THE remaining species of God's external efficiency, is his government of the whole creation.

This government is either generalor special.

His general government is that whereby God the Father regards, preserves, and governs the whole of creation with infinite wisdom and holiness according to the conditions of his decree.

God the Father. Neh. ix. 6. 'thou, even thou, art Jehovah alone..... thou hast made, and thou preservest them all.' To this truth Christ himself bears witness everywhere. Matt. v. 45.' that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise..... and sendeth rain,' &c. vi. 4. 'thy Father which seeth in secret.' v. 8. 'your Father knoweth.' v. 13. 'thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.' v. 26. 'i your heavenly Father feedeth them.' v. 32. 'your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.' vii. 11. 'your Father which is in heaven shall give good things unto them that ask him.' x. 29. 'one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Fa <262> ther.' Acts i. 7. 'the times and seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.' Eph. i. 11. 'according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.' James i. 17. 'every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights'. Even as regards the Son himself. Acts iv. 27. 'against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed..... for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.' The preservation of the universe is attributed to the Son also, but in what sense, and on what grounds, may be seen in the fifth chapter, on the Son of God. Col. i. 17. 'by him all things consist,' —but both the preceding and following verses explain on what account; namely, because the Father, v. 13. 'hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son,' and because, v. 19. 'it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell.' Heb. i. 3. 'upholding all things by the word of his power,' namely, because, v. 2. the Father 'hath appointed him heir of all things.' Further, it will appear on an examination of the passage, that the original ought to be translated, not of his own power,[1] but of his, namely, the Father's, of whose person he was the <263> express image: and the right reading in the Greek is αὐτοῦ, not αὑτοῦ, since δι᾽ ἑαυτοῦ immediately follows, as if put expressly for the sake of distinction. Lastly, Christ testifies of himself, Matt, xxviii. 18. 'all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth;' and to the same effect in many other places.

Regards. Job xxxi. 4. 'doth not he count all my steps?' 2 Chron. xvi. 9. 'the eyes of Jehovah run to and fro throughout the whole earth.' Psal. xxxiii. 15. 'he fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.' Jer. xxxii. 19. 'thine eyes are open up on all the ways of the sons of men.' Hos, ii. 21. 'I will hear the heavens.'

Preserves. Deut. viii. 3. 'man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of Jehovah.' Job vii. 20. 'O thou preserver of men.' Psal. xxx. 7. 'thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.' lxxx. 1. 'O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock.... shine forth.' v. 3. 'cause thy face to shine and we shall be saved.' civ. 29. 'thou takest away their breath, they die.' Nehem. ix. 6. 'thou hast made..... and thou preservest them all.' Acts xiv. 17. 'he left not him self without witness.' xvii. 25. 'he giveth to all life.' v. 28. 'in him we live.'

According to the conditions of his decree. It is necessary to add this qualification, inasmuch as God preserves neither angels, nor men, nor any other part of creation absolutely, but always with reference to the conditions of his decree. For he preserves mankind, since their spontaneous fall, and all other things with them, only so far as regards their existence, and not as regards their primitive perfection.


Governs. Job xiv. 5. 'thou hast appointed his bounds.' Psal. xxix. 10. 'Jehovah sitteth king for ever.' xciii. 1. 'Jehovah reigneth..... the world also is established.' ciii. 19. 'his kingdom ruleth over all.' Prov. xx. 24. 'man's goings are of Jehovah.' xxi. 1. 'the king's heart is in the hand of Jehovah..... he turneth it whithersoever he will.'

With infinite wisdom and holiness. Job ix. 10. 'which doeth great things past finding out, yea, and wonders without number.' Prov. x. 24. 'the fear of the wicked it shall come upon him; but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.' xii. 3. 'a man shall not be established by wickedness.' xiii. 9. 'the light of the righteous rejoiceth.' Isai. lv. 9. 'my ways are higher than your ways.' Deut. xxxii. 4. 'all his ways are judgement.' Psal. xix. 9. 'the judgements of Jehovah are true and righteous altogether.' lxxvii. 13. 'thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary,' Generally speaking, however, no distinction is made between the righteous and the wicked, with regard to the final issue of events, at least in this life. Job xii. 6. 'the tabernacles of robbers prosper.' xxi. 7. 'wherefore do the wicked live, become old?' Eccles. vii. 15. 'there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.' viii. 14. 'there be just men unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous.' ix. 2. 'there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked.' The reason for this may be seen Job v. 7. 'man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.' xxiv. 23. 'though it be given him to be in <265> safety, whereon he resteth; yet his eyes are upon their ways,' &c. Psal. lxxiii. 12, &c. 'behold, these are the ungodly who prosper in the world,' &c..... until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. xcii. 7. 'when the wicked spring as the grass,' &c.....'it is that they shall be destroyed forever.' Eccles. vii. 18. 'it is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea also from this withdraw not thine hand; for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.' viii. 12. 'though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged; yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God.' Jer. xii. 1. 'wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper?' Dan. xii. 10. 'many shall be purified, and made white, and tried.'

