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Mat. x. 29, 30. Are not two sparrows 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. The Creator of all things is our Father: he has nol only formed us what we are, but through his power and goodness we are upheld in being. In the constitution of the world he has established general laws for the continuance of every species of plant and animal ; he has appointed numberless means for our preservation and support; he has wisely connected all parts of the universe together ; and, the Infinite Monarch, his dominion extends over all the worlds which are known or unknown to us. The conviction of these important truths is precious to the children of men; but the belief of them alone, is not sufficient for our felicity. I would also desire to know, whether this exalted Creator attends to the works of his hand ; whether he observes and directs all changes in the material and spiritual world ; whether his providence extends, not only over the great whole, but also over every particular
390 SERMO CIV. part of his creation, however minute ; whether he wisely regulates the lot of all his unintelligent and intelligent creatures ; whether I myself, so inconsiderable an atom in the universe, may yet confidently believe that the least events and changes in my
life are under the directing providence of my God ; and that, consequently, nothing can occur which he hath not ordained or permitted for good. Much, very much of my happiness, depends upon the answer to these questions : more than half my consolation and my hopes must be crushed, if I have a God, who, because he is so great, will not regard me, nor attend to my wants ; if, of consequence, my happiness is entirely dependent upon my own wisdom or imprudence, upon the passions of other men, upon a blind chance, or an unintelligent necessity, and not upon the paternal providence and direction of the Lord. Does he not, or will he not, know where my habitation is appointed ? what is my character and conduct ; whether I am surrounded by the enjoyments of earth, or piuingjiii poverty, and weighed down by affliction; whether I have friends who love and cherish me, or enemies who hate and persecute me ? Is he ignorant or indifferent, whether I become the victim of slander or of fraud ; whether the object of my tendercst affections be torn from my embraces and sunk into the tomb ; whether that child, whose opening virtues 1 have watched with transport, become the prey of death; whether disease or pestilence shall cut me off in the midst of my days? Ah! if all such circumstances are not under the government of God, and wisely directed by his providence, what ground of consolation have I in my afflictions ; what motive for the effusions of gratitude to God in my joy ; what se~
MISCELLA EOUS. 391 curity for future happiness in this world, or the next ? \ should then be forsaken, like a child who, though he had a father, was early abandoned to strangers for his instruction or support ; or like a poor orphan, early deprived of his parents, and left without guide
or friend ! ay, I am worse than this orphan child ; for he may find among strangers some benevolent heart that will exercise to him the love of a father, the tenderness of a mother; but I ! where can I find another God who will direct my steps, regulate my lot, listen to my prayers, over-rule my afflictions for my greatest good ; if my Creator and my Lord is regardless of the work of his hands, and is satisfied, when according to his established laws I have been born a man, with leaving me to be carried forward with the current of mortal things without his inspection, superintendence, and care? Where, where can I find another father, who will be what God is to me. if there be a Providence ; who will watch over me amidst the thousand dangers which daily encompass me ; who will reach forth his hand to sustain me when I totter, and raise me when I fall; who can guard my temporal happiness, and conduct me to the high felicity enjoyed by the redeemed? It is then of unspeakable consequence to be convinced of the particular providence of God; to be able to look up to him, and rejoice in him, in every moment and in every circumstance of our lives, as our Father and our friend, constantly present with us. And, blessed be his name, he has not left himself without witness, but has given us the fullest proofs of this precious truth ! It would be useless formally to prove to you that God has a right to exercise this particular providence over his own works; and that he is qualified to exercise
