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rebellion against God; a breach of his holy law, and deserves his wrath and curse; and therefore cannot be authorised by an infinitely-holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without detestation and abhorrence. Though he has by a permissive decree allowed moral evil to be in the world, yet that has no influence on the sinner to commit it. For it is not the fulfilling of God's decree, which is an absolute secret to every mortal, but the gratification of their own lusts and perverse inclinations, that men intend and mind in the commission of sin.
2. Beware of murmuring and fretting under any dispensations of providence that ye meet with; remembering that nothing falls out without a wise and holy providence, which knows best what is fit and proper for you. And in all cases, even amidst the most afflicting incidents that befal you, learn submission to the will of God; as Job did, when he said upon the back of a train of the heaviest calamities that happened to him, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job i. 21. In the most distressing case say with the disciples · The will of the Lord be done,' Acts xxi. 14.
3. Beware of anxious cares and diffidence about your through-bearing in the world, This our Lord has cautioned his followers against, Matth. vi. 31. Take no thought (that is, anxious and perplexing thought), saying, What shall we
What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed ? Never let the fear of man stop you from duty, Matth. x. 28, 29.; but let your souls learn to trust in God, who guides and superintends all the events and administrations of providence, by whatever hands they are performed.
4. Do not slight means, seeing God worketh by them; and he that hath appointed the end orders the means necessary for gaining the end. Do not rely upon means, for they can do nothing without God, Matth. iv. 4. Do not despond if there be no means, for God can work without them, as well as with them; Hos. i. 7. 'I will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.' If the means be unlikely, he can work above them, Rom. iv. 19. He considered not his own body now dead, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb. If the means be contrary, he can work by contrary means, as he saved Jonah by the
whale that devoured him. That fish swallowed up the prophet, but by the direction of providence, it vomited him out upon dry land.
5. Lastly, Happy is the people whose God the Lord is : for all things shall work together for their good. They may sit secure in exercising faith upon God, come what will
, They have ground for prayer; for God is a prayer-hearing
; God, and will be inquired of by his people as to all their concerns in the world. And they have ground for the greatest encouragement and comfort amidst all the events of providence, seeing they are managed by their covenant God and gracious friend, who will never neglect or overlook his dear people, and whatever concerns them. For he hath said, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee, Heb. xiii, 5.
THE WISE OBSERVATION OF PROVIDENCES ILLUSTRATED AND EN
PSAL. cvii. 43. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.
HOSOEVER would walk with God, must be due
observers of the word and providence of God, for by these in a special manner he manifests himelf to his people. In the one we see what he says; in the other what he does. These are the two books that every student of holiness ought to be much conversant in. They are both written with one hand, and they should both be carefully read, by those that would have not only the name of religion, but the thing. They should be studied together, if we would profit by either; for being taken together, they give light the one to the other; and as it is our duty to read the word, so it is also our duty to observe the work of God, Psal. xxviii. 5. The one I formerly recommended; and I am now to press the other, as a proper addition to our late discourse on the
providence of God, from the text now read. Wherein we have two things.
1. The observing of providences recommended, Whoso is wise, &c. In the Hebrew it runs, Who is wise, and will observe these things. Wherein we may observe,
Ist, The duty itself recommended, observing these things. Where we are to consider the act and the object.
(1.) The object these things, that is, the dispensations of providence. These are the things the Psalmist would have men to observe. For the design of this psalm is to praise God for his wonderful works of providence in the world, es. pecially in the church. For this cause he sets before us, (1.) Wonderful deliverances wrought by providence, instanced in the seasonable relief given to, (1.) Needy and bewildered strangers, far from their own, ver 3.-9. (2.) Captives and prisoners, ver. 10.-16. (3.) Sick people at the gates of death, ver. 17.-22. (4.) To seafaring men in a storm, ver. 23.–32. (2.) Strange and surprising changes in human affairs. (1.) Fruitful places made barren, and barren places fruitful, ver. 33–35. For an instance of which we need but consider this our own country, sometime a forest, for little use but to be a hunting-field, now comfort, ably maintaining many families, and useful to the nation, by its great store. (2.) Mean families raised by a blessing on their husbandry and store, and cast down again from their prosperity by cross providences, losing as fast as they got before, ver. 36,-39. (3.) Those that were high in the world abased, and those that were mean and despicable raised to honour, ver. 40, 41. These turns of providence are of use to solace saints, and silence sinners, ver. 42. Now, here is a field opened for serious observation. These and such like things we are called to notice.
