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things are either parts of our devotion, or by argument for the confirmation of the truth any strength in themselves direct causes of it; discoursed of, if I should appeal to the but the grace of God is pleased to move us by rience of many in this nation, who, having ways suitable to our nature, and to sanctify been long bred to the decent way of divine these sensible inferior helps to greater and service in the cathedrals of the church of higlier purposes. And since God has placed England, were afterwards driven into foreign the soul in a body, where it receives all things countries, where, though they brought with by the ministry of the outward senses, he them the same sincerity to church, yet perwould have us secure these cinque ports (as I haps they could not find the same enlargemay so call them) against the invasion of ments and flowings out of spirit which they vain thoughts, by suggesting to them such were wont to find here. Especially in some objects as may prepossess them with the con countries, where their very religion smelt of trary. For God knows, how hard a lesson the shop; and their ruder and coarser methods devotion is, if the senses prompt one thing, of divine service seemed only adapted to the when the heart is to utter another. And genius of trade and the designs of parsimony; therefore, let no man presume to think that though one would think, that parsimopy in he may present God with as acceptable a God's worship were the worst husbandry in prayer in his shop, and much less in an ale- the world, for fear God should proportion his house or a tavern, as he may in a church or blessings to such devotions. in his closet, unless he can rationally promise 2. The other reason, why God prefers a himself (which is impossible) that he shall worship paid him in places solemnly dedifind the same devout motions and impresses cated and set apart for that purpose, is, upon his spirit there, that he
may here. because in such places it is a more direct What says David, (Psalm lxxvii. 13,) “Thy service and testification of our homage to him. way, O God, is in the sanctuary.” It is no For surely, if I should have something to ask doubt, but that holy person continued a strict of a great person, it were greater respect to and most pious communion with God, during wait upon him with my petition at his own his wanderings upon the mountains and in house, than to desire hiin to come and receive the wilderness ; but still he found in himself, it at mine. that he had not those kindly, warm meltings Set places and set hours for divine worship, upon his heart, those raptures and ravishing as much as the laws of necessity and charity transports of affection, that he used to have in permit us to observe them, are but parts of the fixed and solemn place of God's worship. that due reverence that we owe it: for he See the two first verses of the 63d Psalm, that is strict in observing these, declares to the entitled, “A psalm of David, when he was in world, that he accounts his attendance upon the wilderness of Judah.” How emphatically God his greatest and most important business : and divinely does every word proclaim the and surely, it is infinitely more reasonable truth that I have been speaking of! “O that we should wait upon God, thay God God,” says he, “thou art my God; early will upon us. I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my We shall still find, that when God was flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty pleased to vouchsafe his people a meeting, he land, where no water is ; to see thy power himself would prescribe the place. When he and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only and sanctuary.” Much different was his wish beloved Isaac, the place of the offering was from that of our nonconforming zealots now not left undetermined, and to the offerer's a-days, which expresses itself in another kind discretion : but (Gen. xxii. 2) “Get three of dialect; as,
“ When shall I enjoy God as I into the land of Moriah,” says God, “and used to do at a conventicle ?” “When shall I offer him for a burnt offering upon one of the meet with those blessed breathings, those mountains that I shall tell thee of." heavenly hummings and hawings, that I used It was part of his sacrifice, not only what to hear at a private meeting, and at the end he should offer, but where. When we serve of a table ?"
God in his own house, his service (as I may In all our worshippings of God, we return so say) leads all our other secular 'affairs in him but what he first gives us ; and therefore, triumph after it. They are all made to stoop he prefers the service offered him in the sanc and bend the knee to prayer, as that does to tuary, because there he usually vouchsafes
the throne of grace. more helps to the piously disposed person, for Thrice a year were the Israelites from all, the discharge of it. As we value the same even the remotest parts of Palestine, to go up kind of fruit growing under one climate more to Jerusalem, there to worship, and pay their than under another; because under one it has offerings at the temple. The great distance of a directer and a warmer influence from the some places from thence could not excuse the sun, than under the other, which gives it both inhabitants from making their appearance a better savour and a greater worth.
