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VOLUME VIII-NUMBER I.
ART. I.-THE DOCTRINE OF A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE.
To a thoughtful, and especially to a thoughtful and serious mind, the world in which we live is one of deep and solemn interest. Like a bright and beautiful abode, into which, for the first time, we have just entered, every thing in it is fitted to remind us of some invisible agent, who has produced the effects. that we witness, and to impress us with the presence of some mighty but unseen power, which is every where acting around us. Above are the hosts of heaven, walking in majesty and splendor, or fixed as radiant points of the glory of HIM who made them, kindling up the day, adorning the night, and ever rolling onward summer and winter, seed-time and harvest. Around us are the varied aspects of animal and physical being; the mineral kingdom, with its forms of beauty and its fitness for use; the brute creation, in air, and earth, and seas, sporting in conscious enjoyment, or providing for their various wants; the fruits of the earth, supplying us with our daily food, and the flowers of the field, robed in their garments of brightness and beauty, to perpetuate their kinds and minister to our delight. In all these departments of nature,-in ourselves, in every thing, changes are ever going forward, which no created power could produce, and in which no visible hand is seen; and on every side, events are constantly transpiring, which set at nought our calculations, defeat our plans, and defy our control. And what is the power which is thus at work around us? whose the hand that rolls onward these changes, and guides them all to the best final results? The atheist, (if there be such an unthinking monster,) may talk of chance, and the fatalist, of the necessities of things; but they both prate in unmeaning language. Infidel science may tell us of physical causes; but the last possible causes which the analysis of science can reach, are themselves effects of some antecedent VOL. VIII.
cause,- —a cause which cannot be physical. Philosophy may conjecture, and tradition allude to, an over-ruling providence ; but the experience of heathen antiquity shows us, that they could never inspire the assurance of its certainty. Tradition and philosophy do indeed afford a very strong presumptive argument of its truth: But it is only from revelation, that we know, with the clearness of demonstration and the confidence of faith, that God is present in all his works, administering with perfect wisdom and goodness all the affairs of his wide dominion; extending his watchful care to every being and every event, from the rolling of worlds through space, to the falling of the sparrow on earth,-from the glorious scheine of redeeming grace, to the numbering of the very hairs of our heads.
This is the doctrine of God's PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE; Some evidences and illustrations of which, it is our design to present. And,
I. That God exercises a PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE in all the affairs of the world, is evident from his GENERAL providence. That God exercises a general providence over all his works, is not denied even by infidels and deists, or by the writer (see Edinburgh Review, vol. xi. pp. 356, 357,) who has been bold enough to declare the doctrine of a particular providence "untrue," "ridiculous," "degrading," and even dangerous. And if it were denied by them, their denial would be useless. For, laying aside the declarations of scripture, and meeting them on their own grounds, the truth of the doctrine may be proved by the same arguments that prove the divine existence. It is necessarily implied in the very idea of an infinitely perfect being; for nothing is plainer than that such a being cannot, will not be, indifferent to what is going on in a world of his own creation. And as his wisdom and power enable him to conduct all things to the best ends, so his goodness is an unchanging pledge that he will do it. The most heedless and wicked man will usually take some care of his property; and is it possible, or even supposable, that a being, whose wisdom and goodness are infinite, will take no care of his? Never! A God without some kind of providence, is a contradiction in terms; for nothing is more evident than that the very character of God requires that he care for his works. But precisely the same reasons that influence the Deity to exercise any providence whatever, are also reasons for extending that providence to all beings and all events; for, so far as it overlooks any being or event, so far it is incomplete, and of course inconsistent with the idea of an infinitely perfect being. Indeed, the very idea of a general providence, which is not at the same time particular, is absurd, or rather, impossible. That an individual in general is an extensive reader, while in particular he never opens a book;
that in general he is a lawyer or a physician of extensive practice, while he never attends to a single particular cause, or prescribes for any particular patient; that in general he is immensely rich, while in particular he is not the owner of a single farthing; any or all of these things we may as well assert, as to admit the general providence of God, while we deny its extension to every being and event of the universe. A general providence, in fact, is constituted only by a series of particular acts on the part of the providential power. As, when we say of the law of gravitation, that it is universal and general, we intend to assert, that it extends to every particle of matter, so that every body tends invariably to its own proper center of gravity; so when we speak of a general providence, we mean, (if we have any meaning,) that it extends to every being and every event; that is, that it is a particular providence.
