Page images
PDF
EPUB

In the distribution of profit and pleasure through all orders of the animate creation, and of innumerable sources and facilities for their procurement, throughout the inanimate; in the interlinking of all things together in bonds of mutual dependence and serviceableness, so that nothing lives or dies for itself alone; and in the manifest subordination of all things to man, and the grand harmonization of their many uses and benefits in him — we have so many clear and ample testimonies to the fact of God's providential government, and of the moral ends and bearings of that government.

The natural sciences, also, are wonderfully demonstrative of the fact of God's universal providence. Natural philosophy shows that the facts and forces of the physical universe have been fashioned in themselves, and adjusted to each other, according to the most exact mechanical principles. By chemistry we are taught that the forms of matter are all mixed, as if “weighed in a balance,” in definite atomic proportions and their multiples. Geology testifies, with marvellous clearness and fulness of evidence, not only to the fact of God's creative hand, but also to his large and careful provision for men's wants in every age and country, in earth's successive strata of stones, minerals, metals, coal, salt, lime and marl. These varied materials and means, and others like them, of human civilization and comfort, how has he not only spread with singular equableness over every land, but also tilted those otherwise out of man's reach, by their low primordial position, to the very surface of the earth's crust. Astronomy shows us that not only centripetal and centrifugal forces of inconceivable power and scope are blended together in the sidereal heavens, under the law that every particle of matter attracts every other directly as its bulk and inversely as the square of its distance, but also that every perturbation, great and small, is both accommodated to the universal harmony, and necessary to its existence. Physiology reveals the most varied and complicated adaptations and combinations of inward structure and of out

ward fimction in vegetable and animal structures, wonders of skilful and loving design for the best state and mutual serviceableness of each one of the myriad specimens of material organism. Everywhere contrivance reveals the great Contriver. The philosophy, poetry, and art of nature are all equally divine and human - divine in their origin and human in their uses and issues.

II. The characteristic external features of God's providence.

1st. Its origination in the infinite humanity of his heart. For man, all for man, - this is the explanation, as tender as it is true, of everything done upon earth by God, or that he will yet do, from the first foundation-stone of its structure, in the furthest geologic period of the past, to the last moral top-stone that shall be set, with shoutings, in the remotest ages, by the Angel of the Covenant, to the praise of God, upon the finished temple of the world's history. As our glory consists in the divinity of our aims and temper, so his glory consists, to human eyes at least, if not also to the whole intelligent universe besides, in his ineffable humanity. He made each one of us in order to love us, and to be loved by us. Each newly-created moral agent is directly ushered by him into being, because of the exuberant delight of his heart in making ever-new channels for the infinitely eager bestowal of his love; just as any true artist, poet, or orator declares himself to others from an inward compulsion of his nature too sweet to be resisted. This is the moral meaning of the perpetual multiplication by the divine hand of new worlds in space, in all the ages of a past eternity, for the inhabitation of new hosts and orders of happy intelligences, and of the introduction of successive generations of human beings into this world. While God takes inconceivably great pleasure in all his own acts, as being perfectly right and true and best in themselves, and only good in all their own proper influences and issues; there are none in which he takes such exceeding delight as in those which are most directly and fully paternal in form and effect towards his

dependent, and at the same time loving, children. He delights inconceivably more in giving than we can in receiving, and in forgiving, than we can in being forgiven. How tenderly touching are the terms chosen by himself to express bis infinite sympathy with us, if only really turning at heart to our duty and to him, with whatever manifest weakness at the time, or with whatever previous waywardness! He is “the God of patience and of consolation," full of " long-suffering,” “ tender compassion,” “ tender mercies,” “loving-kindness,” and “the riches of his forbearance." “ He knoweth those that are his ” ; “he taketh pleasure in his people”; “his delight is with the sons of men."

