1849: It has been said “those that weep today may smile tomorrow—and those that smile today, may weep tomorrow. We know not what the ‘morrow will bring.”
“Since we cannot see how things will go with us, we should beware of presumption. “Go to now, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.” The Apostle here gives us the scheme of an unsanctified tradesman. He resolves to go without delay to some place where he can carry on business to advantage.
His aim is not fraud, but fair gain in the lawful way of buying and selling. And where is the harm of all this? Is not diligence laudable? Are we not commanded to provide for our own house? Wherein then does this man appear blameable? Perhaps he was actuated by avarice; and was seeking not a subsistence, but a splendid independence. Perhaps he was influenced by imprudence, and was not aware of the bad effects of roving abroad, or of changing his scene of action: for “as a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place:” and “a rolling stone gathers no moss.”
This may be true—but what this man is here condemned for is this—God is not in all his thoughts. These words, “I will” are too big for him. Regardless of God, he engages to live a year, and all the year to be successful. He seems to exclude the possibility of sickness or accidents; of unfaithful servants or insolvent debtors: of dear purchases and cheap sales: as if he foresaw and secured all the events of the year himself—While he was not sure that he should be able even to begin his journey, and knew not what should be even on the morrow. Well does the Apostle call this rejoicing “boasting,” and say, that “all such rejoicing is evil.”
Things may be within the reach of our knowledge and not of our power; but how can that be within the reach of our power that does not fall under our knowledge? How can we ward off dangers of which we are not apprised? How can we arrange and regulate occurrences of which we can have no foresight! Now this is our case. We know only the present; and what superstructure can we build on such a narrow foundation? How often, even while forming a plan, has the lapse of a few days so varied circumstances, that we have been compelled to new model it, or to abandon it altogether!
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.”
We dare not infer the future from the present. David erred here. After he had been delivered from Saul, and other enemies, he tells us that he had too much confidence. And in “my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong:” but hear what he adds—”Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” The rich have been often stripped of their wealth; and the caressed of their honour.
Many a fair morning has turned out a very stormy day.
The same considerations which should check presumption, should also prevent despair. Seeing we know not how it will go with us, why should we look only for evil? It may be far better than the foreboding of our fears. Our deliverance may be much nearer than we imagine.
Since we see not how it will go with us, let us draw off our attention from future events to present duties. We are to cast not our work, but our care upon the Lord. Duty and means belong to us, but events are entirely His. And He says to us, as the king did to his prime minister: “Attend you to my affairs, and I will attend to yours.” “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Such is the temper and the business of a Christian. The child at school is not to lean his elbow on the table, and vex himself by thinking how he shall find raiment, how he shall get home, how the expense of his education is to be defrayed.
He is a learner; he is to mind his book—the Father requires no more of him—He will provide. The farmer is not to muse from day to day about the weather, “perhaps it may not be a fine season —there may be a blight—and all my labour may be lost.” No: but he is to act; he goes forth bearing precious seed, commits it to the ground, and then pursues his other business— and what can his anxiety do afterwards? So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. The soldier is to learn his exercise, to obey the word of command, to keep his arms bright, to be always at the post assigned him; but he is not to neglect all this, by busying himself in drawing plans of the campaign, and describing the duties of the general.
Finally, our ignorance of what may befall should lead us to seek after a preparation tor all events. Do you ask, where shall we find it! I answer, in the blessed influence of Divine grace. This drew prayer from Jacob when he went forth with a staff; and praise when he returned with a fortune. This preserved Daniel in the court of Darius and in the lion’s den. This enabled Paul to say, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me. And seeing we have not the ordering of the weather, nor the choice of our food—happy is the man, whose constitution enables him to bear any weather, and whose appetite enables him to relish any food.”—Quoted from: The Works of Rev. William Jay (1769 – 1853): By William Jay, Cornelius Winter, John Clark; 1849.