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510 An Essay, by the late Rev. J. Holland, on the Providence of God.
With nought in charge, he could betray no trust;
And if he fell, would fall because he
If love reward him, or if vengeance
His recompence in both, unjust alike.”*
arguments which should enable them
and what concerns you, will not be overlooked. He knows every thing that concerns you; and how should he but know it, since he was the original cause of it? As he is acquainted with your sufferings, you cannot doubt but he will reward you for them; and as they proceed from his wise and just appointment, you ought to bear them with cheerfulness and patience."
In illustration of these words I shall endeavour to shew, that the providence of God extends to all things, however minute, and seemingly of a trifling nature. And this appears to me the more necessary, as I am afraid it is a truth not much believed, and less attended to by the generality of mankind. For it is now become somewhat unfashionable, and regarded as the work of a vulgar and superstitious mind, to search for providence in the daily occurrences of life, and to ascribe common and ordinary events to the There is, indeed, no Divine Power. occasion that we should be perpetually talking of God and providence; might look like hypocrisy and affectation, and might give reason to suspect that we are desirous to seem very devout, whether we really are so or not. But though it may not be proper that God-should be in all our discourse, yet we ought to keep him
F you think the following essay, I which remains among the papers the Rev. John Holland, of Mobberley, (of whom see Vol. V. p. 327,) may be read with some advantage by those engaged in the present discussion on Providence, it is at your service.
That all events, both great and small, are appointed by the providence of God, is indisputably the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures. The history which they give us of the Jews and other nations, the incidents relating either to societies or to particular persons, are constantly mentioned as proceeding from God, who is frequently mentioned by our Lord himself, and by all the sacred writers, as directly concerned in whatever happens. We are apt, indeed, to regard the affairs of our own race, as of pe culiar importance; and therefore as worthy, in an especial manner, of the Divine care and superintendence. But the Scriptures assure us, that not only the concerns of mankind, but those also of the most inconsiderable orders of existence, are managed by the Father of all. "These all wait upon him, and he giveth them their meat in due season; he openeth his hand, they are satisfied with good." hold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, yet our heavenly Father feedeth them." Nor is his goodness confined to living creatures; he forms and cherishes the very grass and flowers of the field, and clothes them with inimitable excellence and beauty.
But this doctrine of an universal providence is, perhaps, most strongly asserted in our Saviour's instructions to his disciples, when he was sending them out to preach the gospel. After warning them of the persecution and cruel treatment they should meet with, he proceeds to suggest several
* Cowper's Prog, of Error.
in all our thoughts, and to bear upon
That there is a God who created
influence of the heavenly bodies; the state of the air, the surface of the earth, and the due provision of the necessary juices? Thus the care of one thing includes in it the care of a thousand. An attention to what is of greater importance, supposes also an attention to what is of less; nor could the whole, or the more considerable parts, of nature, be governed and preserved, while particular beings, and what concerns them, were overlooked and neglected. If but one of the movements in the vast machine were suffered to stand still, if one small spring did but cease to act, or acted in an undue or irregular manner, the whole would presently be thrown into disorder, and might justly be said to want guidance and direction. We must either, then, deny a Providence altogether, or acknowledge that this Providence is universal.
This will appear to be highly probable, if it be considered, that the world is not a collection of loose and separate beings, but one connected plan and regular system, all whose parts, both great and small, are joined in the strictest union to the whole and to one another. The vegetable creation sustains the animal, and both depend upon the earth and other elements. This globe, with whatever belongs to it, is connected with the sun, and with its fellow-wanderers the planets. Now, in a system whose parts have so extensive an influence, and such infinite mutual ties and relations, is it possible that the general concern should be tolerably conducted and provided for, if no regard be had to the least things in it? For these being neglected, and suffered to run at random, may bring disorder and confusion upon the greatest. If this earth of ours be worthy of the Divine notice and concern, is it not chiefly for the sake of its living inhabitants, which would inevitably perish, were not the plants and trees produced to support them? And if the Divine care extends to the formation of plants and trees, must it not also be employed in the revolution of the seasons, and the
In like manner, the changes which happen in the world are not a number of independent events, of which one, or a few, might be neglected without prejudice to the rest; but are connected together, so as to form one immense and beautiful scheme, which, if the least part were undirected, the whole would be disturbed and broken. Every thing springs from a mixture of various causes, of different importance and efficacy; and every particular being, however inconsiderable, contributes its share to a multitude of effects, and often to such as are readily acknowledged to be of great importance. What is now present is the offspring of the past in a long ascending series, and will be the parent of what is future, in an indefinite descending succession; and that which is present in one place may affect and be affected by a vast number of other things in different places. Now, in this complicated scene of causes and effects, what bounds can we assign to the Divine Providence? Or where is the precise point, concerning which we may with any reason pronounce, that just hitherto it goes, and no farther? Those who are assured that it has its limits, must certainly know where they are. Let such describe these limits exactly, and we then shall yield up the point. Does God concern himself about mankind? If not, it is not worth our while to dispute whether there be any Providence at all or
rect and conclusive reasoning. Such as, in the present case, the following appears to be.
