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any time in the eternal past, and however he has manifested himself to any being in the universe heretofore, that same great, true, majestic, beauteous selfhood he maintains unaltered still. It is a cardinal idea among the many that must be blended in one, in the great composite conception of the true God of heaven and earth, as he really is, that he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever”; not only in the necessary elements of his self-existence, as God, but also in his own moral habitudes and purposes, affections, and actions. God therefore now “loves those that love him," as greatly as he ever loved any of the prophets or apostles of elder days for a similar reason; and Christ is as tender at heart in our days to any one of us, as he was to “the beloved disciple,” if we lean in spirit as fondly as he upon Christ's bosom.
IV. The connection of God's providence with other things. First, with the course of nature.
In the conceptions of many, the order of the outer world is altogether mechanical. Such an absolute organism does it seem to them to be that they even exclude, in their thoughts of it, the Maker and Contriver of all things from his own works. How do they forget that to make is immeasurably more than to manage; as also that, however skilfully made at the first, so ponderous a machine, as they deem universal nature to be, and of so many complicated parts and relations, could not, with safety to the unnumbered intelligent beings concerned in its right condition and action, be left to its own unguided movements.
1st. The course of nature was itself fore-ordained, as a part of God's providence.
The world, prepared at the outset as a vast storehouse of varied resources for man's great and ever-increasing wants, in every department of his compound being, is — in all its record of geologic facts and chemic agencies, in the range of its various philosophies, natural and supernatural, in the diversified forms of its physical history, and in the ever augmenting pomp of the seasons from winter to autumn
a grand, harmonious display of sublime divine care for man's perpetual, inward, and outward welfare. Here we behold the fact and fulness of God's providence revealed in large, open, fixed type, for the reading of all eyes, to his praise; set up, indeed, in that far-off“ beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth," and kept fresh and bright to the present hour.
2d. The course of nature is now vitalized everywhere with the present, immediate, active will of God.
“My Father worketh hitherto,” said Christ," and I work." The order of things, as we term the ever-recurring uniformities of state or relation or sequence in the objects that surround us, is, in its final analysis and description, but the steady unbroken flow of the divine will in the same perfect channels of desire and purpose concerning them. The uniformity of nature is therefore but the constant physical expression of the unceasingly perfect habitude of the divine mind towards the same things in the same relations. neither desire nor do anything, at any time, either mentally or morally, that is not exactly right and best in itself, and can never therefore improve in the smallest degree upon himself. The uniform steadiness of his hand in “upholding all things by the word of his power,” as well as in moving them harmoniously onwards in their constituted connections and successions, is what men generally call“ the course of nature.” “ Nature" seems, strangely, a more acceptable term, somehow, to the hearts of most men - poor, blind, inert nature, than the name of the great living God of nature, and of all its contents.
3d. If men are free, amid the so-called “bands of nature," parents and friends, the great and the mighty, — to give good things unto others; “how much more” is God free and able “ to give good things to those that ask him.” Nature is to his, not only indwelling but also everywhere outspreading, infinite spirit, a hinderance, in any of its elements or forms, to his free, full action, through it and with it, for the good of any or all of his creatures, inconceivably less
than our bodies now are, or our perfected, spiritual bodies will be, elastic and glowing in every fibre of their ethereal essence, to the execution of our highest and best purposes of good to others. If we conceive of God as inhabiting all parts of the material universe with his omnipresent being as we do our corporeal frames, we think of the mode of his universal existence in a figure, helpful indeed to our weak ideas of his greatness, but yet ineffably inferior to the great reality of his ubiquitous consciousness, energy, and authority
4th. The supreme blessings of life are spiritual.
In the deep, secret well-springs of pleasure, within our inmost being, which none but God's hand can open; in felt contact of soul with him, and felt resemblance to him ; and in that sweet, continual bliss, like his own, which God causes to abound unto those that love him, what a heritage of good does he that walks with God possess, compared with any of the gross things that we can "touch, taste, or handle," which are all, in the contrast, but mere husks and offals.
