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destruction. For Israel's sake God smote the Egyptians, and expelled
the inhabitants of Canaan; it was to punish his people for their
apostacy that he delivered them into the hands of the king of Babylon,
and to release them from captivity that he raised up Cyrus, and
opened before him the two-leaved gates of that illustrious city. In
short, they are represented as the "salt of the earth," and the "light
of the world" — as those upon whose account long-suffering is exer-
cised towards the guilty, and who are made the Instruments of dis-
pensing the knowledge of God and of spiritual things to the sons of
men. Hence it becomes their duty to pray and make intercession for
all men — for kings and rulers, and not only to pray but to labor for


the convei'sion of the world — "for this is good and acceptable in the
sight of God our Saviour." And it is most important that they should
remember the high responsibilities which rest upon them, and that
God has been pleased to suspend his favors towards men in a good
degree upon the obedience and the prayers of his own people, as in
Babylon the Jews were commanded to "seek the peace of the city" and
"pray unto the Lord for it."

How glorious then is Zion! "God is known in her palaces for a
refuge." The "daughters of Judah" rejoice "because of his judg-
ments," for he "preserveth the souls of his saints and delivereth them
out of the hand of the wicked — the Lord God is a sun and a shield:
the Lord will give grace and glory: and no good thing will he with-
hold from them that walk uprightly."

How precious in the sight of God are them who love him and have
laid hold of his covenant! "Fear not," says the prophet, "for thou
Shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not
be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and
shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For
thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy
Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall
he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and
grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith
thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great
mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee
for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on
thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah
unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no
more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth
with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the
hills be removed; but thy kindness shall not depart from thee, neither
shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath
mercy on thee.

"0 thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted! behold, I
will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with
sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of
carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. And thy children
shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy chil-
dren. In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far
from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall
not come near thee. Behold, they shall surely gather together, but
not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for
thy sake. Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in
the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I
bave created the waster to destroy.


"No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every
tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteous-
ness is of me, saith the l.ord."


Having in the foregoing essays (however imperfectly) defined the
leading terms and sketched the main thoughts embraced by the subject
of Divine Providence, I deem it expedient to close the examination of
it for the present with the termination of the current volume of this
work. Aware, however, of the various difficulties and objections which
prevail in the minds of men with regard to the superintendence of God
over the universe, I will in the meantime cheerfully receive such
exceptions or questions as may be presented in relation thereto, and
pay to them the attention which their importance may require.

As for you, oh! beloved and faithful, who have made a covenant
with God, it is your happy privilege to repose upon his mercy and his
truth, and to cast your "anxious cares" upon him, under the confident
assurance that he "cares for you." It is your delight to contemplate
the doings of the Most High, and to know that, in the language of
the poet,

" 'TiB (;<j(l nlono with uniiiipassiim'd si^lit,
Siirvcy.s the nico barrier of wroiif? and right;
And while, siilwervient, a.s his will ordains,
Obedient Nature yields the present means;
While neither foree nor passions puide his views.
E'en Kvil works the purpose he pursues!
That bitter sprinp. tlie .souree of human pain.
Heal'd by his toneli, does mineral health eontain;
.\iid dark aflliction at his jintent rod.
Withdraws its cloud, and brightens into good."

It is yours to learn in the sanctuary the end of the wicked; to com-
prehend why the long-suffering of God permits them often to flourish
like a tree which groweth in its own soil; and to be assured that

"If while on earth triiiiuphant vice prevails,
Celestial .Iustie<^ balances her .scales;
With eye unbiass'd all the .scene surveys.
With hand impartial i-v'ry crime she weighs;

Oft close pursuing at his trembling heels, J

The man of blood her awful ]))-<>sence feels;
Oft by her arm, amidst tin- bla/.e of state,
The regal tyrant, with success elate.
Is forc'd to leap the precipice of fate'.
Or, if the villain pass unpunish'd here.
'Tis but to make the future stroke severe;
For soon or late eternal Justice pays
Mankind the just desert of all their ways."

How important, then, that all your conduct should be regulated by
these conviction?: How necessary that the Divine will and approba-


tion s'nould be consulted in all your affairs and undertakings! And
how conducive to your spiritual and eternal interest that you should
ever realize the presence and unceasing care of your Heavenly Bene-

Of God's government, Mr. Campbell wrote in 1833, page 206:

Next to preservation, as that signifies God's upholding all things in
being, and preserving and actuating their natural powers, we must
consider God's government of the world. For God is the supreme and
sovereign Lord of the world, who iloeth whatsoever pleaseth hivi both
in heaven and in earth; and therefore the absolute government of all
things must be in his hands, or else something might be done which
he would not have done.

