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And does not the representation imply his willingness also? The Saviour proceeds from the greater to the less, and bids us to conclude, that forasmuch as life is a gift of higher value than food, we shall have all that is necessary to carry us to the tomb. And is not this true? I appeal to your experience, Christian brethren, whether, in some way or other, the hand that formed you has not continued to feed you? What was the wise observation of David in this matter? "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."* Doubtless they have been often reduced to great straits, but the Lord has seasonably appeared in their behalf. And what is the promise of the Bible? Verily thou shalt be fed." "Bread
shall be given thee and thy water shall be sure." of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
Secondly. The care of divine providence.
the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them." It was easy for the Saviour to have adduced more remarkable examples of the special care of providence than that of the birds of heaven. He might have referred to Moses, who was preserved forty days and forty nights in Mount Sinai without food; or to the Israelites, who were sustained by a succession of miracles forty years in the wilderness; or to Elijah, who was fed morning and evening by ravens; or to the seasonable multiplication of the cruse of oil, to enable the widow of Sarepta to discharge her debts. But these instances would not have been so suitable: they were plainly miraculous, and are not, therefore, the divine and ordinary rule of action. They were also extraordinary interpositions in behalf of eminent individuals, and, therefore, the
* Psalm xxxvii. 25.
anxious bosom would have suspected the propriety of their application. But, passing these, the Saviour calls on us to observe" the fowls,"-not such as are tamed, and fed by crumbs at your door, or by the refuse of grain from the barn-but the birds of " the air,"-such as are wild. The Evangelist Luke calls them ravens; and nothing can display, in a more striking manner, the continued operation of the kindness of divine providence than their constant supply of food. Thus enquires Jehovah himself: "Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat."* Justly may we ascribe their support to that gracious hand which "satisfieth the desire of every living thing." • The eyes of all wait upon God, and he giveth them their meat in due season."
Thirdly. The futility of excessive anxiety. "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" The word rendered "stature," according to the best authorities, should have been translated age, as it signifies duration rather than height. This sense is also more agreeable to the argument of our Lord. A cubit, which was twenty-one inches, added to a man's stature would indeed be much, and it would not follow that man could not effect any thing by his solicitude because he could not make himself a third taller than he was before. But applied to time, the reasoning is most significant and conclusive; as that which in the former case would be considerable, in the latter becomes a mere hair-breadth. A few inches added to our person may make material difference, but the same number multiplied an hundredfold in the scale of our existence would be the merest trifle. Besides, the Saviour is not speaking of the solicitude of men to increase their height, but their unbecoming
*Job xxxviii. 41.
desire to prolong their lives by accumulating the necessaries of the body. In this view, the interrogation may be be thus understood: "Is there a human being, who, by anxious carefulness, can augment his age in the least degree?" Ah! my brethren, what a lesson to man! Suppose he had all the means of life and health, in the utmost abundance, still his times are in God's hand. "All flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof as the flower of grass." When the appointed hour arrives, who can prolong his existence, though it be but a single minute! The purpose of the Great Disposer of events cannot be diverted or arrested by any labours of man. Means are to be used both for the preservation of health, and its recovery when lost, for they are commanded of God, but they cannot change the "appointed time." When once it is his purpose that we should depart, every effort to detain us longer will be unavailing. Hence it appears, that the spirit of solicitude reproved in the text, is not only unreasonable, and sinful, but equally useless.
"And why take ye
Fourthly. The beauty of nature. thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field: how they grow: They toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these." In these verses our Lord speaks of apparel, in which many are so ambitious to exceed their neighbours. He therefore reminds his hearers, that with all their attempts to adorn their persons, the royal robes of Solomon, embroidered with silver and gold, never rivalled the uncultured flower of the desert. The argument is the same as that recorded in the twenty-sixth verse. There He speaks of wild fowls, here of wild flowers. In the one case we are to distinguish them from those which are fed in the yard; in the other, from those which are planted and reared in the garden. Of these it is said: "they toil not, neither do they spin."
"The word 'toil'
denotes rural labour, and therefore is beautifully used in a discourse of clothing, the materials of which are produced by agriculture."* These plants, so inferior to man, --so comparatively worthless in themselves, and so shortlived as to spring up by the refreshing shower one day, and wither by the burning rays of a vertical sun the next, teach us the necessary lesson of dependance on the God of providence, and surpass in their beauteous appearance the Tyrian purple and splendid robes of the most sumptuous prince in the east. Ah! how foolish for a dying
worm to be vain of that dress which sin first rendered necessary, and whose colours, however splendid, are outdone by
I address you, therefore, in the admonition of an apostle ; "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."+
From this case of divine providence, the Saviour draws this inference: "Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" In the east, where fuel is scarce, it is no uncommon thing to use the stalks of different herbs and plants in preparing the food of the family, and heating their ovens. If these were cut down to-day, the scorching rays of the sun would make them fit for burning to-morrow. The
conclusion, therefore, is obvious and unavoidable. If your heavenly Father so beautifully adorns and enamels the fragile flower of the desert, will He not clothe you who are of eternal existence, and appointed to higher ends in the order of creation? And does not your distrust of his goodness and care show that you are of "little faith?" "Therefore be careful for nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."
III. LET US MAKE THREE REFLECTIONS ON THE WHOLE.
First. Observe the connection of divine agency with the existence of all things. The doctrine of a particular providence is both consolatory and scriptural. I pity the man whose cold and cheerless opinions exclude its belief from his mind. The Saviour, in the words we have now been considering, traces the origin of every living thing, whether of animal or vegetable life, to the all-forming hand of God. How clear is his testimony on this point; and how different from the wretched sophisms of sceptical philosophy. Ask the infidel, whence the "lilies of the field" are derived? He answers,
they are the productions of nature." But what is nature?-a cover for ignorance-a pitiful artifice of unbelief-a paltry substitution for God! There is the utmost degree of disingenuousness in this reply. If we infer the "eternal power and Godhead" from the constitution of the universe as a whole, where is the justice of denying it in the detail? If the globe on which we dwell" declare his glory, and the firmament show forth his handy work," so that "they are without excuse" who do not acknowledge Him—they are equally inexcusable who cannot recognize his care in the "meanest insect that crawls, or the humblest plant that vegetates." Be it, therefore, your concern, my brethren,