The whole of creation. Gen. viii. 1. 'God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle.' ix. 9, 10, 12, 15. 'I, behold I establish my covenant with you..... and every living creature that is with you.' Prov. xv. 3. 'the eyes of Jehovah are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.'

Even the smallest objects. Job xxxiv. 21. 'for his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings.' Psal. civ. 21. 'the young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.' cxlvii. 9. 'he giveth to the beast his food.' Matt. vi. 26. x. 29, 30. 'a sparrow shall not fall on the ground with out your Father: but the very hairs of your head are all numbered.'

At the same time, God does not extend an equal share of his providential care to all things indiscriminately. 1 Cor. ix. 9. 'doth God take care for oxen?' that is, as much care as he takes for man? Zech. <266> ii. 8. 'he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye.' 1 Tim. iv. 10. 'the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.'

Natural things. Exod. iii. 21. 'I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians;' that is, by operating a change in their natural affections.' Jer. li. 16. 'he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth.' Amos v. 8. 'that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth; Jehovah is his name.'

Even such as are supernatural. Lev. xxv. 20, 21. 'and if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year?..... it shall bring forth fruit for three years.' Deut. viii. 3, 4. 'he fed thee with manna..... thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell these forty years.' See also xxix. 5. 1 Kings xvii. 4. 'I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.' v. 14. 'the barrel of meal shall not waste,' &c.

Events contingent or fortuitous. Exod. xxi. 13. 'if God deliver him into his hand.' Prov. xvi. 33. 'the whole disposing of the lot is of Jehovah.' Nor is anything derogatory to divine providence intended by Scripture, even where (as sometimes happens) it scruples not to employ the names of fortune or chance; all that is meant is to exclude the idea of human causation. Eccles. ix. 11. 'time and chance happeneth to them all.' Luke x. 31. 'by chance there came down a certain priest that way.'

Voluntary actions. 2 Chron. x. 15. 'so the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God.' Prov. xvi. 9. 'a man's heart deviseth his <267> way; but Jehovah directeth his steps.' xx. 24. 'man's goings are of Jehovah.' xxi. 1. 'the king's heart is in the hand of Jehovah as the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will.' Jer. x. 28. 'O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself.' In this, however, there is no infringement on the liberty of the human will; otherwise man would be deprived of the power of free agency, not only with regard to what is right, but with regard to what is indifferent, or even positively wrong.

Lastly, temporal evils no less than blessings. Exod. xxi. 13. 'if God deliver him into his hand.' Isai. xlv. 7. 'I make peace, and create evil,' —that is, what afterwards became evil, and now remains so; for whatever God created was originally good, as he himself testifies,' Gen. i. Matt, xviii. 7. 'woe unto the world because of offences; for it must needs be that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.' 1 Cor. xi. 19. 'for there must be also heresies amongst you, that they which are approved may be made manifest amongst you.'

God, however, is concerned in the production of evil only in one of these two ways; either he permits its existence by throwing no impediment in the way of natural causes and free agents, (as, Acts. ii. 23. 'him being delivered by the determinate counsel of God..... ye have slain.' xiv. 16. 'who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.' 1 Pet. iii. 17. 'it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing.' iv. 19. 'them that suffer according to the will of God,' ) or, secondly, he causes evil by the infliction of judgements, which is called the evil of punishment 2 Sam. xii. 11. 'be <268> hold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house,' —that is, punishment. Prov. xvi. 4. 'Jehovah hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil;' that is, him who, having been created good, became subsequently wicked by his own fault, in conformity with the explanation already given of Isai. xlv. 7. liv. 16. 'I created the waster to destroy.' Lam. iii. 38, 39. 'out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good? wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?' Amos iii. 6. 'shall there be evil in a city, and Jehovah hath not done it?' For God, who is infinitely good, cannot be the doer of wickedness, or of the evil of sin; on the contrary, out of the wickedness of men he produces good. Gen. xlv. 5. 'God did send me before you to preserve life.' l. 20. 'as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.'

