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in the tabernacles, a cloud ushered in his presence. All the world is in the light to God, but God is in the dark to all the world. Sometimes the Lord walks so plainly in his works, that he that runs may read; that the most dim-sighted Christian may say, this is the Lord's walk, and this is the Lord's work: at other times he wraps himself in a cloud, and overcasteth Sion with darkness, that the poor children of God cannot tell where to find their Father, that they can but guess at his footsteps, knowing not which way to march, for their Leader hath hid himself. Pompey the great said, when the scales weighed down on Cæsar's side, that there was a mist on the eyes of Providence; but indeed the sun shone clearly, and the mist was on his eye, that he could not see it. I confess, in this age, it is easier to know what particular things in Providence God will pull down, than what he will set up. We often imagine there is a disorder in God's works, when, if we mind it the disorder is in our own imagination; we know not how to believe, and we fancy the Lord to be at a stand, as not knowing what to do: but we must take heed of charging the Lord to be out of his way, when only he is out of our sight.
3rdly, In this ladder we have the seeming contradictions of Providence: the angels ascend and descend the ladder; one providence seems to go one way, and another providence seems to go another way. Sometimes the cloud in the wilderness seemed to carry Israel immediataly to Canaan : Now for Canaan, might Moses and Aaron say; and on a sudden the Lord wheels about, and Israel turns faces toward the Red Sea, as if he intended they should never see Canaan more. How plainly hath the Lord led England for some years toward a Reformation! The saints have encouragingly said one to another, Certainly we are within two or three years journey to the new Jerusalem; have at the scarlet whore of Babylon; now for the building of ruinate Sion. But the Lord hath seemed to cry, Face about, and follow me yet longer in the wilderness. And some of the saints conclude we are never like to go forward, we shall return to our leeks and onions; the conversion of souls visibly goes backward, and not forward. Some years ago hundreds came out of the devil's kingdom, into the kingdom of the gospel; but now many fly from the colours of Christ visibly, and run into the devil's quarter, again, The Lord seems to seal up the hardness of men's hearts, and to say to the womb of grace, Give forth no more, let no more sinners be changed from darkness to light in England. Well might Solomon (Prov. xxx. 19) compare the church to a ship in the midst of the sea; which as the prophet speaks, now even mounts up to the heavens, and anon descends, as it were to hell. God sees our works in our wills, but we cannot many times spell out the Lord's will by his works: who can trace the Lord in his travel, or find out the work or walk of the Almighty in the world? The texts of Providence are as difficult as the texts of the Scriptures; there are as high contests about Providence, as about predestination; and it is as hard to reconcile the works of God, as to reconcile his word, though there is a real concordance and harmony in both. Be not over-righteous, says the Preacher (Eccles. vii. 16). Can a man be too righteous? Rather, we think, he should have said, be not too profane: but as one diamond cuts another, so one Scripture opens another. Ver. 15, I have seen a just man, as just as Abel, perish in his righteousness, and to lose his life, because he would keep his conscience; and on the contrary, I have seen a wicked man, as wicked as Cain, to prolong his life, and to have the world at command:
but yet carp not at Providence, let the Lord be down before you think to lift him up; enter not into the chair to offer knowledge to God about his works. There is no reason that the Lord should give man a reason of all his ways; he often wills a change, but never changeth his will. God may retreat in his providences as to us, and undo all he hath been doing in England these many years, and make Sion put on her mourning apparel, and yet not be either unconstant or unfaithful; though I hope better things. For it is observable, that Providence, in the main, is never excentrical, and, in the main, is never retrogade. The Lord often looks backward, but never goes backward. He led Israel forty years about in the wilderness, and yet never carried them back to Fgypt. Abraham is promised a son, and a numerous offspring; but as if Providence had forgot itself (to us) Abraham is commanded to offer up Isaac; and whereas he might have objected, Lord, thou art wont to call for oxen to be sacrificed, and dost thou require me to sacrifice my son? Thy word saith, I must not kill, and thy mouth saith, I must kill: and Lord, thou hast promised to multiply my seed, and now thou callest for my Isaac; how can the branches grow, if the stock be cut down? And yet Abraham obeyed, winking, and putting his hand into the Lord's hand, following him, though Providence, as it were, crossed the promise. We now have, as the prophet speaks, a wheel in a wheel; so I trust, ere God hath done with England, we shall have, as the Rabbi speaks, a miracle in a miracle.
