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PS. LXIII. 7.
“ Because thou hast been my help; therefore in the sha
dow of thy wings will I rejoice.”
Nothing evinces more strongly that regard, with which the Father of the Universe is pleased to look upon his creatures, than the general distribution of the means of happiness which prevails throughout the world. Every department of nature bears its testimony to this pleasing truth. From the most exalted to the lowest order of beings, ample provision is made for appropriate enjoyment. So conspicuous, indeed, is this display of paternal benevolence, that a very partial acquaintance with the divine economy is sufficient to convince us that all its principles are calculated to result in good. Evil, it is true, does exist; but its introduction, so far from frustrating, is made to further the great purposes of benevolence. Violence, in the natural world, is not unfrequently necessary to the re-production of order: nor is vice, in the moral, less instrumental in heightening the relish and in exalting the majesty of virtue.
Individuals may suffer, since pain is the natural consequence of imprudence and voluntary error; nay, they may be made the harmless victims of affliction and woe; but, as in the first
case, individual suffering seldom fails to be productive of the general good, so, in the latter, the unprovoked pains and sorrows of private life are admirably calculated to promote the moral good of their subjects. The criminal is punished for his offence; and others are warned by the example. The good man mourns in secret over his sorrows, and his heart is humbled before God. Such is the language of sound philosophy—such the conclusion of wisdom and experience: but, above all, such is the glorious assurance of the blessed Gospel. It is this chiefly which, pouring its influence from above, sheds over the human mind so divine a light, that, under all the circumstances of life, even when surrounded by the most gloomy scenes, the Christian finds cause for joy and gratitude. It is this which enables us at all times to behold the kind hand of that superintending Providence, which permits nothing in vain, and which overrules all events to the best of purposes.
It is this which assures us that even the very hairs of our heads are num
bered; that not even a sparrow shall fall unheeded to the ground, and that all things shall work together for good to those who love God—to those who are the called according to his purpose. Yes, it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which enables his followers confidently to trust in the providence of Godwhich enables them to rise triumphant over every obstacle, assured of present support and of future peace. This enables the Christian to adopt the language of pious experience, and, in the words of our text, devoutly to exclaim, “ Because thou hast been my help; therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.”
Let me then, my brethren, suggest a few reasons, in the first place, why we should thus implicitly confide in Divine Providence ; and ' secondly, further urge this duty, by an appeal to such circumstances, as an application of our text would imply. Nor could I, on this occasion, select a more appropriate subject. I have for some time been absent from you, during a season of much affliction and sorrow.* Y
appear again amongst you, both to mourn and to rejoice. For we have all had our portion of distress. Disease and death have torn many of our hearts, by depriving us of objects dear to our affections : And where this has not been the case, we have not failed, in pious sympathy, to mourn with those who mourned; thereby bearing, in some degree, the burdens of afliction with which our brethren have been visited. Surely, then, a wellfounded confidence in Divine Providence, is a fit subject for our present meditation. For it is this which administer's comfort under the severest afflictions, and which inspires the bosom of the Christian with a hope full of strength and of immortality. Nor, in another point of view, is this subject inapplicable to the present occasion. We are about to celebrate the supper of our Lord, through whose Gospel, life and immortality have been brought to light, and through whom we have received all the consolations of heavenly grace.
* This Discourse was delivered on the 7th of December, 1817.
I. In prosecuting our subject, I am in the first place, to suggest a few reasons why we should implicitly confide in Divine Providence: Or, in other words, why we should, under every circumstance of life, look up to God with an humble and holy confidence, assured that he orders all things well ; and that the result of his government will be the promotion of his own glory in advancing the moral happiness of his rational creatures.
1. The first reason which I would suggest, why we should thus confide in Divine Providence, or thus place our trust supremely in God himself, is, that he is a Being of almighty power. In him essentially resides, as in the fountain of all action and source of all strength, the first great cause of whatever energy and whatever exertion are exercised throughout the universe. He first built
He first built up the innumerable worlds which are before him; and he directs them in all their revolutions by the finger of his power.
He created, and he
preserves, angels and men, and all other things that exist. He inspires every department of nature with its peculiar properties, and enstamps upon every being principles of appropriate government. He made us rational and moral beings, and endowed us with power to know and to do his will. All that we behold, all that we feel, all that we think, are calculated to remind us of the ever-active presence of Him in whom we live, and move, and have qur being. Every breath that we draw is a demonstration of the mighty power of God j and can we withhold our confidence from a Being, whose unlimited perfections thus exalt