If (inasmuch as I do not address myself to such as are wholly ignorant, but to those who are already competently acquainted with the outlines of Christian doctrine) I may be permitted, in discoursing on the general providence of God, so far to anticipate the natural order of arrangement, as to make an allusion to a subject which belongs properly to another part of my treatise, that of sin, I might remark, that even in the matter of sin God's providence finds its exercise not only in permitting its existence, or in withdrawing his grace, but also in impelling sinners to the commission of sin, in hardening their hearts, and in blinding their understandings.

In impelling sinners to the commission of sin. Exod. ix. 16. 'for this cause have I raised thee up.' <269> Judges ix. 23. 'God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem.' 2 Sam. xii. 11, 12. 'I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour..... I will do this thing.' xvi. 10. 'Jehovah hath said unto him, Curse David' xxiv. 1 . 'Jehovah moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.' Compare 1 Chron. xxi. 1. 1 Kings xxii, 20. 'who shall persuade Ahab?' Psal. cv. 25. 'he turned their heart to hate his people.' Ezek. xiv. 9. 'I Jehovah have deceived that prophet.'

In hardening their hearts. Exod. iv. 21. vii. 3. 'I will harden Pharaoh's heart.' Deut. ii. 30. 'Jehovah thy God hardened his spirit.' Josh. xi. 20. 'it was of Jehovah to harden their hearts.' John xii. 39, 40. 'therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again..... he hath hardened their heart.' Rom. ix, 18. 'whom he will he hardeneth.'

In blinding their understandings. Deut. xxviii. 28. 'Jehovah shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.' 1 Sam. xvi. 14. 'an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him.' 1 Kings xxii. 22 'I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets: and Jehovah said, Thou shalt persuade him.' Isai. viii. 14. 'he shall be for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel; for a gin and for a snare-.' xix. 14. 'Jehovah hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof, and they have caused Egypt to err.' xxix. 10. 'Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes.' Matt. xiii. 13. 'therefore speak I to them in parables, because they <270> seeing see not.' John xii. 40. compared with Isai vi. 9. 'he hath blinded their eyes.' Rom. i. 28. 'God gave them over to a reprobate mind.' 2 Thess. ii. 11. 'God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.'

