« PreviousContinue »
performed; and yet, by this train of circumstances, thus made to meet together, a foundation is laid for the future greatness of David and of his country, and for the fulfillment of all God's designs in reference to both. The same train of remark might be extended to the times of Christ and bis apostles, and to the history of the progress of religion down to tbe present day. But we pass on, to glance briefly at
Civil history, and some of the events and incidents of common life. In these we may trace the dependence of the most important concerns upon what seem to us the merest trifles, and inay see the most marked displays of providential influence. The mere sight of a fiy, shown in ihe senate-house at Rone, occasioned the destruction of Carthage. The accidental loss of a letter, led to the discovery of the famous gun-powder plot, and saved the lives perbaps of hundreds. That one act of Napoleon's life, (his second marriage,) by which, more than all others, he thought he should surely increase and confirm his power, probably did more than all others to insure his overthrow and ruin. Voltaire boasted that he would exterminate christianity, and "crush the wretch," (as he impiously termed its author;) but now, a protestant church stands near or on his grave, and the religion of Christ is preached over his ashes; while the very same printing-press from which he once sent forth his infidel tracts and books, is now used in priuting the bible, and in publishing the offers of that gospel which he labored to destroy. When the apostate Julian, in defiance of divine prophecy, and that he might prove it false, undertook to rebuild Jerusalem, his building materials were dispersed by a storm, 'attended by an earthquake; and when he repeated the impious attempt, streams of fire, (according even to Gibbon, who records and admits the account,) rushed forth from the earth upon his workmen, scorching some and destroying others. An insult offered 10 a hot-headed monk, while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, roused him to preach up the crusades, which changed the whole aspect of Europe, we had alınost said of the world. The simple circumstance of cutting a few letters on the bark of a tree, and then impressing them on paper, suggested the art of printing. The discovery of a boy, who was amusing bimself with iwo spectacle-glasses, led to the invention of the telescope, that magnifier of God's glory as seen in the planetary heavens. And to the simple falling of an apple, are we indebted for the discovery of the law of gravitation, by which thousands and millions of rolling worlds are guided in their ceaseless course through space. The son of a humble tradesman in London, at his birth was laid aside as dead; but by the efforts of a faithful nurse, bis lise was bappily preserved, and be afterward became known to the world as Philip Doddridge,-a man whose usefulness will ever be remembered with joy on earth and in heaven. A single sermon from John Newton, excited the first serious impressions in the mind of a youth who incidentally entered the house where he was preaching. That youth was Claudius Buchanan, whose name will ever be dear to the friends of missions, and whose efforts will rouse up multitudes to plead for and preach to the heatben, long after his own voice shall have been for ages silent in the grave,
- we should raiher say, vocal with the praises of heaven! The lives of John Newton and Col. Gardiner, abound in the most striking displays of the providence of God; in fact, that of the former is one continued series of providential interventions. The history of our “revolution” affords several instances in which the finger of providence is clearly visible,* and the same is true of that of the “ Pilgrim Fathers.” And to mention but two auditional cases, most of our readers will remember, that when a day of fasting and prayer was first observed throughout the country, “ for the conversion of the world,” a missionary wrote from beathen lands, that on that very day the influence of the Holy Spirit was manifestly poured out upon bis pagan audience ; and last year, within less than five weeks after the day of special supplicaiion “ for colleges and literary institutions,” we had heard of the presence of God's converting Spirit in no less than six of those institutions. These are but a few of the almost numberless facts which might be adduced, both from history and common life, in. illustration of the doctrine before us.. Taken separately, no one of them would seem of sufficient weight to convince us of the truth of the doctrine ; but viewed unitedly, (as the different parts of a cumulative argument,) do they not speak loudly of the con
* In illustration of this remark, one incident may be mentioned, connected" with the withdrawinent of the American lioops from Long Island, which (if true, as it has often, without contradiction, been usseried to be.,) is almost a counterpart to the miraculous interposition of the cloud and pillar of fire between the İsraelites and Egyptians. Safely to withdraw the American troops before the superior forces of the British, flushed as they were with victory, the most profound secresy was essential. The boats from Brooklyn to New-York were passing and repassing through the whole niglie; but notwithstanding the utinost diligence, morning dawned before an entire evacuation had been effected. It now seemed as if a discovery of the movements of the Americans must be inevitable. But a dense fug arising and spreading between them and the British camp, so concenlo ed their niovements, that they could not be seen. The drurns beat, to call the British, who were in high spirits, to the attack of Brooklyn, when suddenly the fog rolled away, and discovered to Sir Henry Clinton, (the English commander,) the last boals of the Aniericans crossing the river, beyond his reach. What adds to the interest of the incident, is the fact, (as asserted,) that a similar fog has never been witnessed there since that morning of glorious deliverance. The writer from whoin this anecdote is taken, very properly suggests the wish, “that soino historian, with suitable literary qualifications, added to a pious heart, would write the history of our country with direct reference to the exhibition" of God's providential goodness toward us a nation, in times alike of prosperity and of trial, especially in our early existence as a people, and in the war of the revolution.
