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From this short survey which we have taken of Divine wisdom, as discovering itself, in the whole complex frame of the moral world; in the constitution of human nature; in the government of human affairs; and in the redemption of the human race; we cannot but perceive how much reason we have to prostrate ourselves before God, and with all humility to worship and adore. - When we view that immense structure of the universe in which we dwell, when we think of Him, whose wisdom has planned the whole system of being; whose mind comprehends, whose counsels direct, the whole course of events, from the beginning to the end of time; by whom nothing is so inconsiderable as to be overlooked, or so transient as to be forgotten; who attends to the concerns of the poor man in his cottage, while he is steering the sun and the moon in their course through the heavens; into what astonishment and self-annihilation do we fall! Before him all our boasted knowledge is ignorance, and our wisdom is folly. Wherever we cast our eyes on his works and ways, we find all things adjusted in number, weight, and measure ; and after all that we can survey, Lo! these are but a part of his ways; and how small a portion is heard of him!
It is the power of God, which produces among the multitude of men any impressions of religion. When thunder roars in the heavens, or an earthquake shakes the ground, they are struck with awe, and disposed to worship an invisible power. But such impressions of Deity are occasional and transitory. The lasting reverence of a Supreme Being arises, in a well-informed mind, from the display of that infinite wisdom which all the universe presents. Its operations are
constantly, though silently, going on around us. We may view it in the peaceful and sedate state of the universe, as well as in its greatest commotions; we behold it in every insect that moves on the ground, at the same time that we admire it in the revolutions of the celestial bodies. Happy for us if the contemplation shall nourish that temper of habitual devotion, which so well becomes dependent beings, and is so intimately connected with all virtue !
But the chief effect that ought to be produced by meditation on the Divine wisdom, is perfect resignation to the Governor of the universe, and entire trust in his administration. Our private misfortunes and disappointments are too often the subject of querulous complaints, and even of unjust suspicions of Providence. But when in the whole natural and moral world, we behold an arrangement of things which plainly discovers the most consummate wisdom, can we believe, that in the arrangement of our petty concerns, this wisdom is dormant and neglect. ful? How much more reason is there to think, that our ignorance of the Divine plans misleads our judgment, than that the wisdom of the Almighty has erred in directing our private affairs ? - Divine wisdom, as I observed in the beginning, is an exertion of Divine benevolence. It has, it can have, no other scope than to accomplish the best ends by the most proper means.
Let the wisdom, therefore, and the goodness, of the Deity, be ever conjoined in our idea. Let every new discovery of Divine wisdom, be a new ground of hope, of joy, and of cordial submission, to every virtuous man. Let him be thankful that he lives in a world, where nothing happens to him by chance, or at random; but where a great, a wise, and beneficent Mind continually superintends every event.
* See Serm. XLIX. Vol. ii.
Under the faith of this great principle of religion, let us proceed, in the course of our duty, with stedfast and undismayed mind. Let us retain faithful allegiance to our Creator and our Redeemer'; and then we may always hope the best; and cast our care upon
; him who careth for us. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.
Although thou sayest, thou canst not see him, yet judg· ment is before him ; therefore trust thou in him.Let us begin every undertaking with an humble dependence on his assistance for enabling us to prosecute it to the end. When our undertakings finished, and the close of life approaches, with praise to him let us conclude all our labours.
Unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever! Amen.
The COMPASSION and BENEFICENCE of the Deity.
[Preached before the Society for the Benefit of the Sons of the
Clergy of the Established Church of Scotland, 20th May 1766.]
JEREMIAH, xlix. 11.
Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them.
alive; and let thy widows trust in me.
No subject is more open to general observation, or
more confirmed by manifold experience, than the goodness of God. The contemplation of the universe in which we dwell, presents it perpetually to our view. Amidst the vast extent of creation, we discover no instance of mere pomp, or useless grandeur, but behold every thing contributing to the general good, and rendered subservient to the welfare of the rational or sensible world. In the administration of Providence, the same principle of beneficence is conspicuous. The seasons are made regularly to return, and the earth to flourish; supply is bountifully provided for the wants of all creatures; and numberless comforts are prepared to sweeten human life. Most justly is he who hath established, and who upholds, this admirable order of things, to be esteemed the Father of mercies : and, accordingly, in this view, he is often celebrated in Scripture. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
His tender mercies are over all his works. His mercy is great unto the heavens, and it endureth for ever.
It appears worthy of particular observation that there is one light, in which more frequently than in any other, the goodness of God is presented to us in the Sacred Writings, namely, the light of compassion to the distresses of mankind. Most of the situations are mentioned in which men are considered as most forlorn ; and in some passages of Scripture, God is represented as interesting himself, in a peculiar manner, for those who are in such situations. Particular emphasis is always laid upon this circumstance, in the general views which are given of his goodness. He is the Hearer of prayer, unto whom all flesh shall come.
But he is described as listening with particular attention to the cry of the poor ; and regarding the prayer of the destitute : He will prepare their heart, and cause his ear to hear. All creatures are the objects of his providential care. But the widow and the fatherless, the bowed down and the broken in heart, are particularly attended to, and commiserated by him. The Lord executeth judgment for the oppressed ; the Lord preserveth the stranger; he looseth the prisoner, and giveth food to the hungry. He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor hides he his face from them ; but hears when they cry unto him. *
In short, when we are deprived of all human consolation and aid, the Almighty is represented as then most accessible to our prayers, and most disposed to help and relieve us.
* Ps. cii. 17.; x. 17.; lxviii. 5.; Ixix. 33.; cxlvi. 7.; xxii. 24, &c. &c.