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DIVINE CONDUCT 

•X* A OR THE 



aVU' 



MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE 



WHEREIN 



THE BEING AND EPPICACY OP PROVIDENCE ARE ASSERTED 
AND vindicated; THE METHODS OF PROVIDENCE, AS 
IT PASSES THROUGH THE SEVERAL STAGES OF OUR 
LIVES opened; and the PROPER COURSE OF IMPROV- 
ING ALL PROVIDENCES POINTED OUT. 



BY THE 

EEV. JOHN FLAYEL, 
A. D. 1677. 



PHILADELPHIA: 
PRESBYTERIAN BOARD OF PUBLICATION. 



DIVINE CONDUCT 



OB 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 



I will cry unto God Most High : unto God that per- 
formeth all things for me. — Psalm Ivii. 2. 

The greatness of God is a glorious and unsearch- 
able mystery. " The Lord most high is terrible ; 
he is a great King over all the earth," Psal. xlvii. 2. 
The condescension of the most high God to men 
is also a profound mystery. " Though the Lord 
be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly," 
Psal. cxxxviii. 6. But when both these meet to- 
gether, as they do in this Scripture, they make up 
a matchless mystery. Here we find the most high 
God performing all things for a poor distressed 
creature. It is the great support and solace of the 
saints in all the distresses that befall them here, 
that there is a wise Spirit sitting in all the wheels 
of motion, and governing the most eccentric crea- 
tures, and their most pernicious designs, to blessed 
and happy issues. And, indeed, it were not worth 
while to live in a world devoid of God and pro- 
vidence. 

How deeply we are concerned in this matter, 

3 



4 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

will appear by that great instance which this psalm 
presents us with. 

It was composed, as the title notes, by David 
prayer-wise, when he hid himself from Saul in the 
cave; and is inscribed with a double title, Al 
taschith MicJUam of David. Al taschith refers 
to the scope, and MicJitam to the dignity of the 
subject-matter. 

The former signifies " destroy not," or, let there be 
no slaughter, and may either refer to Saul, con- 
cerning whom he gave charge to his servants not 
to destroy him; or rather, it hath reference to God, 
to whom, in this great exigence, he poured out his 
soul in this pathetical ejaculation, " Al taschith. 
Destroy not 1" 

The latter title, Michtam, signifies a golden or- 
nament, and so is suited to the choice and excellent 
matter of the psalm, which much more deserves 
such a title, than Pythagoras's golden verses did. 

Three things are remarkable in the former part 
of the psalm, namely: 1. His extreme danger. 

2. His earnest address to God in that extremity. 

3. The arguments he pleads with God in that 
address. 

1. His extreme danger, expressed both in the 
title and body of the psalm. The title tells us, 
this psalm was composed by him, when he hid 
himself from Saul, in the cave. This cave was in 
the wilderness of Ponged i, among the broken rocks, 
where the wild-goats inhabited, an obscure and de- 
solate hole ; yet, even thither the envy of Saul 
pursued him, 1 Sam. xxiv. 1, 2. And now he, 
that had been so long hunted as a partridge upon 
the mountains, seems to be inclosed in the net; 
for the place was begirt with his enemies, and 
having, in this place, no outlet another way, and 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. O 

Saul himself entering into the mouth of this cave, 
in the sides and creeks whereof he and his men 
lay hid, and saw him, judge to how great an ex- 
tremity, and to what a desperate state things were 
now brought ; well might he say, as it is, ver. 4. 
** My soul is among lions, and I lie even among 
them that are set on fire." What hope now re- 
mained ] what but immediate destruction could be 
expected ? 

2. Yet this frights him not out of his faith and 
duty, but between the jaws of death he prays, and 
earnestly addresses himself to God for mercy : 
"Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto 
me," ver. 1. This excellent psalm was composed 
by him when there was enough to discompose the 
best man in the world. The repetition denotes 
both the extremity of the danger, and the ardency 
of the supplicant. Mercy, mercy ! nothing but 
mercy, and that exerting itself in an extraordinary 
way, can now save him from ruin. 

3. The arguments he pleads for obtaining mercy, 
in this distress, are very considerable. 

(1.) He pleads his reliance upon God as an ar- 
gument to move mercy; "Be merciful unto me, 
O God, be merciful unto me ; for my soul trusteth 
in thee ; yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I 
make my refuge, until these calamities be over- 
past," ver. 1. This his trust and dependence on 
God, though it be not argumentative in respect of 
the dignity of the act, yet is so in respect both 
of the nature of the object, a compassionate God, 
who will not expose any that take shelter under 
his wings ; and in respect of the promise, whereby 
protection is assured to them that fly to him for 
sanctuary ; " Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, 
whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth 



6 DIVINE C50NDUCT OR 

in thee," Isa. xxvi. 3. Thus he encourages him- 
self from the consideration of that God to whom 
he betakes himself. 

(2.) He pleads former experiences of his help, 
in past distresses, as an argument, encouraging 
hope under the present strait. "I will cry unto 
God most high : unto God that performeth all 
things for me," ver. 2. In which words, I shall 
consider two things, 1. The duty resolved upon. 
2. The encouragement to that resolution. 1. The 
duty resolved upon : " I will cry unto God." 
Crying unto God is an expression that doth not 
only denote prayer, but intense and fervent prayer. 
To cry is to pray in a holy passion ; and such 
are usually speeding prayers, Psal. xviii. 6, and Heb. 
V. 7. 2. The encouragements to this resolution ; 
and these are two-fold. (1.) Objective, taken from 
the sovereignty of God. (2.) Subjective, taken 
from the experience he had of his providence. 
(1.) The sovereignty of God: ""I will cry unto 
God most high." Upon this he acts his faith in 
extremity of danger. Saul is high, but God the 
most high ; and, without his permission, he is 
assured Saul cannot touch him. He had none to 
help ; and if he had, he knew God must first help 
the helpers, or they cannot help him. He had no 
means of defence or escape before him, but the 
Most High is not limited by means. This is a 
singular prop to faith, Psal. lix. 9. (2.) The ex- 
perience of his providence hitherto : " Unto God 
that performeth all things for me." The word 
which we translate performeth^ comes from a root, 
that signifies both to perfect, and to desist, or cease. 
For when a business is performed and perfected, 
the agent then ceases and desists from working ; 
he puts to the last hand, when he finishes the 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 7 

work. To such a happy issue the Lord hath 
brought all his doubtful and difficult matters be- 
fore ; and this gives him encouragement, that he 
will still be gracious, and perfect that which con- 
cerneth him now, as he speaks : " The Lord will 
perfect that which concerneth me," Psal. cxxxviii. 
8. The Septuagint renders it, " who profiteth, or 
benefitteth me." And it is a certain truth, that all 
the results and issues of Providence are profitable 
and beneficial to the saints. But the supplement 
in our translation well receives the importance of 
the place, " who performeth all things," and in- 
volves the most strict and proper notion of Provi- 
dence, which is nothing else but the performance 
of God's gracious purposes and promises to his 
people. And therefore Vatablus and Muis sup- 
ply and fill up the room, which the conciseness of 
the original leaves, thus, " I will cry unto God 
most high: unto God that performeth the things 
which he hath promised." Payment is the per- 
formance of promises. Grace makes the promise, 
and providence the payment. 

Piscator fills it with, " Unto God that performeth 
his kindness and mercy." But still it supposes the 
mercy performed to be contained in the promise. 
Mercy is sweet in the promise, and much more so 
in the providential performance of it to us. 

Castalio's supplement comes nearer to ours : " I 
will cry unto God most high, unto God the trans- 
actor of my affairs." 

But our English, making out the sense by a 
universal particle, is most fully agreeable to the 
scope of the text. For it cannot but be a great 
encouragement to his faith, that God hath trans- 
acted all things, or performed all things for him. 
This Providence, that never failed him in any o^ 



8 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

the straits that ever he met with, (and his life was 
a life of many straits,) he might well hope, would 
not now fail him, though this were an extraordi- 
nary and matchless one. 

Bring we, then, our thoughts a little closer to 
this Scripture, and it will give us a fair and lovely 
prospect of Providence. 

In its 1. Universal, 2. Effectual, 3. Beneficial, 
4. Encouraging influences upon the affairs and 
concerns of the saints. 

(1.) The expression imports the universal inter- 
est and influence of Providence in and upon all 
the concerns and interests of the saints. It hath 
not only its hand in this or that, but in all that 
concerns them. It hath its eye upon every thing 
that relates to them throughout their lives, from 
first to last. Not only great and more important, 
but the most minute and ordinary affairs of our 
lives are transacted and managed by it. It touches 
all things that touch us, whether more nearly or 
remotely. 

(2.) It displays the efficacy of providential in- 
fluences. Providence doth not only undertake, 
but performs and perfects what concerns us. It 
goes through with its designs, and accomplishes 
what it begins. No difficulty so clogs it, no cross 
accident so falls in its way, but it carries its design 
through it. Its motions are irresistible and uncon- 
trollable ; he performs it for us. 

(3.) And, which is sweet to consider, all its 
products and issues are exceedingly beneficial to 
the saints. It performs all things for them. It is 
true, we often prejudice its works, and unjustly 
censure its designs, and, under many of our straits 
and troubles, we say, " AH these things are against 
us." But indeed Providence neither doth nor caa 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 9 

do any thing that is really against the true interest 
and good of the saints. For what are the works of 
Providence but the execution of God's decree, and 
the fulfilling of his word? and there can be no 
more in Providence than is in them. Now there 
is nothing but good to the saints in God's pur- 
poses and promises; and, therefore, whatever Pro- 
vidence doth in their concerns, it* must be, as the 
text speaks, "the performance of all things for 
them." 

(4.) And if so, how cheering, supporting, and 
encouraging must the consideration of these things 
be in a day of distress and trouble ! What life and 
hope will it inspire our hearts and prayers with, 
when great pressures lie upon us ! It had such a 
cheering influence upon the psalmist at this time, 
when the state of his affairs was, to the eye of 
sense and reason, forlorn and desperate. There was 
then but a hair's breadth, as we say, between him 
and ruin. 

A potent, enraged, and implacable enemy had 
driven him into the hole of a rock, and was come 
after him into that hole ; yet now, whilst " his soul 
is among lions," whilst he lies in a cranny of the 
rock, expecting every moment to be drawn out to 
death, the reflections he had upon the gracious per- 
formances of the Most High for him, from the be- 
ginning to that moment, supported his soul, and 
inspired hope and Hfe into his prayers : " I will 
cry unto God most high : unto God that performeth 
all things for me." 

The amount of all, you have in this doctrinal 
conclusion : 

T^Klt it is the duty of the saints, esipeciaJly in 
times of straits, to reflect upon the performances 



10 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

of Pfovidefice for them, in aU the states, and 
through all Hw stages of their lives. 

The church, in all the works of mercy, owns the 
hand of God : " Lord, thou hast wrought all our 
works in" or for " us," Isa. xxvi. 12. And still 
it hath been the pious and constant practice of the 
saints, in all generations, to preserve the memory 
of the more famous and remarkable providences 
that have befallen them in their times, as a pre- 
cious treasure. If thou be a Christian indeed, I 
know thou hast, if not in thy book, yet certainly 
in thy heart, a great many precious favours upon 
record. The very remembrance and rehearsal of 
them is sweet; how much more sweet was the 
actual enjoyment ! Thus Moses, by Divine direc- 
tion, wrote a memorial of that victory obtained 
over Amalek, as the fruit and return of prayer, 
and built there an altar, with this inscription, 
Jehovah-Nissi, " The Lord my banner," Exod. 
xvii. 14, 15. Thus Mordecai and Esther took all 
care to perpetuate the memory of that signal deli- 
verance from the plot of Haman, by ordaining the 
feast of Purim, as an anniversary throughout every 
generation, every family, every province, and 
every city, that those days of Purim should not 
fail from among the Jews, nor the memorial of 
them perish from their seed, Esther ix. 28. For 
this end you find psalms indited, "To bring to 
remembrance," Psal. Ixx. the title ; parents giving 
suitable names to their children, that every time 
they looked upon them they might refresh the 
memory of God's mercies, 1 Sam. i. 20 ; the very 
places, where eminent providences have appeared, 
new named upon no other design but to perpetuate 
the memorial of those sweet providences which so 



TIIE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 11 

refresh them there : thence Bethel took its name, 
Gen. xxviii. 19; and that well of water where 
Hagar was seasonably refreshed by the angel in 
her distress, Beer-lahai-roi, " the well of him that 
liveth and looketh on me," Gen. xvi. 14. Yea, 
the saints have given, and God hath assumed to 
himself, new titles upon this very score and ac- 
count : Abraham's Jehovah-jireh, The Lord will 
provide, and Gideon's Jehovah-shallum, The Lord 
send peace, were ascribed to him upon this reason. 
And sometimes you find the Lord style himself, 
The God that brought Abraham from Ur of the 
Chaldees ; then the Lord God that brought them 
out of Egypt ; then The Lord that gathered them 
out of the north country ; still minding them of 
the gracious providences which in all those places 
he had wrought for them. 

Now there is a twofold reflection upon the pro- 
vidential works of God. 1. One entire and full, 
in the whole complex and perfect frame thereof. 
This blessed sight is reserved for the perfect state.* 
It is in that mount of God where we shall see both 
the wilderness and Canaan ; the glorious kingdom 
into which we are to come, and the way through 
which we were led into it. There the saints shall 
have a ravishing view of that beautiful frame; and 
every part shall be distinctly discerned, as if it had 
its particular use, and it was connected with the 
other parts, and how effectually and orderly they 

* When the records of eternity shall be exposed to 
view ; all the counsels and results of the profound wis- 
dom looked into, how will it transport! when it shall 
be discerned, 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 ^ perplexed and intricate. Howe's BlessednesSy 
p. 76. 



12 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

all wrought to bring about that blessed design of 
their salvation, according to the promise, " And 
we know that all things work together for good to 
them that love God," &c. Rom. viii. 28. For it 
is certain that no ship at sea keeps more exactly 
by the compass which directs its course, than Pro- 
vidence doth by that promise which is its pole-star. 
2, The other, partial and imperfect in the way to 
glory, where we only view it in its simple acts, 
or, at most, in some branches and more observable 
course of actions. 

Between these two is the same difference as bet- 
ween the sight of the disjointed wheels and scat- 
tered pins of a watch, and the sight of the whole, 
united in one frame, and working in one orderly 
motion ; or between an ignorant spectator's view- 
ing some more observable vessel or joint of a dis- 
sected body, and the accurate anatomist's discern- 
ing the course of all the veins and arteries of the 
body, as he follows the several branches of them 
through the whole, and plainly sees the proper 
places, figure, and use of each, with their mutual 
respect to one another. 

Oh how ravishing and delightful a sight is that! 
to behold at one view the whole design of Provi- 
dence, and the proper place and use of every 
single act which we could not understand in this 
world ! For, what Christ said to Peter, John xiii. 
7, is as applicable to some providences in which 
we are now concerned, as it was to that particular 
action : " What 1 do thou knowcst not now, but 
thou shalt know hereafter." All the dark, intri- 
cate, puzzling providences, at which we were 
sometimes so stumbled, and sometimes amazed, 
which we could neither reconcile with the promise 
nor with each other j nay, which we so unjustly 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 13 

censured and bitterly bewailed, as if they had fallen 
out quite cross to our happiness, we shall then see 
to be unto us, as the difficult passage through the 
wilderness was unto Israel, " The right way to a 
city of habitation," Psal. cvii. 7. 

And yet, though our present views and reflec- 
tions upon Providence be so short and imperfect, 
in comparison with that in heaven, yet such as it 
is, under all its present disadvantages, it hath so 
much excellency and sweetness in it, that I may 
call it a little heaven, or, as Jacob called his Bethel, 
The gate of heaven. It is certainly a highway of 
walking with God in this world, and as sweet 
communion may a soul enjoy with him in his pro- 
vidences as in any of his ordinances. How often 
have the hearts of its observers been melted into 
tears of joy at the beholding of its wise and unex- 
pected productions ! How often hath it convinced 
them, upon a sober recollection of the events of 
their lives, that if the Lord had left them to their 
own counsels, they had as often been their own 
tormentors, if not executioners ! Into what and how 
many fatal mischiefs had they precipitated them- 
selves, if Providence had been as short-sighted as 
they. They have given it their hearty thanks for 
considering their interest more than their impor- 
tunity, and not sufl^ering them to perish by their 
own desires. 

The benefits of adverting to the works of Provi- 
dence are manifold and unspeakable, as, in its 
place, we shall show you. But not to entangle 
the thread of the discourse, I shall cast it into this 
method : 

First. I shall prove that the concerns of the 
saints, in this world, are certainly conducted by the 
wisdom and care of special Providence. 
2 



14 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

Secmid. I will show you in what particular 
concerns of theirs this providential care is evidently 
discovered. 

Third. That it is the duty of saints to advert 
to, and carefully observe these performances of 
Providence for them in all their concernments. 

Fourth. In what manner this duty is to be per- 
formed by them. 

Fifth. What singular benefits result to them 
from such observations ; and then apply the whole 
in such uses as offer themselves from the point. 

THE FIRST GENERAL HEAD. 

First. I shall undertake the proof and defence 
of this great truth : " That the affairs of the saints 
in this world are certainly conducted by the wis- 
dom and care of special Providence." 

And herein I address myself with cheerfulness 
to perform, as well as I am able, a service for that 
Providence, which hath, throughout my life, " per- 
formed all things for me," as the text speaks. 

There is a twofold consideration of Providence, 
according to its twofold object and manner of dis- 
pensation : the one is general, exercised about all 
creatures, rational and irrational, animate and in- 
animate ; the other special and peculiar. Christ 
hath a universal empire over all things, Ephes. i. 
22, the head of the whole world, by way of do- 
minion ; but a head to the Church, by way of 
union and special influence, John xvii. 2. " The 
Saviour of all men, but especially of them that be- 
lieve," 1 Tim. iv. 10. The Church is his special 
care and charge ; he rules the world for her good, 
as a head consulting the welfare of the body. 

Heathens generally deny providence ; and no 
wonder, since they denied a God : for the same 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 15 

arguments that prove one, will prove the other. 
Aristotle, the prince of heathen philosophers, could 
not, by the utmost search of reason, find out the 
world's origin, and therefore concludes, it was 
from eternity. The Epicureans did, in a sort, 
acknowledge a God, but yet denied a providence, 
and wholly excluded him from any interest or con- 
cern in the affairs of the world, as being incon- 
sistent with the felicity and tranquillity of the 
Divine Being, to be diverted and cumbered with 
the care and labour of government. This asser- 
tion is so repugnant to reason, that it is a wonder 
they themselves blushed not at its absurdity ; but 
I guess at the design, and one of them speaks it 
out in broad language. They foresaw that the 
concession of a providence would impose an eter- 
nal yoke upon their necks, by making them ac- 
countable to a higher tribunal for all they did ; and 
that they must necessarily pass the time of their 
sojourning here in fear, whilst all their thoughts, 
words, and ways, were strictly noted and record- 
ed, in order to an account, by an all -seeing and 
righteous God ; and therefore they laboured to 
persuade themselves that that was not, which they had 
no mind should be. But these atheistical and 
foolish conceits fall flat before the undeniable evi- 
dence of so great and clear a truth. 

Now my business here is not so much to deal 
with professed atheists, who deny the existence of 
God, and consequently deride all evidences brought 
from Scripture, of the extraordinary events that fall 
out in favour of that people who are called his ; but 
rather to convince those who professedly own all 
this, yet, never having tasted religion by experi- 
ence, suspect, at least, that all these things which 
we call special providences to the saints, are but 



16 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

natural events, or mere contingencies ; and thus, 
whilst they profess to own a God and a providence, 
(which profession is but the effect of their educa- 
tion,) they do, in the mean time, live Hke atheists, 
and both think and act as if there were no such 
things; and really I fear this is the case of the far 
greatest part of men of this generation. 

But if it were indeed so, that the affairs of the 
world, in general, and more especially those of the 
saints, were not conducted by divine Providence, 
but, as they would persuade us, by the steady 
course of natural causes; besides which, if at any 
time we observe an event to flill out, it is merely 
casual and contingent, or that which proceeds from 
some hidden and secret cause in nature; if this in- 
deed were so, let those who are tempted to believe 
it, rationally satisfy the following demands : 

First demand. How comes it to pass that so 
many signal mercies and deliverances have be- 
fallen the people of God, above the power and 
against the course of natural causes ; to make way 
for which, there hath been a sensible suspension 
and stop put to the course of nature ? It is most 
evident that no natural effect can exceed the power 
of its natural cause. Nothing can give to another 
more than it hath in itself; and it is as clear, that 
whatsoever acts naturally, acts necessarily. Fire 
burns to the utmost of its power ; waters overflow 
and drown all that they can. Lions, and other 
rapacious and cruel beasts, tear and devour their 
prey, especially when hungry ; and as to arbitrary 
and rational agents, they also act according to the 
principles and laws of their natures. A wicked 
man, when his heart is fully set in him, and his 
will stands in a full bent of resolution, will certainly, 
:f he have power in his hand, and opportunity 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 17 

to execute his conceived mischief, give it vent, and 
peipetrate the wicked devices of his heart; for, 
having once conceived mischief, and travailing in 
pain with it, he must, according to the course of na- 
ture, bring it forth, as it is in Psal. vii. 14. But if 
any of these inanimate, brutal, or rational agents, 
when there is no natural obstacle, have their power 
suspended ; and that when the effect is near the 
birth, and the design, at the very article of execution, 
so that though they would, yet they cannot hurt; to 
what, think you, is this to be assigned and refer- 
red 1 Yet so it hath often been seen, where God's 
interest hath been immediately concerned in the 
danger and evil of the event. The sea divided it- 
self in its own channel, and made a wall of water 
on each side, to give God's distressed Israel a safe 
passage, and that not in a calm, but, " when the 
waves thereof roared,"* as it is in Isa. H. 15. The 
fire when blown up to the most intense and vehe- 
ment flame, had no power to singe one hair of 
God's faithful witnesses, when, at the same instant 
it had power to destroy their intended execution- 
ers at a greater distance, Dan. iii. 22. Yea, we 
find it hath been sometimes sufficient to consume, 
but not to torment the body, as in that known in- 
stance of blessed Byneham, who told his enemies 
the flames were to him as a bed of roses. The 
hungry lions put off* their natural fierceness, and 
became gentle and harmless, when Daniel was cast 
among them for a prey. The like account, the 

♦ How hard was Porphyry put to it, when, instead 
of a better, this pretence must serve the turn : That 
Moses taking the advantage of a low water unknown 
to the Egyptians, passed over the people thereat ; as if 
Moses, a stranger, were better acquainted there than 
the Egyptian natives. 



18 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

cliurch history gives us of Polycai-p and Dionysius 
Areopagita, whom the fire would not touch, but 
stood after the manner of a ship's sail, filled with 
the wind about them. 

Are these things according to the course and law 
of nature ? To what secret natural cause can they 
be ascribed ] In like manner, we find the vilest 
and fiercest of wicked men have been withheld, 
by an invisible hand of restraint, from injuring the 
Lord's people. By what secret cause in nature 
was Jeroboam's hand dried up, and made inflexi- 
ble at the same instant it was stretched out against 
the man of God? 1 Kings xiii. 4. No wild bfjasts 
rend and devour their prey more greedily than 
wicked men would destroy the people of God who 
dwell among them, were it not for this providential 
restraint upon them. So the psalmist expresses 
hisi case in the words following my text : " My 
soul is among lions, and I lie among them that are 
set on fire." The disciples were sent forth as 
sheep into the midst of wolves. Matt. x. 16. It 
will not avail, in this case, to object by saying that 
those miraculous events depend only upon Scrip- 
ture testimony, which is not assented to by the 
atheist : for, besides all that may be alleged for the 
authority of that testimony, (which is needless to 
produce to men that own it,) what is it less than 
every eye sees or may see at this day ? Do we not 
behold a weak, defenceless handful of men, won- 
derfully and, except this way, unaccountably pre- 
served from ruin in the midst of potent, enraged, 
and turbulent enemies, that fain would, but cannot de- 
««troy them, when as yet no natural impediment can 
be assigned why they cannot ? 

And if this puzzle us, what shall we say when 
we see events produced in the world, for the good 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 19 

of God's chosen, by those very hands and means 
which were intentionally employed for their ruin ] 
These things are as much beside the intentions of 
their enemies, as they are above their own expec- 
tations ; yet such things are no rarities in the world. 
Were not the envy of Joseph's brethren, the cursed 
plot of Haman, the decree procured by the envy of 
the princes against Daniel, with many more of the 
like nature, all turned, by a secret and strange hand 
of Providence, to their greater advancement and 
benefit] Their enemies lifted them up to all that 
honour and preferment they had. 

Second demand. How is it, if the saints' con- 
cerns are not ordered by a special Divine Provi- 
dence, that natural causes unite and associate them- 
selves for their relief and benefit in so strange a 
manner as they are found to do? It is undeniably 
evident, that there are marvellous coincidences of 
Providence confederating and agreeing, as it were, 
to meet and unite themselves to bring about the 
good of God's chosen. There is a like face of 
things, showing itself in divers places at that time 
when any work, for the good of the church, is 
come upon the stage of the world ; as when the 
Messiah, the capital mercy, came to the temple, 
then Simeon and Anna were brought thither, by 
Providence, as witnesses to it : so, in the reforma- 
tion work, when the images were pulled down in 
Holland, one and the same spirit of zeal possessed 
them in every city and town, that the work was 
done in the night. He that carefully reads the 
history of Joseph's advancement to be the lord of 
Egypt, may number in that history twelve re- 
markable acts or steps of Providence, by which he 
ascended to that honour and authority ; if but one 
of them had failed, in all likelihood the event had 



20 DIVINE CONDPCr OR 

done so too ; but every one fell in its order, exactly- 
keeping its own time and place. So, in the church's 
deliverance from the plot of Haman, we find no 
less than seven acts of Providence strangely con- 
curring to produce it, as if they had all met by ap- 
pointment and consent, to break that snare for 
them ; one thing so aptly suiting with and making 
way for another, that every careful observer must 
needs conclude this cannot be the effect of casualty, 
but wise counsel. Even as in viewing the accurate 
structure of the body of a man, the figure, position, 
and mutual respects of the several members and 
vessels have convinced some, and are sufficient to 
convince all, that it was the effect of Divine wis- 
dom and power; in like manner, if the admirable 
adapting of the means and instruments employed 
for mercy to the people of God be heed fully con- 
sidered, who can fail to confess, that as there are 
tools of all sorts and sizes in the shop of Provi- 
dence, so there is a most skilful hand that uses 
them ; and that they could no more produce such 
effects of themselves, than the axe, saw, or chisel, 
can cut or carve a rude log into a beautiful figure 
without the hand of a skilful artificer. 

We find, by manifold instances, that there cer- 
tainly are strong combinations and predispositions 
of persons and things, to bring about some issue 
and design for the benefit of the church, which 
they themselves never thought of. They hold no 
intelligence, communicate not their counsels to 
each other, yet meet together, and work together, 
as if they did ; which is as if ten men should all 
meet together at one place, and in one hour, about 
one and the same business, and that without any 
fore-appointment among themselves. Can any 
question that such a meeting of means and iostru- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 21 

ments, is certainly, though secretly, overruled by 
some wise invisible Agent ] 

Third demand. If the concerns of God's people 
be not governed by a special Providence, whence is 
it that the most apt and powerful means, employed 
to destroy them, are rendered ineffectual ; and 
weak, contemptible means, employed for their de- 
fence and comfort, crowned with success 1 This 
could never be, if things were wholly swayed by 
the course of nature. If we judge by that rule, we 
must conclude, the more apt and powerful the 
means are, the more successful and prosperous 
they must needs be ; and where they are unfit, 
weak, and contemptible, nothing can be expected 
from them. Thus, reason lays it according to the 
rules of nature ; but Providence crosses its hands, 
as Jacob did in blessing the sons of Joseph, and 
orders quite contrary issues and events. Such was 
the mighty power and deep policy used by Pharaoh 
to destroy God's Israel, that, to the eye of reason, 
it was as impossible to survive it, as for crackling 
thorns to abide unconsumed amidst devouring 
flames ; by which emblem, their miraculous pre- 
servation is expressed, Exod. iii. 2 ; the bush was 
all in a flame, but no consumption of it. The hea- 
then Roman emperors, who made the world trem- 
ble, and subdued the nations under them, have em- 
ployed all their power and policy against the poor, 
naked, defenceless church, to ruin it, yet could 
not accomplish it. Rev. xii. 3, 4. Oh, the seas of 
blood that heathen Rome shed in ten persecutions ! 
yet, the church lives ; and, when the dragon gave 
his power to the beast. Rev. xiii. 2, that is, the state 
of Rome became anti-christian, oh what slaughters 
were made by the beast in all his dominions ! so 
that the Holy Ghost represents him as drunken 



»» DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

with the blood of the saints, Rev. xvii. 6. And 
yet all will not do ; the gates, that is, the powers and 
policies of hell, cannot prevail against it. How 
manifest is the care and power of Providence here, 
in ! Had half that power been employed against 
any other people, it had certainly swallowed them 
up immediately, or, in the hundredth part of the 
time, worn them out. How soon was the Persian 
monarchy swallowed up by the Grecian, and that 
again by the Roman I Dioclesian and Maximinus, 
in the height of their persecution, found themselves 
so baffled by Providence, that they both resigned 
the government, and Hved as private men. But, 
in this wonderful preservation, God makes good 
that promise, " Though I make a full end of all 
nations, yet will I not make a full end of thee," 
Jer. XXX. 1 1 . And again, " No weapon formed 
against thee shall prosper," Isa. liv. 17. On the 
contrary, how successful have weak and contempti- 
ble means been made for the good of the church ! 
Thus, in the first planting of Christianity in the 
world, by what weak, contemptible instruments was 
it done ! Christ did not choose the eloquent orators, 
or men of authority in the courts of kings and em- 
perors, but twelve poor mechanics and fisher- 
men; and these not sent together in a troop, but 
some to take one country to conquer it, and some 
another ; the most ridiculous course, in appearance, 
for such a design as could be imagined ; and yet, 
in how short a time was the gospel spread, and the 
churches planted by them in the several kingdoms 
of the world ! This the psalmist foresaw by the 
spirit of prophecy, when he said, " Out of the mouth 
of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, 
that thou mightest still the enemy and the aven- 
ger," Psal. viii. 2. At the sound of rams' horns 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 23 

Jericho is delivered into the hands of Israel ; see 
Josh. vi. 20. By three hundred men, with their 
pitchers and lamps, the huge host of Midian is dis- 
comfited, Judges vii. 19. The Protestants be- 
sieged at Beziers in France, are delivered by a 
drunken drummer, who, going to his quarters at 
midnight, rang the alarm bell of the town, not 
knowing what he did, and just then their enemies 
were making their assault. And, as weak and 
improbable means have been blessed with success 
to the church in general, so, to the preservation of 
its particular members also. A spider, by weav- 
ing her web over the mouth of an oven, shall hide 
a servant of Christ, (Du Moulin) from his enemies, 
who took refuge there in the bloody Parisian mas- 
sacre. A hen shall sustain another many days at 
the same time, by lodging her egg every day in 
the place where he had hid himself from the cut- 
throats. Examples might be easily multiplied in 
the case ; but the truth is too plain and obvious to 
the observation of all ages to need them. And can 
we fail to acknowledge a Divine and special Provi- 
dence overruling these matters, when we see the 
most apt and potent means for the church's ruin 
frustrated, and the most silly and contemptible 
means succeeded and prospered for its good? 

Fourth demand. If all things be governed by 
the course of natural causes, how then comes it to 
pass that men are turned, like a bowl by a rub,* 
out of the way of evil, unto which they were driv- 
ing on with full speed 1 Good men have been en- 
gaged in the way to their own ruin, and knew it 
not; but Providence hath met them in the way 
and preserved them by strange diversions, tho 

* Hinderance, obstruction, difficulty. 



24 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

meaning of which they understood not until the 
event discovered it. Paul lay bound at Cesarea ; 
the high-priest and chief of the Jews request Fes- 
tus, that he might be brought bound to Jerusalem, 
having laid wait in the way to kill him : but Fes- 
tus, though ignorant of the plot, utterly refuses it, 
but chooses rather to go with them to Cesarea, and 
judge him there. By this check, their bloody design 
is frustrated, Acts xxv. 3, 4. 

Posidonius, in the life of Augustine, tells us 
that the good father going to teach the people of a 
certain town, took a guide with him to show him 
the way. The guide mistook the usual road, and 
ignorantly fell into a by-path, by which means he 
escaped ruin by the hands of the bloody Donatists, 
who, knowing his intention, way-laid him to kill 
him in the road. 

And as memorable and wonderful are those checks 
and diversions which wicked men have met with 
in the way of perpetrating the evils conceived and 
intended in their own hearts. La ban and Esau 
came against Jacob with mischievous purposes. 
Gen. xxxi. 24, but no sooner are they come nigh 
to him, than the shackles of restraint are imme- 
diately clapt upon them both, so that their hands 
cannot perform their enterprises. Balaam runs 
greedily for reward to curse Israel, but meets with 
an unexpected check at his very outset ; and 
though that stopped him not, but he tried every 
way to do them mischief, yet he sdll finds himself 
fettered by an effectual bond of restraint that he 
can no way shake off, Numb. xxii. 25-38. Saul, 
the high-priest's blood-hound, breathes out threat- 
enings against the church, and goes, with a bloody 
commission, towards Damascus, to hale the poor 
flock of Christ to the slaughter; but when he 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 25 

comes nigh to the place, he meets an unexpected 
stop in the way, by which the mischief is not only 
diverted, but himself converted to Christ, Acts ix. 
1-4. Who can fail to see the finger of God in 
these things? 

Fifth demand. If there be not an overruling 
Providence, ordering all things for the good of 
God's people, how comes it to pass that the good 
and evil which is done to them in this world is ac- 
cordingly repaid into the bosom of those who are 
instrumental therein ? 

1. How clear is it to every man's observation, 
that the kindnesses and benefits any have done to 
the Lord's people have been rewarded with full 
measure into their bosoms ! The Egyptian mid- 
wives refused to obey Pharaoh's inhuman com- 
mand, and saved the male children of Israel; for 
this the Lord dealt with them, and built them 
houses, Exod. i. 21. The Shunammite was hos- 
pitable, and careful for Elisha, and God recom- 
pensed it with the desirable enjoyment of a son, 2 
Kings iv. 9, 17. Rahab hid the spies, and was 
exempted from the common destruction for it, 
Heb. xi. 31. Publius, the chief man of the island 
of Melita, courteously received and lodged Paul 
after his shipwreck. The Lord speedily repaid him 
for that kindness, and healed his father, who lay 
sick at that time of a bloody flux and fever, Acts 
xxviii. 7, 8. 

In like manner, we find the evils done to God's 
people have been repaid by a just retribution to 
their enemies. 

Pharaoh and the Egyptians were cruel enemies 

to God's Israel, and designed the ruin of their poor 

innocent babes; and God repaid it by smiting all 

the first-born in Egypt in one night, Exod» xii. 2d. 

3 



26 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

Haman erected a gallows fifty cubits high for 
good Mordecai ; and God so ordered it, that he 
himself and his ten sons w^re hanged on it. And 
indeed it was but meet that he should eat the fruit 
of that tree which he himself had planted, Esther 
vii. 10. 

Ahithophel plots against David, and gives coun- 
sel, like an oracle, how to procure his fall ; and 
that very counsel, like a surcharged gun, recoils 
upon himself, and procures his ruin ; for, seeing 
his good counsel rejected, (good poltticaMy^ not 
morally,) it was now easy for him to guess at the 
issue, and so at his own fate, 2 Sam. xvii. 2, 3. 

Charles IX. most inhumanly made the very 
canals of Paris to stream with Protestant blood, 
and soon after, he died miserably, his blood stream- 
ing from all parts of his body. 

Stephen Gardiner, who burnt so many of God's 
dear servants to ashes, was himself so scorched up 
by a terrible inflammation, that his very tongue 
was black, and hung out of his mouth ; and in 
dreadful torments he ended his wretched days. 

Maximinus, that cruel emperor, who set forth his 
proclamation, engraven in brass, for the utter abo- 
lishing of the Christian religion, was speedily smit- 
ten, like Herod, with a dreadful judgment, swarms 
of lice preying upon his entrails, and causing such 
a stench, that his physicians could not endure to 
come nigh him, and for refusing it were slain. 
Hundreds of like instances might easily be produ- 
ced to confirm this observation. And who can tail 
to see by these things, that " verily there is a God 
that judgeth in the earth ]" 

Yea, so exact have been the retributions of Pro- 
vidence to the enemies of the Church, that not 
only the same persons, but the same members, 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 27 

that have been the instruments of mischief, have 
been made the subjects of wrath. 

The same arm, which Jeroboam stretched out 
to smite the prophet, God smites. The emperor 
AureHan, when he was ready to subscribe the 
edict for the persecution of the Christians, was 
suddenly cramped in his knuckles that he could 
not write. 

Mr. Greenhill, in his exposition upon Ezeki^ 
xi. 1 3, tells his auditory, that there was one then 
present in the congregation, who was an eye-wit- 
ness of a woman scoffiing at another for purity and 
holy walking, who had her tongue stricken imme- 
diately with the palsy, and died thereof within 
two days. 

Henry II. of France, in a great rage against a 
Protestant counsellor, committed him into the 
hands of one of his nobles to be imprisoned, and 
that with these words, that he would see him 
burnt with his own eyes. But mark the right- 
eous providence of God : within a few days after, 
the same nobleman, with a lance put into his 
hands by the king, did, at a tilting match, run the 
said lance into one of the king's eyes, whereof he 
died. 

Yea, Providence hath made the very place of 
sinning the place of punishment : " In the place 
where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs 
lick thv blood," 1 Kings xxi. 19, and it was ex- 
actly fulfilled, 2 Kings ix. 26. Thus Tophet is 
made a burying-place for the Jews, until there is 
no room to bury ; and that was the place where 
they had offered up their sons to Moloch, Jer. v'i. 
31, 32. The story of Nightingale is generally 
known, which Mr. Fox relates, how he fell out of 



28 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

the pulpit and broke his neck, whilst he was abus- 
ing that Scripture, 1 John i. 10. 

And thus the Scriptures are made good by Pro- 
vidence : "Whoso diggeth a pit, shall fall therein ; 
and he that rolleth a stone, it shall return upon 
him," Prov. xxvi. 27 ; and " with what measure 
ye mete, it shall be measured to you again," 
Matt. vii. 2. 

If any yet say, These things may fall out casual- 
ly, that many thousands of the enemies of the 
Church have died in peace, and their end been like 
other men : we answer with Augustine, if no sin 
were punished here, no providence would be be- 
lieved ; and if every sin should be punished here, 
no judgment would be expected. But, that none 
may think these events to be merely casual and 
accidental we yet further demand. 

Sixth demand. If these things be merely casual, 
how is it that they square and agree so exactly 
with the Scriptures in all particulars '' 

We read, " Can two walk together, except they 
be agreed?" Amos iii. 3. If two men travel in one 
road, it is likely they are agreed to go to the same 
place. Providences and Scriptures go all one way ; 
and if they seem at any time to go divers or con- 
trary ways, be sure they will meet at the journey's 
end. There is an agreement between them so 
to do. 

Doth God miraculously suspend the power of 
natural causes, as in the first demand was opened ? 
Why, this is no accidental thing, but what har- 
monizes with the word : " When thou passest 
through the waters, I will be with thee ; and 
through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. 
When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 29 

not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon 
thee," Isaiah xliii. 2. 

Do natural causes unite and associate themselves 
for the good of God's people? Why, this is no 
more than what is contained in the promises, and 
is but the fulfilling of that Scripture, " all is yours, 
for ye are Christ's," 1 Cor. iii. 22 ; that is, the 
use, benefit, and service of all the creatures are lor 
you, as your need shall require. 

Are the most apt and powerful means employed 
for their ruin, frustrated 1 Who can but see the 
Scriptures fulfilled in, and expounded by, such 
providences? See Isa. xlv. 15-17, and Isa. viii. 
7-10, expounded by 2 Kings xviii. 17, &c. 

See you at any time a check of Providence divert- 
ing the course of good men from falling into evil, 
or wicked men from committing evil? How loud- 
ly do such providences proclaim the truth and cer- 
tainty of the Scriptures, which tell us, " that the 
way of man is not in himself, neither is it in him 
that walks to direct his steps," Jer. x. 23 ; and 
that " a man's heart deviselh his way, but the 
Lord directeth his steps," Prov. xvi. 9. 

Do you see adequate retributions made to those 
that injure or befriend the people of God ? When 
you see all the kindness and love any have shown 
the saints returned with an overplus into their bo- 
soms, how is it possible but you must see the 
accomplishment of those Scriptures in such provi- 
dences ? " The liberal soul deviseth liberal things, 
and by liberal things he shall stand," Isa. xxxii. 
8, and 2 Cor. ix. 6. And when you see the evils 
men have done, or intended to do, to the Lord's 
people, recoiling upon themselves, he is perfectly 
blind who sees not the harmony such providences 
3* 



30 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

bear with these Scriptures, Psal. cxl. 11, 12 ; vii. 
14-16; ix. 16. 

Oh what exact proportions do providences and 
Scriptures hold ! Little do men take notice of it. 
Why did Cyrus, contrary to all rules of state po- 
licy, freely dismiss the captives, but to fulfil that 
Scripture, Isa. xlv. 13? So that it was well ob- 
served by one, That as God had stretched out the 
firmament over the natural, so he hath stretched 
out his word over the rational world ; and as the 
creatures on earth are influenced by those heaven- 
ly bodies, so are all creatures in the world influ- 
enced by the word, and do infallibly fulfil it when 
they design to cross it. 

SevenUi demand. If these things be contingent, 
how is it that they fall out in such remarkable 
nicks and junctures of time, which makes them so 
greatly observable to all that consider them 1 

We find a multitude of providences so timed to 
a minute, that, had they fallen out ever so little 
sooner or later, they had signified but little to what 
they now do. Certainly it cannot be casualty, but 
counsel, that so exactly nicks the opportunity. 
Contingencies keep to no rules. 

How remarkable to this purpose were the tidings 
brought to Saul, that the Philistines had invaded 
the land, just as he was ready to grasp the prey ! 
1 Sam. xxiii. 27. The angel calls to Abraham, 
and shows him another sacrifice, just when his 
hand was giving the fatal stroke to Isaac. Gen. 
xxii. 10, 11. A well of water is discovered to 
Hagar just when she had left the child as not able 
to see its death. Gen. xxi. 16, 19. Rabshakeh 
meets with a blasting providence, hears a rumour 
]tliat frustrated his design, just when ready to give 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 31 

the shock against Jerusalem, Isa. xxxvii. 7, 8. 
So when Hainan's plot against the Jews was ripe, 
and all things ready for execution, " on that night 
could not the king sleep," Esther vi. 1. When 
the horns are ready to gore Judah, immediately 
carpenters are prepared to drive them away, Zech. 
i. 18-21. How remarkable was the relief of 
Rochelle, by a shoal of fish that came into the 
harbour when they were ready to perish with 
famine, such as they never observed before or 
after that time. Mr. Dodd could not go to bed one 
night, but had a strong impulse to visit, (though 
unseasonable,) a neighbouring gentleman, and just 
as he came, he meets him at his door, with a hal- 
ter in his pocket, just going to hang himself. Dr. 
Tate and his wife, in the Irish rebellion, flying 
through the woods with a sucking child, which 
was just ready to expire ; the mother, going to rest 
it upon a rock, puts her hand upon a bottle of 
warm milk, by which it was preserved. A good 
woman, from whose mouth I received it, being 
driven to a great extremity, all supplies failing, 
WMS exceedingly plunged into unbelieving doubts 
and fears, not seeing whence supplies could come, 
when lo! at that very time, by turning somethings 
in a chest, unexpectedly she lights upon a piece of 
gold, which supplied her present wants, till God 
opened another door of supply. If these things 
fall out casually, how is it they observe time so 
very exactly ? That is become proverbial in Scrip- 
ture — " In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen,'* 
Gen. xxii. 14. 

Eighth demand. Lastly, were these things 
casual and contingent, how can it be that they 
should fall out so immediately upon, and conso- 
nantly to, the prayers of the saints 1 So that m 



oa DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

many providences they are able to discern a very 
clear answer to their prayers, and are sure they 
have the petitions they asked of him, 1 John v. 
15. 

Thus when the sea divided itself, just upon 
Israel's cry to heaven, Exod. xiv. 10. When so 
singal a victory is given to Asa, immediately upon 
that pathetical cry to heaven, *' Help us, O Lord, 
our God!" 2 Chron. xiv. 11, 12. When Ahitho- 
phel shall go and hang himself just upon that 
prayer of distressed David, 2 Sam. xv. 31. When 
Haman shall fall, and his plot be broken, just upon 
the fast kept by Mordecai and Esther, Esih. iv. 16. 
Our own Speed, in his History of Britain, tells us 
that Richard I. besieged a castle with his army ; 
they offered to surrender, if he would save their 
lives ; he refuses, and threatens to hang them all. 
Upon this, an archer charged his bow with a square 
arrow, making first his prayer to God, that he 
would direct the shot, and deliver the innocent 
from oppression : it struck the king himself, where- 
of he died, and they were delivered. Abraham's 
servant prayed for success, and see how it was 
answered, Gen. xxiv. 45. Peter was cast into 
prison, and prayer was made for him by the 
church, and see the event. Acts xii. 5-12. I 
could easily add to these the wonderful examples 
of the return of prayers which was observed in 
Luther, and Dr. Winter, in Ireland, and many 
more; but I judge it needless, because most Chris- 
tians have a stock of experience of their own, and 
are well assured that many of the providences that 
befall them are, and can be, no other than the re- 
turn of their prayers. 

And now, who can be dissatisfied on this point, 
that wisely considers these things ] Must we not 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE 33 

conclude that, " he withdraweth not his eye from 
the righteous?" Job xxxvi. 7, and that "the eyes 
of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole 
earth to show himself strong in the behalf of them 
whose heart is perlect towards him," 2 Chron. xvi. 
9. His providences proclaim him to be a God 
hearing prayers. 

THE SECOND GENERAL HEAD. 

Having proved that the concerns of the saints, 
in this world, are certainly conducted by the wis- 
dom and care of a special Providence, my next 
work is to show you in what affairs and concerns 
of theirs the providence of God doth more espe- 
cially appear, or what are the most remarkable 
performances of Providence for them in this 
world. 

And here I am not led directly by my text to 
speak of the most internal and spiritual perform- 
ances of Providence, immediately relating to the 
souls of his people, though they all relate to their 
souls mediately and eventually, but of the more 
visible and external performances of Providence 
for them. And it is not to be supposed that I 
should touch all these neither; they are more than 
the sands : but that which I aim at, is to discourse 
to you some more special and more observable 
performances of Providence for you. And we 
shall begin with 

I. THE FIRST PERFORMANCE OF PROVIDENCE. 

Let us consider how well Providence hath per- 
formed the first work that ever it did for us, in our 
formation and protection in the womb. Certainly 
this is a very glorious and admirable performance 



34 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

it is what the psalmist admires : " My substance 
was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, 
and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the 
earth." Psal. cxxxix. 15. The womb is so called 
upon this account, because as curious artists, when 
they have some choice piece in hand, perlect it 
in private, and then bring it into the light for all to 
gaze at, so it was here. And there are two things 
admirable in this performance of Providence for 
us. 