stant presence of some superintending power, which is ever aclive in all the affairs of the world, bringing great events from little causes, and guiding all things according to the schemes of infinite wisdom? Do they not confirm, in a striking manner, the doctrine of God's particular providence, which, as we have seen, is so plainly and fully asserted in the sacred scriptures ?
There are multitudes of other and of similar arguments, abundantly confirming this doctrine. The formation and adjustment of our physical frame; the surprising and unexpected turns often given to the revolutions and changes of states and empires, which are frequently such as to astonish, and confound, and baffle, the wisest statesmen; the strange and unexpected discoveries of longhidden crimes; the visible judgments of heaven sometimes overtaking the guilty even in this world; the whole history of discoveries and inventions; the numberless and striking fulfillments of prophecy in every age; and the private experience of many an individual : these are but a few of the many sources of argument for a particular providence,-but a few of the many things in which we may discern the presence of an almighty, and uncreated, and unseen hand. They all furnish, in a greater or less degree, evidence of the reality and the nature of the ceaseless and universal providence of God. That providence is concerned with all the affairs of the universe, and is ever conversant with all their changes. From the tremblings of the earthquake that ingulfs kingdoms, to the tremblings of the leaf which is fanned by the breeze; from the falling of a world to the falling of a sparrow; from the flight of an angel to the creeping of an insect; in all things its power is ever present, upholding all by its sustaining influence, and guiding all to the best and most glorious final results.
Such is the doctrine of scripture, and of enlightened reason, a doctrine partially received by some few of the heathen sages, but which is fully unfolded and abundantly sustained only by the revealed word of God -its truth being entirely confirmed by history, and by the otherwise inexplicable incidents of common life.
One or two objections to the doctrine before us, may be worthy of a passing notice. And,
(1.) It has been objected to the doctrine of a particular providence, that it must be troublesome and perplexing to the Deity to superintend and direct all the immense variety of concerns which take place in the universe. This objection, however, is founded in low and inadequate views of the character of God; and it is at once and completely overthrown hy the consideration, that He is a being of infinite perfections. To such a being, (and such a being is God,) the utmost ihat is conceivable, is as completely easy of perfornance as the merest trifle; and to suppose, that he can be perplexed, or troubled, or wearied, by excessive care or
watchfulness, is unphilosophical and absurd. The same remarks apply with equal force to the objection urged with so much labored sophistry by Mr. Hume, viz: that God is not able to exercise a particular providence. To this, and all kindred objections, it is sufficient to reply, that God is infinite.
