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souls. But their happiness chiefly consisted in the favour of God, and in the intimate fellowship with him to which they were admitted. What an illustrious creature was man when he came from the hand of his Maker! but how sadly changed now! “ God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions."
SECTION I.--God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.
1 Heb. i. 3.
xvii, 25, 26, 28. Job xxxviii.,
xxxix., xl., xli. 3 Matt. X. 29-31. • Prov. xv. 3. Ps. civ. 24. ; cxlv. 17.
5 Acts xv. 18. Ps. xciv, 8-11.
ix. 17. Gen. xlv, 7. Psalm
In opposition to Fatalists and others, who maintain that, in the original constitution of the universe, God gave to the material creation physical, and to the intelligent creation moral laws, by which they are sustained and governed, independently of his continued influence; this section teaches that there is a providence, by which God, the great Creator of all things, upholds and governs them all; and that this providence
extends to all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least.
1. That there is a providence may be inferred from the nature and perfections of God; from the dependent nature of the creatures; from the continued order and harmony visible in all parts of the universe; from the remarkable judgments
that have been inflicted on wicked men, and the signal deliverances that have been granted to the Church and people of God; and from the prediction of future events, and their exact fulfilment. In the Bible, the providence of God is everywhere asserted. “ His kingdom ruleth over all,” and he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." -Ps. ciii. 19; Eph. i. 11.
Two things are included in the notion of providence,-the preservation and the government of all things. God preserves all things by continuing or upholding them in existence. The Scripture explicitly asserts, that "he upholds all things by the word of his power,” and that “ by him all things consist.”—Heb. i. 3 ; Col. i. 17. He preserves the different species of creatures, and sustains the several creatures in their individual beings; hence he is called “the Preserver of man and beast.”—Job. vii. 20; Ps. xxxvi. 6. God governs all things by directing and disposing them to the end for which he designed them. “ Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he pleased.”—Ps. cxv. 3. “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth : and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou ?”—Dan. iv. 35. The government of God may be considered in a twofold view,-natural and moral. This twofold view of his government arises from the two general classes of creatures which are the objects of it. The irrational and inanimate creatures are the subjects of his natural government. The rational part of the creation, or those creatures who are the fit subjects of moral law, as angels and men, are the subjects of bis moral government.
2. The providence of God extends to all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least. “Some,” says Dr Dick,“ maintain only a general providence, which consists in upholding certain general laws, and exclaim against the idea of a particular providence, which takes a concern in individuals and their affairs. It is strange that the latter opinion should be adopted by any person who professes to bow to the authority of Scripture, which declares that a sparrow does not fall to the ground without the knowledge of our heavenly Father, and that the hairs of our head are all numbered,
-or by any man who has calmly listened to the dictates of reason. If God has certain designs to accomplish with respect to, or by means of, his intelligent creatures, I should wish to know how his intention can be fulfilled without particular attention to their circumstances, their movements, and all the events of their life? .... How can a whole be taken care of without
taking care of its parts; or a species be preserved if the individuals are neglected ?"
The providence of God extends to the inanimate creation. He who fixed the laws of nature, still continues or suspends their operation according to his pleasure; they are dependent on his continued influence, and subject to his control; and to assert the contrary would be to assign to the laws of nature that independence which belongs to God alone.-Ps.cxix. 91, civ. 14 ; Job xxxviii. 31-38. The providence of God likewise reaches to the whole animal creation. “The beasts of the forest are his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” They are all his creatures, and the subjects of his providence. -Ps. civ. 27, 28. Angels, too, are the subjects of God's providence. The good angels are ever ready to obey his will, and are employed by him in ministering, in various ways, to the saints on earth.—Heb. i. 14. The evil angels are subject to his control, and can do no mischief without his permission. -Job. i. 12. The providence of God also extends to all human affairs; the affairs of nations are under his guidance and control. “He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again. He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.”—Job xii. 19, 23. This the humbled monarch of Babylon was taught by painful experience, and was constrained to acknowledge that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”Dan. iv. 25. The providence of God is also to be recog: nised in the affairs of families. “God setteth the solitary in families,”—“he setteth the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock; again they are minished and brought low, through oppression, affliction, and sorrow." --Ps. lxviii. 6, cvii. 39, 41. The providence of God likewise extends to individuals, and to their minutest concerns.
The birth of each individual, the length of his days, and all the events of his life, are regulated and superintended by the most wise and holy providence of God.-Acts xvii. 28; Job xiv. 5.
“As the doctrine of a particular providence is agreeable both to Scripture and to reason, so it is recommended by its obvious tendency to promote the piety and the consolation of mankind. To a God who governed the world solely by general laws, we might have looked up with reverence, but not with the confidence, and gratitude, and hope, which arise from the belief that he superintends its minutest affairs. The thought that he compasses our paths and is acquainted with all our ways ;' that he watches our steps, and orders
all the events in our lot; guides and protects us, and supplies our wants, as it were, with his own hand; this thought awakens a train of sentiments and feelings highly favourable to devotion, and sheds a cheering light upon the path of life. We consider him as our Guardian and our Father; and, reposing upon his care, we are assured that, if we trust in him, no evil shall befal us, and no real blessing shall be withheld.” *
SECTION II.-Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; 8 yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
1 Kings xxii. 28, 34. Is. X. 6, 7.
8 Acts ii. 23.
Exodus xxi. 13. Deut. xix. 5.
Jer. xxxi. 35.
EXPOSITION. Since all things were known to God from the beginning of the world, and come to pass according to the immutable counsel of his will, it necessarily follows that, in respect of the foreknowledge and decree of God, all things come to pass infallibly. But, by his providence, he orders them to fall out according to the nature of second causes. Every part of the material world has an immediate dependence on the will and power of God, in respect of every motion and operation, as well as in respect of continued existence; but he governs the material world by certain physical laws,-commonly called the laws of nature, and in Scripture the ordinances of heaven,-and agreeably to these laws, so far as relates to second causes, certain effects uniformly and necessarily follow certain causes. The providence of God is also concerned about the volitions and actions of intelligent creatures; but his providential influence is not destructive of their rational liberty, for they are under no compulsion, but act freely; and all the liberty which can belong to rational creatures, is that of acting according to their inclinations. Though there is no event contingent with respect to God,“who declareth the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things which are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure;" yet many events are contingent or accidental with regard to us, and also with respect to second causes.
* Dick's Lectures on Theology, vol. ii., p. 302.
SECTION III.—God in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without," above, is and against them,13 at his pleasure.
10 Acts xxvii. 31, 44. Is. lv, 10, 11. Hos. ii. 21, 22.
12 Rom. iv. 19-21.
11 Hos. i. 7. Matt. iv. 4. Job xxxiv.
The providence of God is either ordinary or miraculous. In his ordinary providence God works by means, and according to the general laws established by his own wisdom: we are, therefore, bound to use the means which he has appointed, and if we neglect these, we cannot expect to obtain the end. But though God generally acts according to established laws, yet he may suspend or modify these laws at pleasure. And when, by his immediate agency, an effect is produced above or beside the ordinary course of nature, this we denominate a miracle. The possibility of miracles will be denied by none but Atheists. To maintain that the laws of nature are so absolutely fixed, that they can in no case be deviated from, would be to exclude God from the government of the world, -to represent the universe as a vast machine, whose movements are regulated by certain laws which even the great Architect cannot control.
SECTION IV.—The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; 17 yet so as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.18
14 Rom. xi. 32-34. 2 Sam, xxiv. 1.
1 Chron. xxi. 1. 1 Kings xxii.
18 Acts xiv. 16.
Ps. I. 21.