Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

1

discourage crime. It is not probable that, after employing spiritual agents occasionally in this manner, for four or five thousand years, to accomplish what seems to us the effect of natural law, God should withdraw them entirely. According to St. Paul

, they are now “all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation,” Heb. i, 14. And if all are employed, they certainly do something-one strengthened even Christ in his agonies in the garden. They have strengthened many a child of God—they still do it; and sometimes turn a host from him, and save his life.

3. But the great wheel of Divine Providence is seen developing itself anterior to natural law. The case of St. Paul, in connexion with his voyage upon the Mediterranean, is in point. God saw that the ship in which Paul was to sail, would, in the usual course of events, pass where the Euroclydon would sweep, and that she would be destroyed by it. He therefore providentially interposed ; and, either by his Spirit or an angel, communicated to Paul the danger, and bid him forewarn the captain, and charge him not to sail, but winter where he was. But the south wind blowing, they set sail, supposing they had gained their purpose. The result showed that the admonition was the voice of Providence, and should have been obeyed. The admonition or Providential interference was not irresistible--this would have destroyed man's agency; but it was in harmony with moral government. Now there are ten thousand cases containing all the elements of this transaction, (though less conspicuous,) in national and individual life, covering the whole length and breadth of the world's history till now. A rail-way train is seen moving with the velocity of the wind. An evil-minded man has placed an obstruction somewhere upon the route, or it may have been done even by carelessness. On approaching, the engineer's mind is suddenly impressed with a thought of watchfulness, and he perceives the obstruction in time to prevent collision. Again: God may withhold the warning, and permit a terrible destruction, to impress the world with caution and prudence; and to show to men how near the edge of the great precipice from which he steps into eternity, he daily walks. The following case is in point; we had it from the gentleman to whom it occurred, some thirty years since a man of probity, and of accurate observation. He was in his field getting hay; a violent storm came up, and when the rain began to fall, he ran to a fir-tree for shelter, and sat down under it, leaning against it. After being there a few minutes, he felt a strong and sudden impulse to run, though he knew not why nor where—but as suddenly he sprang from his seat and ran. He had gone but a few paces, when a thunderbolt struck the tree and rived

E

it to splinters. There is Providence anterior to natural law. The . earth is full of such histories. He knows but little of life, who does not know them. We do not say that they occur in every event of life: they are occasional, they are frequent, they are, doubtless, daily. They answer to the great element in Providence of interposition to save or to destroy-Divine interposition.

Providential interferences of this character, anterior to natural law, are seen frequently in the rise and fall of nations, as well as in individual history. In the one case, a nation springs from the seemingly slightest circumstance in the world—the neighing of a horse, no matter how made to neigh, the flight of a bird, or the powerful contest of the sword; and nations fall in the same way. The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.

4. Besides the three modes stated above, there is another mode of interposition in Divine Providence. God endows men, at times, with supernatural energy, from agencies entirely hid from the senses. They are, of course, spiritual agencies. When Providence interposes in such a manner, the mind of man may work as quick as lightning. The man seems above himself—and is so; and because he is above himself, the destiny of a nation is changed as well as his own. The History of Samson must not be forgotten. He, too, was a “pattern” of the ways in which God works with man, and carries on the government of the world. It is said, even of Jesus, that an angel strengthened Him. How did he do this but by invigorating his fainting frame? On another occasion he said he could pray his father to send “twelve legions of angels," and it would be done; but why this, if they could afford no help? But to afford help to a human being, the angel must come in contact with him; he must have “power over the human senses ;"** over the spirit too, to some degree, but limited. But all of this may be invisible. Every Christian in the world “has wrestled with” and overcome " wicked spirits ;" every Christian has been helped by an angelic ministry and by the Spirit of God. It was the Spirit of God that came upon Samson. Every Christian has felt, and does feel, that same Spirit invigorating his mind at times, and giving him eyes to see, and a heart to understand. He has not the muscular strength apparently of Samson-yet he has power, and some times he may have even muscular power above himself.

But why these interpreters of Providence-why this prayer of Christ-this energy of Samson, if all things are under the influence of changeless natural laws? God has promised to give his angels “charge over" all his children. They are ministering or

• Bishop Horsley. FOURTH SERIES, VOL. III.-19

serving spirits for this very end. But how, we ask again, can they do this, but by assisting us with their energy, or communicating to us some thought that should make us of more than mortal power? Whole states were sunk by those ministrations in the ancient world; others were made by them. God changeth not. It is in this wonderful array of means, in their application to moral government, that God enlightens one by his Spirit, or converts the soul, and gives a new destiny to a man and to empires. God is always at work, then. He works in the mind both to will and to do, while the agency of man works out his own present and future salvation. We live, and move, and have our being in God.