(2.) It has also been objected 10 the doctrine before us, that it is derogatory to the majesty of God, and degrading to his dignity, thus to be constantly occupied with the most trivial affairs of the world. Froin the days of Epicurus until now, this objection has had its advocates; and it will often start up in one form or another, among the practical sentiments of those who would hardly dare to reduce it io a definite shape in their own minds, much less formally to own or defend it. Like the objection previously mentioned, however, it has its origin in the imperfection of our own natures, and in the presumptuous fallacy of reasoning analogically from ourselves to the infinite God. We feel, that it is wrong and disyraceful for a man to be occupied with trifling concerns. And why? Because we know, that when thus occupied, he must, from the imperfection of his pature, be obliged to neglect matters which are more important. But it derogates nothing from the dignity of a man, to be engaged in any affairs, however trivial they may seein, is they do not call him off from more important pursuits, and especially if they form a necessary part of soine greater scheme. Now, unless we can prove that the Deity, like ourselves, is imperfect, we have no right to suppose, that he can be distracted or perplexed by any conceivable number of calls upon his agency or care. He can notice the falling of a sparrow, or can clothe the lily with beauty, while at the same time he is rolling every planet in its pathway of light, and administering with undistracted mind, the most momentous affairs of his wide-spread dominion. The smallest events, too, form the necessary part of one great comprehensive whole ; for, as we have already seen, the most trivial incidents often lead to the most important results. In this view, no event, if traced to its possible consequences, as seen by omniscience, can be too trivial for the notice and directive agency of the Almighly; for it may be so woven into the chain of causes and effects, as to involve the fate of kingdoms, or what is far more, the destiny of souls! The objection, then, under the pretense of honoring God, would, if well-founded, plainly dishonor bim; for what would be degrading to bim, is, not to watch over and care for, but to neglect any event connected with the welfare of his dependent creatures. And to suppose him above the notice of any such event, is to suppose bim above acting up to the full extent of his rectitude and goodness. Besides, it cannot be inconsistent with his dignity as a God, to care for that which it was not inconsistent with his dignity to create; and as he is infinite, all be
ings and things are equally because infinitely below him, and all distinctions of high and low are of no account in his sight.
It is further to be noticed, that the objection before us does not attempt a formal reply to any of the arguments by which a particular providence is proved. It merely treats the doctrine as if it were absurd, because an abhorrent consequence seems to flow from its admission. But this very consequence we embrace in all its length and breadth, and for it we contend, as in the highest degree glorious to the character of God. For it exalts our conceptions, and magnifies the glory of his infinite perfections, to know, that their care is extended to every being and event, that bis guardianship embraces the vast extent of his wide-spread creation, while its lowest object is not overlooked,—ibat he is every where present, ever active but never weary ; living in all life, and moving in all motion ; guiding at the same time the stars in their courses, and the flight of the meanest insect that floats upon the breeze ; penciling the humblest flower with beauty, and clothing with eternal freshness and verdure the tree of the waters of life, around which the sons of heaven are gathered to study bis works and hymn his praise. Once more,
(3.) It has further been objected, that this view of providence makes it a continued series of miracles. If by this is meant, that all the exertions and displays of providential power are to to be considered as miraculous in the sense that they are wonderful, then the objection ceases to be an objection ; for this is not only admitted, but is asserted in the broadest terms. If by it, however, be meant, that every manifestation of providence is of the same nature with what are called miracles, then the assertion is unfounded; for there is this wide difference between the two, that the former is of common or rather constant occurrence, while the latter is the obvious, visible display of divine power, in attestation of the truth of some particular assertion or claim. Every miracle is providential; but every act of providence is by no means miraculous. The recovery of a person from a common disease is not miraculous ; though if we were not familiar with such recoveries, every one would regard them as most wonderful. But where an apostle declares that he is sent by God, and in proof of the truth of bis assertion, instantly, and with a word, cures the sick or casts out devils,—this is properly a miracle.
These are the only objections to a particular providence that are worthy of notice; for as to the objection, that such a providence is inconsistent with the liberty of free-agents, it is completely refuted by consciousness, by which we are all compelled to feel, that we are entirely at liberiy, and free to do, or noi to do, whatsoever we will, and this with no other restraint than that imposed by the moral laws of God; and as to the inconsistency (sometimes Vol. VIII.