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vidence of God; before whom nothing is small that concerns the happiness of any of his creatures.
7. There is scarce any doctrine in the whole compass of revelation, which is of deeper importance than this. And, at the same time, there is scarce any that is so little regarded, and perhaps so little understood, Let us endeavour then, with the assistance of God, to examine it to the bottom; to see upon what foundation it stands, and what it properly implies.
8. The eternal, almighty, all-wise, all-gracious God, is the Creator of heaven and earth : he called out of nothing, by his all-powerful word, the whole universe; all that is. “ Thus the heavens and the earth were created, and all the hosts of them." And after he had set all things else in array, the plants after their kinds, fish and fowl, bcasts and reptiles, after their kinds," he created man after his own image.' And the Lord saw, that every distinct part of the universe was good. But when he saw every thing he had made; all things in connection one with another ; “ behold, it was very good.
9. And as this all-wise, all-gracious being created all things, so he sustains all things. He is the Preserver as well as the Creator of every thing that exists. “He upholdeth all things by the word of his power;" that is, by his powerful word. Now it must be that he knows every thing he has made, and every thing that he preserves from moment to moment; otherwise he could not preserve it: he could not continue to it the being which he has given it. And it is nothing strange that he who is omnipresent, who "filleth heaven and earth,” who is in every place, should see what is in every place, where he is intimately present. If the eye of man discerns things at a small distance; the eye of an eagle, what is at a greater; the eye of an angel, what is at a thousand times greater distance; (perhaps taking in the surface of the earth at one view ;) how shall not the eye of God see every thing, through the whole extent of creation ? Especially considering, that nothing is distant from him, in whom we all "live, and move, and have our being.”
10. It is true, our narrow understandings but imperfectly comprehend this. But whether we comprehend it or no, we are certain that so it is. As certain as it is, that he created all things, and that he still sustains all that is created ; so certain it is, that he is present, at all times, in all places; that he is above, beneath; that he "besets us behind and before," and, as it were, “lays his hand upon us." We allow, " such knowledge is too high" and wonderful for us; we not attain unto it.” The manner of his presence no man can explain, nor, probably, any angel in heaven. Perhaps what the ancient philosopher speaks of the soul, in regard to its residence in the body, that it is, tota in toto, et tota in qualibet parte, might, in some sense, be spoken of the omnipresent Spirit, in regard to the universe : that he is not only “all in the whole, but all in every part.” Be this as it may, it cannot be doubted but he sees every atom of his creation; and that a thousand times more clearly, than we see the things that are close to us : even of these, we see only the surface, while he sees the inmost essenoe of every thing.
11. The omnipresent God sees and knows all the properties of the beings that he hath made. He knows all the connections, dependencies, and relations, and all the ways wherein one of them can affect
another. In particular, he saw all the inanimate parts of the creation, whether in heaven above, or in the earth beneath. He knows how the stars, comets, or planets above, influence the inhabitants of the earth beneath , what influence the lower heavens, with their magazines of fire, hail, snow, and vapours, winds, and storms, have on our planet ; and what effects may be produced in the bowels of the earth by fire, air, or water; what exhalations may be raised therefrom, and what changes wrought thereby; what effects every mineral or vegetable may have upon the children of men: all these lie naked and open to the eye of the Creator and Preserver of the universe !
12. He knows all the animals of the lower world, whether beasts, birds, fishes, reptiles, or insects: he knows all the qualities and powers he hath given them, from the highest to the lowest : he knows every good angel and every evil angel in every part of his dominions; and looks from heaven upon the children of men over the whole face of the earth. He knows all the hearts of the sons of men, and understands all their thoughts: he sees what any angel, any devil, any man, either thinks, or speaks, or does; yea, and all they feel : he sees all their sufferings, with every circumstance of them.
