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CHAPTER I.

PRELIMINARY REMARKS.

"A mighty maze, but not without a plan.”

The Divine Providence may be said to be, in general, the government of the Divine Being, by his infinite Love, Wisdom, and Power, of the whole universe which He has created, so that every thing which transpires shall not only be the best that can possibly be, up to the time of its occurrence, but shall tend, without waste or hindrance, to still increasing good forever: so much so indeed, that nothing can happen, ever so small or unfavorable, and to the obscurest creature, which does not have this tendency. There is probably no one truth, which, were it susceptible of clear demonstration, and could it be received into the heart as well as into the understanding, that would have so great an effect to reconcile man to his present condition, to subdue his fears, and make him contented and happy in his lot, as

What a familiar truth it appears to be, and how large a place does it occupy in all theology, and how frequently is it uttered, both by the religious and the irreligious! The very proverbs of mankind, that "every thing is for the best," and that “whatever is, is right,” are a confirmatory evidence of the great truth herein contained; for the proverbs and common sayings of men have not originated from that more indiscriminate mass of truth and falsehood which composes the great bulk of their learning, but are rather the effect of a truer and more universal influx from God into the minds of humanity. Hence the Latin proverb, “ Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus est verum.What is believed always, everywhere, and by all,

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must be true. But this is a truth which needs to be demonstrated, and illustrated, and made clear to the unfolded reason.

In the first place, then, let us ask, What is it that obstructs our faith? Why do we ever have doubts and misgivings, and why do questionings arise in our minds ?

In reply, we say that there are two reasons for this: first, the confusion which we see around us in the shape of dire evils and injustice, and the apparent hap-hazardness of so large a part of the great world's movement; and second, a certain necessity which seems to reign through every thing, which, despite the utmost allowance for the free-will of man, presents a prospect more akin to the Fate of the ancients, than to any providence of a personal God. There is, on the darker side of this subject, so much that oppresses us,

that confounds and bewildersus, much entanglement, deceit, and treachery, and so many things that it seems impossible, for the time being, to admit into any really divine government, that the natural mind succumbs shrinks away into dark and discouraging states, and the spiritual is overpowered by the present disorder. For the time being, it loses its control, and heavy shadows concerning the Divine Providence pass over the mind. It may not lose its faith entirely, but it cannot see, and in the darkness of the present occasion, it asks despairingly, Why is it? and How is it? In fact, with almost every Christian, there are moments of scepticism; and scepticism, be it observed, is not a thing which pertains to faith in God, or to immortality merely; the belief in these two fundamental truths may be most firm, and impossible to be shaken; but at the same time, what God is, and how He acts, or whether his providence, after all, is so different from a certain necessity more or less allied to the ancient Fate, — here is room for a scepticism quite at one with an unshaken faith in God, in immortality, and the final well-being of the universe. And there are many religious persons who are sorely tried on these things. The human heart—these poor, sympathetic, and intensely susceptible natures, cannot bear every thing; and

so much

when its hopes are rudely stricken down, or too long and too painfully deferred, what wonder if it sink, betimes, not only into inconsolable grief or settled melancholy, but into religious distrust — into philosophic questionings of the Divine Providence? And when giant evils burst forth in the nature of accidents, - when the evil triumph over the good, - when, by merest hap, as it were, the simple and the uncalculating have fortune thrust upon them, and the worthy and sagacious are doomed to disappointment, - when intrigue and cunning carry it over plain-dealing and honesty, -- when crimes abound, and the simple are entrapped, and a thousand things are daily occurring, so confused and bewildering to one who attempts to give any rational account of them, when there is so much evident free-will on the part of man, and withal, so much fatality in human movements and human experience, to lament and grieve over, or else to sink under in hopeless apathy and stoical indifference, what wonder is it if all thoughts of Providence momentarily flee the mind, or it has its hours and days of sceptical and tempting distrust ?

Let a man stand, for instance, in the heart of a great city; and only for a few minutes let him cast his eye upon the vast concourse of life and activity going on around him. What stir of human passion and interest! What driving and pursuit of a common object, though variously estimated as to its nature, and power to confer the happiness sought; and what dark crowds of complicated thoughts, of evil desires, of covetous longings and vain ambitions, flit by him in a single hour! And within all the piles of brick and stone that stretch abroad on every side, how much of calculation, and of what character, either for success or disappointment, is going on there! Or, look at the records of a single newspaper, and see the wretched list of casualties and crimes, — robberies, burglaries, arsons, rapes, murders, forgeries, suicides, and terrible outbreaks, which is furnished in the history of a single day. “Merciful heavens !”

might not one exclaim, " and is there a particular providence in all this ? if so, of what kind and nature?

Has God any thing to do with it, and to do with the whole of it, and for particular purposes in regard to man's nature and destiny ?” The prospect is utterly bewildering. It does not seem to be governed by any intelligent will, either of design or permission. A carriage wheel breaks and a man is killed; another falls and maims himself for life; a destructive fire breaks out and sweeps down all before it with remorseless disregard; a man was just a moment too late to save a human being from the flames; a boat is upset in the harbor ; the lightning strikes some one's dwelling; a child is devoured by a ravenous beast; three thousand persons, as has just happened in a foreign country, break through the ice and are drowned ;— such is the aspect, confused, uncertain, criminal and accidental, which eren everyday life presents for contemplation. And when we rise from this fleeting, transitory scene, and extend our thoughts to the nations and ages which have rolled by us in the murky past, and are still rolling on, amid warfare, carnage, detestable hate, and monstrous outrage ; — when we read even what is called church history," and see the deeds that humanity is capable of committing, and think still that there is a human soul under all this terrible demonism, - that here are the materials of an angel world, — the contemplation becomes almost too strange to speak of. Instead of providence — any thing from God, or controlled by Him, the prospect seems rather of a wild, tumultuous, and boundless ocean, where the surges of humanity rise and fall, and drift to and fro, and break in confusion against each other, and upon the rocks and shores of the solemn coasts that enclose it.

To be sure, there is one way of viewing all this, to save the idea of Providence. And that is, to speak of it generally, and not particularly, or to speak of the particulars as included in the general; and this, indeed, as far as it goes, is a true way

of

contemplating the mighty scene. There can be no universal providence which does not include all the particulars, but the convinced understanding would like to know how these occurrences are providence, or how they are in any way connected with the Divine Being, who rules and governs with absolute power.

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