392 SERMO CIV. it by his perfections, his infinite power, and wisdom, and love.
That he does actually exercise it, is proved by his attributes and relations to us, by the powerful impressions of nature, by the observation of the world, by the declarations of his holy word. 1. In viewing the attributes of God and his relations to us, there are two questions to be considered : Has God the gracious will, the benevolent inclination, to observe and direct the works of creation ? and has he sufficient poiver to discern all his creatures, and to regulate every thing respecting them according to hisioill? Has God the gracious will? O, my soul! canst thou for a moment, entertain a doubt of it? He who made thee in mercy, (for what but goodness could induce him to give thee life?) he who has displayed so many traces of his goodness in heaven and upon earth ; he who has given life and feeling to the smallest insect, and so admirably provided for its nourishment and support; canst thou question whether this benevolent Parent wants the will to watch over his works ? Shall he, after having so wondrously formed his work, throw it without care from his hand ? Shall he, after having placed the first intelligent creature in the world and provided for the continuance of the race, no longer be attentive to him or his descendants? See the affectionate mother, how willingly she remains continually near her child ! how solicitously she averts from it the dangers t which threaten it ! how carefully she relieves its distresses, supplies its wants, and promotes its happiness! And God, who implanted these feelings in the heart of the mother ; God, whose tenderness as far exceeds that of mortals, as he is elevated above them by nature: God can be utterly careless and indifferent with rf
MISCELLA EOUS. 393
gard to his children? Reject the thought with indignation ! My soul, thou reproachest God, if for an instant, thou doubtest his gracious will ! But can God exercise this particular providence ? •Has he sufficient power to observe all his creatures, and to regulate the smallest, as well as the most important events throughout the universe ? I need not pause to prove to you that he has this power; you cannot deny it without denying his existence : he who created all, can govern all ; he who is omnipotent and omnipresent, can, without exertion, preside over every change of the universe ! But if he has thus the will and the power, he must exercise this providence. 2. What is thus taught us from the consideration of God, is confirmed by mi attention to our own feelings. A persuasion of the superintending providence of God is so incorporated with our very nature, so interwoven with the very principles of our being, that no nation has ever existed that has been able to eradicate the impressions of it. Hence in every country, savage or civilized, altars have been reared, temples erected, prayers offered, to the God who was supposed to be present, able to assist, and ready to hear. Can so universal a sentiment be explained, on a supposition of its falsity? It is true, a i'ew men have been found who have denied it, and have endeavoured to believe irreligious systems which rejected it; but when these same men have been visited by unexpected affliction, and alarmed by some great impending calamity, nature, or rather the voice of God has spoken within them ; their systems have been forgotten, while they have almost involuntarily implored the protection of the Lord. 3. An attention to the history of the world shows us
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394 SERMO CIV. that the providence of God is universal. In how many instances does he interpose, so as to compel the most careless to acknowledge his presence and agency? How often does he display his providence by the means which he employs to produce effects ? Sometimes making use of the smallest things to produce the greatest consequences; sometimes of instruments naturally calculated to produce the contrary effects to what they actually accomplish ; sometimes making the greatest consequences to hang upon events which are casual with regard to us, though determined by him. How often do we behold his providence causing the most marked distinction in the success of persons of the same powers of mind, the same external advantages, the same industry? How often, to prove his superintendence, does he bestow upon men what they desired in a different way, and sometimes in an opposite method to what they had projected ? How many thousand instances in which the passions of men have been restrained ; or sudden changes made upon their spirits for the preservation of others ; or the counsels of the wise infatuated, and made subservient to the very ends to which they were opposed ? He must be little acquainted with the history of the world, and have been a most inobservant spectator of the events that have occurred during his life, who has not remarked ten thousand such circumstances, that can rationally be explained only by the acknowledgment of Divine Providence. 4. In the holy volume, there is scarcely a page in which we are not expressly taught the providence of God. Indeed it is the great intent of revelation to give the history of his providence, and show the man-
ner and rules of his dealings with the children of men. The prophecies particularly show his super-
MISCELLA EOUS. 395 intendence of the concerns of earth, and his direction of all events. The Old and the ow Testament concur in teaching us that " The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed : the Lord killeth and maketh alive ; he bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up. The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich ; he bringeth low, and lifteth up." (1 Sam. ii. 6, &c.) u Riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all, and in thine hand is power and might ; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all." (1 Chr. xxix. 11, 12.) 44 God doeth great things and unsearchable ; marvellous things without number : he giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields ; he setteth upon high those that be low : he disappointeth the devices of the crafty ; but he saveth the poor from the sword, from tbe mouth and from the hand of the mighty." (Job. v. 8, &c.) 44 Promotion cometh not from the east nor the west; but God is the Judge; he putteth down one, and setteth up another." (Psa. lxxxv. 6. 7.) " He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven." 4i He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens when they cry." 44 A man's heart deviseth his way ; but the Lord directeth his steps." These are but a few of the numberless passages which teach us that God's providence extends to the most minute, as well as to the most important concerns ; to the death of a sparrow, and the number of our hairs, as well as to the rise of empires, or the fall of states. Do you ask, if it is consistent with the majesty and dignity of God to attend to such minute events ? Yes!
it is not unworthy of him to govern what it is not unworthy of him to create. The continued and universal exercise of wisdom and goodness cannot be inconsistent with majesty. The sun, the
396 SERMO CIV. brightest natural emblem of its Creator, loses none of its excellence, because it not only enlightens powerful emperors, but also permits insects to sport in its beams. Those who would represent the providence of God as extending only to the great whole, without regarding the minute parts, have not only never attended to the great chain of nature, in which the most minute and most important events are so inseparably linked together, that one cannot be neglected, without neglecting the other; they have bebesides, never formed a proper conception of the glory of God. How great does he appear, when at once encircling in the arms of his providence, the highest angel, and the lowest worm ; viewing the whole chain which connects a past and a future eternity from the first to the last, and holding it steadily in bis hand; observing and directing every circumstance with all its consequences, throughout his vast dominion ! How great does he appear, when, without effort or exertion, he directs the planets in their orb, marks out to the comet its course, upholds the numberless worlds which are scattered through the immensity of space ; and at the same moment condescending, regulates my lot with as much care as though I were the only happy creature in the universe under his dominion, regards the necessities of a suffering Lazarus, provides for the feeble insect, hears the song of the nightingale, and listens to the sigh of the prisoner ! At the contemplation of such a God I tremble : but it is with reverence, with love, with gratitude, and joy.
