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will not be stopped. Like the dog, they snarl at the stone; but look not to the hand that threw it. 3. How few are exercised to know the design of provi. dences that they meet with ? Many signal mercies they meet with, but put not the question, What is God saying to me by these things? Many a heavy dispensation they meet with, partly by the rod's hanging over their heads, partly by its lying on them ; yet they never seriously take up Job's exer. cise, chap. x. 2. ‘I will say unto God, Do not condemn me; shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.' These thing, let them come and go with as little concern to know the de. sign of them, as if they had none. - - 4. How few are exercised to comply with the design of providences, to accommodate themselves to the divine dis. pensations? Job xxxiii. 13, 14. If men were wise observers of providence, it would be their constant practice to be answering the several calls thereof, still facing about to: wards it, as the shadow on the dial to the body of the sun; Psal. xxvii. 8. “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” But, alas ! men meet with humbling providences, but they are not exercised to mortify their pride: they meet with awakening providences, yet they are not exercised to rouse up themselves to their duty: they meet with afflicting providences in worldly things, yet they are not exercised to get their hearts weaned from the world; they meet with reproving providences, yet they are not exercised to re. pent and mourn over the sins thereby pointed out. But they really strive with their Maker, and while he draws by his providence, they hold fast, and will not let it go, Jer. vi. 29. - ... 5. The little skill that people have in judging of proyidences. A man will readily have skill in his own trade; but it is no wonder to see people unacquainted with thing in which their business does not lie. Ó what commenta. ries on providence are in the world, that destroy the text. How miserably is the doctrine of particular dispensations perverted. Despisers of God and his ordinances are very easy; and therefore the world concludes, “it is vain to serve God, and that there is no profit in keeping his ordi. nances, Mal. iii. 14. ‘The proud are called happy, ver, 15. They are best that have least to do with them. Good men
meets with signal strokes: the world concludes that they are hypocrites, and they must be guilty of some heinous wickedness beyond other people, Job v. 1. Luke xiii. 1, 2. And a thousand such blunders there are. 6. Lastly, They rank poverty in respect of Christian experience found among professors. What a learned Egyptian said to a Greek, Vos Graeci semper pueri, may be said to many in whom there is some good thing towards the God of Israel. Ye professors are ever children, 2 Cor. iii. 1. Heb. v. 12. And what is the reason, but that we have never yet fallen close to the study of observing of providences? See the text. There is a daily market in providence, but ye do not trade in it; and therefore ye are always poor. There is perhaps a lesson put in your hands this day, that ye had several years since, but ye did not learn it; and so it is now as great a mystery to you as then. Use II. Of exhortation. Obe exhorted to become wise observers of providence. O fall at length upon this piece of practical religion. Many of us have it, I fear, to begin yet; and all have need to mend their pace in it. For enforcing this exhortation, I shall give you some other points of doctrine from the words, by way of motives and direction, and so sh it up this subject. For motives take these doctrines. 1. Wise observing of providence is a rare thing in the world: Who is wise, and will observe these things, as the words may bear. And the reason is, the truth of religion is rare, and close and tender walking with God is yet rarer, Matth. xxii. 14. and xxv. 5. The most part of the world go the broad way to destruction, Matth. vii. 14., and therefore they are not concerned to observe the works of the Lord. Many Christians there are, that, alas! In these dregs of time are not exercised Christians. Up then and be doing, and conspire not with the multitude to put a slight on God's speaking by his providence, lest his fury break forth as fire on you with the rest, John vi. 66. The more rare the observing of providence is, it is the more precious. Stones may be gathered from the surface of the earth, while gold must be dug with much labour out of the bowels of it. The finest things are hardest to be won at : Nulla virtus sine lapide. As Christ himself had a stone rolled on him, so every grace, work, and way of Vol. I. I i
Christ has one. But there is a pearl underneath; and the heavier the stone, the more precious is the pearl. Come and see in this particular. II. They that are wise will be observers of providences, Whoso is wise, and will observe these things. And at what pitch your wisdom arrives, your observation of providences will follow it, Eccl. ii. 14. The eating of the forbidden fruit cast all mankind into a spiritual madness; and the truth is, the most part of the world are in that respect as madmen, regarding neither the word nor works of the Lord. But if thouwert come to thyself, it would not be so, Luke xv. 17. How long hast thou acted as a fool, in matters of greatest weight, being penny-wise and pound-foolish, careful for a mite, and in the mean time letting talents slip through thy fingers? Luke x. 41, 42. § Sirs, how do unobserved providences aggravate our guilt, and increase our accounts | When the day shall come, the Lord will reckon with the sinner, for all the pains he has bestowed on him to bring him to himself: when his slighting the call of the word shall be aggravated with so many items of providences. How will the sinner look, when the i. shall say, Did I not give thee such and such mercies to draw thee from thy sin lay such and such crosses in thy way to drive thee from it 2 What hast thou done with all the instructive up-stirring providences I gave thee? with all the providential warnings, rebukes, &c. given thee? Remember that passage, Prov. ix. 12. ‘If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.” III. The wise observation of providences is a soul-enriching trade. They shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. This is so on two accounts, both deducible from the text. 1. That which seems the most barren piece of providence, becomes fruitful by wise observation. Some of these things in the text are very cross providences; yet even by them one shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. Behold a holy art, whereby ye may not only gather honey out of every sweet-smelling flower, but may gather grapes of spi. ritual profit off the thorns of afflictions, and figs of thistles. The apostle tells us a mystery, of a pleasure in infirmities, distresses, &c. 2 Cor. xii. 10, Wise observation would let you into the secret.