1. The rare structure and excellent composition 
of the body : " I am wonderfully made." The 
word in the Hebrew is very full. The Vulgate 
renders it, painted as with a needle, that is, richly 
embroidered with nerves and veins. Oh ! the cu- 
rious workmanship that is in that one part, the 
eye ! How has it forced some to acknowledge a 
God, upon the examination of it ! Providence, 
when it went about this work, had its model or 
pattern before it, according to which it moulded 
every part, as it is in ver. 16. " In thy book were 
all my members written." Hast thou an integral 
perfection and fulness of members ? It is because 
God wrote them all in his book, or limned out thy 
body, according to that exact model, which he 
drew of thee in his own gracious purpose, before 
thou hadst a being. Had an eye, an ear, a hand, 
or a foot, been wanting in the platform, thou hadst 
now been sadly sensible of the defect ; this world 
had been but a dungeon to thee without those win- 
dows ; thou hadst lived, as many do, an object of 
pity to others. If thou hast low thoughts of this 
mercy, ask the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the 
dumb, the value and worth of those mercies, and 
they will tell thee. There is a world of cost be- 



IHE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 35 

Stowed upon thy very body. Thou mightest 
have been cast into another mould, and created a 
worm or a toad. I remember Luther tells us of 
two cardinals, riding in great pomp to the Council 
of Constance, and, by the way, they heard a man 
in the fields bitterly weeping and wailing. When 
they came to him, they found him intently view- 
ing an ugly load ! and asking why he wept so 
bitterly, he told them, his heart was melted with 
this consideration, that God had not made him 
such a loathsome and deformed creature. This is 
what I love to weep at, said he : whereupon, one 
of them cries out, Well said the father. The un- 
learned will rise and take heaven, and we, with 
all our learning, shall be cast into hell. No part 
of the common lump was so figured and polished 
as msfn is. Galen gave Epicurus a hundred years' 
time to imagine a more commodious situation, 
configuration, or composition, of any one member 
of a human body ; and if all the angels had studied 
to this day, they could not have cast the body of 
man into a more curious mould. 

2. And yet all this is but the enameling of the 
case, or polishing the casket wherein the rare 
jewel lies. Providence hath not only built the 
house, but brought the inhabitant (I mean the 
soul) into the possession of it. A glorious piece 
it is, that bears the very image of God upon it, 
being all in all, and all in every part. How noble 
are its faculties and affections! How nimble, vari- 
ous, and indefatigable are its motions ! How com- 
prehensive is its capacity 1 It is a companion for 
angels, nay, capable of espousals to Christ, and 
eternal communion with God. It is the wonder of 
earth, and the envy of hell. 

Suppose now (and why should you not suppose 



36 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

what you so frequently behold in the world ?) that 
Providence had so permilled and ordered it, that 
thy soul had entered into thy body with one or 
two of its faculties wounded and defective? Sup- 
pose its understanding had bec;n cracked ; what a 
miserable life hadst thou lived in this world, nei- 
ther capable of service nor comfort. And truly, 
when I have considered those works of Provi- 
dence, in bringing into the world, in all countries 
and ages, some such spectacles of pity; some de- 
prived of the use of reason, and differing from 
beasts in little more than shape and figure ; and 
others, though sound in their understandings, yet 
deformed or defective in their bodies, monstrous, 
misshapen, and loathsome creatures ; I can re- 
solve the design of this providence into nothing 
beside a demonstration of his sovereign power, 
except they be designed as foils to set off the 
beauty of other rare and exquisite pieces, and in- 
tended to stand before your eyes as monitors of 
God's mercy to you, that your hearts, as often as 
you beheld them, might be melted into thankful- 
ness for so distinguishing favour to you. 

Look then, but not proudly, upon thine outside 
and inside ; see and admire what Providence hath 
done for thee, and how well it hath performed the 
first service that ever it did for thee in this world ! 
And yet this was not all it did for thee before thou 
sawest this world : it preserved thee as well as 
formed thee in the womb, else thou hadst been as 
those embryos Job speaks of, that never saw the 
light. Job iii. 16. Abortives go for nothing in the 
world, and there are multitudes of them ; some 
that never had a reasonable soul breathed into 
them, but only the rudiments and rough draught of 
the body ; these come not into the account of men, 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 37 

but perish as the beast doth. Others that die in, 
or shortly after they come out of the womb, and 
though their hfe was but for a moment, yet that 
moment entails an eternity upon them. And had 
this been your case, as it is the case of millions, 
then, supposing your salvation, yet had you been 
utterly unserviceable to God in the world ; none 
had been the better for you, nor you the better for 
any in the world ; you hud been utterly incapable 
for all that good which, throughout your life, you 
have either done to others, or received from 
others. 

And if we consider the nature of that obscure 
life we lived in the womb, how small an accident, 
had it been permitted by Providence, had extin- 
guished our life, like a bird in the shell 1 We 
cannot therefore but admire the tender care of Pro- 
vidence over us, and say with the Psalmist, "Thou 
hast covered me in my mother's womb," Psal. 
cxxxix. 13, and not only so, but, " Thou art he 
that took me out of my mother's womb," Psal. 
xxii. 9. He preserved thee there to the fulness of 
time, and, when that time was come, brought thee 
safely through manifold hazards into that place in 
the world which he from eternity espied for thee ; 
which leads us to the second performance. 

II. The next great performance of Providience 
for the people of God, resp-^'cts the place and time 
in which it ordered their nativity to fall. And truly 
this is no small concern to every one of us, but of 
vast consequence, either to our good or evil, though 
it be of little minded by most men. I am persuaded 
the thoughts of few Christians penetrate deep 
enough into this providence, but slide too slightly 
and superficially over an abyss of much mercy, 
4 



38 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

rich ind mnnifold mercy, wrapped up in this gra- 
cious }Xirformaiice of Providence for them. 

Ah friends ! can you think it an indifferent thing 
into what part of the world you are cast? Is th're 
no odds upon what spot of the creation, or what 
age of the world your lot had fallen? It may be 
you have not seriously bethought yourselves about 
this matter. And because this point is so seldom 
touched, I will therefore dive a little more particu- 
larly and distinctly into it, and endeavour to warm 
your affections with a representation of the many 
and rich benefits you owe to this one performance 
of Providence for you. 

And we will consider it under a double respect 
or relation ; as it respects your present comfort in 
this world, and as it relates to your eternal happi- 
ness in the world to come. 

1. This performance of Providence for you doth 
very much concern your present comfort in this 
world. All the rooms in this great house are not 
alike pleasant and commodious for the inhabitants 
of it. You read of "the dark places of the earth, 
which are full of the habitations of cruelty," Psal. 
Ixxiv. 20, and many such dismal places are found 
in the habitable earth. What a vast tract of the 
world lies as a waste wilderness ! 

Suppose your mothers had brought you forth in 
America among the savage Indians, who herd to- 
gether as brute beasts ; are scorched with heat and 
starved with cold, being naked, destitute, and de- 
fenceless. How poor, miserable, and unprovided 
of earthly comforts and accommodations are many 
millions of the inhabitants of this world I What 
mercies do you enjoy in respect of the amenity, 
fertility, temperature, and civility of the place of 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 3^ 

your habitation ? What is it but a garden enclosed 
out of a wilderness? I may, without partiality or 
vanity, say, God hath, even upon temporal ac- 
counts, provided you with one of the most health- 
ful, pleasant, and, in all respects, the best furnished 
room in all the great house of this world. 

You are here provided with necessary and com- 
fortable accommodations for your bodies, that a 
great part of the world are unacquainted with. It 
is not with the poorest among us, as it is said to be 
with the poor in a foreign land, whose poverty 
pinches and bites with such sharp teeth, that their 
poor cry at their doors, Give me, and cut me! give 
me, and kill me ! 

Say not, the barbarous nations in this excel you; 
that they possess the mines of silver and gold, 
which, it may be, you think enough to compensate 
for all other inconveniences of life. Alas, poor 
creatures ! better had it been for them if their 
country had brought forth briers and thorns, instead 
of gold, silver, and precious stones ; for this hath 
been the occasion of ruining all their other com- 
forts in this world. This hath invited their cruel, 
avaricious enemies among them, under whose ser- 
vitude they groan and die without mercy ; and 
thousands of them have chosen death rather than 
life, on the terms they enjoyed it. And why 
might not your lot have fallen there, as well as 
where it is ? Are not they made of the same clay, 
and endowed with as good a nature as yourselves? 
Oh what a distinction hath Divine Mercy made, 
where nature made none ! Consider, ungrateful 
man, thou mightest have fallen into some of those 
regions where a tainted air frequently cloys the 
jaws of death, where the inhabitants differ very 
little from the beasts in the manner of iheir living. 



40 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

but God hath provided for thee, and given the 
poorest among us far better accommodations of life 
than the greatest among them are ordinarily pro- 
vided with. Oh, what hath Providence done for 
you ! 

But all that I have said is very inconsiderable in 
comparison with the spiritual mercies and advan- 
tages you here enjoy for your souls. Oh ! this 
is such an advantageous cast of Providence for 
you, as obliges you to a thankful acknowledgment 
of it to all eternity ! For, let us here make but a 
few suppositions, in the case before us, and the 
glory of Providence will shine like a sunbeam full 
in your faces. 

(1.) Suppose it had been your lot to have fallen 
into any of those vast continents, possessed by pa- 
gans and heathens at this day, who bow down to 
the stock of a tree, and worship the host of heaven. 
This is the case of many millions; for pagan idola- 
ters (as that searching scholar Mr. Berewood in- 
forms us, in his Inquiries) do not only fill the cir- 
cumference of nine hundred miles in Euroj^e, but 
almost the one half of Africa, more than the half 
of Asia, and almost the whole of America.* 

Oh ! how deplorable had thy case been, if a pa- 
gan idolatress had brought thee forth, and idolatry 
had been sucked in with thy mother's milk! Then, 
in all probability, thou hadst been at this day wor- 
shipping devils, and posting with full speed in the 
direct road to damnation. For these are the peo- 
ple of God's wrath : " Pour out thy fury upon the 
heathen that know thee not, and upon the families 
that call not upon thy name," Jer. x. 25. How 



* America is much improved since Mr. Flavel's 
time.— Editor. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 41 

dreadful is that imprecation against them, which 
takes hold of them, and all that is theirs ! " Con- 
founded be all they that serve graven images, that 
boast themselves of idols," Psal. xcvii. 7. 

(2.) Or suppose your lot had fallen among Maho- 
metans who, next to pagans, spread over the great- 
est tract of the earth ; for though Arabia bred that 
unclean bird, yet it was not that cage that could 
long contain him ; for not only the Arabians, but 
the Persians, Turks, and Tartars, do all bow down 
their backs under that grand impostor. This poison 
hath dispersed itself through the veins of Asia, over 
a great part of Africa, even the circumference of 
seven thousand miles, and stops not there, but hath 
tainted a considerable part of Europe also. 

Had your lot fallen here, oh what unhappy men 
and women had you been, notwithstanding the 
natural amenity and pleasantness of your native 
soil I You had then adored a grand impostor, ana 
died in a fool's paradise. Instead of God's lively 
oracles, you had been, as they now are, deceived 
to your eternal ruin with such fond, mad, and wild 
dreams, as whosoever considers, would think the 
authors had more need of manacles and fetters, 
than arguments or sober answers. 

(3.) Or if neither of these had been your lot, but 
you had been placed in a country which is chris- 
tianized by profession, but nevertheless for the 
most part overrun by popish idolatry and anti- 
christian delusions; what unhappy men and wo- 
men had you been, had yuu sucked a popish 
breast ! For this people are to be the subjects of 
the vials of God's wrath, to be poured out succes- 
sively upon them, as you may read Rev. xvi. and 
the Scriptures, in round and plain language, tell ua 
what their liite must be ; *' And for this cause God 
4* 



42 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

shall Send them strong delusion, that they shall 
believe a lie, that they all might be damned who 
believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unright- 
eousness," 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12. 

Nay, you might have fallen into the same land 
in which your habitation now is, and yet have had 
no advantage by it as to salvation, if he who chose 
the bounds of your habitations had not also gra- 
ciously determined the times for you, Acts xvii. 
26. For, 

(4.) Suppose your lot had fallen where it is, 
during the pagan state of England, whose inhabi- 
tants for many hundred years were gross and vile 
idolators. Thick darkness overspread the people 
of this island, and, as in other countries, the devil 
was worshipped, and his lying oracles zealously 
attended upon. 

The shaking of the top of Jupiter's oak in Do- 
dona; the caldron smitten with the rod in the 
hand of Jupiter's image; the laurel and fountain 
in Daphne ; these were the ordinances on which 
the poor deluded wretches waited. So in this 
nation they worshipped idols also; the sun and 
moon were adored for gods, with many other 
abominable idols, which our ancestors worshipped, 
and whose memorials are not to this day quite ob- 
litemted among us. 

(5.) Or suppose our lot had fallen in those later 
miserable days, in which Queen Mary sent so 
many hundreds to heaven in a fiery chariot, and 
the poor Protestants skulked up and down in holes 
and woods to preserve them from popish inquisitors, 
who, like blood -hounds, hunted up and down through 
all the cities, towns, and villages of the nation to 
seek out the poor sheep of Christ for a prey. 

But such hath been the special care of Provi- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 43 

dence towards us, that our turn to be brought upon 
the stage of this world was graciously reserved for 
better days : so that if we had had our own option 
we could not have chosen for ourselves as Provi- 
dence hath. We are not only furnished with the 
best room in this great house, but, before we were 
put into it, it was swept with the besom of national 
reformation from idolatry ; yea, and washed by the 
blood of martyrs from popish filthiness, and adorn- 
ed with gospel hghts, shining in as great lustre in 
our days, as ever they did since the apostles' days. 
You might have been born in England for many 
ages, and not have found a Christian in it : yea and 
since Christianity was here owned, and not have 
met a Protestant in it. Oh what an obligation hath 
Providence laid you under by such a merciful per- 
formance as this for you ! 

If you say, All this indeed is true, but what is 
this to eternal salvation? do not multitudes that en- 
joy these privileges eternally perish notwithstand- 
ing them ? yea, and perish with an aggravation of 
sin and misery beyond other sinners'? 

True, they do so ; and it is of very sad con- 
sideration that it should be so ; but yet we cannot 
deny this to be a very choice and singular mercy, 
to be born in such a land, and at such a time ; for, 
let us consider what helps for salvation men here 
enjoy beyond what they could enjoy had their 
lot fallen according to the fore -mentioned suppo- 
sitions. 

[1.] Here we enjoy the ordinary means of sal- 
vation, which elsewhere men are denied and cut 
off from ; so that if any among the heathens be 
saved and brought to Christ, it must be in some 
miraculous or extraordinary way; for, '*How 



44 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

shall they believe in him of whom they have not 
heard? and how shall they hear without a preach- 
er?" Rom. X. 14. Alas! were there a desire 
awakened in any of their hearts, after a gospel- 
discovery of salvation, (which ordinarily is not, 
nor can be rationally supposed,) yet, poor crea- 
tures ! they might travel from sea to sea to hear 
the word, and not find it : whereas you can hardly 
miss the opportunities of hearing the gospel ; ser- 
mons meet you frequently, so that you can scarce- 
ly shun or avoid the ordinances and instruments 
of your salvation. And is this nothing? Christ 
even forces himself upon us. 

[2.] Here, in this age of the world, the common 
prejudices against Christianity are removed by the 
advantage it hath of a public profession among the 
people, and protection by the laws of the country ; 
whereas were your habitation among Jews, Ma- 
hometans, or heathen idolaters, you would find 
Christ and Christianity the common odium of the 
country, every one defying and deriding both name 
and thing; and such yourselves likely had been, 
if your birth and education had been among them; 
for you may observe, that whatever is traditionally 
delivered down from father to son, every (^ne is 
fond of, and zealous in its defence. The Jews, 
Heathens, and Mahometans, are at this day so te- 
nacious of their errors, that with spitting, hissing, 
and clapping of hands, and all other signs of in- 
dignation and abhorrence, they chase away all 
others from among them. 

Is it not then a special mercy to you, to be cast 
into such a country and age, where, as a learned 
divine observes, the true religion hath the same 
advantages over every false one, as in other coun- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 45 

tries they have over it ? Here you have the pre- 
sence of precious means, and the absence of soul- 
destroying prejudices — two singular mercies. 

[3.] Here, in this age of the world, Christianity 
bespeaks you as soon as you are capable of any 
sense, or impressions, of religion upon you, and 
so by a happy anticipation bkxiks up the passages 
by which a false religion would certainly enter. 
Here you suck in the first notions and principles 
of Christianity, even with the mother's milk. And 
certainly such a prepossession is a choice advan- 
tage. "Train up a child in the way he should 
go, and when he is old he will not depart from it," 
Prov. xxii. 6. 

[4.] Here you have, or may have, the help and 
assistance of Christians to direct your way, resolve 
your doubts, support your burdens, and help you 
through those difficulties that attend the new birth. 
Alas I if a poor soul had any beginnings, or (hint 
workings and stirrings after Christ and true reli- 
gion, in many other countries, the hand of every 
man would presently be against him, and none 
would be found to relieve, assist, or encourage, as 
you may see in that example of Galeacius. The 
nearest relations would, in that case, prove the 
greatest enemies, the country would quickly hoot 
at him as a monster, and cry. Away with the here- 
tic to the prison or stake. 

Whether these eventually prove blessings to 
your souls or not, certain I am, that, in them- 
selves, they are singular mercies, and helps to sjil- 
vation, though denied to millions around you. So 
that, if Plato, when he was near his death, could 
bless God for three things, namely, That he was 
a man, and not a beast; that he was born in 
Greece; and that he was brought up in the time 



46 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

of Socrates : much more cause have you to ad- 
mire Providence that you are men, and not beasts; 
that you vi^ere born here; and brought up in 
gospel days here. This is a land the Lord hath 
espied for you, as the expression is, Ezek. xx. 6, 
and concerning it, you have abundant cause to 
say, as in another case the Psalmist doth, "the 
hues are fallen to me in pleasant places, and 1 
have a goodly heritage," Psal. xvi. 6. 

III. The next observable performance of Provi- 
dence, which must be heedfully adverted to, and 
weighed, is the designation of the stock and family 
out of which we should spring and rise. And truly 
this is of special consideration, both as to our tem- 
poral and eternal good ; for whether the families in 
which we grew up were great or small in Israel ; 
whether our parents were of higher or lower class 
and rank among men, yet if they were such as 
feared God, and wrought rigliteousness, if they 
toi)k any care to educate you righteously, and 
trained you up " in the nurture and admonition of 
the Lord," you are bound to reckon it among your 
chief mercies, that you descended from such pa- 
rents, for from this spring a double stream of mercy 
rises to you. Temporal and external mercies to 
your outward man. You cannot but know, that as 
godliness entails a blessing, so wickedness and un- 
righteousness, a curse, upon posterity; an instance 
of the former you have in Gen. xvii. 18, 20. On 
the contrary, you have the threatening, Zech. v. 4, 
and both together in this passage : " I'he curse of 
the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but he bless- 
eth the habitation of the just," Prov. iii. 33. True 
It is, that both these imply the children's treading 
in the steps of their parents, according to Ezekiel 
xviii, but how frequently is it seen, that wicked 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 47 

men bring up their children vainly and wickedly; 
so that, as it is said of Abijarn, " He walked in all 
the sins of his father, which he had done before 
him," 1 Kings xv. 3, and so the curse is entailed 
from generation to generation. To escape this 
curse is a choice providence. 

But especially take notice, what a stream of 
spiritual blessings and mercies flows from this 
providence to the inner man. O ! it is no common 
mercy to descend from pious parents 1 some of us 
do not only owe our natural life to them, as instru- 
ments of our being, but our spiritual and eternal 
life also. It was no small mercy to Timothy that 
he descended from such progenitors, 2 Tim. i. 5, 
nor to Augustine that he had such a mother as 
Monica, who planted in his mind the precepts of 
life with her words, watered them with her tears, 
and nourished them with her example. We will 
a little more particularly inspect this mercy, and, 
in so doing, we shall find manifold mercies con- 
tained in it. 

1. What a mercy was it to us to have parents, 
who prayed for us before they had us, as well as 
in our infancy, when we could not pray for our- 
selves 1 Thus did Abraham, Gen. xv. 2, and Han- 
nah, 1 Sam. i. 10, 11, and some here, likely, are 
the fruits and returns of their parents' prayers. 
This was that holy course they continued all their 
days for you, carrying all your concerns, espe- 
cially your eternal ones, before the Lord with their 
own, and pouring out their souls to God so atfec- 
tionately for you, when their eye-strings and heart- 
strings were breaking. O ! put a value upon 
such mercies, for they are precious I It is a greater 
mercy to descend from praying parents, than from 
nobles. See Job's pious practice, Job i. 5. 



48 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

2. What a special mercy was it to us to have 
the excresences of corruption nipped in the bud, 
by their pious and careful discipline ! We now 
understand what a critical and dangerous season 
youth is, the wonderful proneness of that age to 
every thing that is evil. Why else are they called 
youthful lusts] 2 Tim. ii. 22. When David asks, 
" Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way?" 
it is plainly enough implied in the very question, 
that the way he takes lies through the pollutions 
of the world in his youth, Psal. cxix. 9. When 
you find a David praying, that God would " not 
remember the sins of his youth," Psal. xxv. 7, and 
a Job bitterly complaining, that God " made him 
to possess the sins of his youth," Job xiii. 26, 
sure you cannot but reflect, with a very thankful 
heart, upon those happy means by which the cor- 
ruption of your nature was happily prevented, or 
restrained, in your youth. 

3. And how great a mercy was it, that we had 
parents who carefully instilled the good knowledge 
of God into our souls, in our tender years ! How 
careful was Abraham of this duty ! Gen. xviii. 19. 
And David, 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. We have some 
of us had parents, who might say to us, as the 
apostle, " My little children, of whom I travail 
again in birth, till Christ be formed in you," Gal. 
iv. 19. As they longed for us before they had us, 
and rejoiced in us, when they had us, so they 
could not endure to think that, when they could 
have us no more, the devil should. As they 
thought no pains, care, or cost, too much for our 
bodies to feed them, clothe, and heal them ; so did 
they think no prayers, counsels, or tears, too much 
for our souls, that they might be saved. They 
knew a parting time would come between them 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 49 

and us, and did strive to nnake it as easy and com- 
fortable to them as they could, by leaving us in 
Christ, and within the blessed bond of his cove- 
. nant. They were not glad that we had health, and 
indifferent whether we had grace. They as sensi- 
bly felt the miseries of our souls as of our bodies ; 
and nothing was more desirable to them than that 
they might say in the great day. Lord, here am I, 
and the children which thou hast given me. 

4. And was it not a special favour to us to have 
parents, that went before us as a pattern of holi- 
ness, and beat the path to heaven for us by their 
examples ; who could say to us, " What things 
ye have heard and seen in me, do," Phil. iv. 9, 
and "Be ye followers of us, as we are of Christ," 
1 Cor. xi. 1. The parent's life is the child's copy. 
O ! it is no common mercy to have a fair copy set 
before us, especially in the moulding age ! We 
saw what they did, as well as heard what they 
said. It was Abraham's commendation that " he 
commanded his children, and his household after 
him, to keep the way of the Lord ;" and such 
mercies some of us have had also. 

Ah ! my friends, let me beg you that you will 
set special remarks upon this providence, which is 
so graciously wrought for you ; and, that your 
hearts may be more thoroughly warmed in the 
sense of it, compare your condition with others, 
and seriously bethink yourselves, 

(1.) How many children there are among us 
who are drawn headlong to hell by their cruel and 
ungodly parents, who teach them to curse and 
swear as soon as they can speak I Many families 
there are, wherein little other language is heard 
but what is the dialect of hell. These, like the 
old logs and small twigs, are preparing for the fire 
5 



50 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

of hell, where they must hum together. Of such 
children, that Scripture will one day be verified, 
Except they repent, "they shall go to the genera- 
tion of th('ir fathers, where they shall not see 
light," Psal. xlix. 19. 

(2.) And how many families are there, though 
not so profane, who yet breed up their children 
vainly and sensually, as in Job xxi. 11, &c. and 
take no care what becomes of their souls, so they 
can but provide for their bodies! If they can but 
teach them to carry their bodies, no matter if the 
devil direct their souls; if they can but leave them 
lands or moneys, they think they have very fully 
discharged their duties. O! what will the lan- 
guage be wherewith such parents and children 
shall greet each other, at the judgment-seat, and in 
hell, for ever! 

(3.) And how many are there, who are more 
sober, and yet hate the least appearances of godli- 
ness in their children! who, instead of cherishing, 
do all they can to break bruised reeds, to quench 
smoking flax, to stifle and strangle the first ap- 
pearances and offers they make towards Christ! 
who had rather accompany them to their graves, 
than to Christ, doing all that in them lies. Herod- 
like, to kill Christ in the cradle ! Ah, sirs! you 
little know what a mercy you do, or have enjoyed, 
in godly parents, and what a good lot Providence 
cast for you in this concern of your bodies and 
sc»uls! 

If any shall say, this is not their case, they 
had little help heavenward from their parents ; to 
such I shall thus reply : If you had little further- 
ance, yet own it as a special providence, that you 
had no hindrance ; or, if you had opposition, yet 
admire the grace of God in plucking you out by 



THE MYSTERY OF PBOVIDENCE. 51 

a wonderful distinguishing hand of mercy from 
among them, and keeping alive the languishing 
sparks of grace amidst the floods of opposition ; 
and learn from hence, if God give you a posterity 
of your own, to be so much the more strict and 
careful of relative duties, by how much you have 
sensibly felt the want of it in yourselves. 

But seeing such a train of blessings, both as to 
this life and that to come, follows upon a holy edu- 
cation of children, I will not dismiss the point, till 
I have discharged my duty, in exhorting parents 
and children to their duties. 

EXHORTATION TO PARENTS. 

And, first, for you that are parents, or to whom 
the education of children is committed, I beseech 
you to reflect what an important duty lies on you ; 
and, that I may efl*ectually impress it, consider, 

1. How near the relation is between you and 
your children, and, therefore, how much you are 
concerned in their happiness or misery. Consider 
but the Scripture account of the dearness of such 
relations, expressed by longings for them, as it is 
in Gen. xv. 2, and Gen. xxx. 1, and by our joy 
when we have them, as Christ expresses it, John 
xvi. 21, the high value set on them, Gen. xlii. 38, 
the sympathy with them in all their troubles, Mark 
ix. 22, and by our sorrow at parting. Gen. xxxvii. 
35. Now shall all this be to no purpose? For to 
what purpose do we desire them before we have 
them ; rejoice in them when we have them ; value 
them so highly ; sympathize with them so tender- 
ly ; grieve for their death so excessively, if, in the 
mean time, no care be taken what shall become of 
them to eternity 1 



52 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

2. How God hath charj^ed you with their souls, 
as well as bodies; and this appears by precepts 
directly laid upon you, Deut. vi. 6, 7, and Eph. 
vi. 4, and by precepts laid on them to obey you, 
Eph. vi. 1, which plainly imply your duty, as well 
as express theirs. 

3. What shall comfort you at the parting time, 
if they die, through your neglect, in a Christless 
condition ? Oh ! this is the cutting consideration, 
My child is in hell, and I did nothing to prevent 
it; I helped him thither! Duly discharged is the 
only root of comfort in that day. 

4. If you neglect to instruct them in the way of 
holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in 
the way of wickedness? No. If you will not 
teach them to pray, he will to curse, swear, and 
lie. If ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring. 

5. If the season of their youth be neglected, 
how little probability is there of any good fruit 
afterwards 1 That is the moulding age, Prov. xxii. 
6. How few are converted in old age 1 A twig 
is brought to any form, but grown trees will not 
bow. 

6. You are instrumental causes of all their spiri- 
tual misery, and that by generation and imitation : 
they lie spiritually dead of the plague, which you 
brought home among them : "Behold, I was shape n 
in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive 
me," Psal. li. 5. 

7. There is none in the world so likely, as you, 
to be instruments of their eternal good. You have 
peculiar advantages that no others have, as the 
interest you have in their affections : your oppor- 
tunities to instil the knowledge of Christ into 
them, being daily with them, Deut. vi. 7, and 



THE MYSTEKY OF PROVIDEiVCE. 53 

your knowledge of their tempers. If therefore you 
neglect, who shall help them ? 

8. The consideration of the great day should 
move your feelings of pity for them. O remem- 
ber that text, " I saw the dead, small and great, 
stand before God," Rev. xx. 12, &c. What a sad 
thing will it be to see your dear children at Christ's 
left hand ! O friends, do your utmost to prevent 
this misery 1 " Knowing the terrors of the Lord, 
we persuade men," 2 Cor. v. 11. 

EXHORTATION TO CHILDREN. 

And you, children especially you that sprang 
from religious parents, I beseech you to obey their 
counsels, and tread in the steps of their pious ex- 
amples. To press this, I offer these considera- 
tions : 

1 . Your disobedience to them is a resisting of 
God's authority. "Children, obey your parents 
in the Lord," Ephes. vi. 1, there is the com- 
mand ; your rebellion, therefore, runs higher than 
you think. It is not man, but God, that you 
disobey ; and for your disobedience God will 
punish you. It may be, their tenderness will not 
suffer them, or you are grown beyond their cor- 
rection ; all they can do is to complain to God ; 
and, if so, he will handle you more severely than 
they could do. 

2. Your sin is greater than the sin of young 
heathens and infidels, and so will your account be 
also. O better (if a wicked child) that thou hadst 
been the offspring of savage Indians, nay, of 
beasts, than of such parents. So many counsels 
disobeyed, hopes and prayers frustrated, will turn 
to sad aggravations. 

3. It is usual with God to retaliate men's dis- 

5* 



54 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

obedience to their parents in kind ; commonly our 
own ciiildren shall pay us home for it. I have 
read in a grave author, of a wicked wretch that 
drauged his father along the house : the lather 
begged him not to draw him beyond such a place, 
for, said he, I dragged my lather no further. Oh! 
the sad, but just retributions of God I 

And, for you, in whose hearts grace hath been 
planted by the blessing of education, I beseech 
you to admire God's goodness to you in this pro- 
vidence. Oh ! what a happy lot has God cast for 
you ! How few children are partakers of your 
mercies ! 

See that you honour such parents; the tie is 
double upon you so to do. Be you the joy of their 
hearts, and comfort of their lives, if living; if not, 
yet still remember the mercy while you live, and 
tread in their pious paths, that you and they may 
both rejoice together in the great day, and bless 
God for each other to all eternity. 

IV. The next remarkable performance of Pro- 
vidence for the people of God, which I will in- 
stance, shall be with respect to its ordering the 
occasions, instruments, and means of their conver- 
sion. 

In nothing doth Providence shine forth more 
gloriously in this world, than it doth in this per- 
formance for the people of God. How curiously 
soever its hand had moulded your bodies, how 
tenderly soever it had preserved them, and how 
bountifully soever it had provided for them ; if it 
had not also ordered some means or other for your 
conversion, all the former favours and benefits it 
had done for you had signified little. This, oh 
this, is the most excellent benefit you ever re- 
ceived from its hand ! You are more beholden to 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 55 

it for this, than for all your other mercies. And, 
m opening this performance of Providence, I can- 
not but think your hearts must be deeply affected. 
This is a subject, which every gracious heart loves 
to sleep its thoughts in. It is certainly the sweetest 
history that ever they repeated ; they love to think 
and talk of it. The places where, and instruments 
by whom this work was wrought, are exceedingly 
endeared to them for the work's sake; yea, en- 
deared to that degree, that, for many years after, 
their hearts have melted, when they have but 
passed occasionally by those places, or but seen 
the faces of those persons, who were used as in- 
struments, in the hand of Providence, for their 
good. As no doubt but Jacob's Bethel was ever 
after that night sweet to his thoughts, eo other 
saints have had their Bethels as well as he. Oh 
blessed places, times, and instruments ! Oh the 
deep, the sweet impressions, never to be razed 
out of the memory or heart, that this providence 
has made upon those on whom it wrought this 
blessed effect at years of discrection, and in a more 
sensible way ! 

But lest any poor soul should be discouraged 
under the display of this providence, because he 
cannot remember the time, place, instruments, and 
manner wherein, and by which conversion-work 
was wrought, I will therefore premise this neces- 
sary distinction, to prevent injury to some, whilst 
I design benefit to others. Conversion, as to the 
subject of it, may be considered two ways ; either 
as it is more sensibly wrought in persons of riper 
years, who, in their youthful days, were more 
profane and vile ; or upon persons in their tender 
years, into whose hearts grace was more insen- 
sibly and indiscernibly instilled by God's blessing 



56 DIVINE CONDUCT OH 

upon pious education. In the former sort, the 
distinct acts of the Spirit, as illuminating, convin- 
cing, humbling, drawing them to Christ, and seal- 
ing them, are more evident and discernible; in 
the latter, more obscure and confused. They can 
remember that God gave them an esteem and 
liking of godly persons, care of duty, and con- 
science of sin ; but as to the time, place, instru- 
ments, and manner of the work, they can give 
but a slender account of them. However, if the 
work be savingly wrought in them, there is no 
reason they should be troubled because the cir- 
cumstances of it are not so evident to them as they 
are to others. Let the substance and reality of 
the work appear, and there is no reason to afflict 
yourselves, because tlie evidence of such circum- 
stances is wanting. 

But, yet, when the circumstances as well as 
substance are clear to men ; when we can call to 
remembrance the time when, the place where, the 
instrument by whom that work was wrought, it 
must needs be exceedingly sweet ; and they can- 
not but yield a fresh delight to the soul, every 
time they are reflected upon. 

There are many of the following occasions 
which, it may be, we took for stragglers, when 
they fii'st befell us ; but they proved scouts sent out 
from the main body of providence, which they 
make way for. 

Now there are divers things in those providences, 
that are connected with this work, which are ex- 
ceedingly sweet and taking ; as, 

1. The wonderful strangeness and unaccounta- 
bleness of this work of Providence in casting us 
into the way, and ordering the occasions, yea, the 
minutest circumstances about this work. This 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 57 

you find in Acts viii. 26 — 30, &c. The eunuch, 
at that very instant when he was reading the pro- 
phet Isaiah, hath an interpreter, one among a thou- 
sand, that joins his chariot just as his mind was, 
by a fit occasion, prepared to receive the first light 
of the knowledge of Christ. 

And how strange was that change, how far so- 
ever it went, upon Naaman the Syrian, recorded 
2 Kings V. 1 — 4, that the Syrians, in their incur- 
sions, should bring away this girl, (likely her 
beauty was the inducement,) and she must be pre- 
sented to Naaman's wife, and relate to her the 
power of God, that accompanied the prophet ; 
though you find in that particular case there had 
never been an instance given before, Luke iv. 27. 
Doubtless the whole of this aflair was guided by 
the signal direction of Providence. 

So for the conversion of the Samaritans it is ob- 
served, John iv. 4, Christ must needs go that way, 
because it lay just in the road between Judea and 
Galilee, and that at the sixth hour, that is, high 
noon, he rests himself upon Jacob's well, still 
seeming to have no other design but his own re- 
freshment, by sitting and drinking there ; but, O ! 
what a train of blessed providences follows this, 
which seemed but an accidental thing! First, the 
woman of Samaria, and then, many more in that 
city, are brought to believe in Christ, as you find 
in ver. 29 and 41. 

It is noted by Melchior Adam, in the life of 
Junius, how very an atheist he grew in his younger 
years ; but, in order to his conversion to (iod, first 
a wonderful preservation of his life, in a public 
tumult at Lyons, in France, must make way, which 
forces from him the acknowledgment of a Deity ; 



58 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

then his father sends for him home, and with much 
gentleness persuades him to read the Scriptures; 
he lights upon the first of John, and with it, he 
sensibly feels a divine, supernatural majesty and 
power seizing his soul, which brouuhl him over 
by a complete conversion to Jesus Christ. Thus, 
us the woman of Tekoa told David, '* doth God 
devise means to bring back his banished." 

Lavater tells us, that many Spanish soldiers, 
going into the wars of Germany, were there con- 
verted to Christ, by falling into the cities and towns 
inhabited by godly ministers and Christians. 

Mr. Robert Bolton, though an excellent scholar, 
yet in his younger years was a very irreligious 
person, and a jeerer of holy men ; but, being cast 
into the company of the godly Mr. Peacock, was, 
by him, brought to repentance, and proved a 
famous instrument in the church of Christ. 

A scrap of pajier accidentally coming to view 
hath been used as an occasion of conversion. This 
was the case of a minister in Wales, who had two 
livings, but took little care of either. He being at 
a fair, bought something at a pedlar's standing, and 
rent off a leaf of Mr. Perkins's catechism to wrap 
it in, and reading a line or two in it, God set it 
home so as it did the work. 

The marriage of a godly man, into a carnal 
family, hath been ordered by Providence for the 
conversion and salvation of many therein. Thus we 
read, in the life of that renowned English worthy ,i 
Mr. John Bruen, that, in his second match, it was 
agreed that he should have one year's diet in his 
mother-in-law's house. During his abode there that 
year, (saith Mr. Clark,) the Lord was^ pleased, by 
his means, graciously to work upon her soul, as 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 59^ 

also upon his wife's sister, and half sister, their 
brothers, Mr. William and Mr. Thomas Fox, with 
one or two of the servants in that family. 

The reading of a good book hath been the means 
of bringing others to Christ. And thus we find 
many of the German divines converted by reading 
Luther's books. Yea, and what is more strange, 
Mr. Sleyden, in his Commentary, tells us, that 
Vergerius, though he were present an eye and ear 
witness to that doleful case of Spira, which one 
would think should move a stone, yet still con- 
tinued so firm to the Pope's interest, that when he 
fell into some suspicion among the cardinals, he 
resolved to purge himself by writing a book against 
the German apostates ; but, whilst he read the pro- 
testant books, out of no other design but to confute 
them, whilst he is weighing the arguments, he is 
himself convinced and brought to Christ. He, find- 
ing himself thus overcome by the truth, imparts his 
conviction to his brother, a zealous papist also; 
this brother deplores the misery of his case, and 
seeks to reclaim him ; but Vergerius entreating 
him to weigh well the protestant arguments, he 
also yields ; and so both immediately betook them- 
selves to preach justification, by the free grace of 
God, through the blood of Christ. 

Yea, not only the reading of a book, or hearing 
of a minister, but, which is most remarkable, the 
very mistake or forgetfulness of a minister hath 
been improved by providence for this end and pur- 
pose. Augustine, once preaching to his congre- 
gation, forgot the argument which he first pro- 
posed, and fell upon the errors of the Manichees, 
beside his first intention ; by which discourse, he 
converted one Firmus, his auditor, who felt down 
at his feet weeping, and confessing he had lived a 



60 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

Manichee many years. Another I knew, who, 
going to preach, took up another Bible than that he 
designed, in which, not only missing his notes, but 
the chapter also in which his text lay, was put to 
some loss thereby: but, after a short pause, he 
resolved to speak to any other Scripture that might 
be presented to him, and accordingly, read the text, 
" The Lord is not slack concerning his promise," 
2 Pet. iii. 9, and though he had nothing prepared, 
'yet the Lord helped him to speak bcjth methodi- 
cally and pertinently from it ; by which discourse 
a gracious change was wrought upon one in the 
congregation, who hath since given good evidence 
of a sound conversion, and acknowledged this ser- 
mon to be the first and only means thereof. 

The accom|)anying of others, in a neighbourly, 
civil visit, hath been overruled to the same end. 
Thus many of the Jews accompanied Mary into 
Bethany, designing only to manifest their civil re- 
spect, but there they met Christ, saw the things 
which he did, and believed on him, John xi. 45. 

Mr. Firmin, in his "Real Christian," tells us 
of one who hid lived many years in a town where 
Christ had been as clearly and as long preached 
as in any town in England. This man, when he 
was about seventy-six years of age, went to visit a 
sick neighbour. "A Christian friend of mine," 
saith my author, "came to see him also, and find- 
ing this old man there, whom we judged to be one 
that lived upon his own stock, civility, good works, 
&c., he purposely fell into that discourse, to show 
how many persons lived upon their duties, but 
never came to Christ. The old man, sitting by 
the bed-side, heard him, and God was pleased to 
convince him, that he was such a person, who had 
lived upon himself, without Christ, to that day; 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 61 

and he would say afterwards, Had I died before 
three-score and sixteen, I had perished, for I knew 
not Christ." 

The committing of a godly man to prison hath 
been the method of Providence to save the soul of 
a poor keeper. So Paul was made a prisoner, to 
make his keeper a spiritual freeman. Acts xvi. 27. 
The like success had Dr. Barnes, in Queen Mary's 
days, who celebrated the lord's Supper in prison 
with his converted keeper. 

The scattering of ministers and Christians, by 
persecution, from cities and towns, into the igno- 
rant and barbarous parts of the country, hath been 
the way of Providence to find out and bring home 
some lost sheep that were found there to Jesus 
Christ, Acts viii. 1, 4. The like signal event hath 
since followed upon the like scattering of godly 
ministers, whereof there are many pregnant in- 
stances at this day. 

A servant running away from his master, likely 
upon no other design but to live an idle life, yet 
falling into such places and companies as Provi- 
dence ordered in a design to him unknown, hath 
thereby been brought to be the servant of Christ. 
This was the very case of Onesimus, who ran 
away from his master Philemon, to Rome, where, 
by a strange providence, (possibly a mere curiosity 
to see the prisoners,) he (alls into Paul's hands, 
who begat him to Christ in his bonds, Philemon, 
10—16. 

Going to hear a sermon in jest hath proved 
some men's conversion in earnest. The above- 
named Mr. Firmin, in the fore-cited book, tells us 
of a notorious drunkard, whom the drunkards call- 
ed father, that one day would needs go to hear 
what Wilson said, out of no other design, it seems, 
6 



62 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

but to scoff at that holy man : but, in the prayer 
before sermon, his heart began to thaw, and when 
he read his text, which was, " Sin no more, lest a 
worse thing come unto thee," John v. 14, he 
could not contain; and in that sermon the Lord 
changed his heart, though so bitter an enemy, that 
the minister, on lecture days, was afraid to go to 
church before his shop door. " Lo, these are parts 
of his ways, but how small a portion is known of 
him !" 

The dropping of some grave and weighty word, 
accidentally, in the presence of vain, carnal per- 
sons ; the death of a husband, wife, or child ; a fit 
of sickness, with a thousand other such like occa- 
sions, have been thus improved, by Providence, 
to the conversion of souls. 

And no less remarkable and wonderful are the 
designs of Providence, in ordering the removes, 
and governing the motions of ministers, from place 
to place, in order unto the conversion of souls. 
Thus, oftentimes, it carries them to places where 
they intended not to go; God having, unknown 
to them, some elect vessels there, who must be 
called by the gospel. 

Thus Paul and Timothy, a sweet and lovely 
pair, when they were travelling through Phrygia 
and Galatia, were forbid to preach the word in 
Asia, to which probably their minds inclined, Acts 
xvi. 6, and when they essayed to go into Bithynia, 
the Spirit suffered them not, ver. 7, but a man of 
Macedonia, that is an angel in the shape or habit 
of a man of that country, appeared to Paul in a 
vision, and prayed him, saying, " Come over into 
Macedonia, and help us," ver. 9, and there did 
Gcxl open the heart of Lydia. 

I knew a pious minister, now with God, who, 



THE MYSTKRY OF PROVIDENCE. 63 

falling in his study upon a very rousing subject, 
intended for his own congregation, was strongly 
moved, when he had finished it, to go to a rude, 
vile, profane people, about five miles off, and first 
preach it to them. After many wrestlings with 
himself, not being willing to quench any motion 
that might be supposed to come from the Spirit of 
God, he obeyed and went to this people, who had 
then no minister of their own, and few durst come 
among them ; and there did the Lord, beyond all 
expectation, open a door, and several profane ones 
received Christ in that place, and engaged this 
minister to a weekly lecture among them, in which 
many souls were won to God. 

The same holy man, at another time, being upon 
a journey, passed by a company of vain persons, 
who were wrestling upon a green near the road ; 
and just as he came near the place, one of them 
had thrown his antagonist, and stood triumphing 
in his strength and activity. This good man rode 
up to them, and turning his speech to this person, 
told him, Friend, I see you are a strong man, but 
let not the strong man glory in his strength : you 
must know, that you are not to wrestle with flesh 
and blood, but with principalities and powers, and 
spiritual wickednesses : how sad will it be, that 
Satan should at last trip up the heels of your hope, 
and give you an eternal overthrow ! And, after 
about a quarter of an hour's serious discourse upon 
this subject, he left them, and went on his jour- 
ney ; but this discourse made such an im[)ression, 
that the person had no rest till he opened his trou- 
ble to a godly minister, who, wisely following the 
work upon his soul, saw at last the blessed issue 
thereof in the gracious change of the person, 
whereof he afterwards gave, the minister a joyful 



64 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

account. Oh ! how unsearchable are the methods 
of Providence in this matter. 

Nay, what is yet more wonderful, the provi- 
dence of God hath sometimes ordered the very 
maHce of Satan and the wickedness of men, as an 
occasion of eternal good to their souls. A very 
memorable example whereof I shall here give the 
reader, laithfully relating what not many years 
past fell out in my own observation in this place, 
to the astonishment of many spectators. 

In the year 1673, there came into this port* a 
ship of Poole, in her return from Virginia; in 
which ship was one of that place, a lusty young 
man, of twenty-three years of age, who was sur- 
geon in the ship. This person, in the voyage, fell 
into a deep melancholy, wliich the devil greatly 
improved, to serve his own design for the ruin of 
this poor man ; however, it pleased the Lord to 
restrain him from any attempts upon his own life, 
until he arrived here. But, shortly after his arri- 
val, upon the Lord's day, early in the morning, 
being in bed with his brother, he took a knife pre- 
pared for that purpose, and cut his own throat, 
and withal leaped out of the bed ; and though the 
wound was deep and large, yet thinking it might 
not soon enough despatch his wretched life, des- 
perately thrust it into his stomach, and so lay wal- 
lowing in his own blood, till his brother awaking 
made a cry for help : hereupon a physician and a 
surgeon coming in, found the wound in his throat 
mortal; and all they could do at present was only 
to stitch it, and apply a plaster, with a design 
rather to enable him to speak for a little while, 
than w^th any expectation of cure ; for, before that 

* Dartmouth. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 65 

he breathed through the wound, and his voice was 
inarticulate. 

In this condition, I found him that morning, and 
apprehending him to be within a few minutes of 
eternity, I laboured to work upon his heart the 
sense of his condition, telling him I had but little 
time to do any tiling for him, and therefore desired 
him to let me know what his own apprehensions 
of his present condition were. He told me, he 
hoped in God for eternal life. I replied, that I 
feared his hopes were ungrounded, for that the 
Scripture tells us, " No murderer hatli eternal life 
abiding in him," and insisting upon the aggrava- 
tion and heinousness of the fact, I perceived his 
vain confidence began to fall, and some meltings 
of heart appeared in him. He then began to la- 
ment, with many tears, his sin and misery, and 
asked me if there might yet be hope for one that 
had destroyed himself, and shed his own blood. I 
replied. The sin indeed is great, but not unpardon- 
able ; and if the Lord gave him repentance unto 
life, and faith to apply to Jesus Christ, it should 
be certainly pardoned to him ; and, finding him 
unacquainted with these things, I opened to him 
the nature and necessity of faith and repentance, 
which he greedily sucked in, and with great vehe- 
mency cried to God that he would work them upon 
his soul, and entreated me also to pray with him, 
and for him, that it might be so. I prayed with 
him, and the Lord thawed his heart exceedingly 
in that duty : loth he was to part with me; but the 
duties of the day necessitating me to leave him, 1 
briefly summed up what was most necessary iu 
my parting counsel to him, and took my leave, 
never expecting to see him more in this world, 
6* 



66 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

But beyond my own, and all men's expectations, 
he continued all that day, and panted most ardent- 
ly after Jesus Christ; no discourses pleased him 
but Christ and faith; and in this frame I found 
him in the evening. He rejoiced greatly to see 
me again, and entreated me to continue my dis- 
courses upon these subjects ; and, atler all, he told 
me. Sir, the Lord hath given me repentance for 
this sin ; yea, and for every other sin. I see the 
evil of sin now, so as I never saw it before. Oh 1 
I loathe myself; I am a vile creature in my own 
eyes; I do also believe; Lord, help my unbe- 
lief. I am heartily willing to take Christ upon 
his own terms. One thing only troubles me. I 
doubt this bloody sin will not be pardoned. Will 
Jesus Christ, saith he, apply his bkxxi to me, that 
have shed my own blood? I told him, Christ 
shed his blood even for them that with wicked 
hands had shed the blood of Christ ; and that was 
a sin of deeper guilt than his. Well, saith he, I 
will cast myself upon Christ ; let him do by me 
what he will. And so I parted with him that 
night. 

