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appointed by him; but because he governs heaven and earth by his providence, and regulates all things in such a manner that nothing happens but according to his counsel. For when it is said in the Psalms, that he doth whatsoever he pleaseth, (v) it denotes his certain and deliberate will. For it would be quite insipid to expound the words of the Prophet in the philosophical manner, that God is the prime Agent, because he is the principle and cause of all motion: whereas the faithful should rather encourage themselves in adversity with this consolation, that they suffer no affliction, but by the ordination and command of God; because they are under his hand. But if the government of God be thus extended to all his works, it is a puerile cavil, to limit it to the influence and course of nature. And they not only defraud God of his glory, but themselves of a very useful doctrine, who confine the Divine providence within such narrow bounds, as though he permitted all things to proceed in an uncontrolled course according to a perpetual law of nature: for nothing would exceed the misery of man, if he were exposed to all the motions of the heaven, air, earth, and waters. Besides, this notion would shamefully diminish the singular goodness of God towards every individual. David exclaims, that infants yet hanging on the breasts of their mothers, are sufficiently eloquent to celebrate the glory of God; (w) because as soon as they are born, they find aliment prepared for them by his heavenly care. This indeed is generally true, yet it cannot escape the observation of our eyes and senses, being evidently proved by experience, that some mothers have breasts full and copious, but others almost dry; as it pleases God to provide more liberally for one, but more sparingly for another. But they who ascribe just praise to the Divine omnipotence, received from this a double advantage. In the first place, he must have ample ability to bless them, who possesses heaven and earth, and whose will all the creatures regard so as to devote themselves to his service. And secondly, they may securely repose in his protection, to whose will are subject all those evils which can be feared from anv quarter; by whose power Satan is restrained with all his furies.
(o) Psalm cxv. 3. (to) Psalm viii. 2.
and all his machinations; on whose will depends all that is inimical to our safety: nor is there any thing else by which those immoderate and superstitious fears, which we frequently feel on the sight of dangers, can be corrected or appeased. We are superstitiously timid, I say, if, whenever creatures menace or terrify us, we are frightened, as though they had of themselves the power to hurt us, or could fortuitously injure us; or as if against their injuries God were unable to afford us sufficient aid. For example, the Prophet forbids the children of God to fear the stars and the signs of heaven, (x) as is the custom of unbelievers. He certainly condemns not every kind of fear. But when infidels transfer the government of the world from God to the stars, pretending that their happiness or misery depends on the decrees and presages of the stars, and not on the will of God, the consequence is, that their fear is withdrawn from him, whom alone they ought to regard, and is placed on stars and comets. Whoever then desires to avoid this infidelity, let him constantly remember, that in the creatures there is no erratic power, or action, or motion; but that they are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing can happen but what is subject to his knowledge, and decreed by his will.
IV. First, then, let the reader know that what is called providence describes God, not as idly beholding from heaven the transactions which happen in the world, but as holding the helm of the universe, and regulating all events. Thus it belongs no less to his hands than to his eyes. When Abraham said to his son, " God will provide," (if) he intended not only to assert his prescience of a future event, but to leave the care of a thing unknown to the will of him who frequently puts an end to circumstances of perplexity and confusion. Whence it follows, that providence consists in action; for it is ignorant trifling to talk of mere prescience. Not quite so gross is the error of those who attribute to God a government, as I have observed, of a confused and promiscuous kind; acknowledging that God revolves and impels the machine of the world, with all its parts, by a general motion, without peculiarly directing
(x)Jer. z. 2. (7) Gen. saii. 6.
the action of each individual creature. Yet even this error is not to be tolerated. For they maintain that this providence, which they call universal, is no impediment either to all the creatures being actuated contingently, or to man turning himself hither or thither at the free choice of his own will. And they make the following partition between God and man; that God by his power inspires him with motions, enabling him to act according to the tendency of the nature with which he is endued; but that man governs his actions by his own voluntary choice. In short they conceive, that the world, human affairs, and men themselves, are governed by the power of God, but not by his appointment. I speak not of the Epicureans, who have always infested the world, who dream of a God absorbed in sloth and inactivity; and of others, no less erroneous, who formerly pretended that the dominion of God extended over the middle region of the air, but that he left inferior things to Fortune; since the mute creatures themselves sufficiently exclaim against such evident stupidity. My present design is to refute that opinion, which has almost generally prevailed, which, conceding to God a sort of blind and uncertain motion, deprives him of the principal thing, which is his directing and disposing, by his incomprehensible wisdom, all things to their proper end: and thus robbing God of the government of the world, it makes him the ruler of it in name only, and not in reality. For pray what is governing, but presiding in such a manner, as to rule by fixed decrees those over whom you preside? Yet I reject not altogether what they assert concerning universal providence; provided they on their part admit that God governs the world, not merely because he preserves the order of nature fixed by himself, but because he exercises a peculiar care over every one of his works. It is true that all things are actuated by a secret instinct of nature, as though they obeyed the eternal command of God, and that what God hath once appointed, appears to proceed from voluntary inclination in the creatures. And to this may be r. t■crred the declaration of Christ, that his Father and himself had always been working, even from the beginning: (z) and the assertion of
(;i John v. 17.