there, which the Mosaic law exacted as indisApd perhaps I should not want a farther | pensable,
Whether or no they had coaches, to the Many frequent the gates of Sion, but is it temple they must go; nor could it excuse because they love them; and not rather them to plead God's omniscience, that he because their interest forces them, much could equally see and hear them in any place : against their inclination, to endure them? nor yet their own good will and intentions ; Do they hasten to their devotions with that as if the readiness of their mind to go, might, ardour and quickness of mind that they forsooth, warrant their bodies to stay at home. would to a lewd play or a masquerade ? Nor, lastly, could the real danger of leaving Or do they not rather come hither slowly, their dwellings to go up to the temple excuse sit here uneasily, and depart desirously? All their journey: for they might very plausibly which is but too evident a sign, that men and very rationally have alleged, that during repair to the house of God, not as to a place their absence their enemies round about them of fruition, but of task and trouble, not to enmight take that advantage to invade their joy, but to afflict themselves. land. And therefore, to obviate this fear and 2. We should come full of reverence to such exception, which indeed was built upon so sacred places; and where there are affections good ground, God makes them a promise, of reverence, there will be postures of revewhich certainly is as remarkable as any in the rence too. Within consecrated walls, we are whole book of God, (Exod. xxxiv. 24,) “I more directly under God's eye, who looks will cast out the nations before thee; neither through and through every one that appears shall any man desire thy land, when thou before him, and is too jealous a God to be shalt go up to appear before the Lord thy affronted to his face. God thrice in a year.” While they were 3. And lastly; God's peculiar property in appearing in God's house, God himself en such places should give us a confidence in our gages to keep and defend theirs, and that by addresses to him here. Reverence and conlittle less than a miracle, putting forth an fidence are so far from being inconsistent, that overpowering work and influence upon the they are the most direct and proper qualificavery hearts and wills of men, that when their tions of a devout and filial approach to God. opportunities should induce, their hearts should For where should we be so confident of a not serve them to annoy their neighbours. blessing, as in the place and element of
For surely, a rich land, guardless and un- blessings; the place where God both promises defended, must needs have been a double and delights to dispense larger proportions of incitement, and such an one as might not his favour, even for this purpose, that he may only admit, but even invite the enemy. It fix a mark of honour upon his sanctuary; and was like a fruitful garden or a fair vineyard so recommend and endear it to the sons of without a hedge, that quickens the appetite men, upon the stock of their own interest as to enjoy so ternpting, and withal so easy a well as his glory; who has declared himself prize. But the great God, by ruling men's “the high and the lofty One that inhabits hearts, could by consequence hold their hands, eternity, and dwells not in houses made with and turn the very desires of interest and men's hands, yet is pleased to be present in nature out of their common channel, to com- the assemblies of his saints." ply with the designs of his worship.
To whom be rendered and ascribed, as is But now, had not God set a very peculiar most due, all praise, might, majesty, and value upon the service paid him in his temple, dominion, both now and forevermore. surely he would not have thus (as it were) Amen. made himself his people's convoy, and exerted a supernatural work to secure them in their passage to it. And therefore, that eminent hero in religion, Daniel, when in the land of his captivity he used to pay his daily devotions to God, not being able to go to the
SERMON VIII. temple, would at least look towards it, advance to it in wish and desire; and so, in a manner, ALL CONTINGENCIES UNDER THE DIRECbring the temple to his prayers, when he
TION OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. could not bring his prayers to that. And now, what have I to do more, but to
PREACHED AT WESTMINSTER-ABBEY, FEB. 22, 1684-5. wish that all this discourse may have that blessed effect upon us, as to send us both to this and to all other solemn places of divine worship, with those three excellent ingredients
“ The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing of it is of devotion, desire, reverence, and confidence ?
