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SERM. V.no Room for Counsel, Deliberation and Forecaft, where there was no orderly Conftitution, no fettled Courfe of Nature. It would not fignify to till the Ground, that we might reap the Fruits of the Earth in due Seafon: There would be no Dependance upon the ebbing and flowing of the Waters at fet Times, and fo in a thousand other Cafes. It is for the Interest even of that Man, who is uneafy because the Settlement of Nature is not changed in Compliance with his Wishes; that God has given Things a Law, which shall not be broken upon every frivolous Occafion. For if the Deity should depart from his uniform Manner of Acting upon his Application in any material Point; why should he not do fo to gratify the Importunity of other Perfons? The Confequence of which would be, we should live in an irregular disjointed World, where there would be no Harmony, no Order, no Law; but all would be Confufion and Anarchy. God can and does govern the rational World, without fubverting and unhinging the Frame of the natural.
3dly, We are not to expect that Providence upon our repeated Requests would grant what we imagine a Bleffing; there
being several Things which we think to be SERM. V. Bleffings, that are not fo upon the Whole, or not fo to us. And Providence is not like an over-indulgent Parent, who deftroys the future Happiness of his Children, by complying with their importunate Petitions, and removing their present Uneafiness.
We must diftinguifh likewife between natural and fantastic Wants. Providence.
has generally made ample Provision for the
SERM. V. niencies had not made Life miferable by acquired Uneafineffes and Cravings. In short, we are got into a World, in fome Measure, as it were of our own Modelling, instead of having it, as it came originally from God: We have introduced much Mifery and Dif order by Luxury, Pride, Ambition, and by unnatural Defires.
Nor muft we, 4thly, hope, that Providence will prevent every Calamity, that may befal good Men. All, that the Affertors of a particular Providence contend for, is that, if he does not think fit to prevent it, he will either fupport them under or rescue them from it; or make all Things, at the laft Winding up of the Drama, work together for Good to them, who love him. To annex worldly Hap pinefs conftantly and univerfally to Virtue, and worldly Mifery to Vice, would lay too great a Biafs and Restraint upon our Incli nations; it would over-rule the Will, and neceffitate it to be virtuous. This Life would be no State of Probation and Trial: There would be no Temptation to Vice, when all the Advantages lay on the Side of Virtue.
IIdly, Having ftated the Doctrine of a SERM. V. particular Providence, I proceed to prove the Poffibility of it.
We must diftinguish between the grand and fundamental Laws of Nature; and thofe of an inferior and fubordinate Nature. The Oeconomy of Nature may be in a great Measure unalterable, as to the grand and fundamental Laws, by which the Univerfe is fteered: Such are thofe respecting the Revolution of the heavenly Bodies, the Succeffion of Day and Night, and the Round of the Seafons. But there are fubordinate and inferior Laws, which God may alter without any feeming or visible Alteration. And to recede from them, under proper Limitations, occafionally, at the Inftance of particular Perfons, may be no Detriment to the Universe, and yet of great Importance to them. Such are the Laws relating to the Courfe of infectious and peftilential Vapours, the State of the AtmoSphere, &c. Nay, with whatever decifive Airs Men may talk of God's Government by general Laws; yet, as to fome of these Points, feveral Matters of Fact are not to be accounted for upon that Scheme. Thus
SERM. V. for Inftance, according to general Laws, greater Quantity of Rain has fallen, the greater Quantity fhould fill continue to fall: because the more Water refted upon the Ground, and fwelled the Rivers; the greater Quantity of Vapours must be at-tracted by the Sun, and descend again in Showers. And yet this is contrary to Experience. On the contrary, the longer any Drought has continued; the longer, without the Interpofition of Providence, it fhould ftill continue: Because the Ground being parched, and the Rivers either dried up or much funk; the Number of Vapours, which are exhaled from thence, must be very inconfiderable. All pretended Solutions of this Appearance do but shift off the Difficulty one Remove, without fully obviating it; except we call in the divine Providence, which giveth the former and the latter Rain, to our Aid.
God undoubtedly can abate or quicken the Force of Winds, Storms and Lightning; can retard and weaken, or increafe and accelerate their Influence, without reverfing the fettled Courfe of Nature in a Manner perceptible to us; fo as to bring about what he fees fit, and prevent what he does not think