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“ In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

Proverbs iii. 6.

We are now entering on the “ways” of another year. Anything that will help us in them, guide us through them-on to still nobler ways, ought to be welcome! Well, here is a text

a beautiful text, which speaks of all that concerns us—our daily life, our duties, our difficulties, our dangers !

It has a pleasant sound. It has a still more pleasant signification. Let nis talk with it-hear what it says to us—what it supposeswhat it enjoins—what it promises !



It supposes a complete providence of God—a divine superintending rule over all human affairs—i. e., if we hold God as the speaker here. If this man is not talking at large; if He is under a sure inspiration ; if he has a warrant to speak for God (and all this we believe), then God by him claims to be the Divine Ruler, Observer, Provider over and through the whole of this human life. "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths”-implying, as we think, “ In all thy ways

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thou art known to Him, who yet asks thine acknowledgment." You do not need to give Him information ; He knows all :-or power; He possesses all; or to bring His government any nearer; it is around all your ways already. You only need to acknowledge what is. But let this be made plain by a few other Scriptures :-“ O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” Commit thy way unto the Lord. Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.” The claim, you see, is clear, and strong, and firmly put. God knows the whole of man's life, and He claims and uses the right of ruling and guiding it all. We say He uses the right, because there can be no doubt that God does rule all human things and every human life! His kingdom not only “ruleth over all,” but over each. The individual man has the power of putting himself into this relation or that with Divine government. But he has no power of throwing it off and living without it-none whatever. A drunken captain might say, “ I shall sail my ship without the sea ;" but the waters would bear him up all the same. A delirious or a foolish man might say, I shall not breathe the common air of this world;" but he must go on breathing it. On the same pripciple, a foolish or a delirious soul, puffed up with pride, or drunk with self-will, may say, "I will break his bands and cast his cords from me.” “He that sits in Heaven shall laugh: the Lord shall have him in derision.” And, if he will go on in his foolish and impious way, there is but one end of it, viz., “That he shall be broken with a rod of iron and dashed in pieces as a potter's vessel.”

Some men have conceived and represented God as ruling the world, not in the way of a personal superintendence, but only in the way of a general arrangement. He has thrown, as it were, out of His own being into the universe, a certain amount of force, to work on and on, according to certain laws, for ever, unless He shall interpose. The world is full of such force in various forms, and acting under the natural laws; and all that happens comes about in this natural way without any direct interference of the living God. God does not need to interfere. And so of human life—it will take its form and character just as it is. There are laws of matter; there are laws of mind. God governs by these. He does not need to be a personal observer of every poor and petty human life, of every insignificant action, of all the meanness, and all the vice, and all the crime in the world ; nor of all the virtues either. Men will reap as they sow, and the general results will be laid in some way before Him.

Now, of course, we accept nearly all that is said, or can be reasonably said, about the strength and fixedness, and universality of the general laws of God. Matter has properties that never change. There are forces in the world always acting. There are laws of the moral world, too, which act impartially through the whole realm of civil society. As men sow, they reap. Virtue is its own reward; vice its own punishment. The hand of the diligent maketh rich. The sluggard shall be in want. The winds blow, and the waters roll or rest; and the seasons open and die into each other; and fruits and famines come; and men are prosperous or unfortunate, happy or miserable—they even live or die, all according to law. But does it, therefore, follow that God does not see all this? That God does not do all this by His own energy, streaming evermore along these constituted channels? Does it follow that law is a kind of second God, independent of the first ? Surely not.

Some seem able to conceive it; but to my mind it is inconceivable—that laws and forces should go on to act of themselves, producing all the beauty and all the abundance of this world, without any interposition of God! It is still more difficult to conceive rational and responsible beings living, for any length of time, acting responsibly, forming character, becoming virtuous, vicious, without His knowledge! It is most difficult of all to think of events in the moral Providence of this life remaining outside the circle of His knowledge.

In thinking of God and the world so, you inevitably limit his omniscience. It is omniscience no longer. Then He only knows a great deal, but not everything. You touch omnipotence; for you say, “God has parted with part of His power, and cannot take it again without an effort." You take something from the fulness of His wisdom-for how can He know that even a general plan is right unless He knows all its particular workings? You cast an awful shadow even on His mercy and love, for you show that His creatures may be suffering, sorrowing, dying, while He knows nothing of it-or, if perchance He knows, He has no means of reaching and relieving them. Above all, you go directly in the face of Holy Scripture—such passages as we have quoted already, and some even more express :-“Fear not, therefore, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” “A sparrow falleth not to the ground without your Father.” “The ħairs of your head are numbered.”

This, then, is what the text supposes—a God filling this world with His presence, regulating all things by His wisdom, ordaining and ruling them all by His power. It supposes one who is present, wherever there is a law, a force, a particle of matter, a change, a movement—be it ripple on the wave, or quiver in the leaf, or shadow or sunshine on the hill. It supposes one especially watchful and observant of all human lives—whose hand is on circumstances—whose eye is on souls—who is making all things work together for good to them that love Him-and who, therefore, asks “acknowledgment” in all.


Acknowledgment. This is the injunction of the text, “ In all thy ways acknowledge Him," i. e., give Him an acknowledgment suitable to the relation He sustains to you, suitable to His knowledge of you, suitable to His watchfulness and care and love and nearness.

Nothing could fall more miserably short of the meaning and spirit of this demand, than a bare intellectual acknowledgment of Divine existence and government. All men, except Atheists, acknowledge God in a sense. They do not deny His existence, attributes, rule. They would even take the side of those who contend for them.

In olden times when a new monarch came to the throne, all the barons and petty princes came to do him homage and take the oath of fealty. And then they would retire to their own fastnesses and perhaps never appear at court again, and live very much as they would do if no monarch were reigning.

That bears too close a resemblance to the kind of “acknowledgment” that some men make of God! There are some occasions of life when it is a right thing to do. But being done; why it is done and need not be repeated. Some English noblemen make a public way through their beautiful parks, but give no public right except such as depends on their own grace; and once a year they close the gates and allow none to pass, that the public may thus “ acknowledge” that they have the privilege not of debt but of grace; that it is a privilege and not a right.

Well, if some men have once a year the conviction flashed thoroughly through them—“All this world through which I am passing, and all these things amid which I am moving belong to God, and not to me-I must acknowledge Him,"—it

is about as often as they have such a conviction, or anything like it. Surely we need not say that the “acknowledgment” enjoined on us here, is something very different from this. More, and deeper, and greater every way. It is more than belief in His existence. More than intellectual homage to His government. More than faith in His great promises. More than prayer to His name. It.

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