Jeremiah 10:23


From what foul soil do the fairest flowers spring! Beautiful as they are, they are rooted in that which is altogether unbeautiful. The sweet perfume of many woods, seeds, flowers, will not be given forth until they are gashed with the axe, or bruised, or crushed, or otherwise seemingly maltreated. We could not have the many-hued arch of the exquisitely tinted rainbow were it not for the drear, dark clouds and the descending rain. The most precious of the psalms were wrung out of the heart of David when that heart was well-nigh borne down with grief. And here, in these verses, it is the chastened spirit of Judah, personified in the prophet who speaks, that utters itself in the lowly confession of the twenty-third verse, the holy submission of the prayer of the twenty-fourth verse, and the settled hatred of them who hate God which burns in the twenty-fifth. Consider, then, these fruits, and may God make them to abound in ourselves.

I. THE CONFESSION. Ver. 23, "O Lord, I know," etc. Now, this is a confession:

1. Of humble dependence upon God. It is an acknowledgment that, however much man may propose, God will dispose; that man's goings are of the Lord. The life of each is, as God told Cyrus (Isaiah 44.), guided, governed by him. Illustrations are everywhere: the cruelty of Joseph's brethren; the oppression of Israel in Egypt; the crucifixion of our Lord (cf. Acts 2:23); the persecution of the Church (Acts 8:3); Paul's early life; etc. All these are instances in which, whilst men did exactly as they liked, acting with choice as unfettered as it was evil, they were nevertheless made to subserve the Divine plans, and their evil was compelled to work out good. Man may have power to "walk," but whither his steps will lead he cannot "direct." "The way of man is not in himself." He is free to choose his way, and for his choice he is responsible; but he is not allowed to determine all that shall come of that choice or what its issues and results shall be. Every time that men find their plans turn out altogether differently from what they expected or designed, proves the truth of the prophet's word. God has planned the life of each one of us. He intends certain results to be secured by our lives.

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will." And our wisdom is to see and confess and conform ourselves to the Divine plan - happy they who do so - and not to thwart or hinder it, as so many are bent upon doing, and hence, in the manifold sorrows of their lives, find it "hard to kick against the pricks." Our wisdom is daily to pray, "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; make plain my path before my face."

2. Of their own folly and sin. There are many teachers who will instruct us in this truth of our own incompetence to order our ways; all that is needed is that we be willing to learn. Such teachers are:

(1) Reason. It is reasonable that, as we are the creatures of God, he should have the control of our lives.

(2) Scripture. We have cited some instances already.

(3) Observation. The world is strewn with the wrecks of men who have disregarded the chart given them of God, and have run upon the rocks in consequence.

(4) But the most strenuous and resistless teacher of all is Experience. He will make a man learn, almost whether the man will or no. And it was this teacher who had been instructing, in his emphatic manner, Judah and her people. By the miserable mess they had made of their lives, and the frightful calamities which now were close at their doors (Ver. 22), they had at length come to see and confess their own wretched ordering of their way. Hence now the confession, "O Lord, I know that," etc. It is a blessed fruit for folly and fault to bear. It is not the natural fruit, but one of God's gracious grafts. Peter's folly of boasting bore such fruit when "be went out and wept bitterly." Let our prayer be that the faults and follies, the sins and sorrows, with which our lives are scattered over may make us see and own, "O Lord, I know that," etc.

3. Of their trust, nevertheless, in God's infinite love. For not improbably this confession has not only an upward look to God as the Director of men's ways, and an inward look upon their own sin, but also an outward look upon those dread foes who were hastening to destroy them. And this was their comfort that, after all, these enemies of theirs were in God's hands. No doubt they designed fearful things against God's people (cf. Ver. 25). But then, "the way of man is not," etc. Hence even these fierce, relentless foes might be held in and turned about by the bit and bridle of God. Had not God, in the days of the good King Hezekiah, proved this in regard to the King of Assyria and his army? Had he not, as Isaiah said, "put a hook in his nose.., and turned him back by the way by which he came?" And this confession breathes this hope and trust that God would do the like by their enemies now about to fall upon them. It is a real comfort to know that all our enemies, whether human or spiritual, are under the control of God. Even the apparently omnipotent prince of evil has but a limited power. He, too, cannot direct his own way. "The Lord, he is the true God, the living God, the everlasting King" (Ver. 10).