But though in these, as well as in many other passages of the Old and New Testament, God distinctly declares that it is himself who impels the sinner to sin, who hardens his heart, who blinds his understanding, and leads him into error; yet on account of the infinite holiness of the Deity, it is not allowable to consider him as in the smallest instance the author of sin. Hos. xiv. 9. 'the ways of Jehovah are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall therein.' Psal. v. 4. 'thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee.' Rom. vii. 8. 'sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.' James i. 13, 14. 'let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.' iv. 1. 'from whence come wars and fightings amongst you? come they not hence, even of your lusts which war in your members?' 1 John ii. 16. 'for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.' For it is not the human heart in a state of innocence and purity, and repugnance to evil, that is induced by him to act wickedly and deceitfully; but after it has conceived sin, and when it is about to bring forth, he, in his character of sove <271> reign disposer of all things,[2] inclines and biasses it in this or that direction, or towards this or that object. Psal. xciv. 23. 'he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness, yea, Jehovah our God shall cut them off;' —that is to say, by the infliction of punishment. Nor does God make that will evil which was before good, but the will being already in a state of perversion, he influences it in such a manner, that out of its own wickedness it either operates good for others, or punishment for itself, though unknowingly, and with the intent of producing a very different result.' Prov. xvi. 9. 'a man's heart deviseth his way, but Jehovah directeth his steps.' Thus Ezek. xxi. 21, 22. when the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way in doubt whether he should go to war against the Ammonites or against the Jews, God so ordered the divination, as to determine him on going against Jerusalem,[3] Or, to use the common simile, as a rider who urges on a stumbling horse in a particular direction is the cause of its increasing its speed, but not of its stumbling, —so God, who is the supreme governor of the universe, may instigate an evil agent, without <272> being in the least degree the cause of the evil. I shall recur again to this simile hereafter. For example, —God saw that the mind of David was so elated and puffed up by the increase of his power, that even without any external impulse he was on the point of giving some remarkable token of his pride; he there ore excited in him the desire of numbering the people: he did not inspire him with the passion of vain glory, but impelled him to display in this manner, rather than in any other, that latent arrogance of his heart which was ready to break forth. God therefore was the author of the act itself, but David alone was responsible for its pride and wickedness. Further, the end which a sinner has in view is generally something evil and unjust, from which God uniformly educes a good and just result, thus as it were creating light out of darkness. By this means he proves the inmost intentions of men, that is, he makes man to have a thorough insight into the latent wickedness of his own heart, that he may either be induced thereby to forsake his sins, or if not, that he may become notorious and inexcusable in the sight of all; or lastly, to the end that both the author and the sufferer of the evil may be punished for some former transgression. At the same time, the common maxim, that God makes sin subservient to the punishment of sin, must be received with caution; for the Deity does not effect his purpose by compelling any one to commit crime, or by abetting him in it, but by withdrawing the ordinary grace of his enlightening spirit, and ceasing to strengthen him against sin. There is indeed a proverb which says, that he who is able to forbid an action, and forbids it not, virtually com <273> mands it.[4] This maxim is indeed binding on man, as a moral precept; but it is otherwise with regard to God.[5] When, in conformity with the language of mankind, he is spoken of as instigating, where he only does not prohibit evil, it does not follow that he therefore bids it, inasmuch as there is no obligation by which he is bound to forbid it. Psal. lxxxi. 11, 12. 'my people would not hearken to my voice, and Israel would none of me: so I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust, and they walked in their own counsels.' Hence it is said,Rom. i. 24. 'wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness,' —that is, he left them to be actuated by their own lusts, to walk in them; for properly speaking God does not instigate, or give up, him whom he leaves entirely to himself, that is, to his own desires and counsels, and to the suggestions of his ever active spiritual enemy. In the same sense the Church is said to give up to Satan the contumacious member, whom it interdicts from its communion. With regard to the case of David's numbering the people, a single word will be sufficient. For it is not God, but Satan who is said to have instigated him. 2 Sam. xxiv. 1.[6] 1 Chron. xxi. 1. A <274> similar explanation applies to the passage in 2 Sam. xii. 11, 12. 'behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house,' —that is, the evil of punishment, —'and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour,' —that is, I will permit thy son to go in unto them, according to the counsel of Ahithophel; for this is the meaning of the word give, as has been just shown. As to the popular simile of the stumbling horse, the argument drawn from it is itself a lame one; for the sinner, if he be really instigated, is not instigated simply to act, as in the case of the horse, but to act amiss, —or in other words, he is instigated to stumble, because he stumbles.[7] In both the instances above adduced, God had determined to punish openly the secret adultery of David: he saw Absalom's propensity to every kind of wickedness; he saw the mischievous counsels of Ahithophel, and did nothing more than influence their minds, which were already in a state of preparation for any atrocity, to perpetrate one crime in preference to another, when opportunity should offer; according to the passage of Proverbs quoted above, xvi. 9. 'a man's heart deviseth his way; but Jehovah directeth his steps.' For to offer an occasion of sinning, is only <275> to manifest the wickedness of the sinner, not to create it. The other position, that God eventually converts every evil deed into an instrument of good, contrary to the expectation of sinners, and overcomes evil with good,[8] is sufficiently illustrated in the example of Joseph's sale by his brethren, Gen. xlv. 8. Thus also in the crucifixion of Christ, the sole aim of Pilate was to preserve the favour of Cæsar; that of the Jews to satisfy their own hatred and vengeance; but God, whose 'hand and counsel had determined before every thing that was to be done,' Acts iv. 28. made use of their cruelty and violence as instruments for effecting the general redemption of mankind. Rom. xi. 11. 'through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles.' 1 Cor. xi. 19. 'there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.' Philipp. i. 12, 14. 'the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.'