Next morning, the wounds were to be opened ; 
and then the opinion of the surgeons was, he 
would immediately expire. 

Accordingly, at his desire, I came that morning, 
and found him in a most serious frame. I prayed 
with him, and then the wound in his stomach was 
opened, but, by this time, the ventricle itself was 
swollen out of the orifice of the wound, and lay 
like a livid, discoloured mass upon the body, and 
was also cut through ; so that all concluded it was 
Impossible for him to live; howevfer, they stitched 
*he wound in the stomach, enlarged the orifice, 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 67 

and fomented it, and wrought it again into his 
body, and so stitching up the skin, left him to the 
disposal of Providence. 

But so it was, that both the deep wound in his 
throat, and this in his stomach, healed ; and the 
more dangerous wound sin had made upon his 
soul, was, i trust, effectually healed also. I spent 
many hours with him in that sickness; and, after 
his return home, received this account from Mr, 
Samuel Hardy, a minister in that town ; part 
whereof I shall transcribe. 

" Dear Sir : — I was much troubled at the sad 
providence in your town, but did much rejoice 
that he fell into such hands for his body and soul. 
You have taken much pains with him, and I 
hoj)e, to good purpose. I think, if ever a great 
and thorough work was done in such a way, it is 
now ; and if never the like, I am persuaded now 
it is. Never grow weary of such good works. 
One such instance is, methinks, enough to make 
you to abound in the work of the Lord all your 
days," &c. 

Oh, how unsearchable are the ways of Provi- 
dence in leading men to Christ! Let none be en- 
couraged by this to sin, that grace may abound. 
These are rare and singular instances of the mercy 
of God, and such as no presumptuous sinner can 
expect to find. It is only recited here to the 
honour of Providence, which works for the recovery 
of sinners in ways that we understand not. Oh, 
what a reach hath Providence beyond our under- 
standings I 

2. And as Providence orders very strange occa- 
sions to awaken and rouse our souls at fii'st, so it 
works no less wonderfully in carrying on the 
work to perfectioQ ; and this it doth two ways : 



68 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

(1.) By quickening and reviving dying convic- 
tions and troubles for sin. Souls, after their first 
awakening, are apt to lose the sense and impres- 
sion of their first troubles for sin ; but Providence 
IS vigilant to prevent it, and doth efTectually pre- 
vent it, sometimes by directing the minister to 
some discourse or passage that shall fall as pat as 
if the case of such a person had been studied by 
him, and designedly spoken to. Hov*^ often have 
I found this in the cases of many souls, who have 
professed they have stood amazed to hear the very 
thoughts of their hearts discovered by the preacher, 
who knew nothing of them ! Sometimes by direct- 
ing them to some proper rousing Scripture that 
suits their present case ; and sometimes by suffer- 
ing them to fall into some new sin, which shall 
awaken all their former troubles again, and put a 
new efl[icacy and activity into the conscience. The 
world is full of instances of all these cases, and 
because most Christians have experience of these 
things in themselves, it will be needless to recite 
them here. Search but a few years back, and you 
may remember that, according to this account, at 
least in some particulaj*s. Providence ordered the 
matter with you. Have you not found some rod 
or other prepared by Providence to rouse you out 
of your security ? Why this is so common a thing 
with Christians, that they many times presage an 
affliction coming from the frames they find their 
own hearts in. 

(2.) It gives also great assistance to the work 
of the Spirit upon the soul, by ordering, support- 
ing, relieving, and cheering means, to prop up and 
comfort the soul, when it is overburdened, and 
ready to sink in the deeps of troubles. I remem- 
ber Mr. Bolton gives us one instance which fits 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 69 

both these cases, the reviving of convictions, and 
seasonable supports in the deeps of troubles ; and 
it is of a person that, by convictions, had been 
fetched off from his wicked companions, and en- 
tered into a reformed course of life ; but after this, 
through the enticement of his old companions, the 
subtlety of Satan, and corruption of his own heart, 
did again relapse into the ways of sin : then was 
providentally brought to his view that Scripture, 
Prov. i. 24 — 26, &c.: this renewed his trouble, 
yea, aggravated it to a greater height than ever, 
insomuch that he could scarcely think, as it seems 
by the relation, his sin could be pardoned. But, 
in this plunge, the following text was presented to 
him, which sweetly settled him in a sure and glo- 
rious peace. "And if he trespass against thee 
seven times in a day, and seven times in a day 
turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt 
forgive him," Luke xvii. 4. 

Nor can we here forget that miraculous work of 
Providence, in a time of great extremity, which 
was wrought for that good gentlewoman, Mrs. 
Honey wood, and is somewhere mentioned by the 
same author, who, under a deep and sad desertion, 
refused and put off all comfort, seeming to despair 
utterly of the grace and mercy of God. A worthy 
minister being one day with her, and reasoning 
against her desperate conclusions, she took a Ve- 
nice glass from the table, and said. Sir, I am as 
sure to be damned as this glass is to be broken, 
and therewith threw it forcibly to the ground ; 
but, to the astonishment of both, the glass re- 
mained whole and sound, which the minister 
taking up with admiration, rebuked her presump- 
tion, and showed her what a wonder Providence 
bad wrought for her satisfaction, and it greatly 



70 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

altered the temper of her mind. "0 how un- 
searchable are his judgments! and his ways past 
finding out!" Rom. xi. 33. "Lo! these are pans 
of his ways ; but how small a portion do we know 
of him!" Job xxvi. 14. 

And now suffer me to expostulate a little with 
thy soul, reader. Hast thou been duly sensible of 
thy obligation to Providence for this inestimable 
favour ? O what hath it done for thee ! there 
are divers kmds of mercies conveyed to men by 
the hand of Providence, but none like this; in all 
the treasury of his benefits, none is found like this. 
Did it cast thee into the way of conversion, and 
order the means and occasions of it for thee, when 
thou little thoughest of any such thing? How 
dear and sweet should the remembrance of it be to 
thy soul ! Methinks it should astonish and melt 
you every time you reflect upon it. Such mercies 
should never grow stale, or look like common 
things to you : for, do but consider the following 
particulars : 

[1.] How surprising the mercy was which it 
performed for you in that day. Providence had 
a design upon you for your eternal good, which 
you understood not. The time of mercy was now 
fully come ; the decree was now ready to bring 
forth that mercy with which it had gone big from 
eternity ; and its gracious design must be executed 
by the hand of Providence, so far as concerned the 
external means and instruments ; and how aptly 
did it cause all things to fill in with that design, 
though you knew not the meaning of it 1 Look 
over all the before-mentioned examples, and you 
shall see the blessed work of conversion begun 
upon those souls, when they minded it no more 
than Saul did a kingdom that morning he went out 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 71 

to seek his father's asses, 1 Sam. ix. 3, 20. Pro- 
vidence might truly have said to you in that day, 
as Christ said to Peter, " What I do thou knowest 
not now, but hereafter thou shalt know it," John 
xiii. 7. " God's thoughts are not as our thoughts ; 
but, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so 
are his thoughts higher than ours, and his ways 
than our ways," Isa. Iv. 8, 9. Little did Zac- 
cheus think, when he climbed up into the sycamore 
tree to see Christ as he passed that way, what a 
design of mercy Christ had upon him, who took 
thence the occasion of becoming both his guest 
and Saviour, Luke xix. 5 — 10. And as little did 
some of you think, what the aim of Providence 
was when you went, some out of custom, others 
out of curiosity, if not worse ends, to hear such a 
sermon. O how stupendous are the ways of 
God! 

[2.] What a distinguishing and seasonable mercy 
was ushered in by Providence on that day. It 
brought you to the means of salvation in a good 
hour. At that very point of time, when the angel 
troubled the waters, you were brought to the pool ; 
to allude to that, John v. 4. Now the accepted 
day was come, the Spirit was in the ordinance or 
providence, that converted you, and you were set 
in the way of it. It may be, you had heard many 
hundred sermons before, but nothing would stick 
till now, because the hour was not come. The 
Lord did as it were, call in the word for such a 
man, such a woman ; and Providence said, Lord, 
here he is ! I have brought him before thee ! 
There were many others under that sermon, who 
received no such mercy. You yourselves had 
heard many before, but not to that advantage, as it 
is sai(^ Luke iv. 27 ; " There were many lepers 



72 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

in Israel in the days of Eliseus, but to none of 
them was the prophet sent, save unto Naaman, the 
Syrian." So there were many poor, unconverted 
souls besides you under the word that day, and it 
may be, to none of them was salvation sent that 
day but to you. O blessed Providence, that set 
you in the way of mercy at that lime ! 

What a weighty and important mercy was pro- 
videntally directed to your souls that day. There 
are mercies of all sizes and kinds, in the hands of 
Providence, to dispense to the sons of men : its 
left hand is full of blessing, as well as its right. 
It hath health and riches, honours and pleasures, 
as well as Christ and salvation, to dispense. The 
world is full of its left-hand favours; but the bless- 
ings of its right-hand are invaluably precious, and 
few there be that receive them. It doth thousands 
of kind offices for men ; but among them all, this 
is the chief — to lead and direct them to Christ. 
For, consider, 1. Of all mercies this comes through 
most and greatest difficulties, Eph. i. 19, 20. 
2. This is a spiritual mercy, excelling, in dignity 
of nature, all others, more than gold excels the dirt 
under your feet. Rev. iii. 18. One such gift is 
worth thousands of other mercies. 3. This is a 
mercy immediately flowing out of the fountain of 
God's electing love, a mercy never dropped into 
any but an elect vessel, 1 Thess. i. 4, 5. 4. This 
is a mercy that infallibly secures salvation; for, as 
we may argue from conversion to election, Kx)king 
back; so from conversion to salvation, looking 
forward, Heb. vi. 9. 5, This is an eternal mercy, 
that which will stick by you when your father, 
mother, wife, children, estate, honour, health, and 
life shall fail you, John iv. 14. 

O, therefore, set a special mark upon thai provi- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 73 

dence that set you in the way of this mercy. It 
hath performed that for thee, which ail the minis- 
ters on earth and angels in heaven could never 
have performed. This is a mercy that puts weight 
and value into the smallest circumstance that re- 
lates to it. 

V. Thus you hear how instrumental Providence 
hath been in ordering the means and occasions of 
the greatest mercies for your souls. Let us now 
take into consideration another excellent perform- 
ance of Providence, respecting the good of your 
bodies and souls too, in respect of that employment 
and calling, it ordered for you in this world ; for it 
hath not only an eye upon your well-being in the 
world to come, but upon your well-being in this 
world also, and that very much depends upon the 
station and vocation to which it calls you. 

Now, the providence of God, with respect to 
our worldly callings, may be displayed very taking- 
ly in the following particulars. 

1. In directing you to a calling in your youth, 
and not suffering you to live an idle, useless, and 
sinful life, as many do, who are but burthens to the 
earth, the wens of the body politic, serving only to 
disfigure and drain it, to eat what others earn. Sin 
brought in sweat. Gen. iii. 19. But now not to 
sweat increaseth sin, 2 Thess. iii. 12. He that 
lives idly, cannot Hve honestly, as is plainly enough 
intimated, 1 Thess. iv. 11, 12. But when God 
puts men into a lawful calling, wherein the labour 
of their hands or heads is sufficient for them, it is 
a very valuable mercy, for thereby they eat their 
own bread, 2 Thess. iii. 12. Many a sad tempta- 
tion is happily prevented ; and they are ordinarily 
furnished by it for works of mercy to others :. and 
surely it is more blessed to give than to receive. 
7 



74 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

2. In ordering you to such callings and rmploy- 
ments, in the world, as are not only lawful in them- 
selves, but most suitable to you. There be many 
persons employed in sinful trades and arts, merely 
to furnish other men's lusts : they do not only sin 
in their employments, but their very employments 
are sinful; they trade for hell, and are factors for 
the devil. Demetrius and the craftsmen of Ephe- 
sus got their estates by making shrines for Diana, 
Acts xix. 24, 25; that is, little cases or boxes, with 
folding leaves, within which the image of that idol 
sat enshrined. These were carried about by the 
people in procession, in honour of their idol. And 
at this day, how many wicked arts and employ- 
ments are there invented, and multitudes of per- 
sons maintained by them, merely to gratify the 
pride and wantonness of a debauched age! 

Now, to have an honest, lawful employment, 
wherein you do not dishonour God in benefitting 
yourselves, is no small mercy. But if it be not 
only lawful in itself, but suited to your genius and 
strength, there is a double mercy in it. Some poor 
creatures are engaged in callings that eat up their 
time and strength, and make their lives very un- 
comfortable to them : they have not only spending 
and wasting employments in the world, but such 
as allow little or no time for their general calling ; 
and yet all this doth but keep them and theirs alive. 
Therefore, if God hath fitted you with an honest 
employment, wherein you have less toil than others, 
and more time for heavenly exercises, ascribe this 
benefit to the special care of Providence for you. 

3. In settling you in such an employment and 
calling in the world, as possibly neither you nor 
your parents could ever expect you should ever 
arrive at. There are among us such persons as, on 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 75 

this account, are signally obliged to divine Provi. 
dunce. God hath put them into such a way, as 
neither they nor their parents ever projected. For, 
lool^, as the needle in the compass turns now this 
way, then that way, and never ceases moving till, 
it settle to the north point, just so it is in our settle- 
ments in this world. A child is now designed for 
this, then for that, but at last settles in that way of 
employment which Providence designed him to. 
How strangely are things wheeled about by Pro-, 
vidence ! Not what we, or our parents, but what 
God designed shall take place. Amos was very 
meanly employed at first, but God designed him 
for a more honourable and comfortable calling, 
Amos vii. 14, 15. David followed the ewes, and 
likely never raised his thoughts to higher things in 
the days of his youth ; but God made him the royal, 
shepherd of a better flock, Psal. Ixxviii. 70, 71. 
Peter and Andrew were employed as fishermen, 
but Christ called them from that to a higher calling, 
to be fishers of men, Matt. iv. 18, 19. Parous, 
when he was fourteen years old, was, by the in- 
stigation of his step-mother, placed with an apothe- 
cary ; but Providence so wrought that he was taken 
off from that, and fitted for the ministry, wherein 
he became a fruitful and eminent instrument to the 
church. James Andreas was, by reason of his 
father's inability to keep him at school, designed 
for a carpenter ; but was afterwards, by the per- 
suasion of his friends, and assistance of the church 
stock, sent to Stutgard, and thence to the univer- 
sity, and so arrived at a very eminent station of 
service in the church. A master builder, (Ecolam- 
padius, was, by his father, designed for a merchant; 
but his mother, by earnest entreaties, prevailed to 
keep him at school ; and this man was a blessed 



76 DITINE CONDUCT OR 

instrument in the reformation of religion. I might 
easily cite multitudes of such instances, but a few 
specimens may suffice. 

4. In securing your estates from ruin, "Hast 
thou not made an hedge about him, and all that he 
hath?" Job i. 10. This is the inclosure of Provi- 
dence, which secures to us what, by its favour, we 
acquire in the way of honest industry. 

5. In making your calling sufficient for you. Tt 
was the prayer of Moses for the tribe of Judah, 
"Let his hands be sufficient for him," Deut. 
xxxiii. 7, and it is no small mercy if yours be so to 
you. Some there be that have work, but not 
strength to go through with it ; others have strength, 
but no employment for it : some have hands and 
work for them, but it is not sufficient for them and 
theirs. If God bless your labour, so as to give you 
and yours necessary supports and comfort in the 
world by it, it is a choice providence, and with all 
thankfulness to be acknowledged. 

If any that fear God should complain, that 
although they have a calling, yet it is a hard, la- 
borious one, which takes up too much of their 
time, which they would gladly employ in other and 
better work, I answer, 1. It is likely the wisdom 
of Providence foresaw this to be the most suitable 
and proper employment for you ; and, if you had 
more ease and rest, you might have more tempta- 
tions than now you have. The strength and time 
which are now taken up in your daily labours, 
wherem you serve God, might otherwise have been 
spent upon such lusts wherein you might have 
served the devil. 3. Hereby, it maybe, your health 
is the better preserved, and natural refreshments 
made the sweeter to you : " The sleep of a labour- 
ing man is sweet to him, whether he eat little or 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 77 

much ; but the abundance of the rich will not suffer 
him to sleep," Eccl. v. 12. 3. And as to the ser- 
vice of God, if your hearts be spiritual, you may 
enjoy much communion with God in your very 
employments, and you have some intervals and 
respites for that purpose. Have you not more 
spare hours than you employ to that end? 

But you may complain. All my labour will 
scarcely suffice to procure me and mine the neces- 
saries of life. I am kept short and low to what 
others are ; and this is a sad affliction. 

Though the wisdom of Providence hath ordered 
you a lower and poorer condition than others, yet, 
1. Consider how many are lower than you in the 
world ; you have but little of the world, yet others 
have less. Read the description of those persons, 
Job XXX. 4. &c. 2. If God hath given you but a 
small portion of the world, yet, if you be godly, 
he hath promised never to forsake you, Heb. xiii. 
5. 3. Providence hath ordered that condition for 
you which is really best for your eternal good. If 
you had more of the world than you have, your 
heads and hearts might not be able to manage it to 
your advantage. A small boat must have but a 
narrow sail. You have not wanted hitherto the 
necessaries of life, and are commanded, " having 
food and raiment," though none of the finest, " to 
be therewith content." " A little, that a righteous 
man hath, is better than the riches of many wick- 
ed," Psal. xxxvii. 16; better in the acquisition, 
sweeter in the fruition, and more comfortable m the 
account. 

Well then, if Providence hath so disposed of you 
all, that you can eat your own bread, and so ad- 
vantageously directed some of you to employ- 
ments, that afford not only necessaries for your- 
7* 



78 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

solves and families, but an overplus for works of 
mercy to others, and all this brought about for you 
in a way you did not project, let God be owned 
and honoured in this providence. Will you not 
hencelbrth call him, " My Father, the Guide of 
my youth ?" as it is Jer. iii. 4. Surely it was the 
Lord who guided you to settle as you did in those 
days of your youth. You reap at this day, and 
may to your last day, the fruits of those early pro- 
vidences in your youth. 

Now see that you walk answerable to the obli- 
gations of Providence in this particular ; and see 
to it in the fear of God, that you abuse not any 
of those things to his dishonour, which it hath 
wrought for your comfort. To prevent which I 
will here drop a few needful cautions, and conclude 
this particular. 

(1.) Be not slothful and idle in your vocations. 
It is said, Augustus, built an Apragmapolis,acity void 
of business ; but I am sure God never erected any 
city, town, or family, to that end. The command 
to Adam, Gen. iii. 19, no doubt reaches all his 
posterity ; and gospel -commands back and second 
it upon Christians. "Not slothful in business," 
Rom. xii. 11, and 2 Thess. iii. 11. If you be 
negligent, you cannot be innocent. And yet, 

(2.) Be not so intent upon your particular call- 
ings as to make them interfere with your general 
calling. Beware you lose not your God in the 
crowd and hurry of earthly business. Mind that 
solemn warning, " But they that will be rich, fall 
into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish 
and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction 
and perdition," 1 Tim. vi. 9. The inhabitants of 
(Enone, a dry island, near Athens, bestowed much 
labour to draw in a river to water it, and make it 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 79 

fruitful ; but, when the sluices were opened, the 
waters flowed so abundantly, that it overflowed 
the island, and drowned the inhabitants. The ap- 
plication is obvious. It was an excellent saying 
of Seneca, I do not give, but lend myselt" to busi- 
ness. 

(3.) Remember, always, that the success of 
your callings and earthly employments is, by the 
divine blessing, not human diligence alone. "Thou 
shalt remember the Lord thy God ; for it is he that 
gave thee power to get wealth," Deut. viii. 18. 
The devil himself was so far orthodox as to ac- 
knowledge it : " Hast thou not made an hedge 
about him, and about his house, and about all that 
he hath on every side 1 Thou hast blessed the work 
of his hands," &c. Job i. 10. Recommend, there- 
fore, your aflTairs to God by prayer: "Delight 
thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the 
desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the 
Lord ; trust also in him, and he shall bring it 
to pass," Psal. xxxvii. 4, 5, and touch not that 
which you cannot recommend to God by prayer 
for a blessing. 

(4.) Be well satisfied in that station and employ- 
ment in which Providence hath placed you, and 
do not so much as wish yourselves in another. 
"Let every man abide in the same calling wherein 
he was called," 1 Cor. vii. 20. Providence is 
wiser than you, and you may be confident hath 
suited all things better to your eternal good than 
you could do, had you been left to your own op- 
tion. 

VI. Thus you see the care Providence hath had 
over you in your youth, in respect to that worldly 
employment to which it guided you in ^nose days. 

We will, in the next place, consider it as oui 



60 



DIVINE CONDUCT OR 



guide, and the orderer of our relations for us. That 
Providence hath a special hand in this matter, is 
evident, both from Scripture assertions, and the 
acknowledgments of holy men, who, in that great 
concern of their lives, have still owned and ac- 
knowledged the directing hand of Providence. 
Take an instance of both. The Scripture plainly 
asserts the dominion of Providence over this af- 
fair. " A prudent wife is from the Lord," Prov. 
xix. 14, and "Whoso findeth a wife, findeth a 
good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord ;" 
Prov. xviii. 22. So for children, " Lo, children are 
an heritage of the Lord ; and the fruit of the womb 
is his reward," Psal. cxxvii. 3. 

It hath ever been the practice of holy men to 
seek the Lord, for direction and counsel, when 
they have been upon the change of their condition. 
No doubt Abraham's encouragement in that case 
was the fruit of prayer. Gen. xxiv. 7. His pious 
servant also, who was employed in that affair, did 
both earnestly seek counsel of God, ver. 12, and 
thankfully acknowledged his gracious providence 
in guiding it, ver. 26, 27. 

The same we may observe in children, the fruit 
of marriage, 1 Sam. i. 20, and Luke i. 13, 14. 
Now the providence of God may be divers ways 
displayed for the engaging of our hearts in love to 
the God of our mercies. 

1. There is very much of Providence seen in 
appointing the parties for each other. In this the 
Jjord goes oftentimes beyond our thoughts and 
projections; yea, and oftentimes crosses men's 
desires and designs to their great advantage. Not 
what they fancy, but what his infinite wisdom 
judges best and most beneficial for them, takes 
place. Hence it is that probabilities are so often 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 81 

dashed, and things remote, and utterly improbable, 
are brought about in very strange and unaccount- 
able methods of Providence. 

2. There is much of Providence seen in the 
harmony and agreeableness of tempers and dispo- 
sitions ; from whence a very great part of the tran- 
quillity and comlbrtsof our lives results; or, at least, 
though natural tempers and educations did not so 
much harmonize before, yet they did so after they 
came under the ordinance of God ; " They two 
shall be one flesh," Gen. ii. 24, not one only in 
respect of God's institution, but one in respect of 
love and affection, that those who so lately were 
mere strangers to each other are now endeared to 
a degree beyond the nearest relations in blood as 
above. " For this cause shall a man leave father 
and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they 
two shall be one flesh," Matt. xix. 5. 

3. But especially Providence is remarkable in 
making one instrumental to the eternal good of the 
Other. " How knowest thou, O wife, but thou 
mayest save thy husband 1 or, how knowest thou, 
O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife ?" 1 Cor. 
vii. 16. Hence is that grave exhortation to rne 
wives of unbelieving husbands, 1 Pet. iii. 1, to 
win them by their conversation, which should be 
to them instead of an ordinance. 

Or, if both be gracious, then what singular as- 
sistance and mutual help is hereby gained to the 
furtherance of their eternal good! While they 
live together "as heirs of the grace of life," 1 Pet. 
iii. 7. O blessed Providence, that directed such 
into so intimate relation on earth, who shall inherit 
together the common salvation in heaven I 

4. How much of Providence is seen in children, 
the fruit of marriage ! To have any posterity ic 



82 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

the earth, and not be left altogether as a dry free ; 
to have comfort and joy in them, is a special pro- 
vidence, importing a special mercy to us. To 
have the breaches made upon our families re- 
paired, is a providence to be owned with a thank- 
ful heart; when God shall say to a man, as he 
speaks, in another case, to the church, " The 
children which thou shalt have, after thou hast 
lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The 
place is too strait for me," &c. Isa. xlix. 20. 

And these providences will appear more afTect- 
ingly sweet and lovely to you, if you but compare 
its allotments to you with what it hath allotted to 
many others in the world. For, do but look 
abroad, and you shall find muUitudes unequally 
yoked, to the embittering of their lives, whose re- 
lations are clogs and hinderances, both in tempo- 
rals and spirituals; yea, we find an account in 
Scripture of gracious persons, a great part of 
whose comfort, in this world, hath been split 
upon this rock. Abigail was a discreet and vir- 
tuous woman, but very unsuitably matched to the 
churlish Nabal, 1 Sam. xxv. 25. What a tcm[)ta- 
tion to the neglect of a known duty prevailed upon 
the renowned Moses, by the means of Zip{)orah 
his wife! Exod. iv. 24, 25. David had his scoff- 
ing Michal, 2 Sam. vi. 20. And patient Job had 
no small addition to all his other afflictions from 
the wife of his bosom, who should have been a 
support to him in the day of his trouble, Job xix. 
17. 

No doubt God sanctifies such rods to his peo- 
ple's good. If Socrates knew how to improve his 
afflictions in his Xantippe, to the increase of his 
patience, much more will they who converse with 
God, under all providences, whether sweet or bit-* 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 83 

ter. Nevertheless, this must be acknowledged to 
be a sad stroke upon any person, and such as 
maims them upon the working hand, by unfitting 
them for duty, 1 Pet. iii. 7, and cuts off much of 
the comforts of life also. 

How many are there who never enjoy the com- 
'brtnble fruits of marriage, but are denied the sight, 
or at least the enjoyment of children! "Thus 
saith the Lord, Write this man childless," &c. 
Jer. xxii. 30, or, if they have children, yet cannot 
enjoy them. " Though they bring up children, 
yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a 
man left," Hos. ix. 12. They only bear for the 
grave, and have their expectations raised to pro- 
duce a greater affliction to themselves. 

And it is no rare or unusual thing to see chil- 
dren and near relations the greatest instruments of 
affliction to their parents and friends : so that, after 
all their other sorrows and troubles in the world, 
nearest relations bring up the rear of sorrows, as 
one speaks, and prove greater griefs than any 
other. O, how many parents have complained, 
with the tree in the fable, that their very hearts 
have been torn asunder with those wedges that 
were cut out of their own bodies ! What a grief 
was Esau to Isaac and Rebecca ! Gen. xxvi, 34, 
35. What a scourge were Absalom and Amnon 
to David 1 

Well, then, if God hath set the solitary in fami- 
lies, as it is in Psal. Ixviii. 6, built a house for the 
desolate, given you comfortable relations, "which 
are springs of daily comfort and refreshment to 
you, you are, upon many accounts, engaged to 
walk answerably to these gracious providences. 
And that you may understand wherein that de- 
corum and agreeable deportment with these provi- 



84 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

dences consist, take up the sense of your 4uty in 
these brief hints : 

1. Ascribe to God the glory of all those provi- 
dential works which yield you comfort. You see 
a wise, directing, governing Providence, which 
hath dispased and ordered all things beyond your 
own projections and designs. " The way of man 
is not in himself, nor is it in him that walketh to 
direct his own steps," Jer. x. 23. Not what you 
projected, but what a higher counsel than yours 
determined, is come to pass. Good Jacob, when 
God had made him the father of a family, admired 
God in the mercy. "With my staff," said he, 
"I passed over this Jordan, and now I am become 
two bands," Gen. xxxii. 10. And how doth this 
mercy humble and melt him ! " I am not worthy 
of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth 
which thou hast showed unto thy servant." 

2. Be exact in discharging the duties of those 
relations which so gracious a Providence hath led 
you into. Abuse not the effects of so much 
mercy and love to you. The Lord expects praise 
wherever you have comfort. This aggravated 
David's sin, that he should dare to abuse such 
great love and mercy as God had shown him in 
his family relations, 2 Sam. xii. 7 — 9. 

3. Improve relations to the end Providence de- 
signed them. Walk together as co-heirs of the 
grace of life ; study to be mutual blessings to each 
other ; so walk in your relations, that the parting 
day may be sweet. Death will shortly break up 
the family; and then, nothing but the sense of 
duty discharged, or the neglects pardoned, will 
give comfort. 

VII. You have heard how well Providence 
hath performed its part for you, in planting you 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 85 

into families who once were solitary. Now let 
us, in the next place, view another gracious per- 
formance of Providence for us, in making provi- 
sion, from time to time, for us and our families. I 
the rather put these providences together in this 
place, because I find the Scripture doth so : " He 
setteth the poor on high from affliction, and maketh 
him families like a flock," Psal. cvii. 41. 

You know the promises God hath made to his 
people ; " The young lions shall lack, and suffer 
hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not 
want any good thing," Psal. xxxiv. 10. And have 
you not also seen the constant performance of it? 
Cannot you give the same answer, if the same 
question were propounded to you, that the disci- 
ples did, " Since I sent you forth, lacked ye any 
thing] and they said. Nothing," Luke xxii. 35. 
Can you not, with Jacob, call him " The God 
that fed you all your life long?" Gen. xlviii. 15. 
Surely, " he hath given bread to them that fear 
him, and been ever mindful of his covenant," Psal. 
cxi. 5. 

To display this providence, we will consider it 
in the following particulars : 

1. The assiduity and constancy of the care of 
Providence for the saints. " His mercies are new 
every morning," Lam. iii. 23. It is not the sup- 
ply of one or two pressing needs, but all your 
wants, as they grow from day to day, through all 
your days: "The God that fed me all my life 
long," Gen. xlviii. 15. The care of Providence 
runs parallel with the line of life. " Hearken unto 
me, O house of Jacob! and all the remnant of the 
house of Israel, which are borne by me from the 
belly, which are carried from the womb : and even 
to your old age I am he, and even to hoary hairs 
8 



86 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

will I carry you : I have made, and I will bear, 
even I will carry, and will deliver you," Isa. xlvi. 
3, 4. So that, as God bid Israel "to remember 
from Shittim unto Gilgal, that they might know 
the faithfulness of the Lord," Mic. vi. 5, so would 
I persuade thee, reader, to record the ways of Pro- 
vidence, from first to last, throughout thy whole 
course to this day, that thou mayest see what a 
God he hath been to thee. 

2. The seasonableness and opportunities of its 
provisions for them ; for so runs the promise : 
" When the poor and needy seek water, and there 
is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the 
Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not 
forsake them," Isa. xli. 17, and so hath the per- 
formance of it been. And this hath been made 
good to distressed saints sometimes in a more ordi- 
nary way, God secretly blessing a little, and m£«k- 
ing it sufficient for us and ours. Job tells us of 
" the secret of God upon his tabernacle," Job 
xxix. 4, that is, his secret blessing is in their taber- 
nacles, by reason whereof it is that they subsist; 
but it is in an unaccountable way that they do so. 
Sometimes in an extraordinary way it breaks forth 
for their supply; so you find in 1 Kings xvii. 
9 — 14. The cruse and barrel fail not. 

Mr. Samuel Clark, in the life of that painful and 
humble servant of Christ, Mr. John Fox, records 
a memorable instance of Providence, and it is this: 
That towards the end of the reign of Henry VIII. 
he went to London, where he quickly spent that 
little his friends had given him, or he had acquired 
by his own diligence, and began to be in great 
want. As one day he sat in St. Paul's church, 
spent with long fasting, his countenance thin, and 
his eyes hollow, after the ghastly manner of dying 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 87 

men, every one shunning a spectacle of so much 
horror, there came one to him whom he had nt'ver 
seen before, and thrust an untold sum of money 
into his hand, bidding him be of good cheer, and 
accept that small gift in good part from his coun- 
tryman ; and that he should make much of him- 
self, for that, within a few days, new hopes were 
at hand, and a more certain condition of livelihood. 
Three days after, the duchess of Richmond sent 
for him to live in her house, and to be tutor to the 
earl of Surrey's children, then under her care. 

Mr. Isaac Ambrose, a worthy divine, whose 
labours have made him acceptable to his genera- 
tion, in his epistle to the earl of Bedford, prefixed 
to his " Last Things," gives a pregnant instance 
in his own case. His words are these : " For 
mine own part," saith he, " however the Lord 
hath seen cause to give me but a poor pittance of 
outward things, for which I bless his name ; yet, 
in the income thereof, I have many limes observ- 
ed so much of his peculiar providence, that there- 
by they have been very much sweetened, and my 
heart hath been raised to admire his grace. When, 
of late, under a hard dispensation, which I judge 
not meet to mention, wherein I suffered conscien- 
tiously, all streams of wonted supplies being stop- 
ped, the waters of relief for myself and family did 
run low, I went to bed with some staggerings 
and doubtings of the fountain's letting out itself for 
our refreshing ; but, ere I awoke in the morning, 
a letter was brought to my bed-side, which was 
signed by a choice friend, Mr. Anthony Ash, 
which reported some unexpected breakings-out of 
God's goodness for my comfort. These are some 
of his lines : * Your God, who hath given you a 
heart thankfully to record your experiences of his 



88 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

goodness, doth renew experiences for your en- 
couragement. Now I shall report one which will 
raise your spirit toward the God of your mercies.' 
Whereupon he sweetly concludes, One morsel of 
God's provision, especially when it comes in un- 
expectedly, and upon prayer, when wants are 
most, will be more sweet to spiritual relish, than 
all former enjoyments were." 

3. The wisdom of Providence in our provision. 
And this is discovered in two things: 1. In pro- 
portioning the quantity, not satisfying our extra- 
vagant wishes, but answering our real needs : con- 
sulting our wants, not our wantonness : " My God 
shall supply all our wants," Phil. iv. 19, and this 
hath exactly suited the wishes of the best and 
wisest men, who desired no more at his hands. So 
Jacob, Gen. xxviii. 20, and Agur, Prov. xxx. 8, 9. 
"Wise Providence considers our conditions, as pil- 
grims and strangers, and so allots the provision 
that is needful for our passage home. It knows 
the mischievous influence of fulness and redun- 
dancy upon most men, though sanctified ; and how 
apt it is to make them remiss and forgetful of God, 
Deut. vi. 12, that their hearts, like the moon, suf- 
fer an eclipse when it is at the full, and so suits 
and orders all to their best advantage. 2. Its wis- 
dom is much discovered in the manner of dispens- 
ing our portion to us. It many times suffers our 
wants to pinch hard, and many fears to ai'ise, out 
of design to magnify the care and love of God in 
the supply, Deut. viii. 3. Providence so orders 
the case, that faith and prayer, coming between our 
want and supplies, the goodness of God may be the 
more magnified in our eyes thereby. 

And now let me beg you to consider the good 
hand of Providence, that hath provided for, and 



THE MYSTERY OF PHOVIDENCE. 89 

suitably supplied you and yours all your days, and 
never failed you hitherto ; and labour to walk suit- 
ably to your experiences of such mercies. In 
order whereunto, let me press a few suitable cau- 
tions upon you. 

(1.) Beware that you forget not the care and 
kindness of Providence, which your eyes have 
seen in so many fruits and experiences thereof. 
It was God's charge against Israel, "That they 
soon forgot his wondrous works," Psal. cvi. 13. 
A bad heart and a slippery memory deprive men 
of the comfort of many mercies, and defraud God 
of the glory due for them. 

(2.) Do not distrust Providence in future exigen- 
cies. Thus they did, " Behold, he smote the rock, 
that the waters gushed out, and the streams over- 
flowed : can he give bread also ? Can he provide 
flesh for his people? Psal. Ixxviii. 20. How un- 
reasonable and absurd are these queries of unbelief, 
especially after their eyes had seen the power of 
God in such extraordinary effects ! 

(3.) Do not murmur and regret under new straits. 
This is a vile temper ; and yet how incident to us, 
when wants press hard upon us. Ah 1 did we but 
rightly understand what the demerit of sin is, we 
should rather admire the bounty of God, than com- 
plain of the strait-handedness of Providence ; and 
if we did but consider that there lies upon God no 
obligation of justice or gratitude, to reward any of 
our duties, it would cure our murmurs. 

(4.) Do not show the least discontent at the lot 
and portion Providence carves out to you. O that 
you would be well pleased and satisfied with all 
its appointments ! Say, " The lines are fallen unto 
me in pleasant places ; yea, I have a goodly heri- 
tage," Psal. xvi. 6. Surely that is best for you 
8* 



90 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

which Providence hath appointed, and, one day, 
you yourselves will judge it so to be. 

(5.) Do not neglect when straits befall you. 
You see it is Providence dispenses all : you live 
upon it ; therefore apply yourselves to God in the 
times of need. This is evidently included in the 
promise, Isa. xli. 17, as well as expressed in the 
command, Phil. iv. 6. Remember God, and he 
will not forget you. 

(6.) Do not distract your hearts with sinful cares, 
Matt. vi. 25, 26. Consider the fowls of the air, 
saith Christ ; not the fowls at the door, that are 
daily fed by hand, but those of the air, that know 
not where to have the next meal ; and yet God pro- 
vides for them. Remember your relation to Christ, 
and his engagements by promise to you, and by 
these things work your hearts to satisfaction and 
content with all the allotments of Providence. 

VIII. The next great advantage and mercy the 
saints receive from the hand of Providence, is in 
their preservation from the snares and temptations 
of sin, by its preventing care over them. That 
Providence wards off many a deadly stroke of temp- 
tation, and puts by many a mortal thrust which 
Satan makes at our souls, is a truth as manifest as 
the light that shineth. This is included in that 
promise, " God will with the temptation make a 
way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it," 
1 Cor. X. 13. Providence gives an outlet for the 
soul's escape, when it is shut up into the danger- 
ous straits of temptation. There are two eminent 
ways, whereby the force and efficacy of temptation 
is broken in believers. One is by the operation of 
internal grace, "The spirit lusteth against the 
flesh," Gal. v. 17, so that ye cannot do the things 
that ye would ; that is, sanctification destroys sin 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 91 

after it hath been conceived in the soul. The other 
way is by the external working of Providence ; 
and of this I am here engaged to speak. 

The Providence of God is the great hinderance 
to a world of sin, which else would break forth, 
like an overflowing flood, from our corrupt natures. 
It prevents abundance of sin which else wicked 
men would commit. The men of Sodom were 
greedily pursuing their lusts ; God providentially 
hindered it, by smiting them blind, Gen. xix. 11. 
Jeroboam intended to smite the prophet ; Provi- 
dence interposed, and withered his arm, 1 Kings 
xiii. 4. Thus you see, when wicked men have 
contrived, and are ready to execute their wicked- 
ness. Providence claps on its manacles, " that 
their hands cannot perform their enterprises," 
Job V. 12. 

And so much corruption there remains on good 
men, that they would certainly plunge themselves 
under much more guilt than they do, if Providence 
did not take greater care of them than they do of 
themselves ; for though they make conscience of 
keeping themselves, and daily watch their hearts 
and ways, yet such is the deceitfulness of sin, that 
if Providence did not lay blocks in their way, it 
would, more frequently than it doth, entangle and 
defile them. And this it doth divers ways. 

1. Sometimes by stirring up others to interpose 
with seasonable counsels, which effectually dis- 
suade them from prosecuting an evil design. Thus 
Abigail meets David in the nick of time and dis- 
suades him from his evil purpose, 1 Sam. xxv. 34. 

And I find it recorded, as on another account 
was noted before, of that holy man, Mr. Dod, that 
being late at night in his study, he was strongly 
/iioved (though at an unseasonable hour) to visit a 



92 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

gentleman of his acquaintance ; and not knowing 
rt'hat might be the design of Providence therein 
he obeyed and went. When he came to the house, 
after a few knocks at the door, the gentleman him- 
self came to him, and asked him whether he had 
any business with him. Mr. Dod answered, No ; 
but that he could not be quiet till he had seen him. 
O, sir, replied the gentleman, you are sent of God 
at this hour, for just now (and with that takes the 
halter out of his pocket) I was going to destroy 
myself. And thus was the mischief prevented. 

2. Sometimes by hindering the means and in- 
struments, whereby the evil itself is prevented. 
Thus, when good Jehoshaphat had joined himself 
with that wicked king Ahaziah to build ships at 
Ezion-Geber to go to Tarshish, God prevents the 
design by breaking the ships with a storm, as you 
read in 2 Chron. xx. 35-37. 

We find also, in the life of Mr. Bolton, written 
by Mr. Bagshaw, that, while he was in Oxford, he 
had familiar acquaintance with Mr. Anderton, a 
good scholar, but a strong papist, who, knowing 
Mr. Bolton's good parts, and perceiving that he 
was in some outward wants, took this advantage, 
and used many arguments to persuade him to be 
reconciled to the church of Rome, and to go over 
with him to the English seminary, assuring him he 
should be furnished with all necessaries, and have 
gold enough. Mr. Bolton being at that time poor 
in mind and purse, accepted the motion, and the 
day and place were appointed in Lancashire, where 
they should meet and take shipping, and be gone : 
but Mr. Anderton came not, and so he escaped the 
snare. 

3. Sometimes, by laying some strong afflictions 
upon the body, to prevent a worse evil j and thia 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 93 

IS the meaning of, " I will hedge up her way with 
thorns," Hos. ii. 6. Thus Basil was a long time 
exercised with a violent headache, which, as he 
observed, was used by Providence to prevent lust. 
Paul had a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan 
sent to buffet him ; and this affliction, whatever it 
was, was ordained to prevent pride iij him, 2 Cor. 
xii. 7. 

4. Sometimes sin is prevented in the saints by 
the better information of their minds, by the sacred 
oracles of God. Thus, when sinful motions began 
to rise in David's mind, from the prosperity of the 
wicked, and his own afflicted state, and grew to 
that height, that he began to think all he had done 
m the way of religion was little better than lost 
labour ; he is set right again, and the temptation 
dissolved, by going into the sanctuary, where God 
shov/ed him how to take new measures of persons 
and things ; to judge of them by their ends and 
issues, not their present appearances, Psal. Ixxiii, 
12, 13, 17. 

5. And sometimes the providence of God pre- 
vents the sins of his people by removing ihem out 
of the way of temptation by death ! in which sense 
we may understand this text : " The righteous is 
taken away from the evil to come," Isa. Ivii. 1, 
the evil of sin as well as sufferings. When the 
Lord sees his people low-spirited, and not able to 
grapple with strong trials and temptations, which 
are drawing on, it is, with respect to them, a pro- 
vidence to be disbanded by death, and set out of 
harm's way. 

Now, consider and admire the providence of 
God, O ye saints, who hath had more care of your 
souls than ever ye had of them! Had not the 
providence of God thus wrought for you in a 



94 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

way of prevention, it may be you had this day 
been so many MagorMissabibs. Jer.xx. 3. How was 
the heart of David melted under that preventing 
providence before mentioned in 1 Sam. xxv. 34, he 
blessed the Lord, the instrument, and that counsel 
by which his soul was preserved from sin. Do 
but seriously bethink youi*selves of a kw particu- 
lars about this case ; as, 

(1.) How your corrupt natures have often im- 
petuously hurried you on toward sin, so that all 
the grace you had could not withstand its force, 
if Providence had not prevented it in some such 
method as you have heard. " Every man is 
tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts, 
and enticed," James i. 14. You found yourselves 
but feathers in the wind of temptation. 

(2.) How near you have been brought to the 
brink of sin, and yet saved by a merciful hand of 
Providence ! May you not say, " I was almost 
in the midst of all evils," Prov. v. 14; or, "My 
feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh 
slipped," Psal. Ixxiii. 2. O merciful Provi- 
dence ! that stepped in so opportunely to your re- 
lief. 

(3.) How many have been suffered to fall by 
the hand of temptations, to the reproach of reli- 
gion, and wounding of their own conscience to 
that degree, that they have never recovered former 
peace again, but lived in the world devoid of com- 
fort to their dying day ! 

(4.) How woful your case had been, if the Lord 
had not mercifully saved you from many thousand 
temptations which have assaulted you ! I tell you, 
you cannot estimate the mercies you possess by 
means of such providences. Are your names 
Bweet, and your consciences peaceful ? Two mer- 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 95 

cies as dear to you as your two eyes. Why, 
surely you owe them, if not wholly, yet in a 
great measure, to the aids and assistances Provi- 
dence hath given you all along the way you have 
passed, through the dangerous tempting world, to 
this day. 

Walk, therefore, suitably to this obligation of 
Providence also, and see that you thankfully own 
it. Do not impute your escapes from sin to acci- 
dents, or to your own watchfulness or wisdom ; 
yet see that you tempt not Providence, on the 
other hand, by an irregular reliance upon its care 
over you, without taking all due care of yourselves. 
"Keep yourselves in the love of God," Jude 21. 
" Keep your hearts with all diligence," Prov. iv 
23. Though Providence keep you, yet it is in the 
way of your duty. 

IX. Thus you see what care Providence hath 
had over your souls, in preventing the spiritual 
dangers and miseries that else would have befallen 
you in the way of temptations. In the next place, 
I will show you, that it hath been no less careful 
for your bodies, and with how great tenderness it 
hath carried them in its arms, through innumerable 
hazards and dangers also. " Thou keepest me as 
the apple of thine eye."* Psal. xvii. 8. He is 
called " the Keeper of Israel, that never slum- 
bereth nor sleepeth," Psal. cxxi. 4 ; " the Preserver 
of men," Job vii. 20. 

To display the glory of his providence before 



* The eve hath five tunics to guard it against 
danger. The first is like a spider's web ; the second is 
like a net ; the thii^ is like a berry ; the fourth is hke a 
horn ; and the filth is the cover or lid of the eye. Here 
is guard upon guard, resembling the various ways 
Providence hath to secure us from ruin. 



96 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

you, let us take into consideration the perils into 
which the best of men sometimes fall, and the 
ways and means by which Providence preserves 
them in those dangers. 

There are manifold hazards into which we are 
often cast in this world. The apostle Paul gives 
us a general account of his dangers in 2 Ck)r. xi. 
26. And how great a wonder is it, that our lives 
have not been extinguished in some of those dan- 
gers we have been in ! For, 1. Have not some of 
us fallen, and that often, into very dangerous sick- 
nesses and diseases ; in which we have approached 
to the very brink of the grave 1 and have, or 
might have said with Hezekiah, "I said in the 
cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of 
the grave : I am deprived of the residue of my 
years," Isa. xxxviii. 10. Have we not often had 
the sentence of death in ourselves ; and our bodies 
at that time been like a leaky ship in a storm, that 
hath taken in water on every side till it was ready 
to sink? Yet hath God preserved, careened, and 
launched us out again as well as ever. O! what 
a wonder is it that such a crazy body should be 
preserved for so many years, and survive so many 
dangers ! Surely it is not more admirable to see 
a Venice glass pass from hand to hand, in con- 
tinual use, for forty or fifty years, and still to re- 
main whole, notwithstanding many knocks, and 
falls it hath had. If you enjoy health, or recover 
out of sickness, it is because " he puts none of 
those diseases upon thee," or, because he is " the 
Lord thy physician," Exod. xv. 26. 

