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sin. It is a salutary fear, which keeps them from using all the liberty they have; it leads them to avoid not only what is decidedly wrong, but to stop short of what is doubtful, to keep clear of what is suspicious: well knowing the thin partitions which separate danger from destruction. It teaches them to watch the buddings and germinations of evil, to anticipate the pernicious fruit in the opening blossom.
The weakness and inactivity of our faith expose us to continual distrust. When we ourselves are idle, we are disposed to suspect that the Omnipotent is not at work.-That process which we do not see, we are too much inclined to suspect is not going on. From this unhallowed egotism, where we are not the prime movers, we fancy that all stands still. The various parts of the scheme of Providence are sometimes connected by a thread so fine as to elude our dim sight; but, though it may be so attenuated as to be invisible, it is never broken off. The plan is carrying on, and the work perhaps, about to be accomplished, while we are accusing the Great Artificer, as if he were capable of neglect, or liable to error. But if, after tracing Providence through many a labyrinth, we seem to lose sight of him: if, after having lost our clue, we are tempted to suspect that this operation is suspended, or that his agency has ceased, he is working all the time out of sight-he is proceeding, if the comparison may be allowed, like the fabled Arethusia, whose stream having disappeared in the place to which it had been followed up, is still making its way under ground; though we are not cured of our incredulity, till we again discover him, bursting forth like the same river, which, having pursued its hidden passage through every obstruction, rises once more in all its beauty in another and unexpected place.
But even while we are rebelling against his dispensations, we are taking our hints in the economy of public and private life, from the economy of Providence in the administration of the world. We govern our country by laws emulative of those by which he governs his creatures we train our children by probationary discipline, as he trains his servants. Penal laws in state, like those of the divine Legislator, indicate no hatred to those to whom they are proclaimed, for every man is at liberty not to break them; they are enacted in the first instance for admonition rather than chastisement, and serve as much for prevention as punishment. The discipline maintained in all well ordered families is intended not only to promote their virtue, but their happiness. The intelligent child perceives his father's motive for restraining him, till the act of obedience having induced the habit, and both having broken in his rebellious will, he loves the parent the more for the restraint; on the other hand, the mismanaged and ruined son learns to despise the father, who has given him a license to which he has discernment enough to perceive he owes the miseries consequent upon his uncurbed appetites.
It is however to be lamented, that this great doctrine of God's universal superintendance is not only madly denied, or inconsistently over'ooked by one class of men, but is foolishly perVOL. II.
verted, or fanatically abused by another. Without entering upon the wide field of instances, we shall confine our remarks to two that are the most common. First, the fanciful, frivolous, and bold familiarity with which this supreme dictation and government are cited on the most trivial occasions, and adduced in a manner dishonourable to infinite wisdom, and derogatory to supreme goodness. The persons who are guilty of this fault seem not to perceive, that it is not more foolish and presumptuous to deny it altogether than to expect that God's particular Providence will interpose, in order to save their exertions, or excuse their industry. For though Providence directs and assists virtuous endeavours, he never, by superseding them, encourages idleness, or justifies presumption.
The highly censurable use to which some others convert this divine agency, is, when not only the pretence of trusting Providence is made the plea for the indolent desertion of their own duty; but an unwarrantable confidence in providential leadings is adopted to excuse their own imprudence. Great is the temerity, when Providence is virtually reproached for the ill success of our affairs, or pleaded as an apology for our own wilfulness, or as a vindication of our own absurdity in the failure of some foolish plan, or some irrational pursuit. We have no right to depend on a supernatural interposition to help us out of difficulties into which we have been thrown by our misconduct, or under distresses into which we have been plunged by our errors. God, though he knows the prayers which we may offer, and accepts the penitence which we feel, will not use his power to correct our ill-judged labours, any otherwise than by making us smart for their consequences.
