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Thus ignorantly asks the unbeliever! But let us askcannot God, previously, direct that the sage shall not require, nor be enda gered by Etna's fires? Shall not his steps be so directed, as not 10 pass by the trembling mountain? The objection seems to take it for granted, that a particular providence is a providence in emergencies which may require the control or suspension of some established law. But there are no emergencies with providence. “He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."” “The steps of a good man are all ordered of the Lord." "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish." What men'may purpose in evil, God oft times means for good, as Joseph said to his brethren, “But as for you ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day to save much people alive."4
The whole language of scripture teaches a steady and efficient care and agency, on the part of God, in the preservation of the world and its inhabitants. “Upholding all things by the word of His power." "By Him all things consist." "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” “In Him we live, move and have our being.' These may suffice, and they are so plain as to need no comment. The agency of God, and that continuously, in the support of all things, is a fact most clearly asserted in the sacred scriptures.
To God, in the person of the Spirit, we have already seen belongs the whole department of life, and it is therefore to His continuous agency, that we are to attribute the preservation of the vital functions and energies of all that lives. It was to this Spirit's agency that the Psalmist attributed his con.
1 Eph. i. 11.
2 Psalm, xxxvii, 23.
3 Psalm, i. 6
tinuous growth in his mother's womb, and all his subsequent existence. And it is directly in reference to this efficient ever operative agency that he speaks when he exclaims “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I 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 utmost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. "1 Let us then cease from useless inquiry. “Our life is hid with Christ in God." We need never expect to unravel the mysteries of His agency in its production or perpetuation, nor to understand its nature. How he operates and excites the different parts and faculties of our being, and preserves them in appropriate action it were folly for us to inquire. That His agency however is directly and continuously exerted in relation to those characteristic actions which constitute the phenomena of life, is a truth plainly taught in the word of God. There is nothing to sanction the idea, that his agency consists merely in ordaining the laws, which are to regulate those actions, or in creating an essence or principle per se, which is the immediate cause of the phenomena.
Here for a moment let us pause. We feel as if we owed the reader some apology for the train of remarks into which we have fallen. They are designed to prepare the way for an illustration of one of the most interesting facts developed in the plan of redemption, viz., the regeneration of a sinner. It is the important use we intend to make of them, that must be our apology for attempting to define life, and illustrate the definition of it. The highest authority has required us to “prove all things,” and although such proof be not the reason of our faith, yet for full confirmation in the faith of an essential fact, and doctrine, we have allowed ourselves to take an extensive range in our investigation, being thoroughly persuaded that there will be nothing tound, in the kingdom of grace, at war with the great and fundamental principles established in the constitution of nature; and that they who reject, and treat with ribaldry this important scriptural tenet, as being mysterious or absurd, act a most unphilosophical part, and shew that they know not of what they speak, nor whereof they affirm.
1 Psalm, cxxxix. 7-10.
2 Col. ii. 3.
We cannot, however, dismiss the topic which has in this chapter engaged our attention without adverting to some salutary uses which in our daily walk may be made of it. If life, in all its varieties be the effect of the Spirit's agency; then let us beware how we attempt, with rash and impious hand, to draw aside the veil in which He has inwrapped the mystery of His operations. It has sometimes affected us with the greatest astonishment, to see how presumptuous and self-confident have been the philosophic inquirers who
have looked into this subject. They have discovered a few v phenomena of life merely, and ventured to proclaim, that
they could unravel all its mysteries. If observation and experiment were conducted with a view to ascertain facts, it would be well; but it, when one or two circumstances of life are discovered, men proudly presume that they understand the whole subject, and lose sight of God the fountain of all life, they are greatly to be pitied. Thus to hear men talk of sensibility, and contractility, and irritability, and other phenomena of life, may both interest and profit; but we lose all confidence in the soundness of their judgment, when they undertake to tell us that these things are the mere effect of organization, and not dependent on the Spirit of God. They assign a cause totally inadequate to account for the effect. We object not to the minutest, and most curious scrutiny Let us push our investigations as far as possible;
but when we reach the boundaries of human knovledge, where the wonder-working God inwraps His operaions in the mystery of His own being, let us, with adoringminds fall prostrate at His feet, and acknowledge his infinie wisdom and almightiness.
Let us also learn from the same general fact of the Hirit's intimate agency in the production and support of life what a rich zest it gives to the providence of God. The poor heathen thought that God had withdrawn from ean and left things here to direct themselves, or, not feelingsatisfied with a God afar off, they attributed in all the exavagance of their polytheism, a deity to every thing thatives and moves.
But thanks be to God for the revelatics of His word-while we adore Him, as in heaven the one Infinite Supreme, we can recognize His presence orhe earth, and trace the operations of His Spirit in ourselv, and in every living thing around us.
No dread fatality, unmeaning chance, no absent God affect us with dismay We see the directing and sustaining hand of God -of ou covenant God, in all that we suffer or enjoy, and can dis. miss all fears, and painful anxieties and dread forebodings, from our minds, being assured that He knows our way, and directs our steps, so that with pacifying confidence we can appeal directly to Himself, “Thou wilt guide (us) with thy counsel, and afterward receive (us) to thy glory."
We may also notice how this general fact of the Spirit's agency in the production of life serves to illustrate a doctrine so very obnoxious to many,so little understood by those who oppose it, but so unequivocally taught in the sacred scriptures, viz., the doctrine of election. We use this term because it is the technicality employed in the scriptures, and generally by those who advocate or oppose it. But we are not tenacious of terms. They are things, or facts for which we contend. Miserable indeed are the contests
1 Psalm, lxxii. 24.
which agitate the world, in which mere abstractions are the ocasions of strife. Infidel men denounce all theological cotroversy as such, and many speculative and scientific religioists afford them too much pretext for it, by their "dotig about questions and strifes of words whereof cometh evy, strife, railings, evil surmises, perverse disputingsf men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth.” Mere technicalities should be abandoned if they prove the ocasion of controversy, but the truth cannot be by thoschat love it. He cannot certainly be accounted a
skilf defender of the truth, who finds it necessary al1wayto make use of the technics of the schools.
Ift be fact as declared by the best authority, even that of od Himself, we must not only be bold in affirming it; bu't concerns us to see to it, that it has its appropriate influere on our character and conduct. Now by election in the sred scriptures, is meant nothing else than the actual lection of a certain portion of men, from the great mass, y their being made the subjects of a new species of life, riz., spiritual life, and which is not possessed by the rest. It is the actual excrcise and display of God's sovereignty in making believers alive from the dead, or quickening them from the death of trespasses and sins, in which they in commun with all mankind were lying. What is this but God's producing new life in individual cases?
And will you say that He shall not exercise His sovereignty in this matter? Then you must say that He shall not exercise it at all in the production of life in any form, and that He is bound to confer the same kind of life in every instance. But how does this accord with the fact? Is not the sovereignty of God remarkably displayed in His production of life? He has not made His creatures all angels nor all animalcules, all men nor all mules, all birds nor all beasts, all insects nor all fishes, nor all of the different
11 Tim. vi. 4, 5.