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verse 26, it is all resolved into the supreme cause ; there you find one like the Son of man, which is Jesus Christ, sitting upon the throne, and giving forth orders for the government of all: and if it were not so, how is it that all events conspire to the fulfilment of his designs; as in Israel's deliverance out of Egypt and other innumerable instances ? Certainly, if ten men, from different directions, should all meet at one place, and about one business, without any previous arrangement, it would argue that their motions were secretly overruled by some invisible agent. How is it that such marvellous effects are produced in the world by eauses apparently so feeble ? Amos, 5:9, and 1 Cor. 1:27; and that as often the most apt and likely means are rendered wholly ineffectual ? Psalm 33:16. In a word, if Christ hath no such providential influence, how are his people in all ages preserved in the midst of so many millions of potent and malicious enemies, amongst whom they live as sheep in the midst of wolves ? Luke, 10 : 3. How is it that the bush burns, and yet is not consumed ? Exod. 3 : 2.
But my business, in this discourse, is not to prove that there is a Providence, which none but atheists deny. I shall rather show by what acts Jesus Christ administers this kingdom, and in what manner; and what use may be made of this subject.
I. He rules and orders the Kingdom of Providence, by supporting, permitting, restraining, limiting, protecting, punishing, and rewarding those over whom he reigns providentially.
1. He supports the world, and all creatures in it, by his power. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." John, 5:17. "By him all things consist.” Col. 1:17. It is a considerable part of Christ's glory to have a whole world of creatures owing their being and hourly preservation to him. He is "given for a covenant to the people, to establish the earth.” Isa. 49 : 8.
2. He permits and suffers the worst of creatures in his dominion to be and act as they do. "The deceived and the deceiver are his.” Job, 12 : 16. Even those that fight against Christ and his people receive both power and permission from him. . Say not that it is unbecoming the Most Holy to permit such evils, which he could prevent if he pleased. For as he permits no more than he will overrule to his praise, so that very permission of his is holy and just. Christ's working is not confounded with the creature's. Pure sun-beams are not tainted by the noisome vapors on which they shine. His holiness hath no fellowship with their iniquities; nor are their transgressions at all excused by his permission. "He is a rock, his work is perfect,” but "they have corrupted themselves." Deut. 32:4, 5. And yet should he permit sinful creatures to act out all the wickedness in their hearts, there would neither remain peace nor order in the world. Therefore,
3. He powerfully restrains creatures, by the bridle of providence, from the commission of those things to which their hearts are inclined: "The remainder of wrath thou wilt restrain,” Ps. 76: 10; allowing just so much as shall serve his holy ends, and no more. And truly this is one of the glorious mysteries of Providence, which amazes the serious and considerate soul; to see the spirit of a creature fully set to do mischief; power enough, as one would think, in his hand to do it, and a door of opportunity standing open for it; and yet the effect wonderfully hindered. The strong propensities of the will are inwardly checked, as in the case of Laban, Gen. 31:24 ; or a diversion is strangely cast in their way, as in the case of Sennacherib, 2 Kings, 19: 7, 8, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprises. Julian had two great designs before him ; one was to conquer the Persians, the other to root out the Galileans, as he, by way of contempt, called the christians; but
he would begin with the Persians; and then make a sacrifice of all the christians to his idols. He did so, and perished in the first attempt. Oh the wisdom of Divine Providence!
4. Jesus Christ limits the creatures in their acting, assigning them their boundaries and lines of liberty; to which they may, but beyond it cannot, go.
** Fear none of these things that ye shall suffer; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, and ye
shall have tribulation ten days.” Rev. 2:10. Their enemies would have cast them into their graves, but it shall only be into prison: they would have stretched out their hands upon them all; no, but only some of them shall be exposed: they would have kept them there perpetually ; no, it must be but for ten days. Four hundred and thirty years were determined upon the people of God in Egypt; and then, even in that very night, God brought them forth; for then " the time of the promise was come.” Acts, 7:17.