4thly, In this ladder we have the independency of Providence: the ladder, we see, is only reared and supported by God; but it is not a crooked. ladder, but stands upright towards heaven. It leans not on the mountains of men, nor palaces of kings. Many quarrel and find fault with the ladder of Providence; but this ladder shall never fall down before man, or to man. The prophet undertakes the challenge (Isa. xl. 15), "Who hath been the counseller of God, or hath taught the Almighty?" The wise king of Arragon (or rather the unwise) was so foolish, as to think he could have made the creation better, if he had been of God's council; and some men think they are erratas in the volume of Providence, by their murmurings, and would fain be a correcting the Lord's copy, and amending the lines of his government in the world. Methinks false-hearted man is like flattering Absalom, who would insinuate to the people neglects in his father's government: there is no man deputed of the king to do justice, and that he was able to guide Israel in a better order. But John xv. the Church is compared to a vine, and God will have it lean on himself, and not be supported by the poles and policy of men. It is observed, that the weakest women have often the strongest children, and that the Lord hangs the heaviest weight on the smallest wires. The stone in Daniel is cut out of the mountains without hands: the gospel and Sion are neither framed nor forged by man, both are the handy-work of God; as there was no concurrence of man's power to the generation of Christ personal, so there is no concurrence of the wisdom of man to the generation of Christ mystical. Cicero fell in with Cæsar, when Pompey was defeated; and it is no dishonour for man, routed in his way, to fall down to God. Man must lean on God, but God will never lean on man. But let Sion remember, that her cause is not so good, but the strength of her Protector is as great to maintain it: there is nothing that God doth by the creature; but he can do without the creature; rather than Sion shall fall, the God of Sion will not stand on miracles.
5thly. In this ladder we have the extent of Providence. The ladder is set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. Providence extends to all senseless and irrational creatures, both in their preservation and government. There is as much need of Divine wisdom to preserve, as there was of a Divine power to make the world. There is a necessity not only of a privative influx from God, that is, not only that he does not destroy his creatures, but of a positive influence to maintain the creatures in being (Job vi. 9). If the Lord take away his hand, Job would fall, not only to the ground, but also to his first principle of nothing. Mithridates, a general, knew all the names of all the soldiers in his army; the heavens are the Lord's hosts, and they in all their ranks and orbs are known and kept by the Lord of hosts. Cincignatus's honour was at the same time to hold the plough, and the helm of state. The Lord made as well the least worm on earth, as the most glorious angel in heaven; and it costeth the Lord as many words to make a worm, as to make an angel, for all was done with a word. It is no disgrace for the Lord to walk up and down by his providence, and overlook all his creatures; the baseness of any creature no more defiles God, than a dunghill vapour infects the sunbeams. God is great in the greatest creatures, and he is great in the smallest creatures. It is to be feared, that those that at present question Providence, upon the same account may ere long deny the creation. But the Lord can no more be absent from his creatures, than cease to be their Creator, nay, than cease to be (Ps. cxlvii. 9). According to the old observation, God is present in heaven by his glory, in his Church by his Spirit, in hell by his justice, in the earth by his providence, though it be not full, for God is everywhere in his essence. God is in small things great, not small in any; his even praise can neither rise nor fall; he is in all things one, in each thing many; for he is infinite in one and all. The least creature hath something of God in it, and the best creature something of nothing. Again, in their government; in God, as the apostle saith, we have our being; we are his creatures; in him we live, by him all things are preserved; in him we move, all things are at his beck and command; every creature, as it hath a being from God as its maker, so it hath an order from God as its governor, and that order is warlike, whereby all creatures are mustered and trained, and serve under the colours of the Almighty. Look into Egypt, and you find a band of frogs march into Pharaoh's bedchamber. Look on Herod, and God sets bis vermin on him, and all the king's guard cannot master the lice. God hath hornets for the Hivites, mice for the Philistines, rats for the prelate, and a fly for the Pope. When God hath service to do, he can never want an army to do it; all the creatures stand ready pressed to receive the word of command: if he bids them go, they go; if he bids them come, they come.
