Obrazy na stronie



THE following results may be deduced from the foregoing narratives :

1st. There is no condition of life exempt from danger. Perils encompass us wherever we go. Death lurks in ambush along the whole path of life, and may spring upon us at any moment. A very large proportion of the imminent perils recorded in the previous pages were encountered by persons engaged in peaceful occupations. They imagined themselves secure from present or immediate danger, when suddenly they found themselves face to face with the king of terrors. Sudden death may smite us down when in fancied safety, as well as when in acknowledged jeopardy. No age, no position, is exempt, and no precaution can ward off the stroke. The thunderbolt smites at one blow and involves in one ruin the gnarled giant oak, and the floweret which nestled in obscurity at its foot. The "rich man" felt himself secure

when he laid his plans of affluent ease for many years;" but the awful mandate went forth, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee."

2nd. There is a special Providence watching over us. The facts adduced suggest, and furnish material for, two lines of argument in proof of this assertion.

First, the multiplicity and variety of the deliverances recorded. If there had been only one or two instances of signal and remarkable escapes from imminent peril on record, it might have been thought easy to have explained them away as being merely casual and fortuitous conjunctions of circumstances. But if any person should, therefore, go on to apply the same explanation to each case in the series, and to ignore them all as mere accidents, he would be guilty of a most egregious fallacy. Each additional case adds something to the improbability of such an explanation, till at length the probabilities against it become all but infinite.

Secondly, many of the deliverances indicate an obvious purpose. They are evidently connected with antecedent acts of faith and prayer, or they result in the dedication of the

life which was preserved to Him who was believed to have preserved it. They thus form parts of the great scheme of moral government, attesting the continued agency of the Most High, and supplying motives to, or rewards of his service. Just as we infer the existence of a Creator from the marks of design in creation, may we infer the fact of an overruling Providence from similar marks of design in the course of human events.

3. The mode in which providential interpositions are effected is illustrated. Not by miraculous subvention, not by a subversion of the laws of nature, not by a dissolution of the connexion between cause and effect; but by the control and superintendence of natural agencies and general laws, adapting them to special emergencies and individual cases. The opponents of the doctrine of Providence have generally misconceived or misrepresented this fact. Thus Pope writes:

"Think we, like some weak prince, the Eternal Cause Prone for his favourites to reverse his laws?

Shall burning Etna, if a sage requires,

Forget to thunder, or recall his fires?

When the loose mountain trembles from on high,
Shall gravitation cease if you go by?"

We do not think the Eternal to be "altogether such an one as ourselves," and do not expect

him to reverse his laws for our sakes. If the saint or the sage recklessly violates the laws of nature, or rather, the laws of God in nature, the insulted laws will avenge themselves in his destruction. Even the Eternal Son would not tempt the Lord by casting himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. Nevertheless, the ancient promise stands good-" He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." That is to say, we may expect protection in the path of duty. If, in obedience to the will of God, we have to encounter imminent perils, we may hope for signal and providential deliverances; "and that not through the powers of nature disobeying their own laws, but through other powers in nature opportunely interposing to stop, to turn aside, or otherwise to modify their operation. The volcano may burst, the tempest may rage, and the cliff may fall, an instant before or an instant after the time when these events might have been followed by fatal consequences; or some passing impulse of feeling may have hurried the individual away; or some other power of nature may have hastened to shelter or defend him—and all by a special arrangement intended by God from the very beginning." It is, then, either ignorance or perverse mis

[ocr errors]

representation on the part of the deniers of Providence to charge those who believe it with expecting continued miracles. The distinction between the two is broad and clear. The age of miracles is past-the age of Providence continues. "This is, in fact," says Isaac Taylor, "the great miracle of Providence that no miracles are needed to accomplish its purposes."

4. We learn how minute and universal are the care and providence of God. Our illustrations have been drawn, not exclusively from among the great and noble, but also from the humble and obscure. "The poor and needy, and he that hath no helper" save God, have experienced that as nothing is too vast for his power, so nothing is too insignificant for his notice. "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." To his omniscience the individual is not lost sight of in the multitude, or the unit forgotten in the aggregate; but he cares for all, by caring for each. So that the cases of special and particular providence adduced, furnish not exceptions to, but examples of, the general rule. We have thus an emphatic confirmation and exposition of our Lord's words, that "not one sparrow shall fall on the ground without our Father," and that "the very hairs of our head are all numbered."

« PoprzedniaDalej »