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DISCOURSE XXIII.

ON A DIVINE PROVIDENCE.

MATTHEW, vi. 26.

66

Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow

not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; yet your Heavenly Father

feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"

There are various considerations which frequently tend to produce in our minds a distrust in the superintending care of Divine Providence. Sometimes we look upon ourselves as beings of so little value, that it is not to be supposed our trivial concerns should be objects of the attention of Heaven ; and while it is sufficient that the great frame of nature should be upheld by the power of its Maker, man,

it

may be thought, is permitted, through the short space of his existence, to follow his own thoughts and his own ways, without any eye to mark, or any hand to guide him. To a supposition of this kind, my brethren, the reply of our Saviour, in the text, is unanswerable; and it is a very striking circumstance, that in no department of nature is the constant care and vigilance of Almighty wisdom more conspicuous, than in those inferior departments of creation, which we might, at first view, deem unworthy of its superintendence. In the habits and the instincts of the lower animals,-in the means by which they are supported and united together

in society,—in the slightest and most trivial circumstances by which their wellbeing may be promoted,—we perceive a minuteness of providential design, which is no less 'wonderful than it is benevolent,--and which at once removes the supposition, that there can be any part of the workmanship of God which he will be inclined to consider as undeserving of his protection.

It is not, however, this humiliating view of our nature which we are most prone to indulge. Man very willingly supposes himself to be a creature of no small importance among the works of the Divine wisdom, and he is rather apt to complain that he is neglected by Providence, than to look upon himself as unworthy of its

He complains, that, on comparing his condition with that of the inferior creation, he is less watchfully and constantly guided; that he must “sow” before

care.

12

he " reaps ;” that frequently, although he

sows ,” he yet does not “reap;" and that often all his happiness is destroyed by accidents the most unlooked for, and which burst upon him while he is least prepared to encounter them. Such are the considerations which sometimes lead us to apprehend, that no Divine Providence superintends human affairs, or, at least, to be as distrustful as if there were none. But even although all these circumstances were inexplicable, it would yet be wise and pious, my brethren, to listen to the simple reasoning of our Saviour, by which he proves, that, if there is a protecting Providence any where in nature, surely it will not be refused to man; that although its methods of administration may be obscure, yet they must exist ; and that it is an instance of great want of faith in us to doubt, that the same goodness which feeds “ the fowls of the

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“ air,"and the same wisdom which clothes
“ the lilies of the field,” are not likewise
watchful for our benefit.
The
very

circumstance by which man excels all the lower ranks of being, and in which the bounty of his Creator is most apparent, is that which will be found, on examination, to occasion his greatest misapprehensions respecting the Divine Government. All other creatures act without design on their part, and of consequence they are led simply and directly to execute the designs of God in their creation. These are manifestly designs of the utmost benevolence towards them, and most wisely planned for attaining the object proposed. They are simple, too, and immediately comprehended. From one generation to another, the same unvarying instances of minute contrivance are repeated; and all the history of their little employments is so

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