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he would begin with the Persians; and then make a sacrifice of all the christians to his idols. He did so, and perished in the first attempt. Oh the wisdom of Divine Providence!
4. Jesus Christ limits the creatures in their acting, assigning them their boundaries and lines of liberty ; to which they may, but beyond it cannot, go." Fear none of these things that ye shall suffer; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, and ye
shall have tribulation ten days.” Rev. 2:10. Their enemies would have cast them into their graves, but it shall only be into prison : they would have stretched out their hands upon them all; no, but only some of them shall be exposed: they would have kept them there perpetually; no, it must be but for ten days. Four hundred and thirty years were determined upon the people of God in Egypt; and then, even in that very night, God brought them forth ; for then " the time of the promise was come.'
Acts, 7:17. 5. The Lord Jesus providentially protects his people amidst a world of enemies and danger. It was Christ. that appeared unto Moses in the flaming bush, and preserved it from being consumed. The bush signified the people of God in Egypt; the fire flaming in it the exquisite sufferings they there endured; the safety of the bush amidst the flames, the Lord's admirable care and protection of his poor suffering ones. None so tenderly careful as Christ. As birds flying, so he defends Jerusalem," Isa. 31:5, that is, as they fly swiftly towards their nests, erying, when their young are in danger, so will the Lord preserve his. They are "preserved in Christ Jesus," Jude i, as Noah and his family were in the ark. Hear how a worthy of our own (Dr. Owen on Iudwelling Sin) expresses himself on this point:
- That we are at peace in our houses, at rest in our beds; that we have any quiet in our enjoyments, is from hence alone. Whose person would not be defiled or destroyed; whose habitation would not be ruined; whose blood almost would not be shed, if wicked men had power to perpetrate all their conceived sin ? It may be, the ruin of some of us hath been conceived a thousand times. To this providence we owe the preservation of our lives, our families, our estates, our liberties, and whatsoever is dear to us. For may we not say sometimes with the psalmist, 'My soul is among lions, and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears, and their tongue a sharp sword ?' Psalm 57:4. And how is the deliver. ance of men from such persons contrived? God breaks their teeth in their mouths, even the great teeth of the young lions. Psalm 58:6. He keeps this fire from burning,—some he cuts off and destroys: some he cuts short in their power : some he deprives of the instruments whereby alone they can work: some he prevents, from their desired opportunities; the attention of some is diverted to other objects; and oftentimes he causeth them to spend their force upon one another. We may say, therefore, with the Psalmist, O Lord, how mani. fold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.' Psalm 104: 24."
6. He punishes evil doers, and repays, by his provi. dence, into their own lap, the mischiefs they intend for those that fear him. Pharaoh, Sennacherib, both the Julians, and innumerable more, are the lasting monuments of his righteous retribution. It is true, a sinner may do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged; but ofttimes God hangs up some eminent sinners in chains, as spectacles and warnings to others. Many a heavy blow hath Providence given to the enemies of God, from which they were never able to recover. Christ rules, and that with a rod of iron, in the midst of his enemies. Psalm 110: 2.
7. And lastly, he rewards the services done to him and his people. Out of this treasure of Providence God often repays those that serve him, and that with a hundred-fold reward now in this life. Matt. 19:29. This active, vigilant Providence hath its eye upon all the wants, straits, and troubles of creatures; but especially of his people. What volumes of experience might the people of God write upon this subject! and what a pleasant history would it be, to read the strange, constant, wonderful, and unexpected actings of Providence, for those who have committed themselves to its care!
II. We shall next inquire how Jesus Christ administers this providential kingdom.
Both angels and men are his instruments: the angels are "ministering spirits" sent forth by him for the good of them that shall be heirs of salvation. Heb. 1: 14. Luther tells us they have two offices, superius canere et inferius vigilare, "to sing above, and watch beneath.” These do us many invisible offices of love. They have dear and tender regard and love for the saints. To them, God, as it were, puts forth his children to nurse, and they are tenderly careful of them whilst they live, and bring them home in their arms to their Father when they die. And as angels, so men are the servants of Providence; yea, bad men as well as good. Cyrus, on that account, is called God's servant. They fulfil his will, whilst they are prosecuting their own lusts. "The earth shall help the woman.” Rev. 12:16. But good men delight to serve Providence; they and the angels are fellow-servants in one house, and to one Master. Rev. 19:10. Yea, there is not a creature in heaven, earth, or hell, but Jesus Christ can providentially use to serve his ends, and promote his designs. But whatever the instrument be which Christ uses, of this we may be certain, that his providential working is holy, wise, sovereign, profound, irresistible, harmonious, and for the peculiar good of the saints.
1. It is holy. Though he permits, limits, orders, and overrules many unholy persons and actions, yet he still works like himself, most holily and purely throughout. "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” Psalm 145 : 17. It is easier to separate light from a sun-beam, than holiness from the works of God. The best of men cannot escape sin in their most holy actions. But no sin cleaves to God in what. ever he doeth.
2. Christ's providential working is also most wise and judicious." The wheels are full of eyes.” Ezek. 1:18. They are not moved by a blind impetus, but in deep counsel and wisdom. And, indeed, the wisdom of Providence manifests itself principally in the choice of such states for the people of God, as shall most effectually promote their eternal happiness. And herein it goes quite beyond our understanding and comprehension. It makes that medicinal and salutary which we judge destructive to our comfort and good. Suarez, speaking of the felicity of the other world, says, " Then the blessed shall see in God all things and circumstances pertaining to them, excellently accommodated and attempered ;" then shall they see that the crossing of their desires was the saving of their souls; and that otherwise they had perished. The most wise Providence looks beyond us. It eyes the end, and suits all things thereto, and not to our fond desires.
3. The providence of Christ is most supreme and sovereign. Whatsoever he pleaseth, that he doeth in heaven and in earth, and in all places. Psalm 135: 6. "He is Lord of lords, and King of kings." Rev. 19:16. The greatest monarchs are but as the worms of the earth to him : they all depend on him, “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice ; by me princes rule,
and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” Prov. 8: 15, 16.
4. Divine Providence is profound and inscrutable. The judgments of Christ are "a great deep, and his footsteps are not known.” Psalm 36 :6. There are hard texts in the works as well as in the words of Christ. The wisest heads have been at a loss in interpreting some events. Jer. 12:1, 2; Job, 21:7. The angels had the hands of a man under their wings, Ezek. 1:8; that is, they wrought secretly and mysteriously.
5. Divine Providence is irresistible in its designs and motions; for all providences are but fulfillings and accomplishments of God's immutable decrees. " He works all things according to the counsel of his own will." Eph. 1:11. Hence the instruments by which God executed his wrath are called "chariots coming from between two mountains of brass,” Zech. 6:1; that is, " the firm and immutable decrees of God.” When the Jews put Christ to death, they did only what " the hand and counsel of God had before determined to be done.” Acts, 4:28. None can oppose or resist providence. “I will work, and who shall let it ?" Isaiah, 43 : 13.
6. The providences of Christ are harmonious. There are secret chains and invisible connections between the works of Christ. We know not how to reconcile promises and providences together, nor yet providences one with another; but certainly they all work together, Rom. 8:28, by the influence of the first cause. He doth not do, and undo; destroy by one providence, what he built by another. But, just as all seasons of the year, the nipping frosts, as well as the halcyon days of summer, conspire and conduce to the harvest ; so it is in providence.
7. The providences of Christ work in a special and peculiar way for the good of the saints. His providential is subordinated to his spiritual kingdom. "He is