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" For I know the thoughts thai I think toward you^ saith the Lord^ thoughts of peace, and not of evil ........"— Jeremiah xxix. ii. Man thinks; and what power, what mystery there is in thought. It comes from the inspiration of the Almighty; it partakes of attributes that seem infinite; it seems to bring us now into immediate contact with God, and to be the most beautiful image of His own invisible and eternal essence. If man's thoughts are wonderful, how much more wonderful are the thoughts of God ! Our subject is, Goi's thoughts about us. The primary reference in the text, is to the deliverance of the people from their captivity in Babylon at the expiration of a certain period ; but the passage contains great principles which fit it to be the basis of our meditations. " For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." God*s thoughts. And lest we should be in danger of forming a wrong estimate of the thoughts of God, let us first of all listen to His own declaration: "For
God'^s Thoughts. 267 my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." God's thoughts are like God, — they are wonderful as
Himself, and worthy of Himself. His ways are the results of His thoughts, and their revelation to us. There is about every thought of God, a greatness and a grandeur, filling us with the deep conviction that we are not able to grasp them, that such knowledge is too wonderful for us. ** Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor, hath taught him ? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding ? " Creation, in all its vastness and completeness, is the thought of God, — a thought that embraced not only the great outlines, but all the details of the work of His word, — a thought that did not require. to be supplemented or enlarged; so that in the mighty map of the universe there is not one world that is an after-thought of God. Providence, in its heights and depths, its lengths and breadths, is His thought, — a thought that takes in the entire history of our race, and is ever at work to bring about one great purpose, one glorious design. Redemption, in all its surpassing glory, is His thought, — a thought of which the whole Gospel is the revelation. When we speak of the thoughts of God, we find ourselves
268 God*s Thoughts. standing beside a boundless ocean, the very margin of which we cannot fathom, and we cry out in awe and wonder, " the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." " As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." His thoughts are in unison with his nature — they reveal the true character of the man. " They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh ; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." Loving thoughts spring from a loving heart;
they are in accordance with a genial and benevolent nature. The thoughts of God, are not merely the thoughts of "the only wise God," but they are as large and benevolent as His nature. " God is love," and hence a Gospel full of love. We should greatly err, if we supposed that those thoughts of peace, with which the Gospel is filled, were suggested by the exigencies of our case, and sprang up in the Divine mind after the fall and ruin of man. They anticipated our condition, and provided a remedy for our misery. Grace was given us in Christ, eternal life was promised us, before the world began. Christ was " the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world." And ere our present residence was fashioned, " before its mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth or the world was formed," another kingdom was prepared for us. God*s thoughts frntst be revealed, "For what man
God*s Thoughts. 269 knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him; even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." We cannot find out the thoughts that pass through the mind of a man. They are his own creations — they are known only to himself — they are his communings with his mind — they are the promptings of his heart — they are the determinations of his will; and though they may take in things that greatly concern us, yet we cannot know them, till they are breathed in words, or revealed in deeds. So the thoughts of God which have dwelt in His mind from everlasting, cannot be known till He is pleased to reveal them. They are known only to His Spirit, "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.'* These deep things are
known to us, for God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. We are permitted to know the thoughts of God that have had reference to ourselves ; we are assisted in our conceptions of these thoughts, and it is wonderful to be told that they come into our minds, that they dwell in our hearts, and that we have communion with the thoughts of God. The mind of man may be seen in a book, in which he presents to us his views, and records his opinions. He assists us by the help of his own meditations, by unveiling to us the processes of his own thoughts. We are thus carried forward, step by stepy to the same conclusions. What he thought, we can think, for he has thought for us, and made over to us his thoughts. But man's
272 God's Thoughts. there is in Christ's words, and how intelligible they become to us after we have seen the cross ! We understand what He means, when He says, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God's thoughts are revealed, and they are thoughts concerning us. However wonderful these thoughts, they might not concern us, they might not be about us; they might be about angels, and not about men, — about other worlds, and not this small province in God's empire. But these thoughts become to us of the greatest moment, when we are told that they are about us — that God thought of us long ago — that before the world began; the thoughts of God were concerning us. How is man magnified by this very fact. " Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, but thou hast crowned him with glory and
honour." Thou hast put greatness upon him, God, by thinking about him. Let us not suppose, that if God has some thoughts concerning us, they are thoughts in which the whole universe is equally concerned. There was time enough in that past eternity for God to fix His thoughts on every single soul that should be created, upon every event in the history of that separate soul, upon the fulness of its glory, and its life for evermore. There was time enough for God to think
God's Thoughts, 273 about every man, on all that relates to his physical as well as on all that belongs to his spiritual nature. ** In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me." I feel that if I am merely interested in a thought that concerns the race to which I belong, I can then derive no great amount of personal comfort from this consideration. The Divine purpose may wear a benevolent aspect towards men, but I cannot be sure that God thinks about me, till I am told that I have found grace in His sight, and that " He knows me by name." A man may say now, as well as in olden times, " I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me." What is the character of these thoughts concerning us ? They may be thoughts in which it would be better by far to have no part — it might even be better to be forgotten than to be remembered. They may be thoughts that take in the remembrance of our terrible transgressions — not to pardon, but to punish ; thoughts that recognise our personal relation to the Divine government — not to free us from its condemna-
tion, but to vindicate that government, by carrying its sentence into effect. If, as guilty creatures, we are told that God thinks about us, it is only natural for us to long to know what are those thoughts. Will God forgive the sinner ? Can He justify the ungodly ? These are questions which God only can T
274 God's Thoughts, answer, — they involve the profoundest problems, which He alone can solve, and the solution of which He has given us in the Gospel. He has revealed to us the good pleasure of His will. He has declared His righteousness in the forgiveness of sins. He has vindicated the method by which He justifies believers in Jesus. Man has left his Father's house, and has gone into a far country. God has devised means that His banished be not expelled, — His thoughts concerning him, even in his captivity, are "thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give him an expected end." The Gospel for man is the proclamation of peace. The Jews, in their captivity, would find it hard to believe that God's thoughts towards them were thoughts of peace, for they seemed to wear the aspect of evil. They, who were dwellers in a strange land, felt all the bitterness of being far removed from their own country; but the end God had in view was merciful, and it was an end only to be brought about by necessary and painful discipline. Sometimes we think God's thoughts towards us are evil, because His ways are so full of mystery. We see the means to the end — we do not see the end. But the way to it is dark and sorrowful, and the events by which it is to be brought about, we baptise by the name of evil.
