William S. Plumer, 1865
PRACTICAL REMARKS ON THE NATURE OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE
Truth is in order to godliness. The truth respecting
providence is of great practical utility and calls for devout and reverent
use and consideration. Sound doctrine on this subject may be as wickedly
perverted as on any other matter of revelation. Let all men beware that they
do not hold the truth in unrighteousness. Some of the practical
considerations arising from the whole subject will be more appropriately
presented hereafter. A few points urge themselves upon our attention at this
I. Let us firmly believe that God reigns.
He is the Judge of all the earth. This is a great truth. It cannot be too
boldly asserted, or too firmly believed. It is at the foundation of all true
religion, of all solid peace, and of all holy living. We may not deny it. We
may not even doubt it. Hos. 14:9. There is an absolute necessity for God's
government over the world, and for our believing that he does control it.
We begin life without wisdom, or experience. We take many
of the most important steps in life when maturity has not chastened our
minds into sobriety. False notions of things, and strong passions, and
subtle enemies beset us on every side, especially until after the period,
when the elements of character have been pretty firmly united. If God does
not preserve at such times, it is clear we must fall.
And what a comfort it is to believe this doctrine.
If we are poor, or sick, or bereaved, or defamed, how delightful it is to
know that it is the Lord, and not man; the Lord and not Satan; a friend and
not an enemy; a most tender father and not a capricious master—who thus
ordains. David was wise when he said, "Let me fall into the hand of the
Lord, and not into the hand of man." Luther said, "Smite, Lord, for you love
me." Every child of God may say as much. God himself says, "As many as I
love I rebuke and chasten."
This doctrine of providence is a great pillar of hope to
all godly men. The three young Hebrews believed it when they said,
"Nebuchadnezzar, we don't need to give you an answer to this question. If
the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing
fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He
does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your
gods or worship the gold statue you set up." Dan. 3:16-18. This is the
proper fruit of this doctrine. It emboldens the timid. It confirms the
wavering. It converts cowards into heroes. It makes the simple wise. It
represses rashness. It keeps alive a solemn sense of responsibility. It is a
rock of strength. But it must be steadfastly believed.
Dr. Dick, "As the doctrine of a particular providence is
agreeable both to Scripture and to reason, so it is recommended by its
obvious tendency to promote the piety and the consolation of mankind . . .
The thought, that he 'compasses our paths, and is acquainted with all our
ways;' that he watches our steps, orders all the events in our lot, guides
and protects us, and supplies our needs, as it were with his own hand; this
thought awakens a train of sentiments and feelings, highly favorable to
devotion, and sheds a cheering light upon the path of life. We consider him
as our guardian and our Father; and reposing upon his care, we are assured
that, if we trust in him, no evil shall befall us, and no real blessing
shall be withheld."
Price, "Where can be the difficulty of believing an
invisible hand—a universal and ever attentive Providence, which guides all
things agreeably to perfect rectitude and wisdom, at the same time that the
general laws of the world are left unviolated, and the liberty of moral
agents is preserved?"
"The Lord will reign forever. O Jerusalem, your God is
King in every generation! Praise the Lord!" Psalm 146:10.
II. Let us not be curious in prying into inscrutable
secrets connected with providence. We know
but little of the little which may be known. Humbly to study providence is a
duty. Boldly to pry into it is a sin. He, who cannot swim, ought not to
venture into deep waters. God's ruling the world is a deep matter. Many both
prejudge and misjudge all that he does. Judge nothing before the time.
Remember "it is the glory of God to conceal a thing." Proverbs 25:2. But
"vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild donkey's colt." Job
11:12. The thirty-eighth, thirty-ninth, fortieth, and forty-first chapters
of Job contain terrible reproofs even to godly men, who had indulged in
daring speculations on divine providence. Oh, for the sublime wisdom of
Paul, who stood and adoringly said, "O, the depth of the riches both of the
wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his
ways past finding out." Why will men become cavillers and subject themselves
to the alarming reproof, "Nay, but, O man, who are you that replies against
God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it—Why have you made me
thus?" The ignorance of a wise man is better than the knowledge of a fool.
III. Consider how great is the danger of resisting
providence. Whenever God's will is known,
submit to it, not grudgingly—but of a cheerful mind. For their sins the Jews
had a hard bondage in Babylon. What made their case worse was that among
them were prophets and diviners, who fomented rebellion against their
masters. They were quite opposed to the reigning powers, and, in fact, were
in favor of sullen rebellion against God and man. These false teachers vexed
the people and kept their tempers chafed. But by God's direction, good
Jeremiah wrote them a letter, saying, "The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel,
sends this message to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from
Jerusalem: 'Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food
you produce. Marry, and have children. Then find spouses for them, and have
many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace
and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held
captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.' The Lord Almighty, the God
of Israel, says, 'Do not let the prophets and mediums who are there in
Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams because they prophesy lies
in my name. I have not sent them,' says the Lord." Jeremiah 29:4-9
How much better it is thus cheerfully to submit to
Providence than to quarrel with it, and fret, and lose our good tempers,
and, with our tempers, our good consciences! For "who has hardened himself
against God and prospered?" Job 9:4. Let the potsherd strive with the
potsherds of the earth—but woe to him that strives with his Maker. Isaiah
45:9. We are not fit to choose for ourselves. We are blind and cannot see
afar off. But God sees and declares the end from the beginning. He is
all-wise. He knows all the possible relations of things. "The meek will he
guide in judgment." "Be not as the horse and the mule, which have no
understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle." Do not
barely submit—but heartily acquiesce. If it seems hard to say, 'Not my
will—but your will be done, O God'—still say it and hold your conscience
firmly bound to approve it. "Commit your works unto the Lord, and your
thoughts shall be established." Proverbs 16:3.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
"If I can have my God to go before me in the pillar and
the cloud," said Simeon to Haldane, "I long exceedingly to visit you once
more; but if I cannot see my way clear, I am better where I am."