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WORKS OF PROVIDENCE.
Too many forget that the operations of the Deity are all carried on by general laws; that he never works miracles except when he has some great end in view; and that, as on all occasions, the operations of his hand are directed towards the general good ; - the calamities that happen to individuals in bringing this about, are but as the small dust in the balance, and comparatively nothing.
At first sight storms and tempests, famine and pestilence, desolations, and the conflict of nations, sometimes bear hard : on individuals, and appear the effect of a want of impartiality
in the great Lord and Ruler of all;- yet, on reflexion, we find that they are all, not only marks of his wisdom and goodpess, but calculated for the general good. Tho' tempests scatter our fleets, and dash them among the rocks; though hurricanes often cause dreadful destruction; and earthquakes, those } awful scourges of the crimes of a nation, sometimes unex
pectedly swallow the people of a country, the good with the bad; yet, is it either in the way of giving vent to the volcanic inatter, and scope to the causes that produced them; or, as'a warning to all to behold and to consider. Were it not for its ebbing and fiowing, and the furious storms with which it is agitated, the sea, notwithstanding the salt put into it by the hand of the Deity when he made it, to preserve it from putrefaction, would become one mass of corruption, and send forth
such noxious vapours as would soon destroy every plant and : regetable, with every thing that lives. Thunder-storms,
which, to the uninformed, seem of no use, by shaking the earth, and loosening the inould about the roots of plants and Tegetables, not only make way for the rain, when it falls, but purify the air, and free it from the noxious particles lodged in it by exhalations from tlie earth, which are always proportion to the inarshy nature of the ground and the heat of the sun. Briars and thorns, blasting and mildew, ravenous animals, and devouring insects, are not sent to make us miserable; but for the exercise of our patience, of our fortitude and ingenuity, and for the general good. With regard to the animals in general, some are adapted for our comfort and conveniency; others, such as the slug, the weasel, the grub, and the like, for the exercise of our diligence and attention in keeping them under ; and others again, such as gnats, Alies, &c. to shew us how easily he can, if he pleases, blast the happiness of the greatest, the wisest, and the best. In a word, **«ry animal seeins useful, either in the way of supplying our wants, exercising our ingenuity, or correcting our errors.
The same holds with regard to plants and minerals; and, if many things in the animal and vegetable, as well as in the
mineral kingdoms, seem to us to serve no valuable purpose, we may depend upon it this arises, not so much froni the things themselves, as from our ignorance and inattention. Had they not been some way or other useful, they never would have been called into existence by him, whose wisdom and goodness are infinite as well as his power.
That Providence, sometimes, chastises severely those that, on the whole, appear to be virtuous and good, and slowers down blessings on the head of those that are evidently wicked, none will deny ;- and why? not that he approves of the conduct of the wicked. No; be chastises his own people, because he sees it neccessary to their happiness, either bere or hereafter; and confers blessings on the wicked, to lead them to repentance; and to shew then that, as his goodness deserves from them a different conduct, so is he just, though they may subject themselves to a severe punishment by means of their ingratitude.
Let not then the good man be cast down, when adverse circumstances occur. Let him not despair, though the arrows of a correcting Providence fly thick around bim. Though no affliction be for the present joyous but grievous, yet all things work together for the good of them that love God. Whatever happen, the righteous have nothing to fear. God, who is kind to all, cannot but, in a peculiar manner, be so to them. It was his desire to communicate happiness that induced him, at first, to create the world. It is ibis that induces bim to supply all the wants of his creatures. His daily care over then shews, that not one of the inferior animals, much less man, is below bis' notice. In winter the covering of many, for instance, which in all is admirably adapted to their peculiar circumstances, becomes thicker than in summer; such as the feathers of birds, the scales of fishes, and the hair or fur of animals. The insects that crawl, the fishes that cast their shell, the frogs, the bee's, the ants, the spider; nay, even the very trees of the field, and more delicate plants and vegetables, all exhibit evident signs of the care of the Deity in a thousand particulars.
If God then is thus watchful over the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the fishes of the sea, and the various species of the vegetable kingdomn, from the tall oak on the mountain to the minutest plant; it, with regard to the mineral tribes, he, in general either makes them to grow, or forins a crust about them for their preservation, can we suppose that he does not behold with pleasure the conduct of good men, or that he does not consult their interest, in the dispensations of his providence? If, to protect them from birds and beasts of prey that otherwise would see and be ready to destroy them, he makes hares and ptarmicans *, with various other fowls and
* A kind of wild pheasants in the mountains of Scotland, &c.
animals that seek their food, anong the snow, grow white in wuter, and sends frost and snow to fatten and fertilize the earth; if he makes the birds to sing, the inferior animals, by their sudden and irregular motions to give symptoms of joy, and all nature to rejoice,
- can we suppose that he will suffer 25 thing to happen to his people that is not for their good?* Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do
reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father ivedeth thein, Are ye not much better than they?"
TIIE ALTAR AT ATHENS INSCRIBED 10 TIIE UNKNOWN GOD. Whey St. Paul, in the course of his evangelical journies, ruited the famous city of Athens, he beheld, among a great number of other altars, one which bore this singular inscripLion, To the unknown God. This the holy and wise man took, as it were, for his text; and assured the people that the Deity thom they ignorantly worshipped, he could clearly reveal into them.