The power of God as it is not an idle, so it is not a solitary prerogative. It is indeed an attribute in constant exercise; it is not kept for state, but use; not for display, but exercise; and as it is infinite, one half of the concerns of the universe are not, as we intimated before, suspended, because he is superintending the other half. He is perpetually examining the chronicles of human kind, and inspecting the register of human actions-not like the King of the Palace of Shushan,* because he cannot rest,' for Omniscience never slumbers or sleeps nor like him to repair the wrongs of one man whose services had remained unrequited, but that, beholding the evil and the good,' no services may go unnoticed and unrecompensed, from the earliest offspring of pious Abel, to the latest oblation of faith in the end of time.
This view of things, and it is the view which the enlightened Christian takes, tends to correct his anger against second causes, and affords him such an assurance that every occurrence will be over-ruled by everlasting love for his eventual good-inspires him with such holy confidence in the promises of the Gospel, that he acquires a repose of spirit, not merely from compelled submission to authority, but from rational acquiescence in goodness. He feels that his confirmed belief in this universal agency is the only thing that can set his heart at rest, still its
Ahasuerus-Esther, chap. vi.
perturbations, moderate its impatience, soothe its terrors, confirm its faith, preserve its peace, or, when it has suffered a momentary suspension, restore it.
Nor does God exercise his Providence alone, either in signal instances of retribution or in the hidden consolations of the believer; but those secret stings of conscience which goad and lacerate every guilty individual in any criminal pursuit that lurking discontent which gives the lie to flattery, and mingles the note of discord with the music of acclamation-that unprompted misery of feeling which infuses wormwood into his sweetest pleasure, proceeds from the same providential infliction.
suffering bears with the rebellious, whose love absolves the guilty, whose mercy in Christ Jesus accepts the penitent. Such is the fulness of that attribute which we sum up in a single word, the goodness of God. It is this goodness which influences his other attributes in our favour, attributes which would else necessarily act against creatures at once sinful and impotent. It makes that wisdom which sees our weakness strengthen us, and that power which might overwhelm us, act for our preservation Without this goodness, all his other perfections would be to us as the beauties of his natural creation would be, if the sun were blotted from the firmament-they might indeed exist, but Some men seem to admit a Providence on a without this illuminating and cherishing prinscale which expands their ideas, but fancy it an ciple, as we should neither have seen nor felt affront to conceive of Him on one which they them, so to us they could not be said to be. think contracts them. If they allow that he Some Christians seem to view the Almighty takes a sweeping view of nations, yet they im- as encircled with no attribute but his sovereignply that it would be too minute an exercise of ty. God, in establishing his moral government, his superintendence to inspect individuals. The might indeed have acted solely by his sovereigntruth is, as we intimated before, men are too ty. He might have pleaded no other reason for much disposed to frame their conceptions of our allegiance but his absolute dominion. He God by the limited powers and capacities of hu- might have governed arbitrarily, without exman greatness. They observe, that a king who plaining the nature of his requisitions. He controls the affairs of a vast empire cannot pos- might have reigned over us as a king, without sibly inspect the concerns of every private fa- endearing himself to us as a father. He might mily, much less of every single subject. This have exacted fealty, without the offer of remulimited capacity they unconsciously, yet irreve-neration. Instead of this, while he maintained rently transfer to the King of kings. But as no concern is so vast as to encumber Omnipotence, so none is too diminutive to escape the eye of Omniscience. There is no argument for a general, but is also an argument for a particular Providence, unless we can prove that the whole is not made up of parts; that generals are not composed of particulars; that nations are not compounded of families; that societies are not formed of individuals; that chains are not com. posed of links; that sums are not made up of units; that the interests of a community do not grow out of the well-being of its members. The in-vites us to a compliance, which his sovereignty terests of a particular member, indeed, may might have demanded on the single ground that sometimes appear to suffer from that which pro- it was his due. Whereas he seems almost to wave motes the general good, yet he, by whose law our duty as a claim, as if to afford us the merit the individual may seem to be injured, has of a voluntary obedience; though the very will means of remuneration or of comfort which may to obey is his gift, he promises to accept as if prevent the sufferer from being ultimately a it were our own act. He first inspires the deloser. If, as we are assured, upon God's author- sire and then rewards it. Thus his power, if ity, that our tears are treasured up by him, will we may hazard the expression, gives place to not their appropriate consolation be also provid- his goodness, and he presses us by tenderness ed?-Though He whose footsteps are not known, almost more than he constrains us by authority. may act in some instances in a manner incom- He even condescends to make our happiness no prehensible to us, yet if we allow that he acts less a motive for our duty than his injunctions; wisely and holily in cases which we do compre-hear his affectionate apostrophe-' Oh that thou hend, we should give him credit in the obscure and impenetrable cases, for he can no more act contrary to his attributes in the one instance than in the other.
