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and lie encamped upon opposite mountains. A man comes forth from the army of the invaders, as was extremely common in those times, and defies the Hebrew host to send forth a champion, to meet him in single combat. Terrified by the gigantic bulk and mighty force of Goliah, no man would risk the unequal conflict. David was too young to carry arms, but had been sent to the camp with provisions for his brothers, and heard the challenge. In de fence of his flock, he had killed some beasts of prey, in the wilderness; and he was an excellent marksman with a sling. He thought it might be as easy to kill a man as a wild beast; at all events, he knew that a stone, well directed, would be no less fatal to a giant than to a dwarf. He, therefore, resolved to try his skill; and he tried it with success. Here, no man's free will was intercepted, and no miracle was accomplished; yet, by this train of circumstances, thus brought together, a foundation was laid for the future fortunes of the son of Jesse, for the greatness of his country, and for accomplishing the purposes of Providence.
Take, as another instance, the history of Haman. That wicked man had long meditated the destruction of Mordecai, the Jew, and, rather than not satiate his vengeance upon him, would involve the whole Jewish nation in utter destruction. He at last obtained a decree, sentencing the whole people to the sword; and the day was fixed for its execution. In this crisis of their fate, how was the chosen nation to be delivered? Was God visibly and miraculously to interpose, in favor of his own people? This he could have done ; but he chose rather to act according to the train of secondary causes. He who giveth sleep to his beloved, withheld it from Ahasuerus, the monarch of Persia. In order to pass the night, he called for the records of his reign; there he found it written, that Mordecai had detected a conspiracy, formed against the life of the king, and that he had never been rewarded for it. By this single circumstance, a sudden reversion took place. Mordecai was advanced to honor and rewards; the villany of Haman was detected; the decree, fatal to the Jews, was revoked ; and the whole nation was saved from instant destruction.
In like manner, in the history of Joseph, and other histories of the Old Testament, we see the most familiar events made instru. . mental in the hand of God, to effect the purposes of his providence.
There is, then, a particular Providence, which governs the affairs of the world. The power and wisdom of the Almighty is constantly exercised, in conducting the concerns of men. All things are full of God. In the regions of the air, in the bowels of the earth, and in the chambers of the sea, his power is felt. Every event in life is under his direction and control. Nothing is fortuitous, or accidental. He gives laws to the tempest, where to spend its force; directs the meteor, flying in the air, where to fall, and where to consume. Are the elemental and subterraneous fires bound up? He can let them loose. Are they broken loose? He
can collect them, as in the hollow of his hand. And all this he performs without unhinging the general system, and without any visible tokens to us, that he is in any way concerned, though he is in fact the effective agent. In like manner, we may comprehend, in some measure, how God may direct, not only the motions of the inanimate and passive part of creation, but also the determinations of free agents, to answer the purposes of his Providence. The hearts of men are in the hands of the Lord, as much as the rivers of water. This does not, in the least, destroy the freedom of human actions. Every one knows that the acts of free agents are determined by circumstances; and these circumstances are always in the hand of God. The dispositions and resolutions of men are apt to vary, according to the different turn of mind, or flow of spirits, or their different situations in life, as to health or sickness, strength or weakness, joy or sorrow; and, by the direction of these, God may raise up enemies, or create friends, stir up war, or make peace. This sentiment was maintained by Seneca. " I say not,” says he, " that the lightning comes directly from the hand of Jove, but things are properly disposed for the execution of his will; for he acts not immediately, but by the intervention of means."
3. It is not impossible, that many things may be accomplished by secret influence upon the human mind, either by the Deity himself, or by the intervention of agents possessed of powers superior to those that belong to us. For instance, should the case require that a peculiar man be delivered from some threatening ruin, or from some misfortune which would certainly befall him, if he should go the way at such a time as he intended : upon this occasion some new reasons may be presented to the mind, why he should not go at all, or not then, or not by that road; or he may forget to go, or he may be delayed till the conveyance is gone. Or, if he is to be delivered from some dangerous enemy, either some new turn given to his thoughts may divert him from going where the enemy will be, or the enemy may be diverted, after the same manner, from coming where he shall be ; or his resentment may be gratified, or some proper methods of defence may be suggested to the person in danger. After the same manner, advantages and successes may be conferred on the deserving; as, on the other hand, men, by the way of punishment for their crimes, may incur mischief and calamities. Such things as these may be ; for, since the motions and actions of men, which depend upon their wills, do also depend upon their judgments, (as these again do upon the present appearances of things in their minds,) if a new prospect can by any means be produced, the lights by which things are seen altered, new forces and directions impressed upon the spirits, passions exalted or abated, the power of judging enlivened or debilitated, or the attention taken off, without any suspension or alteration of the laws of nature—then, without that, new volitions, designs, measures, or cessation of thinking, may also be produced ; and thus many things prevented that otherwise
If they pro
would be, and many brought about that would not. That there may possibly be such inspirations of new thoughts and counsels, may perhaps appear further evident from this, that we frequently find thoughts arising in our minds, into which we are led by no discourse, nothing we read, no clue of reasoning ; but they surprise and come upon us from we know not what quarter.
