Page images

a great mercy., They say the whale is mightily beholden to the little fish called musculus, which swims as a guide before her, without which she would be in danger in straits and betwixt great rocks. The little cloud like a man's hand often darkens the heavens ere all be done.

3. Because they are often very mysterious works, and therefore they need observation, Psal. xcii. 5. It is necessary to give us right views of providence, and to keep us from mistakes. The making judgment of providences is a very tender point, wherein the best of men have gone far wrong, Was not Jacob far out when he said, Gen. xlii. 36. - All these things are against me,' if we compare the promise, Rom. viii. 28. “ All things shall work together for good, &c. and the event too? Many a time the outside of provi, dence is very unlike it inside. The greatest cross may be wrapt up in what we take to be our greatest comfort ; and the greatest comfort may be inwrapt in what we call our greatest cross. Observation must break the shell, that we

may look in.

4. Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry, Deut. xxxii. 4. Whatever faults we find with them, as we do many, it is for want of due observation. But at length he shall gain that testimony and recantation, 'He hath done all things well,' Mark vii, 37. In these his works no flaw is to be found, no mistake; nothing too much, nothing too little ; nothing too soon done, nothing too late done; nothing misplaced, nothing in or over; nay, nothing done that is not best done; nothing that man or angel could make better. The world will startle at this as a paradox : but faith will believe it, on the solid ground of infinite wisdom, though sense contradict it, Isa. xxxviii. 8. Jer. xii. 1. O that they who will debate this truth would come near and observe.

5. Lastly, Because they are speaking works, Micah vi. 9. They speak Heaven's language to the earth, and therefore should be observed. And they speak,

(1.) Of him, Psal. xix. 2. They preach to us that he is, what a God he is, how holy, just, wise, good, and powerful, &c. We may see there his perfections as in a glass. Each

grass speaks a God, a wise, good, and powerful one. So many creatures as there are, so many mouths to speak of

pile of

him. And it is man's work to observe and hear. When God had replenished the heavens with sun, moon, and stars, and the earth with variety of creatures, the creation was still imperfect till man was made. For what avails the musical instrument, if there be no body to play on it ?

(2.) For him. Cross providences speak for him, Micah vi. 9. And favourable providences also, Rom. ii. 4. Here. by sinners are instructed in the way they should go, Psal. xxxii. 8. reproved, as Joseph's brethren; and comforted,

; as Paul was, Phil. ii. 27. And, in a word, they call us from sin unto God; by them, where the word goes before, Christ knocks at the doors of sinners hearts, and calls for access.

I come now to the improvement of this doctrine. And, · I. It may serve for lamentation. Ah! may we not say; Who is wise to observe these things? Wise observers of providence are thin sown in the world; because there are few exercised to godliness. God has given us enough to observe in the public and in our private case.

He is speaking by his providence to the land, he is speaking loudly at this day to the parish, to you and to me, and to every one in particular. But, alas ! it is not observed to purpose. Graceless people are presumptuous, and will not observe; and éven many godly are heedless, and do not observe. There are these six evidences that this wise observation of providence is very rare.

1. How many are there who see God no more in their mercies and crosses, than if they were a parcel of atheists, that did not think there were a God, or that believed no providence at all? If they get a mercy, God is not owned in it; they sacrifice to their own net. If they get a cross, they cry out by reason of the arm of the Almighty. But gone saith, Where is God my Maker ? In all the iurns of their life and lot, they never seriously look to the wheel within the wheel.

2. How many are there to whom God in his providence is speaking plain language, that he who runs may read it, yet they will not understand it ? Psal. Ixxxii. 5. God plagues the Philistines for the ark most visibly, yet they are at a loss, saying, It may be it is a chance. Balaani's ass refuses to carry him forward on the way, but he is in a rage against her. God meets sinners in their way, with speak. ing providences; but on they go ; they do not hear, they will not be stopped: Like the dog, they snarl at the stone; but look not to the hand that threw it.

3. How few are exercised to know the design of provi. dences that they meet with ? Many signalmercies they meet with, but put not the question, What is God saying to me by these things? Many a heavy dispensation they meet with, partly by the rod's hanging over their heads, partly by its lying on them ; yet they never seriously take up Job's exer. cise, chap. X. 2. * I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.' These things let them come and go with as little concern to know the de: sign of them, as if they had none.

4. How few are exercised to comply with the design of providences, to accommodate themselves to the divine dispensations ? Job xxxiii. 13, 14. If men were wise observers of providence, it would be their constant practice to be answering the several calls thereof, still facing about 100 wards it, as the shadow on the dial to the body of the sun, Psal. xxvii. 8. When thou saidst; Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.' But, alas ! men meet with humbling providences, but they are not exercised to mortify their pride : they ineet with awak: ening providences, yet they ary not exercised to rouse up themselves to their duty: they meet with afflicting providences in worldly things, yet they are not exercised to get their hearts weaned from the world; they meet with reproving providences, yet they are not exercised to repent and inourn over the sins thereby pointed out. But they really strive with their Maker, and while he draws hy his providence, they hold fast, and will not let it go, Jer. vi. 29.

