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men fond of controversy, and is perplexed by them, is, how to reconcile human liberty with Divine providence, which we have taken notice of before. But, to both these difficulties, and to all others that may occur upon the subject, I would oppose the saying of St. Augustine: “ Let us grant that He can do some things which we cannot understand*.”
What a melancholy thing would it be to live in a world where anarchy reigned! It would certainly be a woful situation to all; but more especially to the best and most inoffensive part of mankind. It would have been no great privilege, to have been born into a world without God and without providence. For, if there were no Supreme Ruler of the world, then, undoubtedly, the wickedness of men would reign without any curb or impediment, and the great and powerful would unavoidably devour the weak and helpless, “as the great fishes often eat up the small, and the hawk makes havock among the weaker birds +." It
may be objected, that this frequently happens, even in the present world, as appears from the prophecies of Habakkuk, ch. i. ver. 15. But the prophet, immediately after, asserts, that there is a Supreme Power, which holds the reins in the midst of these irregularities; and though they are sometimes permitted, yet, there is a determinate time appointed for setting all things to rights again, which the just man expects, and, till it comes, lives by faith. Hab. ii. 3, 4. Some passages of Ariston's Lambicks are admirable to this
purpose. “A. Be patient; for God uses to support worthy men, such as you are,
a remarkable manner. And unless those who act in a becoming manner, are to receive some great reward, to what purpose is it, pray, to cultivate piety any longer? B. I wish that may be the case; but I too often see those who conform themselves to the rules of piety and virtue, oppressed by * Demus illum aliquod facere, et nos non posse intelligere.
Pisces ut sæpe minutos
calamity; while those who mind nothing but what they are prompted to by private interest and profit, thrive and flourish much better than we. A. For the present it is so, indeed; but it becomes us to look a great way forward, and wait till the world has completed its full revolution. For it is by no means true, that this life is entirely under the dominion of blind chance, or fortune; though many entertain this wicked notion, and the corrupt part of mankind, from this consideration, encourage themselves in immorality; but the virtues of the good will meet with a proper reward, and the wicked will be punished for their crimes. For nothing happens without the will of Heaven *.”
What the poets sometimes advance concerning a supreme Fate, which governs all things, they often ascribe to God; though now and then they forget themselves, and subject even the Supreme Being to their Fate, as the Stoic philosophers did also. But possibly they both had a sound meaning, though it was couched under words that sound a little harsh; and this meaning now and then breaks forth, particularly when they celebrate God for disposing all things, by an eternal law, acoording to his own good pleasure, and thereby make him the supreme and universal governor, subject to no other, but, in some respect, to himself, or to his decrees : which, if stand them in a sound sense, is all that they can mean by their το σοφώτατον and their το αμεταβλητον. The same judgment is to be passed with regard to what we find said about. Fortune; for either that word signifies nothing at all, or you must understand by it, the Supreme Mind, freely disposing of all things. And this is very clearly attested by the following excellent verses of Menander : “ Cease to improve your minds, for the mind of man is nothing at all. The government of all things is solely in the hands of Fortune: whether this Fortune be a Mind, or the Spirit of God, or whatever else it is, it carries
* Α. 9άρσει. Βοηθείν πάσιν τοϊσιν αξιoίς
all before it. Human prudence is but a vapour, a mere trifle, fc. *"
We have also a great many proofs, that, in the opinion of the old poets, Fate and Fortune were precisely the same; one instance whereof we meet with in the following passage: “ Fortune and fate, Pericles, are the givers of all that man enjoys. 1"
And, instead of the terms, Fate, and Fortune, they sometimes used the word Necessity. But all these were but other names, though ill-chosen, for Providence. Euripides, having said a great deal concerning fate, or necessity, at last resolves the whole into this: “Jupiter executes, with thee, all he had decreed before 1."
And Homer's words are very remarkable: “ Jupiter," says he, “increases or diminishes the valour of men, as he thinks proper : for he is the most powerful of all S.” And in another place: Jove, from Olympus, distributes happiness to good and bad men in general, and every one in particular, as he himself thinks proper |.."