The great, central, inward, divine fact of all true theology, - inward, because resting in the bosom of God himself, and the source and inspiration of all his plans and provisions for man's good, is the fact of his own infinite humanity, his indescribable tenderness of personal interest in every human being as his child. The great corresponding outward fact of all true theology is the sublime expression of the humanity of the divine heart in the incarnation and atonement of Christ, as governmental expedients, both needsul in themselves, and generously offered by God for man's possible restoration to his forgiveness and favor. These two grand ideas, inward and outward, in their mutual bearings, are beautifully blended to our view in that most moving of all scriptural declarations : “ God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but might have everlasting life."

2d. The vast comprehensiveness of the plan of his providence. It embraces all space and all time, all worlds and all their inhabitants. The universe is a unity, a harmony, yea, rather a divine organism. Each part in it is related, directly or remotely, by various complications, however subtile in themselves or occasional in their action, to every other. Nothing is isolated in the conditions of its existence. Not only have all things upon earth the momentum, like the freight VOL. XXI. No. 83.

75

of a moving vessel, of God's continually advancing plans for man's complete historic development; but all are needful, formative parts, whether humble or sublime, and whether in sight or hidden from view, of one unique, divinely-fashioned, moral structure, contrived for the greatest good of each one, on the presupposition of perpetual right action on his part, of all his intelligent creatures. Jesus Christ himself is the chief corner-stone of both the separate and combined systems of creation, providence, and redemption : " in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” He is not only the actual, efficient “ upholder of all things, by the word of his power"; but the direct, potential worker, also, in all; as he will be to the end of his mediatorial reign, when he will lay down all authority and power, and the “Son himself shall be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” The dynamics of nature are all interior, spiritual, and divine. Could any one make a darker or sadder picture for his imagination than that of humanity without a providence, and man without a God?

The divine providence on earth may be defined to be God in action, in all the power of his nature, and in the full splendor of his moral excellence, as well as of his personal kindness, among men and for them. It is, in its vast and varied unfoldings, a many-leaved, gorgeous commentary upon his character, as well as upon his own express declarations concerning himself, and his wishes, plans, and purposes ; although he never tarries anywhere for our appreciation, or even for our comprehension of him or of his counsels.

How do the illimitable correlations of each man's existence and destiny with those of all other moral beings intensify the value of his right condition and conduct to the whole assemblage of finite intelligences in all worlds, and give magnitude and majesty to what might otherwise be deemed the trivial circumstances of his mortal life.

3d. The government of the world by general laws. This is one of the most marked, as it is one of the most benevo

lent, and at the same time most needful, of the great, characteristic features of his providence; and yet the very regularity of the seasons, and the uniformity of the modes and processes of atomic, chemical, mechanical, meteorological, and vital agencies are perverted by many minds to an utter dismissal from their thoughts of all sense of the handiwork, and even of the very existence, of that Infinite Mechanician who contrived them, and that not merely as necessary parts of a perfect system of world-making, but also as the expression of an infinite personal interest in each one of our race, for whom, alike individually and in the aggregate, he built the world. In the fixed order of inani. mate things, and the steady sequences along the lines of cause and effect that pervade their various relations one to the other, as likewise in the sure action of the laws of reproductive life throughout the vegetable and animal kingdoms of nature, and their complete subjection to the ordination of human choice, a full and strong basis is laid for definite, rewardable, human calculation; and God thus puts the times and seasons of the world, which in themselves are his, into our hands, to stimulate and guide our forms of personal industry, as well as the reactive processes of our own manly and godly development, while engaged in them. He who can fail to see a great designing hand, exhibiting wondrous fertility of resources, amazing energy of action, and, at the same time, most tender and ever-wakeful interest in the usefulness and happiness of all his dependent creatures, cannot claim, in self-defence, any want of needful opportunities or faculties of observation, but voluntarily smothers the light of his own divinely-endowed reason in the choke-damp of sceptical speculation. Everything has received from him its own definite substance, form, and nature ; and whatever has life possesses from his hand its own specific and beautiful conditions of germination, growth, dissemination, and perpetuation. God's constructive providence embraces an inconceivably wide array of marvellous details of prospective wisdom, in respect to indi.

« PreviousContinue »