Paul, that "in him we live and move and have our being:" (a) and also what is observed by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, with a design to prove the Divinity of Christ, that all things are sustained by the word of his power. (6) But they act very improperly in concealing and obscuring, by this pretext, the doctrine of a particular providence, which is asserted in such plain and clear testimonies of Scripture, that it is surprising how any one could entertain a doubt concerning it. And certainly, they who conceal it with this veil which I have mentioned, are obliged to correct themselves by adding, that many things happen through the peculiar care of God: but this they erroneously restrict to some particular acts. Wherefore we have to prove, that God attends to the government of particular events, and that they all proceed from his determinate counsel, in such a manner that there can be no such thing as fortuitous contingence.
V. If we grant that the principle of motion originates from God, but that all things are spontaneously or accidentally carried whither the bias of nature impels them, the mutual vicissitudes of day and night, of winter and summer, will be the work of God, inasmuch as he hath distributed to each its respective parts, and prescribed to them a certain law: that is, this would be the case if with even tenor they always observed the same measure, days succeeding to nights, months to months, and years to years. But sometimes excessive heats and drought parch and burn the fruits of the earth; sometimes unseasonable rains injure the crops of corn, and sudden calamities are occasioned by showers of hail and storms: this will not be the work of God; unless perhaps, as either clouds or serene weather, or cold or heat, derive their origin from the opposition of the stars and other natural causes. But this representation leaves no room for God to display or exercise his paternal favour, or his judgments. If they say that God is sufficiently beneficent to man, because he infuses into heaven and earth an ordinary power, by which they supply him with food, it is a very flimsy and profane notion; as though the fecundity of one year were not the singular benediction of God, and as
(a) AcU xvii. 28. (6) Heb. i. 3.
though penury and famine were not his malediction and vengeance. But as it would be tedious to collect all the reasons for rejecting this error, let us be content with the authority of God himself. In the Law and in the Prophets he frequently declares, that whenever he moistens the earth with dew or with rain, he affords a testimony of his favour; and that on the contrary, when at his command heaven becomes hard as iron, when the crops of corn are blasted and otherwise destroyed, and when showers of hail and storms molest the fields, he gives a proof of his certain and special vengeance. If we believe these things, it is certain that not a drop of rain falls but at the express command of God. David indeed praises the general providence of God, because "he giveth food to the young ravens which cry:" (c) but when God himself threatens animals with famine, does he not plainly declare, that he feeds all living creatures, sometimes with a smaller allowance, sometimes with a larger, as he pleases? It is puerile, as I have already observed, to restrain this to particular acts; whereas Christ says, without any exception, that not a sparrow of the least value falls to the ground without the will of the Father. (d) Certainly if the flight of birds be directed by the unerring counsel of God, we must be constrained to confess with the Prophet, that though "he dwelleth on high," yet he "humbleth himself to behold the things which are in heaven and in the earth." (e)
VI. But as we know that the world was made chiefly for the sake of mankind, we must also observe this end in the government of it. The Prophet Jeremiah exclaims, " I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." (f) And Solomon: "Man's goings are of the Lord: how can a man then understand his own way?" (g) Now let them say, that man is actuated by God according to the bias of his nature, but that he directs that influence according to his own pleasure. If this could be asserted with truth, man would have the free choice of his own ways. That perhaps they will deny, because he can do nothing independently of the power of God. But since it is evident that both the Prophet and Solomon ascribe to God choice and
(c)P«almcx»vii.9. (d) Matt. x. 29. («■) Psalm cxiii. 5,.6.
(/) Jer. x. 23. ig) Prov. xx. 2*
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