William S. Plumer, 1865
Practical Remarks on the Special Kindness
of Providence Towards Godly Men
I. What a theme for humble, devout and joyous meditation
have we in this doctrine of providence! The
pious Flavel says, "It will doubtless be a part of our entertainment in
heaven to view with transporting delight, how the designs and methods
were laid to bring us there—and what will be a part of our blessedness in
heaven may be well allowed to have a prime ingrediency into our heaven
upon earth. To search for pleasure among the due observations of Providence
is to search for water in the ocean." In a like strain the amiable John Howe
says, "When the records of eternity shall be exposed to view, all the
counsels and results of the profound wisdom looked into—how will it
transport, when it shall be discovered! Lo, thus were the designs laid; here
were the apt junctures and admirable dependencies of things, which, when
acted upon the stage of time, seemed so perplexed and intricate."
Let God's "loving-kindness" be continually before your
eyes. Think on his judgments. "He who will observe the wonderful providences
of God—shall have wonderful providences of God to observe." "Whoever is
wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the
loving-kindness of the Lord." Charnock says, "It is a part of atheism to
think the acts of God in the world are not worth our serious thoughts. God
is highly angry with those that mind him not. 'Because they regard not the
operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up.'"
Psalm 28:5. It is a divine art, to view the hand of God in everything. It is
an ennobling employment to meditate on all the wonders he has wrought. "The
works of the Lord are great, sought out by all those who have pleasure
therein." Psalm 111:2. That was a good resolution of Asaph, "I will remember
the works of the Lord; surely I will remember your wonders of old—I will
meditate also of all your work, and talk of your doings." Psalm 77:11, 12.
II. There is excellent wisdom in our Savior's saying,
"What I do you know not now—but hereafter you shall know it."
In this world nothing in providence is fully finished.
Judge artists or artisans by appearances when their work is but half
done—and not one of them could stand so unfair a test. Peter was greatly
opposed to Christ's dying at all. The disciples were overwhelmed when he did
die. But out of his death sprang the life of the world. There would have
been no gospel to believe or to preach, had Jesus not died. God's "way is in
the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known."
Psalm 77:19. A carpenter's rule is too short to measure the heavens with.
The waters of the sea can never be cotained in a bottle. Neither can we
ever fully know any act of providence as God knows it. But to judge of
an event before the final issue is great folly. It is also sin. It is both
arrogant and presumptuous. It also brings much misery with it.
Who is more wretched than the man, who sees nothing but
desolating storms in every cloud, nothing but disaster in every undertaking,
nothing but sorrow in the very means used for his joy, nothing but overthrow
in the steps which lead to his exaltation? Oh for a stronger faith. Oh for
more patience. Could we but calmly wait and let the God of all the earth do
as he pleases, all would be well. We are so wrapped up in selfishness
that we flagrantly over-estimate the importance of our own affairs.
A splendid steamer is swiftly passing up the Mississippi.
She has more than five hundred passengers, pressing home to soothe sorrow,
or scatter joy, to give life to commerce, and to carry messages of
government. Vast interests depend on her safety and her speed. A little boy
darts into the cafeteria, crying for the captain. At length he finds him,
and says, "O captain, stop the boat, do stop the boat!" "Why, my son?" said
the veteran officer. The boy replied, "I have dropped my orange overboard,
do stop the boat." He was told it could not be done. His solicitude settled
into sadness, which left him only after sleep. Think of that boy and his
orange. There was some proportion between the value of that orange—and the
other interests involved, yet it was exceedingly small. But there is no
proportion between our comfort for a day—and the glory of God to eternity;
or between our afflictions here—and the glory that shall be revealed in us
hereafter. "Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
We know not what is best for us. Foolish children eat green
apples—but prudent people first let them mature. Let us trust God joyfully.
III. How entirely do just views of God's word and
providence change the aspects of everything.
He, who has any right views, would rather be with Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego in the furnace, or with Daniel in the lions' den—than with
Nebuchadnezzar on the throne. Paul bound with a chain was far more to be
envied than Nero wearing the imperial purple. Paul and Silas were far from
being the most unhappy men in Philippi the night their feet were in the
stocks. There are two sides to every providence, as there were to the pillar
of cloud and of fire. The bright side is towards the children of God. It
ever will be so. God has ordained it. He will make good all his promises.
"Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright." Therefore,
you heroes of the cross of Christ—gird on your armor. Fight the good fight
of faith. Never yield to fear. Endure hardness. Live to please him who has
called you to be soldiers. Jesus reigns! Hear him proclaiming, "All power in
heaven and earth is given unto me." He is King of kings. He rules in the
kingdoms of men. He is God in Zion. He loves the church more than you do. He
died for it. He loves his people as the apple of his eye. Nothing shall harm
those who are the followers of his cross. O shout and give thanks. Robert
Southwell, awaiting martyrdom in prison, wrote to his friend, "We have sung
the canticles of the Lord in a strange land, and in this desert we have
sucked honey from the rock, and oil from the hard flint." Learn this
IV. Sinners, will not you give your hearts to God, and
secure the blessings of his kindness, the care of his special providence?
Do you not need a Father in heaven? Do you not wish for a shield and buckler
and horn of salvation? Persisting in sin and folly—the stars will fight
against you in their courses. Yielding to the claims of divine love and
authority—all nature will at Jehovah's bidding fight for you. Will you bow
your neck? Will you take Christ's yoke upon you? Will you be saved?
V. The right observance of providence is a great
duty. The particulars of this duty are well
stated by Thomas Boston—
1. We should watch for them until they come. Heb. 2:1-3;
Psalm 130:1, 5, 6; Lam. 3:49, 50.
2. We should take heed to them, and mark them when they
come. Isaiah 25:9; Ezek. 1:15; Zech. 6:Luke 19:44.
3. We should seriously review them, ponder and closely
consider them. Psalm 111:2; Ezek. 10:13; Psalm 73:16; Job 10:2; Psalm 77:6.
4. We should lay them up, and keep them in record. Luke
1:66; 1 Sam. 17:37; Psalm 37:25.
5. We should observe them for practical purposes, that
they may have a sanctifying power over our hearts and lives. Psalm 64:7, 9;
Deut. 29:2, 3, 4; 2 Kings 6:33; Ecc. 7:14.