Again, Providence extends towards all rational and intellectual creatures, men and angels, good and bad, generally and specially; of which last I shall discourse, as it is exercised for the good of Sion. This ladder of Providence is exercised on man for good. The answer of the tongue (Prov. xvi. 1) is from the Lord; we cannot speak a good word without the influence of the Spirit of God, much less can we do a good work. I dare not say that the graces, as faith, hope, flow formally from God, yet certainly they flow efficiently from God; that is, though it be not God that believes, but man, yet man would not believe without God.
the tree that brings forth fruit, yet the tree would not bring forth fruit, were it not for the light of the sun, and the dew of heaven. It is certain that man may repent when he has a will, but it is the Lord that must give him that will to repent-for man cannot repent without his will; but not in the power of man. It is a truth, that man cannot repent, because he will not repent; and also, that man will not repent, because he cannot. The conversion of the soul is supposed to be as considerable a work, if not a greater, than the creation; for in the creation God had no adversary; the light did not say, I will not be created; the earth did not say, I will not be formed: but in the new creation, sinners labour to prevent (as much as in them lies) the conception of grace, take down antidotes against salvation, and study how to defeat the Spirit of God, and make its works abortive. God when he comes, finds the house not only empty of grace, but filled with lusts, and the strong man up in arms; not a milkwhite paper, but he finds the devil to have been scribbling, and the world to have been scribbling. Angels may knock at the door of a sinner's heart, but God only can open it. The body is not so much at the command of the soul, as the soul is at the command of God. Without me ye can do nothing (John xiv.) The Lord opened the heart of Lydia. Man's heart is God's lock, and not man's wisdom; but the Spirit of the Lord is the key that must unlock it. It is God's prerogative to make, and it is the royal flower of his crown to give a new heart (Ezek. xxxvi. 26). “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." Under the praises of nature lurk the enemies of grace.
(To be continued.)
FAMILY FEATURES; OR, SPIRITUALITY versus CARNALITY.
To the Editor of the Gospel Magazine.
As I cannot satisfactorily correct "The Notes of a Sermon," as taken down by a "Pilgrim," which you have sent me, so as to render them fit for publication; and as you are so urgent that the same should be published, I have endeavoured, instead of attempting a correction of those Notes, to put down a few thoughts on the beautiful text of Scripture on which I preached the Sermon referred to, and which you may print in your July Number, if you feel disposed to do so.
May our God command a blessing for Christ's sake.
"Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days, and caused the dayspring to know his place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment" (Job xxxviii. 12, 13, 14).
THESE words are full of meaning; and, when taken in a spiritual sense,
and sealed home on a broken-hearted sinner's soul, are blessedly experimental. When the eye sees, when the ear hears, and when the heart, under the meltings of love, receives them; in a word, when "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit," THEN (but only then!) they are a sweet support and a solid consolation to the poor in spirit—the contrite-hearted
These words, in their letter-meaning and primary signification, are descriptive of the creative and directive power of the LORD GOD—of Him who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, who said, "Let there be light, and there was light," &c. But, in a spiritual sense, they are descriptive of the work of the Holy Ghost on the soul, and in the soul's experience" of the vessels of mercy afore-prepared unto glory."
They show the entire helplessness of man-that he is nothing, has nothing, and can do nothing, that "it is God which worketh in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure;" that man, new-created in Christ, and born again of God the Holy Ghost, is wholly and entirely dependent on the LORD.
"Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days?" It is written in the Revelations, "I am the root and offspring of David, the bright and Morning Star." We see here what the Morning Star is. It is Jesus, and the presence of Jesus. But can you command His presence? "In thy presence is fulness of joy." It is so. The Christian may, now and then, during moments of favour, realize this; and we know something of the thing whereof we affirm.
How true is this! Happiness, peace, soul enjoyment, is only to be found herein in the presence of our covenant God. John knew this when he said, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ" (2 Sam. xxiii. 3, 4). It is in this, even in an experimental sense of the presence of our Christ, that we are happy, &c. But who can command it? None can! Man might as well attempt to command the morning sun to rise up in the eastern heavens, as to command the presence and rising of the Holy One on a poor sinner's soul. "Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days?" "Since thy days!" Mark those three words! "Since thy days;" i. e., (as spiritually considered) since thou wast born again. Tell me, Christian-you who have been made to differ-you who have been converted-tell me, hast thou been able to command the bright shining of the Morning Star upon thy heart and soul? Oh! remember thy days of darkness ("they shall be many!"), coldness, wretchedness-think of thy difficulties in prayer, the shutting up thy soul (Job xi. 10; xii. 14), no enjoyment, no access, &c. How is this? Why-why is this? Canst thou command these things? If so, wouldest thou not have done it over and over again? See the intensity of desire in Is. xxvi. 8, 9; Sol. Song, v. 6;