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the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.' There is a very great
difference between the misgivings and misapprehensions of a religious mind, and the fear to which sinners are always exposed, and which oftentimes they experience. The fears of the religious are frequently ill-grounded, and arise from their not rightly considering and understanding their own case, or the methods of God's providence in relation to this world: but the sinner's fear is never ill-grounded, for if the profligate sinner has not reason to fear God, there can be no such thing as a reasonable fear in the world. The religious man may fear in the hours of his weakness and infirmity; the sinner can only fear when he comes to his right reason, and a due sense of his condition.
This observation will serve to distinguish between the fears to which the religious are subject, and which the text leads us to consider; and the fears of guilt, which are foreign to our present purpose, and to be treated in quite a different man
That the Psalmist speaks of the sorrows of a religious welldisposed heart, is manifest from the description he gives of his conduct and behavior under his distress : he was sorely troubled, but “in the day of his trouble he sought the Lord :' verse 2. He was afflicted, but in his affliction he remembered God :' verse 3. Whatever doubts he entertained as to his own condition, and the favor of God towards him, yet of the being, the power, and wisdom of God he never doubted. This faith, which in his utmost extremity he held fast, proved to be his sheet-anchor, and saved him from the shipwreck which the storms and tempests raised in his own breast seemed to threaten.
It is worth our while to observe the train of thought which this afflicted good man pursued, and what were the reflexions in which he rested at last, as his best and only comfort and support.
Whether the calamities which afflicted him were private to himself, or public to his people and country; yet as long as his thoughts dwelt on them, and led him into expostulations with God for the severity of his judgments, he found no ease or re
lief. A weak man cannot rightly judge of the actions even of a man wiser than himself, of whose views and designs he is not master; much less can any man judge of the ways of God, to whose councils he is not admitted, and to whose secrets he is a stranger. And though it is but too natural for men,
when they consider the sins of others, to complain for want of justice in the world, and when they consider their own, of want of mercy; yet in both cases do they act weakly and inconsistently, pretending to judge where they want not only authority to decide, but even understanding sufficient to try, the cause. The Psalmist complained heavily, Has God forgotten to be gracious : hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies ? But what did he get by this complaint? was he not forced immediately to confess the iinpropriety and folly of it ? •I said, this is my infirmity.' He said very rightly: in complaining, he followed the natural impressions of passion and impatience; in acknowleging the folly of his complaint, he spoke not only the language of grace, but of sense and reason.
What must we do then ? since it is weakness to complain, and folly to judge, of the methods of God's providence, what is there left for us to do? and what part must we take? Must religion be senseless and stupid, and shut out all reflexion
ways of God? No: one way there is still left open to us; to trust and to depend on God : and a way it is so far from being senseless and stupid, that in pursuit of it we shall see opening before us the noblest views that reason or religion can afford.
I am not prescribing to you a method of my own; it is the very method the Psalmist prescribed to himself. God has not left himself without witness ;' the great works of nature and of grace proclaim aloud his loving-kindness to the children
If we consider them attentively, we must admire his power and adore his goodness : and when we see such power united with so much goodness towards us, it is but a natural step to throw ourselves on his protection ; to trust the hand that once made us, and has always saved us. When I complain, says the Psalmist, it is my infirmity;' but I will remember the
years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord : surely I will remember thy wonders
of old. I will meditate also of all thy works, and talk of all thy doings. Here then was his comfort, here the cure of all his grief: the scene around him was dark and gloomy; but dark as it was, it was under the guidance and direction of the hand that had never failed the faithful, to deliver him out of all his troubles.
The text, and the occasion of it, thus explained, lead us to consider these two propositions :
First, that all complaints against Providence proceed from weakness and the infirmity of human reason.