This all men grant in general words, who own a Providence; but
when they come to particulars, there are so many excepted cases,
which they will hardly allow God to have anything to do in, that they
seem to mean little more by God's government than a general inspec-
tion of human affairs, his looking on to see the world govern itself;
for three parts of four of all that is done in the world they resolve
into bare permission as distinguished from an ordering and disposing
providence; and then it can signify no more than that God does not
hinder it. And if this be all, God governs the world in such cases no
more than men do. The only difference is, that God can hinder when
he does not; but men do not hinder because they can not; but still
not to hinder does not signify to govern.

But rightly to understand this matter, the best way is to consider
how the Scripture represents it; and because there are great varieties
of acts in the government of the world of a very different considera-
tion, I shall distinctly inquire into God's government of causes, and
his government of events.

1. God's government of causes. And we must consider three sorts
of causes, and what the Scripture attributes to God with respect to
each. 1st. Natural causes. 2d. Accidental causes, or what we call
chance, and accident, and fortune. 3d. Moral causes and free agents,
or the government of mankind.

1st. Natural causes, or God's government of the natural world, of
the heavens, and earth, and seas, and air, and all things in them which
move and act by a necessity of nature, not by chance. Now the
Scripture does not only attribute to God all the virtues and powers
of nature which belong to creation, and to a preserving Providence,
but the direction and government of all their natural influences to do
what God has a mind should be done. God does in some measure
govern the moral by the natural world. He rewards or punishes men
by a wholesome or pestilential air, by fruitful or barren seasons. He
hinders or promotes their designs by winds and weather, by a forward


or a backward spring, and makes nature give laws to men, and sets
bounds to tbeir iiassions and intrigues; to overthrow the most power-
ful fleets and armies; to defeat the wisest counsels, and to arbitrate
the differences of princes, and the fate of men and kingdoms. And if
God govern men by nature, he must govern nature too; for necessary
causes can not be fitted to the government of free agents without the
direction and management of Uivine Providence, which guides, exerts,
or suspends the influences of nature with as great freedom as men act.
Men do not always deserve well or ill; and if the kind of malign
influences of nature must be tempered to men's deserts, to punish
them when they do ill, and to reward them when they do well, nat-
ural causes, which of themselves act necessarily without wisdom or
counsel, must be guided by a wise hand.

Thus reason tells us it must be if God govern the world, and God
challenges to himself this absolute and sovereign empire over nature.
God has bestowed different virtues and powers on natural causes, and
in ordinary cases makes use of the powers of nature, and neither acta
without them nor against the laws of nature, which makes some
unthinking men resolve all into nature without a God or a Providence.
Because, excepting the case of miracles, which they are not willing to
believe, they see everything else done by the powers of nature. And
if it were not so, God had made a world and made nature to no pur-
pose, to do everything himself by an immediate power, without making
use of the powers of nature. But the ordinary government of nature
does not signify to act without it or to overrule its powers, but to steer
and guide its motions to serve the wise ends of his providence in the
government of mankind.

For as God does not usually act without nature, nor against its
laws, so neither does nature act by steady and uniform motions with-
out the direction of God. But while everything in the material world
acts necessarily and exerts its natural powers, God can temper, sus-
pend, direct its influence, without reversing the laws of nature. As,
for instance, fire and water, wind and rain, thunder and lightning,
have their natural virtues and powers, and natural causes, and God
produces such effects as they are made to produce by their natural
powers. He warms us with fire— invigorates the earth by the benign
infiuence of the sun and moon, and other stars and planets; refreshes
and moistens it with springs and fountains and rain from heaven-
fans the air with winds, and purges it with thunders and lightnings,
and the like. But then when and where the rains shall fall and the
winds shall blow, in what measure and proportion, times and seasons
natural causes shall give or withhold their influences, this God keeps
in his own power, and can govern without altering the standing laws
of nature; and this is his government of natural causes in order to