2. And how many deadly dangers hath his 
hand rescued some of you from, jn those years of 
confusion and public calamity, when the sword 
was bathed in blood, and made horrid slaughter, 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 97 

when, it may be, your lives were often given you 
for a prey ! This David put a special remark 
upon : " O God the Lord, the strength of my sal- 
vation, thou hast covered my head in the day of 
battle," Psal. cxl. 7. 

Beza, being in France in the first civil war, and 
there tossed up and down for twenty-two months, 
recorded six hundred deliverances from dangers in 
that space, for which he solemnly gave God thanks 
in his last testament. If the sword destroyed you 
not, it was because God did not give it a commis- 
sion so to do. 

3. Many of you have seen wonders of salvation 
upon the deeps, where the hand of God hath been 
signally stretched forth for your rescue and delive- 
rance. This is elegantly expressed in Psal. cvii. 
23 — 27; concerning which you may say, in a 
proper sense, what the Psalmist doth metaphori- 
cally, " If it had not been the Lord who was on 
our side, then the waters had overwhelmed us, 
the streams had gone over our soul," Psal. cxxiv. 
1,4. To see men who have spent so many years 
upon the seas, where your lives have continually 
hung in suspense before you, attain to your years, 
when you could neither be reckoned among the 
living nor the dead, as seamen are not, O ! what 
cause have you to adore your great Preserver! 
Many thousands of your companions are gone 
down, and you yet here to praise the Lord, among 
the living. You have bordered nearer to eternity 
all your days than others, and often been in immi- 
nent perils upon the seas. Surely such, and so 
many salvations, call aloud upon you for most 
thankful acknowled<zments. 

4. To conclude: How innumerable hazards and 
accidents, the least of which have cut off others, 

9 



98 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

hath God carried us all through ! I think I may 
safely say, your primitive and positive mercies, of 
this kind, are more in number than the hairs of 
your heads. Many thousands of these dangers 
we never saw, nor were made particularly sensible 
of; but though we saw them not, our God did 
and brought us out of danger, before he brought us 
into fear. Some have been evident to us, and 
those so remarkable, that we cannot think or speak 
of them to this day but our souls are freshly affected 
with those mercies. 

It is recorded of our famous Jewell, that about 
the beginning of Queen Mnry's reign, the Inquisi- 
tion, taking hold of him in Oxford, he fled to Lon- 
don by night; but providentially losing the road, 
he escaped the inquisitors, who pursued him. 
However, he fell that night into another imminent 
hazard of life, for, wandering up and down in the 
snow, he fainted, and lay starving in the way, 
panting and labouring for life, at which time Mr. 
Latimer's servant found and saved him. 

It were easy to multiply examples of this kind, 
histories abounding with them ; but I think there 
are few of us but are furnished out of our own ex- 
perience abundantly; so that I shall rather choose 
to press home the sense of these providences upon 
YOU, in order to a suitable return to the God of 
vour mercies for them, than add more instances of 
this kind. To this purpose, I desire you seriously 
to weigh the following particulars : 

(1.) Consider what you owe to Providence for 
vour protection, by which your life hath been pro- 
tracted unto this day, with the usefulness and com- 
fort thereof. Look abroad in the world, and you 
may daily see some in every place, who are ob- 
jects of pity, bereaved by sad accidents of all the 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 99 

comforts of life, whilst, in the mean time, Provi- 
dence hath tenderly preserved you, " keeping all 
your bones, so that none of them is broken," Psjil. 
xxxiv. 20. Is the elegant and comely structure of 
thy body not spoiled, thy members not distorted, 
and made so many seats of torment, the usefulness 
of any part not destroyed ? Why, this is because 
Providence never quitted his hold of thee since 
thou camest out of the womb, but, with a watch- 
ful eye and tender hand, hath guarded thee in every 
place, and kept thee as its charge. 

(2.) Consider how every member, which hath 
been so tenderly kept, hath, nevertheless, been an 
instrument of sin against the Lord, and that not 
only in the days of your unregeneracy, when, " ye 
yielded your members as instruments of unright- 
eousness unto sin," Rom. vi. 13, but ever since 
you gave them up in covenant unto the Lord as 
dedicated instruments to his service ; and yet how 
tender hath Providence been over them ! You have 
often provoked him to afflict you in every part, 
and lay penal evil upon every member that hath 
been instrumental in moral evil ; but O how great 
have his compassions been towards you, and his 
patience admirable ! 

(3.) Consider what is the aim of Providence, 
in all the tender care it hath manifested for you. 
Why doth it protect you so assiduously, and suffer 
no evil to befall you ? Is it not that you should 
employ your bodies for God, and cheerfully apply 
yourselves to that service he hath called you to? 
Doubtless this is the end and level of these mer- 
cies ; for, else, to what purpose are they atTordod 
you? Your bodies are a part of Christ's purchase, 
as well as your souls, 1 Cor. vi. 19; they are com- 
mitted to the charge and tutelage of angels, Heb. i. 



100 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

14, who have performed many services for them. 
They are dedicated by yourselves to the Lord, and 
that upon the highest account, Rom. xii. 1. They 
have already been the subjects of manifold mercies 
in this world, Psai. xxxv. 10, and shall partake of 
singular glory and happiness in the world to come, 
Phil. iii. 21. And shall they not be employed, 
yea, cheerfully worn out in his service? How rea- 
sonable is it they should be so ! Why are they so 
tenderly preserved by God, if they must not be 
used for God l 

X. You have heard of many great things per- 
formed for you by Divine Providence in the former 
particulars ; but there is an eminent favour it be- 
stows on the saints, which hath not yet been con- 
sidered, and indeed is too little minded by us, and 
that is, the aid and assistance it gives the people of 
God in the great work of mortification. 

Mortification of our sinful afiections and passions 
is the one-half of our sanctification ; "Dead indeed 
unto sin, but alive unto God," Rom. vi. 11. It is 
the great evidence of our interest in Christ. See 
Gal. V. 24 ; Rom. vi. 5 — 9. It is our safety in 
the hour of temptation. The corruptions in the 
world are through lust, 2 Pet. i. 4. Our instru- 
mental fitness for service depends much upon it, 
2 Tim. ii. 21 ; John xv. 2. How great a service 
to our souls, therefore, must that be by which this 
blessed work is carried on upon them! 

Now, there are two means or instruments em- 
ployed in this work. The Spirit who effects it 
internally, Rom. viii. 13, and Providence, which 
assists it externally. The Spirit indeed is the 
principal agent, upon whose operation the success 
of this work depends ; and all the providences in 
the wo'-ld can never effect it without him. But 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 101 

ihese are secondary and subordinate means, which, 
by the blessing of the Spirit upon them, have a* 
great efficacy in the work. How they are so ser- 
viceable to this end and purpose, I shall open in 
the following account. 

1. More generally. The most wise God orders 
the dispensations of Providence in a blessed subor- 
dination to the work of his Spirit. There is a 
sweet harmony between them in their distinct 
workings. They all meet in that one blessed issue 
which God hath by the counsel of his will directed 
them to, Eph. i. 11, and Rom. viii. 28. Hence it 
is that the Spirit is said to be in, and to order the 
motions of, the wheels of Providence, Ezek. i. 20, 
and so they move together by consent. Now, one 
great part of the Spirit's internal work being to 
destroy sin in the people of God, see how con- 
formable to his design external providences are 
steered and ordered, in the following particulars. 

There is in all the regenerate, a strong propen- 
sity and inclination to sin, and in that lies a prin- 
cipal part of the power of sin. Of this Paul sadly 
complains: "But I see another law in my mem- 
bers, warring against the law of my mind, and 
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which 
is in my members," Rom. vii. 23. And every 
believer daily finds it to his grief. O it is hard 
to forbear those things that grieve God ! God hath 
made a hedge about us, and fenced us against sin 
by his laws ; but there is a proneness in nature to 
break over the hedge, and that against the very 
resistance of the Spirit* of God in us. Now see, 
in this case, the concurrence and assistance of 
Providence for the prevention of sin ; look, as the 
Spirit internally resists those sinful inclinations, so 
Providence externally lays bars and blocks in our 
9* 



102 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

way to hinder and prevent sin. And this is the 
•meaning of those places lately cited, Hos. ii. 6, 
and 2 Cor. xii. 7. So Job xxxfii. 17 — 19. There 
is many a bodily distemper inflicted on this very 
score, to be a clog to prevent sin ! O bear them 
patiently upon this consideration. 

Basil was sorely grieved with an inveterate 
headache; he earnestly prayed that it might be 
removed. But no sooner was he freed of this 
clog, but he felt the inordinate motions of lust; 
which made him pray for his headache again. So 
it might be with many of us, if our clogs were 
cut off. 

A question may be moved here, whether it be 
the genius and property of a gracious spirit to for- 
bear sin, because of the rod of affliction. They 
have surely higher motives and nobler principles 
than these. This is the temper of a carnal and 
slavish spirit. Indeed it is so when this is the sole 
or principal restraint from sin ; when a man abhors 
not sin, because of the intrinsic filth, but only be- 
cause of the troublesome consequences and effects. 
But this is vastly different from the case of the 
saints under sanctified afflictions ; for, as they have 
higher motives and nobler principles, so they have 
lower and more sensible ones too ; and these are, 
in their kind and place, very useful to them. Be- 
sides, you must know, that afflictions work in an- 
other way upon gracious hearts to restrain them 
from sin, or warn them against sin, than they do 
upon others. It is not so much the smart of the 
rod which they feel, as the tokens of God's dis- 
pleasure, which affright and scare them. " Thou 
renewest thy witnesses against me," &c. Job x, 
17, and this is that which principally affects them. 
* Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 103 

chnsten me in thy hot displeasure," Psal. vi. 1, 
and " O Lord, correct me, but with judgment, not 
in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing," 
Jer. X. 24. And surely this is no low and com- 
mon argument. 

2. Notwithstanding this double sense of God's 
command and preventive afflictions, yet sin is too 
hard for the best of men ; their corruptions carry 
them through all to sin : and when it is so, not 
only doth the Spirit work internally, but Provi- 
dence also works externally, in order to their 
reduction. The ways of sin are not only made 
bitter unto them by the remorse of conscience, but 
by those afflictive rods upon the outward man, with 
which God also follows it; and, m both these re- 
spects 1 find that place expounded " Whoso break- 
eth a hedge, a serpent shall bite him," Eccles. x. 
8. ]f, as some expound it, the hedge be the law 
of God, then the serpent is the remorse of con- 
science, and the sharp teeth of affliction, which he 
shall quickly feel, if he be one that belongs to 
God, 

The design and aim of these afflictive provi- 
dences is to purge and cleanse them from that pol- 
lution into which temptations have plunged them. 
"By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, 
and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin," Isa. 
xxvii. 9. To the same purpose is this passage, 
"Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now 
have I kept thy word," Psal. cxix. 67. These 
afflictions have the same use and end to our souls 
that frosty weather hath upon those clothes that 
are laid a-bleaching ; they alter the hue, and make 
them whiter. "And some of them of understand- 
ing shall fail, to try them, and to purge, and tc 
make them white," Dan. xi. 35. 



104 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

And here it may be queried, upon what account 
afflictions are said to purge away the iniquities of 
the saints. Is it not unwarrantable, and very dis- 
honourable to Christ, to attribute that to affliction, 
which is the peculiar honour of his blood ] 

It is confessed, that the blood of Christ is the 
only lavatory, or fountain, opened for sin, and that 
no afflictions, howsoever many, or strong, or con- 
tinual they be, can in ♦hemselves purge away the 
pollution of sin, as we see in wicked men, who 
are afflicted, and afflicted, and again afflicted, and 
yet nevertheless sinful ; and the torments of hell, 
how extreme, universal, and continual soever they 
are, yet shall never fetch out the stain of one sin. 

But yet this hinders not but that a sanctified 
affliction may, in the efficacy and virtue of Christ's 
blood, produce such blessed effects upon the soul. 
Though a cross, without a Christ, never did any 
man good ; yet thousands have been beholden to 
the cross as it hath wrought in the virtue of his 
death for their good ; and this is the case of those 
souls that this discourse is concerned about. 

3. We find the best hearts, if God bestow any 
comfortable enjoyment upon them, too apt to be 
overheated in their affections towards it, and to be 
too much taken up with these outward comforts. 
This also shows the great power and strength of 
corruption in the people of God, and must, by 
some means or other, be mortified in them. This 
was the case of Hezekiah ; his heart was too 
much affected with his treasures, so that he could 
not hide a vain-glorious temper, as you find in Isa. 
xxxix. 2; and so good David thought his moun- 
tain, that is, his kingdom, and the splendour and 
glory of his present state, had stood so fast that it 
should never be moved, Psal. xxx. 7. How did 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 105 

the same good man let out his heart and affections 
upon his beautiful son Absalom ! as appears by 
the doleful lamentation he made at his death, 
prizing him above his own life, which was a thou- 
sand times more worth than he. So Jonah, when 
God raised up a gourd for him to shelter him from 
the sun, how excessively was he taken with it, and 
was exceedingly glad of it ! 

But will God suffer things to lie thus? Shall 
the creature purloin and draw away our affections 
from him? No ; this is our corruption, and God 
will purge it. And to this end he sends forth Pro- 
vidence to smite those creatures on which our 
affections are either inordinately or excessively 
let out, or else to turn them into rods, and smite 
us by them. 

Is Hezekiah too much puffed up with his full 
exchequer? Why, those very Babylonians, to 
whom he boasted of it, shall empty it, and make 
a prey of it, Isa. xxxix. 6. Is David hugging him- 
self in a fond conceit of the stability of his earthly 
splendour? Lo! how soon God beclouds all, Psal. 
XXX. 7. Is Absalom doated on, and has he crept 
too far into his good father's heart ? This shall be 
the son of his sorrow, who shall seek after his 
father's life. Is Jonah so transported with his 
gourd? God will prepare a worm to smite it, 
Jonah iv. 6, 7. 

How many husbands, wives, and children, hath 
Providence smitten upon this very account ! God 
might have spared them longer, if they had been 
loved more regularly and moderately. This hath 
blasted many an estate and hopeful project, and it 
is a merciful dispensation for our good. 

4. The strength of our unmortified corruption 
shows itself in our pride, and the swelling vanity 



106 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

of our hearts, when we have a name and esteem 
among men, when we are applauded and honoured, 
when we are admired for any gill or excellency 
that is in us ; this draws forth the prde of the 
heart, and shows the vanity that is in it. So you 
read, " As the fining-pot for silver, and the fur- 
nace for gold, so is a man to his praise," Prov. 
xxvii. 21, that is, as the furnace will discover what 
dross is in the metal, when it is melted, so will 
praise and commendations discover what pride is 
in the heart of him that receives them. This made 
a good man sjiy, " He that praises me, wounds 
roe." And, which is more strange, this corruption 
may be felt in the heart, even when the last breath 
is ready to expire. It was a saying of one of the 
German divines, when those about him recounted, 
for his encouragement, the many services he had 
done for God : " Take away the fire, for there 19 
still the chaff of pride in me." To crucify this 
corruption, Providence takes off the bridle of re- 
straint from ungodly men, and sometimes permits 
them to traduce the names of God's servants, as 
Shimei did David's. Yea, they shall fall into dis- 
esteem among their friends, as Paul did among the 
Corinthians ; and all this to keep down the swelling 
of their spirits at the sense of those excellencies 
that are in them ; the design of these providences 
being nothing else than to hide pride from man. 
Yea, it deserves a special remark, that when some 
good men have been engaged in a public and emi- 
nent work, and have therein, it may be, too much 
sought their own applause, God hath withheld such 
usual assistance at such times from them, and 
caused them to falter so in their work, that they 
have come oflT with shame and pity at such times, 
how ready and self-possessed soever they have 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 107 

been at other times. It were easy to give divers 
remarkable examples to confirm this observation. 
But I pass on. 

5. The corruption of the heart shows itself, in 
raising up great expectations to ourselves from the 
creature, and projecting abundance of felicity and 
contentment from some promising and hopeful en- 
joyments we have in the world. This we find to 
have been the case of holy Job in the days of his 
prosperity. " Then I said, I shall die in my nest, 
I shall multiply my days as the sand," Job xxix. 
18. But how soon were all these expectations 
dashed by a gloomy providence, that benighted him 
in the noontide of his prosperity ! And all this for 
his good, to take off his heart more fully from crea- 
ture-expectations. We often find the best men to 
over-reckon themselves in worldly things, and over- 
act their confidences about them. They that have 
great and well-grounded expectations from heaven, 
may have too great and ungrounded expectations 
from the earth. But when it is so, it is very usual 
for Providence to undermine their earthly hopes, 
and convince them, by experience, how vain they 
are. Thus the people's hearts were intently set 
upon prosperous providences, full harvests, and 
great increase ; whilst in the mean time, no regard 
was had to the worship of God, and the things of 
his house ; therefore Providence blasts their hopes, 
and brings them to little, Haggai ii. 19. 

Corruption discovers itself in dependence upon 
creature-comforts and sensible props. 1 how 
apt are the best of men to lean upon those things 
and slay themselves upon them ! Thus did Israel 
stay themselves upon Egypt, as a feeble man would 
lean upon his staff; but God suffered it both to fail 
them and wound them, Ezek. xxix. 6, 7. So how 



108 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

apt are individuals to depend upon their sensible 
supports ! Thus we lean on our relations, and the 
inward thoughts of our hearts are, that they shall 
be to us so many springs of comfort to refresh us 
throughout our lives ; but God will show us, by his 
providence, our mistake and error in these things. 
Thus a husband is smitten to draw the soul of a 
wife nearer to God in dependence upon him, 
1 Tim. V. 5. So for children, we are apt to say of 
this or that child as Lamech did of Noah, " This 
same shall comfort us," Gen. v. 29, but the wind 
passes over these flowers, and they are withered, 
to teach us that our happiness is not bound up in 
these enjoyments. So for our estates, when the 
world smiles upon us, and we have got a warm 
nest, how do we prophesy of rest and peace in 
those acquisitions, minding, with good Baruch, 
great things for ourselves; but Providence, by a 
particular or general calamity, overturns our pro- 
jects, as Jer. xlv. 4, 5, and all this to reduce our 
hearts from the creature to God, our only rest. 

Corruption discovers its strength in good men, 
by their adherence to things below, and unwilling- 
ness to go hence. This often proceeds from the 
engaging enjoyments and pleasant fruitions we have 
here below. Providence mortifies this inclinatitm 
in the saints by killing those ensnaring comforts 
before-hand, making all, or most of our pleasant 
things to die before us ; by embittering this world 
to us by the troubles of it ; and by making life un- 
desirable, through the pains and infirmities we feel 
in the body, and so loosing our root, in order to 
our more easy fall by the fatal stroke. 

And thus, I have furnished the second general 
head ; but, before I pass from this, I cannot but 
make a pause, and desire you, with me, to stand in 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 109 

a holy amazement, and wonder at the dealings of 
God with such poor worms as we are ! Surely God 
deals familiarly with men ! His condescensions to 
his own clay are astonishing ! All that I shall note 
at present about it shall be under these three heads, 
wherein I find the matter of my present meditations 
summed up by the Psalmist, " Lord, what is man 
that thou takest knowledge of him ? or the son of 
man that thou makest account of him?*' Psal. 
cxliv. 3. 

In this Scripture you have represented the im- 
mense and transcendent greatness of God, who is 
infinitely above us and all our thoughts: "Canst 
thou by searching find out God 1 Canst thou find 
out the Almighty to perfection ? It is as high as 
heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what 
canst thou know? the measure thereof is longer 
than the earth, and broader than the sea," Job xi. 
7 — 9. " The heaven, and heaven of heavens can- 
not contain him," 2 Chron. ii. 6. " He is glorious 
in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders," 
Exod. XV. 11. When the Scriptures speak of him 
comparatively, see how it expresses his greatness: 
*' Behold the nations are as the drop of a bucket, 
and are counted as the small dust of the balance; 
behold he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. 
And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts 
thereof sufficient for a burnt-oflfering. All nations 
before him are as nothing, and they are accounted 
to him less than nothing, and vanity," Isa. xl. 
15 — 17. When the holiest men have addressed 
themselves to him, see with what humility and 
deep adoration they have spoken of him and to 
him ! " Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am 
a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of 
a people of unclean lips : for mine eye* have seea 
' 10 



ft. 



110 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

the King, the Lord of hosts," Isa. vi. 5. Nay, 
what respects the very angels of heaven have of 
that glorious majesty, you may see, ver. 2, 3 
*' Each one had six wings, with twain he covered 
his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and 
with twain he did fly. And one cried to another, 
and said. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts ; 
the whole earth is full of his glory." 

Also here is shown the baseness, vileness, and 
utter unvvorthiness of man, yea, the holiest and 
best of men, before God. " Verily, every man at 
his best estate, is altogether vanity," Psal. xxxix. 
5. Every man, take where you will, and every 
man, in his best estate, or standing in his freshest 
glory, is not only vanity, but altogether vanity, or 
every man is very vanity; for do but consider the 
best of men in their extraction, in their constitu- 
tion, and in their outward condition. In their ex- 
traction, " by nature children of wrath, even as 
others," Eph. iii. 3. The blood that runs in our 
veins is as much tainted as theirs in hell. Con- 
sider them in their constitution, and natural tem- 
per, and it is no better : yea, in many a worse 
temper than in reprobates ; and though grace de- 
posed sin in them from the throne, yet, O, what 
offensive and God-provoking corruptions daily 
break out in the best hearts ! Consider them in 
their outward condition, and they are inferior, for 
the most part, to others, 1 Cor. i. 26 — 28. " I 
thank thee, O Father," saith Christ, " that thou 
hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, 
and hast jevealed them unto babes," Matt. xi. 25. 

And now let us consider and admire, that ever 
this great and blessed God should be so much 
concerned as you have heard he is, in all his pro- 
vidences, about such vile, despicable worms as we 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. Ill 

are! He needs us not, but is perfectly blessed 
and happy in himself without us. We can add 
nothing to him. ** Can a man be profitable to 
God?" Job xxii. 2. No; the holiest of men add 
nothing to him ; yet see how great account he 
makes of us. For, 

1. Doth not his eternal, electing love bespeak 
the dear account he made of us? Eph. i. 4, 5, 
How ancient, how free, and how astonishing is 
this act of grace ! This is that design which all 
providences ai*e in pursuit of, and will not rest till 
they have executed. 

2. Doth not the gift of his only Son, out of his 
bosom, bespeak this truth, that God makes great 
account of this vile thing, man ? Never was man 
so magnified before. If David could say, " When 
I consider thy heavens, the work of thy hands, 
the moon, and the stars, which thou hast ordained, 
Lord, what is man 1" Psal. viii. 3, how much more 
may we say, when we consider thy Son, that lay 
in thy bosom, his infinite excellency, and unspeak- 
able dearness to thee ; Lord, what is man, that 
such a Christ she ild be delivered to death for 
him? for him, and not for fallen angels? Heb. ii. 
16 ; for him, when £n a state of enmity with God 1 
Rom. V. 8. 

3. Doth not the assiduity of His providential 
care for us speak his esteem of us ? " Lest any 
hurt it, I will keep it night and day," Isa. xxvii. 
3. " He withdraweth not his eyes from the 
righteous," Job xxxvi. 7. No, not for a moment 
all their days ; for, did he so, a thousand mis- 
chiefs, in that moment, would rush in upon them, 
and ruin them. 

4. Doth not the tenderness of his Providence 
speak his esteem for us 1 "As one whom his mo* 



112 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

ther comforteth, so will I comfort you," Isa. Ixvi. 
13. He comforts his, by refreshing providences, 
as an indulgent mother her tender child. So Isa. 
xxxi. 5. As birds fly to their nests, when their 
young are in danger, so he defends his. No ten- 
derness in the creature can shadow forth the ten- 
der bowels of the Creator. 

5. Doth not the variety of the fruits of his pro- 
vidence speak it ? " Our mercies are new every 
morning," Lam. iii. 23. See Psal. xl. 5. It is a 
fountain from which do stream forth spiritual and 
temporal, ordinary and extraordinary, public and 
personal mercies, mercies without number. 

6. Doth not the ministration of angels in the 
providential kingdom speak it? "Are they not all 
ministering spirits sent forth to minister," Heb. 
i. 14. 

Doth not the Providence which this day calls 
us to celebrate the memory of, bespeak the great 
account God hath for his people? O, if not so, 
why had we not been given up as a prey to their 
teeth? See Psal. cxxiv. If the Lord had not been 
on our side, then wicked men, there compared to 
fire, water, and wild beasts, had devoured us. O 
blessed be God for that teeming providence which 
hath already brought forth more than seventy 
years' liberty and peace to the church of G(xi. I 
shall move in behalf of this providence, that you 
would do by it as the Jews by their Purim, Esth. 
ix. 27, 28, and the rather, because we seem now 
to be as near danger by the same enemy as ever 
since that time ; and if such a mercy as this be 
forgotten, God may say, " I will deliver you no 
more," Judges x. 13. 

Having proved the concerns of the people of 
God to be conducted by the care of special Provi- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 113 

dence, and given various instances to show what 
influence Providence hath upon those interests 
and concerns of theirs among the rest ; we conne, 
in the next place, to prove it to be the duty of the 
people of God to reflect upon these performances 
of Providence for them at all times, but especially 
in times of strait and troubles. 

This I will evidence to be your unquestionable 
duty, by the following particulars ; 

1. This is our duty, because God hath expressly 
commanded it, and called his people to make 
the most serious reflections upon his works whether 
of mercy or judgment. So, when that most 
dreadful of all judgments was executed upon his 
professing people, for their apostasy from God, 
and God had removed the symbols of his presence 
from among them, the rest are bid to go, that 
is, by their meditations, (to send at least their 
thoughts,) to Shiloh, and " see what God did to 
it," Jer. vii. 12. So for mercies, God calls us to 
consider and review them. " Rememl)er, O my 
people, from Shittim unto Gilgal, that ye may 
know the faithfulness of the Lord," Mic. vi. 5, as 
if he had said. If you reflect not upon that signal 
providence, my faithfulness will be covered, and 
your unfaithfulness discovered. So, for God's 
works of providence about the creatures, we are 
called to consider them, that we may prop up our 
faith by those considerations, for our own sup- 
plies; "consider the fowls and the lilies," Matt, 
vi. 26, 28. 

2. It is plain that this is our duty, because the 
neglect of it is every where in Scripture con- 
demned as a sin. To be of a heedless, unobservant 
temper, is very displeasing to God ; and so much 
appears from this Scripture, "Lord, when thy 

10* 



114 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

hand is lifted up they will not see," Isa. xxvi. 11. 
Nay, it is a sin which God threatens and de- 
nounces woe against in his word, Psal. xxviii. 4, 
5, and Isa. v. 12, 13, yea, God not only threatens, 
but smites men with visible judgments for this sin, 
Job xxxiv. 26, 27. 

3. For this end and purpose it is that the Holy 
Ghost hath affixed those notes of attention to the 
narrative of the works of Providence, in Scripture, 
all which invite and call men to a due and clear 
observation of them. So in that great and cele- 
brated work of Providence, in delivering Israel out 
of Egyptian bondage, you find a note of attention 
twice affixed to it, Exod. iii. 2, 9. So, when that 
daring enemy Rabshakeh, who put Hezekiah and 
all the people into such a consternation, was de- 
feated by Providence, there is a note of attention 
prefixed to that providence: "Behold, I will send 
a blast upon him," &c. 2 Kings xix. 7. So when 
God glorifies his wisdom and power, in delivering 
his people from their enemies, and ensnaring them 
in the works of their own hands, a double note of 
attention is affixed to that double work of Provi- 
dence, "Higgaion; Selah," Psal. ix. 16. So, at 
the opening of every seal, which contains a re- 
markable series or branch of Providence, how par- 
ticularly is attention commanded to every one of 
them ! " Come and see, come and see," Rev. vi. 
1 — 7, &c. All these are very useless and super- 
fluous additions in Scripture, if no such duty lies 
upon us. See Psal. Ixvi. 5. 

4. Without due observation of the work of Pro- 
vidence, no praise can be rendered to God for any 
of them. Praise and thanksgiving for mercies de- 
pend upon this act of observation of them, and can- 
not be performed without it. Psalm cvii. is spent 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 115 

in narratives of God's providential care of men : 
to his |x?ople in straits, ver. 4 — 6, to prisoners in 
their bonds, ver. 10 — 12, to men that lie languish- 
ing in beds of sickness, ver. 17 — 19, to seamen 
upon the stormy ocean, ver. 23, &c. to men in 
limes of famine, ver. 33 — 38, yea, his Providence 
is displayed in all those changes that fall out in 
the world, debasing the high and exalting the low, 
ver. 40, 41, and, at every paragraph, men are still 
called upon to praise God for each of these provi- 
dences ; but ver. 43, shows you what a necessary 
ingredient to that duty observation is : " Whoso 
is wise, and will observe those things, even they 
shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord;" 
so that, of necessity, God must be defrauded of 
his praise, if this duty be neglected. 

5. Without this, we lose the usefulness and 
benefit of all the works of God for us or others, 
which would be an unspeakable loss indeed to us. 
This is the food our faith lives upon in days of 
distress. "Thou brakest the heads of leviathan 
in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people 
inhabiting the wilderness," Psal. Ixxiv. 14, that is, 
food to their faith. From providences past, saints 
used to argue for fresh and new ones to come. 
So David expresses himself: " The Lord that de- 
livered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of 
the paw dT the bear, he will deliver me out of the 
hand of this Philistine," 1 Sam. xvii. 37. So 
Paul, " Who hath delivered, and in whom also 
we trust that he will yet deliver," 2 Cor. i. 10. 
If these be forgotten, or not considered, the hands 
of faith hang down. " How is it that ye do not 
remember, neither consider?" Matt. xvi. 9. This 
is a topic from which the saints had used to draw 



116 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

their arguments in prayer for new mercies. As 
Moses, when he prays for continued or new 
pardons for the people, argues from what was 
past, " as thou hast forgiven them from Egypt un- 
til now," Numb. xiv. 19, so the church argues .for 
new providences upon the same ground as Moses 
pleaded for new pardons, Isa. li. 9, 10. 

6, It is a vile slighting of God not to observe 
what of himself he manifests in his providences ; 
for, in all providences, especially in some, he 
comes nigh to us. He doth so in his judgments : 
" I will come nigh to you in judgment," Mul. iii, 
5. He comes nigh in mercies also : " The Lord 
is nigh unto all them that call upon him," &c. 
Psal. cxlv. 18, yea, he is said to visit us by his 
providence when he corrects, Hos. ix. 7, and when 
he saves and delivers, Psal. cvi. 4. These visita- 
tions of God preserve our spirits. Job x. 12, and it 
is a wonderful condescension in the great God to 
visit us so often, " every morning and every mo- 
ment," Job vii. 18. But not to take notice of it, 
is a vile and brutish contempt of God, Isa. i. 3, 
and Zeph. iii. 2. You would not do so by a man 
for whom you have any respect. It is the charac- 
ter of the wicked not to regard God's favours, Isa, 
xxvi. 10, or frowns, Jer. v. 3. 

7. In a word, men can never order their ad- 
dresses to God in prayer, suitably to tlieir condi- 
tions, without due observation of his providences. 
Your prayers are to be suitable to your conditions; 
sometimes we are called to praise, sometimes to 
humiliation. In the way of his judgments you are 
to wait for him, Isa. xxvi. 8, to prepare to meet 
him, Zeph. ii. 1, 2. Amos iv. 12. Now your 
business is to turn away his anger, which you see 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 117 

approaching; and sometimes you are called to 
praise him for mercies received, Isa. xii. 1, 2, but 
then you must observe them. 

Thus you find the matter of David's psalms still 
varied according to the providences that befell him; 
but an inobservant, heedless spirit can never do it. 
And thus you have the grounds of the duty briefly 
represented. 

Let us next, according to our method proposed, 
proceed to show in what manner we are to reflect 
upon the performances of Providence for us. And 
certainly it is not every slight and transient glance, 
nor every cold, historical, unaffecting rehearsal, or 
recognition, of his providences towards you, that 
will pass with God for a discharge of this great 
duty. No: it is another manner of business than 
thi; most of men understand it to be. O that we 
Wi3re but acquainted with this heavenly, spiritual 
exercise ! how sweet would it mike our lives ! 
how light would it make our burdens ! Ah ! sirs, 
you live estranged from the pleasure of the Chris- 
tian life while you live in th^ ignorance or neglect 
of this duty. Now, to lead you up to this hea- 
venly, sweet, and profitable exercise, I will beg 
your attention to the following directions : 

First direction. Labour to get as full and tho- 
rough recognitions of the providences of Gad about 
you, from first to last, as you are able. O fill 
your hearts with the thought of him and his 
wiys! If a single act of Providence be so ravish- 
ing and transporting, what would miny such be, 
if they were presented together to the view of the 
soul? If one star be so beautiful to behold, what 
is a constellation? Let your reflections, therefore, 
upon the acts and workings of Providence for you 
be full, extensively and intensively. 



118 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

1. Let them be as extensively full as may be. 
Search backward into all the performances of Pro- 
vidence throughout your lives, for so did Asaph; 
" I will remember the works of the Lord : sunjiy 
I will remember thy wonders of old ; I will medi- 
tate of all thy work, and talk of thy doings," Psfii. 
Ixxvii. 11, 12. He laboured to recover and revive 
the ancient providences of God's mercies many 
years past, and sucked a fresh sweetness out of 
them by new reviews of them. Ah ! sirs, let me 
tell you, there is not such a pleasant history for 
you to read in all the world, as the history of your 
own lives, if you would but sit down and record to 
yourselves, from the beginning hitherto, what God 
hath been to you, and done for you ; what signal 
manifestations and out-breakings of his mercy, 
faithfulness, and love, there have been in all the 
conditions you have passed through ; if your hearts 
do not melt before you have gone half through that 
history, they are hard hearts indeed. " My Father, 
the guide of my youth." 

2. Let them be as intensely full as may be. 
Let not your thoughts swim like feathers upon the 
surface of the waters, but sink like lead to the 
bottom. "The works of the Lord are great, 
sought out of them that have pleasure therein," 
Psil. cxi. 2. Not that I think it feasible to sound 
the dapth of Providence by our short line, for 
" Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great 
w iters, and thy footsteps are not known," Psal. 
Ixxvii. 19, but it is our duty to dive as far as we 
can, and to admire the depth, when we cannot 
touch the bottom. It is in viewing providences, 
as it was with Elijah's servant, when he looked 
out for rain, 1 Kings xviii. 44, he went out once, 
and viewed the heavens, and saw nothing ; but the 



THE MYSTEBY OF PROVIDENCE. 119 

prophet bids him go again, and again, and look 
upon the face of heaven seven times ; and when he 
had done so, What now ? saith the prophet. " O 
now," saith he, " I see a cloud rising like a man's 
hand ;" and then, keeping his eye upon it intent, 
he sees the whole face of heaven covered with 
clouds. So you may look upon some providences 
once and again, and see little or nothing in them; 
but look seven times, that is, meditate often upon 
them, and you shall see their increasing glory likft 
that increasing cloud. 

There are divers things to be distinctly pondered 
and valued in one single providence, before you 
can judge the amount and worth of it. The sea- 
sonableness of mercy may give it a very great 
value; when it shall be timed so opprtunely, and 
fall out so seasonably, as may make it a thousand- 
fold more considerable to you than the same mercy 
would have been at another time. Thus, when 
our wants are suffered to grow to an extremity, 
and all visible hopes fail, then to have relief given 
in, wonderfully enhances the price of such a mercy, 
Isa. xli. 17, 18. 

The peculiar care and kindness of Providence 
to us, is a consideration which exceedingly height- 
ens the mercy in itself, and endears it to us. So 
when, in general calamities upon the world, we 
are exempted, by the favour of Providence, covered 
under its wings ; when God shall call to us in evil 
days, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy 
chamber," Isa. xxvi. 19, 20, when such promises 
shall be fulfilled to us in times of want and famine, 
as in Psai. xxxiii. 18, 19, when others are aban- 
doned and exposed to misery, who have every way 
as much, it may be much more visible security 
against it, and yet they delivered up, and we saved : 



120 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

O, how endearing are such providences ! Psal. 
xd. 7, 8. 

The introductiveness of a providence is of spe- 
cial regard and consideration, and by no means to 
be neglected by us. There are leading providences 
which, how slight and trivial they may seem in 
themselves, yet, in this respect, justly challenge 
the first rank among providential favours to us, be- 
cause they usher in a multitude of other mercies, 
and draw a blessed train of happy consequences 
after them. Such a providence was that of Jes- 
se's sending David with provisions to his brethren 
that lay encamped in the army, 1 Sam. xvii. 17. 
And thus every Christian may furnish himself out 
of his own stock of experience, if he will but re- 
flect and consider the place where he is, the rela- 
tions that he hath, and the way by which he was 
led into them. 

The instruments employed by Providence for 
you are of a special consideration ; and the finger 
of God is clearly seen by us when we pursue that 
meditation: for sometimes great mercies shall be 
conveyed to us by very improbable means, and 
more probable ones laid aside. A stranger shall 
be stirred up to do that for you which your near 
relations in nature had no power or will to do for 
you. Jonathan, a mere stranger to David, cleaved 
closer to him, and was more friendly and useful to 
him, than his own brethren, who despised and 
slighted him. Ministers have found more kind- 
ness and respect from strangers, than their own 
people, who are more obliged to them. " A pro- 
phet," saith Christ, " is not without honour, save 
in his own country, among his own kin, and in 
his own house," Mark vi. 4. 

Sometimes by the hands of enemies as well as 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 121 

Strangers. " The earth helped the woman," Rev. 
xii. 16. God hath bowed the hearts of many 
wicked men to show great kindness to his people, 
Acts xxviii. 2. 

Sometimes God makes use of instruments for 
good to his people, who designed nothing but evil 
and mischief to them. Thus Joseph's brethren 
were instrumental to his advancement in that very- 
thing wherein they designed his ruin, Gen. I. 20. 

The design and scope of Providence, what the 
aim and level of Providence is, must not escape 
our thorough consideration. And truly this, of all 
others, is the most warming and melting conside- 
ration. You have the general account of the aim 
of all providences in this Scripture : " And we 
know that all things work together for good to 
them that love God," Rom. viii. 28. A thousand 
friendly hands are at work for them to promote 
and bring about their happiness. O! this is 
enough to sweeten the bitterness of Providence to 
us, that we know it shall turn to our salvation 1 
Phil. i. 19. 

The respect and relation Providence bears to our 
prayers is of singular consideration, and a most 
taking and sweet meditation. Prayer honours Pro- 
vidence and Providence honours prayer. Great 
notice is taken of this in Scripture, Gen. xxiv. 45; 
Dan. ix. 20; Acts xii. 12. You have had the 
very petitions you asked of him. Providences 
have borne the very signatures of your prayers 
upon them. O how affectingly sweet are such 
mercies I 

Second, direction. In all your observation of 
Providence, have special respect to that word of 
God, which is fulfilled and made good to you 
thereby. 

11 ♦ 



122 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

This is a clear truth, that all providences have 
relation to the written word. Thus Solomon, in 
his prayer, acknowledges that the pronnises and 
providences of God went along, step by step, with 
his fiifher David, all his days; and that his hand 
(put there for his providence) had fulfilled whatever 
his mouth had spoken, 1 Kings viii. 24. So Joshua, 
in like manner, acknowledges, that " not one thing 
had failed of all the good things which the Lord 
had spoken," Jos. xxiii. 14. He had carefully ob- 
served what relation the works of God had to his 
word. He compared them together, and found an 
exact harmony ; and so may you too, if you will 
compare them as he did. 

This I shall the more insist upon, because it is 
by some interpreters supposed to be the very scope 
of the text. For, as was noted in the explication, 
they supply and All the sense with the things which 
he hath promised ; and so read the text thus ; " I 
will cry unto God most high, to God who per- 
formeth the things that he hath promised for me." 

Now, though I see no reason to limit the sense 
so narrowly, yet it cannot be denied that this is a 
special part of its meaning. Let us, therefore, in 
all our reviews of Providence, consider what word 
of God, whether it be of threatening, caution, coun- 
sel, or promise, is at any time made good to us by 
his providences. And hereby a two-fold excellent 
advantage will result to us. 1. This will greatly 
confirm to us the truth of the Scripture, when we 
shall see its truth so manifest in the events. Cer- 
tainly, had Scripture no other seal or .^ttestnti(»n, 
this alone would be an unanswerable argument of 
its divinity. When men shall find, in all ages, 
the work of God wrought so exactly according to 
this model, that we may say, as we have read, or 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 123 

heard, so have we seen ; O how jrreat a confirma- 
tion is here before our eyes ! 2. This will abun- 
dantly direct and instruct us in our present duties, 
under all providences. We shall know hereby 
what we have to do, and how to carry ourselves 
under all changes of conditions. You can learn 
the voice and errand of the rod only from the word, 
Psal. xciv. 12. The word interprets the works 
of God. Providences in themselves are not a per- 
fect guide ; they often puzzle and entangle our 
thoughts ; but bring them to the word, and your 
duty will be quickly manifested, " until I went 
into the sanctuary, then I understood their end," 
Psal. Ixxiii. 16, 17, and, not only their end, but 
his own duty, to be quiet in an afflicted condition, 
and not envy their prosperity. 

Well, then, bring those providences you have 
past through, or are now under, to the word, and 
you will find yourselves surrounded with a mar- 
vellous light, and see the verification of the Scrip- 
tures in them. I shall, therefore, here appeal to 
your consciences, whether you have not found 
these events of Providence falling out agreeable in 
all respects with the word. 

1. The word tells you, that it is your wisdom 
and interest to keep close to its rules, and the duties 
it prescribes, that the way of holiness and obedi- 
ence is the wisest way : " This is your wisdom," 
Deut. iv. 5, 6. 

Now, let the events of Providence speak whether 
this be true or not. Certainly it will appear to bo 
so, whether we respect our present comfort, or 
future happiness, both which we may see daily- 
exposed by departure from duty, and secured by 
keeping close to it. Let the question be asked of 
the drunkard, adulterer, or profane swearer, when, 



124 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

by sin, they have ruined body, soul, estate, and 
name, whether it be their wisdom to walk in those 
forbidden paths, after their- own lusts; wiielher 
they hud not better consult their own interests and 
comfort in keeping within the bounds and limits of 
God's commands ; and they cannot but confess, 
that this their way is their folly. " What fruit," 
saith the apostle, " had ye in those things whereof 
ye are now ashamed 1 ibr the end of those things 
is death," Rom. vi. 21. Doth not the providence 
of God verify upon them those threatenings which 
are written in the experience of all ages ? Prov. 
xxiii. 21, 29, 30; Prov. v. 9; Job xxxi. 12 ; all 
which woes and miseries they escape that walk 
in God's statutes. Ix>ok upon all the ruined estates 
and bodies you may every where see, and behold 
the truth of the Scriptures evidently made good in 
those sad providences. 

2. The word tells you, that your departure from 
the way of integrity and simplicity, to make use of 
sinful policies, shall never profit you, 1 Sam. xii. 
21 ; Prov. iii. 5. 

Let the events of Providence speak to this also ; 
ask your own experience, and you shall have a full 
confirmation of this truth. Did you ever leave the 
way of simplicity and integrity, and use sinful 
shifts to bring about your own designs, and pros- 
per in that way? Certainly God hath cursed all 
the ways of sin? and whoever finds them to thrive 
with them, his people shall not. Israel would not 
rely upon the Lord, but trust in the shadow of 
Egypt ; and what advantage had they by this sin- 
ful policy ? See Isa. xxx. 1 — 5. David used a 
great deal of sinful policy to cover his wicked 
deed; but did it prosper? See 2 Sam. xii. 12. Sin- 
ful policies, in their first appearances, are pleasant 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 125 

and promising; in their management, difficult; in 
their event, sad. Some, by sinful ways, have got- 
ten wealth : but that Scripture hath been verified in 
their experience, " Treasures of wickedness profit 
nothing," Prov. x. 2. Either God hath blown 
upon it by a secret curse, that it hath done them 
no good, or given them such disquietness in their 
consciences that they have been ibrced to vomit it 
up ere they could find peace. Job xi. 13 — 15. 

That which David gave in charge to Solomon 
hath been found experimentally true by thousands, 
1 Chron. xxii. 12, 13; that the true way to pros- 
perity is to keep close to the rule of the word ! and 
that the true reason why men cannot prosper, is 
their forsaking that rule, 2 Chron. xxiv. 20. 

It is true, if God have a purpose to destroy a 
man, he may for a time suffer him to succeed and 
prosper in his sin for his greater hardening. Job 
xii. 6. But it is not so with those whom the Lord 
loves; their sinful shifts shall never thrive with 
them. 

3. The word prohibits your trust and confidence 
in the creature, even in the greatest and most pow- 
erful among creatures, Psal. cxlvi. 3 ; it tells us that 
it is better to trust in the Lord, than in them, Psal. 
cxviii. 9. It forbids our confidence in those crea- 
tures that are most nearly allied and related in the 
bonds of nature to us, Mic. vii. 5. It curseth the 
man that gives that reliance to the creature which 
is due to God, Jer. xvii. 5. 

Consult the events of Providence in this case, 
and see whether the word be not verified therein. 
Did you ever lean upon an Egyptian reed, and did 
it not break under you, and pierce as well as de- 
ceive you ? O, how often hath this been evident 
in our experience! Whatsoever we have over- 
11* 



126 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

loved, idolized, and leaned upon, God hath, from 
time to time, broken it, and made us to see the 
vanity of it; so that we find the readiest course to 
be rid of our comforts is to set our hearts inor- 
dinately or immoderately upon them ; for our God 
is a jf^alous God, and will not part with his glory 
to another. The world is full of examples of per- 
sons deprived of their comforts, husbands, wives, 
children, estates, &c., upon this account and by 
this means. If Jonah be overjoyed in his gourd, a 
worm is presently prepared to smile it. Hence 
it is that so many graves are opened for the bury- 
ing of our idols out of our sight. If David say, 
" My mountain shall stand strong, I shall not be 
moved ;" the next news he shall hear, is of dark- 
ness and trouble, Psal. xxx. 6, 7. O how true 
and faithful do we find these sayings of God to be! 
Who cannot put to his seal, and say, Thy words 
are truth? 

4. The word assures us, that sin is the cause 
and inlet of affliction and sorrow, and that there is 
an inseparable connexion between them : "Be sure 
your sin will find you out," Num. xxxii. 23, that 
is, the sad effects and afflictions that follow it shall 
find you out. "If his sons forsake my law, I will 
visit their iniquities with rods," Psal. Ixxxix. 
30—32. 

Inquire now at the mouth of Providence whether 
this be indeed so, according to the reports of the 
word. Ask but your own experiences, and you 
shall find, that just so Providence hath ordered it 
all along your way. When did you grow into a 
secure, vain, carnal frame, but you found some 
rousing, startling providence sent to awaken you ? 
When did you wound your consciences with guilt, 
and God did not wound you for it in some othei 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 127 

of your beloved enjoyments? Nay, so ordinary is 
this with God, that, from the observations of their 
own frames and ways, many Christians have fore- 
boded and presaged troubles at hand. 

