Page images

public request, that his people will pray for him. Surely we can all join in the prayer, "ihat the Spirit of the Lord may come upon bim," abundantly fitting him for his great office; and that, now and henceforth, God will give our nation rulers whose strong and rightly balanced character shall be the element of the nation's safety—a character like this invisible, pliant air, pliant to every right and lawful motion, but able, upon just occasion, to become a tempest to sweep away rebellion, able to blast treason like the sirocco-then in balmy and salubrious mildness covering all the land, and filling, with its benign and life-sustaining presence, the homes of the people.

Yet, let us remember that we can not, with confidence, expect God to grant us such rulers, unless we be such a people. Let us diligently and prayerfully use all the spiritual forces of the Gospel, by means of all its divinely-furnished instrumentalities, in our families, our schools, and our churches, to form in ourselves, and in those within our influence, this truly Christian character of balanced and blended energy and gentleness.




* 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 ?”MATT. 6: 30.

When we think of the world in which we live, in comparison with the magnitude of creation, a sense of littleness comes over us, and a feeling of insignificance, which prompts us to say with the Psalmist: "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the Son of man, that thou visitest him ?” This feeling has been appropriated to the use of irreligion and infidelity. It has been turned into a popular argument against Christianity. The smallness of the world in the immensity of God's creation—the littleness of man in the immeasurable realms of his sovereignty, it has been said, throws a suspicion over the truth of Gospel history. Are we befitting, worthy objects for the attention of the infinite God, and for that wonderful movement which was made in heaven for the redemption of man? This objection of infidelity was answered by Dr. Chalmers, in his masterly “ Astrono


mical Discourses,” in such a manner that the work will never need to be done again.

Still the feeling of our littleness, and a consequent apprehension of exposedness and insecurity is natural, and has power with many minds. There is much in our circumstances to force this feeling upon us, and to crush us into insignificance. Walking in the field, in a clear summer's evening, on one side of us the cornfield, on the other side the lonely wood, and above us the stars, in their courses, silent and beautiful, and the milky way, with its myriad worlds along the blue expanse of night, it is natural and seemly for us to bow our head in lowliness, gratitude, and wonder, and say: "What is man?" Our weak "faith" staggers. Does the Almighty extend his care and protection to such an insignificant creature? Can it be that the Son of God has come to die for such atoms as I, and in such an atom as our world is ?

But there is another feeling, quite in contrast with this, to which calm reflection, in our evening walk, may reasonably lead us, not less deep and powerful than the crushing sense of our insignifi.

We look at the corn, faintly rustling at our side, which God has prepared to nourish us; we listen to the murmur of the old forest, every leaf of which, with its delicate tints and fibers, the hand of the Almighty has formed with unspeakable skill; we stretch out our hand to a flower, within whose fair bosom God has reared colonies and nations of animalculæ, in all the glow of their costume and in a perfection of beauty after which art toils in vain. So the world of littleness stretches away beneath our feet. Over all this microscopic littleness, as well as all that greatness brought to view by the telescope, our heavenly Father presides, and has given man the princely faculties to be lord of this lower world which he has prepared for him. From this survey, we may turn with reasonable loyal joy to Jesus, and listen to him as he speaks in the words of the text : * 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 ?'' Shall he not care for you? Shall he not be interested in the redemption of a world that bad wandered away from him? This is the proper attitude for us. Our feeling should be, “God cares for me; wherever I go, he tends me and watches me; the intimacy of his presence and attention and care reaches me every moment and in every thought."

I shall attempt, in this discourse, to exhibit some of the practical benefits of the doctrine of God's providence. In doing this, I must show what this doctrine is, and then we can discover how its application throws around the character of God an ineffable glory, and at the same time is of the highest practical utility to ourselves.

I. When we speak of God's providence, we mean that God, by his invisible and almighty agency, guides and governs all his creatures and all their actions; or, in other words, that he takes care of every individual person, object, and event in the world.

Many people have vague and erroneous ideas of God's great wonder-working processes, which we call providence. This is indicated by common modes of speech.

Some speak of “luck” and" chance" as if events were absolutely casual and fortuitous, and came to pass independently of any purpose of God and without his control. But there is no such thing as chance, unless we employ the word, and others of similar import, as simply expressive of our ignorance. An acci. dental event is one of wbich we are not able to discover the cause or the purpose; but we may rest assured that, in the eye of God, it is in no way contingent and casual. Its cause has been foreseen and appointed to produce that particular effect, and this effect to serve a specific purpose. Many events are said to happen, because man can not discover the precise cause of them ; but instead of being independent of God, it is specially by these that God manifests his wisdom, fulfills his purposes, and becomes truly the governor of the world. “A man drew a bow at a venture and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness ;" but God foresaw the track of the arrow, and foretold the fall of the unrobed Ahab. The Scriptures teach us that not a hair falls from the head, and not a sparrow falls to the ground, contrary to his design, and without bis agency. His wise and powerful direction controls all the good and all the evil that befalls mankind. Our life is full of changes. The wheel which God showed Ezekiel is a beautiful figure of divine providence. Sometimes one part of the wheel is at the top; and then, by its revolution, that part is brought down again to the dust. So it is with our life under God's providence.