13. And is the Creator and Preserver of the world unconcerned in what he sees therein ? Does he look upon these things either with a malignant or heedless eye ? Is he an Epicurean god ? Does he sit at ease in the heaven, without regarding the poor inhabitants of earth? It cannot be. He hath made us; not we ourselves; and he cannot despise the work of his own hands. We are his children: and can a mother forget the children of her womb? Yea, she may forget ; yet will not God forget us! On the contrary, he hath expressly declared, that as his "eyes are over all the earth," so he “is loving to every man, and his mercy is over all his works.” Consequently he is concerned every moment, for what befalls every creature upon earth; and more especially for every thing that befalls any of the children of men. It is hard, indeed, to comprehend this : nay, it is hard to believe it; considering the complicated wickedness, and the complicated misery, which we see on every side. But believe it we must, unless we will make God a liar; although it is sure, no man can comprehend it. It behoves us, then, to humble ourselves before God, and to acknowledge our ignorance. Indeed, how can we expect that a man should be able to comprehend the ways of God! Can a worm comprehend a worm ? How much less can it be supposed, that a man can comprehend God!
"For how can finite measure infinite." 14. He is infinite in wisdom as well as in power :. and all his wisdom is continually employed in managing all the affairs of his creation for the good of all his creatures. For his wisdom and goodness go hand in hand: they are inseparably united, and continually act in concert with almighty power, for the real good of all his creatures. being equal to his wisdom and goodness, continually co-operates with them. And to him all things are possible: he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him, in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and all deep places : and we cannot doubt of his exerting all his power, as in sustaining, so in governing all that he has made.
15. Only he that can do all things else cannot deny himself: he can
not counteract himself, or oppose his own work. Were it not for this, he would destroy all sin, with its attendant pain, in a moment. He would abolish wickedness out of his whole creation, and suffer no trace of it to remain. But in so doing he would counteract himself; he would altogether overturn his own work; and undo all that he has been doing, since he created man upon the earth. For he created man in his own image: a spirit like himself; a spirit endued with understanding, with will, or affections, and liberty; without which, neither his understanding nor his affections could have been of any use ; neither would he have been capable either of vice or virtue. He could not be a moral agent, any more than a tree or a stone. If, therefore, God were thus to exert his power, there would certainly be no more vice; but it is equally certain, neither could there be any virtue in the world. Were human liberty taken away, men would be as incapable of virtue as stones. Therefore, (with reverence be it spoken,) the Almighty himself cannot do this thing. He cannot thus contradict himself, or undo what he has done. He cannot destroy, out of the soul of man, that image of himself, wherein he made him: and without doing this, he cannot abolish sin and pain out of the world. But were it to be done, it would imply no wisdom at all; but barely a stroke of Omnipotence. Whereas all the manifold wisdom of God (as well as all his power and goodness) is displayed in governing man as man; not as a stock or stone, but as an intelligent and free spirit, capable of choosing either good or evil. Herein appears the depth of the wisdom of God, in his adorable providence; in governing men, so as not to destroy either their understanding, will, or liberty. He commands all things, both in heaven and earth, to assist man in attaining the end of his being, in working out his own salvation ; so far as it can be done, without compulsion, without overruling his liberty. An attentive inquirer may easily discern, the whole frame of divine providence is so constituted as to afford man every possible help, in order to his doing good and eschewing evil, which can be done without turning man into a machine ; without making him incapable of virtue or vice, reward or punishment.
16. Meantime, it has been remarked by a pious writer, that there is, as he expresses it, a three-fold circle of divine providence, over and above that which presides over the whole universe. We do not now speak of that overruling hand, which governs the inanimate creation ; which sustains the sun, moon,
and stars in their stations, and guides their motions; we do not refer to his care of the animal creation, every part of which we know is under his government, “who giveth food unto the cattle, and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him;" but we here speak of that superintending providence which regards the children of men. Each of these is easily distinguished from the others, by those who accurately observe the ways of God. The outermost circle includes the whole race of mankind; all the descendants of Adam; all the human creatures that are dispersed over the face of the earth. This comprises not only the Christian world, those that name the name of Christ, but the Mohammedans also, who considerably outnumber even the nominal Christians; yea, and the heathens likewise, who
far outnumber the Mohammedans and Christians put together.
