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the plan of providence, and superseded the necessity of the day of judgment.
Although it is not the economy of Divine Providence to reward virtue and punish vice in this state of probation, yet God has frequently interposed to punish signal wickedness, and to reward illustrious virtue. Thus, in the early ages of the world, he often miraculously interposed, to show the nations that he observed their righteous or unrighteous deeds; that he had power to vindicate the honor of his laws, and to make examples, whenever it was necessary, for the correction and reformation of men. Miraculous interpositions were not intended to be permanent or perpetual, but the providence of God was not to cease. Accordingly, he has informed us that what, in the first ages of the world, he had done visibly and by miracles, he would do in the latter ages, by the invisible direction of natural causes. The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, is replete with this sentiment. Thus, all the elements of nature are at his disposal, and become the instruments of the Almighty to execute his will. They are commissioned to favor the good with national prosperity, with domestic comforts, with safety from their enemies, with fruitful seasons, with a numerous offspring, and with an abundance of all blessings; on the other hand, to punish the wicked with national distress, with indigence, with slavery, with destructions and molestations of every kind; by war, by famine, and by all sorts of diseases. From all of which, it is evident that the most common and the most familiar events are under the direction of God, and are used by him as instruments, either for the good or for the hurt of men. Thus, while he is guiding the sun and the moon in their course through the heavens, while, in this inferior world, he is ruling among empires, stilling the raging of the waters and the tumult of the people, he is, at the same time, watching over the humble and good man, who, in the obscurity of his cottage, is serving and rendering him homage.
III. In confirmation of what the Scriptures teach on this subject, may be urged the experience of all mankind, which, in a greater or less degree, bears testimony in favor of the truth of the doctrine of a superintending providence. To illustrate and enforce this position, we need not have recourse to those sudden and unexpected vicissitudes which have sometimes astonished whole nations, and drawn their attention to the conspicuous hand of heaven. We
need not appeal to the history of statesmen and warriors; of the } ambitious and the enterprising. We shall confine our observation
to those whose lives have been the most plain and simple, and who have had no desire to depart from the most ordinary train of conduct. In how many instances have we found that we are held in subjection to a higher power, on whom depends the accomplishment of our wishes and designs! Fondly we had projected some favorite plan, in the accomplishment of which, we anticipated great pleasure ; we thought we had forecast, and had provided
for whatever might happen to intercept our plan ; we had taken our measures with such vigilant prudence, that we seemed, to ourselves, perfectly guarded and secure on every side ; but at length, some event came about, unforeseen by us and beyond our control
, and which, although inconsiderable at first, yet turned the whole course of things into a new direction, and blasted all our hopes. At other times, our counsels and plans have succeeded ; we then applauded our own wisdom, and sat down to feast upon the happiness we had anticipated; when, to our surprise, we found that happiness was not there, and that the decree of heaven had
appointed it to be only vanity. We labored for prosperity, and obtained it not; it is sometimes made to drop unexpectedly upon us of its own accord. The happiness of man, depends upon secret springs, too nice and delicate to be adjusted by human art; it requires a favorable combination of external circumstances with the state of the mind. To accomplish, on every occasion, such a combination, is far beyond the power of man, but it is what God at all times can effect; as the whole series of external causes are arranged according to his pleasure, and the hearts of all men are in his hands, to turn them wheresoever he will, as the rivers of water are turned. From the imperfection of human knowledge to ascertain what is good for man, and from the defect of human power to bring about that good when known, arise all those disappointments which continually
testify that the way of man is not in himself; that he is not the master of his own lot; that, though he may devise, it is God who directs ; God, can make the smallest incident an effectual instrument of his providence for overtunring the most labored plans of men.
Accident, and chance, and fortune, are words which we often hear mentioned, and much is ascribed to them in the life of man, but they are no other than names for the unknown operations of Divine Providence; for it is certain, that in the compass of the whole universe, nothing comes to pass causelessly or in vain. Every event has its own legitimate and determined direction. That chaos of human affairs and intrigues where we can see no light, that mass of disorder and confusion which they often present to our view, is all clearness and order in the sight of him who is governing and directing all things, and bringing forward every event in its due time and proper place. The Lord sitteth on the flood. The Lord maketh the wrath of man to praise him, as he maketh the hail and the rain obey his words. He hath prepared his throne in the heavens ; his kingdom ruleth over all. A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps. The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.
Thus, we have demonstrated the truth of the doctrine of Divine Providence, from the principles of natural science, from the testimony of revelation, and from the history of man. The evidence is clear, conclusive, and convincing; and establishes the doctrine
beyond a reasonable doubt, or a successful contradiction. Let us embrace it with a firm and unyielding grasp; let it deeply penetrate into our hearts; and there let it live and flourish till the heart grows cold in death, and the immortal spirit wings itself away to the mansions of everlasting rest.
On the mode in which Divine Providence is carried on.
“The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.”—Psalm xcvii, 1.
Having, in a former discourse, established the doctrine of Divine Providence, we shall now proceed to illustrate the mode in which its operations are carried on.
1. The providence exerted by the author of nature over his works, is usually divided into two branches ; a general, and a particular providence. By a general providence, we mean the management of the universe at large ; by which the regularity, the beauty, and the order of nature are preserved, and by which animals and vegetables grow and decay. A particular providence chiefly regards intellectual, moral, and accountable beings, and extends to every individual of the human family. By this particular providence, not only nations rise and fall, but also individuals are exalted and abased, and all the hairs of our heads are numbered. The general and particular providence of God, however, are but parts of one great whole ; they are links of the same chain. The general providence of God could not exist without his particular Providence; and his particular providence could not exist without his general providence. By the particular providence of God, his general providence is formed. He takes care of each individual, and, consequently, he takes care of the whole. On the particular providence of God the general providence is built, as a whole is made up of parts.