Every intelligent being, therefore, should look up to divine Providence, not only as engaged in the government and disposal of states, but as exercised for his individual protection, peace, and comfort;-should look habitually to Him who confers favour without claim, and happiness without merit; to him whose veracity fulfils all the promises which his goodness has made-to Him whose pity commiserates the afflicted, whose bounty supplies the indigent, whose long
his entire title to our obedience, he mitigates the austerity of the command by the invitations of his kindness, and softens the rigour of authority by the allurement of his promises. In holding out menaces to deter us from disobedience, he balances them with the offered plenitude of our own felicity, and thus instead of terrifying, attracts us to obedience. If he threatens, it is that by intimidating he may be spared the necessity of punishing; if he promises-it is that we may perceive our happiness to be bound up with our obedience. Thus his goodness in
hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river!'
It was that his goodness might have the precedency of his Omnipotence that he vouchsafed to give the law in the shape of a covenant. He stooped to enter into a sort of reciprocal engagement with his creatures, he condescended to stipulate with the work of his hands! But the consummation of his goodness was reserved for his work of Redemption. Here he not only performed the office, but assumed the name of Love; a name with which, notwithstanding all his preceding wonders of Providence and Grace, he was never invested till after the completion
any effect on ourselves that we cease at their inefficacy on others. The sick physician tastes with disgust the bitterness of the draught, to the swallowing of which he wondered the patient had felt so much repugnance; and the reader is sometimes convinced by the arguments which fail of their effect on the writer, when he is called, not to discuss, but to act, not to reason, but to suffer. The theory is so just and the duty so obvious, that even bad men assent to it; the exercise so trying that the best men find it more easy to commend the rule than adopt it. But he who has once gotten engraved, not in his memory but in his heart, this divine precept, THY WILL BE DONE, has made a proficiency which will render all subsequent instruction comparatively easy.
To desire to know the Divine will is the first duty of a being so ignorant as man; to endeavour to obey it is the most indispensable duty of a being at once so corrupt and so dependent. The Holy Scriptures frequently comprise the Though sacrifices and oblations were offered essence of the Christian temper in some short to God under the law by his own express apaphorism, apostrophe, or definition. The essen-pointment, yet he peremptorily rejected them tial spirit of the Christian life may be said to be included in this one brief petition of the Christian's prayer, 'THY WILL BE DONE;' just as the distinguishing characteristic of the irreligious may be said to consist in following his own will.
There is a haughty spirit which though it will not complain, does not care to submit. It arrogates to itself the dignity of enduring, without any claim to the meekness of yielding. Its silence is stubbornness, its fortitude is pride; its calmness is apathy without, and discontent within. In such characters, it is not so much the will of God which is the rule of conduct, as the scorn of pusillanimity. Not seldom indeed the mind puts in a claim for a merit to which the nerves could make out a better title. Yet the suffering which arises from acute feelings is so far from deducting from the virtue of resignation, that, when it does not impede the sacrifice, it enhances the value. True resignation is the hardest lesson in the whole school of Christ. It is the oftenest taught and the latest learnt. It is not a task which, when once got over in some particular instance, leaves us master of the subject. The necessity of following up the lesson we have begun, presents itself almost every day in some new shape, occurs under some fresh modification. The submission of yesterday does not exonerate us from the resignation of to-day. The principle, indeed, once thoroughly wrought into the soul, gradually reconciles us to the frequent demand for its exercise, and renders every succesive call more easy.
