William S. Plumer, 1865


Truth is in order to godliness. The truth respecting providence is of great practical utility and calls for devout and reverent use and consideration. Sound doctrine on this subject may be as wickedly perverted as on any other matter of revelation. Let all men beware that they do not hold the truth in unrighteousness. Some of the practical considerations arising from the whole subject will be more appropriately presented hereafter. A few points urge themselves upon our attention at this time.

I. Let us firmly believe that God reigns. He is the Judge of all the earth. This is a great truth. It cannot be too boldly asserted, or too firmly believed. It is at the foundation of all true religion, of all solid peace, and of all holy living. We may not deny it. We may not even doubt it. Hos. 14:9. There is an absolute necessity for God's government over the world, and for our believing that he does control it.

We begin life without wisdom, or experience. We take many of the most important steps in life when maturity has not chastened our minds into sobriety. False notions of things, and strong passions, and subtle enemies beset us on every side, especially until after the period, when the elements of character have been pretty firmly united. If God does not preserve at such times, it is clear we must fall.

And what a comfort it is to believe this doctrine. If we are poor, or sick, or bereaved, or defamed, how delightful it is to know that it is the Lord, and not man; the Lord and not Satan; a friend and not an enemy; a most tender father and not a capricious master—who thus ordains. David was wise when he said, "Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, and not into the hand of man." Luther said, "Smite, Lord, for you love me." Every child of God may say as much. God himself says, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten."

This doctrine of providence is a great pillar of hope to all godly men. The three young Hebrews believed it when they said, "Nebuchadnezzar, we don't need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up." Dan. 3:16-18. This is the proper fruit of this doctrine. It emboldens the timid. It confirms the wavering. It converts cowards into heroes. It makes the simple wise. It represses rashness. It keeps alive a solemn sense of responsibility. It is a rock of strength. But it must be steadfastly believed.

Dr. Dick, "As the doctrine of a particular providence is agreeable both to Scripture and to reason, so it is recommended by its obvious tendency to promote the piety and the consolation of mankind . . . The thought, that he 'compasses our paths, and is acquainted with all our ways;' that he watches our steps, orders all the events in our lot, guides and protects us, and supplies our needs, as it were with his own hand; this thought awakens a train of sentiments and feelings, highly favorable to devotion, and sheds a cheering light upon the path of life. We consider him as our guardian and our Father; and reposing upon his care, we are assured that, if we trust in him, no evil shall befall us, and no real blessing shall be withheld."

Price, "Where can be the difficulty of believing an invisible hand—a universal and ever attentive Providence, which guides all things agreeably to perfect rectitude and wisdom, at the same time that the general laws of the world are left unviolated, and the liberty of moral agents is preserved?"

"The Lord will reign forever. O Jerusalem, your God is King in every generation! Praise the Lord!" Psalm 146:10.

II. Let us not be curious in prying into inscrutable secrets connected with providence. We know but little of the little which may be known. Humbly to study providence is a duty. Boldly to pry into it is a sin. He, who cannot swim, ought not to venture into deep waters. God's ruling the world is a deep matter. Many both prejudge and misjudge all that he does. Judge nothing before the time. Remember "it is the glory of God to conceal a thing." Proverbs 25:2. But "vain man would be wise, though he be born like a wild donkey's colt." Job 11:12. The thirty-eighth, thirty-ninth, fortieth, and forty-first chapters of Job contain terrible reproofs even to godly men, who had indulged in daring speculations on divine providence. Oh, for the sublime wisdom of Paul, who stood and adoringly said, "O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." Why will men become cavillers and subject themselves to the alarming reproof, "Nay, but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it—Why have you made me thus?" The ignorance of a wise man is better than the knowledge of a fool.

III. Consider how great is the danger of resisting providence. Whenever God's will is known, submit to it, not grudgingly—but of a cheerful mind. For their sins the Jews had a hard bondage in Babylon. What made their case worse was that among them were prophets and diviners, who fomented rebellion against their masters. They were quite opposed to the reigning powers, and, in fact, were in favor of sullen rebellion against God and man. These false teachers vexed the people and kept their tempers chafed. But by God's direction, good Jeremiah wrote them a letter, saying, "The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, sends this message to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 'Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food you produce. Marry, and have children. Then find spouses for them, and have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.' The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says, 'Do not let the prophets and mediums who are there in Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams because they prophesy lies in my name. I have not sent them,' says the Lord." Jeremiah 29:4-9

How much better it is thus cheerfully to submit to Providence than to quarrel with it, and fret, and lose our good tempers, and, with our tempers, our good consciences! For "who has hardened himself against God and prospered?" Job 9:4. Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth—but woe to him that strives with his Maker. Isaiah 45:9. We are not fit to choose for ourselves. We are blind and cannot see afar off. But God sees and declares the end from the beginning. He is all-wise. He knows all the possible relations of things. "The meek will he guide in judgment." "Be not as the horse and the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle." Do not barely submit—but heartily acquiesce. If it seems hard to say, 'Not my will—but your will be done, O God'—still say it and hold your conscience firmly bound to approve it. "Commit your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established." Proverbs 16:3.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

"If I can have my God to go before me in the pillar and the cloud," said Simeon to Haldane, "I long exceedingly to visit you once more; but if I cannot see my way clear, I am better where I am."