1. It is of unspeakable importance to keep the remembrance of God's providence fresh upon the mind ; the forgetfulness of it is often mentioned in scripture as an occasion of sin. The wicked are represented
MISCELLAi^EOUS. 397 as violating the divine laws, because they suppose " God hath forgotten; he hideth his face; he will never see it: This is also one great ground of our coldness in our religious exercises. Would our worship be so languid, our prayers so unfrequent, our praises so heartless, our trust so feeble, if we had a proper sense of the universality, the watchfulness, the tenderness of God's providence ? If then, we would grow in holiness, let us often recall to ourselves that wherever we are, and whatever we do, the Lord is with us ; and let us exercise those affections, and perform those acts which this remembrance is calculated to produce. 2. This subject excites deep melancholy, when we reflect how many oppose the providence of God, and sin against it: such are those who, desirous of continuing in that sin which they love, wish that this doctrine may be false ; and trembling at the inspection and government of God, endeavour to lull themselves to a fatal security, while they cry with those guilty men in the prophet, " The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil." (Zeph. i. 12.) Such are those who disregard the checks of Providence, and like Pharaoh, still proceed in their evil course, though God has thus manifested his displeasure : such are those who live in the habitual omission oi prayer. The Psalmist gives it as one proof that fools deny God's government of the world, that ;< they call not upon the Lord." If we really believed
his watchful providence over us, and his sufficiency to help us, we should not so neglect to pour out our prayers to him, and look to every thing for assistance rather than to him. If we were more persuaded of the care of our Father, we should more readily flee to his bosom in our distress. Such are those whose
;i98 SERMO CIV. chief trust for felicity is in other things than God ; in the power of their friends, in their wisdom or prudence, in the wealth they have accumulated ; this is practically to deny the providence of the Lord. Such are those who, on the reception of mercies never raise their hearts in gratitude to God, but confine their thanks to the instruments he has employed: who attribute their prosperity only to their friends, their health to their own care, or the skill of the physician, their learning to their own industry. This is a base requital for the providential care of Him, withoul whom all second causes would be ineffectual. Such are those who seek wealth or honour by unlawful means. This is to reject the providence of God, and to seek relief of hell ; to imitate Saul, who, when the Lord did not answer according to his wishes, fled to Satan. Such are those who envy their brother the temporal blessings, or the spiritual gifts which God has bestowed upon him. What is this but to reflect upon the Author of these gifts, and treat his providential distribution of them unjust or unwise ? Such are those who are impatient under afflictions; quarrelling with the providential will of God, and charging him with severity and want of goodness. Such arc those who blame Providence for the sins they have committed, and thus reproach the Most Holy. All these classes of persons sin against Divine Providence, Alas, how many of us have then been guilty before God ! .
3. This subject is full of consolation to all the pious. Innumerable fears and anxieties must seize upon every considerate mind, if the government of the world were left to accident, to fate, or to mere human conduct and direction ; but these fears and anxieties vanish, and the troubled heart is at rest, when we
MISCELLA EOUS. 399 are assured, that though blind and helpless in ourselves, there is an infinite wisdom to guide us, and irresistible power to defend us. We may then sing, " The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice." Friend of Jesus ! God is thy friend. Attending to all his works, he yet exercises towards thee a special providence. " The eye of the Lord" is " peculiarly " upon them that fear him ; upon them that hope in his mercy." " The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his ways." Fear not then, the pressure of afflictions ; not one shall befall thee, but by the providence of thy Father. Tremble not at the fury of thy enemies ; the God whom thou servest, and who encompasses thee with his loving kindness, is omnipotent. Indulge no unbelieving apprehensions concerning thy future lot in life ; but cast thy cares upon thy Heavenly Friend, assured that though " the young lions do lack and suffer hunger, they that fear the Lord shall not want any good thing." If called to separate from those friends who formed the charm of your lives, pour forth those tears which nature requires, over their tombs ; (thy God permits this sorrow;) but at the same time, bow submissively to the disposals of thy Father, acknowledge his wisdom and love ; and cry, " ot my will, but thine be done." Let thy bereavements drive thee for consolation to thy God, and cause thee
more anxiously to long, and more carefully to prepare for that world, where a heavenly light shall be shed upon all the providences of God, which here may appear dark and mysterious to thee ; where, reviewing all his conduct to thee, thou shalt shout, 4' He has led me by a right way to the city whose builder is God ; he hath done all things well."
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