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too bold a prying into those hidden methods, whereby he exerciseth it.
Our Saviour Christ, in this chapter, giving commission to his Apostles and sending them forth to preach the Gospel, obviates an objection which they might make, concerning the great danger that would certainly attend such an undertaking. To send them upon such a hated employment, would be no other than to thrust them upon the rage and malice of the world; to send them forth as sheep into the midst of wolves, who would doubtless worry
and deyour them: “ Sure we are to have our message derided; our persons injured; and that holy name of thine, on which we summon them to believe, blasphemed and reviled : and, though our word may prove a word of life to some few of the hearers, yet to us, who are the preachers of it, it will prove no other than death.” A vile and wretched world, the while! when the Gospel of Peace and Reconciliation shall thus stir up enmity and persecution against the ambassadors, who are appointed to proclaim it!
To this our Saviour answers,
First. By shewing what the extent of their adversaries' power is; how far it can reach, and what mischief it can do, when God permits it to rage to the very utmost.
And this he doth, in the 28th verse; the verse immediately foregoing the text: Fear not them, which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul : or, as St. Luke expresseth it, chap. xii. 4. They can kill the body, but after that, have no more that they can do. Alas! are such men to be feared, who, when they do their worst, can only destroy your worst part; which if they do not, yet accidents or diseases will? What! are your bodies but clogs to your spirit, and prisons to your souls ? and, certainly, those enemies are not very formidable, who, when they most think to hurt you, only knock off your clog, or break open your prison and let your souls escape to their desired liberty.
Secondly. Our Saviour answers, that though they can kill the body, when God permits them; yet they cannot so much as touch it, without his permission.
And this he doth, in the words of my text, by shewing how punctual and particular God's Providence is; even over the smallest, and those which seem the most trifling occurrences of the world. A sparrow, whose price is but mean, two of them valued at a farthing, which some make to be the tenth part of a Roman penny, and was certainly one of their least coins; whose life, therefore, is but contemptible, and whose flight seems but giddy and at random: yet it falls not to the ground, neither lights any where, without your Father : his All-wise Providence hath before appointed, what bough it shall pitch on, what grains it shall pick up, where it shall lodge, and where it shall build, on what it shall live, and when it shall die. And, if your Father's Providence be so critical about the small concernments even of sparrows: fear not ye, for ye are of more value than many sparrows ; yea, of more value than many men.
Our Saviour adds: The very hairs of your head are all numbered. God keeps an account even of that stringy excrement. He knows how many fall off, and the precise number of those that remain; and no wonder, since he knows the number of our sins, which are far more.
Hence we learn, that God governs the meanest, the most inconsiderable and contemptible occurrences in the world, by an exact and particular Providence. Do you see a thousand little motes and atoms, wandering up and down in a sunbeam? it is God, that so peoples it; and he guides their innumerable and irregular strayings. Not a dust flies in a beaten road, but God raises it, conducts its uncertain motion, and by his particular care conveys it to the certain place which he had before appointed for it, nor shall the most fierce and tempestuous wind hurry it any farther. And, if God's care and providence reach thus to these minute things, which are but as it were the circumstances of nature, and little accessaries to the world; certainly, man, who is the head and lord of it, for whose sake and service other creatures were formed, may very well be confident that God exerciseth an especial and most accurate providence over him and his affairs.
By this you see what the subject is, of which it is intended to treat; even the over-ruling and all-disposing Providence of God: not a sparrow, not a hair of your heads falls to the ground, without your Father.
But, before I proceed farther, I must take notice of Two things in the words.
First. That our Saviour, speaking here of the Providence of God, ascribes to him the name of our Father.
God hath many names and titles attributed unto him in the Scriptures; as Father, Lord, Creator, Redeemer, Judge, King,
and God: but God is a word that denotes his essence: Lord, is a title of his dominion: Creator, marks out his omnipotence : Redeemer, commends his love: Judge, is a name of fear and astonishment: and King, is a title of royal majesty: but this endearing name of Father signifies unto us bis Providence; for, from him, as from a Father, do we expect and receive guidance and government.
Secondly. Whereas nothing comes to pass without our Heavenly Father, this may be understood Three Ways; without his permission, without his ordination and concurrence, without his overruling and directing it to his own ends.
