ginally gave them being, and in governing SERM. them. The whole universe sublists by the VIII. word of his power, and all the parts of it, with their various motions and changes, are so directed by his mighty providence, as to answer the ends for which they were made. I observed before *, that some of the greatest and most common appearances of nature are not to be accounted for otherwise than by the interposition of the Divine power. And tho'. this is often the less attended to because of the apparent uniformity in the course of things, (which perhaps unthoughtful men consider as if they followed by a kind of natural necessity, rather than intelligent direction ;) yet a ferious reflection would fatisfy us that the hand of the Lord does all these things; that it is Divine Providence which upholds the order of the world, and rules the course of nature; which makes the day spring know its place, and stretches out the shadows of the evening ; that commands the sun to shine by day, and the moon by night; that prepares a place for the rain, and a way for the lightning of thunder; that maketh the herbs to grow upon the earth, and brings the fruits to perfection ; that fixes the limits of the sea and the dry land. I say, the Providence of God does all this as truly, and by as real an efficiency, as if there were

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors] order and dependence of things, no general VIII. laws by which they are govern'd, but the appearances of

every moment were so many feparate, independent effects, requiring, each a several cause, or at least, a feveral unconnected exertion of power to produce them. The wisdom of God is conspicuous in the fimplicity of his providential administration ; at least, our finite understandings are enabled to difcern and to admire his counsel in the regulasity of his works, by what we call fimplicity, as being more easy to our understandings, tho’ no more easy to his infinite power and wifdom. When we fee a train of events following each other in orderly succession, and a multitude of effects depend on one cause, it gives us a delightful idea of wise and steddy counsel in the government of the world; and we are thereby directed to form our schemes and take the measures of our conduct in life. But it would be extremely stupid so to engage our attention to the settled course of events, as to overlook the invisible

governs thein; not to behold the majesty of the Lord, nor regard the operations of his hands.

Yet God does not confine himself to what are commonly called the laws of nature, really no more than the ordinary series of his own operations ; (for inanimate things, which

power which


we are here considering, do not properly SERM.
obey laws, they are ruled only by an imme- VIII.
diate influence of power, which they cannot
resist;) but, I say, God is not confined to
these laws, sometimes he acts against the
common course of nature, whereby he mani-
fests his power, not as if it were really greater
in these instances, or the operation more dif-
ficult to him ; but to awaken the attention
of men by an extraordinary interposition,
and excite them to their duty. Of this sort
of works were the great flood, whereby the old
world of the ungodly was overthrown; the con-
fuming of Sodom and Gomorrab by fire from
heaven; the dividing of the Red Sea, so that
the Israelites were preserv’d and the Egyptians
drown'd; the terrible convulsions of nature at
the giving of the law in the wilderness; the
preternatural events which accompanied the
death and resurrection of our Saviour; and
many miraculous works done by him and his
apostles, of which we have clear historical
evidence. 'Tis true, we cannot be absolutely
certain from the nature of the things them-
selves, that all these, and such like events,
are the peculiar works of Omnipotence: How
far the capacity of inferior unseen agents may
reach, and what power they may have, by
Divine Permission, over what is commonly


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SERM.called the course of nature, we know not. VIII. But this we are sure of, that there is one eter

nal King whose throne is prepared in heaven and bis kingdon is over all, the Fountain of all power and authority. And if his miniftring spirits are able to effect such prodigies as are astonishing to us, this heightens, instead of leffening our idea of his Majesty ; since the highest of them are under his command, and absolutely subject to his disposal, holding their powers, and the very foundation of them, their being, by no other tenure than his free gift.

3dly, The Perfection of God's fupreme power is display'd in the manner of his operation, which is, not like that of finite active beings, gradual and successive, painful and laborious, but his work is easy to him, as it is irresistible by any opposite strength; and if there be a repetition of Divine acts, or a continuance in working, that does not arise from any difficulty he finds in the execution of his purposes, which is the case with inferior agents, and the cause of their leisurely proceeding. But the greatest of all the works of God, I mean the most incomprehensible to us, perhaps to any finite mind, is, and must be perform’d in an instant, that is creating things out of nothing, or giving them the

beginning of their existence ; for the transi- SERM. tion from nothing to being admits of no suc- Viil. cession. We have however, some faint imperfect image of the Divine operations in the activity of our minds. For tho' we are flow and weak in understanding, and the defect of our knowledge must be supplied, so far as we are able to supply it, by consideration, that we may form our purposes as wisely as we can, yet when they are form’d, the execution is neither tedious nor difficult, within the narrow sphere to which we are confined. We are not conscious of any thing but the mere determination of the will, (than which nothing can be conceiv'd quicker in producing its immediate effect,) that moves the organs of the body, which alone are properly, tho' not absolutely subject to the mind; more distant works necessarily require longer time, from the nature of material instruments, and the imperfect power we have over them. But if we suppose a spirit intimately present in all parts of the universe, having a more perfect knowledge of, and absolute dominion over every thing in nature, than we have over the nearest and most immediate organs of sensation and motion ; this gives us a faint notion of the Divine power,

and the manner of its exercise; it operates with the most perfect ease and with


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