(2.) The act, observation. We must not let providences pass without remark, but observe them carefully, as men that are neither fools nor atheists, but have eyes in their heads, and do not think the world is guided by blind chance, but by an infinitely wise God. The word signifies to take heed, and retain, as a watchman in a city does. We must take heed to them as they fall out, and carefully keep them in mind, that they be not forgot, or slip out of our minds.
2dly, The qualification necessary to fit a man for this duty, wisdom. This is true spiritual wisdom; for in scripture language all strangers to serious godliness are accounted
fools, however sharp-sighted otherwise they be. As for ¡ others, they neither will nos can rightly observe these things. 3dly, The manner of the expression. It intimates, (i.)
Ic That there are few so wise as to observe providences. Most part of the world are stupid in that point; they let them go and come without notice, Jer. ix. 12. (2.) That "those who are truly wise will do it, Hos. xiv. ult.
2. The advantage accruing from a wise observation of providences. They shall understand thereby the lovingkindness, goodness, and mercy of God, written out in his dispensations towards themselves and others ; as we know how one stands affected to us by his behaviour towards us. His works will give us a clearer discovery of his glorious perfections; and these observations will enrich us with experiences. It is remarkable, that some of these things are cross providences; yet a right observation of them will shew us God's kindness ; for the divine goodness may be seen in cross providences as well as in favourable ones.
From the text I shall only observe one doctrine at present. Doct. “It is the duty of Christians wisely to observe pro
This is a weighty point in practical religion, that requires observation in speaking to it, and practising of it.
In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall shew, I. What it is to observe providences wisely.
II. What are the objects about which we are to make our observations
III. What we are to observe in them.
IV. The reasons why Christians should wisely observe providences.
V. Make some practical improvement.
I. I am to shew' what it is to observe providences wisely. It presupposes some things, and imports some things,
First, It presupposes these four things.
1. That there is a providence. The world is not managed by fortune, nor do things fall out by blind chance. That there is a God, and that there is a providence, have been al
looked on as certain maxims, establishing one another, by men of sound judgment. And indeed to set up the creatures to act otherwise than under the providence of God, is to set them up for independent beings, that is, for gods. The scripture is plain that it reacheth all things, Rom. xi. 36.
For of him, and through him, and to him are all things ;' even from the greatest to the least, as ye will see from Mat
. X. 29, 30, 31. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing: and one of them shall not fall on 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 spar,
rows.' And unless it were so, how could he foresee and foretel things, Isa. xlvi. 10.
Some think this would disturb his repose, and is unworthy of him, and his purity and wisdom. But do not these atheists see the sun in the heavens undisturbed, with his (yet) universal influence, shine on the dunghill as well as the garden, without contracting any spot? And is it unworthy of God to govern what he has created? As for the wisdom in the management of the world, they are fools who judge it folly before they see the end.
2. The faith of this providence. We must believe the doctrine of providence, if we would be wise observers thereof. The faith of the saints in this point may be shaken in an hour of temptation; as was the case with Asaph, Psal. Ixxiii. 13, 14, 15. Verily (says he) I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus ; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. And the unbelief of others therein makes them half atheists, Mal. iii. 14, 15. Ye have said, it is vain to serve God: and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy ; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered. And the slender belief there is of it in the world makes men overlook providence, Hab. i. 16. “Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense into their drag: because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.' Labour ye firmly to believe providence, that ye may observe it; nay, believe it, and ye will observe it.
3. Providence has a language to the children of men. IC is a clear part of the name of God whereby he manifests himself to the world, and has served to convince men of his eternal power and Godhead, whom no other arguments could reach : Dan. iv. ult. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, and extol, and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment, and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.' Psal. xix. 3, 4. • There is no speech, nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Rods have a language, Micah vi. 9. "The