« PreviousContinue »
with Amos, who enquires whether “ there be any evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" Amos iii. That is to say, that there is no affliction nor death that happens, but God hath appointed it, and fore-ordained it by his wise providence. If the devil cannot destroy Job's flock of sheep, nor hurry headlong into the sea the herd of swine, with-, out his leave who holds him fast in chains, Matt. viii. let us persuade ourselves, that all the powers of hell and the world cannot cause us to die by a violent-death, if God hath not ordained it before in the resolutions of his infinite wisdom: so that if at any time a prince or magistrate speaks to us in Pilate's language to our Saviour, “ Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and power to save thee?" John xix. being strengthened with a holy confidence, let us answer him as our Saviour, “ Thou couldst not have that power over me, if it were not given thee from above.” Without the leave and the pleasure of my God, thou canst not take from me an hair of my head.
We read in the book of Judges, that when Abimelech assaulted the tower of Thebez, with a resolution to win it on a sudden, a woman cast from the top a piece of a mill-stone, that fell upon his bead and brake his skull, Judg. ix. If we look only upon second causes, this accident may appear to be strange and unexpected ; but we must lift up our eyes to the almighty hand of an all-seeing power and wisdom, far more dexterous than that of this poor woman; for the same relation declares, that God by this means brought to pass Jotham's prophecy, and rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren with his unmerciful hand, upon his own guilty head.
Ahab king of Israel was disguised, with a design to fight with the Syrians, 1 Kings xxi. An unknown soldier lets fly by chance an arrow out of his bow, which struck him in the
· weakest part of his armour, wounded him to death, and the
dogs licked the blood that issued out of his wounds. At this sight a carnal and earthly mind may say, that this was but an accident of war; but the Spirit of God informs us better, that this happened to fulfil the prophecy of Elijah, and the dreadful threatenings which he had pronounced against this wicked prince, who laboured, by tyrannical and devilish means, to invade other men's possessions : “ Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine," 1 Kings xxi.
When we cast our eyes upon the tragical death of Josias, king of Judah ; at the first sight it appears but the effect of the boiling heat of youth, which carried him against reason obstinately to fight with Pharaoh-necho, king of Egypt; or of the strength and swiftness of his enemies, according to the complaint of Jeremiah the prophet, “ Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of heaven, they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness; the breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen,” Lam. iv. But to understand the truth, we must enter farther into the sanctuary, and adore the wisdom of God's decree, that had resolved to take away this good and religious prince into eternal rest, and bestow upon him a more noble and richer crown, before he took in hand the sword of vengeance to punish the people of Israel for the many idolatries and horrid crimes of which they had been guilcy: by this means God fulfilled the prophecy of Huldah, “ Behold, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered unto thy grave in peace, and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place,” 2 Kings xxii.
When we look upon the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we may imagine at the first view, that only the Pharisees' envy, Judas's treason, the mutiny of the rude rabble, Pilate's injustice, Herod's jests, and the cruelty of the Roman soldiers, were the causes of this tragedy; but the holy apostles Peter and Jolin, unto whom our Saviour had discovered the rarest secrets of his wisdom, consider the outward agents but as the instruments to bring God's great design, man's redemption, to pass ; therefore it is spoken of in this manner, Acts iv. " Against thine holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thine hand and thy counsel dea termined to be done.”
If it happens that a friend unadvisedly strikes another; if in a wood where be is felling timber, the head of the axe should slip out of the handle and kill the dearest friend of the agent; there can be nothing imagined to be more casual in regard to the second causes, Exod. xxi. But God declares in express terms, that he caused such an one to be under the hand of his friend who killed him against his will. To secure the innocent author of the unexpected murder, God appointed cities of refuge for such to fly to, Numb. xxxv.
As when the hour of our death is come, all the riches of the world cannot pay our ransom ; all the wisdom of the most prudent counsels, or strength of a kingdom, are not able to free us from the power of Death : on the contrary, when it pleaseth God to shelter and preserve our life, all the subtilty and cunning of the devil, all the power and fury of the world, cannot take it from us.
· Esau, in his rage, full of vengeance and displeasure against his brother, resolves to kill him. On purpose to accomplish this cruel-design, he goes to meet him with four hundred men. But God, who holds in his hand the hearts of all the men in the world ; God, who turns the stony rocks into
fountains of water, and the flints into rivers of oil, forced out of his hardened beart tears of compassion and love. The same Esau, instead of drawing out his sword against his brother, embraced him with expressions of kindness, kissed, and wept over him.
· Jacob's sons had wickedly intended to destroy their brother Joseph ; they were ready to imbrue their cruel hands in the blood of this innocent lamb ; but by a secret and wonderful providence God stopped their hellish design. This great and sovereign Monarch of the whole world, who draws light out of darkness, made use of the most damnable malice and hatred to accomplish his good purpose, and to raise bis seryant to a considerable degree of honour and glory which was prepared for him. These inhuman souls, full of envy and displeasure, conspired together, how to hinder the fulfilling of Joseph's dream. But, contrary to their intention, they made way and were instrumental to the accomplishment of that which God had revealed to his prophet : therefore when his brethren were afraid lest he should reyenge himself upon them, when he had power in his hand, he answered them, with a heart full of charity and love, “ I am in the place of God. As for you, ye thought evil against mę; but God meant it unto good, Gen. 1. 19, 20.
:, David, a man after God's own heart, fell into many fear
ful dangers, so that he was reduced oft-times to the very gates of death; but God preserved “ his soul from the grave, his eyes from tears, and his feet from falling,” Psa. cxvi. In the wilderness of Maon, king Saul had surrounded him with his men on every side, so that no help or succour was to be expected from man, 1 Sam. xxiij. But by a wonderful providence God delivered him: for when he was ready to be caught, a messenger comes to inform Saul, “ Make haste and come, for the Philistines are entered into thy land ;" SO
that that neither the inhuman persecutions of this tyrant, nor the abominable plotting of his unnatural sons, nor the tumults and revolts of the people, nor the most furious tempésts of hell and the world, have ever been able to extinguish his life before the time appointed. When he had spent all the days allotted to him by God's good providence, he fell asleep, as a man who lays himself down to rest quietly, after a long and laborious task.
Queen Jezebel was enraged against the prophet Elijah : she had sworn by her gods that he should surely be put to death ; but by a miracle God kept him out of the bloody hands of this incarnate devil, and by another miracle he preserved from famine and hunger him whom he had be. fore preserved from Jezebel's sword and fury; he sent the ravens to feed him with bread and meat, morning and evening; and for his sake God increased the widow of Sarepta's oil and meal. When he was ready to be famished in the wilderness, God dispatched an angel to him to carry him meat and drink. In short, all the storms that the devil raised against him, could not destroy his life; so that when God had resolved to crown his labours, he fetched him away in a chariot of fire, and carried him up into heaven,
The Syrians were resolved to take the prophet Elisha, because he discovered their most secret counsels, and frustrated all their designs: therefore they besieged the town of Dothan, to seize upon this man of God. When his servant. beheld the dreadful number of horses and chariots, which surrounded that weak city, he cried out in a fright, “ Alas, master, what shall we do ?” And he answered, “ Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them,” 2 Kings vi. At these words of Elisha, the eyes of the poor man were opened, and he saw an innumerable company of chariots of fire, and horses of fire, which God had sent from heaven to guard his servant the prophet.
TH .240 5 55