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quently, that we ought not to be judge of the virtue or the vice of individuals by their external circumstances. But our caution must not be carried so far as to benumb our understandings. The fall of tyrants, the tragical fate of persecutors, the punishment of blasphemers while the language of impiety is issuing from their lips, the discovery of crimes which had long eluded the search of every human eye, the manifest retribution which takes place when the cup which the sinner had administered to others is forced to his own lips; these, and similar events, can be viewed by a reflecting mind in no other light than as evidences, that “ verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."*°“ The Lord is known by the judgment which he executes.”+
Before I conclude, I shall mention two facts in the history of our species, which are well worthy of attention. The first is the proportion between the sexes, which are so well balanced, that, if there be any difference, it is on the side of the males; provision being thus made for the greater waste of them, by war, and the various accidents to which they are exposed by sea and by land. Here, then, is a double proof of Divine wisdom, in taking care, that the number of the two sexes should be nearly equal for the regular continuation of the species, and that the small excess, which has been observed, should be in that sex where it was manifestly wanted to keep up the proportion. No inquirer into nature can account for this fact. If any man should be so stupid as to assert, that the production of human beings is the effect of the mechanisin of the bodies of their parents, he surely will not advance so far in absurdity as to maintain, that it is owing to mechanism that in one age or country they are not all born males, and in another females ; and that, whatever may take place in particular families, the result is always what we have already stated. It is impossible to evade this evidence, that the affairs of the world are still under the direction of Him who made it.
The other fact to which I referred, is the variety in the human countenance. Its features are few, but they are so wonderfully altered and combined, that, in a million of men, you shall not find two who are exactly alike. The advantages which result from this diversity are great, but are not always attended to. If the faces of all men were alike, or if instances of this kind were frequent, much inconvenience and confusion would ensue. Impositions would be daily practised; opportunities would be afforded of prying into the secrets of others, of entering into their houses, of assaulting them when they have no suspicion, of committing innumerable crimes with facility, and of eluding discovery. How does it happen that, although all men resemble one another in the general configuration of their faces, they are, at the same time, so different? How does it happen that this dissimilarity is observed even among those who are descended from the same common parents? No reason, I presume, can be assigned but the will and power of God, who, in this as in every other instance, has provided for the safe and comfortable intercourse of mankind.
The arguments which I have brought forward, are sufficient to establish our minds in the belief of the doctrine of Providence, which was acknowledged by the wiser Heathens, and is explicitly and fully taught in the Scriptures. By Providence, I do not mean merely a general superintendence of the affairs of the Universe, but a particular care exercised towards every constituent part of it. Some 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 • Ps. lviii. 11.
+ Ps. ix. 16.
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?. I confess, that I do not distinctly understand what is meant by a general, to the exclusion of a particular, Providence. If it mean, that God takes care of the world, but not of particular things in the world, of the human race, but not of individual men, I am not surprised that I do not understand it, because it is absolutely unintelligible. How can a whole be taken care of without taking care of its parts ; or a species be preserved if the individuals are neglected ? “We cannot conceive of any reasons that can influence the Deity to exercise any providence over the world, which are not likewise reasons for extending it to all that happens in the world. As far as it is confined to generals, or overlooks any individual, or any event, it is incomplete, and therefore unsuitable to the idea of a perfect Being.'
It is urged as a formidable objection against a particular Providence, that it is inconsistent with the liberty of man, and the general laws which divine wisdom has established. It supposes the occasional suspension of those laws, and such interference with human agency, as is subversive of freedom. But this objection, as Dr. Price observes, “shews narrow views. It would indeed, be impossible, if a man, for example, happens to be under a wall when it is falling, to prevent his being killed, without suspending the law of gravitation ; but how easy would it have been, had his death been an event proper to be excluded, or which was not consistent with exact order and righteousness in the regulation of events ; how easy, I say, in this case, would it have been to hinder him from coming too near the dangerous place, or to occasion his coming sooner or later, by insensibly influencing the train of ideas in his mind, and in numberless other methods, which affect not his liberty. And since this was easy to be done, and yet was not done, we may assuredly conclude that it was not right to be done, and that the event did not happen without the counsel and approbation of Providence. In general, every person, whenever any event, favourable or unfavourable, happens to him, has the greatest reason to own the Divine hand in it; because, it appears, as far as we can judge, that had the Deity so pleased, it might have been prevented by a secret direction of natural causes, and of the thoughts of men, without offering any violence to them. How plainly may we perceive, that if we ourselves had a greater acquaintance with the powers of nature, and nearer access to the minds of men, we could easily over-rule and direct many events not at present in our power, agreeably to our own purposes, without the least infringement of the general laws of the world, or of the liberty of mankind ! But how much easier must it be for that Being to do this absolutely and perfectly, to whom all the powers of nature are subject, who sees through all dependencies and connexions, and has constant access to the heart of every man, and can turn it whithersoever he pleases! Where, then, can be the difficulty of believing an invisible hand, an universal and ever attentive Providence, which guides all things agreeably to perfect rectitude and wisdom, at the same time that the general laws of the world are left unviolated, and the liberty of moral agents is preserved ?”'+
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, orders all the • Price's Dissert.
