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owe their origin to a Being supremely wise and infinitely powerful.
"This process of reasoning," says Brougham, "is truly inductive, ani
is not like, but identical with, that by which we infer the existence
of design in others (than ourselves) with whom we have daily inter-
course. The kind of evidence is not like, but identical with, that
by which we conduct all the investigations of natural and moral

Thus the Christian, while he surveys the beauty, order, variety,
and immensity of creation — whether, with the scientific Euler, he
examine the singular and perfectly organized creatures which sport
in a drop of water — whether, with the philosophic Newton, he con-
tfjmplate those vast heavenly bodies, those worlds innumerable, which
move with inimitable order and precision through the regions of space
to the remotest boundaries of the universe; or, with the simple rustic,
view the changing seasons — the fruits of summer and of autumn —
the stern severities of winter, grand and magnificent in its terrors —
or the new-born leaves and flowers of spring (equivalent to a new
creation), clothing field and forest in a drapery forever charming and
forever new — one thought is ever present, one conclusion ever certain,
that it is God "that doeth wonders" — whose "name is excellent in all
the earth," and whose "glory is above the heavens;" and while with
the Psalmist he would exclaim, "0 Lord! how manifold are thy worksl
in wisdom hast thou made them all;" conscious of his own dependent
weakness, he humbly "trusts in the God of Jacob for his help, and his
hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea
and all that therein is: who keepeth truth forever."


"But the Lord shall find out them that hate him." "They shall be
as chaff before the wind." "Their way shall be dark and slippery."
"They shall be taken in their pride and consumed with terror, that
they may know that God ruleth even unto the ends of the earth."


"/ tcill say of the Lokd, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God:
ill him will I trust." — Davik.

The general idea of Divine Providence may be expressed in the
periphrasis — The care of God in the preservation and government of
the world. Or, it is the superintendence of the Creator over the
affairs of the universe.

The idea of creation, then, is by no means included. Creation
must necessarily precede, since it gives occasion to, both preservation
and government. For if nothing were created, there would be nothing
to take care of — nothing to superintend. The creation of the world,
then, was just what we are accustomed to style it — an act of creation,
and not a work of providence.

The notion of m.iracle is also excluded. A miracle consists essen-
tially in a sudden change or suspension of what are termed the known
or established laws of nature. We can have no idea of a miracle with-
out including such a change or contravention of the regular course
of things. On this account, as we have no information of what was
the regular course of things before creation, we can not say, correctly
speaking, that even the creation of the world was a miracle. "He
spoke, and it was done — Hk commanded, and it stood fast" — but the
records of eternity are not before us, and we have not the tongues
nor the vocabulary of angels. How it may be termed by those glo-
rious inhabitants of heaven who "can not die," who were "with the
Lord in the beginning of his way before his works of old — when there
were no depths nor fountains abounding with water; before the moun
tains were settled and before the hills" — we know not. In our lan-
guage we call It cKK.vTioN. and can not consistently with soundness
of speech terra it miracle. No more can the agency termed Provi-
dence, which sustains and regulates the universe, be styled miracu-
lous. For a miracle interrupts that very order which this agency
preserves, and which by being thus preserved in unvaried regularitv
through a long succession of ages, has become known as the order
of nature. So long, then, as it is one thing to sustain the order of
the universe, and another to interrupt it — one thing to enforce a law,
and another to break it: so long will the idea of miracle be different
from that of the divine agency in the preservation and government
of the world.


These distinctions we conceive to be of the greatest importance,
and absolutely essential to the correct understanding of the subject.
It is not a question of power; it is a question of definition — of the
use of words. If it were a question of power, we could easily grant
that there is a stupendous power displayed in creating the world, as
in any miracle; and it could as easily be shown that 't requires as
great power to sustain as to create the universe. The creating of
Adam an adult displayed as much power as would be exhibited in
raising a man from the dead — but not any more than is required to
clothe the little germ contained in a grain of corn with a neio body.
twelve or fourteen feet high, with its tassel, its silk, its ears, and its
shining leaves. Any one of these is just as possible as another, and
no one of them is a whit more wonderful than another, if power were
the question. But it is simply the application of terms. The first
we call creation — the second, a miracle — the third, the providence of
God, who gives "to every seed its own body." It is necessary, in
order to avoid confusion of ideas, to employ these terms in their legit-
imate signification.

