« FöregåendeFortsätt »
sure, and to secure his approbation by performing their duty, than, by shamefully deserting it, to escape the infliction of the bitterest evils that their fellow creatures could bring upon them. In conformity to this advice, he tells them, “ that he that endureth to the end shall be saved; and that he who loses his life for his sake in this world, shall find it, in a far more exalted sense, in the next”.” This was solid comfort and substantial support. But unless our Lord had given them irresistible miraculous evidence of the reality of this future reward, unless they had absolute demonstration of its certainty, it was utterly impossible that they could be so mad as to sacrifice to this expectation every thing most valuable in this life, and even life itself. As a still further support under the terrifying prospect which our blessed Lord had held up to the apostles, he assures them that the providence of God would * Matt. x. 22. 39.
would continually superintend and watch over them. “Are not two sparrows,” says he, “ sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father; but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows”.” Here we have that most important and comfortable doctrine of a particular Providence plainly and clearly laid down. That He who erected the immense and magnificent fabric of the universe will continue to regard and to preserve the work of his own hands, and maintain what is called the general order of nature, and the ordinary course of human affairs, is so consonant to reason and common sense, that few even of the pagans who believed the being of a God, entertained any doubt of this general superintendence of the Deity over the worlds
worlds he has created, and the inhabitants he has placed in them. But when we descend from this comprehensive view of things to the several constituent parts of the general system, and to every individual of every species of animated beings dispersed throughout the whole; when we reflect how very inconsiderable a place this globe that we inhabit holds amongst the celestial bodies, how very small a portion it occupies of unbounded space, and how infinitely minute and insignificant every human creature must appear in the vast mass of created beings; we can hardly think it possible that the care of the Supreme Being should extend to ourselves; we cannot help fearing that we shall be lost and overlooked in the immensity of creation, and that we are objects far too small and minute to fall within the sphere of our Maker's observation. The more we reason on this subject, the more ground we shall find for these apprehensions; and there is nothing, I will venture to say, in the whole compass of what is called natural religion or modern philosophy, that can in the smallest degree tend to allay or to remove these natural, these unavoidable misgivings of the human mind. Here then is one of those many instances in which we can have no certainty, no solid ground for the sole of our foot to stand upon, but in the Gospel of Christ. Our reason, though sent out ever so often in search of a resting-place, returns to us, like Noah's dove, when the waters covered the earth, without any token of comfort. It is Scripture only which in this important point can give rest unto our souls. There we are assured that every individual being, even the least and most contemptible, even the sparrow that is sold for less than a farthing, is under the eye of the Almighty; that, so far from man being too inconsiderable for the notice of his Maker, the minutest parts of his body, the very hairs of his head, are all numbered. These very strong instances are plainly chosen On on purpose to quiet all our fears, and to banish from our minds every idea of our being too small and insignificant for the care and protection of the Almighty. This most consolatory doctrine of a particular Providence, of a Providence which watches over every individual of the human race, places the Christian in a situation totally different from that of every one who disbelieves revelation. The latter must conceive himself under no other government but that of chance or fortune, and of course must consider the whole happiness of his life as exposed every moment to the mercy of the next accident that may befal him. The true believer, on the contrary, has the most perfect conviction that he is constantly under the protection of an almighty and merciful God, in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being; “whose eyes are over the righteous, and whose ears are open to their prayers; ” that therefore if he lives, so as to merit the approbation of his heavenly Father, he has every reason