reward or punish men as they shall deserve. Thus God reasons with
Job concerning his power and providence (Job xxxviii. 31, 32, etc.),
"Canst thuu bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the
bands of Orion? Canst ihou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season, or
catist thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordi-
nances of heaven, or canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds that abundance of waters
may cover thee? Canst thou send lightnings that they may go and
say unto thee. Here we are?" This is above human power, but belongs
to the government and providence of God. "Fire and hail, snow and
vapor, and stormy winds fulfill his word" (Ps. cxlviii. 8). Sometimes
God restrains the influences of nature, "shuts up heaven that it shall
not rain" (II. Chron. vii. 13). And at other times he "calls to the
clouds that abundance of water may cover the earth. He gives the
former and the latter rain in its season, and preserveth to us the
appointed weeks of harvest" (Jer. v. 24), as he promised to Israel
(Deut. xi. 14, 15), "I will give you the rain of your land in due
season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in
thy corn, and thy wine and thy oil; and I will send grass in thy
fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full." He prescribes
in what proportions it shall rain (Joel ii. 23, 24), "Be glad, ye chil-
dren of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord ycur God; for he hath given you
the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you
the former rain and the latter rain in the first month." Nay, God
appoints on what place it shall rain (Ezek. xxxiv. 26), "And I will
make thee and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will
cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers
of blessing." Amos iv. 7, 8: "And also I have withholden the rain
from you when there were yet three months to the harvest. And I
caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another
city. One piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained
not withered; so two or three cities wandered to one city to drink
water, but they were not satisfied."

It is impossible to give any tolerable account of such texts as these,
without confessing that God keeps the direction and government of
all natural causes in his own hands. For particular effects, and all
the changes of nature can never be attributed to God, unless the divine
wisdom and counsel determine natural causes to the producing such
particular effects. Great part of the happiness or miseries of this life
is owing to the good or bad influences of natural causes. That if God
take care of mankind he must govern nature; and when he promises
health and plenty, or threatens pestilence and famine, how can he
make good either if he have not reserved to himself a sovereign power
over nature?


The sum is this, that all natural causes are under the immediate
and absolute government of Providenc(^-that God keeps the springs
of nature in his own hands, and turns them as he pleases. For mere
matter, though it be endowed with all the natural virtues and powers
which necessarily produce their natural effects; yet it having no wis-
dom and counsel of its own, can not serve the ends of a free agent
without being guided by a wise hand. And we see in a thousand
instances what an empire human art has over nature— not by changing
the nature of things, which human art can never do; but by such
skillful application of causes as will produce such effects as unguided,
and, if I may so speak, untaught, nature could never have produced.
And if God have subjected nature to human art. surely he has not
exempted it from his own guidance and power.

This shows how necessary it is that God, by an immediate provi-
dence, should govern nature. For natural causes are excellent instru-
ments; but to make them useful they must be directed by a skillful
hand. And those various changes which are in nature; especially in
this sublunary world (which we are most acquainted with), without
any certain and periodical returns, prove that it is not all mechanism;
for mechanical motions are fixed and certain, and either always Che
same or regular and uniform in their changes.

It is of great use to us to understand this, which teaches us what
we may expect from God, and what we must attribute to him in the
government of nature. We must not expect in ordinary cases that
God should reverse the laws of nature for us; that if we leap into
the fire it shall not burn us; or into the water, it shall net drown
us. And by the same reason the providence of God is not concerned
to preserve us when we destroy ourselves by intemperance and lust;
for God does not work miracles to deliver men from the evil effects
of their own wickedness and folly. But all the kind influences of
heaven which supply our wants, and fill our hearts with food and
gladness, are owing to that good providence which commands nature
to yield her increase; and those disorders of nature which afflict the
world with famines, and pestilence, and earthquakes, are the effects
of God's anger and displeasure, and are ordered by him for the punish-
ment of a wicked world. We must all believe this, or confess that we
mock God when we bless him for a healthful air and fruitful season
or deprecate his anger when we see the visible tokens of his venge
ance in the disorders of nature. For did not Cod immediately inter-
pose in the government of nature, there would be no reason to beg
his favor, or to deprecate his anger upon these accounts.

2d. Let us consider God's government of accidental causes, or what
we call chance and accident, which has a large empire over human
affair.". Not that chance and accident can do anything, properly speak-



ing (for whatever is done has some proper and natural cause which
does it) ; but what we call accidental causes, is rather such an acci-
dental concurrence of different causes, as produces unexpected and
undesigned effects: as when one man, by accident, loses a purse of
gold, and another man, walking the fields, without any such expecta-
tion, by as great an accident, finds it. And how much of the good or
evil that happens to us in this world, is owing to such undesigned,
surprising, accidental events, every man must know who has made
any observations on his own or other men-'s lives and fortunes. The
wise man observed this long since (Eccles. ix. 11), "I 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 favor to men of skill: but time and chance
happeneth to them all." Some unusual and casual events change the
fortunes of men, and disappoint the most proper and natural means
of success. What should conquer in a race but swiftness; or win
the battle but strength? What should supply men's wants and increase
riches, but wisdom and understanding in human affairs? What more
likely way to gain the favor of princes and people, than a dexterous
and skillful application and address? And yet the preacher observed
in his days, and the observation holds good still, that it is not always
thus: time and chance, some favorable junctures, and unseen acci-
dents, are more powerful than all human strength, or art, or skill.