I do not say that God never afflicts his people 
but for their sin ; for he may do it for their trial, 
1 Pet. iv. 12 ; nor do I say that God follows every 
sin with a rod ; for who then should stand before 
him ] Psal. cxxx. 3, but this I say, that it is God's 
usual way to visit the sins of his people with rods 
of affliction, and this is in mercy to their souls. 
Upon this account it was, that the rod of God was 
upon David in a long succession of troubles upon 
his kingdom and family, after that great prevarica- 
tion of his, 2 Sam. xii. 9, 10. And if we would 
carefully search out the seeds and principles of 
those miseries, under which we or ours do groan, 
we should find them to be our own turnings aside 
from the Lord, according to Jer. ii. 19 — iv. 18. 
Have not all these cautions and threatenings of the 
word been exactly fulfilled by Providence in your 
own experience? Who can but see the infallible 
truth of God in all that he hath threatened 1 And 
no less evident is the truth of the promises to all 
that will observe how Providence makes them good 
every day to us ; for, consider, 

5. What great security God hath given to his 
people, in the promises, that no man shall lose any 
thing by self-denial, for his sake. He hath told 
us, " Verily, I say unto you, there is no man that 
hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or 
mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake 
and the gospel's; but he shall receive a hundred 
fold in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, 
and mothers, and children, and lands with perse- 



128 DIVINE CONDUCT OB 

cutions, and, in the world to come, eternal life," 
Mark x. 29, 30. 

Though that vile apostate, Julian, derided this 
promise, yet thousands and tens of thousands have 
experienced it, and do at this day stand ready to 
set their seal to it. God hath made it good to his 
people, not only in spirituals, inward joy, and peace, 
but even in temporals also. Instead of natural re. 
lations who took care for them before, hundreds of 
Christians shall stand ready to assist and help 
them ; so that, though they have left all for Christ, 
yet they may say with the apostle, " as having no- 
thing, and yet possessing all things," 2 Cor. vi. 10, 
O the admirable care and tenderness of Providence 
over those that, for conscience sake, have left all 
and cast themselves upon its immediate care ! Are 
there not, at this day, to be found many so pro- 
vided for, even to the envy of their enemies, and 
their own admiration? Who sees not the faithful- 
ness of God in the promises, that hath but a heart 
to trust God in them ? 

6. The word of promise assures us, that what- 
ever wants and straits the saints fall into, their God 
" will never leave them nor forsake them," Heb. 
xiii. 5, that "he will be with them in trouble," 
Psal. xci. 15. 

Consult the various providences of your life to 
this point, and I doubt not but you will find the 
truth of these promises as often confirmed as you 
have been in trouble. Ask your own hearts, where 
or when was it that your God forsook you, and 
left you to sink and perish under your burden? I 
doubt not, but most of you have been at one time 
or other plunged in difficulties, difficulties out of 
which you could see no way of escape by the eye 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 129 

of reason ; yea such as, it may be, staggered your 
faith in the promise, as David's was, when he said, 
"I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul," 
1 Sam. xxvii. 1. " All men are liars," even 
Samuel himself; and yet, notwithstanding all, we 
see him emerge out of that sea of trouble, and the 
promises made good in every tittle to him. You 
may, doubtless, observe the like in your own cases. 
Ask your own souls the question, and they will 
satisfy it. Did God abandon and cast you off in 
the day of your straits'? Certainly you must belie 
your own experience, if you should say so. It is 
true, there have been some plunges and difficulties 
you have met with, wherein you could see no way 
of escape, but concluded you must perish in them; 
difficulties that have staggered your faith in the 
promises, and made you doubt whether the Foun- 
tain of all-sufficiency would let out itself for your 
relief; yea, such difficulties as have tempted you 
to murmuring and impatience, and thereby pro- 
voked the Lord to forsake you in your straits ; but 
yet you see he did not. He hath either strength- 
ened your back to bear, or lightened your burden, 
or opened an unexpected door of escape, according 
to that promise, 1 Cor. x. 13, so that the evil 
which you feared came not upon you. 

7. You read, that the word of God is the only 
support and relief to a gracious soul in the dark 
day of affliction, Psal. cxix. 50, 92 ; 2 Sam. xxiii. 
5 ; that for this very purpose it was written, 
Rom. XV. 4. No rules of moral prudence, no sen- 
sual remedies, can perform that for us which the 
word can do. 

And is not this a sealed truth, attested by a thou- 
sand undeniable experiences? Hence have the 
saints fetched their cordials when fainting under 



130 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

the rod. One word of God can do more than ten 
thousand words of men to relieve a distressed soul. 
If Providence have at any time directed you to 
such promises as either assure you that the Lord 
will be with you in trouble, Psal. xci. 15, or, that 
encourage you from inward peace, to bear cheer- 
fully outward burdens, John xvi. 33, or satisfy you 
of God's tenderness and n)oderation in his dealings 
with you, Isa. xxvii. 8, or that you shall reap 
blessed fruits from them, Rom. viii. 28, or tliat 
clear up your interest in God, and his love under 
your afflictions, 2 Sam. vii. 14; O! what sensible 
ease and relief ensues ! How light is your burden 
compared with what it was before ! 

8. The word tells us, that there is no such way 
to improve our estates, as to lay them out with a 
cheerful liberality for God : and that our withhold- 
ing our hands, when God and duty calls to distri- 
bute, will not be for our advantage. See Prov. xi. 
24, 25 ; Isa. xxxii. 8 ; Prov. xix. 17. 

Consult Providence now, and you shall find it, 
in all respects, according to the report of the word. 
O how true is the Scripture testimony herein ! 
There are many thousand witnesses now living, 
who can set their seals to both parts of this propo- 
sition. What men save (as they count saving) 
with one hand. Providence scatters by another 
hand ; and what they scatter abroad with a literal 
hand and single eye for God, is surely repaid to 
them or theirs. Never did any man lose by dis- 
tributing for God. He that lends to the poor, puts 
his money to interest to the Lord, as some expound 
that text. Some have observed, how Providence 
,hath doubled all they have laid out for God in ways 
jnexpected to them. 

9. The word assures us, that the best expedient 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 131 

for a man to settle his own interest, in the con- 
sciences and affections of men, is to direct his 
ways so as to please the Lord, Prov. xvi. 7, and 
doth not Providence confirm it 1 This the three 
Jews found by experience, Dan. iii. 28, 29, and so 
did Daniel, vi. 20 — 22. This kept up John's repu- 
tation in the conscience of Herod, Mark vi. 20. 
So it fell out when Constantius made that explora- 
tory decree ; those who were conscientious were 
preferred, and those who changed their religion, 
were expelled. Never did any man lose at last by 
his fidelity. 

10. The written word tells us that the best ex- 
pedient to inward peace and tranquillity of mind, 
under puzzling and distracting troubles, is to com- 
mit ourselves and our case to the Lord ; so you 
read, Psalm xxxvii. 5 — 7, and Prov. xvi. 3. 

And as you have read in the word, so you have 
found it in your own experience. 1 what a 
burden is off* your shoulders, when you have re- 
signed the case to God ! Then doth Providence 
issue your aflfairs comfortably for you. The diffi- 
culty is soon over, when the heart is brought to this. 

Thus you see how Scriptures are fulfilled by 
Providence in these few instances I have given of 
it. Compare them in all other cases, and you shall 
find the same ; for all the lines of Providence lead 
from the Scriptures, and return thither again, and 
do most visibly begin and end there. 

Third direction. In all your reviews and ob- 
servations of Providence, be sure that you eye God 
as the author and orderer of them all, Prov. iii. 6. 

1. In all the comfortable providences of your 
lives eye God as the author or donor of them. 
Remember he is the Father of mercies, that begets 
every mercy for you : " The God of all comfort,'* 



132 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

2 Cor. i. 3, without whose order no mercy or 
comfort can come to your hands. And think it 
not enough thus to acknowledge him in a general 
way ; but, when you receive mercies, take special 
notice of the following particulars: 

(1.) Eye the care of God for you, 1 Pet. v. 7. 
He carer h for you ; " your Father knows ye have 
need of these things," Matt. vi. 32. It is but to 
acquaint him what you want, and your wants are 
supplied, Phil. iv. 6. Torture not yourselves 
about it, you have a Father that cares for you. 

(2.) Eye the wisdom of God in the way of dis- 
pensing his mercies to you, how suitably they are 
ordered to your condition, and how seasonably. 
When one comfort is cut off, and removed, another 
is raised up in its room. Thus Isaac was com- 
ibrted in Rebecca after his mother's death, Gen. 
xxiv. 67. 

(3.) Eye the free grace of God in them, yea 
see riches of grace in every bequest of comfort to 
such vile and unworthy creatures as you are. See 
yourselves over-topped by the least of all your 
mercies ; " I am not worthy of the least," said Ja- 
cob, Gen. xxxii. 10. 

(4.) Eye the condescension of God to your re- 
quests for those mercies, Psal. xxxiv. 6. This is 
the sweetest bit in any enjoyment, in which a 
man can sensibly relish the return and answer of 
his prayers, and greatly inflames the soul's love t(? 
God, Psal. cxvi. 1. 

(5.) Eye the design and end of God, in all your 
comforts. Know that it is not sent to satisfy the 
cravings of your sensual appetite, but to quicken 
and enable you for a more cheerful discharge of 
your duty, Deut. xxviii. 47. 

(6.) Eye the way and method in which your 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 133 

mercies are conveyed to you. They all flow to 
you through the blood of Christ, and covenant of 
grace, 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23. Mercies derive their 
sweetness from the channel through which they 
run to us. 

(7.) Eye the distinguishing goodness of God in 
all the comfortable enjoyments of your lives. How 
. many thousands, better than you, are denied those 
comforts ! See Heb. xi. 37. 

(8.) Eye them all as comforts, appointed to re- 
fresh you in your way to far better and greater 
mercies than themselves. The best mercies are 
still reserved to the last, and all these are intro- 
ductive of better. 

2. In all the sad and afflictive providences that 
befall you, eye God as the author and orderer of 
them also; so he represents himself to us ; " Be- 
hold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device 
against you," Jer. xviii. 11 ; and " Is there evil in 
the city, and the Lord has not done it?" Amos 
iii. 6. More particularly, 

(1.) Set before you the sovereignty of God. 
Eye him as a being infinitely superior to you, at 
whose pleasure, you, and all you have, are, Psal. 
cxv. 3, which is the most conclusive reason and 
argument of submission, Psal. xlvi. 10, for if we, 
and all we have, proceeded from his will, how 
equal is it that we be resigned up to it? It is not 
many years ago since we were not, and, when it 
pleased him to bring us upon the stage of action, 
we had no liberty of contracting with him on what 
terms we would come into the world ; or, refuse 
to be, except we might have our being on such 
terms as we desired. His sovereignty is glorious- 
ly displayed in his eternal decrees and temporal 
providences. He might have put you into what 
12 



134 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

rank of creatures he pleased. He might have 
made you the most despicable creatures, worms, 
or toads ; or, if men, the most vile, abject, and 
miserable ; and when you had run through all the 
miseries of this life, have damned you to eternity, 
made you miserable for ever, and all this without 
any wrong to you. And shall not this quiet us 
under the common afflictions of this life ? 

(2.) Set the grace and goodness of God before 
you in all afflictive providences. O see him pass- 
ing by you in the cloudy and dark day, proclaiming 
his name, " The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and 
gracious." There are two sorts of mercies that 
are seldom eclipsed by the darkest affliction, which 
befall the saints in their temporal concerns, name- 
ly, sparing mercy in this world, and saving mercy 
in that to come. It is not so bad now as it might, 
and we deserved it should be, and it will be better 
hereafter. This the church observed, and reason- 
ed herself quiet from it. Lam. iii. 22. Hath he 
taken some ? he might have taken all. Are we 
afflicted? It is a mercy we are not destroyed. 
O ! if we consider what temporal mercies are yet 
spared, and what spiritual mercies are bestowed, 
and yet continued to us, we shall find cause to 
admire mercy, rather than complain of severity. 

(3.) Eye the wisdom of God in all your afflic- 
tions : behold it in the choice of the kind of your 
affliction, this, and not another; the time, now, and 
not at another season ; the degree, in this measure 
only, and not in a greater ; the supports afforded 
you under it, not left altogether helpless ; the issue, 
to which it is overruled, it is to your good, not 
ruin. Look upon all these, and then ask thy heart 
that question God asked Jonah, " Dost thou well 
to be angry?" Surely, when you consider all, 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 135 

whnt need you have had of these rods, that your 
corruptions will require all this, it may be much 
more, to mortify them ; that without the perishing 
of these things, you might have perished for ever; 
you will see great reason to be quiet and well satis- 
fied under the hand of God. 

(4.) Set the faithfulness of the Lord before you 
under the saddest providences. So did David, Psal. 
cxix. 75. This is according to his covenant faith- 
fulness, Psal. Ixxxix. 32. Hence it is, that the 
Lord will not withhold a rod when need requires 
it, 1 Pet. i. 6, nor will he forsake his people under 
the rod, when he inflicts it, 2 Cor. iv. 9. 

O ! what quietness will this breed ! I see my 
God will not lose my heart, if a rod can prevent 
it ; he had rather hear me groan here, than howl 
hereafter ; his love is judicious, not fond ; he con- 
sults my good, rather than my ease. 

(5.) Eye the all-sufliciency of God in the day 
of affliction. See enough in him still, whatever be 
gone. Here is the fountain still as full as ever, 
though this or that pipe be cut ofl^, which w.ms 
wont to convey somewhat of it to me. O Chris- 
tians, cannot you make up any loss this way? 
Cannot you see more in God than in any, or all 
the creature-comforts you have lost ? With what 
eyes, then, do you look upon God ? 

(6.) Eye the immutability of God. Look on 
him as the Rock of ages, " the Father of lights, 
with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of 
turning," James i. 17. Eye Jesus Christ as "the 
same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." O, how 
quietly will you then behave yourselves under the 
changes of Providence ! It may be, two or three 
days have made a sad change in your condition ! 
the death of a dear relation hath turned all things 



136 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

upside down: that place is empty where lately he 
was, " his place shall know him no more," Job 
vii. 10. Well, but God is what he was, and where 
he was ; time shall make no change upon him ; 
" the grass withe reth, the flower fadeth, but the 
word of the Lord abideth for ever," Isa. xl. 8. 
O ! how composing are those views of God to our 
spirits, under dark providences ! 

Fourth direction. Work up your hearts to those 
frames, and exercise those affections which the 
several providences of God, that are about you, 
call for, Eccles. vii. 14. Suit yourselves to an- 
swer the design and end of God in all providences. 
As there are various affections planted in your 
souls, so are there several graces planted in those 
aflections, and several providences appointed to 
draw forth and exercise these graces. 

When the providences of God are sad and afflic- 
tive, either upon the church in general, or your 
families and persons in particular, then it is sea- 
sonable for you to exercise godly sorrow, and hu- 
mility of spirit; for in that day, and by those pro- 
vidences, God doth call to it, Isa. xxii. 12 ; Micah 
vi. 9. Now sensitive pleasure and natural joy is 
out of season; "should we then make mirth?" 
Ezek. xxi. 10. If there be either a filial spirit in 
us, we cannot be light and vain, when our Father 
is angry; or, if any real sense of the evil of sin, 
which provokes God's anger, we must be heavy- 
hearted when God is smiting for it ; or, if any 
sense and compassion for the miseries that sin 
brings upon the world, it will make us say with 
David, " I beheld the transgressors, and was griev- 
ed," Psal. cxix. 158. It is sad to consider the 
miseries that they pull down upon themselves in 
this world, and that to come. If there be any care 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 137 

in us to prevent utter ruin, and stop God in the 
way of his anger, we know this is the means to 
do it, Amos iv. 12. 

How sad and dismal soever the face of Provi- 
dence be, yet still maintain spiritual joy and com- 
fort in God under all. " Though there be no herd 
in the stall, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will 
joy in the God of my salvation," Hab. iii. 17, 18. 

There are two sorts of comforts — natural and 
sensitive, divine and spiritual. There is a time 
when it becomes Christians to exercise both; so 
Esth. ix. 22. And there is a time when the former 
is to be suspended, and laid by, Psal. cxxxvii. 2 
But there is no season wherein spiritual joy and 
comfort in God is unseasonable, as appears by 
those Scriptures, 1 Thess. v. 16, and Phil. iv. 4. 
This spiritual joy, or comfort, is nothing else but 
the cheerfulness of our heart in God, and the sense 
of our interest in him and in his promises ; and it 
is sure that no providence can render this unsea- 
sonable to a Christian. Let us suppose the most 
afflictive and calamitous state a Christian can be 
incident to ; yet, why should sad providences make 
him lay by his comforts in God ? Whereas those 
are but for a moment, but these eternal, 2 Cor. 
iv. 17. 

Why should we lay by our joy in God upon the 
account of sad providences without, when, at the 
very worst and lowest ebb, the saints have infinite- 
ly more cause to rejoice, than to be cast down 1 
There is more in one of their mercies to comfort 
them, than in all their troubles to deject thrm. All 
your losses are but as the loss of a farthing to a 
prince, Rom. viii. 18. 

Why should they be sad as long as their God is 
with them in all their troubles? As Christ saith, 
12* 



138 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

" Can the children of the bride-chamber be sad, 
whilst the bridegroom is with them '? Matt. ix. 
15. So say I : Can the soul be sad, whilst God 
is with it ? O ! methinks that one promise, " I 
will be with him in trouble," Psal. xci. 15, should 
bear you up under all burdens. Let them be cast 
down that have no God in trouble to turn to. 

Why should they be sad as long as no outward 
dispensation of Providence, be it ever so sad, can 
be interpreted as a mark or sign of God's hatred, 
or enmity ? " There is one event to the righteous 
and the wicked," Eccles. ix. 2, 3. Indeed, if it 
were a signification of the Lord's wrath against a 
man, it would justify our dejection ; but this can- 
not be so ; his heart is full of love, whilst the face 
of Providence is full of frowns. 

Why should we be cast down under sad provi- 
dences, whilst we have such great security, that 
even, by the hands of these providences, God will 
do us good, and all these things shall " turn to our 
salvation?" Rom. viii. 28. By these, God is but 
killing your lusts, weaning your hearts from a vain 
world, preventing temptations, and exciting de- 
sires after heaven ; this is all the hurt they shall 
do; and shall that sadden us? 

Why should we lay by our joy in God when 
the change of our condition is so nigh ? It is but 
a little while, and sorrows shall flee away; you 
shall never suflfer more : " God will wipe away all 
tears," Rev. vii. 17. Well, then, you see there is 
no reason, upon the account of Providence, to give 
up your joy and comfort in God. But if you will 
maintain it under all providences, then be careful 

1. To clear up your interest in and title to God. 
p'aith may be separated from comfort, but assur- 
ance cannot. 



THE MYSTERY OF FROVIDENCE. 139 

2. Mortify your inordinate affections to earthly 
things. This makes providences, that deprive and 
cross us, so heavy. Mortify your opinion and af- 
fection, and you sensibly Hghten your affliction. 
It is a strong affection that makes strong affliction. 

3. Dwell much upon the meditation of the Lord's 
near approach, and then all these things will seem 
but trifles to you. " Let your moderation be known 
unto all men : the Lord is at hand." 

Exercise heavenly-mindedness, and keep your 
hearts upon things eternal, under all the provi- 
dences with which the Lord exercises you in this 
world, Gen. vi. 9. Noah walked with God, yet 
met with as sad providences, in his day, as any 
man that ever lived since his time. But, alas ! we 
find most providences rather stop than step in our 
walk with God. If we be under comfortable pro- 
vidences, how sensual, wanton, and worldly do 
our hearts grow ! and if sad providences belall us, 
how indolent or distracted are we ! And this 
comes to pass, partly through the narrowness, but 
mostly through the deceitfulness of our spirits. 
Our hearts are narrow, and know not how to man- 
age two businesses of such different natures, as 
earthly and heavenly matters are, without detri- 
ment to one. But, certainly, such a frame of 
spirit is attainable that will enable us to keep on in 
an even and steady course with God, whatever 
befall us. Others have attained it, and why not 
we] Prosperous providences are for the most 
part a dangerous state to the soul. The moon 
never suffers an eclipse but at full ; yet Jehosha- 
phat's grace suffered no eclipse from the fulness 
of his outward condition, who " had riches in 
abundance, and his heart was lifted up in the way 
of God's commandments," 2 Chron. xvii. 5, 6, 



140 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

David's life was full of cares, turmoils, and in- 
cumbrances, as most men we read of; yet how 
spiritual the temper of his heart was, that excel- 
lent book of Psalms, the most of which was com- 
posed amidst those distractions, will acquaint us. 
The apostles were cast into as great necessities, 
and suffered as hard things as ever men did ; yet 
how raised and heavenly their spirits were amidst 
all, who sees not? And certainly, if it were not 
possible to maintain heavenly-mindedness in such 
a state and posture of affairs, God would never ex- 
ercise any of his people with such providences : 
he would never give you so much of the world to 
lose your hearts in the love of it ; or so little, to 
distract you with the cares of it. If, therefore, we 
were more deeply sanctified, and the tendencies of 
our hearts heaven-ward more ardent and vigorous; 
if we were more mortified to earthly things, and 
could but keep our due distance Irom them; our 
outward conditions would not, at this rale, draw 
forth and exercise our inward corruptions, nor 
would we hazard the loss of so sweet an enjoy- 
ment as our fellowship with God is, for the sake 
of any concern our bodies have on earth. 

Under all providences, maintain a contented 
heart with what the Lord allots you, be it more or 
less of the things of this world. This grace must 
run parallel with all providences. " I^earn how 
to be full, and how to sutler want, and in every 
state to be content," Phil. iv. 12. 

In this duty, all nien are concerned at all times, 
and in every state, not only the people of God, but 
even the unregenerate also. I will therefore ad- 
dress some considerations proper to both. And, 
first, to the unregenerate, to stop their mouths from 
repining, and charging God foolishly, when Pro- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 141 

vidence crosses them. Let them seriously con- 
sider these four things : 

(1.) That hell and eternal damnation are the 
portion of their cup, according to the tenor of the 
law and gospel threatenings. Whatsoever, there- 
fore, is short of this is to be admired as the fruit 
of God's stupendous patience and forbearance to- 
wards them. Ah ! poor souls ! know you not that 
you are men and women, condemned to wrath by 
the plain sentence of the law ! Mark xvi. 16. John 
iii. 36. 2 Thess. i. 6, 7. And if so, surely there 
are other matters to exercise your thoughts, desires, 
fears, and care about, than these. Alas ! if you 
cannot bear a frown of providence, a light cross in 
these things, how will you bear everlasting burn- 
ings 7 A man that is to lose his head to-morrow, 
is not very solicitous what bed he lies on, or how 
his table is furnished the night before. 

(2.) Consider, though you be condemned per- 
sons, and have no promise to entitle you to any 
mercy, yet there are very many mercies in your 
possession at this day. Be your condition as 
afflictive as it will, is life nothing ? especially con- 
sidering, whither you must sink when that thread 
is cut. Are the necessary supports of life nothing ? 
Doth not Providence minister to you these things, 
though you daily disoblige it, and provoke God to 
send you to your own place 1 But, above all, is 
the gospel and precious means of salvation nothing, 
by which you yet are in a capacity of escaping the 
damnation of hell ? O what would the damned say, 
if they were but put into your condition once more ] 
What! and yet fret against God, because every 
thing else suits not your desires? 

(3.) Consider, that if ever you be rescued out 
of that miserable condition you are in, such cross 



143 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

providences as these you complain of are the most 
probable means to do it. Alas ! prosperity and 
success is not the way to save, but destroy you, 
Prov. i. 32. You must be bound in fetters, and 
holdcn in cords of affliction, if ever your ear be 
opened to instruction, Job xxxvi. 8 — 10. Woe to 
you, if you go on smoothly in the way in which 
you are, and meet with no crosses. 

(4.) Consider all your troubles, under which 
you complain, are pulled down upon your heads by 
your own sins. You turn God's mercies into sin, 
and then fret against God, because he turns your 
sins into sorrow. Your ways and doings procure 
these things to you. Lay your hand, therefore, 
upon your mouth, and say, " Why doth a living 
man complain, a man for the punishment of his 
sin ?" Lam. iii. 39. But I must turn to the Lord's 
people, who have least pretences of all men to be 
dissatisfied with any of God's providences, and 
yet are but too frequently found in that temper. 
And to them I shall offer the following considera- 
tions : 

[1.] Consider your spiritual mercies and privi- 
leges with which the Lord Jesus hath invested you, 
and repine at your lot of providence if you can. 
One of these mercies alone hath enough in it to 
sweeten all your troubles in this world. When 
the apostle considered them, his heart was over- 
whelmed with astonishment, so that he could not 
forbear, in the midst of all his outward troubles, to 
cry out, " Blessed be the God and Father of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all 
spiritual blessings," &c. Eph. i. 3. O ! who that 
sees such an inheritance settled upon him in Christ 
can ever open his mouth more to repine at his lot 
of providence ? 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE, 148 

[2.] Consider your sins, and that will make 
you contented with your lot. Yea, consider these 
two things in sin : what it deserves from God, and 
what it requires to mortify and purge it in you. 
It deserves from God eternal ruin ; the merit of 
hell is in the least vain thought. Every sin for- 
feits all the mercies you have ; and if so, rather 
wonder your mercies are so many, than that you 
have no more. Besides, you cannot doubt but 
your corruptions require all the crosses, wants, 
and troubles, that are upon you, and, it may be, a 
great deal more, to mortify and subdue them. Do 
not you find, after all the rods that have been upon 
you, a proud heart still, a vain and earthly heart 
still ? O ! how many bitter potions are necessary 
to purge out this tough, malignant humour ! 

[3.] Consider how near you are to the change 
of your condition. Have but a little patience, and 
all will be as well with you as your hearts can de- 
sire. It is no small comfort to the saints, that this 
world is the worst place that ever they shall be in ; 
things will be better every day with them. If the 
traveller have spent all his money, yet it doth not 
much trouble him, if he know himself within a few 
miles of his own home. If there be no candles in 
the house, we do not much care for it, if we are 
sure it is almost break of day ; for then there will 
be no use for them. This is your case : "Your 
salvation is nearer than when you believed," Rom. 
xiii. 12. 

I have done with the directive part of this dis- 
course; but before I proceed further, I judge it 
necessary to leave a few cautions to prevent the 
abuse of Providence, and your miscarriages in your 
behaviour towards it. 

First caiUion, If Providence delay the perform* 



144 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

ance of any mercy to you, that you have long 
waited and prayed for, yet see that you despond not, 
nor grow weary of waiting upon God for that rea- 
son. It pleases the Lord oftentimes to try and ex- 
ercise his people this way, and make them cry, 
"How long. Lord, how long?" Psal. xiii. 1, 2. 

These delays, both upon spiritual and temporal 
accounts, are frequent, and, when they befall us, 
we are too apt- to interpret them as denials, and 
fall into a sinful despondency of mind, though there 
be no cause at all for it, Psal. xxxi. 12, and Lam. 
iii. 8, 44. It is not always that the returns of 
prayer are despatched to us in the same hour they 
are asked of God ; yet sometimes it fails out so, 
Isa. Ixv. 24, and Dan. ix. 23. But though the 
Lord means to perform to us the mercies we desire, 
yet he will ordinarily exercise our patience to wait 
for them ; and that for these reasons: 1. Because 
our time is not the proper season for us to receive 
our mercies in. Now the season of mercy is a 
very great circumstance, that adds much to the 
value of it. God judges not as we do ; we are all 
in haste, and will have it now, " But he is a God 
of judgment, and blessed are they that wait for 
him," Isa. xxx. 18. 2. Afflictive providences have 
not accomplished that design upon our hearts which 
they were sent for, when we are so earnest and 
impatient for a change of them, and till then the 
rod must not be taken off, Isa. x. 12. 3. The more 
prayers and searchings of heart come between our 
wants and supplies, our afflictions and reliefs, the 
sweeter are our reliefs and supplies thereby made 
to us. " This is our God, we have waited ibr him, 
and he will save us : this is the Lord, we have 
waited for him, we will rejoice and be glad in his 
salvation," Isa. xxv. 9. This recompenses the 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 145 

delay, and pays us for all the expenses of our 
patience. 

But though there be such weighty reasons for 
the stop and delay of refreshing, comfurtfible pro- 
vidences, yet we cannot bear it, our hands hang 
down, and we faint, " I am weary of my crying, 
my throat is dry, mine eyes fail, while I wait for 
my God," Psal. Ixix. 3. For alas ! we judge by 
sense and appearance, and consider not that God's 
heart may be towards us, whilst the hand of his 
Providence seems to be against us. If things con- 
tinue at one rate with us, we think our prayers 
are lost, and our hopes perished from the Lord : 
much more when things grow worse and worse, 
and our darkness and trouble increase, as usually 
they do, just before the break of day and change 
of our condition ; then we conclude God is angry 
with our prayers. See Gideon's reply, Judg. vi. 
13. This even staggered the faith of a Moses, 
Exod. V. 22, 23. O what groundless jealousies 
and suspicions of God are found at such times in 
the hearts of his own children ! Job ix. 16, 17, and 
Psal. Ixxvii. 7—9. 

But this is our great evil, and, to prevent it in 
future trials, I will offer a few proper considera- 
tions in the case : 

1. The delay of your mercies is really for your 
advantage. You read, that the Jjord waits that he 
may be gracious," Isa. xxx. 18. What is that? 
Why, it is nothing else but the time of his prepa- 
ration of mercies for you and your hearts, ibr 
mercy that so ye may have it with the greatest ad- 
vantage of comfort. The foolish child would 
pluck the apple whilst it is green ; but, when it is 
ripe, it drops off of its own accord, and is more 
pleasant and wholesome. 
13 



146 DIVINB C50NDUCT OR 

2. It is a greater mercy to have a heart willing 
to refer all to God, and to be at his disposal, than 
to enjoy presently the mercy we are most eager 
and impatient for : in that, God pleases you ; in 
this, you please God. A mercy may be given you 
as the fruit of common providence, but such a 
temper of heart is the fruit of special grace. So 
much as the glorifying of God is better than the 
content and pleasure of the creature, so much is 
such a frame better than such a fruition. 

3. Expected mercies are never nearer than when 
the hearts and hopes of God's people are lowest. 
Thus in their deliverance out of Egypt and Baby- 
lon, Ezek. xxxvii. 11, so we have found it in our 
own personal concerns : " At evening time it shall 
be light," Zech. xiv. 7. When we look for in- 
creasing darkness, light arises. 

4. Our unfitness for mercies is the reason why 
they are delayed so long. We put the blocks into 
the way of mercy, and then repine that they make 
no more haste to us. " The Lord's hand is not 
shortened, but our iniquities have separated between 
him and us," Isa. Hx. 1, 2. 

5. Consider, the mercies you wait for are the 
fruits of pure grace; you deserve them not, nor 
can claim them upon any title of desert; and there- 
fore have great reason to wait for them in a patient 
and thankful frame. 

6. Consider how many millions of men, as good 
as you by nature, are cut off from all hope and ex- 
pectation of mercy for ever, and there remains 
to them nothing but "a fearful expectation of 
wrath." This might have been your case : and 
therefore be not of an impatient spirit, under the 
expectations of raexcy. 

Second caution^. Pry not too curiously into the 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 147 

secrets of Providence, nor suffer your shallow rea- 
son arrogantly to judge and censure its designs. 

Thore are hard texts in the works, as well as in 
the word of God. It becomes us modestly and 
humbly to reverence, but not to dogmatize too 
boldly and positively upon them ; a man may 
easily get a strain by over- reaching. " When I 
thought to know this," saith Asaph, " it was too 
wonderful for me." / thougJU to know this: 
there was the arrogant attempt of reason, there he 
pried into the arcana of Providence ; but it was too 
■wonderful for me: it was but useless labour, as 
Calvin expounds it. He pried so far into that 
puzzling mystery of the afflictions of the righteous, 
and prosperity of the wicked, till it begat envy 
towards them, and despondency in himself. Psalm 
Ixxiii. 3, 13, and this was all he got by summoning 
Providence to the bar of reason. Holy Job was 
guilty of this evil, and was ingenuously ashamed 
of it, Job xlii. 3. 

I know there is nothing in the word, or in the 
works of God, that is repugnant to sound reason ; 
but there are some things in both, which are oppo- 
site to carnal reason, as well as above right reason ; 
and therefore our reason never shows itself more 
unreasonable, than in summoning those things to 
its bar, which transcend its sphere and capacity. 
Manifold are the mischiefs which ensue upon this 
practice. For, by this we are drawn into an un- 
worthy suspicion and distrust of the faithfulness of 
God in the promises. Sarah laughed at the tidings 
of the son of promise, because reason contradicted 
and told her, it was naturally impossible. Gen. 
xviii. 13, 14. Hence come despondency of mind 
and faintness of heart, under afflictive providences, 
reason can discern no good fruits in them, nor de 



148 DlVimS CONDUCT OR 

liverance from them, and so our hands hang down 
in a sinful discouragement, saying, "All these things 
are against us," Gen. xlii. 36. Hence flow tempta- 
tions to deliver ourselves by indirect and sinful 
mediums, Isa. xxx. 15, 16. When our own reason 
fills us with a distrust of Providence, it naturally 
prompts us to sinful shifts, and there leaves us en- 
tangled in the snares of our own making. 

Beware, therefore, you lean not too much to 
your own reason and understanding. Nothing is 
more plausible, nothing more dangerous. In other 
matters it is appointed the arbiter and judge : we 
make it so here ; and, therefore, we are so diffident 
and distnistful, notwithstanding the fullest security 
of the promises, whilst our reason stands by un- 
satisfied. 

Having given directions for the due management 
of this great and important duty, what remains, 
but that we now set our hearts to it, and make it 
the constant work of every day throughout our 
lives ? O what peace, what pleasure, what sta- 
bility, what holy courage and confidence would 
result from such an observation of Providence, as 
hath been directed to ! But alas ! we may say, 
with reference to the voices of Divine Providence, 
" God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiv- 
eth it not," Job xxxiii. 14. Many a time Provi- 
dence hath spoken instruction in duty, conviction 
for iniquity, encouragement under despondency ; 
but we regard it not. How greatly are we all 
wanting to our duty and comfort by this neglect ! 
It will be but needful therefore to spread before 
you the loveliness and excellency of walking with 
God in due and daily observation of his providen- 
ces, that our souls may be fully engaged to it. 

First motive. And first, let me offer this as a 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 14^ 

moving argument to all gracious souls : That by 
this means you maintain sweet and sensible com- 
munion with God from day to day. And what ia 
there desirable in this world in comparison there- 
with ! "Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through 
thy work : I will triumph in the works of thy 
hands," Psal. xcii. 4 ; your hearts may be as 
sweetly and sensibly refreshed by the works of 
God's hands, as by the words of his mouth. Psalm 
civ. is spent in the consideration of the works of 
Providence, which so filled the Psalmist's heart, 
that, by way of ejaculation, he thus expresses the 
effect of it: "My meditation of him shall be 
sweet," ver. 34. 

Communion with God, properly and strictly 
taken, consists in two things, namely, God's mani- 
festation of himself to the soul, and the soul's an- 
swerable returns to God. This is that fellowship 
we have here with God. Now God manifests 
himself to his people by providences as well as 
ordinances ; neither is there any grace in a sancti- 
fied soul hid from the gracious influences of his 
providential manifestations. Sometimes the Lord 
manifests his displeasure and anger against the sins 
of his people in correcting and rebuking provi- 
dences. His rods have a chiding voice : " Hear 
the rod, and who hath appointed it," Micah vi. 9. 
This discovery of God's anger kindly melts and 
thaws a gracious soul, and produces a double sweet 
effect upon it, namely, repentance for sins past, 
and due caution against future sins. 

It thaws and melts the heart for sins committed. 
Thus David's heart was melted for his sin when 
the hand of God was heavy upon him in affliction, 
Psal. xxxii. 4, 5. Thus the captive church, upon 
whom fell the saddest and most disn)al providence 
13* 



150 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

that ever befell any of God's people in any age of 
the world, see how their hearts are broken for sin 
under this severe rebuke, Lam. ii. 17 — 19. And 
then, in the next place, for caution against sin for 
the time to come. It is plain, that the rebukes of 
Providence leave that effect also upon gracious 
hearts, Ezra ix. 13, 14; Psal. Ixxxv. 8. 

Sometimes he cheers and comforts the hearts of 
his people with smiling and reviving providences, 
both public and personal. There are times of 
lifting up as well as casting down by the hand of 
Providence. The scene changes; the aspects of 
Providence are very cheerful and encouraging, 
their winter seems to be over ; they put off their 
garments of mourning ; and then, ah ! what sweet 
returns are made to heaven by gracious souls ! 
Doth God lift them up by prosperity 1 They will 
also lift up their God by praises. See Psal. xviii. 
1 — 3. So Moses, and the people with him, Ex(xl. 
XV., when God had delivered them from Pharaoh, 
how do they exalt him in a song of thanksgiving, 
which, for the elegance and spirituality of it, is 
made an emblem of the doxologies given to God in 
glory by the saints. Rev. xv. 3. 

Upon the whole, whatever effects our commu- 
nion with God, in any of his ordinances, doth use 
to produce upon our hearts, the same we may ob- 
serve to follow our conversing with him, in his pro- 
vidences. For, 

1. It is usually found, in the experience of all 
the saints, that, in what ordinance or duty soever 
they have any sensible communion with God, it 
naturally produces in their spirits a deep abasement 
and humiliation from the sense of divine conde- 
scensions to such vile, poor worms as we are. 
Thus Abraham, " 1 am but dust and ashes," Geu. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 151 

xviii. 27. The same effect follows our converse 
with God in his providences. Thus when God 
had, in the way of his providences, prospered 
Jacob, how doth he lay himself at the feet of God, 
as a man overwhelmed with the sense of mercy 1 
** And Jacob said, I am not worthy of the least of 
all thy mercies, and of all the truth which thou 
hast showed thy servant; for, with my staff I 
passed over this Jordan, and now I am become 
two bands," Gen. xxxii. 9, 10. Thus also it was 
with David, " Who am I, and what is my father's 
house, that thou hast brought me hitherto ?" 2 Sam. 
vii. 18. And I doubt not but some of you have 
found the like frame of heart upon you that these 
holy men here expressed. Can you not remem- 
ber, when God lifted you up by providence, how 
you cast down yourselves before him, and have 
been viler in your own eyes than ever? Why, 
thus do all gracious hearts: what am I that the 
Lord should do thus and thus for me ? O that ever 
so great and holy a God should be thus concerned 
for so vile and sinful a worm ! 

2. Doth communion with God in ordinances 
melt the heart into love to God ] Cant. ii. 3 — 5. 
Why, so doth the observation of his providences 
also. Never did any man converse with God's 
works of providence aright, but found his heart, at 
some times, melted into love to the God of his 
mercies, Psal. xviii. 1, compared with the title. 
When God had delivered him from the hand of 
Saul, and all his enemies, he said, " I will love 
thee, O Lord, my strength." Every man loves 
the mercies of God, but a saint loves the God of 
his mercies. The mercies of God. as they are the 
fuel of a wicked man's lusts, so they are fuel to 
maintain a good man's love to God ; not that their 



152 DIVINE CONDUCT OB 

love to God is grounded upon these external bene- 
fits. Not thine, but thee, O Lord ! is the motto of 
a gracious soul ; but yet these things serve to blow 
up the tiame of love to God in their hearts, and 
they find it so. 

3. Doth communion with God set the keenest 
edge upon the soul against sin 1 You see it does, 
and you have a striking instance of it in Moses, 
when he had been with God in the mount for forty 
days, and had there enjoyed communion with him! 
when he came down and saw the calf the people 
had made, see what a holy paroxysm of zeal and 
anger it cast his soul into, Exod. xxxii. 19, 20. 
Why, the same effect you may discern to follow 
the saints' converse with God in his providences. 
What was that which pierced the heart of David 
with such a deep sense of the evil of his sin, which 
was so abundantly manifested in Psal. li. through- 
out? Why, if you look into the title you shall find 
it was the eflfect of what Nathan had laid before 
him: and if you consult 2 Sam. xii. 7 — 10, you 
shall find it was the goodness of God manifested 
to him in the several endearing providences of his 
life, which, in this, he had so illy requited the 
Lord for, that broke his heart to pieces in the sense 
of it ; and I doubt not but some of us have some- 
times found the like effects by comparing God's 
ways and our own together. 

4. Does communion with the Lord enlarge the 
heart for obedience and service ? Surely it is as oil 
to the wheels, that makes them run on fre(;Iy and 
nimbly in their course. Thus, when Isaiah had ob- 
tained a special manifestation of God, and the Lord 
asked, " Whom shall I send?" He presents a ready 
soul for the employment, "Here am I, Lord, send 
me," Isa. vi. 8. Why, the very same effect fol- 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 153 

lows sanctified providences, as you may see in 
Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. xvii. 5, 2, and in David, 
Psalm cxvi. 12. O ! when a soul considers what 
God hath done for him, he cannot fail to say, 
What shall I return ] How shall I answer these 
engagements? 

And thus you see what sweet communion a soul 
may have with God in the way of his providences. 
O that you would thus walk with him ! How much 
of heaven might be found on earth this way ! And 
certainly it will never repent the Lord he hath done 
you good, when his mercies produce such effects 
on your hearts: he will say of every favour, thus 
improved, it was well bestowed, and he will re- 
joice over you to do you good for ever. 

Second motive, A great part of the pleasure 
and delight of the Christian life is made out of the 
observations of Providence. It is said, " The 
works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them 
that have pleasure therein," Psal. cxi. 2, that is, 
the study of Providence is so sweet and pleasant, 
that it invites and allures the soul to search and 
dive into it. How pleasant is it to a well-tempered 
soul to behold and observe 

1. The sweet harmony and consent of divine 
attributes in the issues of Providence I They may 
seem sometimes to jar and clash, to part with each 
other, and go contrary ways ; but they only seem 
so to do; for, in the winding up, they always 
meet and embrace each other. " Mercy and truth 
have met together ; righteousness and peace have 
kissed each other," Psal. Ixxxv. 10. It is spoken 
with an immediate reference to that signal provi- 
dence of Israel's deliverance out of the Babylonish 
captivity, and the sweet effects thereof; wherein 
the truth and righteousness of God in the pro- 



154 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

mises, did, as it were, kiss and embrace the mercy 
and peace that were contained in the performace 
of them, after they had seemed for seventy years 
to be at a great distance from each other : for it is 
an allusion to the usual demonstrations of joy and 
gladness that two dear friends are wont to give 
and receive, after a long absence and separation 
from each other: they no sooner meet, but they 
smile, embrace, and kiss each other. Even thus 
it is here; for whenever these blessed promises 
and performances meet and kiss each other, they 
are also joyfully embraced and kissed by believing 
souls. There is, I doubt not, a mediate reference 
of this Scripture to the Messiah also, and our re- 
demption by him ; in him it is that these divine 
attributes, which before seemed to clash and con- 
tradict one another in the business of our salvation, 
have a sweet agreement and accomplishment. 
Truth and righteousness do in him meet with 
mercy and peace, in a blessed agreement. What 
a lovely sight is this ! and how pleasant to behold ! 
O, if with Habakkuk, chap. ii. ver. 1, we would 
but stand upon our watch-tower to take due obser- 
vations of Providence, what rare prospects mi^iht 
we have ! Luther understands it of the word of 
God, as if he had said, I will look into the word, 
and observe there, how God accomplisheth all 
things, and brings them to pass, and how his 
works are the fulfilling of his word. Others, as 
Calvin, understand it of man's own retired thoughts 
and meditations, wherein a man carefully observes 
what purposes and designs God hath upon the 
world in general, or upon himself in particular, and 
how the truth and righteousness of God in the 
word, work themselves through all difficulties and 
impediments, and meet in the mercy, peace, and 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 155 

happiness of the saints at last. Every believer, 
take it in which sense you will, hath his watch- 
tower, as well as Habakkuk ; and give me leave to 
say, it is an angelical employnDent to stand upon it, 
and behold the consent of" God's attributes, the ac- 
complishment of his ends, and our own happiness 
in the works of Providence. For this is the very 
joy of the angels and saints in heaven, to see God's 
ends wrought out, and his attributes glorified in 
the mercy and peace of the church, Rev. xiv. 
1—3, 8. 

2. And as it is a pleasant sight to see the har- 
mony of God's attributes, so it is exceedingly plea- 
sant to behold the resurrection of our own prayers 
and hopes, as from the dead. 'Why, this you may 
often see, if you will duly observe the works of 
God's providence towards you. We hope and 
pray for such and such mercies to the church, or 
to ourselves ; but God delays the accomplishment 
of our hopes, suspends the answer of our prayers, 
and seems to speak to us, as " For the vision is 
yet for an appointed time, but, at the end, it shall 
speak and not lie ; though it tarry, wait for it, be- 
cause it will surely come, it will not tarry," Hab. 
ii. 3. But we have no patience to wait the time 
of the promise, our hopes languish and die in the 
interim ; and we say with the despondent church, 
" Our hope is perished from the Lord," Lam. iii. 
18. But, O, how sweet and comfortable is it to 
see these prayers fulfilled, after we have given up 
all expectations of them ! May we not say of them 
as the Scripture speaks of the restoration of the 
Jews, it is even life from the dead 1 This was Da- 
vid's case, Psal. xxxi. 22, he gave up his hopes 
and prayers for lost, yet he lived to see the com- 
fortable and unexpected returns of them. And this 



156 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

was the case of Job, chap. vi. 11, he had given up 
all expectation of better days, and yet this man 
lived to see a resurrection of all his lost comforts 
with advantage. Think how that change and un- 
expected turn of Providence affected his soul. It 
is with our hopes and prayers as with our alms : 
" Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shall 
find it after many days," Eccles. xi. 1, or as it 
was with Jacob, who had given over all hopes of 
ever seeing his beloved Joseph again, but when a 
strange and unexpected providence had restored 
that hopeless mercy to him again, O how ra- 
vishing and transporting was it ! Gen. xlvi. 29, 
30. 

3. What a transporting pleasure is it to behold 
great blessings and advantages to us wrought by 
Providence out of those very things that seem to 
threaten our ruin and misery ! And yet, by duly 
observing the ways of Providence, you may, to 
your singular comfort, find it so. Little did Joseph 
Ihink his transportation into Egypt had been in 
order to his advancement there ; yet he lived with 
joy to see it, and with a thankful heart to acknow- 
ledge it. Gen. xlv. 5. Wait and observe, and you 
shall assuredly find that promise, "And we know 
that all things work together for good to them that 
love God, to them who are the called according to 
his purpose," Rom. viii. 28, working out its way 
through all providences. How many times have 
you been made to say as David, " It is good for 
me that I have been afflicted," Psal. cxix. 71. O 
wh'it a difference have we seen between our afflic- 
tions at our first meeting with them, and our part- 
ing from them ! We have entertained them with 
sighs and tears, but parted from them with joy, 
blessing God for them, as the happy instruments 



THE MYSTERSr OF PROVIDENCE. 157 

of our good. Thus our fears and sorrows are 
turned into praises and songs of thanksgiving. 

