« PreviousContinue »
is impressed with his footprints, and each new day repeats the wonders of creation. Yes; there is not a morning we open our eyes, but they meet a scene as wonderful as that which fixed the gaze of Adam when he awoke into existence. Nor is there an object, be it pebble or pearl, weed or rose, the flower-spangled sward beneath, or the star-spangled sky above, a worm or an angel, a drop of water or a boundless ocean, in which intelligence may not discern, and piety may not adore, the providence of Him who assumed our nature that he might save our souls. If God is not in all the thoughts of the wicked, he is in everything else. And since the comfort of his people rests so much on the conviction that the Lord reigneth, that his hand rules every event, that a wise, and most kind, as well as holy Providence presides over our daily fortunes and all things besides, let me proceed, by some familiar examples, to illustrate that noble truth.
1. Let me show you Providence in a snow-drop—a flower we all know and love, and hail as the fair harbinger of spring. And in this I follow the example of him who extracted from flowers truths more beautiful than their colors, more precious than their most fragrant odors. All the plants that clothe and adorn the earth with such varied beauty, and combining, as is God's way, utility with beauty, supply food to the animal creation, depend for their continued existence on their flowers turning into fruit. Now, the fructification of the snow-drop depends, if I may say so, on the modesty, in it as elsewhere the usual associate of purity, with which, shrinking from its own boldness, it hangs its beautiful head. Let it lift its head up with the pride of a lily, and this herald of spring perishes from the face of the earth, like the race of a childless man. But God has provided against such an event. Wonderful, and instructive as teaching us how the greatest and smallest things in providence have often mutual and important connections, this vast globe, and that little flower, in regard to their weight, have been calculated the one so to suit the other, that its bells are and must be pendent. Drawn downwards by the force of gravity, they assume a position without which they had produced no fruit, yet one which they had not assumed, had our planet been no larger than Mars or Mercury. See, then, how God takes care of a humble flower! how much more of you and your families, O ye of little faith!
2. Let me take an example from a circumstance which, at first sight, appears to shake rather than to confirm our confidence in a presiding Providence. That plants may produce fruit in our climate, their flowers, warmly wrapped within the folds of the bud, must sleep the winter through—waiting for the genial breath of spring, and the embraces of a summer sun. Well; we are meditating on the care which God takes of many tender plants, by either wrapping them in a warm mantle of snow, or causing them to seek shelter beneath the surface, when our meditations are suddenly arrested, and our trust in God's providence is at first sight perhaps shaken, by a plant which spreads out its blossoms, like unrequited love, to the cold beams of the winter day. The frost has bound the soil, the ice has chained the streams, and the hoary rime, like a work of magic, has turned every tree to silver, and there is not heat enough in the keen cutting air for that unhappy flower to produce fruit. It is with it as •with our souls when God withdraws the joys of salvation and the influences of his Holy Spirit. There is something wrong here? No. The Maker of all has made no mistake. Nor may Deist, Atheist, or sneering scoffer put his foot on that flower, and, to crush with its frail form our faith in providence, ask, Where is now thy God? Ask that plant its history! It speaks with a foreign accent; the truth comes out that God never made it to dwell here; an exile, it has been torn from its native home, and still clings, like other exiles, to the habits and memories of its fatherland. Belonging to a region where the day is longest when ours is shortest, where they pant under summer heat when we are shivering in winter cold, the flowers that it spreads on our snowy ground but show how correctly God had wound it up to blow in its proper habitat at the proper season, and how clearly his providence may be seen even in the fading blossoms of a flower. I say again, if God takes such care of plants, how may you trust yourselves and your families to him? What may you not trust to him, who spared nor pains, nor pity, nor care, nor kindness, nor even his beloved Son, but gave him up to death, that you might not perish, but live?
3. Let me select an illustration from the animal kingdom. Over the honeycomb, in which a vulgar taste, in common with the bear, finds only the means to gratify its appetite, the philosopher may bend with admiration and amaze. He can have little reflection who has not marked the beauty and delicacy of those cells, which, though built in the darkness of the hive, and the work of a humble insect, man, with his reason and the aids of art, attempts in vain to imitate. Yet there is here something more wonderful than beauty Examine them closely. See how each has the same number of sides with its fellow, and is its exact counterpart. In that a child could discern plain evidence of design; but there is a depth of wisdom there which only science can fathom. Repair to the study of a Newton, of one who is tracking that wandering comet on its fiery path into the far realms of space, or weighing, not the Alps or Andes, but worlds in the scales of science, and ask him—for no man else can solve the question, simple as it seems—to find out for you the form of the vessel which combines with the greatest strength the largest capacity? Having wrought out this problem by a long series of abstruse calculations, he presents the result. How wonderful! You find such a vessel in the cell of a bee-hive!
I dare to say that he is a fool who ventures, in the face of such a fact, to deny a providence, or to assert that there is no God. Why, at a period in man's history when he was little better than a naked savage, when he was robbing the beast of his skin for clothing, and of his rocky den for a home, when he had no tools but such as he could fashion from a stone, nor vessels but of the rudest form and the coarsest clay, this humble insect was building the most beautiful fabrics from the most delicate materials, with the skill of an accomplished architect, and according to the laws of a high philosophy. What a proof of an over-ruling providence? and that He, who teaches birds as well as angels to sing, guides the movements of the meanest creatures—presiding in a hive as well as in heaven! Why, then, should God's people ever despond? What can be too hard for them? too heavy for you to bear, too difficult for you to do! He is with you, with whom all things are possible. And if, by the most feeble creatures, he achieves works of such skill and beauty, how may you take heart to believe, that by the aids of his holy Spirit, and the help of the grace promised to earnest prayer, you shall work out even your salvation with fear and trembling; God working in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure?
4. Let me show a divine providence in the most common circumstances of life. Most people are ready to acknowledge the hand of God in such events as disease and death, births and burials, any remarkable escape from danger, some either very favorable or unfavorable turn in their fortunes. Who has not noted down certain occurrences in his history as plainly indicating a providence? Yet the largest number of men have their type in the son rather than the father, of whom this circumstance is told. They had parted in the morning not to meet again till nightfall. On meeting, the son said that he had been most wonderfully preserved; for his horse had thrown him, and but for God's good guardian hand, he had certainly been killed. Whereupon his father replied that he had met with a yet more remarkable providence, had still more cause to praise God ; -for, he added, addressing the other, whose curiosity was now wound up to the highest pitch in expectation of some strange and stirring story—I have travelled the livelong day, pre. served from all alarm or accident whatever. Happy the man who thus sets the Lord always before him!
Now, for an example of providence in the most common things, let me select sleep—our nightly rest. "He giveth his beloved sleep," "Thou holdest mine eyes waking," so says the Bible; and events .occasionally