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THE WAYS OP PROVIDENCE JUSTIFIED TO MAN.
/ returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
9th Ecclesiastes, 11th verse.
This is the conclusion at which Solomon arrives after having gratified every desire of his heart, and beheld the vanity and vexation which attend all men, more or less,—the strange results which are sometimes wrought beyond man's comprehension, and which in fact neither wisdom, nor understanding, nor skill can account for. It is well said, "God works by means, and we cannot always discover the end:" thus what we most anticipate, frequently ends in disappointment; and that which we least regard, ultimately proves of advantage: showing that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happens to us all. Take for instance a man, who, according to appearances, is setting out in the world with every prospect of success ; friends to assist him, personal merit to aid him, and yet every step he takes, some invisible power will propel him back; he knows not what, and wonders what obstacle it is perpetually rising in his way, and he will live to see another happier man, with less pretensions than himself, in every respect soar above him, whilst he remains motionless to the end of his days. But we will take another picture to view:—here we behold an individual without any earthly privileges and blessings whatever, friendless and poor, without talents, and his appearance even without attraction: the wide world is before him, he stands almost a stranger in it, but he surmounts his difficulties, time and chance open him a way, and subsequently without almost the least trouble or forethought, we find him in an elevated position in life, looked up to, honored, and beloved. History too affords many examples of this kind, and shows that the wise who most need bread, are not always to be satisfied; or that men of understanding are to acquire riches, or men of skill to enjoy favour; but that there is a power which is justified to Man, some secret and unseen workings in human affairs which baffle the keenest imagination, or the most penetrating eye! And that this is right, is certain : for unless there was a superior intelligent power to cross our plans, to check our progress, and to overrule our conduct through life, our fancies would be always indulged, and every plan and desire would be carried out according to our own intentions. What more consistent to human nature than that the race should be to the swift, and the battle to the strong; yet how contrary the operations of the Divine will, for "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise: because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men: for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." Though indeed men complain of this promiscuous distribution of God's blessings to the good and the bad, the just and the unjust, the deserving, and the undeserving, still the sovereign Lord of all is looking on, and some eagerly enquire, why does he permit such strange amalgamations, such prosperity to the wicked, and misfortune to the good?
This is answered, by contemplating a future state of rewards and punishments where every mystery shall be made clear, the hidden things of darkness brought to light, and then shall every man have praise of God. If there were to be no distinction hereafter, between the man of this world loaded with vain riches, and the poor man maintaining his integrity and serving his Divine master, it would be of no importance what lives we led, what pursuits we followed. The case of Lazarus and the rich man is a striking verification of this remark. The former was poor, and a beggar in perfect destitution, desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. He soon died. The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: and he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things : but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (16th Luke, 19—25.) This unequal distribution of worldly gifts is one of the strongest arguments of a future state.
The life of Joseph was a successive list of misfortunes; yet Providence did not cross them, but he turned them to the most merciful ends, as we read in the 50th chap, of Genesis, Ye verily thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, by preserving you a posterity upon the earth and bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive. It can scarcely be supposed any one would not admit the interposition of Providence, and the bringing about good results by unaccountable and unknown means, called by the worldly chance, or permitting trials, or retarding prosperous steps,—all, yes, all ,to proceed from One Great Cause, whose ways are unsearchable, and his paths past finding out. O the depth of the riches both of the goodness and wisdom of God 1—Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?"
To those who doubt, if any such there be, consider the omnipotence of Jehovah, and the smallness of thy own faculties. Canst thou by searching, find out God? Wouldst thou know the Almighty to perfection ?—'Tis as high as heaven, what canst thou do ?— Tis deeper than hell, how canst thou know it? Take a retrospect of thy own life, "and thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord, doth man live." Surely thou wilt recall to mind some unexpected mercies—some unforeseen blessings, which came to thee when unthought of, in a way mysterious and obscure, and at a time the most unlikely, and led thee to attribute them to chance; but He that commandeth the ravens, whom the winds and the seas obey, who clotheth the grass of the field, which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, it is He who giveth to thee liberally, and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. A prophet was directed to go to Zarephath, and went; a widow had also been commanded to meet him there,—the same almighty hand led them both, and she took him under her roof, and she, and he, and her house did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruise of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah. (17th 1st Kings, 15 & 16.)
Thus, my Christian Reader place your entire dependance upon God, for without him ye can do nothing! You may be called to affluence, or tried by adversity; bear each as the intention of Providence towards you for some wise end, and be not exalted with the one, or depressed from the other. "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." For who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
A. M. W. Chelmsford, 26th Feb. 1845.
SHEARCROFT, TYP. CHELMSFORD.
THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF BAPTISM.
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,
3rd of John, 5th verse.
This is a subject which not only occasions much unhappy dissension, but requires our most careful consideration. The very command of Christ himself to his apostles, proves the necessity of Baptism; for if regeneration were not a thing necessary to eternal life, would He have taught Nicodemus that to see the kingdom of God is impossible, saving only for those men which are born from above? Our Lord's last mandate was couched in these words,— All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, Baptizing Them In The Name Of The Father, And The Son, And The Holy Ghost. St. Paul tells us, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. What is essential then in order to secure the blessings of Christianity?
In the first place, hearty and undivided faith in the Lord Jesus, —a dependance upon the cross of Christ—and an everlasting hope of eternal life from His ascension, who now sits at the right hand of God, being delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. We must not only mortify our sinful inclinations, and amend our conduct, but our sins must be washed away. You will naturally enquire,—How is this to be effected? I answer, by God only. "Buried with Christ by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father,