of the Lord.”—PROV. xvi. 33. 1. And first, for desire. We should come hither, as to meet God in a place where he I CANNOT think myself engaged from these loves to meet us ; and where (as Isaac did to words to discourse of lots, as to their nature, his sons) he gives us blessings with embraces. I use, and allowableness; and that not only in
matters of moment and business, but also of years, it will certainly burn so long ; and that recreation; which latter is indeed impugned there will be summer, winter, and harvest, in by some, though better defended by others; their respective seasons; but whether God but I shall fix only upon the design of the will continue the world till to-morrow or no, words, which seems to be a declaration of a we canuot know by any certain argument, divine perfection by a signal instance; a either from the nature of God or of the proof of the exactness and universality of world. God's providence from its influence upon a
But when we look upon such things as thing, of all others, the most casual and relate to their immediate causes with a perfect fortuitous, such as is the casting of lots. indifference, so that in respect of them they
A lot is properly a casual event, purposely / equally may or may not be, human reason applied to the determination of some doubtful can then, at the best, but conjecture what will thing.
be. And in some things, as here in the Some there are, who utterly proscribe the casting of lots, a man cannot, upon any ground name of chance, as a word of impious and pro- of reason, ng the event of them so much as fane signification ; and indeed, if it be taken under conjecture. by us in that sense in which it was used by The choice of man's will is indeed uncerthe heathen, so as to make any thing casual tain, because in many things free ; but yet in respect of God himself, their exception there are certain habits and principles in the ought justly to be admitted. But to say a soul, that have some kind of sway upon it, thing is a chance, or casualty, as it relates to apt to bias it more one way than another; so second causes, is not profaneness, but a great that, upon the proposal of au agreeable object, truth ; as siguifying no more, than that there it may rationally be conjectured, that a man's are some events, besides the knowledge, pur choice will rather incline him to accept than pose, expectation, and power of second agents. to refuse it. But when lots are shuffled And for this very reason, because they are so, together in a lap, urn, or pitcher, or a man it is the royal prerogative of God himself, to blindfold casts a die, what reason in the world have all these loose, uneven, fickle uncer can he have to presume that he shall draw a tainties under his disposal.
white stone rather than a black, or throw an The subject, therefore, that from hence we ace rather than a size? Now, if these things are naturally carried to the consideration of, are thus out of the compass of a man's knowis, the admirable extent of the divine Provi- ledge, it will unavoidably follow, that they dence, in managing the most contingent pas are also out of his power. For no man can sages of human affairs; which that we may govern or command that which he cannot the better treat of, we will consider the result possibly know; since to dispose of a thing of a lot,
implies both a knowledge of the thing to be I. In reference to men.
disposed of, and of the end that it is to be II. In reference to God.
disposed of to. 1. For the first of these, if we consider it as And thus we have seen how a contingent relating to men, who suspend the decision of event baffles man's knowledge, and evades his some dubious case upon it, so we shall find, power. Let us now consider the same in that it naturally implies in it these two respect of God; and so we shall find that it things,
falls under, 1. Something future. 2. Something con 1. A certain knowledge. And tingent.
2. A determining providence. From which two qualifications these two 1. First of all, then, the most casual event things also follow,
of things, as it stands related to God, is com1. That it is absolutely out of the reach of prehended by a certain knowledge. God, by man's knowledge.
reason of his eternal, infinite, and indivisible 2. That it is equally out of his power. nature, is, by one single act of duration,
This is most clear ; for otherwise, why are present to all the successive portions of time; men in such cases doubtful, and concerned, and consequently to all things successively what the issue and result should be ? for no existing in them: which eternal, indivisible man doubts of what he sees and knows; nor act of his existence, makes all futures actually is solicitous about the event of that which present to him; and it is the presentiality of he has in his power to dispose of to what the object which founds the unerring certainty event he pleases.