We read dissertations on this subject, not only with the most entire concurrence of the judgment, but with the most apparent acquiescence of the mind. We write essays upon it in the hour of peace and composure, and fancy that what we have discussed with so much ease and self-complacence, in favour of which we offer so many arguments to convince, and so many motives to persuade, cannot be very difficult to practise. But to convince the understanding and to correct the will is a very different undertaking; and not less difficult when it comes to our own case than it was in the case of those for whom we have been so coolly and dogmatically prescribing. It is not till we practically find how slowly our own arguments produce
by his prophets, when presented as substitutes instead of signs. Will he, under a more perfect dispensation, accept of any observances which are meant to supersede internal dedication-of any offerings unaccompanied by complete desire of acquiescence in his will? My son, give me thine heart,' is his brief but imperative command. But before we can be brought to comply with the spirit of this requisition, God must enlighten our understanding that our devotion may be rational, he must rectify our will that it may be voluntary, he must purify our heart that it may be spiritual.
Submission is a duty of such high and holy import that it can only be learnt of the Great Teacher. If it could have been acquired by mere moral institution, the wise sayings of the ancient philosophers would have taught it. But their most elevated standard was low: their strongest motives were the brevity of life, the instability of fortune, the dignity of suffering virtue, things within their narrow sphere of judging; things true indeed as far as they go, but a substratum by no means equal to the superstructure to be built on it. It wanted depth, and strength, and solidity for the purposes of support. It wanted the only true basis, the assurance that God orders all things according to the purposes of his will for our final good; it wanted that only sure ground of faith by which the genuine Christian cheerfully submits in entire dependance on the promises of the gospel.
Nor let us fancy that we are to be languid and inactive recipients of the divine dispensations. Our own souls must be enlarged, our own views must be ennobled, our own spirit must be dilated. An inoperative acquiescence is not all that is required of us: and if we must not slacken our zeal in doing good, so we must not be remiss in opposing evil, on the flimsy ground that God has permitted evil to infest the world. If it be his will to permit sin, it is an opposition to his will when we do not labour to counteract it. This surrender therefore, of our will to that of God, takes in a large sweep of actual duties, as well as the whole compass of passive obedience. It involves doing as well as suffering, activity as well as acquiescence, zeal as well as forbearance. Yet the concise petition daily slips off the tongue without our reflecting on the weight
of the obligation we are imposing on ourselves., Lord. In delivering us from the heavy bondage We do not consider the extent and consequences of sin, it transfers us to the 'easy yoke of of the prayer we are offering, the sacrifices, the Christ,' from the galling slavery of the world to trials, the privations it may involve, and the the light burden' of him who overcame it. large indefinite obedience to all the known and unknown purposes of infinite wisdom to which we are pledging ourselves.
This liberty in giving a true direction to the affections, gives them amplitude as well as elevation. The more unconstrained the will becomes, the more it fixes on the object; once fixed on the highest, it does not use its liberty for versatility, but for constancy, not for change, but for fidelity, not for wavering, but adherence.
It is, therefore, no less our interest, than our duty, to keep the mind in an habitual posture of submission. Adam,' says Dr. Hammond, after his expulsion, was a greater slave in the wilderness than he had been in the inclosure.' If the barbarian ambassador came express to the Romans to negotiate from his country for permission to be their servants, declaring, that
was preferable to a wild and disorderly freedom, well may the Christian triumph in the peace and security to be attained by a complete subjugation to Him who is emphatically called the God of order.