+ Dissertation on Providence, sect. i. Vol. 1.–54
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. The doctrine of a particular Providence is eagerly embraced, and fondly cherished, by the humble and pious; while a general Providence is espoused and maintained by cold-hearted speculatists, whose science, falsely so called, turns from the Author of nature, to the more congenial contemplation of the operation of mechanical laws, and the play of human passions.
Objects of the Divine Providence-Its concern in the Preservation and Government of all
things; in the Life, and Death, and in all the Actions of Man-Providence the Source of all Good Actions—Discussion of the question, How far Providence is concerned in Sinful Actions-Distinctions of the Cavinistic Theology on this subject.
In the preceding lecture, I endeavoured to prove that there is a Providence, by several arguments. In giving a definition of it, I remarked, that it signifies in general the Divine care, direction, and control, which may be arranged under two heads, the preservation of his creatures, and the government of them.
First, He preserves his creatures. They are as dependent upon him for the continuance of their being, as life in the branch is upon the juice which flows from the trunk, or the growth of the members of the human body is upon the blood which is propelled from the heart. No idea can be more false than to suppose, that the communication of being renders that, to which it is communicated, independent. What is derived is not self-existent. It is, indeed, perfectly distinct from its Maker, as any other work is from the workman; but, if I may speak so, he pervades its essence, and upholds it by the word of his power. But enough was said upon this subject, when we were demonstrating the doctrine of Providence, from the dependence of all created things upon the power which produced them.
Secondly, He governs his creatures, that is, he exerts an influence upon them, unseen and unfelt, and by their means produces certain effects; but, as they differ widely in their properties and their functions, the general term will admit of various modifications of its meaning, in its application to particular subjects. He governs the material system according to those laws which account for the order established, and regulate the movements which are continually going on in it. Hence, in figurative language, he is said to command the sun to rise, the stars to shine, and other natural events to take place. It is his hand which keeps the sun in his place, and wheels the planets around him in their orbits ; it is his hand which fixes the mountains on their bases, and confines the ocean within its ancient boundaries. And if those laws are, as we have stated, only the regular modes of his agency in the production of effects, it is evident that the exertion of his power upon the material system is immediate. He governs the vegetable tribes by those laws which relate to the formation and generation of the seed, the protrusion of the stalk or stem, the expansion of the leaves and flowers, and the concoction of the fruit. He so
governs them, that not only are the different species preserved, but they continue distinct although growing together, with occasional varieties arising from climate, and soil, and cultivation. Wheat never produces rye, nor oats rice; but from age to age any particular seed multiplies itself, so that the husbandman can calculate with certainty, if not upon the quantity, yet upon the nature of the crop. He governs the lower animals by their instincts, which prove a surer guide to them than even reason is to man. Impelled by those instincts, they choose fit habitations, select their proper food, avoid dangers, rear their young, act in appearance at least prospectively—for instance, when they lay in provisions for winter-and often discover a skill which excites our admiration, although a moment's reflection will convince us, that it is not the wisdom of the animal, but of its Maker. The Scripture makes mention of many facts, from which it appears, that they are absolutely under his control. Thus frogs, lice, and flies, were his instruments in punishing the Egyptians ; ravens were his ministers to supply the Prophet Elijah with food; and as, at one time, lions were sent to plague the idolatrous nations, who had taken possession of the vacant seats of the ten tribes, so at another, they were as harmless as lambs, when for his piety towards God, the holy man Daniel had been cast into their den. By their subservience to his will, “ beasts, and all cattle, creeping things, and flying fowl, praise the Lord.”
