Page images

they leave the world. They cannot believe that a being of infinite goodness will cast them off for ever. But they have no ground to rely upon the mere goodness of God, which may be displayed in their dėstruction, as well as in their salvation. This is certain from the nature of his goodness, and the displays of it, in ten thousand cases. What terrible calamities has he inflicted upon mankind, from age to age in this world ? He has once swept away all the inhabitants of it, by the besom of destruction. He burnt up Sodom and Gomorrah, as a prelude to future and everlasting, punishment. He has set them forth 4 for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

What ground then, have dying impenitents to hope that the mere mercy of God will save them in their impenitence and unbelief? The immutable goodness of God will never move him to act contrary to his declarations and original designs, to save an impenitent sinner from endless destruction.

8. If God be purely, permanently, and universally good; then the terms of salvation, proposed in his word, are as low and condescending as possible. He requires nothing of sinners, but to love his pure and perfect goodness, in order to enjoy it for ever. He declares, • I love them that love me, and those who seek me early shall find me.” It is certainly reasonable, that those who have hated God without a cause, should love him for his goodness, which is the highest reason for loving any being in the universe. And there is nothing in the way of their loving the pure and perfect benevolence of God, but their present voluntary selfishness. It is only because they love themselves supremely, that they cannot love God supremely, who is supremely worthy of their supreme affection. If they perish, therefore, they must perish by their own choice, in opposition to that love, which would save them. It is their immediate and important duty to turn from sin to holiness, which is only turning from hating to loving God.

9. If God be perfectly and immutably good; then he will cause all things to work together for the good of them that love him. All that he has designed to do, and ever will do, will display his goodness, which will be the constant and perpetual source of light, of joy, and blessedness to them that love him. Their happiness is as secure as his blessedness, and they will enjoy all good, so far as their natures will admit. " Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”

[ocr errors]



MATTHEW, vi. 30. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Our Saviour as often addressed his disciples, as others, in his publick as well as his private discourses. He lost no opportunities for instructing and preparing them for the great, and difficult, and dangerous work in which he was about to employ them. He meant to send them forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, without arms, without purse, without script, to preach the gospel in the face of a frowning world. And to prepare them for such a dependent and defenceless state, he taught them to place an unshaken dependence upon the care and protection of divine providence. “Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain : and when he was set, his disciples came unto him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them,” as well as the multitudes. And among other duties, he clearly and beautifully illustrated the duty and safety of trusting not only in the universal, but in the particular providence of God, for the peculiar comfort and consolation of his disciples, when they should be thrown poor and defenceless on the world." I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much

better than they? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, Oye of little faith?” Here the argument is from the less to the greater. If God takes care of the lilies and all the inanimate creation, will he not take care of the fowls and all the animal creation ? And if he takes care of all the animate and inanimate creation, will he not take care of all the intelligent creation? If God exercises a general providence over the natural world, will he not exercise a particular providence over the natural world? And if he exercise a general and particular providence over the natural world, will he not exercise a general and particular providence over the moral world ? Christ appeals to the common sense of all mankind, whether they have not reason to believe, that God, who made the world and all that is in it, does exercise a particular, as well as a general providence over it; and whether they have not good ground to confide in his constant and particular care over them, and disposal of them.

The spirit of the text may be expressed in this general observation

That God exercises a particular providence over every thing in this world. I shall,

1. Explain a particular providence; and,
II. Oder some considerations in favour of it.

I. I am to explain what we are to understand by a particular providence.

Many infidels, and some, who do not choose to call themselves infidels, deny that God exercises a particular providence over the world. They acknowledge, that he exercises a general providence over all the natural and moral creation, but deny that he governs individual creatures, persons, or events. They suppose, , that he governs the world by general laws, which he

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

impressed upon it, when he willed it into existence; which laws he will continue in force as long as it exists. These general laws, they suppose, leave room for what we call contingencies. They suppose all things roll on through a vast variety of contingent events, according to the first impressions of motion, that were given to them by the first Mover, and under the direction of an universal providence. As to the tribes of lower animals, they are left under the direction of instinct; and as to men, God has given them the materials of natural and moral happiness, in the natural and moral constitution of things. He has given them also faculties and powers, necessary to collect and apply these materials, and carry on the work of their own happiness. They suppose, that God takes no care of men as individuals, but only as a species, or as large bodies and communities; that he takes no care of animals as individuals, but only as species : and in a word, that he takes no other care of his creatures than to continue their species according to the first law of their creation. Indeed, they consider this world like a great machine, which God at first created and set in motion, and left to run on according to the general laws given it, without the continued agency and direction of the great Creator.

This is what some call a general providence, and suppose is the only one that God exercises over the world.

But christians in general maintain the doctrine of a particular providence, by which they mean, that God not only gives general laws for the government of the world, but that he gives energy to such laws and apa plies them to every individual creature, object, and event in the world : or that he takes care of every individual person among mankind, as well as of the whole human race collectively; that he takes care of every particular animal, as well as of every species of animals collectively; that he directs and controls the smallest, as well as the most important events that take place in the world; that he does not merely see all

« PreviousContinue »