« PreviousContinue »
dure. For whatever ends might be proposed in the production of such a forlorn world, they could not possibly be answered. Neither the Creator's glory, nor his creature's happiness, could be in any measure accomplished without a providence. And as to any other intention, we are not able to frame any conception of them. However they must needs likewise be ineffectual, and frustrate, on the same supposition.
But let us examine the grounds of this impor tant doctrine somewhat more particularly. Strictly speaking, the creation necessarily requires the continued influence and perpetual support of its Creator. The natural world could not subsist a moment without the almighty hand which first formed it. Should God be pleased at any time to withdraw his power and protection, all nature must sink in an instant. Most certainly every thing would immediately run to ruin, and probably fall to nothing. Both reason and revelation assure us, that by him all things consist. That' he preserveth and upholdeth all things by the word of his power.' That in his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind :' and that in him we live, move, and have our being.' In this respect, therefore, God's providence not only stands on firm foundations, and sure evidence, but appears absolutely necessary; since the world could no more continue without his aid, than it could exist without it at first. The great machine of the universe, so wonderfully framed and fitted as it is, yet cannot go of itself; as unavoidably depending on its almighty Author, and naturally requiring his concurrence, to keep it not
only in order but in being. Nor does this argue any defect in his workmanship; because an independent system of creatures is not only absurd, but utterly impossible.
Should we go on to inquire, how he governs the world, and presume to search into the methods and measures of divine Providence, we may easily bewilder ourselves, in a speculation vastly too high for us. We have all the reason in the world to assure ourselves, that God's government is most perfect in all respects; but to account for the direction and disposal of particular events, and to discover how far they come under, and coincide with general laws, seem undertakings far above our present faculties. We do not so much as know, with any certainty, whether there be any just ground for distinguishing, as we ordinarily do, between a general and a particular providence. All particular events, for ought we know, may be superintended and disposed by general laws. I might explain and confirm this observation by various instances and suppositions; but I shall only mention at present that which follows; a supposition not only very ancient, but very natural, and therefore more easy to be conceived, and more apt to be entertained. What I mean is, that the particularities of human life may be specially provided for by a delegation of power and authority to subordinate agents, by whose invisible intervention events may be directed agreeably to the will and wisdom of the supreme Governor; and that perhaps in perfect consistence with the stated laws of the natural world. What absurdity, what impropriety, in supposing such a pro
vision as this for the tuition and government of mankind? Can we think it any derogation from the honour and majesty of the supreme Ruler, to invest certain beings of exalted powers and perfections with the administration of his providential decrees; they presiding over the several parts of the universe, while he himself, who alone is capable of it, informs and directs the whole? This seems perfectly conformable to that subordination and scale of beings, which prevail throughout all nature, as far as our faculties are able to search. Could we see further, we might probably find every system, every habitable globe, under the government of vicegerents; and perhaps the various districts and provinces of each divided among the host of heaven, and respectively administered according to the appointments of unerring wisdom. If this be agreeable to nature and reason, as must, I think, be allowed; I may safely add, that is by no means disagreeable to revelation: so far from it, that we find in scripture frequent intimations of this amazing scheme of Providence. I see not therefore why it may not be supposed a general law of God's moral government; and that such a one, as no way interferes; but perfectly consists with his laws of nature. Balguy.
THE CONDUCt of providence, howeVER MYSTERIOUS, IS WISE AND JUST.
IN looking abroad into the world, how many scenes do we behold, which are far from corres
ponding with any ideas we could form of the government of heaven? Many nations of the earth we see lying in a state of barbarity and misery; sunk in such gross ignorance, as degrades them below the rank of rational beings; or abandoned to be the prey of cruel oppression and tyranny. When we look to the state of individuals around us, we hear the lamentations of the unhappy on every hand. We meet with weeping parents, and mourning friends. We behold the young cut off in the flower of their days, and the aged left desolate in the midst of sorrows. The useful and virtuous are swept away, and the worthless left to flourish. The lives of the best men are often filled with discouragements and disappointed hopes. Merit languishes in neglected solitude; and vanity and presumption gain the admiration of the world. From the scourge of calumny, and from the hand of violence, the injured look up to God as the avenger of their cause; but often they look up in vain. He is a God that hideth himself.' He dwelleth, as to them, in the secret place of darkness; or, if he dwelleth in light, it is in " light to which no man can approach.' Resignation may seal up their lips; but, in silence, they drop the tear, and mourn while they adore.
Such, it must not be dissembled, are the difficulties which encounter us when we attempt to trace the present ways of God. At the same time, upon reflection, we may be satisfied that causes can be assigned for things appearing in this unfavourable light; and that there is no reason to be surprised at the divine conduct being at present mysterious.
The monarchy of the universe is a great and complicated system. It comprehends numberless generations of men, who are brought forth to act their parts for purposes unknown to us. It includes two worlds at once; the world that now is, and which is only a small portion of existence; and a world that is to come, which endures for eternity. To us, no more than the beginnings of things are visible. We see only some broken parts of a great whole. We trace but a few links of that chain of being, which, by secret connections, binds together the present and the future. Such knowledge is afforded us, as is sufficient for supplying the exigences and wants of our present state; but it does no more. Peeping abroad from a dark corner of the universe, we attempt in vain to explore the counsels that govern the world. It is an attempt to sound an unfathomable deep with a scanty line; and with a feeble wing to ascend above the stars. In any complicated work, even of human art, it is found necessary to be acquainted with the design of the whole, in order to judge of the fitness of its parts. In a scheme so complex as the administration of the world, where all the parts refer to one another, and where what is seen is often subordinate to what is invisible, how is it possible but that our judgments must be often erroneous, and our complaints illfounded? If a peasant or a cottager be incapable of judging of the government of a mighty empire, is it surprising that we should be at a loss concerning the conduct of the Almighty towards his creatures?
But, on this argument still more can be said for