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ON THE PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE OF GOD.
MATTHEW X. 30.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
THE method of that government which the Supreme Being exercises over the course of worldly events, is amongst the most difficult subjects of human investigation. It is a subject which He, in His unfathomable wisdom, has probably intended to veil in obscurity; and, in consequence, to the clear apprehension of which the faculties and powers of the human mind are not formed to attain. And, indeed, what else could be expected than that we should be. lost in ignorance and perplexity on so high a matter? If it be true, as true it is, that God is raised above us in excellency and perfection at an immeasurable distance; that He sits enthroned in the highest heavens, shrouded in the brightness of glories, through which our feeble gaze is wholly unable to penetrate; ' how could it be expected that we should be able to trace the
hidden footsteps of His providence, to discover the degrees and the modes in which it is exercised, and the particular ends to which it is directed ?
Amidst many various conjectures on this important, but mysterious subject, opinions have wandered to two opposite extremes, both removed from that which appears to be the soundest and correctest view ; both leading in their application to erroneous or mischievous results. On the one hand, it has been supposed that the Deity remains altogether an unconcerned or an inactive spectator of worldly affairs; that, having once established the general laws by which the universe is ruled, He leaves those laws to their free and regular operation, guiding them by no interference, and directing them to no special purposes; that His voice is never heard in the raging of the waves, or the fury of the tempest; that His arm is never stretched forth for protection or support; that His judgments are never discerned in the issues of things. On the other hand, it has been thought that the interposition of His controling arm is impressed on the passing occurrences of life, in characters so plain and visible, that every the most trivial event may be considered as conveying a declaration of His will in terms which we are qualified to understand and to interpret.
PROVIDENCE OF GOD.
These opinions are not matter of unimportant speculation merely, but are directly operative on the practices of men. If it be believed, according to the first opinion, that the Deity never impresses His will on the course and the issues of worldly occurrences; then that feeling of man's continual dependence on an over-ruling Providence, which is the most powerful incentive to virtuous endeavour, and to the practice of religious duty, is either greatly weakened or entirely destroyed ; suffering virtue is deprived, as far as this world is concerned, of its firmest trust; no warnings are sent to the hesitating sinner ; no judgments are entailed on hardened guilt; and the results of human plans and counsels are abandoned to blind, unmeaning chance. If, according to the second opinion, the arm of the Deity be clearly discernible in every turn of the most common worldly occurrences, then the entire freedom of human actions can scarcely be maintained; every successful issue marks the approving favour of Heaven, every failure becomes a judgment; the decisions of human wisdom, and the exertions of human industry become of little avail ; false notions of the Divine counsels and designs are generated; the minds of some must be unduly elevated with arrogant pretensions to the Divine favour; the feelings of others depressed with
ill-grounded apprehensions of Divine displeasure; and a fruitful source be opened of wild enthusiasm and gloomy superstition. In the words of my text, and the passage
im mediately connected with it, the doctrine of the continual agency of God in worldly affairs, and particularly of His more special providence over human beings, is declared by our Saviour Himself in terms so clear and striking, that none can misapprehend them.
“ The very hairs of your head,” He says to His Apostles, are all numbered." He had before told them that not even a creature so apparently insignificant as a sparrow, can fall to' the ground without their heavenly Father. And then, He adds, “ Fear ye not, ye are of more value than many sparrows." The passage manifestly implies that nothing is so minute as to escape the notice of God, nothing so insignificant as not to be the object of His care; and that, in consequence, the concerns and the destinies of man, the lord of the creation, must be peculiarly the subject of His regard, control, and providential government.
It is to be feared that persons are by no means wanting at the present day, who either deny altogether the particular providence of God, or who are but faintly impressed with the feeling of this truth: while, on the other hand, it is certain, that the instances are frequent of those