of his knowledge. For whatsoever is known, The light of man's understanding is but a is some way or other present; and that which short, diminutive, contracted light, and looks is present, cannot but be known by him who not beyond the present: he knows nothing is omniscient. future, but as it has some kind of presence in But I shall not insist upon these speculathe stable, constant manner of operation tions; which, when they are most refined, belonging to its cause; by virtue of which serve only to shew, how impossible it is for we know, that if the fire continues for twenty / us to have a clear and explicit notion of that
which is infinite. Let it suffice us in general their purposes, or by framing their purposes to acknowledge and adore the vast compass of to them. God's omniscience. That it is a light shining But now there is not the least thing that into every dark corner, ripping up all secrets, falls within the cognizance of man, but is and steadfastly grasping the greatest and directed by the counsel of God. “Not a hair most slippery uncertainties. As when we see can fall from our head, nor a sparrow to the the sun shine upon a river, though the waves ground, without the will of our heavenly Faof it move and roll this way and that way by ther.” Such an universal superintendency has the wind; yet for all their unsettledness, the the eye and hand of Providence over all, even sun strikes them with a direct and certain the most minute and inconsiderable things. beam. Look upon things of the most acci Nay, and sinful actions too are overruled to dental and mutable nature, accidental in their a certain issue; even that horrid villainy of production, and mutable in their contiuuance; the crucifixion of our Saviour was not a thing yet God's prescience of them is as certain in left to the disposal of chance and uncertainty ; him, as the memory of them is or can be in but in Acts, ii. 23, it is said of him, that “hé
He knows which way the lot and the die was delivered to the wicked hands of his murshall fall, as perfectly as if they were already derers, by the determinate counsel and forecast. All futurities are naked before that all knowledge of God :" for surely the Son of seeing eye, the sight of which is no more God could not die by chance, nor the greatest hindered by distance of time, than the sight thing that ever came to pass in nature be of an angel can be determined by distance of left to an undeterminate event. Is it imagiplace.
nable, that the great means of the world's 2. As all contingencies are comprehended redemption should rest only in the number of by a certain divine knowledge, so they are possibilities, and hang so loose in respect of governed by as certain and steady a provi- its futurition, as to leave the event in an equal dence.
poise, whether ever there should be such a There is no wandering out of the reach of thing or no? Certainly the actions and prothis, no slipping through the hands of omni- ceedings of wise men run in a much greater potence. God's hand is as stearly as his eye; closeness and coherence with one another, and certainly thus to reduce contingency to than thus to derive at a casual issue, brought method, instability and chance itself to an under no forecast or design. The pilot must unfailing rule and order, argues such a mind intend some port before he steers his course, as is fit to govern the world, and I am sure or he had as good leave his vessel to the direcnothing less than such an one can.
tion of the winds and the government of the Now God may be said to bring the greatest casualties under his providence upon a twofold Those that suspend the purposes of God, account,
and the resolves of an eternal mind, upon the (1.) That he directs them to a certain end. actions of the creature, and make God first
(2.) Oftentimes to very weighty and great wait and expect what the creature will do, ends.
(and then frame his decrees and counsels (1.) And first of all, he directs them to a accordingly,) forget that he is the first cause certain end.
of all things, and
discourse most unphilosphiProvidence never shoots at rovers. There cally, absurdly, and unsuitably to the nature is an arrow that flies by night as well as by of an infinite being ; whose influence in every day, and God is the person that shoots it, who motion must set the first wheel a-going. He can aim then as well as in the day. Things must still be the first agent, and what he does are not left to an equilibrium, to hover under he must will and intend to do, before he does an indifference whether they shall come to it; and what he wills and intends once, he pass or not come to pass; but the whole train willed and intended from all eternity; it of events is laid beforehand, and all proceed being grossly contrary to the very first notions by the rule and limit of an antecedent decree: we have of the infinite perfection of the for otherwise, who could manage the affairs of divine nature, to state or suppose any new the world, and govern the dependence of one immanent act in God. event upon another, if that event happened The Stoics indeed held a fatality, and a at random, and was not cast into a certain fixed unalterable course of events; but then method and relation to some foregoing pur- they held also, that they fell out by a necespose to direct it?
sity emergent from and inherent in the things The reason why men are so short and weak themselves, which God himself could not in governing is, because most things fall out alter: so that they subjected God to the fatal to them accidentally, and come not into any chain of causes, whereas they should have compliance with their preconceived ends, but resolved the necessity of all inferior events they are forced to comply subsequently, and into the free determination of God himself ; to strike in with things as they fall out, by who executes necessarily that which he first postliminous after-applications of them to purposed freely,
In a word, if we allow God to be the gover his victories over Syria were concluded by nor of the world, we cannot but grant, that that number. It was very casual, that the he orders and disposes of all inferior events; Levite and his concubine should linger so long, and if we allow him to be a wise and a rational as to be forced to take up their lodging at governor, he cannot but direct them to a cer Gibeah, as we read in Judges xix. and yet we tain end.
know what a villainy was occasioned by it, (2.) In the next place, he directs all these and what a civil war that drew after it, almost appearing casualties, not only to certain, but to the destruction of a whole tribe. also to very great ends.