5. The Lord Jesus providentially protects his people amidst a world of enemies and danger. It was Christ. that appeared unto Moses in the flaming bush, and preserved it from being consumed. The bush signified the people of God in Egypt; the fire flaming in it the exquisite sufferings they there endured; the safety of the bush amidst the flames, the Lord's admirable care and protection of his poor suffering ones. None so tenderly careful as Christ. "As birds flying, so he defends Jerusalem,” Isa. 31:5, that is, as they fly swiftly towards their nests, crying, when their young are in danger, so will the Lord preserve his. They are " preserved in Christ Jesus," Jude 1, as Noah and his family were in the ark. Hear how a worthy of our own (Dr. Owen on Iudwelling Sin) expresses himself on this point:
- That we are at peace in our houses, at rest in our beds; that wc have any quiet in our enjoyments, is
from hence alone. Whose person would not be defiled or destroyed ; whose habitation would not be ruined ; whose blood almost would not be shed, if wicked men had power to perpetrate all their conceived sin ? It may be, the ruin of some of us hath been conceived a thousand times. To this providence we owe the preservation of our lives, our families, our estates, our liberties, and whatsoever is dear to us. For may we not say sometimes with the psalmist, 'My soul is among lions, and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears, and their tongue a sharp sword ?' Psalm 57:4. And how is the deliverance of men from such persons contrived ? God breaks their teeth in their mouths, even the great teeth of the young lions. Psalm 58:6. He keeps this fire from burning, -some he cuts off and destroys: some he cuts short in their power : some he deprives of the instruments whereby alone they can work : some he prevents from their desired opportunities; the attention of some is diverted to other objects; and oftentimes he causeth them to spend their force upon one another. We may say, therefore, with the Psalmist, 'O Lord, how mani. fold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.' Psalm 104: 24."
6. He punishes evil doers, and repays, by his providence, into their own lap, the mischiefs they intend for those that fear him. Pharaoh, Sennacherib, both the Julians, and innumerable more, are the lasting monuments of his righteous retribution. It is true, a sinner may
do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged; but ofttimes God hangs up some eminent sinners in chains, as spectacles and warnings to others. Many a heavy blow hath Providence given to the enemies of God, from which they were never able to recover. Christ rules, and that with a rod of iron, in the midst of his enemies. Psalm 110: 2.
7. And lastly, he rewards the services done to him and his people. Out of this treasure of Providence God often repays those that serve him, and that with a hundred-fold reward now in this life. Matt. 19:29. This active, vigilant Providence hath its eye upon all the wants, straits, and troubles of creatures; but especially of his people. What volumes of experience might the people of God write upon this subject! and what a pleasant history would it be, to read the strange, constant, wonderful, and unexpected actings of Providence, for those who have committed themselves to its care!
II. We shall next inquire how Jesus Christ adminis. ters this providential kingdom.
Both angels and men are his instruments: the angels are " ministering spirits” sent forth by him for the good of them that shall be heirs of salvation. Heb. 1: 14. Luther tells us they have two offices, superius canere et inferius vigilare, "to sing above, and watch beneath." These do us many invisible offices of love. They have dear and tender regard and love for the saints. To them, God, as it were, puts forth his children to nurse, and they are tenderly careful of them whilst they live, and bring them home in their arms to their Father when they die. And as angels, so men are the servants of Providence; yea, bad men as well as good. Cyrus, on that account, is called God's servant. They fulfil his will, whilst they are prosecuting their own lusts. "The earth shall help the woman." Rev. 12:16. But good men delight to serve Providence; they and the angels are fellow-servants in one house, and to one Master. Rev. 19:10. Yea, there is not a creature in heaven, earth, or hell, but Jesus Christ can providentially use to serve his ends, and promote his designs. But whatever the instrument be which Christ uses, of this we may be certain, that his providential working is holy,