There is no case in which we more shelter ourselves in generalities. Verbal sacrifices cost little, cost nothing. The familiar habit of repeating the petition almost tempts us to fancy that the duty is as easy as the request is short. We are ready to think that a prayer rounded off in four monosyllables can scarcely involve duties co-extensive with our whole course of being; that, in uttering them, we renounce all right in ourselves, that we acknowledge the universal inde feasible title of the blessed and only potentate; that we make over to him the right to do in us, and with us, and by us, what-a voluntary submission even to a foreign power, ever he sees good for ourselves, whatever will promote his glory, though by means sometimes as incomprehensible to our understanding, as unacceptable to our will, because we neither know the motive, nor perceive the end. These simple words express an act of faith the most A vital faith manifests itself in vital acts. sublime, an act of allegiance the most unquali-Thy will be done,' is eminently a practical pefied; and, while they make a declaration of tition. The first indication of the gaoler's entire submission to a Sovereign the most abso- change of heart was a practical indication. He lute, they are, at the same time, a recognition did not ask, Are there few that be saved,' but of love to a Father the most beneficent. 'What shall I do to be saved?' The first symp. tom St. Paul gave of his conversion, was a practical symptom: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' He entered on his new course with a total renunciation of his own will. It seemed to this great Apostle, to be the turning point between infidelity and piety, whether he should follow his own will or the will of God. He did not amuse his curiosity with speculative questions. His own immediate and grand concern engross
We must remember, that in offering this prayer, we may by our own request, be offering to resign what we most dread to lose, to give up what is dear to us as our own soul; we may be calling on our heavenly Father to withhold what we are most anxiously labouring to attain, and to withdraw what we are most sedulously endeavouring to keep. We are solemnly renouncing our property in ourselves, we are distinctly making ourselves over again to Himed his whole soul. Nor was his question a mere whose we already are. We specifically entreat him to do with us what he pleases, to mould us to a conformity to his image, without which we shall never be resigned to his will. In short, to dispose of us as his infinite wisdom sees best, however contrary to the scheme which our blindness has laid down as the path to unquestionable happiness.
To render this trying petition easy to us, is one great reason why God by such a variety of providences, afflicts and brings us low. He knows that we want incentives to humility,
even more than incitements to virtuous actions.
He shows us in many ways, that self-sufficiency and happiness are incompatible, that pride and peace are irreconcilable; that, following our own way, and doing our own will, which we consider to be of the very essence of felicity, is in direct opposition to it.
'Christianity,' says bishop Horsely, 'involves many paradoxes, but no contradictions.' To be able to say with entire surrender of the heart, Thy will be done,' is the true liberty of the children of God, that liberty with which Christ has made them free. It is a liberty, not which delivers us from restraint, but which, freeing us from our subjection to the senses, makes us find no pleasure but in order, no safety but in the obedience of an intelligent being to his rightful
hasty effusion, an interrogative springing out of that mixed feeling of awe and wonder which accompanied his first overwhelming convictions. It became the abiding principle which governed his future life, which made him in labours more abundant. Every successive act of duty, every future sacrifice of ease, sprung from it, was influenced by it. His own will, his ardent, impetuous, fiery will, was not merely subdued, it was extinguished. His powerful mind indeed lost none of its energy, but his proud heart relinquished all its independence.
We allow and adopt the term devotion as an indispensable part of religion, because it is supposed to be limited to the act; but devotedness, from which it is derived, does not meet with such ready acceptation, because this is a habit, and an habit involves more than an act; it pledges us to consistency, it implies fixedness of character, a general confirmed state of mind, a giving up what we are, and have, and do, to God. Devotedness does not consist in the length of our prayers, nor in the number of our good works, for, though these are the surest evidences of piety, they are not its essence. Devotedness consists in doing and suffering, bearing and forbearing in the way which God prescribes. The most inconsiderable duty performed with alacrity, if it oppose our own incli
nation; the most ordinary trial met with a right spirit, is more acceptable to him than a greater effort of our own devising. We do not commend a servant for his activity, if ever so fervently exercised, in doing whatever gratifies his own fancy; we do not consider his performance as obedience, unless his activity has been exercised in doing what we required of him. Now, how can we insist on his doing what contradicts his own humour, while we allow ourselves to feel repugnance in serving our heavenly Master, when his commands do not exactly fall in with our own inclination?
