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the precepts of the Chapter to all ages and places, where the Gospel of Christ is professed, and give rules both to pastors and to people.
Almighty God, it is observable, never sends men out on arduous and difficult services, but he fits, them with motives, and supplies them with strength adapted to the occasion. In every age, and under the least trying circumstances, to be a truly faithful Christian requires a wisdom, and a courage, and a patience more than human. Those who have no zeal, no life of religion ; but, content with forms and names, live as worldly persons do, can have no true notion of these difficulties. They may be tempted to think, that the rules of the Church are confined to the Apostles, or at least to Missionaries going to preach among Idolaters. And too many, who profess some religion, among ourselves, though little disposed to encourage or assist faithful Ministers, are ready enough to lay all the load of service and suffering on them, and to suppose that, as laymen, they need only profess Christianity, in some general manner, with a decent moral behaviour, and never think of the duty of rebuking sin, of instructing their households, of confessing Christ, and of giving a decided testimony of their love of the Lord Jesus before all the world. If they did,—and it is what they ought to do,—they would have evidences and consolations of divine grace very different from what they now have, while they mix with the world, and are eager after its profits and luxuries, like others. But then they would bear a cross and a burden of which now they have no idea. Along with that cross and burden, however, they would feel a need of the divine motives and supports, for
which all who truly serve God, have constant occasion. What THESE are, so far as the text sets them forth, for the encouragement of true Christians, under every kind of trial, in every age, I hasten now to consider,
They arise from the practical consideration of the doctrine of a universal Providence; from a firm belief that a wise and gracious Creator exercises over all his creatures a most complete and decisive superintendence; and further, that in regard to his faithful servants he so orders and over-rules every, the smallest event, that in the strictest sense “ all things work together for good to them that love God *.” Our Lord directs his disciples to put their entire trust in this kind, providential, superintendency Consider how extensive it is : Two sparrows are sold for a farthing, yet not even so insignificant a trifle as one of these shall fall to the ground without your Father : Dismiss all your fears and anxieties :
: “ Ye are of more value than many sparrows.
God is the Father of all true disciples and followers of Christ, not merely by creation,—for so he is the Father of all his creatures, but he is THEIR Father in a peculiar sense : he has bestowed upon them “ the adoption of children +” on account of the merits of his own beloved Son: he is perfectly reconciled unto them: he makes all things, that happen to them, contribute to their spiritual improvement, and render them fitter for heaven; and lastly, he is preparing for them everlasting mansions. This same gracious God and Father permits not a sparrow to fall till he himself has decided upon its existence: And well, therefore, may we conceive
* Rom. viii. 28. 4 Ephes. i. 5.
that the minutest and most trifling things belonging to his servants are under his particular care and observation : Well may they in patience possess their souls, while they reflect that the Providence of their God is particular, special, minute; and that no one thing is left out of the account. Not a hair of their heads shall perish. The great comfort of this to a true believer is evident. He, who walks by faith, not by sight, sees God in every thing that befals him. No one thing is left to chance. What we call trifling things are frequently very important : And it is well known how often the most important things are brought about through means which appeared little, and which otherwise we should have thought of no sort of consequence. The inference is this --All that a true believer has to do, is to please his God in his walk, through life, by a sincere endeavour to do HIS will in all things, neglecting no lawful means of avoiding evil, or of promoting good. It is his duty to be “ wise' as a serpent, harmless as a dove;” and dismissing all careful anxiety, to be resigned and composed in the midst of difficulties, as if no difficulties existed, knowing that every thing respecting himself is determined by his Father's Providence. Do not you see how divinely comfortable, and how well supported must be the minds of those, who truly believe the existence of this Providence; and who confide in it for all their present and future happiness? Such persóns consider themselves as under the conduct of à heavenly Father, of infinite wisdom and goodness, who cannot do otherwise than promote their interest by the best means. But, take away this doctrine of Providence, how gloomy, how wretched the state
of men! What a condition is that, where a man is to live as it were by chance, tossed about in the dark, without hope; a poor frail mortal, amidst a thousand perils ? No wonder, if persons thus neglecting the doctrine of Divine Providence are unfitted to bear even the common evils of life ; and, much more, those trying hours of danger and persecution which may happen for Christ's sake.
1. The subject of the text being generally opened, I have something more to say by way of illustrating the Scripture-doctrine of Providence, and then,
2. I may speak a little to two sorts of persons concerning it.
1. It is become exceedingly fashionable among us to deny or to lessen the notion of Divine Providence. It is one of the growing evils of the times. Men endeavour to cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before them *, and to make God a cypher in his own world. Nature, fortune, fate, chance, any absurd or unmeaning suppositition, rather than the only and true God, shall have the credit of being the cause of every thing that befals us. It may seem incredible how low we are fallen, in this respect, in this dark age. For I shall venture to call it a dark, not an enlightened age; because we are fond of darkness, in our most essential concerns. We desire to live without God in the world: And the devil and all the powers of darkness love to have it so, in order that men may serve the prince of darkness with all their might.-Nevertheless, most assuredly the Lord is King, and the earth may be glad thereof. It comforts the hearts of true believers, particularly in the present gloomy season of affairs,
* Isaiah xxx. 11.
to think that the Lord is King, and will do all things well, and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church.
The distinction between a general and a particular Providence, as though God made the world like a machine, and then set it a going, and took no care of it afterwards, but left all to some general laws without his interference, has no warrant from Scripture. If SPARROWs, if hairs of THE HEAD, be under his special Providence, what can be exempt from it? No one thing is left to chance. God is never reduced to such a condition as to be surprised or disappointed. He orders all things, suits all the motions of mankind to one another, has steady ends in view, and never fails of those ends. Hence you may pray to him under particular trials; and if it be done in faith, with reverence and resignation to his will, you may comfortably expect he will hear you, and certainly he will answer your prayers in some way to your profit. David prayed that God would turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness, and it was so. This is indeed to make the Lord to be God, near and present unto us, and not like an idol, or the gods of Epicurus, who took no care at all of human affairs. He, who would understand this subject more fully, if his taste is at all regulated by the word of God, and if Christ and salvation are at all precious in his eyes, would do well to read the historical part of Scripture over with this view.
What I have further to lay before you, on this very important subject, shall consist of a few striking facts, with some hints suggested by them : for indeed, it is not by general reasoning, but by a detail of