“ Is he the God of the Jews," says the apostle, "and not of the Gentiles also ?” And so we may say, Is he the God of the Christians, and not of the Mohammedans and heathens? Yea, doubtless of the Mohammedans and heathens also. His love is not confined : “ The Lord is loving unto every man, and his mercy is over all his works.” He careth for the very outcasts of men: it may truly be said,
" Free as the air thy bounty streams
O’er all thy works : thy mercies' beams
Diffusive as thy sun's, arise.” 17. Yet it may be admitted, that he takes more immediate care of those that are comprised in the second, the smaller circle; which includes all that are called Christians; all that profess to believe in Christ. We may reasonably think that these, in some degree, honour him, at least more than the heathens do: God does, likewise, in some measure, honour them, and has a nearer concern for them. By many instances it appears, that the prince of this world has not so full power over these as over the heathens. The God whom they even profess to serve, does, in some measure, maintain his own cause; so that the spirits of darkness do not reign so uncontrolled over them, as they do over the heathen world.
18. Within the third, the innermost circle, are contained only the real Christians : those that worship God, not in form only, but in spirit and in truth. Herein are comprised all that love God, or at least, truly fear God and work righteousness. All in whom is the mind which was in Christ, and who walk as Christ also walked. The words of our Lord above recited peculiarly refer to these. It is to these in particular that he
says, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered." He sees their souls and their bodies; he takes particular notice of all their tempers, desires, and thoughts; all their words and actions. He marks all their sufferings, inward and outward, and the source whence they arise; so that we may well say,
" Thou knowest the pains thy servants feel,
Thou hearest thy children's cry ;
Thy graoo io ovor nigh." Nothing relative to these is too great, nothing too little, for his attention. He has his eye continually, as upon every individual person that is a member of this his family, so upon every circumstance that relates either to their souls or bodies ; either to their inward or outward state ; wherein either their present or eternal happiness is in any degree concerned.
19. But what say the wise men of the world to this? They answer, with all readiness, “ Who doubts of this? We are not Atheists. We all acknowledge a providence: that is, a general providence; for, indeed, the particular providence of which some talk, we know not what to make of: surely the little affairs of men are far beneath the regard of the great Creator and Governor of the Universe! Accordingly,
“He sees with equal eyes, as Lord of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall.'” Does he indeed ? I cannot think it; because (whatever that fine poet did, or his patron, whom he so deeply despised, and yet grossly flattered) I believe the Bible; wherein the Creator and Governor of the world himself tells me quite the contrary. That he has a tender regard for the brute creatures I know: he does, in a measure, "take care for
oxen :" he “provideth food for the cattle,” as well as “ herbs for the use of men.' “ The lions roaring after their prey, do seek their meat from God.” “He openeth his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness."
" The various troops of sea and land,
In sense of common want agree ;
And have their daily alms from thee.
Without their trouble to provide :
The craving world, is all supplied.” Our heavenly Father feedeth the fowls of the air : but mark! “ Are not ye much better than they ?” Shall he not then“ much more feed you” who are pre-eminent by so much odds? He does not, in that sense, look upon you and them “ with equal eyes ; " set you on a level with them; least of all,
does he set you on a level with brutes, in respect of life and death: “Right precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Do you really think the death of a sparrow is equally precious in his sight? He tells us, indeed, that “not a sparrow falleth on the ground without our Father ;” but he asks, at the same time, “ Are ye not of more value than many sparrows ?”
20. But in support of a general, in contradiction to a particular providence, the same elegant poet lays it down as an unquestionable maxim,
" The Universal Cause
Acts not by partial, but by general laws :" Plainly meaning, that he never deviates from those general laws, in favour of any particular person. This is a common supposition ; but which is altogether inconsistent with the whole tenor of Scripture: for if God never deviates from these general laws, then there never was a miracle in the world; seeing every miracle is a deviation from the general laws of nature. Did the Almighty confine himself to these general laws, when he divided the Red sea ? When he commanded the waters to stand on a heap, and make a way for his redeemed to pass over ? Did he act by general laws, when he caused the sun to stand still for the space of a whole day! No; nor in any of the miracles which are recorded either in the Old or New Testament.
21. But it is on supposition that the Governor of the world never deviates from those general laws, that Mr. Pope adds those beautiful lines in full triumph, as having now clearly gained the point:
"Shall burning Etna, if a sage requires,
For Chartres' head reserve the hanging wall?" We answer, if it please God to continue the life of any of his servants, he will suspend that or any other law of nature : the stone shall not fall; the fire shall not burn; the floods shall not flow; or, he will give his angels charge, and in their hands shall they bear him up, through and above all dangers!