Page images
PDF
EPUB

purpose, or fall out in any way beside, or beyond his plan. At one glance he perceives how all things are going on throughout his universe. Not the minutest object is overlooked by Him. No multiplicity of affairs distracts Him; for, to the Supreme Intelligence, all things are present at once; and to the concerns of every good man, his observation and attention reach as fully as if there were no other object under his government.

As there is nothing, therefore, in the promise of the text, which Divine power and wisdom cannot effect, so neither is there any thing in it but what Divine goodness gives us reason to believe shall be fulfilled. The goodness of the Supreme Being is very different from that of men. Among them, it is a principle occasionally operating, but always limited, and always subject to alteration and change. Their benefits, though liberally bestowed at one time, will at another time be stopped by the intervention of contrary passions. Their benevolence decays; selfishness and indifference succeed. But, in the nature of the Deity, there is no principle which can produce alteration or change in his benevolent purpose once formed. Without variableness or shadow of turning, whom he hath once loved he loveth to the end. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.* His goodness therefore consists, not in a mere temporary effusion of blessings, but is permanent and steady; leading him, not simply to bestow some things that are good, and then to stop, but to carry his gracious purpose to the utmost; in every instance to do what is best for his servants on the whole, or, in the words of the text, to make all things work for their good.

[blocks in formation]

Let us now consider what it would import, if any single occurrence were to happen in the course of human affairs, which had not a good design; which did not, in one form or other, promote the benefit of the righteous. What would it import, but that in such an instance, either the Divine power and wisdom had fallen short of their effect, or the Divine goodness had neglected and forsaken the virtuous? It were blasphemous to suppose that the nature of the Deity was changed; or that there were, in his government of the world, some vacant spaces, or neglected intervals, in which he suffered the reins of administration to drop out of his hands, and some evil principle to counteract his general system. But as all such suppositions are manifestly inconsistent with the na ture of that God in whom Christians believe, there appears to follow, from the consideration of his perfections, evidence next to demonstration, for the truth of that doctrine which the text contains.

BUT that it may not rest its evidence on our own reasonings only, let us next consider what discovery of his high designs God hath been pleased to make in the Revelation of the Gospel. Here it is amply sufficient to have recourse to one signal dispensation of his government, the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ. Hence arises an argument which carries the most convincing force; and which accordingly, in a few verses after the text, is employed by the Apostle in support of that doctrine I have been illustrating. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also, freely give us all things? Can we in any instance distrust Him who hath given us this highest proof

of his love? If he scrupled not to bestow this best gift, is there any other blessing he will be inclined to withhold? Having already done so much, will he leave incomplete his own great work? - By the death of Christ, we are taught in Scripture, that atonement was made for sin. He underwent in his sufferings the punishment due to us. He is said to have been wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; to have borne our sins in his own body on the tree. From this view of the doctrine of redemption, it naturally follows, that Christ having purchased for his followers the pardon of their sins, the afflictions they now undergo are not properly to be considered as punishments, but as chastisements intended for their good. Add to this, that it is the peculiar province of our Lord in his present exalted state, to administer all things for the good of his church. For this end his regal power is employed. To this end his mediation and intercession are directed: and either these must in some cases prove ineffectual, or it must follow that all things work for the good of them who love him. As much evidence then as we have for those capital truths on which the whole of Christianity rests, the same we have for that high encouragement afforded by the text.

It remains to take notice, in the last place, of the express and multiplied promises of the sacred Scripture to the same purpose with that in the text. Though the text alone might have appeared sufficient for our encouragement; yet, as repeated assurances of the same thing come home with greater weight to the mind, it hath pleased God to make this full provision for confirming the trust and hope of his servants: and there can be no doubt that the plain and

explicit words of the Divine promises have had the most comfortable influence on many who could not so well have supported themselves under the trials of life, either by reasonings taken from the Divine perfections, or by inferences drawn from the doctrine of redemption. Accordingly, we are not left merely to reason or to infer, but are in express terms told by God himself, that godliness shall be profitable unto all things; that God the Lord is a sun and a shield, giving grace and glory, and withholding no good thing from them that walk uprightly; that no evil shall happen to the just; for the Lord is their keeper, who never slumbers nor sleeps; that his eyes are ever on the righteous; that when they pass through the waters, he will be with them, and through the rivers they shall not overflow them; and in fine, that all his paths are mercy and truth to such as fear him and keep his covenant.* These promises, and many more to the same effect, with which the Scripture abounds, plainly express a particular care of Heaven exercised about every single good man; they signify as real an interposition of Providence, as if the laws of nature had been suspended on his account.

The opinion entertained by some, that the Provi dence of God extends no farther than to a general superintendence of the laws of nature, without interposing in the particular concerns of individuals, is contrary both to reason and to Scripture. It renders the government of the Almighty altogether loose and contingent, and would leave no ground for reposing any trust under its protection. For the majority of human affairs would then be allowed to fluctuate in a

* 1 Tim. iv. 8. Ps. lxxxiv. 11.

Ps. cxxi. 3, 4, &c.

fortuitous course, without moving in any regular direction, and without tending to any one scope. The uniform doctrine of the sacred writings is, that throughout the universe nothing happens without God; that his hand is ever active, and his decree or permission intervenes in all; that nothing is too great or unwieldy for his management, and nothing so minute and inconsiderable as to be below his inspection and care. While he is guiding the sun and the moon in their course through the heavens; while in this inferior world he is ruling among empires, stilling the ragings of the waters and the tumults of the people, he is at the same time watching over the humble good man, who, in the obscurity of his cottage, is serving and worshipping Him. In order to express this vigilance of Providence in the strongest terms, our Saviour Himself has said that the very hairs of our head are all numbered by God; and that while two sparrows are sold for a farthing, not one of them falls to the ground without his pleasure. The consolation which this affords he applies to his disciples in what follows: Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.* It is on this doctrine of a special and particular Providence he grounds that exhortation against worldly solicitude and anxiety, which accords so fully with the argument we have been pursuing; your heavenly Father knoweth what things ye have need of; take therefore no thought for the morrow; but seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.+

Matth. x. 31.

+ Matth. vi. 32, 33.

i

« PreviousContinue »