Let us, therefore, look upon God as our Father, and venture to trust Him with our all. Let us ask and beg of Him what we want, and look for supplies from no other quarter. This, the indulgent father in Terence desired ; and much more our Heavenly Father. And surely, everything is better conducted by a dutiful love and confidence, than by
* Παύσασθε νουν έχοντες, ουδέν γάρ πλέον
Ανθρώπινος νους έστιν, αλλ' και της τύχης,
Και φλήνακας, &c.
Συν σοι τουτο τελευτά. . Eurip. in Alcestide.
"Οπσως κεν έθέλησιν ο γαρ κάρσιστος απάντων. Ηom. II. XX. | Ζευς δ' αντός νέμει όλβον "Ολύμπιος ανθρώποισιν
'Εσθλοίς ήδί κακούσιν, όπως έθελησεν εκάστω. Ηom. Odyss. iv.
an ignoble and servile fear; and we are very injurious both to Him and ourselves, when we think not, that all things, on His part, are managed with the greatest goodness and bounty. It is a true test of religion and obedience, when, with honourable thoughts, and a firm confidence in our Father, we absolutely depend upon Him, and serve Him from a principle of love. “Be not,” says Augustine, "a froward boy, in the house of the Best of fathers, loving Him when He is fond of thee, and hating Him when He gives thee chastisement, as if, in both cases, He did not intend to provide an inheritance for thee *.” If we suppose this Providence to be the wisest and the best, it is necessary that in every instance our wills should be perfectly submissive to its designs; otherwise, we prefer our own pleasure to the will of Heaven, which appears very unnatural. St. Augustine, on the expression, Upright in heart, which we frequently meet with in the Psalms, makes an excellent observation : “If you cheerfully embrace,” says he, “the Divine will in some things, but in others would rather prefer your own, you are crooked in heart, and would not have
your crooked inclinations conformed to His upright intentions, but, on the contrary, would bend His upright will to yours t."
* Ne sis puer insulsus in domo optimi patris, amans patrem, si tibi blanditur, et odio habens, quando te flagellat ; quasi non et blandiens, et flagellans hæreditatem paret.
+ Si voluntatem divinam in quibusdam amplecteris, in aliis tuam malles, curvus es corde, et non vis curvam tuam voluntatem ad illius rectam diri. gere, sed illius rectam vis ad tuam curvam incurvare.
Of Christ the SAVIOUR.
It is acknowledged, that the publication of the gospel is exceeding agreeable, and perfectly answers its original name, which signifies good tidings. How much sweeter is this joyful news, than the most ravishing and delightful concerts of music! Nay, these are the best tidings that were ever heard in any age of the world. O happy shepherds, to whom this news were sent down from heaven! Ye, to be sure, though watching in the fields, exposed to the severe cold of the night, were, in this, more happy than kings that slept at their ease in gilded beds; that the wonderful nativity of the Supreme King, begotten from eternity, that nativity which brought salvation to the whole world, was first communicated to you, and just at the time it happened. Behold, says the angel, I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people ; for unto you is born this day a Saviour. Luke ii. 10, 11. And immediately, a great company of the heavenly host joined the angel, and in your hearing sung, Glory to God in the highest. And indeed, then, in the strictest truth, 6 A most extraordinary child was sent down from the lofty heavens, &c.*'; Whence also, his name was sent down along with him: His name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. Matt. i. 21. “ O sweet name of Jesus,” says
St. Bernard, “ honey in the mouth, melody in the ears, and heal ing to the heart.” This is the Saviour, who, though we were so miserable, and so justly miserable, yet, would not suffer us to perish. Nor did he only put on our nature, but also our sins; that is, in a legal sense, our guilt being transferred to him. Whence we not only read, that the Word was made flesh, John i. 14, but also, that he was made sin for us, who knew no sin: 2 Cor. v. 12, and even, as we have it in the Epistle to the Galatians, ch. iii. v. 13, that he was made a curse, that
* Jam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto, &c. VIRG. Ecl.