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opened for all manner of Licentiousness. Accordingly, it is often represented in Scripture as an Ingredient in the Character of the worst and wickedest of Men, that they endeavour to persuade themselves that there is no Providence, or that God doth not observe, nor concern himself about the Actions of Men, or the Events which befal them. Thus, after the Psalmist had described, in strong Terms, a Man that abandoneth himself to all manner of Wickedness, and efpecially to Injustice, Infolence, and Oppreflion; he representeth him as saying in his Heart, God bath forgotten, he hideth his Face, he will never see it. Psal. x. 11. See to the fame Purpose, Pfal. Ixxiii. 11. xciv. 7. So also, it is observed concerning the Men that were settled on their Lees, i. e. who were secure and hardened in their evil Courses, and were for making themselves easy in their Vices, that they said in their Hearts, The Lord will not do Good, neither will be do Evil. Zeph. i. 12. There are few indeed that will openly declare this in plain Words, but there are many that fay in their Hearts, i. e. who would be glad to have it so, and would fain argue themselves into a Belief that so it is. Or if they cannot bring themselves absolutely to believe that there is no Providence, yet they indulge Doubts and Suspicions about it, they fix
their Views wholly on second Causes, and överlook the Providence of God, and for the most part consider it as little as if there were no such Thing, or as if it had no Concernment with human Affairs.
But there is no one thing of greater Consequence to a Life of Piety and Virtue, than to get our Hearts possessed with a firm Perfuasion of God's all-governing and alldisposing Providence, and to have a conftant Regard to it in our whole Course. Our Belief of this should not be a cold wavering Affent, which will have but small Influence; it must be strong and vigorous, deeply rooted in our Hearts, and established on solid Evidence. Nor must we fuffer it to lie as a speculative dormant Principle, but must endeavour frequently to exercise it, and then it can scarce fail to have an hạppy Influence upon our whole Temper and Conduct. How folicitous, how earnestly desirous would this make us to approve ourfelves to God in our general Practice, to walk always as in his Sight, and to commit ourselves and all our Concernments to him with a meek Resignation and steady Dependance! How afraid should we be of offending him! It would be the most effectual Preservative against Impatience and Discontent and an immoderate Dejection under Adversity, as well as against Insolence and
Abuse of Prosperity; and would make ưs careful to fill up every Station and Relation with the proper Duties of it. And finally, , it would be a Source of Satisfaction and Comfort amidst all the Fluctuations and Commotions of this present World. There is no Confideration fo fitted to produce an inward folid Peace and Joy of Heart as this, that all Things are under the Dia rection and Government of the most pera fect Wisdom and Goodness. All Nature then puts on a pleasing Aspect, and every thing appears to the Mind in a fair and amiable Light, and Order and Harmony, are spread through the whole. Nothing therefore could be worfe founded than the Boasts of Epicurus and his Followers, who entertained an high Opinion of themselves, and expected to be applauded by others, as the Friends and Benenefactors of Mankind, on the Account of their Endeavours to deliver them from the Apprehensions of a Providence. This might indeed be some Relief to very bad Men, and tend to make them easy in their Sins; but was an Attempt to rob good Men of that which is the chief Support and Comfort of their Lives, and the most powerful Encouragement to the steady uniform Practice of Virtue. It is true, that the Doctrine
of Providence has been misrepresented and abused. Men have been apt to lay the Blame of their own Faults and Follies upon Providence: And among many of the Heathens, their Notions of Providence were like those they formed of their Deities, whom they represented as capricious, envious, and revengeful, actuated by human Paffions and Pre. judices. But the Belief of Providence rightly understood, is the most useful and delightful Thing in the World, and is so far from leading to Superstition, that it is the best and most effectual Prefervative against it.
Accordingly, this is what I propose distinctly to consider, and shall endeavour in several Discourses to explain the Doctrine of Divine Providence, by which I understand the Doctrine of an all-perfect Mind, preserving and governing this vast Universe, guiding the Course of Nature, presiding over all the Creatures, especially rational moral Agents, and superintending and ordering the Events which befal them, in the best and fittest Manner, with infinite Wisdom, Righteousness, and Equity. I shall endeavour to direct
you to a right Use and Improvement of this important Doctrine, and to obviate some VOL. I. с