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and fulness breeds diseases; and so the lives of the rich are often much shorter than they might be; or it may please God by some sudden stroke to cut short the progress of a worldly man, to teach others not to trust in uncertain riches. Besides, the good things of this life are often but a temptation and a snare upon the passions : the great and the wealthy are in a slippery situation, more liable to fall than other men; and their circumstances bring them into so many evils, that contentment with safety, is far preferable to grandeur and danger, even when we consider nothing but the present life. So that upon the whole, we have no objection against a special Providence from this consideration.
Neither is there any real objection from the sufferings of good men, if we take their condition altogether. To those who place all their pride in the esteem of men, and all their pleasure in ease and indolence, they seem to be under great disadvantage, as if Providence neglected them: but this is so far from being the case, that the greatest favourites of heaven, to whom Providence has been most attentive, have been called to troubles and sufferings in this world, from wicked and unreasonable men. Persons of distinction, commonly so called, are they whom man has honoured, and who make a figure with their titles and their outward appearance: but persons of distinction in the sight of God, are they who are of superior minds and rich in faith; and of such it is the privilege to be scorned and hated by an evil world. Read the instrument of St. Paul's preferment, and you will find it runs in this style+He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and Kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. His suffering was no sign that God had forsaken him; it was his profession as a chosen vessel, his privilege, his honour as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. And all Christians are called to the same condition of life; honoured of God, and opposed by the world ; persecuted, but not forsaken ; and, when they suffer for the truth, his grace is more abundant; so that they can sing with joy under such circumstances as would provoke others to lamentation, and drive them to despair. Paul and Silas sang praises to God in a dungeon at midnight, when their feet were fast in the stocks. But their minds were still free and happy; for the word of God was not bound. Ye shall know the truth, said Christ, and the truth shall make you free; with a sort of freedom which no sum can purchase ; the freedom of the mind : a freedom from the bond. age of error, and vice, and fashion, that variable foolish tyrant; a freedom, which gives us a right to converse
dom; to hope in him, to trust in him, and sing praises to him; all of which are privileges, such as the world cannot take away. The miser may be robbed of his wealth, the prince of his kingdom; but the Christian cannot lose the treasures of his heart, and as to the value of them, the psalm of a saint, within the walls of a prison, has more real comfort in it than the triumphs of an emperor, if he lives without God in the world.
Another difficulty yet remains with respect to the doctrine of divine Providence. Some think it an office unworthy and troublesome, beneath the Almighty, to attend to the multiplicity of small occurrences in human life. Yet this arises only from our imperfect way of considering things, and measuring the powers of God by the conceptions of man. No office can be
burthensome to him whose eyes are in every place, and whose word can speak a world into being. Our Saviour hath extended the attention of Providence to the lowest particulars in the creation; to the hairs of our head, and to the life of a sparrow. How can the resurrection of the same body be brought to pass, unless he whose eyes did see our substance before it was perfect shall have it still under his view after its dissolution ? His attention therefore does not only extend to single persons, but to the dust of the earth, and to single atoms. How often do we see the most trifling occurrences productive of the greatest events? All are therefore equally under the direction of God; the small as well as the great; for they depend upon one another. If it were possible to suppose any thing independent of Providence, it would be the casting of a lot : but the wise man affirms, the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord. Prov. xvi. 33. And accordingly, in the choosing of an Apostle to succeed Judas, they referred the matter to the divine direction by the casting of a lot, and supposed that the Lord, according to their prayer, had thereby shewed which of the two He had chosen.
Having thus considered and stated the doctrine of Providence, with the certainty of God's presence and attention to the ways of men ; let me tell you, the belief of this is so essential to the profession of a Christian, and so necessary to the comfort of life, that I know of no better test of the state of a man's soul, than a daily sense of God's presence with him, for the direction of his life, either by his own immediate act, or the subordinate ministration of his holy angels, who have received a charge for the preserVOL. III.
vation of the servants of God. Wicked men have no liking to this subject; as if they expected no good to themselves from the attention of Heaven. Good men have no greater support in this world : they love to think and discourse upon it; and they celebrate the mercies they have received. Jacob, in his blessing, addresses himself to the God which had fed him all his life long unto that day, and to the angel which had redeemed him from all evil. St. Paul, looking back upon the persecutions and afflictions of his life, had a certain knowledge, that out of them all the Lord had delivered him. And the same knowledge will be more or less in every Christian, who reflects upon the occurrences of his life past. He may not be able to say, as the Apostle did, once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck ; a night and a day I have been in the deep: but, if his eyes are open, and he speaks the truth, he may say in other words, “ at “ such a place, and at such a tiine, was I preserved, “ when my fortune, my comfort, my health, my life, “ my soul were in danger : many perils have I seen, “ from which nothing but the hand of God could save " me; many more there must have been, perhaps “ worse and greater, which I could not see: but out “ of them all, the Lord delivered me, and I am alive at “ this day to praise him.”
Without a firm belief of God's preventing and directing power, good men would not know how to live; and they see that for want of it, many are lost. He that has lived long enough to observe how many dangers there are in the world, of which he has no foresight, and thinks there is nothing to preserve him, but that chance, by which others seem to be destroyed, is in a miserable condition; and I would not be in the like for all the world. When it is found that health is uncertain, and pleasure deceitful; that there are evils, which wealth cannot remove: nor wisdom provide against, and when with all this there is no sense of God's Providence correcting our sins and bringing good out of evil; then only disappointment becomes intolerable, and men send themselves out of the world in despair.
As the navigator, who has sailed round the world, and is arrived in safety at his own dwelling, delights to survey the dangers of the voyage, with his many deliverances from storms and shipwreck: and as the Israelites, when conducted to the land of Canaan, discoursed together on the miracles God had wrought in Egypt, with the perils of the wilderness, their various encampments, the victories they had obtained, and the cities they had destroyed; and repeated the wondrous narrative to their children, listening around them; so we may suppose, it will constitute a part of the blessedness of heaven, to look back upon the vicissitudes of this mortal life; and that the saints will delight for endless ages, in comparing the trials they underwent, the dangers they escaped, and the mercies they received in this their pilgrimage; adding thereto the greater wonders of their walk through the valley of the shadow of death, their resurrection, ascension, and glorification, which are yet to come; all of which will furnish matter for such songs, and be celebrated with such sounds, as no ear hath yet heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive.
In some passages of the Revelation, we have a slight prospect of this scene, with a foretaste of this heavenly