Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

ans and heathens? Yea, doubtless of the Mohammedans and heathens also. His love is not confined: "The Lord is loving unto every man, and his mercy is over all his works." He careth for the very outcasts of men it may truly be said,

"Free as the air thy bounty streams
O'er all thy works: thy mercies' beams
Diffusive as thy sun's, arise."

17. Yet it may be admitted, that he takes more immediate care of those that are comprised in the second, the smaller circle; which includes all that are called Christians; all that profess to believe in Christ. We may reasonably think that these, in some degree, honour him, at least more than the heathens do: God does, likewise, in some measure, honour them, and has a nearer concern for them. By many instances it appears, that the prince of this world has not so full power over these as over the heathens. The God whom they even profess to serve, does, in some measure, maintain his own cause; so that the spirits of darkness do not reign so uncontrolled over them, as they do over the heathen world.

18. Within the third, the innermost circle, are contained only the real Christians: those that worship God, not in form only, but in spirit and in truth. Herein are comprised all that love God, or at least, truly fear God and work righteousness. All in whom is the mind which was in Christ, and who walk as Christ also walked. The words of our Lord above recited peculiarly refer to these. It is to these in particular that he says, "Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." He sees their souls and their bodies; he takes particular notice of all their tempers, desires, and thoughts; all their words and actions. He marks all their sufferings, inward and outward, and the source whence thev arise; so that we may well say,

"Thou knowest the pains thy servants feel,
Thou hearest thy children's cry;
And their best wishes to fulfil,
Thy grace is ever nigh."

Nothing relative to these is too great, nothing too little, for his attention. He has his eye continually, as upon every individual person that is a member of this his family, so upon every circumstance that relates either to their souls or bodies; either to their inward or outward state; wherein either their present or eternal happiness is in any degree concerned.

19. But what say the wise men of the world to this? They answer, with all readiness, "Who doubts of this? We are not Atheists. We all acknowledge a providence: that is, a general providence; for, indeed, the particular providence of which some talk, we know not what to make of: surely the little affairs of men are far beneath the regard of the great Creator and Governor of the Universe! Accordingly,

'He sees with equal eyes, as Lord of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall.' ”

Does he indeed? I cannot think it; because (whatever that fine poet did, or his patron, whom he so deeply despised, and yet grossly flattered,) I believe the Bible; wherein the Creator and Governor of the world himself tells me quite the contrary. That he has a tender regard for the brute creatures I know: he does, in a measure, "take care for

oxen :" he "provideth food for the cattle," as well as "herbs for the use of men." "The lions roaring after their prey, do seek their meat from God." "He openeth his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness.”

"The various troops of sea and land,

In sense of common want agree;
All wait on thy dispensing hand,

And have their daily alms from thee.
They gather what thy stores disperse,
Without their trouble to provide:
Thou ope'st thy hand: the universe,
The craving world, is all supplied."

"Are

Our heavenly Father feedeth the fowls of the air: but mark! not ye much better than they?" Shall he not then "much more feed you" who are pre-eminent by so much odds? He does not, in that sense, look upon you and them "with equal eyes;" set you on a level with them; least of all, does he set you on a level with brutes, in respect of life and death: "Right precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." Do you really think the death of a sparrow is equally precious in his sight? He tells us, indeed, that "not a sparrow falleth on the ground without our Father;" but he asks, at the same time, “Are ye not of more value than many sparrows?"

20. But in support of a general, in contradiction to a particular pro vidence, the same elegant poet lays it down as an unquestionable maxim,

"The Universal Cause

Acts not by partial, but by general laws:"

Plainly meaning, that he never deviates from those general laws, in favour of any particular person. This is a common supposition; but which is altogether inconsistent with the whole tenor of Scripture: for if God never deviates from these general laws, then there never was a miracle in the world; seeing every miracle is a deviation from the general laws of nature. Did the Almighty confine himself to these general laws, when he divided the Red sea? When he commanded the waters to stand on a heap, and make a way for his redeemed to pass over? Did he act by general laws, when he caused the sun to stand still for the space of a whole day? No; nor in any of the miracles which are recorded either in the Old or New Testament.