II. That God exercises a PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE over all his works, is also evident from the plain declarations of his word. There is this remarkable difference between the sacred history and all others, that while they seldom go for their causes higher than · the passions of men and the powers of nature, this always carries our thoughts up to the first great cause, and points us to God, as the author and governor of all things. The entire history of the bible is one continued display of the superintending providence of God. The sword, the pestilence, and the famine, are spoken of as sent by him. The winds and the lightnings go forth at his bidding, and the stars are guided by his hand. The Psalmist abounds with references to God's particular providence. "The eyes of all wait on thee, and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou satisfiest the wants of every living thing. The Lord prepareth rain for the earth; he causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herbs for the use of man. He sendeth the springs into the valleys; he watereth the hills from his chambers. He appointeth the moon for seasons, and the sun knoweth his going down." In Proverbs it is said: "The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord ;" and that though "a man's heart deviseth his way, the Lord directeth his steps." Paul tells us, that "he hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth, and hath appointed beforehand the bounds of their habitations ;" and that "in him we live, and move, and have our being." In the evangelists we are explicitly taught, that he clothes the lilies of the field with their garments of beauty, and feeds the ravens when they cry; that not a sparrow falls to the ground without his notice; that even the hairs of our heads are all numbered by him; and that by him our lives are continued, and all our wants are constantly supplied. These are but a few of the many passages and assertions by which we are clearly taught, that
the doctrine of a particular providence, (a providence extending alike to the actions of voluntary beings, and to contingent events,) is the doctrine of God's word, on every page of which, it is, more or less, plainly revealed. But further,
III. The view thus given of providence by the declarations of scripture, is strikingly confirmed and illustrated by HISTORY,-by the history of revealed religion, by the civil history of nations, and by the history of incidents and events in common life.
The history of revealed religion is, in fact, the history of a particular providence. In the establishment of a church on earth, and in the means used by God in every age to sustain, and guard, and purify it; in Noah's salvation; in the destruction of the world by the deluge, and of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven; in the plagues of Egypt, the division of the Red Sea, the journeys of the children of Israel, and their supply of food by showers from heaven; in the moon standing still on Gibeon, and the sun going backward ten degrees; in the ravens feeding Elijah; in the fiery furnace, scorching not God's faithful servants; and in the lions, whose mouths were closed for the safety of his prophet Daniel; in all these, and thousands of similar things, we may see the hand of God, acting for his own glory and his people's good. If we trace more minutely the history of Joseph or David, how easily may we perceive the movements and influence of the same divine providence! Men usually assign no other reason for Joseph's being sold into Egypt, than the envy and hatred of his brethren; or for David's success against Goliah, than his skill in using the sling: but if we look beyond the surface, we shall find that these events were not only foreseen, but that they were projected, as it were, into their respective places, and that for the most important ends. Joseph was sent into Egypt, that he might save the lives of his father's family, and perpetuate the existence of the Jewish nation. As to David, it was God's intention to place him on the throne of Israel; and now notice the means by which that end is accomplished. The country is invaded by a foreign enemy, and while the hostile armies are encaniped against each other, the champion of the invaders comes forth and defies any one of the Hebrew host to meet him in single combat. When no one else dares to risk the unequal contest, the youthful David, who has been sent to the camp with provisions, resolves to accept the challenge. In defense of his flock, he had killed some wild beasts in the wilderness; and he thinks it may be as easy to kill a man as a wild beast. At all events, he knows, that a stone well-directed from his sling, will be as fatal to a giant as to a dwarf; and, in God's name, he resolves to meet the enemy of his Maker and his country. He does it, and with complete success. The boaster is slain, and Israel is free. Here no one's free agency is interrupted, and no miracle is