Published on Thursday, October 15th, 1908.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
NOTE: This is taken from an early published edition of the original sermon. The version that appears in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol.54, was edited and slightly abbreviated. For edition we have restored the fuller text of the earlier published edition, while retaining a few of the editorial refinements of the Met Tab edition.
"Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up." -- Ezekiel 1:15-19.
WHILE READING THE SCRIPTURES, we tried to hint at the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence. We attempted to explain that portion of Scripture which teaches us to "take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself." Our blessed Lord had there uttered very precious words to drive away our fears, to keep us from distrust and from distress, and to enable us so to rely upon Providence that we may say, he that feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will never suffer me to famish nor to be naked. Having shown you from our Lord's own words the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence, I thought I would endeavor to explain that doctrine more fully this morning. I am constantly talking about providence in my preaching, and I thought it quite as well to devote a whole sermon to explain what I believe are God's great wonder-working processes which we call Providence. In looking for a text I found this, These "wheels" signify divine Providence; and I trust, while explaining them, I may be so assisted by God's Spirit that I may say many things to you concerning God's government which may rejoice any who are desponding, and lift up the souls of many who are distressed.
I. Going at once to my divisions, my first remark will be that PROVIDENCE IS HERE COMPARED TO A "WHEEL."
When the prophet had seen the "living creatures," which I take it were angels, he opened his eyes again, and he saw a wonderful illustration of the divine Providence, and this exhibition was in the figure of a wheel. You must know that this is not the only place where the comparison is to be found; for among the classics, the Romans and the Greeks were accustomed to compare the wondrous works of God in Providence to a wheel. The story goes, that a certain king being taken prisoner, was bound in chains, and dragged along at the chariot wheels of his conqueror. As he went along, he kept looking at the wheel, and shedding tears -- looking at the wheel again, and lifting up his eyes and smiling. The conqueror turned and said, "Wherefore art thou looking at that wheel?" He said, "I was thinking, such is the lot of man; just now I was here; now I am there; but soon I may be here again at the top of the wheel, and thou mayest be grinding the dust." This was well for a heathen. The prophet had the very same idea. He was permitted by God to see that the wheel is a very beautiful figure of divine Providence. Let us show you that it is.
I have just hinted at the reason why Providence is like a wheel; because sometimes one part of the wheel is at the top, and then it is at the bottom. Sometimes this part is exalted, and anon it sinks down to the dust. Then it is lifted to the air, and then again by a single revolution it is brought down again to the earth. Just as our poet sings --
"Here he exalts neglected worms
To sceptres and a crown;
And there the following page he turns,
And treads the monarch down."
So it is with our life. Sometimes we are in humble poverty, and hardly know what we shall do for bread; anon the wheel revolves, and we are brought into the comfort of wealth; our feet stand in a spacious room; we are fed with corn and wine; we drink of a cup overflowing its brim. Again we are brought low through affliction and famine. A little while and another page is turned, and we are exalted to the heavens, and can sing and rejoice in the Lord our God. I have no doubt many of you here have experienced a far more checkered life than I have, and therefore you can feel that your life has been as a "wheel." Ah! man, thou art strong, and great, and rich; thou mayest stand now as the uppermost part of it; but it is a wheel, and you may yet be brought low. And you, poor, who are depressed and downcast, who are weeping because you know not where you shall lay your heads -- that wheel may revolve and you may be lifted up. Our own experience is never a stable thing; it is always changing, always turning round. The fly that sits now on the edge of the wheel may be crushed by its next revolution, and be brought to the dust of death the next day. The world may cry "Hosannah" to its minister to-day and the next day may say, "Crucify him, crucify him." Such is the state of man. Providence is like a wheel.
You know that, in a wheel there is one portion that never turns round, that stands steadfast; and that is the axle. So in God's Providence, there is an axle which never moves. Christian, here is a sweet thought for thee! Thy state is ever changing; sometimes thou art exalted, and sometimes depressed; yet there is an unmoving point in thy state. What is that axle? What is the pivot upon which all the machinery revolves? It is the axle of God's everlasting love toward his covenant people. The exterior of the wheel is changing, but the center stands forever fixed. Other things may move; but God's love never moves: it is the axle of the wheel; and this is another reason why Providence should be compared to a wheel.