21. But it is on supposition that the Governor of the world never deviates from those general laws, that Mr. Pope adds those beautiful lines in full triumph, as having now clearly gained the point:

"Shall burning Etna, if a sage requiros,
Forget to thunder, and recall her fires?
On air or sea new motions be imprest,
Oh blameless Bethel! to relieve thy breast!
When the loose mountain trembles from on high,
Shall gravitation cease, if you go by?

Or some old temple, nodding to its fall,
For Chartres' head reserve the hanging wall?"

We answer, if it please God to continue the life of any of his servants, he will suspend that or any other law of nature the stone shall not fall; the fire shall not burn; the floods shall not flow; or, he will give his angels charge, and in their hands shall they bear him up, through and above all dangers!

22. Admitting, then, that in the common course of nature, God does act by general laws, he has never precluded himself from making exceptions to them, whensoever he pleases; either by suspending that law, in favour of those that love him, or by employing his mighty angels: by either of which means he can deliver out of all danger them that trust in him.

"What! You expect miracles then?" Certainly I do, if I believe the Bible for the Bible teaches me, that God hears and answers prayer: but every answer to prayer is, properly, a miracle. For if natural causes take their course, if things go on in their natural way, it is no answer at all. Gravitation therefore shall cease, that is, cease to operate, whenever the author of it pleases. Cannot the men of the world understand these things? That is no wonder: it was observed long ago, "An unwise man doth not consider this, and a fool doth not understand it."

23. But I have not done with this same general providence yet. By the grace of God, I will sift it to the bottom and I hope to show it is such stark staring nonsense, as every man of sense ought to be utterly ashamed of.

"You allow a general providence, but deny a particular one." And what is a general, of whatever kind it be, that includes 1.) particulars? Is not every general necessarily made up of its several paticulars? Can you instance in any general that is not? Tell me any genus, if you can, that contains no species? What is it that constitutes a genus, but so many species added together? What, I pray, is a whole that contains no parts? Mere nonsense and contradiction!— Every whole must, in the nature of things, be made up of its several parts; insomuch that if there be no parts, there can be no whole.

24. As this is a point of the utmost importance, we may consider it a little farther. What do you mean by a general providence, contradistinguished from a particular? Do you mean a providence which superintends only the larger parts of the universe? Suppose the sun, moon, and stars. Does it not regard the earth too? You allow it does. But does it not likewise regard the inhabitants of it? Else what doth the earth, an inanimate lump of matter, signify? Is not one spirit, one heir of immortality, of more value than all the earth? Yea, though you add it to the sun, moon, and stars? Nay, and the whole inanimate creation? Might we not say, "These shall perish; but" this "remain eth these all shall wax old as doth a garment;" but this (it may be said in a lower sense, even of the creature) is "the same," and his years shall not fail."

66

25. Or do you mean, when you assert a general providence, distinct from a particular one, that God regards only some parts of the world, and does not regard others? What parts of it does he regard? Those without, or those within, the solar system? Or does he regard some parts of the earth, and not others? Which parts? Only those within the temperate zones? What parts then are under the care of his providence? Where will you lay the line? Do you exclude from it those that live in the torrid zone? Or those that dwell within the arctic

circles? Nay, rather say, "The Lord is loving to every man," and his care is over all his works."

<<

26. Do you mean, (for we would fain find out your meaning, if you have any meaning at all,) that the providence of God does, indeed,

extend to all parts of the earth, with regard to great and singular events; such as the rise and fall of empires; but that the little concerns of this or that man are beneath the notice of the Almighty? Then you do not consider, that great and little are merely relative terms, which have place only with respect to men. With regard to the Most High, man, and all the concerns of men, are nothing, less than nothing, before him. And nothing is small in his sight, that, in any degree, affects the welfare of any that fear God and work righteousness. What becomes then of your general providence, exclusive of a particular? Let it be for ever rejected by all rational men, as absurd, self contradictory nonsense. We may then sum up the whole Scriptural doctrine of providence, in that fine saying of St. Austin, "Ita præsidet singulis sicut universis, et universis sicut singulis!"