Further: when we thus distinguish between creation, miracles, and
providences, we do not thereby exclude from the latter the idea of
divine interference, any more than from the two former. The hand
of the Almighty is indeed displayed in all, and in one as mu:h as in
another. In the former, indeed, his purposes may be more suddenly
accomplished, but not more certainly, nor in many cases more unex-
pectedly than in the latter. The mode and means of action may be
different, but there is an agent in all, and that agent is the same. It
is very unreasonable to suppose that every Divine interference must
of necessity be miraculous — that a Creator is not required to sustain
those very laws whose operation a miracle for a moment interrupts,
or that this momentary interruption is a greater interference than
was required to sustain for ages these principles in constant action
— that a greater degree of power is needed or a different agent to
produce cessation or change of action, than to originate and sustain
that action — that it requires an agent to produce an effect by other
than the ordinary means; and that none is needed to accomplish as
great a purpose by the wise control, direction, and employment of
influences with which we happen to be more familiar. It is indeed
the very idea and definition of Providence, that it is the Divine
agency exerted in sustaining and governing the universe. It differs
from miracle in this, that its designs are brought to pass by means of
the established laws and through the ordinary channels: while a
miracle is the accomplishment of a purpose by other means.

We are indeed fallen upon "evil days and evil times," when infidel-
ity and atheism seem to have taken the place of the opposite extremes,


credulity and idolatry. Formerly every hero and every hearth — every
object of beauty and every element of nature hatl a tutelar deity.
But now the chief wisdom is made to consist in a stupid attempt to
explain everything by referring and restricting it to what are called
natural principles, and a still more absurd halting at what are termed
secondary causes; as though the mere knowledge of the mode in which
a principle acts could explain the principle itself, or as if the idea
of secondary causes did not abs-olutely involve that of a First Cause.
And it is most unfortunate that even those who believe in a Supreme
Ruler have partaken more or less of the deleterious influence of this
vain philosophy, and that they have permitted the foolish wisdom of
this world to substitute any unexplained explanation for the power
o'' God; or any unmeaning or undefinable "Nature" for the Deity him-
self. Such was not the doctrine nor the language of the ancient Chris-
tians. With them it was not the mere operations of Nature — the mere
clouds, but "God" who gave them "showers of rain from heaven and
fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness." It was
not to any "electric influence" or any "internal heat" they attributed
their enjoyment of life; but it was "in God they lived, were moved,
and had their being." Nor was it to any concurrence of "secondary
causes" they were wont to refer the judgments they witnessed and
the deliverances they experienced. These were with them the "wrath
of God," the chastenings of "the Lord" — It was "the Lord" who
"stood" with them and "delivered" them — who "supplied all their
need," and "of whom, and through whom, and to whom" were "all
things" — to whom they gave the glory. By the Providence of God,
then, we mean His care and superintendence in preserving and gov-
erning the world. By the preservation of the world is implied the
upholding the being, the powers, and attributes of all created things;
and by its government is signified a controlling and overruling power
over everything which is thus upheld.

The subject, therefore, is naturally divided into preservation and
government. And as the Divine Being exercises a particular care
over certain departments of His universal empire, it will be conve-
nient to make a further division into a general and a special provi-
dence, either of which may include preservation as well as government.

How important is it that in returning to the institutions of primi-
tive Christianity, we should return also to that constant dependence
upon God for all things, and that deep sense of the unceasing and
watchful care and presence of our Heavenly Father, by which the
disciples were characterized in the beginning! — Blessed are they who
put their trust in Him! — He sustains all things — Hi.s dominion is an
everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to gener-



"Say not unto the angel. There is no providence; lest God should
be angry at your voice, and destroy the works of your hands."

The Sadducees, like the Atheists, denied the superintendence of
God over the universe. This indeed is implied in what is said of
them (Acts xxii. 8), viz., that "they say there is no resurrection,
neither angel nor spirit." For the exclusion of angel and spirit, nec-
essarily excluded, among the Jews, the idea of providence, which the
word ANGEL with them was frequently employed to express. Thus
Abraham says, "God shall send his angel before thee to take a wife
for Isaac" — that is, God shall superintend and direct you in this
matter. And Jacob — "The God who fed me all my life long — the
angel who redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads" — signifying the
protecting, preserving, guiding providence of God which he had expe-
rienced during his life. Thus also David — "The angel of the Lord
encampeth about them that fear him;" and again, "He shall give his
angels charge concerning thee," etc. We may observe here that this
last passage is evidently restricted to ordinary preservation and pro-
tection by our Lord's answer to Satan, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord
thy God" — that is, by rushing into unnecessary hazards. In Isa.
xxxvii. 36, also, it is said, "the angel of the Lord" smote Sennacherib's
army. What this "anger was, we learn from II. Kings, xix. 7 —
"Behold, I will send a blast upon him;" i. e., the samiel or simoon.
Thus too in Ps. Ixxviii. 49, the plagues of Pharaoh are called "evil
angels;" so that it is evident that the Jews were accustomed often to
use the term angel as expressive of the providential interference of
God, and applicable to the natural agency by which he accomplished
his purposes. Thus Paul quotes the 104th Psalm — "Who makes winds
his angels [agents] and flames of fire his ministers;" the emphasis
here being evidently upon the word angel as distinguished from Son.
Hence too the parting salutation among the Jews — "The angel of God
keep you company" (Tobit. v. 10). Hence also the phrases, "The
good angel will keep him company" (ver. 21); and "Mine angel is
with you" (Baruch vi. 7).