4. What unspeakable comfort is it for a poor 
soul, that sees nothing but sin and vileness in 
itself, at the same time, to see what a high esteem 
and value the great God hath for him I This may 
be discerned by a due attendance to Providence^ 
for there, a man sees goodness and mercy follow- 
ing him through all his days, as it is in Ps;il. 
xxiii. 6. Other men prosecute good, and it flics 
from them, and they can never overtake it : but 
goodness and mercy follow the people of God, 
and they cannot avoid or escape it; it gives them 
chase, day by day, and finds them out, even when 
they sometimes, by sin, put themselves out of the 
way of it. In all the providences that befall them, 
goodness and mercy pursue them. O with what 
a melting heart do they sometimes reflect upon 
these things ! And will not the goodness of God 
be discouraged from following me, notwithstand- 
ing all my vile affronts and abuses of it in former 
mercies? Lord, what am I, that mercy should 
thus pursue me, when vengeance and wrath pur- 
sue others as good by nature as I am ? It certain- 
ly argues the great esteem God hath of a man, 
when he thus follows him with sanctified provi- 
dences, whether they be comforts or crosses, for 
his good ; and so much is plain, from this passage ; 
" Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst visit hitn 
every morning, and try him every moment?" Job 
vii. 18. Certainly God's people are his treasure, 
and, by this, it appears that they are so, that he 
withdraws not his eye from them. Job xxxvi. 7. 
I say not that God's favour and respect to a man 
may be concluded singly from his providences; 
but sanctified providences may very much clear it 
14 



158 DIVINE CONDUCT OH 

to us ; and when it doth so, it cannot but be matter 
of exceeding great joy. 

5. To conclude : What is there in all this world 
that can give a soul such joy and comfort, as to 
find himself by every thing set on and furthered in 
his way to heaven? And yet this may be dis- 
cerned by a heedful attendance to the effects and 
issues of Providence. 

How cross soever the winds and tides of Provi- 
dence at any time seem to us, yet nothing is more 
certain, than that they all conspire to hasten sanc- 
tified souls to God, and fit them for glory. 

St. Paul knew that both his bonds and the afflic- 
tions added to them, should turn to, or finally issue 
in his salvation, Philip, i. 19, not that in themselves 
they serve to any such purpose, but as they are 
overruled and determined to such an end, through 
prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus 
Christ. When prayer, the external means, and 
the Spirit, the internal means, are joined with 
affections, then they become excellent means to 
promote salvation. And have we not with joy 
observed, how those very things which sense and 
reason tell us are opposite to our happiness, have 
been the most blessed instruments to promote it? 
How hath God blessed crosses to mortify corrup- 
tion, wants to kill our wantonness, disappoint- 
ments to wean us from the world ! O we little 
think how comfortable those things will be in the 
review, which are so burdensome to present sense ! 

Third motive. In the next place, I beseech 
you to consider, what an effectual means the due 
observation of Providence will be to overpower 
and suppress the natural atheism that is in your 
hearts. 

There is a natural seed of atheism in the best 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 159 

hearts, and this is very much nourished by passing 
a rash and false judgment upon the works of Pro- 
vidence. When we see wicked ones prosper in 
the world, and godly men crushed and destroyed 
in the way of righteousness and integrity, it may 
tempt us to think that there is no advantage by 
religion, and all our self-denial and holiness to be 
little better than lost labour. Thus stood the case 
with good Asaph, " Behold, these are the ungodly 
that prosper in the world, they increase in riches," 
Psal. Ixxiii. 12, 13. And what doth the flesh infer 
from thence ? Why no less than the unprofitable- 
ness of the ways of holiness ; " Verily I have 
cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands 
in innocency." This irreligious inference carnal 
reason was ready to draw from the dispensations 
of outward prosperity to wicked men ; but, now, 
if we would heed fully observe either the signal 
retributions of Providence to many of them in this 
world, or to all of them in the world to come, O 
what a full confirmation is this to our faith I " The 
Lord is known by the judgment which he exe- 
cuteth," Psal. ix. 16. 

The fifty-eighth Psalm contains the characters 
of the most prodigious sinners, whose wickedness 
is aggravated, by the deliberation with which it is 
committed, verse 2 ; by their habit and custom in 
it, verse 3 ; by their incorrigibleness and persist- 
ence in it, verses 4, 5 ; and the providence of God 
is there invited to destroy their power, verse 6, 
and that either by a gradual and sensible consump- 
tion of them, verse 7, 8, or by a sudden and unex- 
pected stroke, verse 9. And what shall the effects 
of such providences be to the righteous ? Why, it 
shall be matter of joy, verse 10, and great coa- 



160 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

firmation to their faith in God. " Verily there is 
a God that judgeth in the earth," verse 11. 

On the contrary, how convincingly clear are 
those providences that demonstrate the being, wis- 
dom, power, love, and faithfulness of God, in 
the supporting, preserving, and delivering of the 
righteous, in all their dangers, fears, and difficulties! 
In these things the Lord shows liirnself to his peo- 
ple, Psal. xciv. 1. 

Yea, he shows himself to spiritual eyes in his 
providences, as clearly as the sun manifests him- 
self by his own beams of light: "His brightness 
was as the light, he had horns coming out of his 
hand ; and there was the hiding of his power," 
Ilab. iii. 3, 4. It is spoken of the Lord's going 
forth for his people in their deliverance from their 
enemies ; and then he had horns, or rays, and 
beams of power and mercy coming out of his 
hand. By his hand is meant his providential ad- 
ministrations and dispensations, and the horns that 
came out of it is nothing else but the glorious dis- 
play of his attributes in those providences. How 
did God make himself known to his })eople in that 
signal deliverance of them out of Egypt ! See 
Exod. vi. 3. Then he was known to them by his 
name Jehovah, in giving being, by his providences, 
to the mercies promised. 

Thus, when Christ shall give his people the last 
and greatest deliverance from antichrist, he shall 
show himsf3lf to his people in a vesture dipped in 
blood, and his name shall be called, " The Word 
of God," Rev. xix. 13. His name was the Word 
of God before; but then he was the word reveal- 
ing and discovering the promises and truths of 
God, now accomplishing and fulfilling them. That 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 161 

his name is near, his wonderful works declare, 
Psal. Ixxv. 1. 

But, more particularly, let us bring it home to 
bur own experience. It may be, we find ourselves 
sometimes assaulted with atheistical thoughts : we 
are tempted to think God hath left all things below 
to the course and sway of nature, that our prayers 
reach him not, as it is in Lam. iii. 44, that he re- 
gards not what evils befall us. But tell me, saints, 
have you not enough at hand to stop the mouths 
of all such temptations? O do but reflect upon 
your own experiences, and solemnly ask your own 
hearts, 

1. Have you never seen the all-suflicient God in 
the provisions he hath made for you and yours, 
throughout all the way that you have gone ? Who 
was it that supplied to you whatever was needful 
in all your straits? Was it not the Lord ? " It is 
he that hath given bread to them that fear him, and 
hath been ever mindful of his covenant," Psal. cxi. 
5. O do but consider the constancy, seasonable- 
ness, and, sometimes, the extraordinariness of 
these provisions, and how they have been given in 
upon prayer; and shut your eyes, if you can, 
against the convincing evidence of that great truth, 
"He withdraweth not his eyes from the right- 
eous," Job xxxvi. 7. 

2. Have you not plainly discerned the care of 
God in your preservations from so many and great 
dangers as you have escaped, and been carried 
through, hitherto? How is it that you have out- 
lived so many mortal dangers, sicknesses, acci- 
dents, designs of enemies to ruin you ? It is, I pre- 
sume, beyond question with you, that the very finger 
of God hath been in these things, and that it is by 
his care alone you have been preserved. When 

14* 



162 DIVINE COin)UCT OR 

God had so signally delivered David from a dan- 
gerous disease, and the plots of enemies against 
him, " by this," saith he, "I know thou favourest 
me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over 
me," Psal. xli. 11. He gathered from those gra- 
cious protections the care God had over him. 

3. Have you not plainly discerned the hand of 
God in the returns and accomplishments of your 
prayers? Nothing can be more evident than this, 
to men of observation. " I sought the Lord and 
he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 
They looked unto him, and were lightened, and 
their faces were not ashamed. This poor man 
cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out 
of all his troubles," Psal. xxxiv. 4 — 6. Parallel 
to this, runs the experience of thousands and ten 
thousands of Christians this day: they know they 
have the petitions they asked of him. The mercy 
carries the very impress and stamp of the duty 
upon it ; so that we can say. This is the mercy, 
the very mercy, I have so ollen sought God about. 
O how satisfying and convincing are these things ! 

4. Have you not evidently discerned the Lord's 
hand, in guiding and directing your paths to your 
unforeseen advantage? Things that you never 
projected for yourselves have been brought about 
beyond all your thoughts. Many such things 
are with God ; and which of all the saints hath 
not found that word verified by clear and un- 
deniable experience, "The way of man is not in 
himself," Jer. x. 23. I presume, if you will but 
look over the mercies you possess this day, you 
will find three to one, it may be ten to one, thus 
wrought by the Lord for you. And how satisfy- 
ing, beyond all arguments in the world, are these 
experiences : that there is a God to whom his 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 163 

people are exceedingly dear, "a God that per- 
formeth ail things for them !" 

5. Is it not fully convincing, that there is a God 
who takes care of you, inasmuch as you have found 
in all the temptations and difficulties of your lives 
his promises still fulfilled, and faithfully performed 
in all those conditions. I appeal to yourselves if 
you have not seen that promise made good, " I 
will be with him in trouble," Psal. xci. 15, and 
that " God is faithful, who will not suffer you to 
be tempted above what you are able : but will, with 
the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye 
may be able to bear it," 1 Cor. x. 13. Have not 
these been as clearly made out by Providence be- 
fore your eyes as the sun at noon-day? What 
room then is left for atheistical suggestions in your 
breasts ? 

Fourth motive. The recording and recognizing 
of the performances of Providence will be a sin- 
gular support to faith in future exigencies. This 
excellent use of it lies full in the very eye of the 
text. There never befell David, in all his troubles, 
a greater strait and distress than this ; and doubt- 
less his faith had staggered, had not the considera- 
tions of former providences come in to its relief. 
From this topic faith argues, and that very strongly 
and conclusively. So did David's faith in many 
exigencies : when he was to encounter the cham- 
pion of the Philistines, it was from former provi- 
dences, that he encouraged himself, 1 Sam. xvii, 
37 ; and the apostle Paul improves his experiences 
to the same purpose, 2 Cor. i. 9, 10. Indeed the 
whole Scripture is full of it ; what Christian un- 
derstands not the exceeding usefulness of those 
exj^eriences he hath had, to relieve and enliven? 
But I shall not satisfy myself with the common as 



164 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

sertion, than which nothing is more trite in the lips 
of professors, but will labour to show you, wherein 
the great usefulness of our recorded experiences, 
for encouraging faith, labouring under difficulties, 
consists. For this purpose, I shall desire the reader 
to ponder seriously these following particulars : 

1. How much advantage those things have upon 
our souls, which we have already felt and tasted, 
beyond those which we never relished by any 
former experience ! What is experience but the 
bringing down of the objects of faith to the adjudi- 
cation and test of spiritual sense ? Now, when any 
thing hath been once tasted, felt, and judged by 
former experience, it is much more easily believed 
and received when it occurs again. It is much 
easier for faith to travel in a path that is well known 
to it, having formerly trod it, than to beat out a 
new one which it never trod, nor can see one step 
before it. Hence it is, though there be a difficulty 
in all the acts of faith, yet scarce any in compari- 
son with the first adventure it makes upon Christ ; 
and the reason lies here : because in the subsequent 
acts, it hath all its former experiences to aid and 
'^ncourage it ; but, in the first adventure, it hath 
none at all of its own ; it takes a path which it 
never knew before. 

To trust God, without any trial or experience, is 
a more noble act of faith ; but, to trust him after 
we have often tried him, is known to be more easy, 
O it is no small advantage to a soul, in a new 
plunge of distress, to be able to say. This is not 
the first time I have been in these deeps, and yet 
emerged out of them ! Hence it was that Christ 
stirred up his disciples' memories with what Pro- 
vidence had formerly wrought for them in a day of 
straits. " O ye of little faith, why reason ye among 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 165 

yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do 
ye not yet understand, neither remember?" Matt. 
xvi. 8 — 11. As if he had said, Were ye never 
under any strair for bread before now ? Is this the 
first difficulty that ever your faith combatted with ? 
No, you have felt straits, and experienced the 
power and care of God in supplying them before 
now ; and, tlierefore, I cannot but call you men of 
little faith ; for a very ordinary and small measure 
of faith, assisted with so much experience as you 
have had, would enable you to trust God. There 
is as much difference between believing before and 
after experience, as there is between swimming 
with bladders, and our first venture into the deep 
waters without them. 

What a singular encouragement to faith do for- 
mer experiences yield it, by answering all the 
pleas and objections of unbelief, drawn from the 
object of faith ! Now there are two things which 
unbelief stumbles at in God ; one is his power, the 
other his willingness to help. 

(1.) Unbelief objects the impossibility of relief 
in deep distresses : " Can God furnish a table in 
the wilderness ? Can he give bread also ? Can he 
provide flesh for his people?" Psal. Ixxviii. 19. 
O vile and unworthy thoughts of God ! proceed- 
ing from our measuring the immense and boundless 
power of God by our own line and measure ; be- 
cause we see not which way relief should come, 
we conclude none is to be expected. But all these 
reasonings of unbelief are vanquished by a serious 
reflection upon our own experiences. God hath 
helped, therefore he can say, " his hand is not 
shortened," Isa. lix. 1, that is, he hath as much 
power and ability as formerly. 

(2.) Unbelief objects against the will of God, 



160 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

and questions whether he will now be gracious, 
though he hath formerly been so. But after so 
many experiences of his readiness to help, what 
room for doubting remains ? Thus Paul inferred 
from the experience of what he had done, what he 
could do, 2 Cor. i. 10, and so did David, 1 Sam. 
xvii. 36. Indeed if a man had never experienced 
the goodness of God to him, it were not so hei- 
nous a sin to question his willingness to do him 
good; but what place is lefl after such frequent 
trials? 

2. It gives great encouragement to faith, as it 
answers the objections of unbelief, drawn from the 
subject : now these objections are of two sorts 
also : 

(1.) Such as are drawn from our great unwor- 
thiness. How, saith unbelief, can so sinful and 
vile a creature expect that ever God should do this 
or that for me 7 It is true, we find he did great 
things for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, &c., but 
these were men of eminent holiness, men who 
obeyed God, and denied themselves for him, and 
lived more in a day to his glory than ever I did in 
all my days. 

Well, but what signifies all this to a soul, that, 
iinder all its sensible vileness and unworthiness, 
hath tasted the goodness of God as well as they ? 
As unworthy as I am, God hath been good to me 
notwithstanding ; his mercy appeared first to me, 
when I was worse than I am now, both in condi- 
tion and disposition ; and, therefore, I will still 
expect the continuance of his goodness to me, 
though I deserve it not. " If, when we were ene- 
.mies, we were reconciled to God by the death of 
his Son, how much more, being reconciled, shall 
we be saved by his life ?" Rom. v. 10. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 167 

(2.) Such as are drawn from the extremity of 
our present condition. If troubles or dangers grow 
to a height, and we see nothing but ruin and misery 
in the eye of reason before us ; now unbelief be- 
comes importunate and troublesome to the soul ; 
now, where are thy prayers, thy hopes, yea, where 
is now thy God 1 

But all this is easily put by and avoided, by con- 
sulting our experiences in former cases. This is 
not the first time I have been in these straits, nor 
the first time I have had the same doubts and des- 
pondencies ; and yet God hath carried me through 
all, Psal. Ixxvii. 7 — 9. This is it that suflfers not 
a Christian to unravel all*his hopes in an hour of 
temptation. O how useful are these things to the 
people of God ! 

Fifth motive. The recognition of former provi- 
dences will minister to your souls continual matter 
of praise and thanksgiving, which is the very em- 
ployment of the angels in heaven, and the sweetest 
part of our lives on earth. 

See Psal. Ixi. 7, 8. If God will prepare mercy 
and truth for David, he will prepare praises for his 
God, and that daily. " By thee have I been hold- 
en up from the womb, thou art he that took me 
out of my mother's bowels ;" (there mercies from 
the beginning are recognized ;) " my praise shall 
be continually of thee," Psal. Ixxi. 6. There the 
natural result of those recognitions is expressed. 

There are five things belonging to the praise of 
God, and all of them have relation to his provi- 
dences exercised about us. 1. A careful observa- 
tion of the mercies we receive from him, Isa. xli. 
17 — 20. This is fundamental to all praise ; God 
cannot be glorified for the mercies we never noted. 
?, A faithful remembrance of the favours received. 



168 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

" Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his 
benefits," Psal. ciii. 2. Hence the Lord brands 
the ingratitude of his people, " They soon forgat 
his works," Psal. cvi. 13. 3. A due appreciation 
and valuation of every providence that doth us 
good, 1 Sam. xii. 24. That Providence that fed 
them in the wilderness with manna was the most 
remarkable providence to them ; but they not valu- 
ing it at its worth, God had not that praise for it 
which he expected, Numb. xi. 6. 4. The excita- 
tion of all the faculties and powers of the soul in 
the acknowledgment of these mercies to us. Thus 
David, " Bless the Lord. O my soul ; and all that 
is within me bless his noly name," Psal. ciii. 1. 
Soul praise is the very soul of praise, this is the 
very fat and marrow of that thank-offering. 5. A 
suitable retribution for the mercies received. This 
David was careful about, Psal. cxvi. 1, and the 
Lord taxes good Hezekiah for the neglect of it, 
2 Chron. xxxii. 24, 25. This consists in a full 
and hearty resignation of all to him, that we have 
received by providence from him ; and in our wil- 
lingness actually to part with all for him, when he 
shall remand it. 

Thu^ you see how all the ingredients to praise 
have respect to Providence; but, more particularly, 
I will show you, that, as all the ingredients of 
praise have respect to providence, so all the mo- 
tives and arguments, obliging and engaging souls 
to praise, are found therein also. To this end, 
consider how the mercy and goodness of God are 
exhibited by Providence to excite our thankfulness. 

1. That the goodness and mercy of God are let 
out upon his people in his providences about them: 
and this is the very root of praise. It is not so 
much the possession that Providence gives us of 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 169 

such or such comforts, as the goodness and kind- 
ness of God in the dispensing of them, that en- 
gages a gracious soul to praise. "Because thy 
loving-kindness is better than life, my Hps shall 
praise thee," Psal. Ixiii. 3. To give, maintain, 
and preserve our life, are choice acts of Provi- 
dence ; but to do all this in a way of grace and 
loving-kindness, this is far better than the gilts 
themselves. Life is but the shadow of death with- 
out it; this is the mercy that crowns all other 
mercies, Psal. ciii. 4. It is this a sanctified soul 
desires God would manifest in every providence 
about him, Psal. xvii. 7, and what is our praising 
of God else but our showing forth that loving-kind- 
ness which he showeth forth in his providences? 
Psal. xcii. 1, 2. 

2. As the loving-kindness of God, manifested 
in providences, is a motive to praise, so the free 
and undeserved favours of God, dispensed by the 
hand of Providence, oblige the soul to praise. 
This was the consideration that melted David's 
heart into a thankful, praising frame, even the con- 
sideration of the free and undeserved favours cast 
in upon him by Providence. "What am I! O 
Lord God? and what is my father's house, that 
thou hast brought me hitherto?" 2 Sam. vii. 18, 
that is, to raise me by providence from a mean 
condition to all this dignity: "from following 
the ewes, to feed Jacob his people," Psal. Ixxviii. 
70,71. O this it is that engages thankfulness ! 
Gen. xxxii. 10. 

3. As the freeness of mercies, dispensed by pro- 
vidences, engngeth praise, so the multitudes of 
mercies heaped this way upon us, strongly oblige 
the soul to thankfulness. Thus David comes be- 

15 



170 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

fore the Lord, encompassed with a muUitude of 
mercies, to praise him, Psal. v. 7. We have oui 
loads of mercies, and that every day, Psal. Ixviii. 
19. O what a rich heap will the mercies of one 
day, make, being laid together ! 

4. As the multitudes of mercies dispensed by 
Providence oblige to praise, so the tenderness of 
God's mercy manifested in his providence leaves 
the soul under a strong obligation to thankfulness. 
We see what tender regards the Lord hath to all 
our wants, straits, and burdens. " Like as a father 
pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that 
fear him," Psal. ciii. 13. He is full of bowels, as 
is signified in James v. 11. Yea, there are not 
only bowels of compassion in our God, but the 
tenderness of bowels like those of a mother to her 
sucking child, Isa. xlix. 15. He feels all our 
pains, as if the apple of his eye were touched, 
Zech. ii. 8, and all this is discovered to his people 
in the way of his providences with them, Psal. 
cxi. 1 — 4. O who of all the children of God 
hath not often found this in his providences ? And 
who can see it, and not be filled with thankful- 
ness? All these are so many bands clapped by 
Providence upon the soul to oblige it to a life of 
praise. Hence it is that the prayers of the saints 
are so full of thanksgivings upon these accounts; 
it is sweet to recount them to the Lord in prayer; 
to lie at his feet in a holy astonishment at his gra- 
cious condescension to poor worms. 

Sixth motive. The due observation of provi- 
dence will endear Jesus Christ, every day more 
and more to your souls. Christ is the channel of 
grace and mercy; through him are all the streams 
of mercy that flow from God to us, and all the re- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 171 

turns of praise from us to God, 1 Cor. iii. 21 — 23. 
All things are ours, upon no other title but our 
being his. 

Now there are six things in providence, which 
exceedingly endear the Lord Jesus Christ to his 
people ; and these are the most sweet and delicious 
parts of all our enjoyments. 

1. The purchase of all those mercies which Pro- 
vidence conveys to us is by his own blood : for 
not only spiritual and eternal mercies, but even all 
our temporal ones are the acquisitions of his blood. 
For, as sin forfeited all, so Christ restored all these 
mercies to us again by his death. Sin had so shut 
up mercy from us, that had not Christ made an 
atonement by his death, we should never have ob- 
tained it to all eternity. " It is with him that God 
freely gives us all things," Rom. viii. 32, heaven 
itself, and all things needful to bring us thither, 
among which is principally included the tutelage 
and aid of Divine Providence ; so that whatever 
good we receive from the hand of Providence, we 
must put it upon the score of Christ's blood : and, 
when we receive it, we must say. It is the price 
of blood ; it is a mercy rising up out of the death 
of Christ ; it cost him dear, though it come to me 
freely; it is sweet in the possession, but costly in 
the acquisition. Now this is a most endearing 
consideration: Did Christ die that these mercies 
might live? Did he pay his invaluable blood to 
purchase these comforts that I possess? O what 
transcendent, matchless love was the love of Christ ! 
You have known parents who have laid out all their 
stock of money to purchase estates for their chil- 
dren; but when did you hear of any that spent the 
whole stock and treasure of their blood to make a 
purchase for them ? If the 'ifh of Christ had not 



172 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

been so afflictive and sad to him, ours could not 
have been so sweet and comfortable to us : it is 
through his poverty we are enriched, 2 Cor. viii. 
9. These sweet mercies, that are born of Provi- 
dence every day, are the fruits of the travail of his 
soul. 

2. The sanctification of all is by our union with 
Christ: it is by virtue of our union with his per- 
son that we enjoy the sanctified gifts and blessings 
of Providence. All these are mercies additional 
to that great mercy, Christ, Matt. vi. 33. They 
are given with him, as in Rom. viii. 32. This is 
the tenure by which we hold them, 1 Cor. iii. 
21 — 23. What we lost in Adam, is restored again 
with advantage in Christ. Immediately upon the 
fall, the curse. Gen. iii. 17, seized upon all the 
miserable posterity of Adam, and upon all their 
comforts, outward as well as inward ; and this still 
lies heavy upon them. All that Providence doth 
for them that are Christless is but to feed so many 
poor condemned wretches, till the sentence they 
are under be executed upon them ; it is indeed 
bountiful and openhanded to many of them, and 
fills them with earthly comforts; but not one spe- 
cial sanctified mercy is to be found among all their 
enjoyments. These gifts of Providence do but 
deceive, defile, and destroy them through their 
own corruptions, and, for want of union with 
Christ, "the prosperity of fools shall destroy them," 
Prov. i. 32. 

But when a man is once in Christ, then all pro- 
vidences are sanctified and sweet. " Unto the 
»)ure all things are pure," Tit. i. 15. "A little 
that a righteous man hath, is better than the trea- 
sures of many wicked," Psal. xxxvii. 16. Now, 
Chri<5t becomes a head of influence as well as of 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 173 

dominion, and in all things he consults the good 
of his own members, Eph. i. 22. 

3. The dispensation of all our comforts and 
mercies is by his direction and appointment. It 
is true, the angels are employed in the kingdom 
of Providence — they move the wheels; that is, 
are instrumental in all the revolutions in this lower 
world ; but still they receive directions and orders 
from Christ, as you may see in that admirable 
scheme of Providence, Ezek. i. Now, what an 
endearing meditation is this ! Whatever creature 
be instrumental for any good to you, it is our, Lord 
Jesus Christ, who gave the orders and commands 
to that creature to do it, and without it they could 
have done nothing for you. It is your Head in 
heaven, that consults your peace and comfort on 
earth. These are the fruits of his care for you. 
So in the preventions and restraints of evil, it is 
he that bridles in the wrath of devils and men, he 
holds the reins in his own hands. Rev. ii. 10. It 
was the care of Christ over his poor sheep at 
Damascus that stopped the raging adversary, who 
was upon the way, designing to destroy them, 
Acts ix. 

4. The continuation of all your mercies and 
comforts, outward as well as inward, is the fruit of 
his intercession in heaven for you. For, as the 
offering up of the Lamb of God, a sacrifice for sin, 
Oi)ened the door of mercy at first, so his appearing 
before God, as a lamb that had been slain, still 
keeps that dcx)r of mercy open. Rev. v. 6 ; Heb. 
ix. 24. By this his intercession, our peace and 
comforts are prolonged to us, Zech. i. 12, 13. 
Every sin we commit would put an end to the 
mercies we possess, were it not for that caution 
which is put in for us by it. " If any man sin, W9 

15* 



174 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ 
the righteous ; and he is the propitiation for our 
sins," 1 John ii. 1, 2. This stops all pleas, and 
procures new pardons for new sins. Hence it is 
" he saves to the uttermost," Heb. vii. 25, to the 
last completing act. New sins do not do away our 
former pardons, nor cut off our privileges settled 
upon us in Christ. 

5. The returns and answers of all your prayers 
and cries to heaven, for the removing of your 
afflictions, or supply of your wants, are all pro- 
cured and obtained for you by Jesus Christ. He 
is the Master of your requests, and were it not that 
God had respect to him, he would never regard 
your cries to him, nor return an answer of peace 
to you, how great soever your distresses should 
be. Rev. viii. 3, 4. It is his name that gives your 
prayers their acceptance, John xv. 16, because the 
Father can deny him nothing, therefore your 
prayers are not denied. Doth God condescend to 
hear you in the day of trouble ? Doth he convince 
you, by your own experience, that your prayers 
have power with God, and do prevail? O see how 
much you owe to your dear Lord Jesus Christ for 
this high and glorious privilege! 

6. The covenant of grace, in which all your 
comfortable enjoyments are comprised, and by 
which they are secured, sanctified, and sweetened to 
you, is made in Christ, and ratified by him between 
(4od and you.' Your mercies are all comprised in 
this covenant, even your daily bread, Psal. cxi. 5, 
as well as your justification, and other spiritual mer- 
cies. It is your covenant interest that secures to 
you whatever it comprises, Isa. Iv. 3. Hence they 
are called the sure mercies of David. Nay, this 
is it that sanctifies them, and gives them the i;.iture 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 175^ 

of special and peculiar mercies. One such mercy 
is worth a thousand common mercies ; and, being 
sanctified and special mercies, they must needs be 
exceedingly sweet beyond all other mercies. On 
these accounts it was that David so rejoiced in his 
covenant interest, though laden with many afflic- 
tions, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. But now all this hangs 
entirely upon Christ. The New Testament is in 
his blood, 1 Cor. xi. 25, and whatever mercies you 
reap from that covenant, you must thank the Lord 
Jesus Christ for them. Put all this together, and 
then think how such considerations will endear 
Christ to your souls. 

Seventh mMive. The due observation of Provi- 
dence hath a marvellous efficacy to melt the heart, 
and make it thaw, and relent ingenuously before 
the Lord. 

How can a sanctified heart do less than melt into 
tears, whilst it either considers the dealings of God 
from time to time with it, or compares the mercies 
received with the sins committed, or the different 
administrations of Providence towards itself and 
others ? 

Let a man but set himself to think deliberately 
and closely of the ways of Providence towards him ; 
let him but follow the track of Providence as it 
hath led him all along the way that he hath gone, 
and if there be any principle of gracious tenderness 
ill him, he shall meet with variety of occasions to 
excite and draw it forth. Reader, go back with 
thy serious? thoughts, 

1. To the beginning of the ways of God with 
thee, the mercies that broke out early in thy youth, 
even the first-born mercies from the womb of Pro- 
vidence, and thou wilt say. What need I go further ? 
Here is enough not only to move, but overwhelm 



176 DIVINE CONDUCT OK 

my heart. " May I not, from this time, cry unto 
thee, My Father, thou art the Guide of my youth," 
Jer. iii. 4. What a critical time is the time of 
youth ! It is the moulding age, and, ordinarily, 
according to the course of those leading provi- 
dences, after providences do steer their course. 
What levity, rashness, ignorance, and strong pro- 
pensions to sin and ruin accompanied that age ! 
How many, being then left to the sway of their 
own lusts, run themselves into those sins and mise- 
ries which they never recover themselves from to 
their dying day ! These, like the errors of the first 
concoction, are rarely rectified afterwards. Did 
not the Lord guide thee by his providence when 
but a child ? Did he then preserve thee from those 
follies and miscarriages which blast the very blos- 
som, and nip the bud, so that no good fruit is to be 
expected afterwards? Did he ihen cast thee into 
such families, or among such company and ac- 
quaintance as moulded and formed thy spirit to a 
better temper ? Did he then direct thee into that 
way of employment wherein thou hast seen so 
large a train of happy consequences, ever since, 
following thee ? and wilt thou not from henceforth 
say, *' My Father, my Father, thou art the Guide 
of my youth !" 

2. Let us but bring our thoughts close to the 
providences of after-times, and consider how the 
several changes and removes of our lives have been 
ordered for us : things we never foresaw nor de- 
signed (but much better for us than what we did 
design) have been all along ordered for us. The 
way of man is not in himself. God's thoughts 
nave not been our thoughts, nor his ways our 
ways. Among the eminent mercies of thy life, 
reader, how many of them have been mere sur* 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 177 

prisals to thee ! Thine own projects have been 
thrust aside to make way for better things, designed 
by Providence for thee. 

3. Do but observe the springs and autumns of 
Providence, in what order they have flourished 
and faded with thee, and thou wilt find thyself 
overpowered with the sense of divine wisdom and 
grj<jdness. When necessity required, such a friend 
was stirred up to help thee, such a place opened 
ta receive thee, such a relation raised up or con- 
tinued to refresh thee; and no sooner doth provi- 
dence deprive thee of any of them, but either thy 
need of them ceased, or some other way is opened 
to thee. O the depth of God's wisdom and good- 
ness ! O the matchless tenderness of God to his 
people ! 

4. Compare the dealings of Providence with 
you, and others, yea, with others that sprung up 
with you in the same generation, it may be in the 
same families, and from the same parents, it may 
be in families greater and more flourishing in the 
world than yours, and see the difference, upon 
many great accounts, it hath made between you 
and them. I knew a Christian, who, after many 
years' separation, was visited by his own brother, 
the very sight of whom wrought upon him much as 
the sight of Benjamin did upon Joseph, so that he 
could not refrain to fall upon his neck, and weep 
for joy; but, after a few hours spent together, 
finding the spirit of his brother not only estranged 
from all that is spiritual and serious, but also very 
vain and profane, he hastened to his chamber, shut 
the door upon him, threw himself down at the feet 
of God, and, with flowing eyes and a melting 
heart, admired the distinguishing grace of God, 



17S DIVIWE CONDUCT OR 

saying, Was not Esau Jacob's brother? O grace, 

grace, astonishing grace ! 

5. Compare the carriage of Providence towai-ds 
you with your own carriage towards the Lord, and 
it must needs melt your hearts, to find so much 
mercy bestowed, where so much sin hath been 
committed. What place did you ever live in 
where you cannot remember great provocations 
committed, and manifold mercies, notwithstanding 
tiiat, received 1 O, with how many notivithstand- 
ings and neverthelesses^ hath the Lord done you 
good in every place ! What relation hath not been 
abused by sin, and yet both raised up and con- 
tinued by Providence for your comfort ? In every 
place, God hath left the marks of his goodness, and 
you the remembrance of your sinfulness. Give 
yourselves but leave to think of these things, and 
it is strange if your hearts relent not at the remem- 
brance of them. 

6. Do but compare your own dangers with your 
fears, and both with the strange outlets and doora 
of escape Providence hath opened, and it cannot do 
less than over})ower you with a full sense of divine 
care and goodness. 

There have been dark clouds seen to rise over 
you, judgment even at your door, sometimes threat- 
ening your life, sometimes your liberty, sometimes 
your estate, and sometimes your dearest relations, 
in whom, it may be, your life was bound up. Re- 
member, in that day, what faintness of spirit seized 
you, what charges of guilt stirred up fears of the 
issue within you : you turned to the Lord in that 
distress, and hath he not made a way to escape, 
and delivered you from all your fears? Psal. 
Kxxiv. 4. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 179^ 

O! is your life such a continued throng, such 
a distracted hurry, that there is no room to be 
found with Christians to sit alone, and think on 
these things, and press these marvellous discove- 
ries of God in his providences upon their own 
hearts ? Surely, might these things but lie upon 
our hearts, talk with our thoughts by day, and 
lodge with us at night, they would even force their 
passage down to our very veins. 

Eighth motive. Due observation of Providence 
will both beget and secure inward tranquillity in 
your minds, amidst the vicissitudes and revolutions 
of things in this unstable, vain world. 

" I will both lay me down in peace and sleep, 
for the Lord only maketh me to dwell in safety," 
Psal. iv. 8. He resolves the sinful fears of events 
shall not rob him of his inward quiet, nor tor- 
ture his thoughts with anxious presages. He will 
commit all his concerns into that faithful, fatherly- 
hand, that had hitherto wrought all things for him, 
and he means not to lose the comfort of one night's 
rest, nor bring the evil of to-morrow upon the day, 
but knowing in whose hand he is, wisely enjoys 
the sweet felicity of a resigned will. 

Now this tranquillity of our minds is as much 
begotten and preserved by a due consideration of 
Providence, as by any thing whatsoever. Hence 
it was that our Lord Jesus Christ, when he would 
cure the disciples' anxious and distracting solici- 
tudes about a livelihood, bids them consider the 
care Providence hath over the birds of the air and 
the lilies of the field, how he feeds the one and 
clothes the other, without any anxious care of 
theirs ; and would have them well consider those * 
providences, and reason themselves into a calm and 



180 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

sweet composure of spirits from those considera- 
tions, Matt. vi. 25 — 34. 

Two things destroy the peace and tranquillity of 
our lives; our bewailing past disappointments, or 
fearing future ones. But would we once learn 
prevision and provision to be divine prerogatives, 
and take notice how often Providence baffles those 
that pretend to them, causing the good they fore- 
saw (according to their conjectures) coming to 
their hand yet to balk them, and flee from them : 
and the evil they thought themselves sufficiently 
secured from, to invade them; I say, would we 
consider how Providence daily baffles these pre- 
tensions of men, and asserts its own dominion, it 
would greatly conduce to the tranquillity of our 
lives. 

This is a great truth, that there is no face of ad- 
versity so formidable, but, being viewed from this 
station, would become amicable. Now, there are 
several things in the consideration of Providence 
that naturally and kindly compose the mind of a 
Christian to peace, and bring it to a sweet rest, 
whilst events hang in a doubtful suspense. 

1. The supremacy of Providence, and its incon- 
trollable power in working. This is often seen in 
the good that it brings us in a way that is above 
the thoughts and cares of our minds, or labours of 
our hands. " I had not thought," said Jacob, " to 
have seen thy face ; and lo, God hath showed me 
thy seed also," Gen. xlviii. 11. There is a fre- 
quent coincidence of providence in a way of sur- 
prisal, which, from no appearance, or the remotest 
•tendency of outward causes, could be foreseen, but 
rather falls visibly cross to the present scheme and 
posture of our affairs. Nothing tends to convince 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE, 181 

US of the vanity and folly of our own solicitudes 
and projections nnore than this doth. 

2. The profound wisdom of Providence in all 
that it perforrneth for the people of God. The 
wheels are full of eyes, Ezek. i. 18; that is, there 
is an intelligent and wise Spirit who sits upon, and 
governs the affairs of this world. 

This wisdom shines out to us in the unexpected, 
yea, contrary events of things. How often have 
we been courting some beautiful appearance that 
invited our senses, and with trembling shunned the 
formidable face of other things, when, notwith- 
standing, the issues of Providence have convinced 
us that our danger lay in what we courted, and our 
good in what we so studiously declined! This also 
is a sweet principle of peace and quiet to the Chris- 
tian's mind, that he knows not but his good may 
be imparted in what seemed to threaten his ruin. 
Many were the distresses and straits of Israel in 
the wilderness, but all was to humble them, that 
he might do them good in their latter end, Deut. 
viii. 16. Sad and dismal was the face of that Pro- 
vidence which sent them out of their own land into 
the land of the Chaldeans ; yet even this wa& a 
project to do them good, Jer. xxiv. 5. How often 
have we retracted our rash and headlong censures 
of things upon experience of this truth, and been 
taught to bless our afflictions and disappointments 
in the name of the Lord ! Many a time liave we 
kissed those troubles at parting, which we met 
with trembling. And what can promote peace, 
under doubtful providences, more effectually than 
this? 

3. The experiences we have had throughout our 
lives, of the faithfulness and constancy of Provi- 
dence, are of excellent use to allay and quiet our 

16 



182 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

hearts in any trouble that befalls us. " Hitherto 
God hath helped," 1 Sam. vii. 12. We never 
found him wanting to us in any case hitherto ; this 
is not the first rtrait we have been in ; the first 
time that our hearts and hopes have been low. 
Surely he is the siime God now as heretofore ; his 
hand is not shortened neither doth his faithfulness 
fail. O recount in how great extremities former 
experience hath taught you not to despair! 

4. The conjectures Christians may make of the 
way of Providence towards them, from what its 
former methods have been towards them, are ex- 
ceedingly quieting and comfortable. It is usual 
with Christians to compare times with times, and 
to guess at the issue of one providence by another. 
The saints do know what course Providence usu- 
ally holds ; and, accordingly, with great proba- 
bility, collect what they may expect from what, in 
like cases, they have formerly observed. Chris- 
tian, examine thine own heart and its former ob- 
servations, and thou wilt find, as in Psal. Ixxxix. 
30 — 32, that it is usually the way of God to pre- 
pare some smart rods to correct thee, when either 
thy heart hath secretly revolted from God, and is 
grown vain, careless, and sensual, or when thy 
steps have declined, and thou hast turned aside to 
Xhe commission of iniquity; and then when those 
rods have been sanctified to humble, reduce, and 
purge thy heart, it is usually observed, that those 
sad providenoes are then upon the change, and 
then the Lord changes the voice of his providence 
towards thee. " Go and proclaim these words 
towards the north, and say. Return thou backsliding 
Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine 
anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, saith the 
Liord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 183 

acknowledge thine iniquity," &c., Jer. iii. 12, 
13. 

If, therefore, I find the blessed ef!(3Cts of the rod 
upon me, that it hath done its work to break the 
hard heart, and pull down the proud heart, and 
awaken the drowsy heart, and quicken the sloth- 
ful, negligent, lazy iieart ; now with great proba- 
bility, I may conjecture a more comfortable aspect 
of Providence will quickly appear, the refreshing 
and reviving time is nigh. 

6. It is usual with Christians to argue them- 
selves into fresh reviving hopes, when the state of 
things is most forlorn, by comparing the provi- 
dences of God one with another. 

(1.) It is a mighty composing meditation, when 
we compare the providences of God towards the 
inanimate and irrational creatures, with his provi- 
dences towards us. Doth he take care for the very 
fowls of the air, for whom no man provides, as 
well as those at the door which we daily feed ? 
Doth he so clothe the very grass of the field ? hear 
the young ravens when they cry for meat? and 
can it be supposed he should forget his own peo- 
ple, who are of much more value than these ? 

(2.) Or if we compare the bounty and care that 
Providence hath expressed to the enemies of God, 
how it feeds, and clothes, and protects them, even 
whilst they are fighting against him with his own 
mercies, it cannot but quiet and satisfy us, that, 
surely, he will not be wanting to that people upon 
whom he hath set his love, to whom he hath given 
his Son, and for whom he hath designed heaven 
itself. 

(3.) It must needs quiet us, when we consider 
what the Lord did for us in the way of his provi- 
dence, when we ourselves were in the state of na- 



184 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

ture and enmity against God. Did he not then 
look after us, when we knew him not ? provided 
for us, when we owned him not in any of his mer- 
cies] Bestowed thousands of mercies upon us, 
when we had no title to Christ, nor any one pro- 
mise? And will he now do less for us, since we 
are reconciled and become his children ? 

Surely such considerations as these cannot but 
fill the soul with peace, and preserve the tranquillity 
of it, under the most distracting providences. 

Ninth motive. Due observations of the ways 
of God, in his providences towards us, have an ex- 
cellent usefulness and aptitude to advance and im- 
prove holiness in our hearts and lives ; for, 

1. The holiness of God is manifested to us in all 
his works of providence. " The Lord is righteous 
in all his ways, and holy in all his works," Psal. 
cxlv. 17. The instruments used by Providence 
may be very sinful and wicked ; they may aim at 
base ends, and make use of wicked mediums to 
attain them ; but it is certain God's designs are 
most pure, and all his workings are so too. Though 
he permits, limits, orders, and overrules many 
unholy persons and actions, yet, in all, he works 
like himself, and his holiness is no more defiled 
and stained by their impurity, than the sunbeams 
are by the noisome exhalations of a dunghill. 
"He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his 
ways are judgment, a God of truth, and without 
iniquity; just and right is he," Deut. xxxii. 4. 
So that in all his providences he sets before us a 
perfect pattern of holiness, that he might be holy 
in all our ways, as our Father is in all his ways. 
But this is not all. 

2. His providences, if duly observed, promote 
holiness by stopping up our way to sin. O 1 if 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 185 

men would but note the designs of God in his pre- 
ventive providences, how useful would it be to 
keep them upright and holy in their ways ! For 
why is it that the Lord so often hedges up our way 
with thorns, as it is in Hosea ii. 6, but that we 
should not find our paths to sin? Why doth he 
clog us, but to prevent our straying from him? 
" Lest I should be exalted above measure, there 
was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of 
Satan to buff*et me," 2 Cor. xii. 7. O ! it is good 
to attend to these works of God, and study the 
meaning of them. Sometimes Providence crosses 
a hopeful, thriving project to advance our estate, 
and frustrates all our labours and cares ; why is 
this, but to hide pride from man ? Shouldst thou 
prosper in the world, that prosperity might be thy 
snare, and make thee a proud, sensual, vain soul ; 
the Lord Jesus sees this, and therefore withdraws 
the food and fuel from thy corruptions. 

It may be thou hast a diseased, weak body; 
thou labourest often under infirmities: in this the 
wisdom and care of God over thy soul is raani- 
fested ; for wert thou not so clogged, how pro- 
bable is it that much more guilt might be con- 
tracted ! Your poverty doth but clog your pride ; 
reproaches clog your ambition ; want prevents 
wantonness ; sickness of body conduces to the 
prevention of many inward stings of conscience, 
and groans under guilt. 

3. The providences of God may be observed to 
conduce to our holiness, not only preventing sin, 
that we may not fall into it, but also purging our 
sins when we are fallen into them.* " By this, 

» God would not suffer instruments to rub so hard, 
if it were not to fetch out the dirt that is engrained ia 
16* 



3186 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged ; 
and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin," Isa. 
xxvii. 9, and so Dan. xi. 33 — 35 ; they are of the 
same use that fire and water are for purging and 
cleansing ; not that they can purge us from sin in 
their own virtue and power, for, if so, those that 
have most afflictions would have most grace also ; 
but it is in the virtue of Christ's blood, and God's 
blessing upon afflictive providences, that they purge 
us from sin. A cross without a Christ never did 
any man good. Now, in God's afflictive provi- 
dences for sin, there are many things that tend to 
the purging of it : for, 

(1.) Such rebukes of Providence discover the 
displeasure of God against us ; the Lord frowns 
upon us in those providences: our Father is angry, 
and these are the tokens of it ; and nothing works 
more to the melting of a gracious heart than this. 
Must not the heart of a child melt and break whilst 
the father is angry 1 O this is more bitter to our 
spirits, than all the smart and anguish of the afflic- 
tion can be to our flesh ! " O Lord, rebuke me 
not in thy wrath ; neither chasten me in thy hot 
displeasure : for thine arrows stick fast in me ; 
and thine hand^ presseth me sore. There is no 
soundness in my flesh, because of thine anger: 
neither is there any rest in my bones, because of 
my sin," Psalm xxxviii. 1 — 3. 

(2.) By these rebukes for sin, the evil of sin is 
discovei-ed more sensibly to us, and we are made 
to see more clearly the evil of it in these glasses of 
affliction which Providence at such times sets be- 



our natures. He loves purity so well, he had rather 
see a hole t^han a spot in his child's garmeat. — Gtir- 
nairs ChrUttan Artnour. Par. 2. p. ^1. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 187 

fore us, than formerly we ever saw. " Thine 
own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy back- 
slidings shall reprove thee : know, therefore, and 
see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast 
forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is 
not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts," Jer. ii. 
19. O the gall and wormwood that we taste in it 
under God's rebukes for it ! 

(3.) Providence blasts and frustrates all sinful 
projects to the people of God ; whoever thrives in 
them, they shall not, Isa. xxx, 1 — 5. And this 
also convinces them of the folly that is in sin, and 
makes them cleave to the way of simplicity and 
integrity. 

(4.) Holiness is promoted in the soul, by caution- 
ing and warning the soul against sin for time to 
come. " I have borne chastisements, I will not 
offend any more," Job xxxiv. 31. O happy pro- 
vidences, how smart soever, that make the soul for 
ever afraid of sin ! Surely such rods are well be- 
stowed. This gives God his end ; and if ever we 
sorrowed after a godly sort in the day of our 
troubles, it will work this carefulness. " Behold 
this self-same thing that ye sorrowed after a godly 
sort, what carefulness it wrought in you," &c., 
2 Cor. vii. 11. O, if ever a man have been under 
a sanctified rod, which hath showed him the evil 
of sin, and kindly humbled him for it, and a temp- 
tation should again solicit him to the same evil : 
Why, thinks he, what a madness is it for me to 
buy repentance at so dear a rate ! Have I not 
smarted enough already ? You may as well ask 
me, whether I shall run again into the fire, after I 
have been already scorched in it. 

(5.) Providences do greatly improve and promote 
holiness by drawing the soul into the presence of 



188 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

God, and giving it the opportunity and occasion of 
much communion with him. Comfortable provi- 
dences will do this, they will melt a man's heart in 
love to the God of his mercies, and so pain his 
heart that he shall not be quiet till he have found a 
place to pour out his soul in thankfulness to the 
Lord, 2 Sam. vii. 18. 

Afflictive providences will drive us to the feet of 
God, and there make us to judge and condemn our- 
selves ; and all this hath an excellent use to destroy 
sin, and promote holiness in the soul. 

Tenth motive. Lastly, the consideration and 
study of providence will be of singular use to us in 
a dying hour. Hereby we treasure up that which 
will singularly sweeten our death to us, and greatly 
assist our faith in the last encounter. We find, 
when Jacob died, what reflections he had upon the 
dealings of God with him in the various provi- 
dences of his Ufe. See Gen. xlviii. 3. 7. 15, 16. 
In like manner you find Joshua recording the pro- 
vidences of God, when at the brink of the grave ; 
they were the subject of his dying discourse. Josh, 
xxiv., and I cannot but think it a sweet close to 
the life of any Christian : it must needs sweeten a 
death-bed, to recount there the several remarkable 
passages of God's care and love to us from our 
beginning to that day ; to reflect upon the mercies 
that went along with us all the way, when we are 
come to the end of it. O Christians, treasure up 
these instances for such a time as that is, that you 
may go out of the world blessing God for all the 
goodness of truth he hath performed to you all your 
life long. Now the meditations of these things 
must needs be of great use in that day, if you con- 
sider the following particulars : 

1, The time of death is tlie time when souls are 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 189 

usually most violently assaulted by Satan, with 
horrid temptations and black suggestions. We 
may say of that figuratively, as it is said of the 
natural serpent, he never exerts his utmost rage till 
the last encounter, and then his great design is to^ 
persuade the saints that God loves them not, hath 
no care nor regard for them, nor their cries ; though 
they pray for ease, and cry for sparing mercy, they 
see none comes. He handles them with as much 
roughness and severity as other men ; yea, many 
of the vilest and most dissolute wretches endure 
less torments and are more gently handled than 
they. " There are no bands in their death," 
Psal, Ixxiii. 4, whereas thou must go through a 
long lane of sickness to the grave, and endure 
many deaths in one. 

But what credit can these plausible tales of Sa- 
tan obtain with a Christian, who hath been treasur- 
ing up all his life long the memories of God's 
tender regard, both to his wants and prayers, and 
that hath carefully remarked the evident returns of 
his prayers, and gracious condescensions of God to 
him, from his beginning to that moment? In this 
case, his faith is mightily assisted by thousands of 
experiences which back and encourage it, and will 
not suffer the soul to give up so easily a truth which 
he hath so often sensibly felt and tasted. I am 
sure, saith he, God hath had a tender, fatherly 
care of me ever since I became his ; he never failed 
me yet in any former strait, and I cannot believe 
he will do so now. I know his love is like himself, 
unchangeable. " Having loved his own which 
were in the world, he loved them unto the end," 
John xiii. 1. "For this God is our God for ever 
and ever, he will be our Guide, even unto death," 
Psal. xlviii. 14. Did he love me in my youth, and 



190 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

will he cast me off in my decrepid age ? "O God," 
says the Psalmist, " thou hast taught me from my 
youth, and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous 
works; now also, when I am old and grey-headed, 
O God, forsake me not," Psalm Ixxi. 17, 18. 

2. At death, the saints are engaged in the last 
and one of the most eminent works of faith, even 
the committing of themselves into the hands of 
God, when we are launching forth into that vast 
eternity, and entering into that new state, which 
will make so great a change upon us in a moment. 
In this, Christ sets us a pattern ; " Father, into 
thy hands I commend my spirit," Luke xxiii. 46, 
and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. So 
Stephen, at his death, " Lord Jesus, receive my 
spirit, and immediately fell asleep," Acts vii. 59, 
60. 

There are two signal and remarkable acts of 
faith, both exceedingly difficult, namely, its first act 
and its last. The first is a great venture that it 
makes of itself upon Christ; and the last is a great 
venture too, to cast itself into the ocean of eternity, 
upon the credit of a promise. But yet I know the 
first adventure of the soul upon Christ is much 
more difficult than the last adventure upon death ; 
and that which makes it so is, in a great measure, 
the manifold recorded experiences that the soul 
hath been gathering up from the day of its espou- 
sals to Christ, unto its dying-day, which is, in a 
sense, its marriage-day. O ! with what encour- 
agement may a soul throw himself into the arms 
of that God, with whom he hath so long conversed 
and walked, in this world ! whose visits have been 
sweet and frequent, with whom the soul hath con- 
tracted so intimate acquaintance in this world ; 
whom he hath committed all his affairs to, former- 



THE MYSTERY OF PHOVIDENCE. 191 

.y, and still found him a faithful God; and now 
halh no reason to doubt but he shall find him so 
in this last distress and exigence also. 

3. At death, the people of God receive the last 
mercies that ever they shall receive in this world 
by the hand of Providence, and are immediately to 
make up their accounts with God, for all the mer- 
cies that ever they received from his hand. What 
can be more suitable, therefore, to a dying person, 
than to recount with himself the mercies of his 
whole life, the manifold receipts of favour for 
which he is to reckon with God, speedily ; and 
how shall this be done without a due and serious 
observation and recording of them now ? I know 
there are thousands of mercies forgotten by the 
best of Christians ; a memory of brass cannot con- 
tain them : and I know also that Jesus Christ must 
make up the account for us, or it will never pass 
with God ; yet it is our duty to keep the accounts 
of our mercies, and how they have been improved 
by us, for we are stewards, and then we are to 
give an account of our stewardship. 

4. At death, we owe an account also to men, 
and stand obliged, if there be opportunity for it, to 
make known to them that survive us, what we 
have seen and found of God in this world that we 
may leave a testimony for God with men, and 
bring up a good report upon his ways. Thus 
dying Jacob, when Joseph was come to take his 
last farewell of him in this world, strengthened 
himself, and sat upon the bed, and related to him 
the eminent appearances of God to him, and the 
places where. Gen. xlviii. 2, 3, as also an account 
of his afflictions, ver. 7. So Joshua, in his last 
speech to the people, makes it his business to vin- 
dicate and clear the ti-uth of the promises, by re- 



192 DIVINE CONDUCT OH 

counting to them how the providence of God hath 
fulfilled the same, to a tittle, in his day. "And 
behold," saith he, " this day I am going the way 
of all the earth, and ye know in all your hearts, 
and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed 
of all the good things which the Lord your God 
spake concerning you ; all are come to pass unto 
you, and not one thing hath failed thereof," Joshua 
xxiii. 14. 

And certainly it is of great importance to the 
world to understand the judgments, and hear of 
the experiences of dying men. They, of all men, 
are presumed to be most wise and most serious ; 
besides, this is the last opportunity that ever we 
shall have in this world to speak of God. O, 
then, what a sweet thing would it be to close up 
our lives with an honourable account of the ways 
of God 1 To go out of the world blessing him for 
all the mercies and truth which he hath here per- 
formed to us ! How would this encourage weak 
Christians, and convince the atheistical world that 
verily there is a reality and an excellency in the 
ways and people of God ! 

5. At death, we begin the angelical life of praise 
and thanksgiving : we then enter upon that ever- 
lasting sweet employment ; and, as I doubt not but 
the providences in which we were concerned in 
this world will be a part of that song which we 
shall sing in heaven, so certainly it will become 
us to tune our hearts and tongues for it, whilst we 
are here, and especially when we are ready to 
enter upon that blessed state. Let it, therefore, be 
your daily meditation and study, what God hath 
been to you, and done for you, from the beginning 
of his way hitherto. 

And thus I have spread before you some encour- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 193 

agements to this blessed work. O that you would 
be persuaded to this lovely and every way bene- 
ficial practice ! This I dare presume to say, that 
whoever finds a careful and a thankfijl heart, to 
record and treasure up the daily experiences of 
God's mercy to him, shall never want new mer- 
cies to record, to his dying day. It was said of 
Claudian, that he wanted matter suitable to the ex- 
cellence of his parts; but where is the head or 
heart that is suitable to this matter? Who can 
utter the mighty acts of the Lord ? Who can show 
forth all his praise? Psal. cvi. 2. 

Thus I have, through the aid of Providence, 
despatched the main design I aimed at in the 
choice of this subject. All that remains will now 
be speedily finished in some few corollaries to be 
briefly noted upon the whole, and three or four 
practical cases to be stated. You have heard 
how Providence " performeth all things for you." 
Learn hence, 

First corollary. That God is therefore to be 
owned by you in all that befalls you in this world, 
whether it be in a way of success and comfort, or 
of trouble and affliction. O, it is your duty to ob- 
serve his hand and disposal I When God gives 
you comforts, it is your great evil not to observe 
his hand in them. Hence was the charge against 
Israel, " She did not know that I gave her corn, 
and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and 
gold," Hos. ii. 8, that is, she did not actually and 
afl!ectionately consider my care over her, and good- 
ness to her in these mercies. And so for afliic- 
tions, it is a great wickedness, when God's hand 
is lifted up, not to see it, Isa. xxvi. 11. "The 
ox knovveth his owner, and the ass his master's 
crib," Isa. i. 3 j the most dull and stupid creatures 
17 



t|0i DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

know their benefaclors. O look to the hand of 
God in all, and know, that neither your comforts 
nor afflictions arise out of the dust, or spring up 
out of the ground. 

Second catoUary. If God perform all things 
for you, how great is his condescension to and care 
over his people ! " What is man that thou shouldst 
magnify him, and set thine heart upon him ? and 
that thou shouldst visit him every morning, and 
try him every moment?" Job vii. 17, 18. Such 
is his tender care over you, that he withdraws not 
his eye from you. See Job xxxvi. 7. Lest any 
hurt you, he himself will guard and keep you, day 
Rnd night, Isa. xxvii. 3. Should he withdraw his 
eye or hand one moment from you, that moment 
would be your ruin. Ten thousand evils watch 
but for such an opportunity to rush in upon you, 
and destroy you and all your comforts. You are 
too dear to him to be trusted in any hand but his 
own. "All his saints are in thy hand," Deut. 
xxxin. 3. 

Third corollary. Learn hence how you are 
obliged to perform all duties and services for God, 
who performeth all things for you. It was the 
wish of a good man, 1 that I could be to God 
what my hand is to me, namely, a serviceable, 
useful instrument ! Shall God do all things for you, 
and will you do nothing for God 1 Is Providence 
every moment at work for you, and will you be 
idle 1 To what purpose then is all that God hath 
done for you? Is it not the aim and design of all 
to make you a fruitful people? If God plant, and 
fence, and water you by providence, surely he 
looks you should bring forth fruit, Isa. v. 1 — 4. 
O that, in return for all the benefits of Providence, 
you would say to God, as grateful Elisha said to 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 195 

the Sliunammite, Behold thou hast been careful for 
us with all this care, what is to be done for theeT 
2 Kings iv. 13, and with David, " What shall I 
render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards 
me ?" Psal. cxvi. 12. He is ever doing you good, 
be you always abounding in his work. His pro- 
vidence stands by you in your greatest distresses 
and dangers ; do not you flinch from God, when 
his service and your duty is compassed about with 
diflicuities. O be active for that God who is acting 
every moment for you ! 

Fourth corollary. Doth God perform all things 
for his people ? Do not distrust him then as often 
as new or great difficulties arise. Why should 
you think that He who hath done so many things 
for you will now do no more 1 Surely " the Lord's 
hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his' 
ear heavy, that it cannot hear," Isa. lix. 1. If any 
thing put a stop to his mercy, it is your iniquities, 
your distrust, and infidelity. " How long will it 
be ere you believe him ?" If a thousand and ten 
thousand trials and experiences of his tender care, 
faithfulness, and love, will cure this distemper in 
you, you have them at hand to do it. If the fre- 
quent confutations of this your distrust, by the un- 
expected breakings-out of mercy for you, under 
hke discouragements, will cure it, look back, and 
you may see them. Certainly you have been 
often forced by Providence, with shame and repen- 
tance, to retract your rash censures of his care I 
and yet will you fall into the same distemper 
again ? O, that you would once learn this great 
truth, that no man ever wanted that mercy, which 
he wanted not a heart to trust and wait quietly 
upon God for. You never yet sought God in vain, 
except when you sought him vainly. 



196 DIVINE CONDUCT OH 

Fifth corollary. Dofh God perform all things 
for you? Then seek God for all by prayer, and 
never undertake any design without him: cer- 
tainly, if he do not perform it for you, you can 
never have what you desire and labour lor : and 
though he have designed to perform this or that 
mercy for you, yet for these things he will be in- 
quired of, that he may do it for you, Ezck. xxxvi. 
37. I reckon that business as good as done, that 
mercy as good as if it were in hand, that trouble 
ns good as over, for the doing, enjoying, or remov- 
ing whereof we have engaged God by prayer. It 
is our folly to engage this instrument or that for us, 
to attempt this way and that way to compass our 
design, and all the while forget Him, upon whose 
pleasure all instruments and means entirely de- 
pend. That which begins not with prayer, seldom 
winds up with comfort. " The way of man is not 
in himself;" if it were, prayer might then be 
reckoned lost labour. O let Him that performs all, 
be owned and acknowledged in all. 

Sixth corollary. Lastly, if God perform all 
things for us ; then it is our great interest and con- 
cern in all things to study to please him, upon 
whom we depend for all things. 

It is a grave and weighty observation of Chrys- 
ostom : Nothing should be grievous and bitter to 
a Christian, but to provoke the displeasure of God, 
Avoid that, and no affliction or trouble whatever 
can cast down such a prudent soul ; but even as a 
spark is easily extinguished in the sea, so will the 
favour of God extinguish all those troubles. It is 
with such a soul, saith he, as it is with the hea- 
vens , we think the heavens suffer, when they are 
overspread with clouds, and the sun suffers when 
t is eclipsed; but there is no such thing, they 



THE MYSTEBY OF PROVIDENCE. 197 

8uf!er not when they seem to suffer. Every thing 
is well, and shall be well, when all is well between 
us and God. The great consolation of the saints 
lies in this, that all which concerns them is in the 
hands of their Father. " I had utterly despaired," 
saith Luther, " had Christ not been head of the 
church." When he that performs all things is our 
God, even our God that delights in our prosperity, 
that rejoices over us to do us good, what ample 
security is there in the greatest confusions and 
dangers. When one told Borromeus, that there 
were some that laid wait for his life, his answer 
was, What! is God in the world for nothing] And 
as notable was the reply of Silentiarius in a like 
case. If God takes no care of me, how do I live, 
how have I subsisted hitherto ? Though it seem a 
romance to many, saith a late grave author, yet we 
must either quit the Scriptures or give credit to 
this, that the most infallible rules for one to raise 
his fortune and insure a destiny, that can control 
the stars, are given forth there, namely, in the 
Scriptures, where it is evidently found, that a good 
man may even be his own carver. O that we 
would but steer our course according to those rare 
politics of the Bible, those divine maxims of wis- 
dom ! Fear nothing but sin. Study nothing so 
much as how to please God. Warp not from 
your integrity under any temptation. Trust God 
in the way of your duty. These are sure rules to 
secure yourselves and your interest in all the 
vicissitudes of this life. 

My last work will be to staite three or four prac- 
tical cases about this subject, and so I shall shut up 
this discourse of Providence. 

First case. How may a Christian discover the 
17* 



108 DIVIira CONDUCT OR 

will of God and his own duty, under dark and 
doubtful providences? 

In order to the clearing of this case, we are to 
consider what is meant by the will of God; what 
by those doubtful providences, that make the dis- 
covery of his will difficult; and what rules are to 
be observed for the clearing up of God's will to 
ourselves, under such difficult and puzzling pro- 
vidences. 

As to the will of God, it falls under a twofold 
consideration, namely, of his secret and revealed 
will. This distinction is found in that Scripture, 
** The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, 
but those things which are revealed belong unto 
us," &c., Deut. xxix. 29. The first is the rule of 
his own actions, the latter of ours ; and this only 
is concerned in the query. 

This revealed will of God is either manifested to 
us in his word, or in his works. The former is 
his commanding will ; the latter, his effecting or 
permitting will; the one concerning good; the 
other, about evil. 

In these ways God manifests his will to men, 
but yet with great variety and difference, both as to 
the things revealed, the persons to whom he re- 
veals them, and the degrees of clearness in which 
they ore revealed. 1. As to the things revealed, 
there is great difference; for the great and neces- 
sary duties of religion are revealed to us in the word 
with great perspicuity and evidence. About these, 
there can be no hesitation; but things of a lower 
nature and lesser concern are left more obscure. 
2. As to the persons to whom God reveals his will, 
there is great difference; some are strong men, 
others babes, 1 Cor. iii. 1; some have senses .ex- 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 199 

ercised, others are of weak and dull understanding; 
and we know every thing is received according to 
the ability and measure of the person receiving it. 
Hence it is, that one man's way is very plain be- 
fore him, he knows what he ought to do; the other 
is ever and anon at a loss, dubious and uncertain 
what to do. 3. The nranner of God's revealing 
his will to men ts also very different. Some have 
had special, personal, and peculiar discoveries of it 
made to them. So had Samuel about the choice 
of the person whom he should anoint king, 1 Sam. 
ix. 15, and so had David, 1 Sam. xxiii. 2, 4, 9 — 
12 : where you find, upon his inquiry of God, 
(likely by the urim and thummim^) God told him 
what was his duty as to that expedition, and what 
would be the event of it. 

But now all are tied up to the ordinary, standing 
rule of the written word, and must not expect any 
such extraordinary revelations from God. The 
way we now have to know the will of God con- 
cerning us in difficult cases, is to search and study 
the Scriptures ; and where we find no particular 
rule to guide us in this or that particular case, there 
we are to apply general rules, and govern ourselves 
according to the analogy and proportion they bear 
towards each other. 

But now, it often falls out, that in such doubtful 
cases we are entangled in our own thoughts, and 
put to a loss what course to take. We pray with 
David, that God would "make his way plain be- 
fore us," Psal. V. 8. Afraid we are of displeasing 
God, and yet doubtful we may do so, whether we 
resolve this way or that. And this comes to pass, 
not only through the difficulty of the case, and from 
our own ignorance and inadvertency, but very fre- 
quently from those providences that lie before us> 



IMI0 ©rVINE CONDUCT OR 

wherein God seems to hint his mind to us, this wajr 
or that; or whether we may safely guide our- 
selves, by those intimations of Providence, is doubt- 
ful to us. 

That God doth give men secret hints and inti- 
mations of his will, by his providence, cannot be 
doubted ; but yet providences, in themselves, are 
no stable rule of duty, nor sufficient discovery of 
the will of God. We may say of them, " Behold, 
I go forward, but he is not there : and backward, 
but I cannot perceive him : on the left hand, where 
he doth work, but I cannot behold him ; he hideth 
himself on the right hand, that 1 cannot see him," 
Job xxiii. 8, 9. 

If providence in itself be allowed to be a suffi- 
cient discovery of God's will to us, then we shall 
be forced oftentimes to justify and condemn the 
same cause or person, forasmuch as there is " one 
event happens to all," and as it falls out to the 
good, so to the wicked, Eccles. ix. 2. Besides, if 
providence alone were the rule to judge any action 
or design by, then a wicked undertaking would 
cease to be so, if it should succeed well ; but sin is 
sin still, and duty is duty still, whatever the events 
and issues of either be. 

The safest way, therefore, to make use of pro- 
vidences, in such cases, is to consider them as 
they follow the commands or promises of the word, 
and not singly or separately in themselves. If 
you search the Scriptures with an impartial and 
unbiased spirit, in a doubtful case, pray for coun- 
sel and direction from the Lord, attend to the dic- 
tates of conscience ; when you have done all, and 
shall find the providences of God falling out agree- 
ably to the dictates of your own conscience, and 
the best light you can find in the word, you may, 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE, 201 

in such cases, make use of it as an encouragement 
to you in the way of your duty; but the most signal 
demonstrations of Providence are not to be accepted 
against a Scripture rule; no smiles or successes of 
Providence may in this case encourage us to pro- 
ceed : and, on the other side, no frowns or dis- 
couragements of Providence should dishearten us 
in the way of our duty, how many soever we 
should encounter therein. Holy Job could not 
find the meaning of God in his works, yet would 
he not "go back from the commandment of his 
lips," Job xxiii. 12. The like resolution you find 
in David to proceed in his duty, and cleave to the 
word, how many stumbling-blocks soever Provi- 
dence should permit to be laid in his way. "I 
am become," saith he, "like a bottle in the smoke," 
not only blacked, but withered up by troubles, "yet 
do I not forget thy statutes," Psal. cxix. 83 ; and 
again, " They had almost consumed me upon 
earth; but I forsook not thy precepts," ver. 87. 

Paul, by the direction of the Spirit, was engaged 
to go to Jerusalem, Acts xx. 22. After a clear re- 
velation of the mind of God to him in that matter, 
how many difficult and discouraging providences 
befell him in his way ! The disciples of Tyre 
said to him "by the Spirit," though in that they 
followed their own spirits, " that he should not go 
to Jerusalem," Acts xxi. 4. 

Then at Cesarea, he met Agabus, a prophet, who 
told him what should befall him when he came 
thither. Acts xxi. 10, 11. All this will not dis- 
suade him. And after all this, how passionately 
do the brethren beseech him to decline that jour- 
ney! verses 12, 13. Yet knowing his rule, and 
resolving to be faithful to do it, he puts by all, and 
proceeds on in his journey. 



fOU DIVINE CONDUCT OH 

Well then, Providence, in concurrence wfth the 
word, may give some encouragement to us in our 
way, but no testimony of Providence is to be ac- 
cepted against the word. If Scripture and con- 
science tell you, such a way is sinful, you may 
not venture upon it, how many opportunities and 
encouragements soever Providence may suffer to 
offer themselves to you, for they are only permit- 
ted for your trial, not your encouragement ; take 
this, therefore, for a sure rule, that no providence 
can legitimate or justify any moral evil; nor will it 
be a plea before God, for any man to say. The 
providence of God gave me encouragement to do 
it, though the word gave me none. If, therefore, 
in doubtful cases, you would discover God's will, 
govern yourselves in your search after it by these 
rules. 

1 . Get the true fear of God upon your hearts ; 
be really afraid of offending him; God will not 
hide his mind from such a soul. " The secret of 
the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will 
show them his covenant," Psal. xxv. 14. 

2. Study the word more, and the concerns 
and interests of the world less. The word is a 
light to your feet, Psal. cxix. 105, that is, it 
hath a discovering and directive usefulness as 
to all the duties to be done, and dangers to be 
avoided : it is a great oracle at which you are 
to inquire : treasure up its rules in your hearts, and 
you will walk safely. " Thy word have I hid in 
my heart, that I might not sin against thee," Psal. 
cxix. 11. 

3. Reduce what you know into practice, and 
you shall know what is your duty to practise. 
*' If any man do his will, he shall know of the 
doctrine," John vii. 17. "A good understanding 



THE MYSTERY OF PHOVIDENCE. 203 

have all they that do his commandments," Psal. 
cxi. 10. 

4. Pray for illumination and direction in the 
^ay that you should go ; beg the Lord to guide 
you in straits, and that he would not suffer you 
to fall into sin. This was the holy practice of 
Ezra. " Then I proclaimed a fast there at the 
river Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before 
our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and 
for our little ones, and for all our substance," 
Ezra viii. 21, 

5. And this being done, follow providence so 
far as it agrees with the word, and no further. 
There is no use to be made of providence against 
the word, but in subserviency to it ; and there are 
two excellent uses of providence in subserviency 
to the word. 1. Providences as they follow pro- 
mises and prayer, are evidences of God's faithful- 
ness in their accomplishment. When David lan- 
guished under a disease, and his enemies began to 
triumph in the hopes of his downfall, he prays 
that God would be merciful to him, and raise him 
up ; and by that, he saith, " He knew the Lord 
favoured him, because his enemy did not triumph 
over him," Psal. xli. 11. This providence he 
looks upn as a token for good, as elsewhere he 
calls it, Psal. Ixxxvi. 17. 2. Providences give us 
loud calls to those duties, which the command lays 
upon us, and tell us when we are actually and 
presently under the obligation of the commands as 
to the performance of them. Thus, when sad pro- 
vidences befall the church or ourselves, they call 
us to humiliation, and let us know that then the 
command to humble ourselves at the feet of God 
IS in force upon us. " The Lord's voice crieth to 



204 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

the city and the man of wisdom shall see thy 
name, hear the rod, and who hath appointed it," 
Micah vi. 9. The rod hath a voice, and what 
doth it speak ? Why now is the time to humble 
yourselves under the mighty hand of God ; this is 
the day of trouble in which God hath bid you to 
call upon him ; and, contrariwise, when comfort- 
able providences refresh us, it now informs us, 
this is the time to rejoice in God, according to the 
rule : " In the day of prosperity be joyful," Eccles. 
vii. 14. These precepts bind always, but apply 
to various circumstances: it is our duty, therefore, 
and our wisdom, to distinguish seasons, and know 
the proper duties of every season ; and Providence 
is an index that points them out to us. 

Second case. How may a Christian be sup- 
ported in waiting upon God, whilst Providence 
delays the performance of the mercies to him, for 
which he hath long prayed and waited 1 

Two things are supposed in this case. That 
Providence may linger and delay the performance 
of those mercies to us, that we have long waited 
and prayed for; that during that delay and sus- 
pension, our hearts and hopes may be very low, 
and ready to fail. 

1. Providence may long delay the performance 
of those mercies we have prayed and waited upon 
God for. 

For the right understanding of this, know that 
there is a twofold term, or season, fixed for the 
performance of mercy to us. One by the Lord 
our God, in whose hand times and seasons are, 
Acts i. 7 ; another by ourselves, who raised up our 
own expectations of mercies, sometimes merely 
through the eagerness of our desires after them, 



THB MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 205 

and sometimes upon uncertain conjectural grounds 
and appearances of encouragement, that lie be- 
fore us. 

Now, nothing can be more precise, certain, and 
punctual, than is the performance of mercy at the 
time and season which God hath appointed, how 
long soever it be, or how many obstacles soever 
lie in the way of it. There was a time prefixed 
by God himself for the performance of that pro- 
mise of Israel's deliverance out of Egypt ; and it is 
said, " At the end of the four hundred and thirty 
years, even the self-same day, it came to pass that 
all the host of the Lord went out of the land of 
Egypt," Exod. xii. 41. Compare this with Acts 
vii. 17, and there you have the ground and reason 
why their deliverance was not, nor could be, de- 
layed one day longer, because " the time of the 
promise was now come." Promises must accom- 
plish their appointed time, and when they have so 
done, Providence will fulfil them, and not one of 
them shall miscarry. 

But for the seasons, which are of our own fix- 
ing and appointment, as God is not tied to them, 
so his providences are not governed by them, and 
hence are our disappointments. " We looked for 
peace, but no good came ; for a time of health, and 
behold trouble," Jer. viii. 15. And hereupon is it 
that we fret at the delays of Providence, and sus- 
pect the faithfulness of God in their performance. 
" But his thoughts are not our thoughts," Isa. Iv. 
8. " The Lord is not slack concerning his pro- 
mise, as men count slackness," 2 Pet. iii. 9. It 
is slackness, if you reckon by our own rule and 
measure, but it is not so if you reckon and count 
it by God's. The Lord doth not compute and 
reckon his seasons of working by our arithnietic. 
18 



206 DIVIlfB CONDUCT OR 

You have both these rules compared, and the 
ground of our mistake detected in this Scripture : 
" The vision is yet for an appointed time, but, at 
the end, it shall speak, and not lie : though it tarry, 
wait (or it, because it will surely come, it will not 
tarry," Hab. ii. 3. 

God appoints the time : when that appointed 
time is come, the expected mercies will not fail ; 
but, in the mean time, " though it tarry," saith the 
prophet, " wait for it, for it will not tarry." Tarry, 
and not tarry, how shall this be reconciled 1 The 
meaning is, it may tarry much beyond your ex- 
pectation, but not a moment beyond God's appoint- 
ment. 

2. During this delay of Providence, the hearts 
and hopes of the people of God may be very low, 
and much discouraged. This is very plain from 
what the Scriptures have recorded of others, and 
every one of us may find in our own experiences. 
We have an instance of this in Isa. xlix. 13, 14. 
In the 13th verse you have God's faithful promise, 
that " he will comfort his people, and have mercy 
upon his afflicted ;" enough, one would think, to 
raise and comfort their hearts. But the mercy 
promised was long in coming, they waited from 
year to year, and still the burden pressed them, 
and wcs not removed. And therefore " Zion said, 
the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath for- 
gotten me," ver. 14, as if she had said. It is in 
vain to look for such a mercy, God hath no regard 
to us, we are out of his heart and mind, he neither 
cares for us, nor minds what becomes of us. 

So it was with David, after God had made him 
such a promise, and in the time thereof so faith- 
fully performed it, that never was mercy better 
secured to any man ; for they are called " the sure 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 207 

mercies of David," Isa. Iv. 3, yet Providence de- 
layed the accomplishment of them so long, and 
suffered such difficulties to intervene, that ho nut 
only despairs to see the accomplishment of them, 
but even concludes God had forgotten them too. 
" How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord ? for 
ever?" Psal. xiii. 1. And what he speaks here 
by way of question, he elsewhere turns into a posi- 
tive conclusion : " All men are liars ; I shall one 
day perish by the hand of Saul," Psal. cxvi. 11. 
And the causes of these despondencies and sink- 
ings of heart are partly from ourselves, and partly 
from Satan. If we duly examine our own hearts 
about it, we shall find that these sinkings of heart 
are, 

(1.) The immediate effects of unbelief. We do 
not depend and rely upon the word with that full 
trust and confidence that are due to the infallible 
word of a faithful and unchangeable God. You 
may see the ground of this faintness in that Scrip- 
ture, "I had fainted unless I had believed," Psal, 
xxvii. 13. Faith is the only cordial that relieves 
the heart against these faintings and despondencies. 
Where this is wanting, or is weak, no wonder our 
hearts sink at this rate, when discouragements are 
before us. 

(2.) Our judging and measuring things by the 
rules of sense; this is a great cause of our discour- 
agements. We conclude, that according to the 
appearances of things, so will be their issues. If 
Abraham had done so in that great trial of his faith, 
he had certainly lost his footing ; " but against 
hope (that is, against natural probability) he be- 
lieved in hope, giving glory to God," Rom. iv. 18. 
If Paul had done so, he had fainted under his trials. 
" We faint not," saith he, " whilst we look not at 



208 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

the things that are seen," 2 Cor. iv. 16, 18, as If 
he had said, that which keeps up our spirits is our 
looking otr from things present and visible, and 
measuring all by another rule, namely, the power 
and fidelity of God firmly engaged in the pro- 
mises. 

(3.) In all these things, Satan manages a design 
upon us. Hence he takes occasion to suggest hard 
thoughts of God, and to beat off our souls from all 
confidence in him, and expectations from him. He 
is the great causer of opposition between God and 
the saints. He reports the diflicultics and fears 
that are in our ways, with advantage, and iaboui^s 
to weaken our hands, and discourage our hearts in 
waiting upon God. And these suggestions gain 
the more credit with us, because they are con- 
firmed and attested by sense and feeling. 

But here is a desperate design, carrying on un- 
der very plausible pretences, against our souls. It 
concerns us to be watchful now, and maintain our 
faith and hope in God. How blessed is he who 
can resign all to God, and quietly wait for his sal- 
vation ! To assist the soul in this difficulty, I shall 
offer some further help, besides what hath been for- 
merly ^iven under the first creation, in the follow- 
ing considerations : 

First consideration. Though Providence do not 
yet perform the mercies you wait for, yet you have 
no ground to entertain hard thoughts of God ; for 
it is possible God never gave you any ground for 
your expectation of these things from him. It 
may be you have no promise to found your hope 
upon; and if so, why should God be suspected 
and dishonoured by you in a case wherein his truth 
and faithfulness were never engaged to you ? If we 
are crossed in our outward concerns, and see our 



THE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 209 

expectations of prosperity dashed ; if we see such 
or such an outward comfort removed, from which 
we promised ourselves much ; why must God be 
accused for this? These things you promised 
yourselves ; but where did God promise you pros- 
perity, and the continuance of those comfortable 
things to you? Produce his promise, and show 
wherein he hath broken it. It is not enough for 
you to say. There are general promises in the 
Scripture, that " God will withhold no good thing," 
and these are good things which Providence with- 
holds from you ; for that promise, Psal. Ixxxiv. 11, 
hath its limitations ; it is expressly limited to such 
as " walk uprightly ;" and it concerns you to ex- 
amine whether you have done so, before you quar- 
rel with Providence for non-performance of it. 
Ah ! friend, search thine own heart, reflect upon 
thine own ways ; seest thou not so many flaws in 
thine integrity, so many turnings aside from God, 
both in heart and life, that may justify God, not 
only in withholding what thou lookest for, but in 
removing all that thou enjoy est ? And, besides this 
limitation as to the object, it is limited (as all other 
promises relating to externals are) in the matter or 
things promised, by the wisdom and will of God, 
which is the only rule by which they are measured 
out to men in this world ; that is, such mercies, in 
such proportions as he sees needful and most con- 
ducive to your good ; and these given out in such 
times and seasons as are of his own appointment, 
not yours. 

God never came under an absolute, unlimited tie 
for outward comforts to any of us ; and if we be 
disappointed, we can blame none but ourselves. 
Who bid us expect rest, ease, delight, and things 
of this kind in this world ? He hath never told us, 
18* 



210 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

we shall be rich, healthy, and at ease in our habi- 
tations ; but, on the contrary, he hath often told us 
we must expect "troubles in the world," John 
xvi. 33, and that " through many tribulations we 
must enter into his kingdom," Acts xiv. 22. All 
that he stands bound to us by promise for, is, to 
" be with us in trouble," Psal. xci. 15, to supply 
our real and absolute needs. " When the poor 
and needy seek water, and there is none, and their 
tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, 
I the God of Israel will not forsake them," Isa. 
xli. 17, and to sanctify all these providences to our 
good at last : " All things work together for 
good to them that love God," Rom. viii. 28. And, 
as to all these things, not one tittle ever did or shall 
fail. 

Second consideration. But if you say, you have 
long waited upon God for spiritual mercies to your 
souls, according to the promise, and still those 
mercies are deferred, and your eyes fail whilst you 
look for them; I would desire you seriously to 
consider of what kind those spiritual mercies are, 
for which you have so long waited upon God. 
Spiritual mercies are of two sorts ; such as belong 
to the essence, the very being of the new creature, 
without which it must fail ; or, its well-being, and 
the comfort of the inner man, without which you 
cannot live so cheerfully as you would. The 
mercies of the former kind are absolutely neces- 
sary, and therefore put into absolute promises, as 
you read : " And I will make an everlasting cove- 
nant with them, that I will not turn away from 
them to do them good, but I will put my fear in 
their hearts, that they shall not depart from me," 
Jer. xxxii. 40. But for the rest, they are dis- 
pensed to us in such measures, and at such seasons 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 211 

as the Lord sees fit, and many of his own people 
live for a long time without them. The donation 
and continuation of the Spirit to quicken, sanctify, 
and unite us with Christ, are necessary, but his 
joys and comforts are not so. A child of light 
may " walk in darkness," Isa. 1. 10 ; he lives by 
faith, and not by feeling. 

Third consideration. You complain. Providence 
delays to perform to you the mercies you have pray- 
ed and waited for ; but have you right ends in your 
desires after these mercies 1 It may be that this is 
the cause you ask and receive not, James iv. 3. 
The want of a good aim is the reason why we 
want good success in our prayers. It may be we 
pray for prosperity, and our end is to please the 
flesh : we look no higher than the pleasure and ac- 
commodation of the flesh : we beg and wait for de- 
liverance from such a trouble and affliction, not 
that we might be the more ready and prepared for 
obedience, but freed of what is grievous to us, and 
destroys our pleasure in the world. Certainly, if 
it be so, you have more need to judge and condemn 
yourselves, than to censure and suspect the care 
of God. 

Fourth consideration. You wait for good, and 
it comes not ; but is your will brought to a due 
submission to the wi\\ of God about it 1 Certainly 
God will have you come to this before you enjoy 
your desires. Enjoyment of your desires is the 
thing that will please you ; but resignation of your 
wills is that which is pleasing to God. If your 
hearts cannot come to this, mercies cannot come 
to you. David was made to wait long for the 
mercies promised him, yea, and to be content with- 
out it, before he enjoyed it ; he was brought to be 



1^13 DIvncS CONDUCT OR 

** as a weaned child," Psal. cxxxi. 2, and so must 
you. 

Fifth consideration. Your betters have waited 
long upon God for mercy, and why should not you 1 
David waited till his " eyes failed," Psal. Ixix. 3. 
The church " waited for him in the way of his 
judgments," Isa. xxvi. 8. Are you better than all 
the saints that are gone before you ? Is God more 
obliged to you than to all his people 1 They have 
quietly waited, and why should not you ? 

Sixth consideration. Will you lose any thing 
by patiently waiting upon God for mercies ? Cer- 
tiiinly not at all ; yea, it will turn to a double ad- 
vantage to you to continue in a quiet, submissive, 
waiting posture upon God : for though you do not 
yet enjoy the good you wait for, yet all this while 
you are exercising your grace ; and it is more ex- 
cellent to act grace, than to enjoy comfort. All 
this while the Lord is training you up in the ex- 
ercise of faith and patience, and bending your wills 
in submission to himself; and what do you lose by 
that ? Yea, whenever the desired mercy comes, it 
will be so much the sweeter to you ; for how much 
faith and prayer have been employed to produce 
it, how many wrestlings you have had with God 
for it ; so many more degrees of sweetness you 
will fiiid in it, when it comes. O, therefore, faint 
not, however long God delay you. 

Seventh consideration. Are not these mercies 
you expect from God worth the waiting for ? If 
not, it is your folly to be troubled for the want of 
them : if they be, why do not you continue wait- 
ing ? Is it not all that God expects from you for 
the mercies he bestows upon you, that you wait 
upon him for them ? You know you have not de- 



THE MYSTERY OP BROVIDENCE. 213 

served the least of them at his hands. You expect 
them not as a recompense, but a free favour ; and 
if so, then certainly the least you can do is to wait 
upon his pleasure for them. 

Eigldh consideration. Consider how many pro- 
mises are made in the word to waiting souls. One 
Scripture calls them " blessed that wait for him," 
Tsa. XXX. 18. Another tells us, " none that wait 
for him shall be ashamed," Psal. xxv. 3, that is, 
they shall not be finally disappointed, but at last 
be partakers of their hopes. A third scripture 
tells us, " they that wait upon the Lord shall re- 
new their strength," Isa. xl. 31, a promise you had 
need make much use of in such a fainting time ; 
with many more of like nature : and shall we faint 
at this rate, in the midst of so many cordials as are 
prepared to revive us in these promises ? 

Ninth consideration. How long hath God 
waited upon you for the time when you will com- 
ply with his commands, and come up to your en- 
gagements and promises 1 You have made God 
wait long for your reformation and obedience, and 
therefore have no reason to think it much if God 
make you wait long for your consolation. We 
have our how longs, and hath not God his 1 We 
cry, " But thou, O Lord, how long ?" Psal. vi. 3. 
" How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord ] for 
ever] How long wilt thou hide thy face from 
me ? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, 
having sorrow in my heart daily] How long 
shall mine enemy be exalted over me]" Psal. 
xiii. 1, 2. But, surely, we should not think 
these things long, when we consider how long 
the Lord hath exercised his patience about us. 
We have made him say. How long, how long? 
Our unbelief hath made him cry, " How long will 



814 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

it be ere they believe mel" Numb. xiv. 11. Our 
corrupt hearts have made him cry, " How long 
shall vain thoughts lodge within thee?" Jer. iv. 14. 
Our impure natures and ways have made him cry, 
*' How long will it be ere they attain to innocency?" 
Hosea viii. 5. If God wait upon you with so much 
patience for your duties, well may you wait upon 
him for his mercies. 

Teiiih consideration. This impatience and un- 
belief of yours, expressed in your weariness to wait 
any longer, as it is a great evil in itself, so, very 
probably, it is that evil which obstructs the way of 
your expected mercies; you might have your 
mercies sooner, if your spirits were quiet and more 
submissive. And thus of the second case. 

The Hiird case. How may a Christian discern 
when a providence is sanctified, aud comes from 
the love of God to him 1 

There are two sorts or kinds of providences con- 
cerning men in this world, the issues and events of 
which are vastly different, yea, contrary to each 
other. To some, all providences are overruled and 
ordered for good, according to that blessed promise, 
*' And we know that all things work together for 
good to them that love God, to them who are the 
called according to his purpose," Rom. viii. 28, 
not only things that are good in themselves, as 
ordinances, graces, duties, and mercies ; but things 
that are evil in themselves, as temptations, afflic- 
tions, and even their sins and corruptions, shall 
turn, in the issue, to their advantage and benefit. 
For though sin be so intrinsically and formally 
evil in its own nature, that, in itself, it be not 
capable of sanctification, yet, out of this worst of 
evils, God can work good to his people ; and 
though he never makes sin the instrument of good, 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 815 

yet his providence may make it the occasion of 
good to his people, so that spiritual benefits may, 
by the wise overruling of Providence, be occasioned 
to the people of God by it. And so for afflictions 
of all kinds, the greatest and sorest of them, they 
do work, by the influence of Providence, a great 
deal of good to the saints, and that not only as the 
occasions, but as the instruments and means of it. 
" By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged," 
Isa. xxvii. 9, that is, by the instrumentality of this 
sanctified affliction. 

To other persons nothing is sanctified, either as 
an instrument or occasion of any spiritual good ; 
but as the worst things are ordered to the benefit 
of the saints, so the best things wicked men enjoy 
do them no good. Their prayers are turned into 
sin, Psal. cix. 7 ; the ordinances are the savour of 
death, 2 Cor. ii. 16 ; the grace of God turned into 
wantonness, Jude, ver. 4 ; Christ himself a rock 
of offence, 1 Pet. ii. 8 ; their table a snare ; Psal. 
Ixix. 22 ; their prosperity their ruin, Prov. i. 32. 
As persons are, so things work for good or evil. 
" To the pure all things are pure, but to them that 
are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure," Tit. i. 
15. Seeing, therefore, the events of Providence 
fall out so opposite to each other upon the godly 
and ungodly, every thing furthering the eternal 
good of the one, and the ruin of the other, it can- 
not but be acknowledged a most important case, in 
which every soul is deeply concerned, whether the 
providences under which he is, be sanctified to him 
or not. 

For the clearing of which, I shall premise two 
necessary considerations, and then subjoin the 
rules which will be useful for the determination of 
the question. 



216 DIVIWE CONDUCT OR 

1. Let it be considered, that we cannot know 
from the matter of the things before us, whether 
they be sanctified or unsanctified to us ; for so con- 
sidered, " All things come alike to all ; and no man 
knoweth either love or hatred by all the things that 
are before him," Eccles. ix. 1, 2. We cannot un- 
derstand the mind and heart of God by the things 
he dispenseth with his hand. If prosperous pro- 
vidences befall us, we cannot say, Herein is a sure 
sign that God loves me; for who hath more of 
those providences than the people of his wrath ^ 
"They have more than their hearts can wish, 
Psal. Ixxiii. 7. Sure that must be a weak evidence 
for heaven, which accompanies so great a part of 
the world to hell. 

By these things we may testify our love to God ; 
but, from ten thousand such enjoyments, we can- 
not get any solid assurance of his love to us. 

And from these adverse, afflictive providences, 
we cannot know God's hatred. If afflictions, 
great afflictions, many afflictions, long-continued 
afflictions, should set a brand, or fix a character of 
God's hatred upon the persons on whom they fall, 
where then shall we find God's people in the 
world ? We must then seek out the proud, vain, 
sensual wantons of the world, who spend their 
days in pleasure, and say, These are the men whom 
God loves. 

Outward things are promiscuously dispensed, 
and no man's spiritual estate is discernible by the 
view of his temporal. When God draws the 
sword, it may " cut off the righteous as well as the 
wicked," Ezek. xxi. 3. 

2. Though the providences of God materially 
considered, afford no evidences of God's love to us, 
yet the manner in wliich they befall us, and the 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 217 

effects and fruits they produce in us, distinguish 
them very manifestly, and by them we may dis- 
cern, whether they be sanctified providences, and 
fruits of the love of God, or not. But yet these 
effects and fruits of providences, by which we dis- 
cern their nature, do not always presently appear; 
but time must be allowed for the soul's exercise 
under them. " Now no affliction for the present 
seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless 
afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of right- 
eousness unto them which are exercised thereby," 
Heb. xii. 11. 

The benefit of a providence is discerned as that 
of a medicine is ; for the present it gripes, and 
makes the stomach sick and loathing, but after- 
wards we find the benefit of it, in our recovery of 
health and cheerfulness. Now, the providences 
of God being some of them comfortable, and others 
sad and grievous to nature, and the way to discern 
the sanctification and blessing of them being by the 
manner in which they come, and their operations 
upon our spirits, I shall consider the case as it 
respects both sorts of providences, and show you 
what effects of our troubles or comforts will speak 
them to be sanctified and blessed to us. 

And, first, for sad and afflictive providences, in 
what kind or degree soever they befall us, we may 
warrantably conclude they are blessings to us, and 
come from the love of God, when, 

(1.) They come in a proper season, when we 
have need of them, either to prevent some sin we 
are falling into, or recover us out of a remiss, su- 
pine, and careless frame of spirit, into which we 
are fallen. " If need be, ye are in heaviness," 
1 Pet. i. 6. Certainly it is a good sign, that God 
designs your good by those troubles which are so 
19 



218 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

fitted and wisely ordered to suit the opportunity. 
If you see the husbandman lopping a tree in the 
proper season, it argues he aims at the fruitfu'ness 
and flourishing of it ; but, to do the same thing at 
midsummer, speaks no regard to it, yea, his design 
to destroy it. 

(2.) When they are fitted both for quality and 
degree, to work properly upon our predominant 
corruptions, then they look like sanctified strokes. 
The wisdom of God is much seen in the choice of 
his rods. It is not any kind of trouble that will 
work upon, and purge every sin ; but, when God 
sends such afflictions as, like medicine, are appro- 
priated to the disease the soul labours under, this 
speaks divine care and love. Thus, we may ob- 
serve, it is usual with God to smite us in those 
very comforts which stole away too much of the 
lo\ e and delight of our souls from God ; to cross 
us in tliose things from which we raised up too 
great ex{)ectations of comfort. These providences 
speak the jealousy of God over us, and his care to 
prevent iar worse evils by these sad but needful 
strokes. And so for the degrees of our troubles, 
sanctified strokes are ordinarily fitted by the wis- 
dom of God to the strength and ability of grace 
within us. "In measure when it shooteth forth, 
thou wilt debate with it; he stayeth his rough 
wind in the day of the east wind," Isa. xxvii. 8. 
It is an allusion to a physician, who exactly weighs 
and measures all the ingredients which he mingles 
in a potion for his sick patient, that it may be 
proportionate to his strength, and no more ; and so 
much the next words intimate : " By this, there- 
fore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged." 

(3.) It is a good sign our troubles are sanctified 
to JOS when they turn our hearts against sin, and 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 219 

not against God. There are few great afflictions 
which befall men that do not make them quarrel- 
some and discontented. Wicked men quarrel with 
God, and are filled with discontent against him. 
So the Scripture describes them : " they were 
scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name 
of God which hath power over these plagues," 
Rev. xvi. 9. But godly men, to whom afflictions 
are sanctified, justify God, and fall out with sin, 
they condemn themselves, and give glory to God. 
" O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but 
unto us confusion of faces," &c., Dan. ix. 7. 
" Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man 
for the punishment of his sins?" Lam. iii. 39. 
Happy afflictions, which make the soul fall out 
and quarrel only with sin. 

(4.) It is a sure sign afflicting providences are 
sanctified when they purge the heart from sin, and 
leave both heart and life more pure, heavenly, 
mortified, and humble than they found them. 
Sanctified afflictions are cleansers, they pull down 
the pride, refine the earthliness, and purge out the 
vanity of the spirit. So you read, Dan. xi. 35, it 
purifies and makes their souls white. Hence it is 
compared to a furnace, which separates the dross 
from the pure metal. "Behold I have refined 
thee, but not with silver ; I have chosen thee in 
the furnace of affliction," Isa. xlviii. 10. But, for 
wicked men, let them be ever so long in the fur- 
nace, they lose no dross, Ezek. xxiv. 6. How 
many Christians can bear witness to this truth ! 
Afi;er some sharp affliction hath been upon them, 
how is the earthliness of their hearts purged. 
They see no beauty, taste no more relish in the 
world, than in the white of an egg. Oh, how se- 
rious, humble, and heavenly are they^ till the im- 



220 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

pressions made upon them by afflictions be worn 
off and their deceitful lusts have again entangled 
them ! And this is the reason why we are so often 
under the discipline of the rod. Let a Christian, 
saith a late writer, be but two or three years with- 
out an affliction, and he is hardly good for any 
thing ; he cannot pray nor meditate, nor discourse 
as he was wont to do ; but, when a new affliction 
comes, then he can find his tongue, and comes to 
his knees again, and lives at another rate. 

(5.) It is a good sign afflictive providences are 
sanctified to us, when we draw near to God under 
them, and " turn to him that smites us." A 
wicked man under affliction " revolts more and 
more," Isa. i. 5, " turns not to him that smites 
him," Isa. ix. 13, but grows worse than before: 
formality is turned into stupidity and indolence. 

But if God afflict his own people with a sanc- 
tified rod, it awakens them to a more earnest seek- 
ing of God ; it makes them pray more frequently, 
spiritually, and fervently, than ever. When Paul 
was buffeted by Satan, he " besought the Lord 
thrice," 2 Cor. xii. 8. 

(6.) We may conclude our afflictions to be sanc- 
tified, and to come from the love of (rod to us, 
when they do not alienate our hearts from God, 
but inflame our love to him. This is a sure rule; 
whatever ends in the increase of our love to God, 
proceeds from the love of God to us. A wicked 
man finds his heart rising against God when he 
smites him, but a gracious heart cleaves the closer 
to him ; he can love as well as justify an afflicting 
God. " All this is come upon us ; yet have we 
not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in 
thy covenant ; our heart is not turned back, neither 
have our steps declined from thy way ; though 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 221 

thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, 
and covered us with the shadow of death," Psal. 
xhv. 17 — 19. Here you have a true account of 
the temper and frame of a gracious soul under the 
greatest afflictions. To be " broken in the place 
of dragons, and covered with the shadow of death," 
imports the most dismal state of affliction ; yet 
even then a gracious heart turns not back, that is, 
doth not for all this abate one drachm of love to 
God : God is as good and dear to him in afflictions 
as ever. 

(7.) We may call our afflictions sanctified when 
divine teachings accompany them to our souls. 
"Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O 
Lord, and teachest him out of thy law," Psal. xciv. 
12. Sanctified afflictions are eye-salves; they 
teach us sensibly and effectually, when the Spirit 
accompanies them, the evil of sin, the vanity of 
the creature, the necessity of securing things that 
cannot be shaken. Never doth a Christian take a 
truer measure both of his corruptions and graces 
than under the rod. Now a man sees that filthi- 
ness which hath been long contracted in prosperity, 
what interest the creature hath in the heart, how 
little faith, patience, resignation and self-denial we 
can find, when God calls us to the exercise of them, 
O it is a blessed sign that trouble is sanctified, which 
mikes a man thus turn in upon his own heart, 
search it, and humble himself before the Lord for 
the evils of it ! 

In the next place, let us take into consideration 
those other providences which are comfortable and 
pleasant. Sometimes they smile upon us in suc- 
cesses, prosperity, and the gratification of the de- 
sires of our hearts. Here the question will be, 
how the sanctificaiion of these providences may bo 
19* 



222 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

discovered to us. For resolution to this matter, I 
shall, for clearness' sake, lay down two sorts of 
rules ; one negative, the other positive. 

First, 7iegative. 1. It is a sign that comfort is 
not sanctified to us which comes not, ordinarily, in 
the way of prayer. " The wicked boasteth of his 
heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom 
the Lord abhorreth. The wicked, through the 
pride of his countenance, will not seek after God : 
God is not in all his thoughts," Psal. x. 3, 4. 
Here you see Providence may give men their 
hearts' desire, and yet they never once open their 
desires to God in prayer about it. But then those 
gifts of providence are only such as are bestowed 
on the worst of men, and are not the fruits of love. 

2. Whatever success, prosperity, or comfort, 
men acquire by sinful mediums and indirect cour- 
ses, are not sanctified mercies to them. This is 
not the method in which those mercies are be- 
stowed. "Better is a little with righteousness, 
than great revenues without right," Prov. xvi. 8. 
Better upon this account that it comes in God's 
way, and with his blessing, which never follows 
the way of sin. Grod hath cursed the ways of sin, 
and no blessing can ibllow them. 

3. Whatever prosperity or success makes men 
forget fiod, and cast off* the cai-e of duty, is not 
sanctified to them. It is unsanctificd prosperity 
which lulls men asleep into a deep oblivion of 
God. " He made him ride on the high places of 
the earth, that he might eat the inci-ease of the 
fields ; and he made him to suck honey out of the 
rock, and oil out of the flinty rock, butter of kine, 
and milk of sheep, fat of lambs, and rams of the 
breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys 
of wheat, and thou didst drink the pure blood of the 



TIIE MYSTERY OP PROVIDENCE. 223 

grape ; but Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked ; thou 
art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art co- 
vered with fatness : then he forsook God which 
made him, and Hghtly esteemed the rock of his sal- 
vation. Of the rock that begat thee, thou art un- 
mindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee,'* 
Deut. xxxii. 13 — 18. The rich are rarely grate- 
ful. 

4. When prosperity is abused to sensuality, and 
merely serves as fuel to maintain fleshly lusts, it is 
not sanctified. " They send forth their little ones 
like a flock, and their children dance. They take 
the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of 
the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and 
in a moment go down to the grave," Job xxi. 
11—13. 

5. It is a sign that prosperity is not sanctified to 
men, when it swells the heart with pride and self- 
conceit, like Nebuchadnezzar. " At the end of 
twelve months he walked in the palace of the king- 
dom of Babylon. The king spake and said, Is not 
this great Babylon that I have built for the house 
of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for 
the honour of my majesty ?" Dan. iv. 29, 30. 

6. That success is not sanctified to men which 
takes them off their duty, and makes them wholly 
negligent, or very much indisposed to it. " O gene- 
ration, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been 
a wilderness unto Israel ? A land of darkness ? 
Wherefore say my people. We are lords, we will 
come no more unto thee]" Jer. ii. 31. 

7. Nor can we think that prosperity sanctified 
which wholly swallows up the souls of men in 
their own enjoyments, and makes them regardle&s 
of public miseries or sins. " They lie upon beds 
of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches. 



224 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves 
out of the midst of the stall. They chant to the 
sound of the viols, and invent to themselves instru- 
ments of music like David. They drink \vine in 
bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief oint- 
ments ; but they are not grieved for the affliction 
of Joseph,*' Amos vi. 4 — 6. 

Second, positively. 1 . Those mercies and com- 
forts are undoubtedly sanctified to men, which 
humble their souls kindly before God, in the sense 
of their own vileness and unworthiness of them. 
Thus Jacob said, " I am not worthy of the least of 
all thy mercies," &c.. Gen. xxxii. 10. 

2. Sanctified mercies are commonly turned into 
cautions against sin, Ezra ix. 13, they are so many 
bands of restraint upon the soul that hath them to 
make them shun sin. 

3. They will engage a man's heart in love to the 
God of his mercies; see Psal. xviii. 1, compared 
with the title. 

4. They never satisfy a man as his portion, nor 
will the soul accept all the prosperity in the world, 
upon that score : like Moses, " esteeming the re- 
proach of Christ greater riches than the treasures 
in Egypt : for he had respect unto the recomj^ense 
of the reward," Heb. xi. 26. 

5. Nor do they make men regardless of public 
sins or miseries ; see Neh. ii. 1 — 3, compared with 
Acts vii. 23. 

6. It is a sure sign that mercies are sanctified 
when they make the soul more ready and enlarged 
for God in duty. " Therefore the Lord establish- 
ed the kingdom in his hand, and all Judah brought 
to Jehoshaphat presents, and he had riches and 
honour in abundance, and his heart was lifted up 
in the ways of the Lord," &c., 2 Chron. xvii. 5, 6. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 225 

7. That which is obtained by prayer, and re- 
turned to God again in due pmise, carries its own 
testimonials with it, that it came from the love of 
God, and is a sanctified mercy to the soul. And 
so much for this third case. 

Fourth case. How may we attain unto an even- 
ness and steadiness of spirit, under the changes 
and contrary aspects of Providence upon us 1 

Three things are supposed in this case. 

1. That Providence hath various and contrary 
aspects upon the people of God. 

2. That it is a common thing with them to expe- 
rience great disordei's of spirit under those 
changes of Providence. 

3. That these disorders may be, at least in a great 
measure, prevented by the due use and applica- 
tion of those rules and helps that God hath given 
us in such cases. 

1. That Providence hath various, yea, contrary 
aspects upon the people of God, is a case so plain, 
that it needs no more than the mentioning, to let it 
in to all our understandings. Who of ail the 
people of God have not felt this truth 1 Providence 
rings the changes all the world over : " He in- 
creaseth the nations, and destroyeth them ; he en- 
largeth the nations, and straiteneth them again," 
Job xii. 23. The same it doth with persons: 
"Thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down," 
Psal. cii. 10. See what a sad alteration Providence 
made upon the church : " How doth the city sit 
solitary that was full of people ! How is she be- 
come as a widow ! She that was great among the 
nations, and princess among the provinces, how 
is she become tributary ! Is it nothing to you, all 
ye that pass by ? Behold and see if there be any 
sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto 



226 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the 
day of his fierce anger," Lam. i. 1. 12. And how 
great an instance was Job of this truth ! See Job 
xxix, compared with chap. xxx. How many- 
thousands have complained with Naomi, whose 
condition hath been so strongly altered that others 
have said, as the people of Bethlehemdid of her, 
« Is this Naomi," Ruth i. 19—21. 

2. These vicissitudes of Providence commonly 
cause great disorders of spirit in the best of men. As 
intense heat and cold try the strength and sound- 
ness of the constitution of our bodies, so the altera- 
tions made by Providence upon our conditions try 
the strength of our graces, and too often discover 
the weakness and corruption of holy men. Heze- 
kiah was a good man ; but yet his weakness and 
corruption was discovered by the alterations Pro- 
vidence made upon his condition. When sick- 
ness and pains summoned him to the grave, what 
bitter complaints and despondencies are recorded ! 
See Isa. xxxviii. And when Providence lifted him 
up again into a prosperous condition, what osten- 
tation and vain-glory did he discover ! Isa. xxxix 
2. David had more than a common stock of in- 
herent grace, yet not enough to keep him in an 
equal temper of spirit under great alterations. In 
my prosperity, I said, I shall never be moved ; 
thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled, Psal. 
xxx. 6, 7. It is not every man that can say with 
Paul, " I know both how to be abased, and I know 
how to abound ; every where, and in all things I 
am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both 
to abound and to suffer need," Phil. iv. 12. He is 
truly rich in grace, whose riches or poverty neither 
hinders the acting nor impoverishes the stock of his 
graces. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 227 

Though the best men be subject to such disor- 
ders of heart under the changes of Providence, yet 
these disorders may, in a great measure, be pre- 
vented by the due appHcation of such rules and 
helps as God hath given us in such cases. 

Now these helps are suited to a threefold aspect 
of providence upon us, namely, 1. Comfortable — 
2. Calamitous — 3. Doubtful ; to all which I shall 
speak particularly and briefly. 

Question 1. How may we attain to an even- 
ness and steadiness of heart under the comfortable 
aspects of Providence upon us 1 

Under providences of this kind, the great dan- 
ger is, lest the heart be lifted up with pride and 
vanity, and fall into a drowsy and remiss temper. 
To prevent this, we had need to urge humbling 
and awakening considerations upon our heart; 
such are these that follow. 

(1.) These gifts of Providence are common to 
the worst of men, and are no special distinguishing 
fruits of God's love. The vilest of men have been 
filled even to satiety with these things. " Their 
eyes stand out with fatness ; they have more than 
heart could wish," Psal. Ixxiii. 7. 

(2.) Think how unstable and changeable all 
these things are. What you glory in to-day may 
be none of yours to-morrow. " Riches make them- 
selves wings, and flee away, as an eagle towards 
heaven," Prov. xxiii. 5. As the wings of a fowl 
grow out of the substance of the body, so the 
cause of the creature's transitoriness is in itself; 
it is subjected to vanity, and that vanity, like 
wings, carries it away. They are but fading flowers, 
James i. 10. 

(3.) The changes of providences are never nearei 



228 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

to the people of God, than when their hearts are 
lifted up or grown secure by prosperity. Doth 
Hezexiah glory in his treasures ? The next news 
he hears is of an impoverishing providence at hand, 
Isa. xxxix. 2 — 7. Others may be left to perish in 
unsanctified prosperity, but you shall not. 

^4.) This is a great discovery of the carnality 
ana corruption that is in thy heart : it argues a 
heart little set on God, little mortified to the world, 
little acquainted with the vanity and ensnaring na- 
ture of these things. 0, you know not what hearts 
you have till such providences try them ; and is 
not such a discovery matter of deep humiliation 1 

(5.) Was it not better with you in a low con- 
dition than it is now ? Reflect, and compare state 
with state, and time with time. How is the frame 
of your hearts altered with the alteration of your 
condition ! So God complains of Israel : " I did 
know thee in the wilderness — ^the land of drought. 
According to their pasture, so were they filled; 
they were filled, and their heart was exalted, there- 
fore have they forgotten me," saith the Lord, Hos, 
xiii. 5, 6 : as if he had said. You and I were bet- 
ter acquainted formerly, whien you were in a low 
condition ; prosperity hath estranged you, and al- 
tered the case. How sad is it, that God's mercies 
should be the occasion of our estrangement fix)m 
him! 

Question 2. Upon the other side, it is worth 
considering, how our hearts may be established 
and kept steady under calamitous and adverse pro- 
vidences. 

Here we are in equal danger of the other ex- 
treme—despondency and sinking under the frowns 
and strokes of cross providences. Now to sup- 



THE MYSTERY OP PHOVIDENCE. 229 

port and establish the heart in this case take three 

helps. 

(1.) Consider, that afflictive providences are of 
great use to the people of God ; they cannot live 
without them. The earth doth not more need 
chastening frosts and mellowing snows, than our 
hearts do nipping providences. Let the best 
Christian be but for a few years without them, 
and he will be sensible of the want of them ; he 
will find a sad remission and declining of all his 
graces. 

(2.) No stroke or calamity upon the people of 
God can separate them from Christ : "Who shall 
separate us from the love of Christ ? shall tribula- 
tion ]" Rom. viii. 25. There was a time when 
Job could call nothing in this world but trouble his 
own : he could not say, my estate, my honour, 
my health, my children ; for all these were gone ; 
yet then he could say, " my Redeemer," Job xix. 
25. Well, then, there is no cause to sink whilst 
interest in Christ remains sure to us. 

(3.) All your calamities will have an end shortly. 
The longest day of the saints' troubles has an end, 
and then no more troubles for ever. The troubles 
of the wicked will be to eternity ; but you shall 
" suffer but awhile," 1 Pet. v. 13. If a thousand 
troubles be appointed for you, they will come to one 
at last, and after that no more : yea, and though 
our troubles " be but a moment, yet they work for 
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of 
glory," 2 Cor. iv. 1. Let that support your hearts 
under all your sufferings. 

Question 3. Let us consider what may be use- 
ful to support and quiet our hearts under doubtful 
providences, when our dear concerns hang in a 
doubtful suspense before us, and we know not 
20 



230 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

which way the providence of God will cast and 
determine them. 

Now the best hearts are apt to grow solicitous 
and pensive, distracted with thoughfulness, about 
the event and issue. To relieve and settle us in 
this case, the following considerations are very 
useful. 

(1.) Let us consider the vanity and inutility of 
such a solicitude: "Which of you," saith our 
Lord, " by taking thought can add one cubit unto 
his stature?" Matt. vi. 27. We may break our 
peace, and waste our spirits, but not alter the case. 
We cannot turn God out of his way : " He is in 
one mind," Job xxiii. 13. We may, by struggling 
against God increase, but not avoid, or lighten our 
troubles. 

(2.) How often do we afflict and torment our- 
selves by our own unquiet thoughts, when there 
is no real cause or ground for so doing ! " Thou 
hast feared continually every day, because of the 
fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to des- 
troy ; &nd where is the fury of the oppressor /" 
Isa. li. 13. Oh what abundance of disquiet and 
trouble might we prevent, by waiting quietly till 
we see the issues of providence, and not bringing, 
as we do, the evils of the morrow upon the day ! 

(3.) What a great ground of quietness is it, that 
the whole disposal and management of all our af- 
fairs and concerns is in the hand of our own God 
and Father! No creature can touch us without 
his commission or permission. " I know," saith 
Christ, " thou couldst have no power against me, 
except it were given thee from above," John xix. 
11. Neither men nor devils can act any thing 
without God's leave ; and be sure he will sign no 
order to your prejudice. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 231 

(4.) What a great satisfaction must it be to all 
that believe the Divine authority of the Scriptures, 
that the faithfulness of God stands engaged for 
every line and syllable found therein ! And how 
many blessed lines in the Bible may vk^e mark that 
respect even our outward concerns, and the happy 
issue of them all ! Upon these two grounds, that 
our outward concerns, with their steady direction 
to a blessed end, are found in the word ; and this 
word being of Divine authority, the faithfulness 
and honour of God stands good for every tittle that 
is found there ; I say, upon these grounds is such 
stability, that our minds may repose with the 
greatest security and confidence upon them, even 
in the cloudiest day of trouble. Not only your 
eternal salvation, but your temporal interests are 
there secured. Be quieted, therefore, in the con- 
fidence of a blessed issue. 

(5.) How great and sure an expedient have the 
saints ever found it to their own peace, to commit 
all doubtful issues of providence to the Lord, and 
devolve all their cares upon him ! " Commit thy 
works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be 
established," Prov. xvi. 3. By works he means 
any doubtful, intricate, perplexing business, about 
which our thoughts are racked and tortured. Roll 
all these upon the Lord by faith, leave them with 
him, and the present, immediate benefit you shall 
have by it, (besides the comfort in the last issue) 
shall be tranquillity and peace in your thoughts 
And who is there of any standing or experience in 
religion that hath not found it so ] 

Fifth case. How may a Christian work his 
heart into a resigned frame to the will of God, 
when sad providences approach him, and presage 



232 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

great troubles and afflictions coming on towards 
him? 

For the right stating and resolving of this impor- 
tant case it will be needful to show, 1. What is not 
included and intended in the question ; 2. What it 
doth sup|X)se and include in it ; and, 3. What helps 
and directions are necessary for the due perform- 
ance of this great and difficult duty. 

1. Negatively. It must be premised, that the 
question doth not suppose the heart or will of a 
Christian to be at his own command and disposal 
in this matter ; we cannot resign it and subject it 
to the will of God whenever we desire so to do. 
The duty indeed is ours, but the power by which 
alone we perform it is God's : we act as we are 
actuated by the Spirit. It is with our hearts, as 
with meteors hanging in the air by the influence of 
the sun ; while that continues, they abide above ; 
but when it fails, they fall to the earth. We can 
do this, and all things else, be they ever so diffi- 
cult, " through Christ that strengthens us," Phil, 
iv. 13; "but without him we can do nothing," 
John XV. 5. He doth not say. Without me ye can 
do but little ; or. Without me ye can do nothing, 
but with great difficulty ; or. Without me ye can do 
nothing perfectly ; but. Without me ye can do no- 
thing at all. And every Christian hath a witness 
in his own breast to attest this truth ; for there are 
cases frequently occurring in the methods of Pro- 
vidence, in which, notwithstanding all their prayers 
and desires, all their reasonings and strivings, they 
caimot quiet their hearts fully in the disposal and 
will of God ; but, on the contrary, they find all 
their endeavours in this matter to be but as the 
rolUng of a returning stone against the hill. Till God 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 233 

say to the heart, Be still ; and to the will, Give up, 
nothing can be done. 

2. Affirmatively. Let us consider what this 
case doth suppose and include in it, and we shall 
find. 

[1.] That it supposes the people of God to have 
a foresight of troubles and distresses approaching 
and drawing near to them. I confess it is not 
always so, for many of our afflictions, as well as 
comforts, come by way of surprises upon us ; but 
oftentimes we have forewarnings of troubles both 
public and personal, before we feel them : as the 
weather may be discerned by the face of the sky. 
When we see a morning sky red and lowering, this 
is a natural sign of a foul and rainy day. Matt. 
xvi. 3. And there are as certain signs of the times 
whereby we may discern when trouble is near, 
even at the door ; and these forewarnings are given 
by the Lord to awaken us to our duties, by which 
they may either be prevented, Zeph. ii. 1, 2, or 
sanctified and sweetened to us when they come. 
These signs and notices of approaching troubles 
are gathered, partly from the observation and colla- 
tion of parallel Scripture cases and examples, God 
generally holding one tenor and steady course in 
the administration of his providences in all ages, 
1 Cor. X. 6; partly from the reflections Christians 
make upon the frames and tempers of their own 
hearts, which greatly need awakening, humbling, 
and purging providences ; for let a Christian be but 
a few years or months without a rod, and how 
formal, earthly, dead, and vain will his heart grow ! 
And such a temper presages affliction to them that 
are beloved of the Lord. Lastly, The ordering 
and disposing of the next causes into a posture and 
20* 



234 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

preparation for our trouble, plainly premonishes 
us, that trouble is at the door. Thus, when the 
symptoms of sickness begin to appear upon our 
own bodies, the wife of our bosom, or our children, 
(which are as our own souls,) Providence herein 
awakens our expectations of death and doleful sepa- 
rations : so when enemies combine together, and 
plot the ruin of our liberties, estates, or lives, and 
God seems to loose the bridle of restraint upon 
their necks, now we cannot but be alarmed with 
the near approach of troubles, especially when, at 
the same time, our consciences reflect ujxjn the 
abuse and non-improvement of these our threatened 
comforts. 

[2.] The case before us supposes that these pre- 
monitions and forerunners of affliction do usually 
very much disturb the order, and break the peace 
of our souls; they put the mind under great dis- 
composure, the thoughts under much distraction, 
and the affections into tumults and rebellion. 

Ah ! how unwilling are we to surrender to the 
Lord the loan which he lent us! to be disquieted 
by troubles, when at ease in our enjoyments ! How 
unwelcome are the messengers of affliction to the 
best of men ! We are ready to say to them as the 
widow to Elijah, " What have I to do with thee, 
O thou man (O messenger) of God ? art thou come 
unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay 
my son?" 1 Kings xvii. 18. And this ariseth 
partly from the remains of corruption in the best 
souls; for though every sanctified person is come 
by his own consent into the kingdom, and under 
the government and sceptre of Christ, and every 
thought of his heart must of right be subjected to 
him 2 Cor. x. 5, yet the conquest and power of 



THE MY3TERY OF PROVIDENCE. 235 

grace is but incomplete, and in part; and natural 
corruption, like Jeroboam with his vain men, riseth 
up against it, and causeth many mutinies in the 
soul, whilst grace, like young Abijah, is weak- 
handed, and cannot resist them ; and partly from 
the advantage Satan makes of the season to irritate 
and assist our corruptions: he knows that what 
is already in motion is the more easily moved. 
In this confusion and hurry of thoughts he undis- 
cernedly shuffles in his temptations; sometimes 
aggravating the evils which we fear, with all the 
sinking and overwhelming circumstances imagina- 
ble ; sometimes divining and forecasting such events 
and evils, as, haply, never fall out; sometimes 
repining at the disposals of God, as more severe to 
us than to others ; and sometimes reflecting with 
very unbelieving and unworthy thoughts upon the 
promises of God, and his faithfulness in them ; by 
all which the affliction is made to sink deep into 
the soul before it actually comes ; the thoughts are 
so disordered, that duty cannot be duly performed ; 
and the soul is really weakened and disabled to 
bear its trial when it comes indeed : just as if a 
man should be kept waking and restless all the 
night with the thoughts of his hard journey which 
he must travel to-morrow ; and so when to-morrow 
is come, he faints for want of rest, midway on his 
journey. 

[3.] It is here supposed to be the Christian's 
great duty, under the apprehensions of approach- 
ing troubles, to resign his will to God's, and quietly 
commit the events and issues of all to him, what- 
ever they may prove. Thus did David in the like 
case and circumstances : " And the king said unto 
Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city. 



236 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he 
will bring me back again, and show me both it 
and his habitation : but if he thus say, I have no 
delight in thee, behold here am I, let him do to 
me as seemeth good unto him," 2 Sam. xv. 25, 
26. 

Oh, lovely and truly Christian temper ! As if 
he had said. Go, Zadok, return with the ark to its 
place : though I have not the symbol, yet I hope I 
shall have the real presence of God with me in this 
sad journey : how he will dispose the events of 
this sad and doubtful providence, I know not; 
either I shall return again to Jerusalem, or I shall 
not : if I do, then I shall see it again, and enjoy 
the Lord in his ordinances there : if I do not, then 
I shall go to that place where there is no need or 
use of those things ; and either way it will be well 
for me. I am content to refer all to the Divine 
pleasure, and commit the issue, be it whatever it 
will, to the Lord. 

Till our hearts come to the like resolve, we can 
have no peace within. " Commit thy works unto 
the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established," 
Prov. xvi. 3. By works he means not only every 
enterprise and busmess we undertake, but every 
puzzling, intricate, and doubtful event we fear. 
These being once committed by an act of faith, and 
our wills resigned unto his, besides the comfort we 
shall have in the issue, we shall have the present 
advantage of a well composed and peaceful spirit. 

But this resignation is the difficulty. No doubt 
of peace, could we once bring our hearts to that. 
And therefore, 

[4.] I shall here subjoin such helps and direc- 
tions, as may, through God's blessing, in the iaith* 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 237 

ful use of them, assist and facilitate this great and 
difficult work. 

First help. Labour to work into your hearts a 
deep and fixed sense of the infinite wisdom of 
God, and your own folly and ignorance. This 
will make resignation easy to you. Whatsoever 
the Lord doth is by counsel, Eph, i. 11, his un- 
derstanding is infinite, Psal. cxlvii. 5, his thoughts 
are very deep, Psal. xcii. 5, but, as for man, yea, 
the wisest among men, how little doth his under- 
standing penetrate the works and designs of Pro- 
vidence ! And how often are we forced to retract 
our rash opinions, and confess our mistakes ; ac- 
knowledging, that if Providence had not seen with 
better eyes than ours, and looked further than we 
did, we had precipitated ourselves into a thousand 
mischiefs, which, by its wisdom and care, we 
have escaped. It is well for us that the seven eyes 
of Providence are ever awake, and looking out for 
our good. Now, if one creature can and ought to 
be guided and governed by another that is more 
wise and skilful than himself, as the client by his 
learned counsel, the patient by his skilful physi- 
cian, much more should every creature give up his 
weak reason, and shallow understanding, to the 
infinite wisdom of the omniscient God. 

It is nothing but our pride and arrogance, over- 
ruling our understandings, that makes resignation 
so hard. Carnal reason seems to itself a wise dis- 
putant about the concerns of the flesh, but how 
often hath Providence baflied it. The more humi- 
lity, the more resignation. 

How few of our mercies and comforts have been 
foreseen by us ! Our own projects have come to 
nothing, and that which we never thought on, or 



238 DIVINE CONDUCT OB 

contrived, hath taken place. Not our choice of the 
ground, nor skill in weighing and delivering the 
bowl, but some unforeseen providence, like a rub 
in the green, was that which made the cast. 

Second hdp. Deeply consider the sinfulness 
and vanity of torturing your own thoughts about 
the issues of doubtful providences. 

1 . There is much sin in so doing : for all our 
anxious and solicitous emotions, what else are they 
than the immediate issues and fruits of pride and 
unbelief? 

There is not a greater discovery of pride in the 
world than in the contests of our wills with the 
will of God. It is a presumptuous invading of 
God's prerogative to dictate to his providence, and 
prescribe to his wisdom. 

2. There is a great deal of vanity in it : all the 
thoughtfulness in the world will not make one hair 
white or black ; all our discontents will not prevail 
with God to call back, or (as the word may be 
rendered,) make void his word, Isa. xxxi. 2. He 
is in one mind. Job xxiii. 13. The thoughts of his 
mind are from everlasting, Psal. xxxiii. 11. 

Third help. Set before you those choice Scrip- 
ture patterns of submission to the Lord's will, in 
as deep, yea, much deeper points of self-denial than 
this before you, and shame yourselves out of this 
quarrelling temper with Providence. 

You know what a close trial that providence 
was to Abraham, that called him from his native 
country and father's house, to go he knew not 
whither ; and yet it is said in Isaiah xli. 2, " He 
came to God's foot," as readily obeying his call, 
as a servant when his master knocks for him with 
his foot. 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 239 

Paul's voyage to Jerusalem had a dismal aspect 
upon himself; he could expect nothing but bonds 
and afflictions as he tells us, Acts xx. 23. And a 
great trial it was to the saints, who could not tell 
how to give up such a minister, yet he resigns up 
his will to God's, and so do they. Acts xxi. 14, 
" The will of the Lord be done." 

But far beyond these, and all other patterns, 
what an example hath our dear Lord Jesus set be- 
fore us in the deepest point of self-denial that ever 
was in the world, when the Father gave the cup of 
suffering into his hand in the garden, Mark xiv. 
36, a cup of wrath, the wrath of the great and ter- 
rible God, and that without mixture ; the very taste 
whereof put nature into an agony and astonish- 
ment, a sore amazement, a bloody sweat, and 
forced from him that vehement and sad cry, " Fa- 
ther, if it be possible, let this cup pass ;" yet still, 
with submission, " nevertheless, not my will, but 
thine be done." Oh, blessed pattern of obedience 
and resignation to the pleasure of God ! What is 
your case to this? 

Fourth Jielp. Study the singular benefits and 
advantages of a will resigned to, and melted into 
the will of God. 

1. Such a spirit hath a continual sabbath within 
itself: the thoughts are established, Prov. xvi. 3. 
And truly, till a man come to this he doth but too 
much resemble the devil, who is a restless spirit, 
seeking rest but finding none. 

It was an excellent expression of Luther, to one 
that was much perplexed in his spirit about the 
doubtful events of some affairs of his that v/ere 
then pending ; "The Lord shall do all for thee, and 
thou shalt do nothing, but be the Sabbath of Christ." 



240 DIVINE CONDUCT OB 

It is by this means that the Lord gives his beloved 
sleep, Psal. cxxvii. 2. He means not the sleep of 
the body, but of the spirit. Though believers live 
in the midst of many troubles here, yet with quiet 
and composed minds they keep themselves in the 
silence of faith, as though they were asleep. 

2. Besides, it fits a man's spirit for communion 
with God in all his afflictions, and this alleviates 
and sweetens them beyond any thing in the world. 

3. And surely a man is never nearer the mercy 
he desires, or the deliverance he expects, (as one 
truly observes,) than when his soul is brought into 
a submissive temper. David was never nearer the 
kingdom than when he became as a weaned child. 

Fifth liclp. Lastly, think how repugnant an un- 
submissive temper is, both to your prayers and 
professions. You pray that the will of God may 
be done on earth as it is in heaven, and yet, when 
it seems to cross your wills or interests, you strug- 
gle and fret against it. You profess to have com- 
mitted your souls to his keeping, and to leave your 
eternal concerns in his hands ; and yet cannot 
commit things, infinitely less valuable, unto him. 
How contradictory are these things ! 

Your profession, as Christians, speaks you to be 
led by the Spirit ; but this practice speaks you to 
follow the perverse counsels of your own spirits. 
O then regret no more, dispute no more, but lie 
down meekly at your Father's feet, and say, in all 
cases, and at all times, the will of the Lord be 
done. 

And thus I have, through the aid of Providence, 
performed what I designed to speak from this 
Scripture. I acknowledge my performances have 
been accompanied with much weakness, yet I have 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE. 241 

endeavoured to speak of Providence the things that 
are right. Blessed be the Lord, who hath thus far 
assisted and protected me in this work. 

How Providence will dispose of my life, liberty, 
and labours, for the time to come, I know not ; but 
I cheerfully commit all to him who hath " per- 
formed all things for me." 



21 



242 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 



POSTSCEIPT. 



In consideration of the great and manifold advan« 
tages resulting from a humble and heedful obsei- 
vation of Providence, I cannot but judge it the con- 
cernment of Christians, who have time and ability 
for such a work, to keep written memorials or jour- 
nals of providences by them, for their own and 
others' use and benefit. For want of collecting 
and communicating such observations, not only 
ourselves, but the churcb of God suffers loss and 
is impoverished. 

Some say the art of medicine was thus acquired 
and perfected. When any one had met with some 
rare medicinal herb, and accidentally discovered 
the virtues of it, he would post it up in some pub- 
lic place ; and so the physician attained his skill 
by a collection of those posted experiments and 
receipts. 

I am not for posting up all that a Christian knows 
or meets with in his experience ; for, as I have 
said before, religion doth not lay all open ; but yet 
there is a prudent, humble, and seasonable com- 
munication of our experiences and observations of 
Providence, which is exceedingly beneficial both 
to ourselves and our brethren. 

If Christians, in reading the Scriptures, would 
judiciously collect and record the providences they 
meet with there ; and, if destitute of other helps, 
they would but add those that have fallen out in 
their own time and experience. Oh what a pre- 
cious treasure would these make ! How would it 
prove an antidote to their souls against the spread- 



THE MYSTERY OF PROVIDENCE, 243 

ing atheism of these days, and satisfy them, beyond 
what many other arguments can do, that " The 
Lord he is God, the Lord he is God." 

While this work was under my hand, I was 
both deHghted and assisted by a pious and useful 
essay of an unknown authoi, (Mr. T. C. in his 
Isagoge,) who hath, to very good purpose, im- 
proved many scriptural passages of providence, 
which seem to lie out of the road of common ob- 
servation ; some passages I have noted out of it, 
which have been sweet to me. O that Christians 
would every where set themselves to such work ! 
Providence carries our lives, liberties, and concerns 
in God's hand every moment. Your bread is in 
his cupboard, your money in his purse, your safety 
in his enfolding arms ; and sure it is the least part 
of what you owe, to record the favours you receive 
at his hands. More particularly, 

1. Trust not your slippery memories with such 
a multitude of remarkable passages of providence 
as you have met, and shall meet with in your way 
to heaven. It is true, things that greatly affect us 
are not easily forgotten by us ; and yet, how com- 
mon is it for new impressions to erase our former 
ones. It was a saying of that worthy man, 
Dr. Harris, " My memory never failed me in 
all my life ; for indeed, I durst never trust it." 
Written memorials secure us against that hazard ; 
and besides, make them useful to others when we 
are gone ; so that you carry not away all your 
treasure to heaven with you, but leave these choice 
legacies to your surviving friends. Certainly it 
were not so great a loss to lose your silver, your 
goods and chattels, as it is to lose your experiences 
which God hath this way given you in this world. 

2. Take heed of clasping up those rich treasures 



244 DIVINE CONDUCT OR 

in a book, and thinking it enough to have noted 
them there ; but have frequent recourse to them as 
often as new wants, fears, or difficulties arise and 
assault you. Now it is seasonable to consider and 
reflect. Was I never so distressed before ? Is this 
the first plunge that ever befell me ? " Let me con- 
sider the days of old, the years of ancient times,*' 
as Asaph did, Psal. Ixxvii. 5. 

3. Beware of slighting former straits and dan- 
gers, in comparison with present ones. That 
which is next us, always appears greatest to us : 
and as time removes us further and further from our 
former mercies or dangers, so they lessen in our 
eyes, just as the land from which they sail, doth 
to seamen. Know that your dangers have been 
as great, and your fears no less formerly than now. 
Make it as much your business to preserve the 
sense and value, as the memory of former provi- 
dences, and the fruit will be sweet to you. 



245 



EXTRACTS FROM THE LAST CHAPTER OF 
THE RIGHTEOUS MAN'S REFUGE. 



THE AGGRAVATIONS OF A WICKED MAN's TROUBLES. 

1. When troubles come upon him, the curse of 
God follows him into his carnal refuges ; " Cursed 
be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh 
his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord," 
Jer. xvii. 5. Trouble is the arrow, and this curse 
the venom of the arrow, which makes the wound 
incurable. 

2. When troubles fall upon him from without, a 
guilty conscience will terrify him from within ; so 
that the mind can give no relief to the body, but 
both sink under their own weights. It is not so 
with the people of God. They have inward relief 
under outward pressures, 2 Cor. iv. 16. 

3. The gusts and storms of wicked men's trou- 
bles may blow them into hell, and hurry them into 
eternal destruction : if death march towards them 
upon the pale horse, hell always follows him, Rev. 
vi. 8. 

4. If troubles and distresses overwhelm their 
hearts, they can give them no vent or ease by 
prayer, faith, and resignation to God, as his people 
use to do. 

5. When their troubles and distresses come, 
then come the hour and power of their tempta- 
tions ; and, to shun sorrow, they will fall into sin, 
having no promise to be kept in the hour of temp- 
tation, as the saints have. Rev. iii. 10. 

21* 



246 EXTRACTS FROM THE 

6. When their troubles come, they will be left 
alone in the midst of them : these are their bur- 
dens, and they alone must bear them. God's gra- 
cious, comfortable, supporting presence is only with 
his own people. 

7. If trouble and death come upon them as a 
storm, they have no anchor of hope to drop in the 
storm ; " The wicked is driven away in his wick- 
edness ; but the righteous hath hope m his death," 
Prov. xiv. 32. By all which it appears that a 
Christless person is a most helpless and shiftless 
creature in the day of trouble. 

REASONS WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD NOT BE DEJECTED. 

1. If thou be in Christ, thy sins are forgiven 
thee ; and why should not a pardoned soul be a 
cheerful soul in adversity 1 Afflictions may buzz 
and hum about thee, like bees that have lost their 
sting, but they can never hurt thee. 

2. If thou be in Christ, thy God is with thee in 
all thy troubles ; and how can thy heart sink or 
faint in such a presence ? Let those who are alone 
in troubles fail under them : but do not thou do so, 
who art surrounded with Almighty power, grace, 
and love, Isa. xliii. 1, 2. 

3. If thou be in Christ, thy greatest afflictions 
shall prove thy best friends and benefactors, Rom. 
viii. 28. Surely then thou art more afraid than 
hurt ; thou mistakest thy best friends for thy worst 
enemies ; thou and thy afflictions shall part more 
comfortably than you met. 

4. If thou be in Christ, thy treasure is safe, thy 
eternal happiness is out of the reach of all thine 
enemies, Luke xii. 4 ; x. 42 : and if that be safe, 
thou hast no cause to be sad. To droop and trem- 
ble at the hazard of earthly comforts, whilst heaven- 



RIGHTEOUS man's REFUGE. 247 

ly and eternal things are safe, is as if a man that 
had obtained his pardon from the king, and had it 
safe in his bosom, should be found weeping upon 
the way home, because he hath lost his staff or 
glove. These reasons are strong against the de- 
jections of God's people under outward troubles ; 
but yet I am sensible that all the reasoning in the 
world will not prevent their dejections, except they 
will take pains to clear up their interest in God 
against such a day, Psal. xviii. 2, and will act their 
faith by way of adherence and dependence upon 
God, in the want of former light and evidence, 
Isa. 1. 10. And lastly, that they keep their con- 
sciences pure and inviolate, which will be a spring 
of comfort in the midst of troubles, 2 Cor. i. 12. 

CHRISTIAN RESIGNATION. 

There are six things implied in Christian resig- 
nation. 

1. An awakened sense of our dangers and haz- 
ards. " At what time I am afraid, I will trust in 
thee," Psal. Ivi. 3. Suffering times are resigning 
times ; " Let them that suffer according to the will 
of God commit the keeping of their souls to him 
in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator," 1 Pet. 
iv. 19. And the greater and nearer our dangers 
are, the more frequent and vigorous should the 
actings of our faith this way be : Be not far from 
me, for trouble is near. 

2. Resignation to God necessarily implies our 
renunciation and disclaiming of all other refuges. 
" Asshur shall not save us, we will not ride upon 
horses, neither will we say any more to the work 
of our hands, Ye are our gods, for in thee the 
fetherless findeth mercy," Hos. xiv. 3. He that 
relies upon God must cease from man j resignation 



248 EXTRACTS FROM THE 

to God excludes not the use of lawful means, but 
it doth exclude dependence upon them. 

3. Resignation to God is always grounded upon 
an interest in God. We have no warrant nor en- 
couragement to expect protection from him in time 
of trouble, except we can come to him as children 
to a father ; it is the filial relation that gives en- 
couragement to this fiducial resignation ; and the 
clearer that relation and interest is, the more bold 
and confident those acts of faith will be ; " Pre- 
serve my soul, for I am holy : O thou, my God, 
save thy servant that trusteth in thee," Psal. Ixxxvi. 
2. And again, " I am thine, save me," Psal. cxix, 
94. I speak not here of the first act of faith which 
flows not from an interest, but gives the soul an 
interest in God. Nor do I say, that poor, doubt- 
ing and timorous believers, whose interest in him 
is dark and dubious, have no warrant to resign 
themselves and their concerns into his hands ; for 
it is both their right and duty to do it : but certainly 
the clearer our interest is, the more easy and com- 
fortable will those acts be. 

4. The committing acts of faith imply a full ac- 
knowledgment and owning of God's power to pro- 
tect us, be the danger ever so imminent ; " My 
times are in thy hand, deliver me from the hands 
of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me," 
Psal. xxxi. 15. This denotes, O Lord, I am fully 
satisfied, my life is not at the disposal of mine 
enemies ; it is not in their hands, but in thine ; all 
the traps and snares they lay for it shall not shorten 
one minute of my time. I know thy hand is fully 
able to protect me, and therefore into thy hands I 
resign myself, and all I have. 

5. Resignation involves in it an expectation of 
help and safety from God, when we see no way of 



KIGHTEOUS man's REFUGE. 249 

security from men, "O Lord," saith Jehoshaphat, 
" we have no might, nor strength, neither know 
we what to do, but our eyes are unto thee," 
2 Chron. xx. 12. So David, " My soul, wait thou 
only upon God ; for my expectation is from 
him : he only is my rock and my salvation ; he is 
my defence; I shall not be moved," Psal. Ixii. 
6, 6. 

6. Resignation to God implies the leaving of our- 
selves, and our concerns with him, to be disposed 
of according to his good pleasure ; the resigning 
soul desires the Lord to do with him what he will, 
and is content to take what lot divine pleasure shall 
cast for him : " And the king said unto Zadok, 
Carry back the ark of God into the city ; if I shall 
find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring 
me again, and show me both it and his habitation ; 
but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold, 
here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto 
him," 2 Sam. xv. 25. 

ENCOURAGEMENTS TO TRUST IN GOD. 

1. The sovereignty and absolute dominion of 
God over all creatures is a singular encouragement 
to commit ourselves into his hands, and trust him 
above all. " Because of his strength will I wait 
upon thee : for God is my defence," Psal. lix. 9. 
If a man were in danger amidst a great army of 
rude and insolent soldiers, and were to put himself 
under the protection of any one, it would be his 
wisdom to choose to do it under the general, who 
had all the soldiers of his army at his beck. Chris- 
tian, thy God, into whose hands thou committest 
thyself, is Lord-General of all the hosts and armies 
in heaven and earth ; how safe art thou then in his 
hands I 



250 EXTRACTS FROM THB 

2. The unsearchable arid perfect wisdom of God 
is a mighty encouragement to commit ourselves 
into his hands ; " With him is plenteous redemp- 
tion," Psal. cxxx. 7, 8, that is, choice and variety 
of ways and methods to save his people. We are, 
but God never is, at a loss to find a door for our 
escape. " The Lord knoweth how to deliver the 
godly out of temptation," 2 Pet. ii. 9. 

3. The infinite tenderness and compassion of our 
God, is a sweet encouragement to resign and com- 
mit ourselves and all we have into his hands ; his 
mercy is incomparably tender towards his people, 
infinitely beyond whatever any creature felt stirring 
within towards his own most beloved child, Isa. 
xlix. 15. This compassion of God engageth the 
two fore-mentioned attributes, namely, his power 
and wisdom, for the preservation and relief of his 
people, as often as distresses befall them. Yea, 

4. The very distresses his people are in do, as 
it were, awake the Almighty power of God for 
their defence and rescue ; our distresses are not 
only proper seasons, but powerful motives to his 
saving power. " For the Lord shall judge his people, 
and repent himself for his servants when he seeth 
that their power is gone, and there is none shut up 
or left," Deut. xxxii. 36. God makes it an argu- 
ment to himself, and his people plead it as an argu- 
ment with him, " Be not far from me, for trouble 
is near, for there is none to help." 

5. We have already committed greater and 
weightier concernments into his hand than the 
dearest interest we have in this world ; we have 
entrusted our souls with him, 1 Pet. iv. 1 9 ; 2 Tim. 
i. 12. Well, therefore, may we commit the lesser, 
who have entrusted the greater with him. What 
are our lives, liberties, estates, and relations, com- 



HIGHTEOUS man's REFUGE. 251 

pared with our souls, and the eternal safety and 
happiness of them ! 

6. The committing act of faith is the great and 
only expedient to procure and secure the peace 
and tranquillity of our minds, amidst all the dis- 
tractions and troubles of the present world. The 
greatest part of our affliction and trouble in such 
days is from the working of our own thoughts ; 
these torments from within are worse than any 
from without ; and the resignation of all to God by 
faith is their best and only cure. " Commit thy 
works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be 
established," Prov. xvi. 3. A blessed calmness 
of mind, a sweet tranquillity and settlement of 
thoughts follow immediately hereupon, Psal. cxiv. 
19. O then leave all with God, and quietly expect 
a comfortable issue : and for the better settlement 
and security of thy peace in times of distraction 
and trouble, I beseech thee, reader, carefully to 
watch and guard against these two evils : 

Caution 1. Beware of infidelity or distrustful- 
ness of God and his promises, which secretly 
lurks in thy heart, and is very apt to betray itself 
when great distresses and troubles befall thee. 
Thou wilt know it by such symptoms as these : 
1. In an over-hasty and eager desire after present 
deliverance ; " The captive exile hasteneth that he 
may be loosed, and that he should not die in the 
pit, nor that his bread should fail," Isa. li. 14. 
The less faith, always the more impatience ; and 
the more ability to believe, the more patience to 
wait. 2. It will discover itself in our readiness to 
close with, and catch at sinful mediums and me- 
thods of deliverance, Isa. xxx. 15, 16. And this 
is the handle of temptation, and occasion of apos- 
tasy. " But he that believeth will not make haste," 



252 THE RIGHTEOUS MAN S REFUGE, 

Isa. xxviii. 16. No more haste than good speed. 
3. It will show itself in distracting cares and fears 
about events which will rack the mind with vari- 
ous and endless tortures. 

Cavtimi 2. Beware of dejection and despon- 
dency of mind in evil times; take heed of a poor 
low spirit that will presently sink and give up its 
hope upon every appearance and face of trouble ; 
it is a promise made unto the righteous, " He shall 
not be afraid of evil tidings, his heart is fixed, 
trusting in the Lord," Psal. cxii. 7. The trusting 
of God fixes the heart, and the fixing of the heart 
fortifies it against fear. 



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