Now what an ill state were mankind in, did not a wise and merci-
ful hand govern what we call chance and fortune? How can God
govern the world, or dispose of men's lives and fortunes, without
governing chance, all unseen, unknown and surprising events, which
disappoint the counsels of the wise, and in a moment unavoidably
change the whole scene of human affairs? Upon what little unexpected
things do the fortunes of men, of families, of whole kingdoms turn!
And unless these little unexpected things are governed by God, some
of the greatest changes in the world are exempted from his care
and providence.

This is reason enough to believe, that if God governs the world, he
governs chance and fortune; that the most unexpected events, how
casual soever they appear to us, are foreseen and ordered by God.

Such events as these are the properest objects of God's care and
government, because they are very great instruments of Providence.
Many times the great things are done by them, and they are the
most visible demonstration of a superior wisdom and power which
governs the world. But these means God disappoints the wisdom of the
wise, and defeats the power of the mighty; "frustrateth the tokens of
the liar, and maketh diviners mad; turneth wise men backward, and
maketh their knowledge foolish" ( Isa. xliv. 25). Did strength and


wisdom always prevail, as in a great measure they would were it not
for such unseen disappointments; mankind would take less notice
of Providence, and would have less reason to do it, since they would
be the more absolute masters of their own fortunes. A powerful com-
bination of sinners, managed by some crafty politicians, would govern
the world; but the uncertain turnings and changes of fortune keep
mankind in awe, make the most prosperous and powerful sinners fear
an unseen vengeance, and give security to good men against unseen
evils, which can not befall them without the order and appointment
of God.

That there are a great many accidental and casual events, which
happen to us all, and which are of great consequence to the happiness
or miseries of our lives, all men see and feel. That we can not defend
ourselves from such unseen events, which we know nothing of till
we feel them, is as manifest as that there are such events; and what
so properly belongs to the divine care, as that which we ourselves can
take no care of? The heathens made fortune a goddess, and attrib-
uted the government of all things to her tiuhe kuberna panta; whereby
they only signified the government of Providence in all casual and
fortuitous events; and if Providence govern anything, it must govern
chance, which governs almost all things else, and which none but
God can govern. As far as human prudence and foresight reach, God
expects we should take care of ourselves; and if we will not, he suffers
us to reap the fruits of our own folly; but when we can not take care
of ourselves, we have reason to expect and hope that God will take
care of us. In other cases human prudence and industry must concur
with the divine providence in matters of chance and accident, provi-
dence must act alone and do all itself, for we know nothing of it; so
that all the arguments for providence do most strongly conclude for
God's government of all casual events.

And the Scripture does as expressly attribute all such events to
God, as any other acts of providence and government. In the law of
Moses, when a man killed his neighbor by accident, God is said to
deliver him into his hands. Ex. xxi. 12, 13: "He that smiteth a man
so that he die, shall be surely put to death. And if a man lie not in
wait, but God deliver him into his hands, then I will appoint thee a
place whither he shall flee:" where "God's delivering him into hia
hands" is opposed to him "that smiteth a man so that he die," and
"to him that comes presumptuously upon his neighbor to slay him"
(15th verse), and therefore signifies one who kills his neighbor by
mere accident, as it is explained in Deut. xix. 4, 5, "And this is the
case of the slayer that shall flee thither" (i. e.. to the city of refuge) :
"whoso killeth his neighbor ignorantly. whom he hated not in time
past — as when a man gooth into the wood with his neighbor to hew


wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the
tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his
neighbor that he die — he shall flee unto one of these cities, and live."
What can be more accidental than this? And yet we are assured that
this is appointed by the divine providence; that God delivers the man
■who is killed into the hands of him that killed him.

Is anything more casual than a lot? And yet Solomon tells us,
"The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of
the Lord" (Prov. xvi. 33); which is not confined to the case of lots,
but to signify to us that nothing is so casual and uncertain, as to be
exempted from the disposal of Providence. For what seems accidental

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 70)