It is the storm that gives birth to the calmness and serenity of the atmosphere. It is the Father's painful chastisement that produces in His children the peace-
God*s Thoughts. 275 able fruits of righteousness. The wind, the earthquake, and the fire, go before the still small voice. Do you ask, O ye children of sorrow, if God's thoughts towards you are thoughts of peace, when all things seem to be against you, when the very landmarks of your former joys are swept away, when every flower in life's garden withers, when nothing is left you, save the sepulchres of the departed ? From the dark cloud there comes a voice to you — " For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." God*s thoughts are eminently practical. They are thoughts to an end. God is " wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." God alone could originate the thoughts that fill His mind ; He only can accomplish them. He does not merely think, — He speaks. He works, and fulfils His designs. His thoughts might be benevolent, but they might only be thoughts. All God's thoughts become deeds. He has an end in view in all He does ; that end was present to His thoughts, and that end is worthy of His thoughts. If His thoughts are peace — though the way to the end be dark and stormy, the end will be peace. We have seen the end of the Lord in some things ; in some men's histories. We have seen the patriarch go down into Egypt, and, as he embraced his long lost son, we have heard him say, ** ow let me die, since I have seen thy face." We have seen T2
276 God*s Thoughts. Job in the depths of sorrow, and we have seen him after " the Lord hai turned his captivity." The Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning. Wealth poured in on him from every quarter; he had a numerous family, and his daughters were the fairest women in all the East. He went down to the grave full of years ; his end was peace, and not evil. We have seen the exiles return from Babylon. ** The ransomed of the Lord returned, and came to Zion with songs." We expect an end to all the trials, the conflicts, and the sorrows of life, — an end these very things are working out, — an end that will find us in His presence, where there is fullness of joy, — an end worthy the Divine thought, and the Divine work that brought it about. God has the most perfect acquaintance with His own thoughts, and with their character, *' I know the thoughts that I think toward you." The Infinite mind knows no change. ** The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand ; the thoughts of his heart to all generations," God says to us, " I know my thoughts." We do not know ours,— they are vague, changeful, and changing. His are definite and practical. The thoughts which we think to-day may be changed to-morrow. Unforeseen circumstances may tend to an entire alteration in our plans, and the thoughts we now cherish may be displaced by those that are altogether opposite in their character. God's thoughts are the same to-day as yes-
GocTs Thoughts, 277
terday; and hence His promises are like thoughts that have just been breathed in our world ; and His gifts and calling are without repentance. There is no alteration in the Divine purposes, for there is no change in the Divine thoughts. To us there may seem to be failures in the plans of God ; but He says, " I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Let us acquaint ourselves with these thoughts. We have the record. We have the words of Him who spake as never man spake. Let us get these Divine thoughts into our minds, that our thoughts may be quickened and strengthened, that we may think the thoughts of God, that we may have communion with the mind of God. How marvellous it is that the very thoughts of God may pass through our minds. I look, I meditate, I wonder, I adore, I feel my mind borne up as on eagles' wings to the feet of God. You have God's truth; to neglect it is to show no interest in the most wonderful revelation, no sympathy with God. 1/ God has placed His thoughts before our mindsy let us place our thoughts before God. Let us not only think about Him, but to Him. Let us thus have fellowship with Him. If God tells us what He thinks towards us, let us tell Him what we think towards Him. Let the soul's thoughts be taken up with God; and let us seek to experience what is involved in pouring out the heart before God. Let us so act and live, as to carry out and exemplify God's thoughts, " The grace of God has appeared to us, teaching us that we should deny ungodliness." Let us profit by its teaching ; let us act out its teaching by living Godlike. "This is the will of God, that ye should believe on his Son Jesus Christ, as he gave you commandment." Obey this revela-
tion of His will, that by the obedience of faith you may be saved. How high has been our theme ! How poor and imperfect our thoughts! We have heard a voice speaking to us. A door has been opened for us in heaven. We have seen a throne, and Him that sits on it. We have heard the voice of the Almighty God. That voice comes to us to cheer and animate us, to remove the perplexities and disperse the gloom of life. It comes to us in the divinest and sweetest tones, that we may depart filled with calmness and with confidence. We came to the sanctuary with the resolution of the Psalmist : "I will hear what God the Lord will say unto me, for he will speak peace to his people, and to his saints ; " and we have heard Him say, " I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
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