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CHAPTER XX.

DIVINE PROVIDENCE CONCERNING FORTUNE, CHANCE, AND

ACCIDENTS.

“One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists - one only : an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power;
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good.”. Wordsworth.

There is nothing, perhaps, which tends more to create an occasional shock of our faith in the Divine Providence, than the many things which are continually occurring that look so much like chance and accident. As observed in our opening chapter, it is the confusion, the hap-hazardness, with the apparent necessity that reigns through all human affairs, involving not only indifferent things, but many great and alarming evils, which sometimes bewilders all faith, and casts a momentary shadow over the brightest soul. But here let it be observed, that it is in little things, chiefly, where fortune and chance are most apt to be recognized; and in evil and calamitous things where accidents are most thought of. No rational and religious man ever thinks of attributing to fortune or chance the movements of great nations, the rise and fall of empires, the inauguration of particular persons as kings and governors, and the advent of men who exert vast influences for good or evil on the destinies of the human race. These are all acquiesced in as providential occurrences. So, also, in great and conspicuous natural events, such as earthquakes, floods and storms; even

the natural laws are sufficient to account for these; they are as far from chance as heaven is from earth. But why, then, in little things do we reason or think any differently? Had we the ability to trace the origin of many a mighty nation, king, potentate, or movement of mankind, (that is, what we call the origin,) we should find it in things quite as little, and apparently the merest chances, as any thing of fortune that is daily occurring in the world around us. If Rome was “saved by the cackling of a goose,” or if it was not, it is all the same : how many things are daily happening which are both unnoticed and unnoticeable by us, which must lead, inevitably, to the mightiest results! Thus, “a fit of passion in Mrs. Masham arrested the course of Marlborough's victory, and preserved the tottering kingdom of France; a charge of a few squadrons of horse, under Kellerman, at Marengo, fixed Napoleon on the consular throne; and another, with no greater force, against the flank of the old guard, at Waterloo, chained him to the rock of St. Helena.' In a true sense, there are no little things; all are but parts of a stupendous whole; and it is thus that we feel the importance of our least actions in the great and universal connection.

As to accidents, who, for instance, would think of denying a Providence in the results which have been attained by the art of printing, by the mariner's compass, and the telescope ? And yet each of these great discoveries, to say nothing of many more, has been by what we call the merest accident. One man, sauntering in a wood, and idly cutting some letters in the rind of a beech-tree, and then fancifully impressing them upon paper; some other curious persons amusing themselves with a piece of loadstone attached to a cork, and causing it to swim in a basin of water; and still another, in the merest pastime, happening to hold two spectacle glasses between his finger and thumb, and varying their distance; and lo! the world is teem

"*

* Alison's History of Europe.

ing with books, the ocean is traversed and all lands discovered and enriched, and everlasting science looks down upon us from the stars, with hopes and aspirations infinite! Call you this accident? Then every thing is accident, or every thing is most particularly and wonderfully providential.

But the trouble is, we do not make the proper distinction between intimates and ultimates. The moment we admit a God, that moment we admit a Providence in every thing. Every thing must have rolled out from his Infinite Essence, which is Divine Love and Wisdom itself. Then it cannot be mere nature; much less chance. Every thing must be originated in infinite Wisdom, and be governed by that Wisdom - even the perversions which take place by man. These latter were not originated by the Divine Being; but they could not have existed without his permission, and they are governed on all sides by him. For this, the reader must be referred to the chapter on permissions. If, now, we could look into the interiors of this vast universe, and behold the wonders that are going on there; if we could see — reverently be it spoken -into the mind of God, and behold those thoughts, those infinite substantial connections which, in the intimates, embrace all future ultimates, then we should comprehend how these apparently fortuitous things are simply the Divine Providence in the ultimates of nature. And in these ultimates, where there are so many things hidden, which exist to perfection in the spiritual world and in the mind of God, and where the connections of such things even in this world are but very imperfectly seen, there is much of the appearance of fortune and chance. may know that it is not so, as sure as there is a God who is the First Cause of all things. We may know, as has been before said and illustrated, that there must be a necessary universal Providence.

But again, another distinction must be made between what may be called constant and inconstant things. By constant things is meant those laws of nature which are established and

But we

fixed, and the great processes of which are continually repeated without variation. But on this point the great philosopher himself shall illustrate.

“There are many constant things, which were created that inconstant things might exist: the constant things are the stated alternations of the rising and setting of the sun and moon, and also of the stars; the obscurations of them from interpositions, which are called eclipses; the heat and light from them; the seasons of the year— spring, summer, autumn, winter; the times of day-morning, noon, evening, night; also the atmospheres, waters, and earths, in themselves considered ;

the

Vegetative faculty in the vegetable kingdom, and the prolific faculty in the animal kingdom; also the things that take place constantly from these, when they are put into act according to the laws of order. These and very many other things are from creation, being provided that infinity of varying things may exist; for varying things cannot exist except in things constant, stated, and certain. But let these things be illustrated by examples : the varyings of vegetation would not be given, unless the rising and setting of the sun, and the heat and light thence, were constant: harmonies of sound also are of infinite variety ; but they would not be given, unless the atmospheres in their laws, and the ears in their form, were constant: the varieties of sight, which are also infinite, would not be given, unless the ether in its laws, and the eye in its form, were constant ; just so colors, unless light were constant. As regards the varieties themselves, which take place in things constant, fixed, and certain, they run into infinity, and have no end; and yet there is never one altogether the same with another in all and each of the things of the universe, nor can be given in successive things to eternity: who disposes these varieties advancing to infinity and eternity, that they may be in order, except He who created constant things, to the end that they might exist in them? These things are said, because some natural men, from things constant and fixed, which are necessities for the sake of the end that varying things may exist in them, catch at arguments of their delirium in favor of nature and in favor of one's own prudence.” D. P. 190.

Now, in regard to the things which are called fortunate, and which break forth frequently as of mere chance or accident, it

is to be observed that they are nothing but such inconstancies which result from things constant and established, and are therefore included in them. How much of light may be derived from this one principle, in reference to the great apparent confusion in the affairs of the world and in the actions of men ! Does any one doubt the Divine Providence in such things ? He might as well doubt the flying of the chips from the hand of some human workman standing at his bench and guiding the operations of the lathe: or the dust and waste of a large factory which is all set in motion by the main-wheel, and from which every random thing and particle results. The cases are parallel. There is much of our daily life, very much of our years, which seems as meaningless and insignificant, and as little under any law or guidance worthy to be called providence, as the scattered and confused things which play about the shop of the mechanic. And those who dwell in mere externals, who are disposed to take natural views of every thing, will laugh to scorn the belief in a particular providence, pointing to such trifles and such hap-hazardness. But these are no less included in the Divine plan, than the great ends of providence themselves. They are the flying chips from the turning-lathe, or the waste of a great factory. The great wheel of Providence continually moves on, turning out the most splendid fabrics, and the most beautiful and useful styles, which are wrought into garments and comforts for man; and is it strange, that in so great a workshop as the universe, the Almighty Architect and Artist should, to the eye of his finite creatures, appear in many things as merely fortuitous and lawless ?

But we may be assured that there is no waste, that every fragment will be carefully gathered up and wrought into the great fabric of eternity, and that all these things which men call fortune and chance, are simply the Divine Providence in the ultimates of nature, where all things are respectively inconstant. Such men are merely ant-eyed: they see the chips flying; they see not the hand at the wheel, nor the beautiful object which is there being wrought.

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