5. The little skill that people have in judging of proỹidences. A man will readily have skill in his own trade; but it is no wonder to see people unacquainted with things in which their business does not lie. what commenta

providence are in the world, that destroy the text! How miserably is the doctrine of particular dispensations perverted! Despisers of God and his ordinances are very easy, and therefore the world concludes, it is vain to serve God, and that there is no profit in kecping his ordinances,' Mal. iii. 14. “ The proud are called happy,' ver. 15. They are best that have least to do with them. Good men

ties on


meets with signal strokes : the world concludes that they are hypocrites, and they must be guilty of some heinous wickedness beyond other people, Job v. 1. Luke xiii. 1, 2. And a thousand such blunders there are.

а 6. Lastly, They rank poverty in respect of Christian experience found among professors

. What a learned Egyptian said to a Greek, Vos Græci semper pueri, may be said to many in whom there is some good thing towards the God of Israel. Ye professors are ever children, 2 Cor. iii. 1. Heb. v. 12. And what is the reason, but that we have never yet fallen close to the study of observing of providences ? See the text. There is a daily market in providence, but ye do not trade in it; and therefore ye are always poor.

; There is perhaps a lesson put in your hands this day, that ye had several years since, but ye did not learn it; and so it is now as great a mystery to you as then.

USE II. Of exhortation. O be exhorted to become wise observers of providence. O fall at length upon this piece of practical religion. Many of us have it, I fear, to begin yet ; and all have need to mend their pace in it. For enforcing this exhortation, I shall give you some other points of doctrine from the words, by way of motives and direction, and so shut up this subject.

For motives take these doctrines.

1. Wise observing of providence is a rare thing in the world: Who is wise, and will observe these things, as the words may bear. And the reason is, the truth of religion is rare, and close and tender walking with God is yet rarer, Matth. xxii. 14. and xxv. 5. The most part of the world go the broad way to destruction, Matth. vii. 14. and therefore they are not concerned to observe the works of the Lord. Many Christians there are, that, alas ! In these dregs of time are not exercised Christians. Up then and be doing, and conspire not with the multitude to put a slight on God's speaking by his providence, lest his furý break forth as fire on you with the rest, John vi. 66.

The more rare the observing of providence is, it is the more precious. Stones may be gathered from the surface of the earth, while gold must be dug with much labour out of the bowels of it. The finest things are hardest to be won at: Nulla virtus sine lapide. As Christ himself had a stone rolled on him, so every grace, work, and way of Vol. I.

I i

Christ has one. But there is a pearl underneath ; and the heavier the stone, the more precious is the pearl. Come and see in this particular.

II. They that are wise will be observers of providences, Whoso is wise, and will observe these things. And at what pitch your wisdom arrives, your observation of providences will follow it, Eccl. ii. 14. The eating of the forbidden fruit cast all mankind into a spiritual madness; and the truth is, the most part of the world are in that respect as madmen, regarding neither the word nor works of the Lord. But if thou wert come to thyself, it would not be so, Luke xv. 17. How long hast thou acted as a fool, in matters of greatest weight, being penny-wise and pound-foolish, careful for a mite, and in the mean time letting talents slip through thy fingers? Luke x. 41, 42.

o Sirs, how do unobserved providences aggravate our guilt, and increase our accounts! When the day shall come, the Lord will reckon with the sinner, for all the pains he has bestowed on him to bring him to himself: when his slighting the call of the word shall be aggravated with so many items of providences. How will the sinner look, when the Lord shall say, Did I not give thee such and such mercies to draw thee from thy sin ? lay such and such crosses in thy way to drive thee from it? What hast thou done with all the instructive up-stirring providences I gave thee? with all the providential warnings, rebukes, &c. given thee? Remember that passage, Prov. ix. 12. •If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it."

III. The wise observation of providences is a soul-enriching trade. They shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. This is so on two accounts, both deducible from the text.

1. That which seems the most barren piece of providence, becomes fruitful by wise observation. Some of these things in the text are very cross providences; yet even by them one shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. Behold a holy art, whereby ye may not only gather honey out of every sweet-smelling flower, but may gather grapes of spiritual profit off the thorns of afflictions, and figs of thistles

. The apostle tells us a mystery, of a pleasure in infirmities

, distresses, &c. 2 Cor. xii. 10. Wise observation would let you into the secret.

« PreviousContinue »