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ence of the Israelites. It is singularly true in reference to their journey, that nearly the whole of the forty years was consumed after they had arrived at Kadesh-Barnea, on the very borders of the promised land. Thus it is written " And the space in which we came from Kadesh-Barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generations of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them.” (Deut. 2: 14.) This, then, is certainly a most important period in the regenerating life.

From the time the spies were sent forth, that is, from the time when we begin to see evils in our unrenewed nature with a truly spiritual eye, and to be concerned about them, to the time when we are ready to go bravely on and enter into Canaan, is within two or three years of the whole time of the journey! During all this time, or through all this state, which may be longer or shorter with different individuals, we are really beating about in the wilderness, making little or no progress in a direct line ; on the contrary, experiencing temporary and apparent retrogressions, going back and forth, from which we only recover by a multitude of temptations, difficulties, and trials !

6 How oft did they provoke Him in the wilderness, and grieve Him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalm, 78: 40, 41.) And yet the truth is, these seasons when we appear to ourselves to retrograde are frequently seasons of progression - disorderly progression ; they are necessary to the strengthening of the good we have acquired, to the confirming and enlivening of truths. The danger is in going too fast; we get puffed up with certain attainments which lie truly more in the understanding than in the will; we begin to think we are growing better, and it may be that we are ; but then it is that we suddenly find ourselves turned back humiliated, even from Kadesh to the border of the Red Sea ; — and from thence into many irregularities of temper, disposition, and conduct, in the vast, untrodden wilderness of the yet uncultivated soul.

CHAPTER IX.

THE UNKNOWN PATHS.

“For God unfolds by slow degrees
The purport of his deep decrees,
Sheds every hour a clearer light
In aid of our defective sight,
And spreads at length before the soul,
A beautiful and perfect whole,
Which busy man's inventive brain
Toils to anticipate in vain.” Cowper.

THE paths of our life are not only winding and labyrinthic, both in the natural and the spiritual sense, but they are most unexpected, and furthest from our thoughts. We find ourselves in situations, frequently, which we never could have dreamed of previously, and which we shrink from with a sense of dread and of utter unfitness. This also is of the Divine Providence, which is the best acquainted with the state of every one. It should ever be remembered that the whole of Providence with us has reference to eternity ;- to that state of life which we can attain to in this world, which is the ground or basis of our immortal life; and to that use also which we can be best fitted to perform ;- in short, to that highest possible station of life, usefulness, and happiness, which we can be brought to in the eternal world.

It is for this purpose that the spiritually blind are led about and instructed, and brought into ways and paths which they knew not, and that the whole of this life is frequently a wonder and a mystery to us.

Who hath not reflected on it? To a contemplative mind it is perhaps the great subject of the most interior thought. And even with the frivolous and thoughtless,

good ?”

there are times when the thick coverings of sense and nature seem broken through, — when thoughts arise and feelings exist as to all the solemnity and significance of life. What is it they say to themselves that has brought me here? — that has made me who I am, and what I am ? And even as Isaac, who went out into the field towards evening to meditate, evening signifying an obscure state of the mind, so these souls who for the most part are so thoroughly immersed in the world, have their evening hours of calmer and deeper meditation. “Oh! what is life ? and what is human destiny ? and what is all this toil and trouble for?” And “who will show us any

These are questions which are not easily put off, nor are they easily answered except from a standpoint of divine, interior truth. Only eternity can answer these questions. In the light only of that great and incomprehensible life which we must all live, and which cannot in one of its least issues be trusted to us, but to Him only who is infinite and eternal himself, can this problem be fully solved, and this mystery enlightened. Here the blindness is struck from our eyes. We do not, indeed, see the ways in which we are led, nor, specifically, the end to which we are led; but we know that it is a good end, nay, the best end; and that every path in which we are so providentially conducted, is a path either direct or circuitous, to the nearest attainment of that divine good. Let us remember that we are journeying through a wilder

There are many things that make it so, but primarily, only one. That is, Sin. We should not be so blinded were it not for our evils. The way would be plain before us, and the paths pleasant. But by the Fall of man from his innocent state, he has closed up those spiritual perceptions which most properly belong to him, and which, in a true state, would be his distinguishing characteristic; so that he cannot know so well what is his destiny, nor can he be so easily led into it. Hence we are often anxious about many things, which, if we

ness.

could truly see, form no direct part of the doings of God with us here, and are only permitted us as a means of gratifying our perverse inclinations for awhile, and which we cannot be turned from without violence offered to our freedom. The Lord is kind to us éven in our waywardness. He can do nothing for us in a state of non-freedom; for what we might be forced to in such a state, would not abide when the unnatural force was withdrawn. And He must keep us forever free, nor will it do to enlighten our blindness too suddenly. For, in a state of evil, if by a supernatural light which might easily enough be given, we could be made to see the end to which the Lord was conducting us, we should many times quarrel with it, and turn from it with loathing and horror. Our own evils would not appreciate the good held out to us, and we should strive all the more hardly against the Divine Providence. This would be particularly the case with such merely natural men as doated on riches and honors, and from whom it might be necessary, for their spiritual good, to strip them away. Therefore we are led blindly. And gently-oh, how tenderly, we are conducted over the rough places, and through the winding ways of this maze of human life, till by and by, if we are capable of being brought so far on in this life, He makes darkness light before us, and crooked things straight.

It should be observed here, that it is a distinct law of the Divine Providence, that we should not see it beforehand, but that we should look back and see it. If we could see it before, as already remarked, we should be constantly interfering with our own wills against it. But still, that we may know there is a Providence, we are permitted to look back and see it, and oh, how wonderfully! Perhaps there is not a religious, contemplative person living, who cannot look back upon his past life, and see some one or many instances where the guiding hand of the Lord is very apparent to his spiritual mind, and in cases perhaps where at the time it looked dark and adverse to him. He would have grasped the seeming good if he could have

grasped it. He planned for it wisely, and worked diligently. But another hand unknown to him was in the work, and he was not permitted to seize the prize. By and by he begins himself to see that it would not have been good for him ; he is thankful to heaven that it did not so occur; but how much higher than any mere earthly good, and how much further extending, is the Divine Providence in all such leadings !

It cannot be too deeply impressed upon the mind, that there is not even any earthly good granted for its own sake alone, but that the whole dispensation, whether of riches, or honor, or health, or sickness, or poverty, or disgrace, has an inevitable connection with, and reference to, the spiritual and final state of the subject of it. It must be so, differently as the men of the world may calculate. It is so from the very intimate connection of all spiritual and all natural things in the constitution and course of the universe. It is not an arbitrary, but a philosophical connection ; although there are many personal and invisible agencies employed in effecting these dispensations of the Infinite, and our own freedom is largely concerned in the whole of it.

The contemplation of this one truth will solve a thousand problems concerning our earthly life; for it is not the truth alone, and the good which we receive, but the earthly circumstances which are the means of leading us to that truth and good, which form an interesting and highly important part of the Divine dealings towards us. The spiritual destitution into which the world is brought has created a great deal of bodily destitution, and our natural evils are the outbirths and consequences of our spiritual evils. Hence the wilderness of life is so dense and dark, not only as it regards spiritual truth and good, but in reference to those material conditions and seemingly untoward circumstances in which we are immersed in our struggles after a temporary subsistence. But the truth is, in every one of those conditions there is a providence no less direct and manifest in reference to eternal ends, than in the more

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