"FATHER, how wide thy glories shine!
Lord of the universe, and mine :
Thy goodness watches o'er the whole,
As all the world were but one soul:
Yet keeps my every sacred hair,
As I remain'd thy single care."

27. We may learn from this short view of the providence of God, first, to put our whole trust in him, who hath never failed them that seek him. Our blessed Lord himself makes this very use of the great truth now before us. "Fear not, therefore:" if you truly fear God, you need fear none besides. He will be a strong tower to all that trust in him, from the face of your enemies. What is there either in heaven or in earth that can harm you, while you are under the care of the Creator and Governor of heaven and earth? Let all earth and all hell combine against you; yea, the whole animate and inanimate creation; they cannot harm, while God is on your side: his favourable kindness covers you as a shield.

28. Nearly allied to this confidence in God, is the thankfulness we owe for his kind protection. Let those give thanks, whom the Lord thus delivers from the hand of all their enemies. What an unspeakable blessing it is, to be the peculiar care of Him that has all power in heaven and earth! How can we sufficiently praise him, while we are under his wings, and his faithfulness and truth are our shield and buckler?

29. But meantime we should take the utmost care to walk humbly and closely with our God. Walk humbly: for if you in any wise rob God of his honour, if you ascribe any thing to yourself, the things which should have been for your wealth, will prove to you an 66 occasion of falling." And walk closely see that you have a conscience void of offence, towards God and towards man. It is, so long as you do this, that you are the peculiar care of your Father which is in heaven. But let not the consciousness of his caring for you, make you careless, indolent, or slothful: on the contrary, while you are penetrated with that deep truth, "The help that is done upon earth, He doeth it himself;" be as earnest and diligent in the use of all the means, as if you were your own protector.

Lastly: In what a melancholy condition are those, who do not believe there is any providence; or, which comes to exactly the same point, not a particular one! Whatever station they are in, as long as they are in the world, they are exposed to numberless dangers, which no human wisdom can foresee, and no human power can resist. And there is no

help! If they trust in men, they find them " deceitful upon the weights." In many cases they cannot help: in others, they will not. But were they ever so willing, they will die: therefore, vain is the help of man. And God is far above, out of their sight: they expect no help from him. These modern (as well as the ancient) Epicureans have learned, that the

"Universal Cause Acts not by partial, but by general laws."

He only takes care of the great globe itself; not of its puny inhabitants. He heeds not how those

66

Vagrant emmets crawl
At random on the air-suspended ball."

How uncomfortable is the situation of that man who has no farther hope than this! But, on the other hand, how unspeakably happy is the man that hath the Lord for his help, and whose "hope is in the Lord his God;" who can say, "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is on my right hand, I shall not be moved!"-therefore, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."

SERMON LXXIII.-The Wisdom of God's Counsels.

"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God," Rom. xi, 33.

1. SOME apprehend the wisdom and the knowledge of God to mean one and the same thing. Others believe, that the wisdom of God more directly refers to his appointing the ends of all things, and his knowledge, to the means which he hath prepared and made conducive to those ends. The former seems to be the most natural explication; as the wisdom of God, in its most extensive meaning, must include the one as well as the other; the means as well as the ends.

2. Now the wisdom, as well as the power of God, is abundantly manifested in his creation; in the formation and arrangement of all his works, in heaven above and in the earth beneath; and in adapting them all to the several ends for which they were designed: insomuch that each of them, apart from the rest, is good; but altogether are very good: all conspiring together, in one connected system, to the glory of God, in the happiness of his intelligent creatures.

3. As this wisdom appears even to short-sighted men, (and much more to spirits of a higher order,) in the creation and disposition of the whole universe, and every part of it; so it equally appears in their preservation, in his "upholding all things by the word of his power." And it no less eminently appears in the permanent government of all that he has created. How admirably does his wisdom direct the motions of the heavenly bodies! Of all the stars in the firmament whether those that are fixed, or those that wander, though never out of their several orbits! Of the sun in the midst of heaven! Of those amazing bodies, the comets, that shoot in every direction through the immeasurable fields of ether! How does he superintend all the parts of this lower world, this "speck of creation," the earth! So that all things are still as they were at the beginning, "beautiful in their seasons;" and summer and

« FöregåendeFortsätt »