II. THE PRAYER. Ver. 24, "O Lord, correct me, but," etc.

1. This is a model prayer. For:

(1) It confesses wrong. It owns the need of correction. The man is no longer right in his own eyes. He is seen, like the publican, "standing afar off," etc.

(2) It desires to be put right (cf. Psalm 51.). As there, so here, there is the longing for renewal, the clean heart, the right spirit.

(3) It deprecates, not the correction, but the wrath of God. The man has a clear view of that wrath - its crushing, destroying power. It is good to have this. Without it there is the danger of our looking lightly upon our sin.

2. It is a most instructive prayer. It teaches us:

(1) That all the corrections we have received have been fatherly ones - "in judgment," not "in anger." For had they been in anger we had not been here at all.

(2) That we are alive and in God's presence proves that the love of God, and not his anger, is ours still. For his anger would have "brought us to nothing."

(3) That there are corrections in anger. There have been such. Where are Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon, Rome? God brought them "to nothing." And there will be for all who harden themselves against God.

(4) That, seeing all need correction and will therefore receive it, either "in judgment" or "in anger," our wisdom is to make this prayer our own. One or other of these corrections we must have. Which shall it be? This prayer was answered for Israel. They have not been brought to nothing, and they were corrected. That sin of idolatry which brought on them God's correction they have, ever since that correction, utterly abandoned. Then let us make this prayer our own.

III. HOLY ANGER AGAINST THE ENEMIES OF GOD. We can readily see that Vers. 23 and 24 are the fruits of a chastened spirit, but this fierce utterance of Ver. 25 seems of another kind. But it is not. No doubt it has somewhat of the fierceness which belonged to that stern age, but it is nonetheless a real fruit of a right spirit. We ought to be very doubtful of our own spirit, however meek and contrite it is, if it be not accompanied with an intense detestation of evil. "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?" Such sentiment is a true note of the Spirit of God, and a religious life that lacks it is sure to be lacking in vigor, strength, and reliability. It is not personal hatred that finds utterance here, so much as a deep sense of the wrong done to God and the hindrance that is placed in the way of his will. The seventy-ninth psalm is an expression of this petition. Our age, and the temperament that so soft an age induces, are apt to make us be too easy with sin and sinners. We are so bred up in the idea of the "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild," that we forget how anything but gentle and mild he was to the hopelessly bad who were, in regard to the spiritual well-being of his people, doing as is here said, "eating up Jacob, devouring him," etc. What awful words poured forth from the Savior's lips towards such! Let us suspect a meekness that makes us mild towards such. A man may make the confession of Ver. 23, and offer the prayer of Ver. 24, and fall and fall again; but if he have the stem spirit of Ver. 25, that deep, intense hatred of evil, sin is far less likely to have dominion over him for the future; he will be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." Therefore, whilst we crave that fruit of the Spirit which is seen in Vers. 23, 24, let us crave that also which we have here in Ver. 25. It is the result of our being "strengthened with might by the Spirit of God in the inner man," and leads on, in blessed, successive steps, to our being "filled with all the fullness of God." - C.









O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself.
We cannot but admire the marvellous precision with which instinct works. The lower animals make no progress, because their work, as the fruit of unerring instinct, is perfect. Their wants are few and limited, and they are endowed with the power perfectly to satisfy those wants. But that is what is here denied as belonging to man. With the greatest wants of any creature, he has the fewest instincts; and therefore at the beginning of his existence he is the most dependent of all creatures. Made to think, he is made to go out of himself, to separate himself from all his surroundings, to know himself as a lonely, isolated individual, and to rise above himself to the eternal source of all existence. As so constituted, he cannot find the way of his life within himself. His way is like that of a ship as it crosses the sea. The chart and compass are there, and the captain too, with his intelligence to regulate the whole; and yet it cannot be said that her way is within herself, or that she has within herself all that is needful to direct her over the billows; for, not to speak of the winds of the free heavens required to fill the sails, there are two points without the vessel, above and beyond her altogether, by which her course is absolutely determined. These are the pole star and the destination of the ship: a point in the high heavens, and a point on the other side of the sea. By those two points is her course determined across the dark and treacherous deep. The mariner has to be looking out of himself continually in two directions. His eye has to be now looking at the heavens, and anon to be sweeping the horizon. And so it is with man. He has the chart of conscience and the compass of reason; but these have no meaning at all, save as they imply that which is above and beyond man himself, even the revealed will of God — that word that is settled as a pole star in the heavens; and the true destination of man as a voyager across the sea of time to the eternal shore. Suppose, for a moment, that you have a ship at sea, but there are no clear heavens above it, and no definite destination before it. What a strange and anomalous thing it would be, blown about by every wind, without meaning or purpose, and certain to founder at last! Now that is what the life of every man is, who has no belief in a God above him, and an eternity before him. There are millions of men in that condition today. But there are others who have found both of these in Christ. He is above them, and He is before them. He is that One, therefore, by whom their whole course is fixed — their pole star, and their eternal haven.