5th. God has many unseen ways and agencies, by which to confer good, without the use of what we term the outward visible course of nature at all.
He who can walk at will within the inner chambers of our consciousness, as in his own temple, and be cognizant of everything passing there without even any knowledge, at the time, on our part of his being there, can surely awake feelings within us, all our own, which but for his agency would remain dormant. Bright, kindling thoughts, which those who have them most so often describe as “ coming to them,” may flash from his hand in full flame, within the bounds of our witnessing presence; and whence they come who shall tell ? The mind has a spontaneous, self-illumi. nating power of its own; or it may receive light within its palatial windows, as if from torches borne by angel-hands, in passing by; or from the great God himself, who made the tablets of the human heart on purpose to write on them, with welcome on our part, his thoughts of love ; on which
he may kindly drop at any time the sweetest flowers from the paradise above.
How easily also can he, by silently opening or closing, at any time, by day or by night, the fountains of health in our bosoms, favor or check any of our cherished plans, and alter all the combinations in the elements of our earthly experience. How, by mere changes of the weather, can he, without any violation of nature, modify our movements, or those of others, and so use nature for the furtherance of his moral plans and purposes. And who shall describe the scope and force of angelic agencies, of whom it is said that they are “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation"; and again : “He shall give his angels charge over thee, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone”; and still again : “ Take heed that ye offend not one of these little ones, for I say unto you that their angels do always behold the face of my Father, which is in heaven.” Gratitude to the angels for deliverances and benefits un. known here as such, but thankfully recognized hereafter, will constitute a large element in the joy of the ransomed on high. But greater than all other divine gifts is the bestowal of his Spirit: that Spirit is man's appointed Comforter ; his manifested presence is heaven in the soul. Through nature, as also without it, streams, like sunbeams from above, his quickening influence upon the heart.
Secondly, The connection of God's providence with free human agency. Its harmony with the constitution of the human mind is as complete as it is unique. The God of nature and providence is plainly the God of revelation. The evidences of the unity of his existence, attributes, and character are, like those of the unity of his purposes, plans, and laws, everywhere multitudinous and overwhelming. His modes of action do not anywhere tend to repress, in any way, the freedom of human agency, much less to revoke that high bestowment which he gave to us at the beginning, in the very making of our nature, in everlasting perpetuity.
The presupposition of a sovereign God, having all power
in heaven and on earth, is necessary to any just conceptions of the structure of the intellectual and moral universe. But God's sovereignty is never to be thought of as being, actively or passively, set against any man's true interests, but as being only and altogether for him; not as crushing or depressing his moral activity or force, but as inviting and urging the highest and best use of his faculties at all times.
There are but three possible ways of conceiving of what is, when rightly viewed, not only the grand but also the precious doctrine of divine sovereignty: as directly exclusive of man's freedom (a view which some audaciously hold, nor seem to be appalled by its fearful logical consequences); as probably consistent with the exercise of man's free-will, although the mode of it be unintelligible to us, since both doctrines are clearly revealed in the scriptures; or, last and best of all, as manifestly and beautifully harmonious with human freedom and directly stimulative and helpful to our right action in everything. God has established the order of the heavens by the mutual reaction of centripetal and centrifugal forces ; the order of bodily health, by the right mingling of the acids and alkalies of the system ; and the order of the state, by the natural blending of the conservative and progressive elements of society; but, in theology, the qualifying elements of thought, out of whose mingled interaction the stability and beauty of divine truth are to be realized in the thoughts and hearts of men, few seem to be capable of holding together in their mutual correlations.
The great Father of all has none of that desire to make an ostentatious display of the power of his wrath which many do him the high injustice to imagine.“ Meekness," on our part “is an ornament of great price, in his sight"; and it is one that he himself possesses in his own great nature, in infinite beauty. “Learn of me," said the Godman, who himself declared " he that hath seen me, hath seen the Father also," -- “ learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” It is his “gentleness, which hath made us great," each and all, in our privileges or prospects.