not, interesting itself about other beings, for what is that to us? But if mankind be the object of the Divine care, so are the particular nations of the earth, and so, too, are the individuals that compose them: for the human race is nothing but a number of individuals; and, therefore, to say that every one is neglected, is the same as to say that the whole are so. Taking it for granted, therefore, that the Supreme mind vouchsafes to direct the affairs of you and me, what circumstances of our being are disposed by him? What shall we say as to our place, our duration, our company, and the part we are to act? Are all, or some only, of these appointed by God? If only some, which are they? and why they more than the rest? Nay rather, since all the events of life are so strangely interwoven with each other, how is it possible that one part of them should be ordered, and all the rest be undetermined? Each of us, therefore, and all his affairs, is comprehended in that compass which Providence takes in. But this could not be, unless the affairs of other beings, to whom we are related, were also contained in the divine order. It were easy to carry this point farther, and to trace down Providence from the stars of heaven to the most inconsiderable affairs of this lower world. But what has been said may suffice to shew, that if we be once fairly brought to acknowledge a Providence at all, we can never find where to stop, till we have allowed that this Providence extends to all beings, the lowest as well as the highest.
The same reasons which we have to believe that Providence is concerned in the great affairs and revolutions of the universe, evince with equal certainty that the Divine influence extends also to the most minute things. For why do we imagine that God governs the sun, moon and stars, but because of their beauty, order, regular motion and beneficial effects? And are use, beauty, order, seen only in the heavenly bodies? Are they not as clearly discerned in all the parts of nature, in every being with which we are acquainted? The sea is beautiful, the streams and rivers are also beautiful. Beauty is diffused over the face of the whole earth. It is found in the barren deserts and wilds of nature, as well as in the cultivated plains. It appears on the rugged rocks and bleak mountains, in the stately forest and shady grove. It lives through all life, both animal and vegetable. It appears in a high degree in those beings which are endowed with sense and mind and in the highest in such as are blest with reason and moral sentiments. But in some measure it is communicated to the least and meanest of nature's works. Every tree, plant and flower, every beast, bird, fish and insect, partake of it. Symmetry, order, a nice adjustment of parts to each other, and of the whole inward and outward structure to its circumstances and mode of life, obtain in every creature.
And as grace and beauty are every where shed abroad, so every being is of some use and service, and contributes in its place to the general good. The elements furnish the materials, and are made to assist in the formation and growth of vegetables and animals, which no sooner die than their bodies tend to dissolution, and hasten to prepare for other services. Plants and trees at once adorn the earth, and support the various tribes of living creatures, which enjoy life themselves, and administer to the welfare and preservation of each other. The very lowest class of them is not useless, and could not be wanted without some harm to the general system. Now since order and
Perhaps it may be said, there may be limits to the Divine Providence, though on account of the weakness of our faculties we may not discern and cannot distinctly apprehend them: and therefore these arguments are calculated rather to perplex than satisfy the mind. I grant it; and for that very end this reasoning was here applied, that if any were prejudiced in favour of the contrary opinion, they might see that it also has its difficulties. For when he who has been positive in an opposite belief, can once be made to doubt and hesitate, he is come half way to conviction, and placed in the best situation for discerning the force of more di
then, that the power and wisdom of God are equal to the direction of the most minute affairs, however nume
use are aimed at and effected, as in the more magnificent, so also in the least and most inconsiderable parts of nature, have we not as good reason to acknowledge the hand of God in the one as in the other? Wherever beauty appears, and the general wel fare is consulted, there God is present, there he acts. But these ends are every where pursued, in all the regions of nature, in all kinds and degrees of life, in earth and air and sea, and in the make and disposal of each particular being.
If, therefore, he do not dispose and govern them, it must be because he will not. But that he will direct all, even the minute and inconsiderable affairs, may easily be shewn, if we will only admit this principle, that he will always do what is best. And what can induce him to act otherwise? Not sloth or cowardice: for sloth proceeds from some uneasiness in acting; and cowardice from a sense of weakness and a fear of danger. But the Divine nature acts without difficulty, and is not obnoxious to any fear; every object yields to its will, and immediately assumes that very nature, place and form, which he would have it. "He speaks, and it is done; he commands, and it is established." Neither can he, like man, be drawn aside from doing what is best, by selfish views of any kind: for what interest can the universal mind possibly have, inconsistent with, or even different from, the interest and good of the whole? But here it is needless to enlarge; since we are now reasoning with those who acknowledge that God is perfectly good; and a Being perfectly good will continually do what is best.