2. It has the promise, in the text. God has said, such a one shall know more and feel more in religion than others. “To him that hath (i. e. improves what he has) shall be given.” And the more a man set himself to observe, the more he will get to observe, and the more sappy will his observations be. By the wise observation of providences, (1.) Sin and duty in particular cases is discovered. No dispensations of providence whatsoever can warrant us to over the belly of God's command, 1 Sam, xiii. 11, &c. But where two lawful things are before us, providence may point out what is present duty, and which of them we are to choose. And so the word teacheth, Psal. xxxii. 8. “I - will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” (2.) One gets a clear view of the divine authority of the scriptures, very necessary in such an age wherein atheism, profaneness, and immorality so much abound. For the wise abserver sees the fulfilling of it exactly, and so is confirmed. While he observes providences, he sees scripture doctrines, promises, threatenings, and prophecies accomplished, and the parallels of scripture-examples; and so reads the truth of God’s word in his works, Psal. lviii. 11. (3.) Hereby a Christian is established in the good ways of the Lord, and that by those verythings that make others to stagger, yea, themselves also, when they do not observe, Psal. Boxiii. 22, &c. It is the woful estrangedness to this exorcise that makes so many here-away there-away professors, tossed about with every wind that rises, while amidst all these reelings the wise observer sits firm like the expert mariner among the boisterous waves, Psal. cxliii. 5. (4.) Hereby a Christian gets store of experiences, to lay by him for use at another time. How did Joseph sustain Egypt in time of the dearth, but by the corn laid up in time of plenty So the Psalmist says, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.” Psalm xlii. 6. But for want of this some people are always from hand to mouth, always to begin; ever learning, never coming to the knowledge of the truth, Mark vi. 52. (5) Lastly, It is a nurse to all the graces of the Spirit. It is a notable help to faith, Exod. xiv. ult. A short-limbed faith will reach far up, when it stands upon experiences- I i 2
To love; see the text. Now, the love of God perceived kindles the flame of love in us.--To patience and waiting on the Lord; for observation will keep them from being hasty while the work is on the wheel, Psal. xxxvii. 1–To hope; * for experience worketh hope, Rom. v. 4; for former mercies are pledges of future ones.—To contempt of the world. ~To holy fear, Exod. xiv. ult.—To delight and joy in the Lord, Psal. xcii. 4.—To self-loathing, and thankfulness Psal. cxliv. 1, 2, 3, &c. - And now for direction take this doctrine, There is need of true wisdom to fit & man for right observation of providence. And that wisdom is, 1. Spiritual wisdom, 1 Cor. ii. 15. Carnal wisdom is no good observer of providence, as the blind man is no fit judge of colours. 2. Scripture-wisdom; for the scripture is the pattern, and providence the work. They that study the language of Heaven in providence, must consult the scriptures as the dictionary for that language. 3. Practical wisdom, Psal. cxi. 2. Even scripture-notions floating in the head will do but little service, but sinking into the heart, reduced into practice, will be of good use here. And the more to fit you for this work, take these following lessons from the word concerning providences. (1.) The design of Providence may sometimes lie very hid ; and therefore it is good to wait, and not to be rash, Psal. lxxvii. 19. (2.) Sometimes providence seems to forget the promise; but it is not so, but only the time of the promise is not then come, Gen. xv. 4. with xvi. 2. (8.) Sometimes providence seems to go quite cross to the promise, and his work to go contrary to his word. But wait ye, they will assuredly meet, Gen. xxii. (4.) Oftimes providence favours a design, which yet will be blasted in the end, for that it was not the purpose of God, Jonah i. 3. (5.) Oftimes providence will run counter in appearance to the real design, and by a tract of dispensations will seem to cross it more and more, till the grave-stone appear to be laid on it. And yet, “at evening-time it shall be light,' Zech. xiv. 7. (6.) Providence many times lays aside the most likely