The Sadducees among the Jews, were, in this respect, like the
Epicureans among the Greeks, who, as we formerly mentioned,
admitted the existence of a God, but denied a providence, supposing
that the Deity delighted in calm and undisturbed repose.

" Immortali cevo summa cum pace fruatur.

Semota a nostris rebus, sejunctaque."
From earth remote, of endless life possess'd,
No human cares disturb his peaceful rest.


Thus speaks Lucretius, who has embodied the tenets of their phil-
osophy in his celebrated poem De rcr. nat., which, to use the language
of Gillies, "is the boldest monument which the world is ever likely to
witness, of learning, genius, and impiety."

It would be unnecessary to attempt to disprove the notion that
there is no Providence, except by showing it to be congenial with the
absurdities of Epicureans, Sadducees, and Atheists, were it not that
few properly appreciate the necessary connection which exists between
the belief in a Supreme Being, and in his preservation and govern-
ment of the world. It is certainly unreasonable to suppose that such
a Being, who has created the beautiful universe, adorned it with so
many glorious objects, and furnished so many sources of happiness,
should nevertheless be wholly unconcerned about his creatures, and
indifferent to their welfare. But apart from this consideration, it is
as great an absurdity to suppose that the world can preserve and
govern itself, as that it could make itself. "For it is not with the
being and nature of things," as Sherlock well observes, "as it is with
the works of art, which, though they can not make themselves, yet,
when they are made, can subsist without the artist that made them —
the workman does not give being to the materials, but only to the
form — but whatever receives its being from another, as all creatures
do, has nothing to support its being but the cause that made it;"
that is, there is nothing created which has a self-subsisting nature,
or a necessary and independent existence. This may be regarded as
abstruse reasoning. There is no one, however, who will consider the
incessant changes which occur in the universe, the constant activity
of animated nature, and the systematic arrangements, operations, and
motions of all created things, who can for a moment suppose that
these do not require an agent as much as creation — and the same
agent, since he only who created, knows how to govern and preserve
them. To be sure, we do not comprehend how they are sustained,
but neither do we comprehend how they were originally created. And
certainly it requires as much power, and is as striking a proof of
divine agency, to clothe, in the spring of the year, the naked earth
with verdure and the fields with flowers — to unfold the leafy
umbrellas of the grove, or bend the boughs of the orchard and present
to the hand the golden fruits of autumn, as to create them at the first.
No one can show how an oak can be brought out of an acorn without
divine agency, any more than how it could be created out of nothing
without such agency. The argument therefore drawn from nature,
proves as much for a Providence as it does for a Creator; and
every consistent Deist must admit the superintendence of God
over the universe upon the same principles upon which he infers
his existence.


It is not a little strange that any one who believes in revelation
should deny the doctrine in question. For the fact that a revelation
has been given, apart from anything contained in that revelation, at
once refutes the Epicurean hypothesis, and proves that the Divine
Being does interest himself in the affairs of men.

When, how^ever, w^e examine the Scriptures themselves — when we
reflect upon the history of the human family, mark the fulfillment of
prophecy, and contemplate the judgments, the deliverances, and the
Innumerable acts of love and condescending mercy experienced by
the race of Adam at the hands of the beneficent Creator, no language
can be found adequate to express the unmeasured depth of his good-
ness, and no human power able to enumerate the countless instances
of his watchful care and superintendence.

Some arguments, drawn from the Scriptures, we will briefly notice:

1. In the sacred oracles God has delivered to the human family
from the beginning great and precious promises — promises which have
been accomplished in every age, which are now in the act of accom-
plishment, or which are yet to be accomplished; and which, involving
as they do the fates and fortunes of empires as well as individuals,
of cities and the globe itself, necessarily depend entirely upon the
divine agency for their fulfillment. Without supposing such an agency
in human affairs, such directing, governing, and overruling power
over the destinies of the kingdoms and inhabitants of the earth, and
the laws and elements of the material universe, no one can explain
the accomplishment of these promises and predictions.

