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history of revealed religion is in truth the history of Providence. Trace, for example, the stories of Joseph, (bb) of David, or of Jeroboam. Men usually assign no cause for the conveyance of Joseph into Egypt, but the envy of his brethren ; for Shimei's reviling David, but his base malignity; for David's success against Goliah, but his skill in using the sling; for his numbering the people, but his ridiculous pride; for Rehoboam's revolt, but his unruly ambition. Yet, if you look beyond the surface, you will find that
(66) The case of Joseph seems too interesting, considering how the existence of the family of Jacob was involved in it, to be passed over with a mere allusion. If we endeavour to trace the independent particulars, which concurred, and served as steps in Providence to ensure the advancement of Joseph to his dignity in Egypt, we shall find that they amount to at least thirteen or fourteen. There were, 1. His father's partiality. 2. The hatred of his brethren. 3. His being sent to them by his father. 4. The relentings of Reuben and Judah. 5. The opportune passing by of the Midianite merchantmen. 6. His being sold to Potiphar. 7. The wickedness of Potiphar's wife. 8. Joseph's virtuous resistance. 9. The favour of the keeper of the prison into which Joseph was thrown. 10. The circumstance of the simultaneous impri. sonment, in the same prison, of Pharaoh's butler and baker. 11. Their dreams, and Joseph's correct interpretation of them. 12. Pharaoh's extraordinary dreams. 13. The failure of the Egyptian wise men in their attempts to interpret them. 14. Joseph's successful interpretation of both. The failure of any one link in this chain involves, evidently, the failure of the ultimate result. And thus we see, as the excellent Flavell has remarked, “ that there certainly are strong combinations of persons 66 and things, to bring about some issue and design for the benefit of the
church, which themselves never thought of: they hold no intelligence, 66 communicate not their counsels to each other, yet meet together and « work together as if they did ; which is, as if ten men should all meet 6 together at one place and in one hour, about one and the same busi« ness, and that without any fore-appointment betwixt themselves; can 66 any question but such a meeting of means and instruments is certainly, 66 though secretly, overruled by some wise invisible agent ?"
these were foreseen, and, if I may so say, projected into their respective places, for the most important purposes. Fix your attention for a moment upon the case of David. It was the intention of Providence to place him upon the throne of the Hebrews. The country is invaded by a foreign enemy: the hostile armies meet, and lie encamped upon opposite mountains. A man comes forth from the army of the invaders, as was extremely common in those times, and defies the Hebrew host to send forth a champion to meet him in single combat. Terrified by the gigantic bulk and mighty force of Goliah, no man would risk the unequal conflict. David, who was too young to carry arms, had been sent to the camp with provisions for his brothers, and heard the challenge. In defence of his flock he had killed some beasts of prey in the wilderness, and he was an excellent marksman with the sling. He thought it might probably be as easy to kill a man as a wild beast; at all events he knew that a stone well directed would prove no less fatal to a giant than to a dwarf: he therefore resolved to try his skill, and he tried it with success. Here no man's freewill was interrupted, and no miracle was accomplished; yet by this train of circumstances thus brought together, a foundation was laid for the future fortunes of the son of Jesse, for the greatness of his country, and for accomplishing the purposes of Providence.
Observe again, the chain of events which led to the birth of Christ, and to the place where he was born,
They related to individuals who, in human reckoning, were amongst the most mean and ignoble; and yet upon these persons, their concerns, their journeyings, their tarryings, hung the destinies of thousands and tens of thousands in every age. In truth, whether we are able to trace the connexion, or not, the history of the church and of the world are interwoven throughout; and He who superintends and adjusts the whole, causes what we should, perhaps, regard as the minutest inci.. dents, to occur precisely in the time and place where they shall be most subservient to His noblest purposes as Creator, Ruler, Benefactor, and Father.
Hence we sometimes trace in civil history the dependence of momentous concerns upon mere trifles. The bare sight of a fig, shown in the senate-house at Rome, occasioned the destruction of Carthage. (c) A few boughs of trees, carried by soldiers from Birnam Wood to Dunsinane, (d) produced the terror and discomfiture of Macbeth, by which even-handed “justice” commended
« The ingredients of his poison'd chalice
“ To his own lips.” • The accidental finding of a dropped letter led to the detection and prevention of the “ Gunpowder-plot."
These and other apparent accidents are not the offspring of chance, but result from the silent operation of God's providence, which “ doth not hurry along “ like an impetuous rumbling torrent; but glideth on « as a smooth and still current, with an irresistible but
(c) Quod non Trebia, aut Trasymenus, non Cannæ busto insignes Romani nominis perficere potuere ; non Castra Punica ad tertium lapidem yallata, portæque; Collinæ adequitans ipse Hannibal. Plin.
(d) Heylin's Cosmography, p. 272.
o imperceptible force, carrying things down therewith: “ without much ado, without any clatter, by a nod of “ his head, by a whisper of his mouth, by a turn of his “ hand, he doth effect his purposes : winding up a “ close spring, he setteth the greatest wheels in motion; “ and thrusting in an insensible spoke, he stoppeth the “ greatest wheels in their career; injecting a thought, “ exciting a humour, presenting an occasion, insinuat“ ing a petty accident, he bringeth about the most “ notable events.” (e)
Nor is all this in any respect incompatible with the received principles of natural philosophy, but, as I conceive, perfectly consistent with them. From the train of argument suggested near the commencement of my first letter, you would see that it is a necessary consequence of the creation of the world, that both it, and every creature in it, only continues in existence through the constant energy of the power which created; that is, supposing the world to be created from nothing,—the hypothesis usually entertained. If indeed we assume the hypothesis most favourable to the sentiments of those who deny the incessant operation of Providence, and say that matter always existed, we shall not thence supersede the necessity of providential superintendence and control. For, from many experiments made in the course of the last century, it is highly probable, nay, it is certain, that the particles which constitute even the most solid bodies, are not all in contact; yet that a very considerable force is required to separate farther from each other the
(e) Barrow on the Unsearchableness of God's Judgments.
parts of a mass of wood, iron, or stone. It also appears that great force is requisite to bring bodies, however small, or highly polished, into apparent coni tact; whence they must be kept asunder by some extraneous power. So that the cohesive force by which the moleculæ of matter are retained together, as well as the repulsive force by which they are kept at certain distances, demonstrate, with regard to every body in the universe, animated or inanimate, that the immediate and perpetual agency of something that is not matter, is necessary to preserve them in the state in which they now appear. So again it has been shown (f) that from all action of body upon body motion is impaired, and the quantity of it constantly decaying in the universe. Hence, since matter cannot re-excite the motion in itself, it follows that as an immaterial power first impressed motion on matter, so it still reproduces the motion lost, and makes up the decays sustained. Also, since the forms and motions of bodies are sus. tained, and in all of them an end is thus pursued, a law obeyed, wise purposes evinced and accomplished, the power which is constantly operating to effect all this must be combined with intelligence; and what can be every where and at all times thus exhibiting power and intelligence but God, either immediately or by his subordinate instruments ?
But it may still be asked, and indeed has been asked, can there be a particular providence, a providence that suits the several cases and prayers of individuals, without a continual repetition of miracles, or without
(1) Newton's Optics, pp. 373, 375. 4th ed.