of matters infinite, how much less, clouded by the necessary blindness of a mind disordered by evil, we should then be in a way to learn, and the lessons God will teach would put us in a way to know what now is hidden from us. Knowledge puffeth up, charity buildeth up. One makes a balloon of us, the other a temple. And as one, lighter than the wind, is driven loose in its aerial voyage, to be frozen in the airy heights of speculation, or drifted into the sea to be drowned in the waters of ignorance, which it risked without ability to swim, so the other, grounded on a rock, rises into solid majesty, proportionate, enduring, and strong. After all his labored disputings and lofty reasons with his friends, Job turns himself to God and says--I know that thou canst do every thing, and that nothing can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge. Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, that I knew not. There is the true point of modesty--he has found it at last! Whoever finds it has made a great attainment.
How clear is it also, in this subject, that there is no place for complaint or repining under the sorrows and trials of life. There is nothing in what has befallen, or befalls you, my friends, which justifies impatience or peevishness. God is inscrutable, but not wrong. Remember, if the cloud is over you, that there is a bright light always on the other side; also, that the time is coming, either in his world or the next, when that cloud will be swept away and the fullness of God's light and wisdom poured around you. Every thing which has befallen you, whatever sorrow your heart bleeds with, whatever pain you suffer, even though it be the pains of a passion like that which Jesus endured at the hands of his enemies--nothing is wanting, but to see the light that actually exists, waiting to be revealed, and you will be satisfied. If your life is dark, then walk by faith, and God is pledged to keep you as safe as if you could understand every thing. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
These things, however, I can say, with no propriety, to many. No such comforts, or hopes belong to you that are living without God. You have nothing to expect from the revelations of the future. The cloud that you complain of will indeed be cleared away, and you will see that, in all your afflictions, severities, and losses, God was dealing with you righteously and kindly. You will be satisfied with God and with all that he has done for you, but alas you will not be satisfied with yourself. That is more difficult, forever impossible! And I can conceive no pang more dreadful than to see, as you will, the cloud lifted from every dealing of God that you thought to be harsh, or unrighteous, and to feel that, as he is justified, you yourself are forever condemned. You can no more accuse your birth, your capacity, your education, your health, your friends, your enemies, your temptations. You still had opportunities, convictions, calls of grace, and calls of blessing. You are judged according to that you had, and not according to that you had not. Your mouth is eternally shut, and God is eternally clear.
Finally it accords with our subject to observe that, while the inscrutability of God should keep us in modesty and stay our complaints against him, it should never suppress, but rather sharpen our desire of knowledge. For the more there is that is hidden, the more is to be discovered and known, if not to-day then to-morrow, if not to-morrow, when the time God sets for it is come. To know, is not to surmount God, as some would appear to imagine. Rightly viewed, all real knowledge is but the knowledge of God. Knowledge is the fire of adoration, adoration is the gate of knowledge. And when this gate of the soul is fully opened, as it will be when the adoring grace is complete in our deliverance from all impurity, what a revelation of knowledge must follow. Having now a desire of knowledge perfected in us that is clear of all conceit, ambition, haste, impatience, the clouds under which we lived in our sin are forever rolled away, and our adoring nature, transparent to God as a window to the sun, is filled with his eternal light. No mysteries remain but such as comfort us in the promise of a glorious employment. The light of the moon is as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold, and every object of knowledge, irradiated by the brightness of God, shines with a new celestial clearness and an inconceivable beauty The resurrection morning is a true sun-rising, the inbursting of a cloudless day on all the righteous dead. They wake transfigured, at their Master's call, with the fashion of their countenance altered and shining like his own.
There was a cloud, and there was a time when man saw not the brightness that shined upon it from above. That cloud is lifted, and God is clear in his own essential beauty and glory forever.