2. It is upon this doctrine, too, that all prayer is founded. It is
the belief that God will hear — the confident assurance that he will
grant the just petitions of his people, by which they are emboldened
to approach the throne of favor — by which even they are entitled to
expect the boon — for he that doubts must not suppose "he will receive
anything from the Lord." Without a sincere conviction and lively
sense, then, of the divine agency in the preservation and government
of the world, prayer, one of the most important and necessary duties
and highest privileges of the Christian, becomes nothing but a cere-
monious mockery — an absurd theory — and a useless practice.

3. The denial of the doctrine is characteristic of the wicked. Thus
David says, "They encourage themselves in an evil matter; they com-
mune of laying snares secretly; they say, Who shall see them?" (Ps.
1x1 v. 5). "He hath said it in his heart, God hath forgotten, he hideth
his face, he will never see it" (Ps. x. 11). "Yet they say. The Lord
shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it" (Ps. xciv. 7).
'Is not this great Babylon," said Nebuchadnezzar, "that I have built
for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the
honor of my majesty?" But "while the word was yet in the king's


mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar,
to thee it is spoken: the kingdom is departed from thee. And they
shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts
of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times
shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Moat llitjh ruleth in the
kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will."

4. The superintending rare of God is, on the other hand, the fre-
quent theme of the righteous under former institutions. Thus Job
xxi. 4, "Doth he not see my ways and count all my steps?" And
David (Ps. xxxiii. 18, 19), "Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them
that fear him — upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their
soul from death and keep them alive in famine." Again, Ps. xciv.
8, 9, 10, "Undor-stand, ye among the people; and ye fools, when
will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? And
he that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chasteneth tho
heathen, shall not he correct? And he that teach eth men knowledge,
shall not he know? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man that they
are vanity." From this belief Hezekiah prays, "Incline thine ear,

Lord, and see and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he hath,
sent to reproach the living God." And Jeremiah exclaims, "O Lord,

1 know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that
walketh to direct his steps."

5. In the New Testament the same doctrine is expressly taught.
Paul declares to the Lycaonians (Acts xiv. 17), "He left not himself
without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven,
and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." And
again, to the Athenians, "In him we live, are moved, and have our
being, as certain of your own poets have said. For we are also his
offspring." And finally, he "who spoke as never man spoke," thus in
his own beautiful and impressive manner, taught his disciples: "Are
not two .sparrows sold for a penny? yet neither of them falleth to the
ground without the will of your Father. Nay, the very hairs of your
head are all numbered" (Matt. x. 29, 30). No language can more
emphatically express the notice and superintendence of God. No man
can tell the number of the hairs of his own head — hut God has
numbered them every one!

It would, however, require me to transcribe much of both Old ani
New Testament, were all the references and allusions to the divine
agency in the preservation and government of the world, to be noticed
and enumerated. Enough of evidence has been presented from reason
and revelation to place the doctrine beyond dispute, and lead every
one, we trust, to say with David, "O Lord, thou hast searched m^
and known me. Thou knowept my down-sitting and up-rising: thou
understandest my thoughts afar off. Thou compa.ssest my path and


my lying-down, and art acquainted with ail my ways. For there is
not a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord, thou Icnowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me — it is too high, I can not
attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, or whither shall 1
flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings
of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there
shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say,
Surely the darkness shall cover me, even the nighij shall be light about
me — yea, the darkness hideth not from thee, but the night shineth as
the day; the darkness and the light to thee are both alike." To Him,
therefore, "through whom and by whom and to whom are all things."
be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. r. r., 1836.


Lord! thou preservest man and beast. — David.

By preservation is meant the constant supply of the necessary wants
of all animated creatures, and the sustaining their being and their
powers and faculties, together with the natural or fixed order and
constitution of the universe. As the main spring of a watch con-
stantly yet silently supplies to the wheels that power which enables
them to fulfill the purposes or perform the motions for which they were
fitted by art, so it is by the continued agency of the Creator that all
things are sustained in their appointed courses, and enabled to accom-
plish those actions or operations upon which the well-being, and even
the existence, of the universe depend. The preservation of the world
ip to be distinguished from the government of it, as we have already
stated; and this distinction, as Sherlock has ably shown, is of much
importance. For, as to sustain the natural faculties and powers of all
creatures, is merely to continue that constitution or being with which
they were at first created, it follows that the sins of wicked men are
in no wise chargeable upon God, even though his power preserve the
action of the very faculties which they misuse. It becomes the Cre-
ator to preserve the natures and faculties of the beings he has formed,
and if they misuse these powers he can no more be blamed for this
than for creating them at first with such powers. Hence all the
objections offered upon the score of God's sustaining wicked men in
life and being fall to the ground. The mere preservation of their
natural powers does not imply the exertion of any influence, or the
suggestion of any motive to induce them to employ those faculties in
an unlawful manner, or for a wicked purpose. And it is evident that

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 4 of 70)