I. FORMS OF AUTHORITY SUMMED UP CHRIST.

1. The authority of Nature. Wherever we have law we have authority — a something that either enforces itself, and is obeyed by us in spite of ourselves; or a something that ought to be obeyed, whether we obey it or not. The laws of Nature are so many principles that for the most part enforce themselves. We have the power to violate them, but they enforce themselves not the less. The law breaker does not break the law in the way of setting it aside, or of rendering it non-effective. Strictly speaking, he only breaks himself; as when, ignoring the law of gravitation, he steps over the brink of a precipice. The laws of Nature are universal. They determine the circulation of the planets and the circulation of the blood. They form a constellation and they shape a tear. They are uniform in their operation. The same causes, in like circumstances, are always producing the same results. The laws of health are those we are bound to respect if we would prolong our days upon the earth as far as possible. Now, there is clearly an authority here of a certain external character.

2. The authority of conscience. If now we turn away from that outer authority, and consider what we ourselves are, as having a nature of our own, we find that we are not merely creatures of sensation, capable of bodily pain and pleasure, but that we have a moral nature, capable of feelings of another kind; emotions of joy and sorrow, satisfaction and chagrin, self-approbation and shame, springing out of perceptions of moral good and evil, right and wrong, a something that ought to have been done, and a something that ought not to be done. Who can deny that there is a form of authority here, stamped upon our very being; and that there are laws and rules of moral conduct, which no time can change, to which the most earnest and thoughtful are keenly alive, and to which only the most degraded are insensible.

3. The real authority is not in the impersonal whole of nature without us, which, as impersonal, is inferior to ourselves; nor is it in the conscience within us, which may be very dimly sensible as to what right and wrong really are, but it is in the God above us, of Whose will all that is good in nature and man is the expression; and of whose word, the ideal man, Jesus Christ, is the one realised embodiment. As the eye is made for the light, so is the conscience made for God. A conscience without God is an eye in darkness, or a function without its legitimate object. Man's life attains to perfection, as it consciously approximates to God, and it moves in its legitimate orbit, as the centre of its gravity is in Christ.

II. FORMS OF AUTHORITY DERIVED FROM CHRIST.

1. The authority of the Bible. This is derived from Him. The method is an entirely mistaken one that begins by searching out all the seeming contradictions, and arguing from these as to the worth of the book as a whole. The true method is to take one's stand upon the undeniable truth of the book; and from that point, look at the supposed errors, which will then appear to be utterly fractional, in their relation to the whole, and comparatively non-essential in respect of the exclusive claim of the whole. If that is allowed to be the true method, the question arises: — "In what does the substantial unity of the Bible consist?" We understand it to consist in this, that it testifies in all its parts, when spiritually understood, to Christ, Jesus says: "Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." All the saints and prophets of the old time were looking in this direction; and their inspiration lay in the extent to which they were elevated to see that vision. In like manner, the New Testament finds its unity as pointing in all its parts to the living and incarnate Christ.

2. The authority of the Church. We all know how much this is discounted in our time; and how much there is to justify this disparagement of the Church. There are its divisions, its animosities, and what, in some respects, may be called its failures. But no one whose ideas have been formed along the line of the Divine purpose is much affected by all that, in the way of being shaken in his faith. Faith is just the cultivation of ideas, as opposed to a life that is always buried in what it calls practical affairs. The idea of the Church is that of a body formed and filled by the Word and Spirit of God. Surely a body of that description has some authority? The Spirit of truth is promised to lead us into all truth. The common convictions of the sanctified thinkers of all ages have the authority of all the truth they contain.