Again, as God's instigating the sinner does not render him the author of sin, so neither does his hard <276> ening the heart or blinding the understanding involve that consequence; inasmuch as he does not produce these effects by infusing an evil disposition, but on the contrary by employing such just and kind methods, as ought rather to soften the hearts of sinners than harden them. First, by his long-suffering. Rom. ii. 4, 5. 'despisest thou the riches of his long-suffering..... but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath?' Secondly, by urging his own good and reasonable commands in opposition to the obstinacy of the wicked; as an anvil, or adamant, is said to be hardened under the hammer. Thus Pharaoh became more furious and obdurate in proportion as he resisted the commands of God. Exod. v. 2. 'who is Jehovah?' vii. 2. 3. 'thou shalt speak all that I command thee..... and I will harden Pharaoh's heart.' Isai. vi. 10. 'make the heart of this people fat,' —that is to say, by the repeated inculcation of the divine commands, as in xxviii. 13. 'the word of Jehovah was unto them precept upon precept..... that they might go and fall backward.' Thirdly, by correction or punishment. Ezek. iii. 20. 'when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die.' Jer. v. 3. 'thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved..... they have made their faces harder than a rock,' The hardening of the heart, therefore, is usually the last punishment inflicted on inveterate wickedness and unbelief in this life. 1 Sam. ii. 25. 'they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them.' God often hardens in a remarkable manner the powerful and rebellious princes of this world, in <277> order that through their insolence and haughtiness his glory may be magnified among the nations. Exod. ix. 16. 'for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power.' See also x. 2. compared with Rom. ix. 17. 'even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee.' Exod. xiv. 4, 17. 'I will be honoured upon Pharaoh.' Yet the act of hardening is not so exclusively the work of God, but that the wicked themselves fully co-operate in it, though with any view but that of fulfilling the divine will. Hence Pharaoh is said to harden his own heart, Exod. ix. 34. 'when he saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.' 2 Chron. xxxvi. 13. 'he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto Jehovah.' Psal. xcv. 8. 'harden not your heart.' Zech. vii. 12. 'they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law and the words which Jehovah of hosts hath sent.'

Thus also with regard to the blinding of the understanding. Deut. xxviii. 15. compared with v. 28. 'it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God..... Jehovah shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart,' that is, by withdrawing the light of his grace, by confounding or stupifying the faculties of the mind, or by simply permitting Satan to work these effects in the sinner. Rom. i. 28. 'even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.' 2 Cor. iv. 4. 'in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.' Eph. ii. 2. <278> 'the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.' 2 Thess. ii. 11. 'for this cause God shall send them strong delusion.' Lastly, God is said to deceive men, not in the sense of seducing them to sin, but of beguiling them to their own punishment, or even to the production of some good end. Ezek. xiv. 9-11. 'if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I Jehovah have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him,' &c.....'and they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity..... that the house of Israel may go no more astray from me.' God first deceived the already corrupt and covetous prophet, by disposing his mind to prophesy things acceptable to the people, and then deservedly cut off both the people who inquired of him, and the prophet of whom they inquired, to deter others from sinning in a similar manner; because on the one hand a bad intention had been displayed on the part of the inquirers, and on the other a false answer had been returned, which God had not commanded.

To this view of providence must be referred what is called temptation, whereby God either tempts men, or permits them to be tempted by the devil or his agents. Temptation is either for evil or for good.

An evil temptation is when God, as above described, either withdraws his grace, or presents occasions of sin, or hardens the heart, or blinds the understanding. This is generally an evil temptation in respect of him who is tempted, but most equitable on the part of the Deity, for the reasons above-mentioned. It also serves the purpose of unmasking hypocrisy;[9] <279> for God tempts no one in the sense of enticing or persuading to sin, (see James i. 13. as above,) though there be some towards whom he deservedly permits the devil to employ such temptations. We are taught in the Lord's prayer to deprecate temptations of this kind; Matt. vi. 13. 'lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'[10]

A good temptation is that whereby God tempts even the righteous for the purpose of proving them, not as though he were ignorant of the disposition of their hearts, but for the purpose of exercising or manifesting their faith or patience, as in the case of Abraham and Job; or of lessening their self-confidence, and reproving their weakness, that both they themselves may become wiser by experience, and others may profit by their example; as in the case of Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. whom 'God left' —partially, or for a time —'to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.' He tempted the Israelites in the wilderness with the same view. Deut, viii. 2. 'to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no.' Psal. lxvi. 10. 'thou, O God, hast proved us, thou hast tried us as silver is tried.' 1 Pet. i. 7. 'that the trial of your faith..... might be found unto praise.' iv. 12. 'beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.' Rev. ii. 10. 'behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried.'

This kind of temptation is therefore rather to be desired. Psal. xxvi. 2. 'examine me, O Jehovah, <280> and prove me; try my reins and my heart.' James i. 2, 3. 'my brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.'