ceed from the mobility of spirits, straggling out of order, and for1 tuitous affections of the brain, or were they of the nature of dreams,
why are they not as wild, incoherent, and extravagant, as they are ? Is it not much more reasonable to imagine that they come by the order and direction of an all-seeing and all-gracious God, who con. tinually watches over us, and disposes of everything in and about us, for the good of ourselves and others? And this notion is agree.' able to the opinions of the best and wisest men, in all ages. That such was the general opinion of the Greeks, in the days of Homer, is plain from the poet's constantly introducing his deities into the narrative of his poems, and telling us that Minerva, or some other god, altered the minds of his heroes. “ By this,” says Plutarch, the poet did not mean to make God destroy the will of man, but only move him to will ; nor does he miraculously produce the appetites themselves in men, but only causes such imaginations as are capable of exciting them.” If, then, the human mind be susceptible of such insinuations and impressions, as it seems to be, which
frequently effect them, by ways and means unknown to us, and ị give them an inclination towards this or that object; how many
things may be accomplished by these means, without fixing or refizing the laws of nature, any more than they are unfixed when one man alters the opinion of another, by throwing in his way a book proper for that purpose.
All these effects may be produced either by the immediate interposition of God himself, or by that of beings invisible, and in nature superior to us, who act as the ministers of his Providence. We can hardly doubt that there are such beings, as it is in the highest degree improbable that such imperfect creatures as men, are at the top of the scale of created intelligence. And since we ourselves, by the use of our limited powers, do often alter the course of things within our sphere, from what they would be if left to the ordinary laws of motion and gravitation, without being said to alter those laws, why may not superior beings do the same, as instruments of Divine Providence? This idea of the intervention of superior natures is beautifully illustrated by Thompson in the following passage :
« These are the haunts of meditation; these
The scenes were ancient bards th' inspiring breath,
Of virtue, staggering on the brink of vice;
It is not, however, to be supposed, that the power of these beings is so large as to alter or suspend the general laws of nature ; for the world is not like a bungling piece of clock-work, which often requires to be set backwards and forwards. Neither is it to be supposed that they can change their condition, so as to ape us or inferior beings; and, consequently, we are not hastily to credit stories of portends, such as cannot be true, unless the nature of things, and their manner of existence, were occasionally revealed. Yet, as men may be so placed as to become, even by the free exercise of their own powers, instruments of God's particular providence to other men, so may we well suppose that hese higher beings may be so distributed through the universe, and subject to such an economy, unknown to us, as may render them also instruments of the same providence; and that they may, in proportion to their greater abilities, be capable, consistently with the laws of nature, of influencing human affairs at proper times and places.
It is proper, however, to guard this doctrine against abuse. It is to be remembered that the present life is not a state of righteous retribution, but a state of trial ; consequently, men are not dealt with according to their true characters. The goods of nature and Providence are distributed indiscriminately among mankind. The sun shines, the rain falls, upon the just and upon the unjust. It is a dangerous error, therefore, to judge of moral character from external condition in life. This was the error of Job's friends; this the foundation of the censures they cast against this excellent person, and for which they were reproved. The intention of the book of Job is, to show that this supposition is false and unfounded, by representing the incomprehensible majesty of God, and the unsearchable nature of his works. Many instances in the Scriptures confirm this observation. Who that saw David reduced to straits, wandering for a refuge in the rocks and dens of the wilderness, would have believed him to be the prince whom God had chosen? Who that beheld Nebuchadnezzar walking in his palace, surrounded with all the pomp and splendor of royalty, would have believed him to be the object of the divine displeasure ? and that the decree was gone out, that he was to be driven among the beasts? Who that beheld Jesus in the form of a servant, would have believed that he was the Lord of life and glory? But these all proved to be facts. We are not, therefore, to judge of men's moral character by their external condition.
Objections Answered to the Doctrine of Divine Providence.
“ The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.”—Psalms xcvii., 1.
Having, in a former discourse, illustrated the mode of Divine Providence, we shall now proceed to state some of the principle objections which, in ancient or modern times, have been urged against it.
1. The first objection that has been urged against the doctrine of Divine Providence, which we shall notice, is this: That the system of nature contains many imperfections, which it ought_not to do, if it be the work of a perfectly wise and good Being. To avoid the force of this objection, some modern writers have deserted the ground of supreme and absolute goodness, which the ancient theists always occupied, and have asserted that the divine perfection consists in unlimited power and uncontrolled supremacy of will ; that, consequently, the Deity does not always do that which is for the best, but merely, what he himself pleases, and that for no other reason but because he wills to do so. But this is no better than Atheism itself. For it is of no importance to us whether the universe be governed by blind fate or chance-that is to say, by nothing at all; or whether it be governed by an arbitrary sovereign will, that is directed by chance, or, at least, by no principle of benevolence.
The true answer to this question is, that no created system can have every perfection, because it must
, necessarily, be destitute of self-existence and independence; and, therefore, if being destitute of some perfections be better than nothing, it was worthy of infinite and perfect goodness to create such beings. In our present state, we mortals stand upon too low ground, and are too contracted and limited in our ideas, to take a commanding view of the whole frame of nature. We can only reason concerning what is unknown from the little that is within our reach. In that little, we see that wisdom and goodness reign ; that nature always aims to produce perfection; that many salutary effects result even from the thunder and the storm: and we doubt not that a whole view of the structure of the universe would afford an additional argument to the goodness and skill of the great Architect.
We see a regular ascent in the scale of created beings, from mere lifeless matter up to man; and the probability is, that the scale continues to ascend as far above men in perfection, as such beings can possibly be raised. The sole purpose of God in creating the world, must have been to produce happiness; but this would be most effectually done by creating, in the first place, as many of