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dazzle by their talents and delude by their wit, yet will boldly affirm “ that the doctrine of the immediate and “ perpetual interference of Divine Providence, is not “ true,"—and insinuate that it is “ ridiculous, de“ grading,” and dangerous. (t)
In opposition to the assertion just quoted, I will venture to declare, and hope, I shall be able to prove, that the doctrine of the particular, as well as that of the universal, Providence of God, is revealed clearly in Scripture, is confirmed by history, and is compatible. with the established principles of philosophy.
Now, that the persuasion that the Providence of God extended to all times and places, and to every individual, was prevalent among the primitive Christians, is evident from the language of CÆCILIUS, a Roman lawyer, and then one of the most skilful oppo. sers, though he became a convert to the truth, by reason of his controversy with Octavius. He objected against them that they asserted “ a Providence as ex66 tending to the affairs and actions of men, and even “! to their most secret thoughts.” He represented it as very absurd in them to believe that “ their GOD, 66 whom they can neither see nor show, inspects dili“ gently into the manners of all men, into their actions, " and even their words and hidden thoughts; and that “ he is every where present, troublesome, and imper66 tinently busy and curious; since he interests himself « in all things that are done, and thrusts himself into
all places ; whereas he can neither attend to every 66 particular whilst he is employed about the whole;
(t) Edinburgh Review, vol. xi. pp. 356, 357.
“ nor be able to take care of the whole, being occupied « about particulars.” (v)
Let me next select two or three passages to show that this notion of the early Christians was derived from the Bible. From the Old Testament I first quote part of the language of God to Job, in which he asserts not only his power, but his providence. « Who hath “ divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters ? " or a way for the lightning of thunder, to cause it to 66 rain on the earth ? to satisfy the desolate and waste 6 ground, and to cause the bud of the tender herb to -*6 spring forth. Hath the rain a father ? or who hath
66 begotten the drops of the dew? Who provideth *** for the raven his food ?” (w)
David abounds with references to the providence of God. “The eyes of all wait upon Thee, and thou 6 givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest
thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living 66 thing. The Lord preserveth all them that love him; 66 but all the wicked will he destroy." * The Lord " openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth 66 them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the 66 righteous. The Lord preserveth the strangers ; He 6 relieveth the fatherless and the widow; but the way 66 of the wicked he turneth upside down.” “ He pré*** pareth rain for the earth, he maketh grass to grow *** upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his * food, and to the young ravens which cry.” («)
(v) Min. Fel. p. 15. Edit. vat. 1762.
Again, the prophet Ezekiel, in one of his delightful parables, where he describes the security, prosperity, and universality of the Messiah's kingdom, under the metaphor of a flourishing “ branch,” concludes by a forcible declaration of the minuteness as well as the extent of God's providence, still keeping up his allusion:-“ And all the trees of the field shall know that “ I, THE LORD, have brought down the high tree, “ have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green “ tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I, the « Lord have spoken, and have done it.” (y)
Since, then, the Divine Being is “ the same yester“ day, to-day, and for ever,” without “ variableness “ or shadow of turning,” (x) and since his Providence was constantly and universally manifested in the times of Moses, Job, David, Daniel, and Ezekiel ; it would be absurd to imagine that it should now, or' at any time, become dormant or partially evinced. But we need not stop here. The proofs from the New Testament might be extracted from almost every page. A few of them only I shall request you to consult on the present occasion. For declarations of the extent and universality of Providence read Matt. vi. 19–34. x. 29–31. Luke, xü. 6, 7, 22–31. That all things are fixed under its conduct, is declared in Acts, xvii. 26. Our entire dependence upon Providence is taught in James, iv. 13—17. And that it is most remarkably manifested in the care of good men, may be learnt
(y) Ezek. xvii. 24. See also Prov. xvi. 33. Dan. v. 29. Deut. Xxxii. 39; and 1 Sam. ii. 6—9.
(z) Heb. xiii. 8. James, i. 17.
from Acts, xxiii. 17–52. xxv. 4, 21–27. xxvi. 21, 22, 32. That we owe every thing which is conducive to life and piety to God's Providence, is taught by Peter, 2 Epis. i. 3: and by Paul in numerous places.
Indeed, the connexion established between piety and prayer, on which its growth depends, and the acknowdedgment of a particular Providence included in the performance of prayer, must with all considerate persons be decisive on this point. We are exhorted to 66. pray with the spirit, and the understanding also,” to “ pray without ceasing,” to “ ask that we may re66 ceive,” to “ seek that we may find,” to “ knock 6 that it may be opened to us:" we are told that “men 166 ought always to pray, and not to faint;" that God 6 hears and answers prayer,” that “all things what66 soever we ask in prayer, believing, we shall re“ceive :" (a) &c. But unless the Supreme Being holds constant intercourse with his creatures ; unless, as the Psalmist expresses it, “his ear is always open “ to their cry,” and “his hand” ready to be “ stretched 6 out” to assist those who trust in him, prayer is an absurdity : and Jesus and his apostles, in exhorting us to frequency and fervency in prayer, trifled with our wants and distresses, and urged us to render ourselves ridiculous by an indulgence in solemn mummery. Prayer obviously implies God's universal agency; that he is able to attend to the separate wants of each individual among the millions of his creatures, and ready to furnish his providential supplies as
(a) 1 Cor. xiv. 15. Roni. v. 17. Matt. vii. 7. Luke, xviii. 1. Matt. xxi. 22, &c.
they are needed, and where they are solicited with a proper spirit.
James, after assuring us that the “ fervent prayer “ of a righteous man availeth much," informs us that “ Elias was a man, subject to like passions as we are, “ and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain ; and “ it rained not on the earth for three years and six “ months; and he prayed again, and the heaven gave “rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” We also learn from the Pentateuch that, when God in his anger sent fire among the Israelites which consumed even “ in the uttermost part of the camp," the people cried unto Moses: and when Moses “ prayed unto the “ Lord, the fire was quenched.” (6) Now on both these occasions the interposition of Providence was vouchsafed in answer to prayer. We have here nothing to do with the reason of the connexion subsisting between prayer and providential supply of blessings or removal of calamity: but with the fact that such connexion does subsist, and with the promise that such connexion always will subsist : for this fact and this promise being incontrovertible, it is equally incontrovertible, that the providence of God reaches to all persons and things; their comparative insignificance or grandeur in our estimation forming no scale for him ; but all and each being dealt with according to the rules of matchless wisdom, righteousness, and mercy.
The doctrine of a particular or special providence is, therefore, a doctrine of Scripture, and that it is confirmed by history is strikingly manifest. Thus the (6) James, v. 16—18. 1 Kings, xvii. 1. xviii, 42—45, Num, xi. 2