And then for examples out of other hisHe that created something out of nothing, tories, to hint a few of them. surely can raise great things out of small, and Perhaps there is none more remarkable, bring all the scattered and disordered passages than that passage about Alexander the Great, of affairs into a great, beautiful, and exact in his famed expedition against Darius. franie. Now this overruling, directing power
When in his march towards him, chancing of God may be considered,
to bathe himself in the river Cydnus, through First, In reference to societies, or united the excessive coldness of those waters, he fell bodies of men.
sick near unto death for three days; during Secondly, In reference to particular persons. which short space the Persian army had ad
First. And first for societies. God and vanced itself into the strait passages of Cilicia; nature do not principally concern themselves by which means Alexander with his small in the preservation of particulars, but of kinds army was able to equal them under those disand companies. Accordingly, we must allow advantages, and to fight and conquer them. Providence to be more intent and solicitous Whereas had not this stop been given him by about nations and governments than about that accidental sickness, liis great courage and any private interest whatsoever. Upon which promptness of mind would, beyond all doubt, account it must needs have a peculiar influence have carried him directly forward to the upon the erection, continuance, and dissolu- enemy, till he had met him in the vast open tion of every society. Which great effects it plains of Persia, where his paucity and small is strange to consider, by what small, incon numbers would have been contemptible, and siderable means they are oftentimes brought the Persian multitudes formidable; and, in about, and those so wholly undesigned by such all likelihood of reason, victorious. So that as are the immediate visible actors in them. this one little accident of that prince's taking Examples of this we have both in Holy Writ, a fancy to bathe himself at that time, caused and also in other stories.
the interruption of his march, and that interAnd first for those of the former sort. ruption gave occasion to that great victory
Let us reflect upon that strange and unpa that founded the third monarchy of the world. ralleled story of Joseph and his brethren ; a In like manner, how much of casualty was story that scems to be made up of nothing there in the preservation of Romulus, as soon else but chances and little contingencies, all as born exposed by uncle, and took up and directed to mighty ends. For was it not a nourished by a shepherd ! (for the story of mere chance that his father Jacob should the she-wolf is a fable.) And yet in that one send him to visit his brethren, just at that accident was laid the foundation of the fourth time that the Ishmaelites were to pass by that universal monarchy. way, and so his unnatural brethren take occa How doubtful a case was it, whether Hansion to sell him to them, and they to carry nibal, after the battle of Cannæ, should march him into Egypt? and then that he should be directly to Rome, or divert into Campania ! cast into prison, and thereby brought at length Certain it is, that there was more reason for to the knowledge of Pharaoh in that unlikely the former; and he was a person that had manner that he was? Yet by a joint connec sometimes the command of reason, as well as tion of every one of these casual events, Pro regiments : yet his reason deserted his convidence served itself in the preservation of a duct at that time; and by not going to Rome, kingdom from famine, and of the church, he gave occasion to those recruits of the then circumscribed within the family of Jacob. Roman strength that prevailed to the conquest Likewise by their sojourning in Egypt, he of his country, and at length to the destruction made way for their bondage there, and their of Carthage itself, one of the most puissant bondage for a glorious deliverance through cities in the world. those prodigious manifestations of the divine And to descend to occurrences within our power, in the several plagues inflicted upon own nation. How many strange accidents the Egyptians. It was hugely accidental, concurred in the whole business of king that Joash king of Israel, being commanded Henry the Eighth's divorce! yet we see Proby the prophet to “strike upon the ground," vidence directed it and them to an entire (2 Kings, xiii.) should strike no oftener than change of the affairs and state of the whole just three times; and yet we find there, that the kingdom. Aud surely, there could not be a fate of a kingdom depended upon it, and that greater chance than that which brought to