Part 29 PROVIDENCE
That God has general laws by which he governs the universe, I am fully aware; I see them through universal nature: and that he has a general providence suited to those laws, I equally believe; but as all generals imply the particulars of which they are composed, so I believe God has his particular laws; and, suited to them, his particular providence, adapted to every occurrence, and applicable to all possible varieties of persons, place, and circumstance; that nothing can occur to which he cannot adapt a particular influence by which that occurrence shall be so directed, or counteracted, as to prevent the evil, and produce the necessary good.
And should there be no occurrences which appear to be under the control of no particular laws, and should there be no natural means to meet such occurrences, guide their operation, or direct their real-influence; so sovereign is he, that without laws and means, he can, by the omnific volitions of his own mind, counterwork the evil and produce the good. And this he is constantly doing, in numberless cases, in answer to prayer: and, indeed, every answer to prayer is a proof as well of this particular and especial providence, as of his innate and eternal goodness.
This providence is not only general, taking in the earth and its inhabitants, en masse; giving and establishing laws by which all things shall be governed; but it is also particular; it takes in the multitudes of the isles, as well as the vast continents; the different species, as well as the genera; the individual, as well as the family. As every whole is composed of its parts, without the smallest of which it could not be whole; so all generals are composed of particulars. And by the particular providence of God, the general providence is formed: he takes care of each individual; and, therefore, he takes care of the whole. Therefore, on the particular providence of God the general providence is built. And the general providence could not exist without the particular, any more than a whole could subsist independently of its parts. It is by this particular providence that God governs the multitude of the isles, notices the fall of a sparrow, bottles the tears of the mourner, and numbers the hairs of his followers. Now, as God is an infinitely wise and good being, and governs the world in wisdom and goodness, the earth may well rejoice and the multitude of the isles be glad.
It is granted that this is a subject which cannot be comprehended. And why? Because God is infinite: he acts from his own counsels, which are infinite, in reference to ends which are also infinite; therefore the reasons of his government cannot be comprehended by the feeble limited powers of man.
The providence of God in renewing the wastes of nature, and in fructifying barren tracts, so as to make the wilderness a fruitful field, and even the sterile rocks a vegetable surface, is a subject of astonishing beauty and contrivance; and as such is worthy of the contemplation of angels and men; and is a sovereign proof of the being and love of the great First Cause and Preserver of all things.
God disposes and governs the affairs of the universe, descending to the minutest particulars, and managing the great whole by directing and influencing all its parts. This particular or especial providence is not confined to work by general laws; it is wise and intelligent, for it is the mind, the will, and energy of God; it steps out of common ways, and takes particular directions, as endlessly varied human necessities may need, or the establishment and maintenance of godliness in the earth may require.
That divine providence which arranges and conducts the whole, and under whose especial guidance and control the course of the present state is ordered, so that all operations in the natural, civil, and moral world, issue in manifesting the glory, justice, and mercy of the supreme Being, lies farther out of the view of men, and by most is little regarded: hence a multitude of events appear to have either no intelligent cause, or no one adequate to their production; and because the operations of the divine hand are not regarded, historians and biographers often disquiet themselves in vain to find out the causes and reasons of the circumstances and transactions which they record.
How exactly does every thing in the conduct of Providence occur! and how completely is every thing adapted to time, place, and occasion! All is in weight, measure, and number. Those simple occurrences which men snatch at, and press into the service of their own wishes, and call them "providential openings," may indeed be links of a providential chain, in reference to some other matters; but unless they be found to speak the same language in all their parts, occurrence corresponding with occurrence, they are not to be construed as indications of the divine will in reference to the claimants. Many persons, through these misapprehensions, miscarrying, have been led to charge God foolishly for the unsuccessful issue of some business in which their passions, not his providence, prompted them to engage.
Nothing escapes his merciful regards, not even the smallest things, of which he may be said to be only the Creator and Preserver; how much less those of whom he is the Father, Saviour, and endless Felicity!
There is not a circumstance in our life, not an occurrence in our business, but God will make subservient to our salvation, if we have a simple heart and teachable spirit. Nothing is more astonishing than the care and concern of God for his followers. The least circumstances of their life are regulated, not merely by the general providence which extends to all things, but by a particular providence, which fits and directs all things to the design of their salvation, causing them all to cooperate for their present and eternal good.
"If God be for us, who can be against us?" He who is infinitely wise has undertaken to direct us: he who is infinitely powerful has undertaken to protect us: he who is infinitely good has undertaken to save us. What cunning, strength, or malice can prevail against his wisdom, power, and goodness? None. Therefore we are safe who love God, and not only shall sustain no essential damage by the persecutions of ungodly men, but even these things work together for our good.
The person whom Christ terms "happy" is one who is not under the influence of fate or chance, but is governed by an all-wise providence, having every step directed to the attainment of immortal glory, being transformed by the power into the likeness of the ever blessed God.
The belief of an all-wise, all-directing providence, is a powerful support under the most grievous accidents of life.
Let man, who is made for God and eternity, learn from a flower of the field how low the care of Providence stoops.
It is the property of a wise and tender father to provide necessaries, and not superfluities, for his children. Not to expect the former is an offense to his goodness; to expect the latter is injurious to his wisdom.
The passage from distrust to apostasy is very short and easy; and a man is not far from murmuring against providence who is dissatisfied with its conduct. We should depend as fully upon God for preservation of his gifts as for the gifts themselves.
To rely so much upon Providence as not to use the very powers and faculties with which the divine Being has endowed us, is to tempt God.
That God has promised to protect and support his servants admits of no dispute; but, as the path of duty is the way of safety, they are entitled to no good when they walk out of it.
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