And now to complete the argument. If God will do what is best, he will concern himself in those affairs which may seem to us of the least consequence. For can it be best, that, while great things and events are directed, smaller affairs should be left at random? Were it not better that all things, small as well as great, should be appointed and ordered by the Supreme Wisdom? Let us consider what is the case in matters directed by human art or prudence. Ask the mechanist, whether his clock or watch will be more perfect, if all the parts of it are made and adjusted in the exactest manner, or if none but the principal movements are accurately wrought, and justly disposed. So it is in the government of the Universe, which being as closely united into one system, and composed of parts as intimately connected as the most curious and complicated machine, the whole of it cannot be
If God, at the same time that he directs and manages the universe in general, yet takes no care of minute affairs and particular beings, it must be either because he cannot, or because he will not. That he cannot, we shall scarcely affirm: for which is easier, to create worlds, and keep them in rapid and regular motion, or to form and dispose of a single plant or animal? You acknowledge that he is able to effect the former; he must therefore be equal to the latter, which requires no greater expense of power.
Nor need we be concerned lest the Deity should be perplexed by attending to such a vast multiplicity of creatures and events, or lest he should neglect some of them, because he cannot, or not without difficulty, oversee them all. This would be to make man the standard of God, and to measure an infinite mind by our limited and imperfect powers. And yet even our minds, narrow as they are, can with ease comprehend many things at the same time. We, who are confined to so small a part of space, can view at once a large prospect, and take in all its varieties of hills and plains, woods and rivers, to a considerable distance. And can we imagine that the Divine mind, which is every where present, is not able to see all things every where and at once? We can, in an instant, observe the affairs of different persons, societies and nations: and is it likely that he, from whom these minds of ours are derived, and who infinitely exceeds all his creatures in every kind of perfection, cannot with ease comprehend the affairs of the whole universe, and attend at once to all beings, nations and worlds? It is plain,
administered in the best manner, unless the Divine Providence extend to all beings and events, however trivial and inconsiderable they may some of them appear to us. wood notes
free will and philosophical necessity;" but I may be allowed to state that the views which I wish to lay before you are in my own case derived from a full and I trust practical belief of the latter doctrine. I do not, however, conceive that such a belief is by any means necessary to their reception." He who advocates the plainest and most intelligible bypothesis, is best co-operating with the Deity in teaching mankind their various duties and their future expectavitions. Such I believe to be the tendency of the opinions which I
Our reasoning, on the whole, stands thus. The Divine Being can direct the most minute affairs and events: he will do what is best: but it is best, that all affairs, as well the less as the more important, should be directed; and therefore he both can and will, that is, he actually does, appoint and determine the smallest things and most inconsiderable events.i-sh st Upon the whole, then, we con- entertain. They appear to me calcuclude, that froin God all things pro-lated beyond any others, to illustrate ceed, and by him all things are go-the condition and circumstances of verned. Nothing is left out of the man, and the moral government of scheme of his providence. Whatever vi God.com 2900 zult tull we meet with in the world, whatever That the Supreme Being, the Crecompany or accommodations we find,.ator of the universe, is infinite in whatever we do or suffer, makes a power and in knowledge, will be gepart of the divine order. God grant nerally admitted, and it follows that that, as all things proceed from him,the we may refer all things to him; and receive both the blessings and afflictions of life with becoming piety and veneration ; remembering whence they come, and for what end they 'were designed. sbg CESTRIENSIS POSTHUMUS.
must, from the beginning, have known and consequently willed, every event which should take place in his creation throughout eternity. Respecting the system on which he regulates its concerns, there are various opinions. It is maintained by some that he did at the first impress upon the universe certain laws, by which all its motions and changes, natural and moral, are continually regulated, and then left it to pursue its course, independently of his own immediate controul. Others suppose that the more important concerns of the world are under the Divine direction, but that the general current of events is left to form its own channel, re
Bristol, SIR, June, 1823. AGREE with the views of your correspondent Mr. Luckcock, in his remarks on a Particular Providence, (pp. 286-292,) so far as they respect the tendency of that doctrine to confine our ideas of the moral government of the Deity, and the pernicious consequences it is calculated to proceiving at times such impulses as 'duce on the dispositions and conduct suit the views of Almighty Wisdom. of those who entertain voite But There are those again, who believe cannot accord' in his observationss re-that every part of the creation is under lating to the universality of the Di-the constant direction of the Deity, *** vine administration ; and it is in the by whom the whole is maintained and hope of placing this subject in a regulated, and whose influence is felt juster light, that I am induced to in alike throughout every instant of time, trude the following remarks upon and every corner of the universe. notice. In so doing let me not What Mr. L.'s view is, I cannot exyour be thought to undervalue the spirit actly discover, but the last he deof practical utility and benevolent cidedly opposes Yet it is this which intention which distinguish Mr. L.'s alone appears to me consistent with communication.~* what we know of the Almighty, and with what we observe around us.
Mankind too generally found their conceptions of the Divine nature, upon what knowledge they possess
I am not more desirous than your correspondent, of "entering the boundless and thorny field of contro versy, respecting fate, predestination,