3. The authority of the State. This, too, is derived from Christ. When Pilate, speaking in the name of imperial Rome, declared that he had power to dispose of Jesus, the Master said: "Thou hast no power over Me at all, except it were given thee from above." The State, as empowered to enforce its decisions by physical force, is clearly separate from the Church, which has no right to lift the sword. It is no part of the function of the one of those great forms of authority to supersede the other. But there are questions with which both have to deal. There is the question of education, the question of the social condition of the people, the Sabbath question. Questions of this kind cannot be solved apart from the cooperation of both the spiritual and the secular functions.

(P. Ferguson, D. D.)

I. NATURAL ACTION. Man's action in life complex, involving two distinct parts, of which he has only one in himself — the power of natural action.

1. Its ease. Just the simple putting forth of the power of life; going on, without thinking if right or wrong. Danger of forgetting a deficiency in this part progression: mistake a part for the whole. We think we can act aright, simply because we have the power of action at all. It is as if the ship could reach the port just because she has undoubted capacities for sailing, though no helmsman or compass.

2. This mere power of natural action has a tendency to mislead. It makes a man unreflective. Proneness to slight the invisible, because it does not intrude itself upon us, although the things of this life have inseparable association with those hidden from sight in another world. Thus man's "walk" may do much as regards this life, but alas! how little effect for the world beyond. Leads to a waste of strength; for toil where nothing can be taken, and inaction where much might be won.

II. NEEDFUL DIRECTION.

1. Take care to go out of ourselves for direction. Shall not remedy the matter by taking more thought. When we have done much in that way, it will only be "man that walketh," directing his own steps; doing it more carefully, but still doing it himself. Thus going out of self may be humiliating.

2. The advantages of this going out of self. There will flow in upon us wisdom from above.

3. But we must yield ourselves to God to be ordered. Content to be led by ways we know not.

4. Ways are not really open, because apparently so. Nor because we can do this thing or that, is it therefore right. Because of this error, we have often gone into spheres where God is not, and where we should not have been.

5. Success before the world is not, therefore, a proof of our being right, nor of success in our relationship towards God. Failure here leaves our work but as "wood, hay, stubble." Danger of being too eager for success.

6. Learn not to put implicit confidence in energy or action. It is likely to mislead; may make the "man" prominent in us, and not God.

(P. B. Power, M. A.)

Homilist.
I. IT IS OF IMMENSE IMPORTANCE THAT MAN'S "STEPS" IN LIFE SHOULD BE RIGHTLY DIRECTED. Human life is but a succession of "steps," and every step is important. You may step into a by path where serpents lurk and savage beasts are in quest of prey. You may step over a precipice from which you will fall to rise no more. One false step may ruin you forever; every step you give you touch a chord which will send its vibrations along the awful future. See then you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise men. The path of life is labyrinthian, cloudy, rugged, perilous, on every hand beset with dangers.

II. A RIGHT DIRECTION OF HIS "STEPS" MUST COME FROM A SOURCE OUTSIDE HIMSELF. "It is not in man." What blunders the greatest sages of all times and lands have made, both in religion and morals! "The world by wisdom knew not God" Instinct rightly directs the brute in his path of life; but man's reason has failed to direct him. Through depravity the eye of reason has become so dim that it cannot see the right path. "We are of yesterday, and know nothing." The right guide, then, must be sought without, and where? In the written word? It is there, but men, through difficulties of interpretation, often fail to find it. Where then? In the biography of Christ. His example is the guide: "Follow Me." What St. said let us all feel. "I am a little child, but my Father is my sufficient Guardian."

(Homilist.)

