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delayed to the very last moment, in order to teach man that Providence is supremely wise, and does nothing unnecessarily, and so to inspire the soul with a still deeper reliance through all states and in all extremities.
An eminent instance of this kind of provision was in the case of the celebrated Stilling, a German writer and physician, whose works have acquired a well-deserved popularity, and whose history is so touchingly and artlessly given in his Autobiography. And here let me take the opportunity to recommend the perusal of the beautiful story of this amiable and devout man, as one of the best, indeed the best living exemplification of the subject that we write upon, with which we are acquainted. It is a story which should be circulated everywhere, and rejoice the heart of the most desponding. Every important step of Stilling's eventful life seemed to be under the guidance of a perceptible providence, and directed by promptings, in himself and others, from the unseen world. In the darkest seasons of adversity, when utterly destitute and without credit, and when immediate pecuniary assistance was necessary to save himself and family from ruin, some unforeseen hand was always stretched out to help him, some friend at his side to suggest the needed relief, and almost miraculously, again and again, was the process repeated. He left his early home without definite plans and almost penniless, and wandered forth like Abraham of old, obeying a command which his circumstances seemed to make imperative, and from that time forth led the life of a most remarkable pilgrimage. He was truly a “providential man.” So are we all; but it was the beauty of his life that he could see it so well, — that the instances were so marked and wonderful, -that his prayers were so frequently answered, that his faith and trust were so tried and yet so triumphant, and that he could still in simplicity persist that from first to last, he had contributed nothing whatever to any part of the manner in which he had been so remarkably led. Reader, if you have not read the Autobiog
raphy of Heinrich Stilling, I would commend it as a most fitting sequel of practical life, to follow in the train of these poor theorizings. It has all the interest of a thrilling romance, at the same time possessing the advantage of serious reality.
One great part of our wisdom in this matter is to learn to see the Divine Providence in particulars. It is comparatively easy to acknowledge the Providence of God in general, or in universals ; scarcely a human being can be found who has not some idea of the government of God over the general course of events; but to stop here, is to stop short almost of the whole truth. There can be no general or universal Providence which does not include all the particulars; and to rest in an easy
faith merely of such a general disposition of events, is to leave out of account, especially, many disagreeable things which our selflove or self-conceit finds it hard to ascribe to any particular or necessary providence in our behalf, and which we fain would think might be dispensed with. But what reason have we for such a conclusion as this? Does not the Lord rule throughout, from centre to circumference, and does He not know all our states, both the evil and the good, and has He not seen and arranged for them all? Who are we, that we may select a part, and accept a part as divine treatment, and reject the other part? Now there is nothing, perhaps, more needed to perfect the faith of many minds, to complete their piety, and their happiness also, than to recognize the Divine Providence not only in general, but in particulars. Then a thousand things which appear disagreeable and averse will begin to be lighted up with a divine brightness, and be acquiesced in as beautiful to contemplate. By a constant watchfulness, the mind will acquire a habit of discerning the Lord's providence in many little things before unnoticed, and the faith which is so beautiful to cherish will descend into the very outermost regions and ultimates of the mind, permeating all the thoughts and influencing the affections, and producing a wisdom and a calm too heavenly to describe. “ Whoso is wise, and will ob
serve these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.” (Psalm, 107: 43.)
We must discard, as far as possible, all anxieties and thoughts about the future. This was the overplus of that manna among the Israelites which was reserved till morning. This they were commanded not to do. It was enough that they gathered of it every day, every man according to his eating. But the spirit of fear and distrust came upon them, and they reserved of it till the next day," and it bred worms and stank.” So it is with all such care for the morrow. It is a principle which has corruption dwelling within it, and is the death of all true faith. We have neither right nor reason for such anxieties about the future. We do not know that any such future will be ours. We may die at any moment. To be anxious and solicitous about the future, therefore, is not only uncalled for and vain, but greatly obstructs the happiness and duties of the present. “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The future is God's, and He alone may see to it. Take care of the moments, and God will take care of the years. It is not, of course, prohibited that a reasonable care shall be exercised, and reasonable provision made for what may be the common wants of life; but the spiritual of the Lord's words is, that we should not have that care for the morrow which disposes one to be discontented with his lot, to distrust the Divine Being, and to be more anxious about worldly than about heavenly things. It is well and wisely said, that those who truly trust in the Divine Being “ have a care for the morrow, and yet have it not; for they do not think of the morrow with solicitude, still less with anxiety; they are of an equally composed mind whether they obtain what they desire or not; neither do they grieve at its loss, but are of a contented mind. If they become opulent, they do not set the heart on opulence; if exalted to honors, they do not consider themselves more worthy than others; neither are they made sad if they become poor, nor dejected if their condition be humble; they know that, with those who trust in the Divine
Being, all things tend to a happy state to eternity, and that the things which befall them in time, still conduce to that end."
A very visible illustration of the happy effects of trusting calmly in Providence, at all times, may be gathered from a phenomenon of common life, even with the irreligious. How often is it remarked that those persons who have the least care, and are even careless in their adventures in every-day life, seem to get along the best; while those who are full of care and fearfulness lest some danger should befall them, are more commonly found in difficulty! Now, one reason for it is, that such persons invariably attract around them a class of spirits who are in similar fears, in similar uneasiness, which brings them into a fluttering and trembling sphere, and makes every thing go wrong with them. Their very fears, by connection with the spiritual world, introduce them to many and many an accident, and many a blunder; while those of a contrary character, irreligious though they may be, acquire a sphere and company of steadier material, and by driving dull care away, drive away, also, all the thousand mishaps which follow from it. This is not saying that such a careless disposition should be cultivated, or that it does not frequently lead into deeper and more serious difficulties; but it illustrates the truth, and shows how a religious carelessness - trust in the Divine Providencein a super-eminent manner makes smooth and felicitous the path of life, and introduces into heaven at last.
Finally, what remains but calmly to review the whole subject; and when we think of its mighty sweep, its stupendous heights and depths, and its all-embracing nature; - when we think of the eternal necessity for the Divine Providence, and still its connection with the free human will ;— of the origin of evil, and its subserviency to the ultimate good ;-— of the absoluteness of the Divine Sovereignty ;- of the intimate connection of God with Nature, in the inmosts and in the ultimates of all things ;- of the sublime philosophy of such a religion ;of all general and all special providences ;of the angelic
ministry so active and efficient everywhere;- designs and permissions ; the great heaven for which all is done ; - the eternal memory of the human soul, and the whole course of the regenerating life — its struggles, triumphs, fluctuations, final rest;
when we think of the wonderful treatment and moderation of the human will ; the control of human prudence; the infinite divine foresight;—the admirable regulation of earthly and heavenly riches; -of prayer and its answer; of fortune, chance, and accidents; -of the ministrations of sorrow; - of the sublime economy in regard to little children ; - of the divine beauty of Marriage and its accompaniments; - and then see how the whole train of this grand arrangement rolls onwards with unerring wisdom through all this life, to the hour and moment of the human being's death, and with equal precision to eternity beyond it, — what remains but to receive most fully the spirit of the whole Truth, and by a life of reverent Trust and active doing in all good works, fit and prepare ourselves for what still lies beyond ? We would not seek presumptuously to lift the veil which falls before that future; but with the amount of truth we do know, we would look cheerfully upward and heavenward forever, purge out every sin and evil that remaineth, and thus endeavor to act that Providence which the Lord Messiah is endeavoring to act through us.