The Apostle very justly observed that they were much adweted to dæmon worship.' History evinces fully the iruth of his remark. Dr. Ellis, in his learned treatise, entitled. The huoledge of Divine Things from Revelation, not from Reawar. Nature,'bas given us a considerable collection of facts thich illustrate this subject, but which prore, at the same time, that altars to unknown gods were not uncominon Mong the Pagans. A few passages shall be transcribed.
l'age 289, et seq. 1
The first altar at Athens was built by Cecrops, the Egyptan; where they so prodigiously multiplied, that Pausanias, etboo took an accurate survey of the country, says, there were inore images and altars there than in all Greece beside. They were fond of strange gods; yet worshipped no one without an mage to represent hiin. It was the custom of the Grecks, says Maximus Tyrius, to worship the gods in the purest matter, of hunan-shape, and with the most exquisite art. These increased to so excessive a number, that Athens was called the Country and Shop of the Gods: and Xenophon complained that they had made the city but one altar. Cicero calls it Urbs fanorum repleta, a city crammed with temples: and, one in
Petronius observed, Our country is so filled with deities, i that you may easier find a god than a man. It was truly the Pantheon of the world, having one temple in coinnion to all
St. Paul was deemed a setter - forth of strange gods,'
literally,' of foreign dæmons,'to which their itching ears gave immediate attention. Strabo notes, that their hospitality to strangers extended to the gods. The Romans, on the con trary, were uncivil to strange gods, and received them with difficulty; yet, by the law of Athens, no foreign god was to be admitted till licensed by the Areopagus, which had the sole power in religious matters; and, according to Demosthenes, no one had ever complained of any unjust sentence given by that court; yet the severest laws were enacted at Athens, and every citizen commanded, on pain of death, to worship the gods and heroes as the laws of the city required; and they who observed not the appointed ceremonies, were immediately dragged to the court of Areopagiis. The cutting a twig out of a sacred grove was a capital offence; even a fool had been condemned for killing one of Esculapius's sparrows; and a child, accidentally taking up a plate of gold fallen from Diana's crown, was put to death for sacrilege. This court assembled on the Hill of Mars, because that god was indicted and tried for murder by a jury of twelve gods; but acqnitted : and here were Socrates and others tried for invading religion, and undervaluing the gods.
*Hither was St. Paul brought, as a publisher of foreign gods and doctrines, Jesus and (Anastasia) the Resurrection t' to be examined concerning them; tho', perhaps (as the proceedings of the court had been much altered since the days of Socrates) not as a criminal, but as a benefactor, in having a new worship to propose to a people zealous above all others, in what they called religion ; but the contrary opinion seems preferable, that he was carried thither as a babbler, a retailer of scraps · An altar with this inscription, - TO THE UNKNOWN GOD."
It was a custon among the antients to engrave on the altar the name of the god to whom it was dedicated; which, at Athens in particular, was necessary to distinguish them amidst a conflux of the most reinote and strange ones from all parts of the world. Amidst this variety, there was one, probably many, to the unknown God. Philostratus says, that at Athens *there were altars of unknown gods or dæmons;' and Pausanias also mentions them in the plural number; by which Grotius thinks might be denoted many aitars to the one unknown God. Critias, in Lucian, swears by the God unknown to the Athe
+ Dr. Bentley, sermon 2, page 9 (and with him agrees Dr. Whitby) says • They too well understood the notion of a resurrection to worship it as a goddess;' but those learned persons should first have shown how they canie not to understand the nature of a Fever or a Jakes too well to worship them for goddesses.
* A contemptible, prattling, sacrilegious fellow.' So Witsins, Mele. lum. Page 1
nians. According to Oecumenius, the whole inscription was thus :
To the gods of Asia, Europe, and Africa,
To the Unknown and Strange God. The crowding him among all the dæmons in the world, proves them to be ignorant of his nature ; as the placing him among the strange gods does that they had received him from others, and were not the authors of the discovery.
“There are several reasons given for the erecting sueh altars ; but the most probable is, their superstitious fear of omitting any god, which, amidst the uncertainty of so many religions, might easily have been done; or it might proceed from their not knowing what god to ascribe some remarkable benefit or deliverance to, and therefore, in gratitude, erected an altar 10 the unknown one. Diogenes Laertius gives this account of their rise: “ That Epimenedes staid a plague among the Athenians in this manner. He took a black and white sheep to Areopagus, whence he let them go which way they would ; commanding those that followed them, that wheresoever they lay down, they should sacrifice to some fit and proper god. The calamity ceased; and to this very day, says Laertius, there are altars to be found without name, which were then made in inemory of this expiation.'
• Kor was this custom peculiar to Greece; the Romans also erected altars on the receptiou of any sudden benefit; as that w Adoption, mentioned by Tacitus, i. l; and another to Revenge. So the ancient Roinans, when they felt an earthquake, betook themselves, by public command, to religious observances; but did not, as on other occasions, name the god to whom they dedicated such solemnities, lest, by mistaking one for another, they might oblige the people to a false worship; and, as it was uncertain by what power or god earthquakes happened, they offered sacrifice to an uncertain deity in the ancient form, si Deo, si Dee. The Latins also had many altars, Diis deabusque ; and Dibus deabusque omnibus. The Ignorance of the Divine nature made this uncertainty run thro’ the whole of their religion: many were Dei involuti, therefore to their prayers they added, Sive lu Deus es, sive Dea; and we meet with this inscription, Sive Deo, sive Ded. C. Ter. Dester. Er voto. A.Gellius says, that they whose names were uncertain, or whose sex was doubtful, or whom it was not law. ful to declare, were called unknoten gods. Indeed, there were so many, that Varro wrote a book of the unknown gods, and another of the uncertain ones. The Celtiberians, the Persians, and Arabians, had their unknown god; so had the people of Marseilles in Gaul,' &c. - Thus far Dr. Ellis.
The Christian reader will doubtless reflect with gratitude on