5. In the elements of Providence we advance one step further, and assume the ground, that God, at times, interrupts the course of natural laws. He did this at his pleasure for two thousand years steadily, or the Bible is a fable. He did this when he fed Elijah in the wilderness by ravens, as well as when lightning fell at his prayer; not in a corner, but in the presence of thousands, whose interest it was to deny the truth, if they could: but they denied not. God interrupts natural laws when and where he will. He is doing it constantly, in some form or other, to answer the purposes of his moral government. A changeless machine might do to grind wheat, but it is not adapted to a moral government. We need stability, and we have it: but we need also an adaptation to the changes in society—its moral changes. To-day a nation is good; in mercy it may expect a bountiful harvest; to-morrow it is rebellious, and it should expect a famine, and it has it: but both of these circumstances could not spring from the same clouds, under the same laws. It seems to us, therefore, that we must either give up the moral government of God on earth, or we must admit his direct interposition, either in the using of natural law, or interrupting it; in changing the seasons, giving health or sickness, wealth or poverty, so as to adapt these natural changes to national, and if so, of course, to individual character, and so far at least, as to give lessons of his will with regard to virtue and crime. The doctrine we maintain is, not that he interrupts universally, but for purposes of moral government. Moral government is, of course, the higher intent of the Almighty,--all agents are made to bend to this. He, of course, can do as he will: we have proofs positive that he does interrupt. It is fair to infer that it is a principle in his government. What you see a nation do for two thousand years, you may infer is characteristic of it. Man has not changed in his leading features since God thus governed, and the earth has not. God has not.

God has not. Government must be the same, then, in its general features. Natural law,

[ocr errors][merged small]

sea;

like its author, we admit, has a moral tendency in its general arrangement. If a man will be industrious, on general principles, he will have food, though not always, (Job ;) but idleness will clothe a man with rags. The drunkard, through the force of natural law, may not live out half his days: by Providence he may be cut off much sooner even than that or by Providence his life may be lengthened out. Thus with the licentious. The profane man may become hardened, and thereby run into danger that he would have shunned had the fear of God been before his eyes. But this answers not for judgment on the nations for all crime; it answers not to the description of national judgments in the Bible; and nothing can, without admitting direct interruption of natural law. God surely interrupted natural law when he raised Lazarus; when he fed five thousand with a few loaves and fishes; when he walked upon the

when he led Israel with a cloud, divided the waters, and passed his judgments upon Pharaoh. He did this for moral purposes. He does the same now. He supported a nation for forty years by daily interruptions of natural law. Is God further off in Christianity than in Judaism? Has he ceased to be the governor of the natural world? Who stood at the helm of nature while God was doing these marvellous things in ancient times? Does he stand there

What change has taken place in God's mode of government ? The “law” has no glory by reason of the glory that excelleth in the gospel. There is an onward progress in Divine government : but that progress is the bringing God nearer—not setting him further off. Christianity does not put God further off in any of his departments of government. It certainly does not in spiritual matters—nor can it in natural law, as that, of nécessity, must be subservient to the higher end of moral improvement.

In a word: in stating the doctrine of Divine Providence, we must allow him to be Governor, administering a rational, intelligent government-one somewhat analogous to what human government should be in its purity, only infinitely above, more perfect, better adapted to every interest of life, present or future. One in every place, in every department, natural and moral, applicable to nations and individuals. God is bound or limited only by his integrity, his wisdom, and love. He can do what he will with his own. He does this that He may be known among men. That knowledge is eternal life. He judgeth among the nations; and to allow him to do this, we must take no agency from his hands. His lightnings, his sun, and the storm-cloud, are his still, and He with them.

If we allow natural law to be an agent of the Almighty, and that some of the more important ones never change such as the

now?

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

movement of the heavenly bodies, the tides, etc.; yet it may be admitted that other laws-those that pertain to the fruitfulness of the seasons, the changes of weather, the health of the human frame; such, indeed, as pertain to most diseases—admit of constant changes. God may cause a single movement in this department of his government, and great changes are the result-famine or disease, or both, at his pleasure. Here, indeed, is another vast field for the action of Divine Providence-one that takes hold upon the most secret springs of life, entering into the influence of the atmosphere upon all the organic functions, extending to every dew-drop of the sky. The wind surely bloweth where it listeth: but who can tell whence it cometh? Were the changes last referred to under laws as changeless as the sun, why are they not as regular as the rising of the sun ? The experiments of the world have never been able to reduce these changes to law.

6. But there is another department of an active Providence, the notice of which we must not omit, though we have already alluded to it. We refer to those mighty changes that are in constant progress in the kingdom of grace. Here God is constantly active by direct operation, perhaps upon every human soul, more or less through life, presenting motives to the mind, and bringing to bear upon these operations of his Spirit all other movements of his Providence. By this Holy Spirit God is ever present with man, “convincing the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment,”—his own judgment on earth-his condemnation of sin, and of the sinner here and hereafter, at the day of judgment final upon all. This active agency can scarcely have assigned to it any limit. It covers all ages—all time; for it abideth with us forever, and extends doubtless to every human soul. It is the Author of all the great spiritual changes in the moral nature of man; of all true peace; of all true love to God or man; of all true hope; in a word, “ of all the fruits of the Spirit.” By this agent God may give peace to & man or to a nation. He can thus give hope to a despairing Washington, and thus change the destiny of a great people; or He can send a thrill of horror to the assassin's heart, and thus save his chosen one. Here God answers ten thousand prayers every day of the world's history-every day He interposes for his chosen ones. In this vast field of Divine interposition and agency, which is sure in what may be truly termed the moral world, embracing suggestions to the intellect and impressions upon the moral feelings, and all the aspects of Christian experience, and inward manifestations of God, the work of Providence is incessant. It begins with life, but abides forever. “This is that light that lighteth every man that

« PredošláPokračovať »