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Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name : hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.' And so also have mercies a language, Rom. ii. 4. * Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.' And providences being the work of a rational agent, they must have a design.
4. A disposition to understand the language and design of providence. It is for this end they are observed wisely, Micah vi. 9. forecited. God speaks by providence, and the wise hearken by observation, that they may know what is meant by those characters, in which God writes his mind towards them. Hence the more one pursues communion with God, he will the more narrowly observe providence ; and when he grows remiss and negligent as to communion with God, he lets these things easily pass. But these are the prints of the Lord's feet, which one walking with God will set himself to observe.
Secondly, To observe providences wisely, imports these five things.
1. A watching for them till they come. Hence says the prophet, Hab. ii. 1. I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.' This is to wait on the Lord in the way of his judgments
, Isa. xxvi. 8. A practice necessarily following on the serious practice of godliness, in laying matters before the Lord by prayer, and depending on him according to his word, Psal. cxxx. 1. 5, 6. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. I wait for the Lord, and my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning: I say more, than they that watch for the morning. Some providences have a glaring light with them, that cannot but strike the eye of the beholder; but others not being so may pass unobserved, if people be not on their watch. Providence sometimes works long under ground, and wraps itself up in a long night of darkness; but the wise observer will wait the dawning of the day, and the setting up its head above ground, Psal. Ixix. 3. Mine eyes fail while I wait for my God; Lam. iii. 49, 50. “Mine eye trickleth down and ceaseth not, without any intermission : till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven. For they that believe will not make haste.
2. A taking heed to them, and marking them when they come, Isa. xxv. 9. ' Lo this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us : this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.' Heeding them, I mean, as from the hand of the Lord; for though men heed the thing, if they do not heed the hand it comes from, they have but the carcase without the soul of providences. The threads of providence are sometimes so small and fine, and our senses so little exercised to discern, that they may come and go without our notice, Luke xix. 14. 'Thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." Therefore the eyes of the wise man are in his head, to observe what comes from heaven ; looking aforehand, and in the time; for he that looks sees, Ezek. i. 15. Zech. vi. 1.
3. A serious review of them, pondering and narrowly considering them. We should not only look to them, but into them, Psal. cxi. 2. • The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.' And the more we see of them, the more of God we will see in them; for the further we wade in these waters, the deeper. Providence is a wheel within a wheel, a piece of the nice workmanship of heaven, which may make us cry out with wonder many a time, O wheel ! Ezek. X. 13. The design of providence oftimes lies hid, not to be seen at first view; but we must look again and again, and narrowly inspect it, éré we can comprehend it. It is a mystery many times, looking at which our weak eyes will begin to dazzle. And that we may unravel the clue by a sanctified judgment, Psal
. 6. it will be needful to call in the help of prayer, with much humility, faith, and self-denial, Job x. 2. and of the scripture, Psal. lxxiii. 16.
4. Laying them up, and keeping them in record, Luke i. 66. We should keep them as one
would do a treasure, for the time to come.
Then are they experiences, which will be notable provision for after-times. O, if these observations were wisely made, and carefully laid up, the former part of our life might furnish noble helps for the latter part of it, and the longer we lived, the richer would we be in this spiritual treasure: even as in war one victory helps to get another. And the old disciple might have a body of practical experimental divinity in his head, drawn forth from his own observation. We find David, when young, Vol. I.
improving providences formerly thus observed, 1 Sam. xvi. 37. • The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine ;' and when old doing the sáme, Psal. xxxvii. 25. “I have been young, and now am old: yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.'
5. Lastly, It is a practical observation of them. They who observe providences wisely do not observe them only to clear their judgments, and inform their understandings, as by matters of speculation ; but to influence their hearts and affections in the conduct of their life, Micah vi. 9. The more that one wisely observes providence, he will be the more holy. The observing the work of providence about himself and others, will advance the work of grace in the heart, and holiness in the life, Rom. v. 4. 'Patience worketh experience, and experience, hope,' Psal. Ixiv, 7, 9. · God shall shoot at them with an arrow, suddenly shall they be wounded. And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. It is a woful observation of providence, when it has no good effect on people to make them better. Hence Moses says to the Israelites, Deut. xxix. 2, 3, 4. “Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land ; the great teinptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs and those great miracles : yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day. But it is yet worse when people are made worse thereby, as in the case of him who said, Behold this evil is of the Lord, what ! should I wait for the Lord any longer? 2 Kings vi. 33. But it is a kindly effect of it when men accommodate their spirits to the divine dispensations they are under, according to that, Eccl. vii. 14. In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider.'