A creature intelligent and responsible, I know how to propose an end to myself, and to take means towards its accomplishment. It is thus I make a plan for the development of my faculties, for the selection of my career, for the education of my family, and for the government of my household. But though capable of willing and of acting, I cannot arrange at my own discretion either things, events, or myself; and if sometimes my plans succeed, much more frequently do they fail. This weakness is so inherent in my movements, and entails so much failure, that my real life contrasts painfully with my ideal. It is at this moment that Jeremiah interposes to show me, in the derangement of my plan, a law directing me to a higher plan — namely, the plan of God for me — a perfect plan, which is far better than mine, both as it regards my general interests, and probably my personal advantage; a powerful plan, which infallibly accomplishes itself, whatever may be the destinies and vicissitudes of mine; and an all-controlling plan which reigns supremely over mine, and is intended to rectify it. From this time, that which calls itself overturned in my plan takes the name of success in that of God: as in those pictures of tapestry that are worked from behind, the coloured threads, which the workman weaves with a skilful hand, present an appearance of inextricable confusion, until they are seen on their true side, which is that not of the workman, but of the artist; so the plan of man is on the wrong side of life — that of God is on the right. Regarded thus, my action is never without law, nor without result, for I am always accomplishing the plan of God, knowing it or not, let us rather say, willing it or not. The history of peoples, of great men, and even of every day, discovers alike, to an attentive observer, God's plan, deciding all others without interfering with the free operations of man. The people, of all others, who can furnish me with the best illustration are the Israelites. If anywhere there had ever been the appearance of a plan exclusively belonging to man, it was in heathen Rome, spreading from people to people the network of that political ascendency, which appears, for a long time, to be endowed with the singular prerogative of strengthening itself by extension; or in Christian Rome, spreading from church to church the more subtle network of religious ascendency, which we see by turns, or rather which we see at the same time, and in the same places, energetically repulsed, and tamely submitted to, if not courted. But when we observe this more closely, we discover at a glance, in all that has happened to one and to the other Rome, the marks of a plan which has not originated in the judgment of man, but which takes from a higher region its period of departure and approach. But let us approach our subject nearer: let us come to everyday life, and to that life considered in all that is most allied to our own being, and to our own doing; even there, what real part belongs to you in the arrangement of your domestic life? To begin at the beginning, does not a popular proverb teach us in how many ways the best contrived conjugal relationships escape not only the control, but even the anticipations of man? Life, health, family, property; yes, more — sympathy and mutual affection; on how many things do all these depend, which depend so little on you! "The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is of the Lord." But let us consider that which depends upon us most of all — the education of our children. Here is a son born unto me: I exert over him, after God, the greatest power, material, intellectual, and spiritual, in the whole universe. One says, this child will become what I wish him to be, apart from that which is unforeseen — yes, the unforeseen; but then how much does that one word include! Oh! where is the man so blind as to imagine that he can determine the future of his son? What are we to say of those educations that break all our arrangements? — those arrangements which sometimes fail after every possible precaution, and others which succeed when the precautions have been omitted, but where this omission appears to have favoured a truer and better development? Are we to say that, because our plan fails, everything is to be abandoned to circumstances, under pretence of leaving everything to God? No; by no means. There must be no occasion for self-reproach: there must rather be redoubled diligence and wisdom, along with the deep conviction that we are working for a plan which is wholly of God. But still, after all, education, this largest sphere of man's power, is also the scene of his greatest weakness: and there is no person on the face of the earth more fitted to repeat the lesson of Jeremiah than the father of a numerous family, entering, like Moses, into his rest, in sight of that unknown Canaan, into which the generation following enter. "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." No one but Jesus Christ has ever completely realised the idea of my text; no one has ever been so completely ruled by a plan Divine. Jesus does nothing, can do nothing, of Himself. He does not proclaim His doctrine, but the doctrine of the Father Who sent Him; He seeks not His own glory, but the glory of the Father Who sent Him; He fulfils not His own will, but the will of the Father Who sent Him; He says only the things which the Father has told Him, and does only the things which the Father has commanded Him. And yet by no one else has the will of man and his freedom ever been more fully demonstrated than by Jesus Christ. The same plan which appears to us as belonging only to the Father, who devised it, appears equally to belong to the Son, who accomplished it. There is but one solution possible to this problem: — If the Son realises, at the same time, the plan of the Father, and His own personal plan. it is because the two plans are one; it is because the Son has so fully adopted the plan of the Father that He has made it His own; even that plan which He appears alternately to accept and choose — according as we regard it in His obedience, or in His freedom — by which means He accomplished the great law of human nature which Jeremiah has revealed in my text, but depriving it of all appearance of weakness or of necessity, being so much the more obedient as He was perfectly free, and so much the more free as He was perfectly obedient. Behold the mystery we are seeking. "Go and do likewise." Of the two plans that are before you — that of God and your own — attempt only one of them; and not being able to impose your own plan on God, adopt His; not in the spirit of slavish constraint, but in that of filial submission. Thus, like Jesus, you will accomplish fully the plan of God, which is now become yours, whilst yours is one with His; and this will be for you, as it was for Jesus, the principle of perfect reconciliation between interests apparently opposed; for, on the one hand, accomplishing God's plan, you will feel yourself to be in order: and, on the other hand, accomplishing your own, you will feel yourself at liberty.