As it relates to a general providence, the world may be said to be governed, or, at least, cannot be said to fluctuate fortuitously, if there are general laws, or rules by which natural causes act; if the several phenomena in the universe succeed regularly, and in general, the condition of things is preserved, if there are rules observed in the production of herbs, plants, trees, and the like; if the several kinds of animals are furnished with faculties proper to determine their actions in the different stations they hold in the general economy of the world; and, lastly, if rational beings are taken care of in such a manner as will, at least, agree best with reason. By the providence of God, we ought to understand his
governing the world by such laws as these now mentioned : so, if there are such, there must be a Divine Providence.
As it regards inanimate objects, the case agrees precisely with the above supposition. The whole of that universe which we see around us, is one magnificent and well-regulated machine. The world we inhabit is a globe, which, conducted by an invisible power, flies with the rapidity of more than seventy-five thousand miles an hour, through an extent of space which sets at defiance every power of fancy to embody it into any distinct image. A large and Haming orb stands immovable in the heavens, around which this and other worlds, of different magnitudes, perform their perpetual revolutions. All these celestial luminaries, notwithstanding the immensity of the space they traverse, perform their revolutions with such admirable exactness, that we can calculate an eclipse, for years to come, without a moment's variation. The revolution of the earth round the sun, and upon its own axis, produce the expected return of day and night, and the regular diversity of the seasons. Upon these great operations, a multitude of other circumstances depend. Hence, for example, the vapors ascend from the ocean, meet above in clouds, and, after being condensed, descend in showers, to cover the earth with fertility and beauty. And these appearances are permanent and regular. During every age since men have been placed upon the earth, so far as our information extends, this astonishing machine has continued steadily to perform its complicated operations. Nothing is left to chance, or, to speak philosophically, to fluctuate fortuitously; but all are subject to regular laws, and uniformly obey those laws. The smallest bodies, as well as the largest, observe continually the same laws of attraction and repulsion. In the whole course of nature, all her apparent variations proceed only from different circumstances and combinations, acting all the while under her ancient laws. We ourselves can calculate the effects of the laws of gravitation and of motion. We can render them subservient to our purposes, with entire certainty of success, if we only adhere to the rules established by nature ; that is to say, by Providence. The truth of this remark is fully confirmed in the operations of the tide, and the adrantages which are derived from its ebbing and flowing:
As it regards vegetables, they also live and flourish, grow and decay, according to prescribed methods. Each sort is produced from its proper seed, has the same texture of fibres, is at all times nourished by the same kind of juices, digested and prepared by the same kind of vessels. Trees and shrubs receive annually their peculiar liveries, and bear their proper fruits ; so regular are they in this last respect, that every species may be said to have its profession or trade appointed to it, by which it furnishes a certain portion of manufacture or of food, to supply the wants of animals. Being created for the purpose of consumption, all vegetables produce great quantities of seed, to supply the necessary waste. Here,
also, is a regulation by which the several orders are preserved, and the ends to which they have been appointed regularly accomplished. In the whole course of the vegetable kingdom, we see no fluctuations : men do not gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thissles. The vegetable kingdom, in all its operations, is governed by regular laws, which operate uniformly and statedly, and are productive of the most beneficial results; which is conclusive evidence that these laws have been ordained, and are still under the direction of infinite wisdom.
With regard to animals, they are governed by general laws, as well as vegetables, in the structure of their form. In the sentient part of their constitution, they are also subject to rule. The lion is always fierce, the cat treacherous, the fox crafty, the sheep foolish, and the hare timid. Every species retains, from age to age, its appointed place and character in the great family of nature. All the various tribes are made and placed in such a manner, as to find proper means of support and defence. Beasts, birds, fishes, and insects, are all possessed of organs and faculties adapted to their respective circumstances, and opportunities of finding their proper food
Man is also subject to the ordinary laws which other material and animal substances obey, both with regard to the form of his structure, and the nature of his sentient powers, but is left more at liberty in the determinations of his actions. Yet, even here, things do not fluctuate at random. Individuals do indeed rise and perish, according to fixed laws, and nations themselves have only a tempo rary endurance; but the species advances, with a steady progress, to intellectual improvement. This progress is often interrupted ; but it appears not to be the less sure at the long run, than even the mechanical laws which govern the material part of our constitution. Amidst the convulsion of states and the ruin of empires, the useful arts, when once invented, are never lost. These, in better times, render subsistence easy, and give leisure for reflection and study to a greater number of individuals. Tyre and Sidon have passed away, Athens itself has become a prey to barbarians, and the prosperity of ancient Egypt is departed, perhaps forever; but the ship, the plough, and the loom remain, and have been continually improving. Thus, every new convulsion of society does less mischief than the last ; and it is hoped, by the assistance of printing, the most polished arts, and the most refined speculations, have now become immortai.
The world, then, is not left in a state of confusion; it is reduced to order, and methodized for ages to come, the several species of beings having their offices and provinces assigned them. Plants, animals, men, and nations, are in a state of continued changes ; but successors are appointed to relieve them, and to carry forward the great scheme of providence.
2. Although the operations of what is termed a general provi