Secondly, that a settled peace of mind, with respect to God, must arise from a due contemplation of the great works of Providence, which God has laid open to our view for our consideration and instruction,
The first proposition is, that all complaints against Providence proceed from weakness and the infirmity of human rea
Under this head are included all the suspicions that are apt to rise in men's minds against Providence, as well as the formal complaints brought against it. And the first of this sort, which naturally presents itself to the mind, when we consider God and ourselves, is this, that God is too great and too ex. cellent a being to humble himself to behold the things that are on earth. This one mistake seems to have been the whole of Epicurus's divinity. He thought it would be endless for the gods to attend to every thing that passed on earth, and to concern themselves with the conduct and behavior of every particular man in the world : he thought they could not do this without being moved sometimes to anger and resentment, and sometimes to the passion of joy: which he conceived to be equally inconsistent with an uniform settled state of happiness. To make therefore his gods happy, he removed them from all government of men, and left men to shift as they could, without God or Providence, in the world
The same thought has in all times been the refuge of sinners ; their language has ever been, "How doth God know, and is there knowlege in the Most High ? Perhaps too this suspicion has entered into better minds, broken with grief and affliction, and tempted by their misfortunes to think that God regards not the things below.
But how different soever the grounds of this suspicion may be in one case, and in another, yet in every case it is manifestly weak and unreasonable.
To imagine that it is too much trouble, or any trouble, to God to govern the world, and all the beings in it, is a mere childish conceit; it is talking of God, as if God were a man, and as liable to be fatigued and tired with multiplicity of business as a man is. How do
know that there is any thing tiresome or disagreeable in much business, and in variety of employment? It is true, you find it is so in yourself, and you observe it is so in others : you may
well conclude that much business is tiresome to men like yourself: but by what reason do
you extend this conclusion to God ? unless you think he is in this respect like you, and that he has no larger powers and abilities than
have. As it is absurd to argue from the powers of men to the powers of God, so it is likewise to argue from the passions of men to the affections of the Deity. Men may be grieved and tormented with seeing affairs under their conduct go wrong, may be overjoyed at some unexpected success ; but can this ever be the case of a being of infinite power and infinite wisdom? Nothing can happen but what he orders or permits, for his
power is over all : nothing that he orders or permits can be wrong, for his wisdom is equal to his power. What disappointments then are there to grieve him ? what unexpected success to transport him ? You see now that this suspicion, which set out with supposing God to be so great and excellent a being, that the affairs of men were below his
care, concludes with making him so like a man, as not to be able to bear the fatigue and vexation of so much business.
Epicurus and his followers, who denied God's government of the world, denied also that he made it. So far at least they were consistent; for if they thought it too much trouble for God to govern the world, they could not consistently put him to the trouble of making it. But if we turn the argument, and begin with considering the works of the creation, and, according to the instruction of the Psalmist, call to remembrance those years of the right hand of the Most High ;' we shall, from these manifest and undeniable works of God, be led to
just conclusions with respect to the methods of divine providence, less obvious to our observation, in the government of the world. When we shall see the hand of God employed in forming the lowest, and, in our eyes, the most contemptible creatures on earth ; ranging and adjusting all the parts of the world so, that there is not a particle of matter but what has its proper place in subserviency to the whole of the creation ; it will be impossible for a reasonable man to think that God has no care of this world, which with so much care and wisdom he created; or that it should be below him to preserve those beings, which he did not think it below him to make. But this consideration belongs to the second proposition, and will meet us again in its proper place. To proceed then :
Another reason which some have for suspecting that the affairs of the world are not under the conduct of Providence, is, that they cannot discern any certain marks of God's interposing : on the contrary, they think it evident that all the inanimate and irrational parts of the world follow a certain course of nature invariably; and that men act with all the signs of being given up to follow their own devices, without being either directed or restrained by a superior power.
That many men talk and think in this way, there is no doubt. The scoffers in St. Peter's time supported themselves on this observation, that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation:' concluding that they would go on so for ever, and there was nothing beyond this present. state of things for which they ought to be concerned.
But in this way of reasoning there are two great mistakes :
1. That the conclusion is not rightly drawn from the observation, supposing the observation to be true.
2. Supposing the conclusion to be true, it will not answer the purpose intended.
1. That the material world continues to answer the purposes for which it was created, is surely, when rightly considered, the strongest evidence that it was made, and is conducted, by the highest wisdom and power. Is it any praise to a workman, or any proof of his skill and ability, that the house of his building is running to ruin, and that it wants reforming and supporting every year? Surely every man