God also promises a happy issue. 1 Cor. x. 13. 'there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.' James i. 12. 'blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.'

Yet even believers are not always sufficiently observant of these various operations of divine providence, until they are led to investigate the subject more deeply, and become more intimately conversant with the word of God. Psal. lxxiii. 2, 17. 'my feet were almost gone..... until I went into the sanctuary of God: then understood I their end.' Dan. xii. 10. 'many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.'

Having said in the prefatory definition, that the providence of God extends to all things, and that it has enacted certain immutable laws, by which every part of the creation is administered, it may not be an useless digression to inquire in this place, whether, among other fixed regulations, a limit has been set to the duration of human life, which is not to be passed.[11] That such is the case, Scripture clearly inti <281> mates. Job xiv. 5. 'seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.' Psal. xc. 10. 'the days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be four-score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.' From these and similar passages, and especially from the early history of the world, it is evident that God, at least after the fall of man,[12] limited human life to a certain term, which in the progress of ages, from Adam to David, gradually became more and more contracted; so that whether this term be one and the same to all, or appointed differently to each individual, it is in the power of no one to prolong or exceed its limits. This is the province of God alone, as is proved beyond all doubt by the promise of long life made by him to his people, and by his addition of fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah when at the point of death. The power of shortening or anticipating the term in question, on the contrary, is not the exclusive privilege of God, though this also is exercised by him, both for purposes of reward and punishment; the <282> same effect may be, and in fact frequently is, produced by the crimes or vices of mortals themselves. Prov. x. 27. 'the fear of Jehovah prolongeth days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.' Exod. xx. 12. 'honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land,' &c. See also numerous passages to the same purpose, during the time of the law. Psal. lv. 23, 'bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days,' that is, they shall not live to the end of that term, to which by the constitution of their bodies they might other wise have arrived; in which class are to be placed all those who lay violent hands on themselves, or who accelerate death by intemperate living.

The providence of God is either ordinary or extraordinary.[13]

His ordinary providence is that whereby he upholds and preserves the immutable order of causes appointed by him in the beginning. This is commonly, and indeed too frequently, described by the name of nature; for nature cannot possibly mean anything but the mysterious power and efficacy of that divine voice which went forth in the beginning, and to which, as to a perpetual command, all things have since paid obedience. Job xxxviii. 12, 'hast thou commanded the morning since thy days?' v. 33. 'knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?' Psal. cxlviii. 8. 'fire and hail, snow and vapours, stormy wind fulfilling <283> his word.' Isai. xlv. 12. 'I have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.' Jer. xxxi. 36. 'if those ordinances depart from before me.' xxxiii. 20. 'my covenant of the day and my covenant of the night.'

The extraordinary providence of God is that where by God produces some effect out of the usual order of nature, or gives the power of producing the same effect to whomsoever he may appoint. This is what we call a miracle. Hence God alone is the primary author of miracles, as he only is able to invert that order of things which he has himself appointed. Psal. lxxii. 18. 'who only doeth wondrous things.' John x. 21. 'can a devil open the eyes of the blind?' 2 Thess. ii. 9. 'whose coming is after the power of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.'

The use of miracles is to manifest the divine power, and confirm our faith. Exod. vi. 6, 7. 'I will redeem you..... with great judgements..... and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God.' viii. 22. 'I will sever in that day the land of Goshen..... to the end thou mayest know that I am Jehovah.' 1 Kings xvii. 24. 'now by this I know that thou art a man of God.' Mark xvi. 20. 'the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.' Heb. ii. 4. 'God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.'

Miracles are also designed to increase the condemnation of unbelievers, by taking away all excuse for unbelief. Matt. xi. 21. 'woe unto thee, Chorazin.... for if the mighty works which were done in you <284> had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago-.' John xv. 24. 'if I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.'


In allusion to the versions of Beza and Tremellius, who translate the clause, sustineatque omnia verbo potentiæ suæ, or verbo illo suo potente, sustinet omnia virtute verbi sui. Mill reads αὑτοῦ, without noticing the other reading, nor have I remarked that Waterland, who often quotes and argues upon the passage, takes any notice of the variation. It is however mentioned by Doddridge; and Wetstein, who reads αὑτοῦ, has the following note: 'αὐτοῦ, ut ad Patrem referatur. Christus verbo potentiæ paternæ cuncta fert. Editio Erasmi, Colinæi.' To these two names Archbishop Newcome has added that of Bengelius, in the copy of Wetstein's New Testament which formerly belonged to that prelate, and which is enriched with several annotations in his hand-writing.