(A. Monod.)

I. Consider the conviction here expressed, in its sources.

1. The nature of our condition. It is a dependent one; we are not our own, and therefore we are not at our own disposal.

2. The limitation of our powers. "Vain man," says Zophar, "would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt." When he grows up, even when he comes to what is called years of maturity, of discretion, even then how liable is he to be deceived and deluded! How narrow then is his horizon of vision; and how foggy and cloudy is it! How unable is he to distinguish, in a thousand instances, between appearances and realities!

3. History. You have heard of Robespierre — so famous, or rather so infamous — and the torrents of blood which he shed. Yet he originally seemed an amiable character; so he was deemed in all his neighbourhood. He was a civilian; he published two books, one on electricity, the other on the code of criminal jurisprudence, lamenting that it was so sanguinary, and endeavouring to ameliorate it. But the current of the Revolution laid hold of him, and the flood hurried him away; and he became the reverse of all he had appeared to be before.

4. Experience. Franklin says, "Experience is a dear school," but adds, "Fools will learn in no other." The fact is, that they will never even in this. We ascribe always too much to experience: it is not so influential a teacher as many imagine. "I never," says Mr. Burke, "knew a man who was not wise before, who grew wiser by his troubles." No; things operate upon us according to the qualities which they find in us: they are mistaken, who suppose they can bring these qualities.

5. Scripture is another source of this conviction. In all such cases as these "to the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because they have no light in them."

II. Consider it in its USES. It is not information that we commonly need. We all feel what a difference there is between our creed and our conduct — what a difference there is between our speculative and our practical religion. The certainty of a thing is not that by which we are principally influenced; but the frequent presentation of it to the mind, and the realisation of it by meditation. There is nothing so sure as that you shall die; and yet, by pushing this aside continually, you can live less under the influence of it than perhaps anything else.

1. If "a man's way is not in himself," and "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps," this should produce gratitude. Your advantages and your indulgences, whatever they have been, are wanting in their firmest support, their loveliest ornament, and their sweetest relish, unless you acknowledge the agency of God in them.

2. This should produce submission. You may, indeed, always pray, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," if you can add, as our Saviour did, "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."

3. You are to use the conviction as a check to presumption with regard to futurity. "Boast not thyself of tomorrow."

4. You should apply this conviction to induce you to repair to God in humble and earnest prayer. Are any of you in perplexity? Wait upon Him; and let integrity and uprightness preserve you the while. And not only wait upon Him, but also wait for Him. Do not act while your mind is in a state of uncertainty: secure the approbation of your conscience by erring, if you do err, unintentionally and conscientiously.

III. THE ENCOURAGEMENTS of this conviction. Though "man's way is not in himself," and "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" —

1. God is able to direct your steps.

2. God is willing to direct your steps.

3. God is engaged to direct them.

(W. Jay.)

The Israelites usually asked counsel of God by the Ephod, the Grecians by their Oracles, the Persians by their Magi, the Egyptians by their Hierophants, the Indians by their Gymno-sophistae, the ancient Gauls and Britons by their Druids, the Romans by their Augurs and Soothsayers. It was not lawful to propose any matter of moment in the senate before their wizards had made observations from the heavens. That which they did superstitiously, we may, nay, we ought to do in another sense religiously, conscionably, i.e., not to embark ourselves into any action of great importance and consequence before we have observed from heaven, not the flight of birds, nor the houses of planets, or their aspects or conjunctions, but the countenance of God, whether it shineth upon our enterprises or not, whether He approves of our designs or not.

(J. Spencer.)

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