The divine government of men, being more important in itself, and attended with greater difficulties, demands closer attention, and a more extended illustration. I begin with observing, that Providence is concerned in the birth of each individual. God has not only appointed that human beings shall be produced according to a general law, but has further settled the number, and the time and order, in which they shall appear.- When a man plants a tree, or drops a seed into the ground, he does not know how much fruit it will yield; but the exact sum of the human race is known to him, who is the Former of our bodies, and the Father of our spirits. Hence, children are promised in the Scriptures as a blessing, and barrenness is mentioned as a reproach and a punishment; to intimate that both were subject to his disposal. We find too, that the birth of certain persons was foretold before they were conceived in the womb; and we may hence infer, that the birth of all other persons is regulated by the counsel and will of the Almighty. And this will be still more evia dent, if we consider, that every individual is not a solitary unit, but a link in a chain; and consequently that his appearance at a particular tiine is necessary to continue the series, to preserve the course of events unbroken, and to secure that other individuals, who are to spring from him, shall appear at the proper season to act their part upon the theatre of the world.
Again, Providence is concerned in our death, as well as in our birth. The natural causes of death are various; as old age, accidents, and diseases slow or rapid in their progress. Nothing is more precarious than human life, It has indeed been made the subject of calculation ; but the reasoning proceeds upon general principles, and does not admit of a confident application to particular cases. Life is like a vapour which is dissipated by the wind, or a flower which is chilled by frost, or crushed by the casual tread of the passenger, Yet we cannot doubt, that it is under the direction of Him, without whose knowledge a sparrow does not fall to the ground. Surely it is not by chance that a gist so precious is taken from those upon whom he had bestowed it; that the course of service and trial, through which they are passing, is terminated; that their spirits are dislodged from the habitation which he had assigned to them, and called into his presence, to give an account of the deeds done in the body. The time, the place, and the manner of our death are appointed. No man can evade his doom. Till the fixed period arrive, he is immortal, to whatever dangers he may be exposed; when it comes, all the precautions of wisdom
and the contrivances of art cannot save him. “ The days of man are determined, the number of his months is with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” “ All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come. “ Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth ; thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away.' These pious reflections of Job upon the closing scene of life, will appear to be well founded when we reflect that, as the death of every man takes place in consequence of the orig. inal sentence pronounced upon us at the fall, it must be considered as inflicted by the hand of our Maker, in the character of a righteous Judge. It is no objection, that some men are said not to live half their days, and others to have their lives prolonged; because the meaning obviously is, that, in the one case, they die sooner than others of the same standing, or sooner than might have been reckoned upon from the strength of their constitution, by the effects of intemperance or by some natural cause ; and that, in the other, they survive diseases which threatened to be fatal, and reach a good old age. In both cases the ultimate cause is the will of God, who wounds and heals, who kills and makes alive.
Providence is concerned in all the events of our life. Man has been said to be the artificer of his own fortune ; and the saying is founded upon the influence which his conduct is frequently observed to have upon his temporal condition; but it is more worthy of a Heathen or an Atheist
, than of a believer in the Scriptures, which declare, that our lot is ordered by the Lord. We find, indeed, that certain actions are commonly followed by certain consequences ; and it is right that it should be so, because we should otherwise be like a ship in the wide ocean without a compass, and should have no motive to act in one way rather than in another. This regularity is so far from invalidating the argument for the divine interference in human affairs, that it confirms it, like the order maintained in the material system. But, in human affairs, order does not prevail with equal steadiness. There are frequent deviations from it, which compel us to acknowledge, somewhat in the same way as miracles do, the controlling power of God." The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”+ In many cases, industry is frustrated of its reward, and the plans of wisdom prove abortive. Worldly wealth is apportioned according to no fixed law with which we are acquainted, and falls to the share of the weak as well as the worthless, while men of superior talent contend for it in vain. The same remark may be applied to earthly honours; and hence, in the language of worldly men, temporal blessings are called the gifts of fortune, to intimate that in appearance they are distributed blindly, and without any regard to merit. But these things are disposed by the sovereign will of God. The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the Maker of them all." - Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge; he putteth down one, and setteth up another.''S
Here I would remark that, although the terms, fortune and chance, are frequently used, they are exceedingly improper, unless they are intended merely to express our ignorance of the causes of events. No rational being, who allows himself to reflect, can suppose that any thing takes place without a cause. As every motion of matter is the effect of impulse, so every action of intelligent creatures is the effect of some motive, or of some previous state of the mind. The turning up of a particular side of a die, is as certainly the result of the laws of nature, as the fall of a heavy body to the earth ; and our most careless and unpremeditated actions are as certainly the consequence of thought and volition, as the proceedings which are founded on mature deliberation. But as we cannot trace the motions of the die, we say that it exhibits a certain number by chance; and to chance we ascribe our own actions, when the thoughts
* Job xiv, 5, 14, 20. 7 Eccl. ix. 11, # Prov. xxii. 2. Ps. lxxv. 6.