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kindred to our own--it may be the very beings, whom on earth we the most tenderly cherished, the most fondly loved ?
It is not then necessary to the idea of Special Providence to suppose Deity interfering with His works, as though, like man, not foreseeing the future, He knew not how to act till the crisis came; but it would be strange indeed if His
of special and timely action was more limited than that of man; provision for this being indeed included in the Divine plan as an element in the very laws which it is strangely supposed to violate. “What do we mean by special providences? These of course must all be included in the orderly operation of laws, or consistent with them, and yet we must not lose the idea of a distinct personality, and personal, timely agency on the part of the Divine Being.
He is infinite and universal, acting at once in all and through all. What, then, is a special act of His. it is not a departure from the regular round of things, but it is just so much of the universal as is more prominent to our perceptions, or more important, as affecting an individual, or many individuals, and also, as taking place by a higher law than the merely natural and likewise involving more spiritual agencies. Everything that transpires is of Providence, because it is some ultimate from the Divine Essence, either orderly or disorderly, and by the very necessity and correctness of the infinite procedure, it is either provided or arranged for, designed or permitted, by the Infinite Being. But some things are more manifestly so to our perceptions, as we see the wonderfully divine means which have led to them. There is, therefore, no speciality at all, in respect to their taking place without law, or contrary to law; but when we come to see, in many particular and more prominent instances, how very wonderful the providence is, and how it has manifestly occurred by the operation of some higher laws than pertain merely to earth or nature, even the agency of spiritual beings being used for the production of it, then it becomes what we call special: but it is special, not as taken out of the universal, but as included in it; yet as projecting out of it to our view, so as to convince us of more than mere laws, and of personal and divine agencies working with those laws
It is manifestly more special for an angel to approach and influence me, or any friend for me, than for me to be blessed with the common air of heaven, or the sight of the green grass, or the light of the sun. The regulations of the atmosphere, of light, and the growth of vegetation, come under the head of natural law. .. But do not the angelic ministrations come under the head of spiritual law? Surely there is something in the contemplation of angelic performance--help from the heavensand in the personal will and
effort which an angel, like a man, puts forth in our behalf, which takes the occurrence out of the common order of nature, and invests it with a divine speciality and importance. These, then, although in a high sense special providences, yet are no more out of the sphere of law and order, than the growth of the grass or the falling of the rain. They are special
with man, but not with God. Highly opportune and timely, but with God they were always so! They come under the operation of a higher law, and of personal agencies acting by those laws, and that is all the difference. Yet this is a difference which wonderfully affects the heart of man. It touches more peculiarly his religious nature, and causes him to look
And here we touch upon a very vital and practical application of the argument—its relation to prayer. It is askedShould we ask the All-Wise to set aside His laws and change His purposes for our convenience? A very pertinent question, truly, to those who hold the Pagan notion of prayer ; but according to the idea of prayer which Christ has given us, we address ourselves to God not to change His purposes in conformity to our will, but so to change our hearts that they may be in harmony with His will :-we aspire to be like Him, to hold communion with Him, and when we spread out our wants before Him it is in submission to His Infinite Wisdom. We surrender ourselves to God; He is our Father; and like children we place our hand in His that He may lead us as He will.
But if God knows our wants before we ask Him, what need of prayer? None, certainly, so far as He is concerned. But what if prayer be itself an
be itself an inspiration from Him to bring us into closer union with Him?? What if it descends from Him as the
* God in His Providences. (Chap. viii.) By WooDBUYELL FERNALD.
| Dscheladeddin, a famous Mahometan mystic, illustrates this in the following story:
The sick man lay on his bed of pain. ́Allah!' he moaned, and his heart grew tender, and his eyes moist with prayer.
“ The next morning the tempter said to him, 'No answer comes from Allah. Call louder; still no Allah will hear thee or ease thy pain.'
“ The sick man shuddered. His heart grew cold with doubt and inquietude, when suddenly before him stood Elias.
"Child !' said Elias, 'why art thou sad? Dost think thy prayers are unheard and unanswered, that thy devotion is all in vain ?'
“ And the sick man replied: "Ah! so often and with such tears I have called on Allab ; I call, Allah! but never do I hear His 'Here am I!'
“And Elias left the sick man; but God said to Elias: 'Go to the tempted one; lift him up from his despair and unbelief.
• • Tell him that his very longing is its own fulfilment; that his very prayer, Come, Allah!' is Allah's answer, Here am I!'
“Yes, every good aspiration is an angel straight from God. Say from the heart, O my Father!' and that very utterance is the Father's reply, 'Here, my child !! "
This little story so beautifully told is (as Ms. Wilkinson remarks) worthy to be preserved not only in our heads, but in our hearts.
fountain of all holy desires, and thence takes its rise in the human heart, to ascend again to Him who gave it and return with blessings to the thirsty soul? What if prayer be the very act or state
of mind best fitted to receive and appreciate the blessing? What is the essence of prayer? It is the soul's sincere and supreme desire; verbal expression is not necessary to it; it may be
The burden of a sigh, the falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye when none but God is near. The demand must precede the supply-we must ask that we may receive-we must seek if we would find—the want must be a real one, and the need be felt ere it can receive its appropriate satisfaction. It is not Dives with his sumptuous fare and rich clothing, but the beggar Lazarus, that needs food and raiment. The soul no less than the body must feel its hunger and its nakedness that it may be fed and clothed. This is the law of prayer, and it is universal in its operation. We see it even in the physical world. The earth is parched, the grass withered, the tender lily droops and pines—Nature lifts up its mute prayer for the gentle summer rain, and lo! in response, the blessing and blessed rain descends in copious showers upon the gladdened earth.
How often do we hear it repeated that Man is the Microcosm, and how little do we think what it implies ! Translated to a higher plane the processes of nature are repeated in the soul of man. We are told that every atom of matter attracts every other atom—that every atom of our earth attracts and is attracted by every atom in Orion, or Uranus, or farthest space. We are told again that there is an attraction by which atoms are detached from the mass to which they adhere and unite according to their several affinities. Is there then this attraction of matter to matter, and no attraction of spirit to spirit? Do atoms draw together and mingle according to their likes, and is there no corresponding law governing the atoms of humanity, binding together kindred natures which meet and freely mingle according to the attraction of each for each ? Yes, there is a law for spirits corresponding to the attraction of gravity in physics—we call it sympathy,—there is a law by which spirits are freely drawn into their several societies, and we name it spiritual affinity.
Prayer then is in its highest sense, the lifting up of the soul to God;—the turning, as it were, of our faces to the East, that the Sun of Righteousness may shine upon them, as the flower turns its loving eyes sunward ;-the opening of our spirits to the holy inspirations of the Divine Spirit, that our wills may blend with His and become one. And secondarily,—the predominant
affection of the mind, whatever that may be, attracts to our aid by the laws of sympathy and affinity, those spiritual beings whose affections are in correspondence with our own, or whose mission it is to succour and defend us on earth, and by whose occult and timely aid prayer is often answered in ways that we know not of; not, however, we may be sure, involving any breach of the Divine laws, but only that larger and better understanding of those laws which enables them when needed to produce effects in Nature which transcend our power, as the man of science produces effects which those who know not Nature's secrets cannot accomplish and can scarcely understand.
Not that prayer is, or is intended ever to be a lazy substitute for the regular labours which Providence has wisely ordained as the ordinary means to supply our natural wants. Laborare est
a grand motto of the old monks: the habit of cheerful industry is a constant prayer which never fails to bring down a blessing “ But there are cases, and always have been, which, by a complication of human misfortunes, lay out of the reach of the ordinary methods, and where the Divine Providence is especially manifest in the play of spiritual laws, by prayers and answers from the ever present all-merciful heavens answers sent in the form of the most material aid."*
* As an illustration of this remark by Mr. Fernald, I here relate a story of the last century :
In a sequestered part of Seotland, an honest hard-working couple were struggling through life, and frequently found it difficult to gain a bare subsistence, and provide even necessaries for their young family. They lived in a thinly-peopled neighbourhood, remote from town or village, and, indeed, at a considerable distance from any habitation whatever.
The poor man could generally contrive to earn a scanty subsistence, barely sufficient to maintain his wife and four children. At times, indeed, his means of support were cut off ; for though industrious when he could procure work, bis employment at best was precarious. Sometimes this worthy couple were reduced to great necessity for want of food, when they experienced unexpected interpositions of Providence, by which help was sent to them in the most unlookedfor manner. On one occasion they were reduced to the greatest extremity of want: all their resources had failed. Their little store of provisions was exhausted. The children had received the last morsel their mother could furnish, yet she was not cast down ; for Ann Young had learned to trust in the loving-kindness of her God, when apparently cut off from human aid. The day however passed over, and no prospect of succour appeared. Night came, and still no relief. The children were crying for their supper ; and, because there was none to give them, their mother undressed them and put them to bed, where they soon cried themselves to sleep.
Their father was much dejected, and likewise went to bed, leaving Ann in solitary possession of the room. And yet she felt not alone.: many sweet hours had she spent in that little cottage, apart from the world, with her Bible and her God. Precious had these opportunities ever been to her, of pouring out her soul to God; of spreading her sorrows, her trials all before Him; and giving vent to a full, and now, alas! a heavy heart.
But ere she begun, that she might not afterwards be disturbed, she made up the peat fire on the hearth. She trimmed and lit the cruisy, (a small iron
All life, indeed, is prayer, though it may not be consciously 80; and it is one which ever tends to its own fulfilment. The supreme wish of the heart manifested in the chief aim we set before ourselves in life, by a law as inevitable as that which attracts the falling apple to the earth, or affinitive particles to each other, attracts to us those invisible beings who are in the same ruling love, whether it be good or evil
, and who influence and aid us in its realization. The miser, those who are in the ruling love of avarice; the sensualist, those whose supreme delight was in bodily pleasures; while those who seek the true
vessel which served as a lamp,) and hung it upon its accustomed place on the wall. She moved the clean oaken table near it, and having taken the large family Bible from among the six or eight well-read, well-worn volumes on the book-shelf, deposited it upon it. She paused however, before opening the sacred volume to implore a blessing on its contents, when the following text involuntarily came into her mind : For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.'
That text, thought Ann, is not very applicable to me; and opening her Bible, she proceeded to look out for some of her favourite passages of Scripture. Yet, "for every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills,' was uppermost in her thoughts. She knelt down, and committed her case to the Hearer and Answerer of prayer. The text seemed fastened to her memory, and, despite of every effort, she could not banish it from her mind. Yet, thought Ann, it is God's word; and she read the Psalm in which the text is contained. It was, she thought, a beautiful Psalm; but many verses in it appeared to her more suited to her condition than this. Again she prayed; hoping that, while presenting her sripplications she might forget it, but with no better success. Still she endeavoured to encourage her drooping heart with the belief of the efficacy of earnest, persevering prayer, and continued her occupation, alternately wrestling in prayer and reading her Bible, until midnight.
Indeed, early dawn found her engaged at the same employment, as at length daylight appeared through the little casement, when a loud impatient rap was heard at the door.
" Who's there?'' said Ann.
" I'm a drover; and quick, mistress, and open the door, and come out and help me. And if there's a man in the house, tell him also to come out with all speed, for one of my cattle has fallen down a precipice, and broken its leg, and it is lying at your door."
On opening the door, what was the first object that met the astonished gaze of Ann? A large drove of cattle, from the Highlands of Scotland. As far as the eye could reach in either direction the road was black with the moving mass which the man was driving on to a market in the south. And there lay the disabled beast, its leg broken-the poor drover standing by, looking ruefully over it-his faithful colley dog by his side, gazing up, as if in sympathy with his master, and as if he understood his dilemma, and knew also that his services could now be of no avail.
The worthy couple were concerned for the poor drover, and evinced every willingness to assist him in his misfortune, had it been in their power. He, in his turn, felt at a loss to know how he should dispose of the animal, and paused to consider what course he ought to pursue. But the more he thought over the catastrophe, the more his perplexity increased.
To drive on the maimed beast was obviously impossible. To sell it thero seemed equally so. At a distance from a market, it would not be easy to find a purchaser ; and, by remaining in that place long enough to do so, he must likeN.S.—III.