II. I come now to speak of the objects about which we are wisely to make our observations, these things. This is a spacious field, as broad as the universe, or the whole creation, so far as we come to the knowledge any manner of way of the works of God. For providence reacheth to all things, and in every thing the finger of God is to be seen.
part of his
None of all God's works of providence laid open to our view are excepted, nor allowed to be overlooked, Psal. xxviii
. 5. And all of them may be profitably noticed. But more particularly, I shall offer you a sample of the admi. rable web of providence ; a sample, I say, for how small a
do we know? The dispensations of provi. dence may be considered,
1. With respect to their objects. 2. With respect to their kinds. 3. With
respect to the time of their falling out. FIRST, Providences may be considered with respect to their objects, which are all the creatures and all their actions. And here let us,
First, Look into the invisible world, and trace providence a little there. It becomes Christians to cause their eye to follow there where God's hand is before them at work. David tells us, Psal. cxxxix. 8. If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. God is there with his hand of providence, ver. 10. Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. And the apostle gives the Christian that character, 2 Cor. iy, 18. that he looks not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen,
First, Look to the lower part of that world, the kingdom of darkness, and there you see devils and damned spirits of men, with the providence of God about them in an awful manner, A fearful web of providence encompasses them.
1. Concerning devils, view the awful providences they are under, and observe,
(1.) How these once glorious creatures are now irreco, verably lost, and reserved to a certain and dreadful judg: ment, 2 Pet. ii. 4. Jude 6. Behold and learn the severity of God's justice from this his work; how no natural excellency will preserye the creature from wrath when once defiled with sin. They were the first that yentured to break over the hedge of the holy law, and God set them up for dreadful examples to the whole creation. Behold the power of God, whose hands deyils themselves cannot rid themselves out of. And understand the loving-kindness of the Lord, in proyiding a Saviour for man, and not for them, Heb. ii. 16, (2.) How, notwithstanding, these malicious creatures are not so pent up in their prison, but they are permitted to go about through the world; yet this world is generally in. habited without molestation from them. Only now and then, in some very rare cases, they are suffered to molest men, by a particular providential permission as in the case of Job, chap. ii. This general case of the world is a con. tinued wonder of providence. How is it that ever we get any rest from them in house or field? It is not for want of will or natural power, but from the restraint of providence upon them, continued upon them, notwithstanding of the world's wickedness. Observe this thankfully, and under. stand the loving-kindness of the Lord.
2. Concerning damned spirits, who are in hell under the wrath of God, see the awful providences about them, and observe how miserable they are, Luke xvi. 23. being 'punished from the presence of the Lord,' 2 Thess. i. 9. all hopes of recovery being now lost for ever. And learn how precious time is, that what we have to do, ye may do quickly : how deceitful sin and the world are; and how severely God punishes at length, though he may long bear with sinners. . And understand the loving-kindness of the Lord, that ye are yet in the land of the living, under means of
grace, and hopes of glory.
Secondly, Look to the upper part of the invisible world, the regions of bliss; and there you will see angels and the spirits of just men made perfect wrapt up in a glorious web of providence, sparkling with goodness and mercy. See the Larger Catechism on Providence.
Concerning the blessed angels, observe, 1. How they are established in holiness and happiness, 1 Tim. v. 21. They were of the same changeable nature with those that fell; but God held them up, and has confirmed them, that they cannot fall now.
And learn the power of sovereign gráce, which can establish one tottering creature when another falls; and how happy they are who cheerfully do the will of God, for so the angels do in heaven. Though proud shining hypocrites fall away and perish, yet trembling saints shall be made to stand,
2. How they are employed in the administration of his power, mercy, and justice, 2 Kings xix. 35. In one night the angel of the Lord smote in the camp of the Assyrians an