..... Therefore was law giv'n them to evince

Their natural pravity, by stirring —up

Sin against law to fight. Paradise Lost, XII. 287.


'Deus interdum peccatores inscios et præter mentem suam ad objectum aliquod contra quod peccent, potius quam ad aliud dirigit; vel ad hoc potius peccatum, quam ad aliud quod animo ante conceperant, cos ferri sinit..... cum rex Babylonis ambitione sua incitatus bellum gerere constituisset, at penderet adhuc animo, nesciens utrum Judæos an vero Ammonitas impetere deberet, Deus ita direxit sortes, quas consulebat, ut in Judæos, quorum peccata ultionem suam magis provocaverant, expeditionem illam militarem susciperet, Ezech. xxi. 29, &c.' Curcell. Institutio, III. 12, 7.


'But they shift it; he permitted only. Yet silence in the law is consent, and consent is accessory.' Tetrachordon. Prose Works, II. 9.

'Yea, but to permit evil, is not to do evil. Yes, it is in a most eminent manner to do evil; where else are all our grave and faithful sayings, that he whose office is to forbid and forbids not, bids, exhorts, encourages?' Ibid. 182.


As if they would confine th'Interminable,

And tie him to his own prescript,

Who made our laws to bind us, not himself.

Samson Agonistes, 307.


Perrexit autem ira Jehovæ accendi in Israelitas, quum incitasset adversarius Davidem in cos, &c. Version of Tremellius. Our authorized translation renders the passage differently.The anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.


'Atqui, inquies, id fit quia sunt mali, non quia Dei concursus eos tales reddat, veluti cum agaso armentum equorum aut asinorum claudorum agitat, causa quidem est incessus illorum, sed vitium ipsis adhærens est causa cur claudicarent. Respondeo istam similitudinem claudicare, nec posse applicari primo hominis peccato, quo cætera omnia inevitabiliter fluere existimant. Nullus enim tunc in eo erat defectus, qui efficeret ut Deo ad agendum impellente male ageret.' Curcell. Institutio, IV. 2. 3.


..... If then his Providence

Out of our evil seek to bring forth good-.

Paradise Lost, I. 162.

..... Who seeks

To lessen thee, against his purpose serves

To manifest the more thy might; his evil

Thou usest, and from thence creat'st more good.

VII. 613. See also XII. 470.

'Denique providentia divina circa peccatum jam commissum se exerit, non tantum puniendo ipsum ex severitate, aut condonando ex misericordia, sed etiam ad bonum aliquem finem inservire faciendo, contra perpetrantis intentionem. Ita Deus usus est venditione Josephi, ad conservandum familiam patris et regnum Ægypti, ne fame perirent; et scelere Judæorum Jesum morti tradentium, ad generis humani redemptionem.' Curcell. Institutio, III. 12. 8.


'Yet I will not insist on that which may seem to be the cause on God's part; as his judgement on our sins, the trial of his own, the unmasking of hypocrites-.' Of Reformation in England, I. 5.


Ab illo malo.Tremellius. from that evil one.


'Tertia quæstio spectat conservationem individuorum, utrum Deus absoluto decreto unicuique homini certum vitæ terminum assignarit, quem nemo ulla ratione aut contrahere aut producere possit.' Curcell. Institutio, III. 11. 1.


This seems to intimate a belief in the doctrine held by the Fathers and best divines, that if Adam had not sinned, he would not have died. The opinion is expressed in the same doubtful manner in a speech of Raphael:

..... time may come, when men

With angels may participate.....

And from these corporal nutriments perhaps

Your bodies may at last turn all to spirit,

Improv'd by tract of time, and wing'd ascend

Ethereal as we, or may at choice

Here, or in heav'nly Paradises dwell.

Paradise Lost, V. 493.


'Qualitas providentiæ in duobus præcipue spectator. 1. Quod alia sit ordinaria, alia vero extraordinaria..... Providentia ordinaria est, qua Deus in hominum regimine ordinem a se ab initio institutum observat, et omnia convenienter naturæ, quam ipsis indidit, gubernat. Curcell. Institutio, III. 12. 10.

© 2024 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC