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(1.) The object these things; that is, the dispensations of providence. These are the things the Psalmist would have men to observe. For the design of this psalm is to praise God for his wonderful works of providence in the world, es
pecially in the church. For this cause he sets before us,
(1.) Wonderful deliverances wrought by providence, instanced in the seasonable relief given to, (1.) Needy and bewildered strangers, far from their own, ver 3.—9. (2.) Captives and prisoners, ver. 10–16. (3.) Sick people at the
gates of death, ver, 17–22. (4.) To seafaring men in a
storm, ver, 23.−32. (2.) Strange and surprising changes in human affairs. (1.) Fruitful places made barren, and barren places fruitful, ver. 33–35. For an instance of which we need but consider this our own country, sometime a forest, for little use but to be a hunting-field, now comfortably maintaining many families, and useful to the nation, by its great store. (2) Mean families raised by a blessing on their husbandry and store, and cast down again from their o by cross providences, losing as fast as they got beore, ver. 36,-39. (3.) Those that were high in the world abased, and those that were mean and despicable raised to honour, ver, 40, 41. These turns of providence are of use to solace saints, and silence sinners, ver. 42. Now, here is a field opened for serious observation. These and such like things we are called to notice. (2) The act, observation. We must not let providences pass without remark, but observe them carefully, as men that are neither fools nor atheists, but have eyes in their heads, and do not think the world is guided by blind chance, but by an infinitely wise God. The word signifies to take heed, and retain, as a watchman in a city does. We must take heed to them as they fall out, and carefully keep them in mind, that they be not forgot, or slip out of our minds. 2dly, The qualification necessary to fit a man for this duty, wisdom. This is true spiritual wisdom; for in scripture language all strangers to serious godliness are accounted fools, however sharp-sighted otherwise they be. As for others, they neither will nor can rightly observe these things, 3dly, The manner of the expression. It intimates, (i.) That there are few so wise as to observe providences. Most part of the world are stupid in that point; they let them go and come without notice, Jer. ix. 12; (2) That those whq are truly wise will do it, Hos. xiv. ult.
2. The advantage accruing from a wise observation of providences. They shall understand thereby the lovingkindness, goodness, and mercy of God, written out in his dispensations towards themselves and others; as we know how one stands affected to us by his behaviour towards us. His works will give us a clearer discovery of his glorious perfections; and these observations will enrich us with experiences. It is remarkable, that some of these things are cross providences; yet a right observation of them will shew us God's kindness; for the divine goodness may be seen in cross providences as well as in favourable ones. From the text I shall only observe one doctrine at preSent. “ - HDoct. “It is the duty of Christians wisely to observe providences.” This is a weighty point in practical religion, that requires observation in speaking to it, and practising of it. In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall shew, I. What it is to observe providences wisely. II. What are the objects about which we are to make our observations. III. What we are to observe in them. IV. The reasons why Christians should wisely observe pro. vidences. . V. Make some practical improvement. I. I am to shew what it is to observe providences wisely. It presupposes some things, and imports some things, First, It presupposes these four things. 1. That there is a providence. The world is not managed by fortune, nor do things fall out by blind chance. That there is a God, and that there is a providence, have been always looked on as certain maxims, establishing one another, by men of sound judgment. And indeed to set up the creatures to act otherwise than under the providence of God, is to set them up for independent beings, that is, for gods. The scripture is plain that it reacheth all things, Rom. xi. 36. “For of him, and through him, and to him are all things;’ even from the greatest to the least, as ye will see from Mat. x. 29, 30, 31. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing: and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many spar.
rows.’ And unless it were so, how could he foresee and foretel things, Isa. xlvi. 10. - - Some think this would disturb his repose, and is unworthy of him, and his purity and wisdom. But do not these atheists see the sun in the heavens undisturbed, with his (yet) universal influence, shine on the dunghill as well as the garden, without contracting any spot And is it unworthy of God to govern what he has created: As for the wisdom in the management of the world, they are fools who judge it folly before they see the end. 2. The faith of this providence. We must believe the doctrine of providence, if we would bewise observers thereof. The faith P the saints in this point maybe shaken in an hour of temptation; as was the case with Asaph, Psal. lxxiii. 13, 14, 15. ‘Verily (says he) I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.’ And the unbelief of others therein makes them half atheists, Mal. iii. 14, 15. ‘Ye have said, it is vain to serve God: and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully ore the Lord of hosts And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.’ And the slender belief there is of it in the world makes men overlook providence, Hab. i. 16. “Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense into their drag: because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.” Labour ye firmly to believe providence, that ye may observe it; nay, believe it, and ye will observe it. 3. Providence has a language to the children of men. It is a clear part of the name of God whereby he manifests himself to the world, and has served to convince men of his eternal power and Godhead, whom no other arguments could reach : Dan. iv. ult. “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, and extol, and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment, and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” Psal. xix. 3, 4. ‘There is no speech, nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Rods have a language, Micah vi. 9. “The
Lord's voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.’ And so also have mercies a language, Rom. ii. 4. “Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.’ And providences being the work of a rational agent, they must have a design. 4. A disposition to understand the language and design of providence. It is for this end they are observed wisely, Micah vi. 9. forecited. God speaks by providence, and the wise hearken by observation, that they may know what is meant by those characters, in which God writes his mind towards them. Hence the more one pursues communion with God, he will the more narrowly observe providence; and when he grows remiss and negligent as to communion with God, he lets these things easily pass. But these are the prints of the Lord's feet, which one walking with God will set himself to observe. Secondly, To observe providences wisely, imports these five things. 1. A watching for them till they come. Hence says the prophet, Hab. ii. 1. “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.' This is to wait on the Lord in the way of his judgments, Isa. xxvi. 8. A practice necessarily following on the serious practice of godliness, in laying matters before the Lord b prayer, and depending on him according to his word, Psal. cxxx. 1.5, 6. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. I wait for the Lord, and my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning: I say more, than they that watch for the morning. Some providences have a glaring light with them, that cannot but strike the eye of the beholder; but others not being so may pass unobserved, if people be not on their watch. Providence sometimes works long under ground, and wraps itself up in a long night of darkness; but the wise observer will wait the dawning of the day, and the setting up its head above §." Psal. lxix. 3. ‘Mine eyes fail while I wait for my od, Lam. iii. 49, 50. “Mine eye trickleth down and ceaseth not, without any intermission: till the Lord look down, and behold from heaven.” For they that believe will not make haste.
2. A taking heed to them, and marking them when they come, Isa. xxv. 9. “Lo this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Heeding them, I mean, as from the hand of the Lord ; for though men heed the thing, if they do not heed the hand it comes from, they have but the carcase without the soul of providences. The threads of providence are sometimes so small and fine, and our senses so little exercised to discern, that they may come and go without our notice, Luke xix. 44. ‘Thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” Therefore the eyes of the wise man are in his head, to observe what comes from heaven; looking, aforehand, and in the time; for he that looks sees, Ezek. i. 15. Zech. vi. 1. 3. A serious review of them, pondering and narrowly considering them. We should not only look to them, but into them, Psal. cxi. 2. ‘The works of the Lord are great sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” An the more we see of them, the more of God we will see in them; for the further we wade in these waters, the deeper. Providence is a wheel within a wheel, a piece of the nice workmanship of heaven, which may make us cry out with wonder many a time, O wheel / Ezek. x. 13. The design of providence oftimes lies hid, not to be seen at first view; but we must look again and again, and narrowly inspect it, ere we can comprehend it. It is a mystery many times, looking at which our weak eyes will begin to dazzle. And that we may unravel the clue by a sanctified judgment, Psal. lxxvii. 6. it will be needful to call in the help of prayer, with much humility, faith, and self-denial, Job x. 2. and of the scripture, Psal, lxxiii. 16. - 4. Laying them up, and keeping them in record, Lukei. 66. We should keep them as one would do a treasure, for the time to come. Then are they experiences, which will be notable provision for after-times. O, if these observations were wisely made, and carefully laid up, the former part of our life might furnish noble helps for the latter part of it; and the longer we lived, the richer would we be in is spiritual treasure: even as in war one victory helps to get another. And the old disciple might have a body of practical experimental divinity in his head, drawn forth o his own observation. We find David, when young, oL. I. E e -