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SERMON VIII. .

ON THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE.

PROVERBS xvi. 33.

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is

of the Lord.

The words before us affirm a truth, supported by the strongest evidence both of reason and Scripture, and yet, alas ! exerting but little influence upon the thoughts and practice of mankind. What can be more apparently fortuitous than the decision of a lot? and, indeed, if it were not so, it would fail of the very end for which it is designed: but however uncertain it may be to us, it is not so to God, who has a perfect knowledge and an absolute disposal of all future events. Hence, good men of old, when they thought it expedient to cast lots, which they never did but in matters of importance, and such as could not well be determined in another way, solemnly applied for the divine direction and interposition, (Acts i. 24.) Here it may be proper to show what is involved in the proposition here laid down, and to what particular circumstances in life it may be applied.

I. What is involved in this proposition? It seems to me to imply,

1. That occurrences the most uncertain to us are absolutely foreknown to God. As he is almighty, so he is omniscient. No limits can be set to his power, no bounds to his understanding ; not only past and present, but future father's house :" “ Thou saidst, Seek ve my face:” “Come, for all things are ready." God called the Thessalonians to their performance of various duties mentioned in the foregoing verses; but then, it was not enough to be taught their duty, they must be powerfully assisted in the performance of it. There must be an internal, as well as an external, call. Thus it was when God called the wandering and disobedient Jews, “ Return, ye backsliding children;" and they replied, “ Behold! we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God!" ['pon these remarks we may found the following inferences.

1. Whatever we do for God should be looked upon as the fruit of what he does for us, and therefore we have no reason to be proud of our best performances. What is evil is from ourselves, what is good, from him. “ They perceived," says Nehemiah, " that this work was wrought of God.” “ We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works."

2. The great thing necessary to internal sanctification, and all practical religion, is our calling of God. Here God's work begins, and here begins our working for God.

3. Whilst saints rejoice, let sinners tremble at God's faithfulness. As God is faithful to his promises, so is he also to his threatenings. He is as unchangeable in his wrath as in his mercy. The chaff shall be as certainly cast into the fire, as the wheat shall be gathered into the garner. Faithful is he, O sinner! and he will do it. Not one tittle of his word shall fall to the ground. Jehovah, “belongeth vengeance and recompence.” “ Their foot shall slide in due time, for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that come upon them make haste."

- To me," says SERMON VIII.

ON THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE.

PROVERBS xvi. 33.

The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is

of the Lord.

The words before us affirm a truth, supported by the strongest evidence both of reason and Scripture, and yet, alas ! exerting but little influence upon the thoughts and practice of mankind. What can be more apparently fortuitous than the decision of a lot? and, indeed, if it were not so, it would fail of the very end for which it is designed: but however uncertain it may be to us, it is not so to God, who has a perfect knowledge and an absolute disposal of all future events. Hence, good men of old, when they thought it expedient to cast lots, which they never did but in matters of importance, and such as could not well be determined in another way, solemnly applied for the divine direction and interposition, (Acts i. 24.) Here it may be proper to show what is involved in the proposition here laid down, and to what particular circumstances in life it may be applied.

I. What is involved in this proposition? It seems to me to imply,

1. That occurrences the most uncertain to us are absolutely foreknown to God. As he is almighty, so he is omniscient. No limits can be set to his power, no bounds to his understanding ; not only past and present, but future beginning." He foretold by his prophets things not only in appearance contingent in themselves, but depending upon a whole chain of contingencies; and that many years before they happened, -such as the Deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, and from the Babylonish Captivity. Concerning the latter, the very instrument made use of for the effecting it is mentioned by name, when it was unknown to every one but the Supreme Governor of the universe whether such a man would ever exist—" that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd." Well might the Psalmist say, “ His understanding is infinite;" which affirms not only the boundless extent, but also the perfect infallibility of the Divine knowledge.

2. As it implies the extent of God's knowledge, so also it intimates the universality and exactness of his providence. There is no circumstance, either important or trivial, but comes under his inspection, and is ordered by him. The falling of an hair, the flight of a sparrow, and even the irregular motions of a mote in the sunbeams, are all directed by him, as well as the birth and death of princes, or the revolutions of kingdoms. A man draws a bow at a venture, but God directs the arrow. Providences to us may be dark and obscure, intricate and perplexed; but an unerring hand holds the reins of government, and directs every thing to its appointed end. It is said of the wheels beheld by the prophet, that " whither the spirit was to go, they went." It was not in the

power

of
any

creature to turn them this way or that; either to accelerate or retard their motions.

3. It further implies, that notwithstanding the Divine superintendence over human affairs, yet we are to use all proper means, and exert our best endeavours, both for the obtaining the good that we desire, and preventing the evil that we fear. While God acts as the great Sovereign of the universe, he expects that we should act as reasonable creatures. The lot is to be cast into the lap, though we can neither foresee nor order the disposal of it. We must plough and sow, though we cannot insure a crop, and watch the city, though, if the Lord keep it not, we watch in vain.

Though the event is already determined, we should use the same caution and diligence as if success depended entirely upon our own councils and endeavours. It is not the absolute decrees, but the righteous laws of God, that are to determine our conduct; we are to be guided, not by his secret, but his revealed will; and while we devolve our cares upon him, we should not be careless ourselves. Whilst one inspired writer declares that “ the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth, to show himself strong in behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards him;" another tells us, that " a wise man's eyes are in his head ;” that is, to foresee danger and difficulties, and guard against them; to discover advantages, and improve them; to find out the path of duty, and walk in it. Though he firmly believes and readily acknowledges the overruling providence of God, yet this does not make him negligent in the management of his affairs, but is a spur to greater activity. Deliverance from Egyptian bondage was promised to the children of Israel; yet their own active endeavours were necessary to accomplish this desirable event. “Why criest thou unto me?” says God unto Moses, their pious and prayerful leader; “ speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” They must use their feet, and then God would make bare his arm. They must go as far as they could upon dry land, and then he would divide the sea. We should always consider these two texts in connexion, and let each have its proper weight and influence upon our minds :-first, “ The battle is not to the strong, nor yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill:" and secondly, “ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy ñight;" as if he had said, Neither neglect the means, nor depend upon them; neither distrust Providencé, nor tempt it. This is casting the lot into the lap; but remember at the same time that the whole disposal thereof is of God. . I proceed,

II. To observe, that this aphorism of the wise man may be accommodated,

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