No Evil comes to pass, without his Permissive Providence.
the Overruling Providence of our Father, guiding
and directing it to his own ends. But, concerning this distinction of permissive, concurring, and overruling Providence, I shall have occasion to speak more hereafter. My work, at present, shall be, To describe unto you What the Providence of God is,
in the general notion thereof. To prove that all affairs and occurrences, in the world,
are guided and governed by Divine Providence. To answer some puzzling questions and doubts, con
cerning the Providence of God; and some objec. tions, which may be made against it.
I. Let us see WHAT PROVIDENCE IS.
Take it in this description: Providence is an act of God, whereby, according to his eternal and most wise counsel, he preserves and governs all things; and directs them all to their ends, but chiefly to his own glory.
This Providence consisteth in Two things; Preservation and Government of his creatures.
i. One remarkable act of the Providence of God, is the PRESERVATION of his creatures in their beings.
He preserves them, !, In their species and kind, by the constant succession of then one after another : so that, though the individuals of them are mortal and perish; yet the species or kind is immortal.
There is no kind of creature that was at first made by God, but it still continueth to this very day, and shall do so to the end of the world. And, truly, it is the wonderful Providence of God, thus to perpetuate the creation : that, whereas we see an inbred enmity in some sorts of creatures against others; yet his wisdom so sways their mutual antipathies, that none of them shall ever prevail to a total extirpation and destruction of the other.
2. He preserves them, likewise, by his Providence, in their individual and particular beings, while they have a room to fill up and an office to discharge in the universe.
Each Aly and worm, as well as man (who is but the greater worm of the two) hath a work to do in the world; and, till that be finished, God sustains its being: nor shall the weakest creature be destroyed, within the prefixed time that God hath set to its duration. There are none of us here alive this day, but have abundant cause thankfully to acknowledge the powerful and merciful Providence of God, in preserving us in and rescuing us from many dangers and deaths, to which we stood exposed. It is only his visitation, that hath hitherto preserved our spirits; and, to his never-failing Providence we owe it, that such frail and feeble creatures, who are liable to be crushed before the moth, liable to so many diseases and accidents, have yet a name among the living, and have not yet failed from off the face of the earth.
ii. As God preserves, so he governs all things, by his Providence.
And this government consists in Two things: Direction of the creatures' actions; and Distribution of Rewards and Punishments, according to the actions of his rational creatures.
1. God, by his Governing Providence, directs all the actions of his creatures ; yea, and by the secret, but efficacious illapse and penetration of the divine influence, he powerfully sways and determines them which way he pleaseth.
And, from this part of his providence, brancheth forth his permission of evil actions, and his concurrence to good; both by the assistance of his common, and likewise of his special grace: and, lastly, his general influence into all the actions of our lives, all which we are enabled to perform by the almighty power of the Divine Providence; which, as at first it bestowed upon us natural faculties, so by a constant concurrence it doth excite and assist those faculties to their respective operations.
2. God, by his Governing Providence, distributes rewards and punishments according to our actions.
And this part of his providence is oftentimes remarkable, even in this present life; when we see retributions of divine mercy and vengeance, signally proportioned according to men's demerits : but the more especial manifestation and execution of it is commonly adjourned to the life to come; and, then, all the seeming inequalities of God's dispensations here will be fully adjusted, in the eternal recompence of the godly, and the eternal punishment of the wicked and impenitent.
Now, by this Almighty Providence, God overrules and sways all things to his own glory. There is nothing comes to pass, but God hath his ends in it, and will certainly make his own ends out of it. Though the world seem to run at random, and affairs to be huddled together in blind confusion and rude disorder: yet God sees and knows the concatenation of all causes and effects; and so governs them, that he makes a perfect harmony out of all those seeming jarrings and discords. As you may observe in the wheels of a watch, though they all move with contrary motions one to the other, yet they are useful and necessary to make it go right: so is it, in these inferior things: the proceedings of Divine Providence are all regular and orderly to his own ends, in all the thwartings and contrarieties of second causes. We have this expressed in that mysterious vision, Ezek. i. 10. where the providences of God are set forth by the emblem of a wheel within a wheel, one intersecting and crossing another ; yet they are described to be full of eyes round about : what is this, but to denote unto us, that, though providences are as turning and unstable as wheels, though they are as thwart and cross as one wheel within another, yet these wheels are all nailed round with eyes : God sees and chooses his way in the most intricate and entangled providences that are; and so governs all things, that whilst each pursues its own inclination, they are all overruled to promote his glory.
This is Providence: the two great parts of which, are Preservation and Government; and the great end of both these,