" Here he exalts neglected worms

To scepters and a crown;
And then the following page be turns

And treads the monarch down."

One is brought: low by reverses wbich upset all his plans; a little while, and another page is turned, and he is lifted up. One is strong and hale to-day ; tomorrow he is brought down. Life is a checkered scene, sometimes exalted, and sometimes depressed. But God's love to his people is unchanging. And he controls all things for their good.

If you look back through the ages, by the aid of history, you see God working out his everlasting purposes. To his eye there are no chance events-nothing out of place—nothing out of time -nothing really adverse to his great end. To us it often seems otherwise. We look at the troubles of to-day, and say with Jacob: “All these things are against me." We ought to wait till we can put the whole together, and see how one trouble counteracted another. Wait till the pattern is finished — now the thread is black or white--sorrow or joy, as the pattern needs. By and by the web of life will be held up-a beautiful tapestry. Each color of the changing hues was needful to the beauty. We shall, in the end, look at God's dealings on the right side. Then we shall see that there was no chance work about it, but everlasting wisdom in every event; and if children of God, we shall be obliged, instead of lamenting and repining, to bless him for his mercies towards us.

Again, some people speak of the laws of nature in a way to exclude the wisdom of God from his providence. Old heathen philosophers held the doctrine of fate, with some differences of opinion among themselves. They supposed that “this universe is moving as it were," in a groove of adamant; and that the events of time are fixed by an inevitable, uncontrollable necessity, irrespective of the exertions and desires, the hopes and fears of men, and independent of any wise adjustment and control of the Deity. This was a denial of God's providence. Nearly the same thing is meant by those who talk flippantly now about “natural laws" as governing the course of events. This is one of the latest fashions of infidelity, in its warfare against Christianity. It says, that all things come of general laws; that there has been no creation, no miracle, and no interference with the operation of fixed laws; that all is a development. Monstrous absurdity! Its refutation is graven as "with an iron pen and lead in the rock," and fossil remains. Common sense is shocked at the impious dogma, that no creating hand was the maker of man! What law developed the muscles, with their power of contraction, for the purposes of motion, and pulling against each other, to keep the body even? By what innate tendency of matter was the heart developed-tbat mighty forcing pump, beating a hundred thousand times a day, and never growing weary.

ing weary. Every tendency of matter would operate to prevent the formation of such organs as the heart, the lungs, or the eye. Whence came the exact adjustment which you observe between the eye and the light, or between the lungs and the air? The machinery of the eye had no tendency to give birth to the light, nor the light to form the eye. In both is seen the wisdom of God. The mechanism of the lungs can have no tendency to originate the peculiar chemical combination of life-supporting and life-destroying gases, which form air, nor the air io construct the lungs. Had the lungs or the air been, in any respect, different from what they are, all would have been pain, perhaps death, to every living creature. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made," and as fearfully and wonderfully cared for every moment.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

It requires the same band to govern the world which first brought it into existence. The Creator has never given and never could give it an independent existence. He upholds and governs it by a constant exertion of his



his support. ing agency, and it would instantly cease to exist. Should he cease to move it, all motion would immediately stop. Let his efficiency vacate the natural laws, and all things would forth with revert to a state of chaos. From this it follows that he governs the sun, moon, and stars, and all the objects of his creation. He makes the sun to rise with punctual uniformity, the clouds to gather and drop down in dews, and in showers and in storms; and the seasons to follow each other in regular order. "He reserv. eth unto us the appointed weeks of harvest." The varied processes in the great laboratory of nature are set before us, to regale our senses and teach us lessons of gratitude, trust, and piety towards our wonder-working God. Look at them! Winter comes : its cold and frosts and snows are necessary to bring many things to inaturity. Winter! the seeming death-knell of nature, it tells us that man must die. It seems as if there would be no more harvest. But there are hidden processes going on which are to appear in rich green fields and fruit-orchards. The seeds and roots of trees, buried beneath the dust, are undergoing changes important to their perfection.

Then comes Spring, genial and pleasing. God is working in it towards the fruits of the harvest. "How much about God there is in it, significant and beautiful, for us to study and enjoy! Spring is hopeful. It scatters the violet and arbutus on the hill-side tinges the field with green--awakes the song of birds, and puts all nature in bloom. By its magic touch, insects which had seemed to be dead begin to awaken, and seeds that were buried in the earth begin to lift up their radiant forms, prophets to inan of a better resurrection.

Then Summer comes, clothing the grass of the field with beauty, and contributing, with its generous agencies, towards the harvest. It fills the air with fragrance and music; it robes the forest in deep rich foliage ; and decks the fields with the tokens and earnests of ample stores. All this is not for the farmer alone to enjoy, but for him also who has a mind and spirit to enjoy it, and get lessons from it

“ Him who with filial confidence inspired

Can lift to leaven an unpresumptuous eye,
And smiling say, My Father made them all."

In all the richness of summer, behold the goodness of the merci. ful Creator.

Autumn completes the process. The fields are covered with crops, and their treasures are stored away in the barns. God has

« PreviousContinue »