We must also give God leave, not only to take his own way, but his own time. The appointment of seasons, as well as of events, is his. He waits to be gracious.' If he delays, it is because we are not yet brought to that state which fits us for the grant of our request. It is not he who must be brought about, but we ourselves. Or, perhaps, he refuses the thing we ask, in order to give us a better. We implore success in an undertaking, instead of which, he gives us content under the disappointment. We ask for the removal of pain; he gives us patience under it. We desire deliverance from our enemies; he sees that we have not yet turned their enmity to our improvement, and he will bring us to a better temper by further exercise. We desire him to avert some impending trial, instead of averting it, he takes away its bitterness; he mitigates what we believed would be intolerable, by giving us a right temper under it. How, then, can we say he has failed of his promise, if he gives something more truly valuable than we had requested at his hands?
sire with our hearts. By an imperceptible operation he is ever at work for our good; he promotes it by objects the most unlikely. He employs means to our shallow views the most improbable to effect his own gracious purposes. In every thing he evinces that his thoughts are not as our thoughts. He overrules the opposition of our enemies, the defection of our friends, the faults of our children—the loss of our fortune as well as the disappointments attending its possession-the unsatisfactoriness of pleasures as well as the privation-the contradiction of our desires-the failure of plans which we thought we had concerted, not only with good judgment but pure intentions. He makes us sensible of our faults by the mischiefs they bring upon us; and acknowledges our blindness by extracting from it consequences diametrically opposite to those which our actions were intended to produce.
Our love to God is stamped with the same imperfection with all our other graces. If we love him at all, it is as it were traditionally, hereditary, professionally; it is a love of form and not of feeling, of education and not of sentiment, of sense and not of faith. It is at best a submission to authority, and not an effusion of voluntary gratitude, a conviction of the understanding, and not a cordiality of the affections. We rather assume we have this grace than actually possess it, we rather take it for granted on unexamined grounds, than cherish it as a principle from which whatever good we have must proceed, and from which, if it does not proceed, the principle does
good men, if God loved virtue, he would not oppress the virtuous. Surely Omnipotence may find a way to make his children good, without making them miserable. But have these casuists ever devised a means by which men may be made good without being made humble, or happy, without being made holy, or holy without trials? Unapt scholars indeed we are in learning the lessons taught! But the teacher is not the less perfect because of the imbecility of his children.
Surely, says the oppugners of divine ProviSome virtues are more called out in one con-dence in considering the calamities inflicted on dition of life, and some in another. The exercise of certain qualities has its time and place; but an endeavour after conformity to the image of God, which is best attained by submission to his will, is of perpetual obligation. If he does not require all virtues under all circumstances, there is no state or condition in which he does not require that to which our church perpetually calls us, an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart.' We may have no time, no capacity, no special call for deeds of notorious useful. ness; but whatever be our pursuits, engagements, or abilities, it will intrench on no time, require no specific call, interfere with no duty, to subdue our perverse will. Though the most severe of all duties, it infringes on no other, but will be the more effectually fulfilled by the very difficulties attending on other pursuits and engage.
We are so fond of having our own will, that it is astonishing we do not oftener employ it for our own good; for our inward peace is augment. ed in exact proportion as our repugnance to the Divine will diminishes. Were the conquest over the one complete, the enjoyment of the other would be perfect. But the Holy Spirit does not assume his emphatical title, the COMFORTER, till his previous offices have operated on the heart, till he has 'reproved us of sin, of righteousness, of judgment.'
God makes use of methods inconceivable to us, to bring us to the submission which we are more ready to request with our lips, than to de
If it be the design of Infinite Goodness to disengage us from the world, to detach us from ourselves, and to purify us to himself, the purification by sufferings seems the most obvious method. The same effect could not be any otherwise produced, except by miracles, and God is an economist of his means in grace as well as in nature. He deals out all gifts by measure. His operation in both is progressive. Successive events operate in one case as time and age in the other. As suns and showers so gradually mature the fruits of the earth, that the growth is rather perpetual than perceptible, so God commonly carries on the work of renova tion in the heart silently and slowly, by means suitable and simple, though to us imperceptible, and sometimes unintelligible. Were the plans more obvious, and the process ostensible, there would be no room left for the operations of faith, no call for the exercise of patience, no demand for the grace of humility. The road to perfection is tedious and suffering, steep and rugged;