Yet further. You observe, when the wheel moves very rapidly you can discern nothing but the circumference -- nothing but the exterior circle. So, if you look back to history, and read the story of a thousand years, you just set the wheel of Providence revolving rapidly; you lose sight of all the little things that are within the circle; you see only one great thing, and that is, that God is working through the world his everlasting purposes. You sit down and take a book of history -- say the History of England -- and you will say of one event, "Now that seems to be out of place;" of another, "That seems to be out of time;" of another, "That seems to be adverse to the cause of liberty;" but look through a thousand years, and those things which seemed as if they would crush liberty in her germ; those things which seemed as if they would destroy this our commonwealth in our very rising, have been those which have caused the sturdy oak of liberty to take deeper root. Take the whole together, instead of the things one by one; look at a thousand years, and you will see nothing but one round ring of symmetry, teaching you that God is wise, and God is just. So let it be with you in your lives. Here you are fretting about troubles today. Think also of the past; put all your troubles together, and they are no troubles at all. You will see that one counteracts the other. If you take your life -- not today, but look back on forty years of it -- you will be obliged, instead of lamenting and mourning, to bless God for his mercies toward you. Let the wheel go round, and you will see nothing but a ring of everlasting wisdom revolving.
I trust I have made the first part intelligible -- that the Providence of God is here compared to a wheel.
II. The second thought is that THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS IN SOME MYSTERIOUS WAY connected WITH ANGELS.
Look at verse 15: "Now as I beheld the living creatures." Then turn to the 19th verse: "And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up." These living creatures I believe to be angels; and the text teaches us that there is a connection between Providence and angelic agency. I do not know how to explain it; I cannot tell how it is; but I believe angels have a great deal to do with the business of this world. In times of miracles and wondrous things, there was an angel that came down and slew the firstborn of Egypt; and an angel cut off the hosts of Sennacherib. Angels did mighty things in those ancient days. My firm belief is, that angels are sent forth somehow or other to bring about the great purposes of God. The great wheel of Providence is turned by an angel. When there is some trouble which seems to stop that wheel, some mighty cherub puts his shoulder to it, and hurls it around, and makes the chariot of God's Providence still go on. Angels have much more to do with us than we imagine. I do not know but that spirits sometimes come down and whisper thoughts into our ears. I have strange thoughts sometimes, that seem to come from a land of dreams; and fiery visions that make my soul hot within me. Sometimes I have thoughts which I know come from God's Spirit; some which are glorious, and some that are not so good as those which the Spirit would have put there, but still holy thoughts; and I often attribute them to angels. I have sometimes a thought which cheers me in distress; and was not an angel sent to strengthen Christ in the garden? How do you think the angel strengthened him? Why, by putting thoughts into Christ's mind. He could not in any other way: he could not strengthen him by a plaster, or by any physical means; but by injecting thoughts. And so with us. There was a temptation which might have led you astray; but God said, "Gabriel, fly! there is a danger to one of my people; go and put such a thought into his soul, that when the danger comes he will say, Get thee behind me, Satan, I will have nothing to do with sin."
We have each of us a guardian angel to attend us; and if there be any meaning in the passage, "In heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven," it means that every person has a guardian spirit, and every Christian has some angel who flies about him, and holds the shield of God over his brow; keeps his foot, lest he should dash it against a stone; guards him, controls him, manages him; injects thoughts, restrains evil desires, and is the minister and servant of the Holy Ghost to keep us from sin, and lead us to righteousness. Whether I am right or wrong, I leave you to judge; but perhaps I have more angelology in me than most people. I know my imagination sometimes has been so powerful that I could almost, when I have been alone at night, fancy I saw an angel fly by me, and hear the horse-hoofs of the cherubim as they dashed along the stony road when I have been out preaching the word. However, I take it that the text teaches us that angels have very much to do with God's Providence. For it says, "And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up." Let us bless God that he has made angels ministering spirits to minister unto them that are heirs of salvation.
III. Our third remark shall be, that PROVIDENCE IS UNIVERSAL.
That you will see by the text: "Behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces." The wheel had "four faces." I think that means one face to the north, another to the south, another to the east, and another to the west. There is a face to every quarter. Providence is universal, looking to every quarter of the globe. Have you ever been in a house where there was an old picture hanging? I have sometimes stood in a picture-gallery, and there has been some old warrior: he has looked at me. If I have gone to the other end of the room, he has still looked at me; wherever you are in the room, a well-painted portrait will be looking at you. Such is the Providence of God; wherever you are, the eye of God will be upon you -- as much upon you as if there were not another person in the whole world. If there were only one, you might think how much God would look upon that one, but he looks on each one of us as if there were no other created being, and nothing else in the whole world. His eye is fixed upon us at every hour, and at every moment. Wherever we may be, we shall have one face of the wheel turned upon us.
You cannot banish me from my Lord. Send me to the snows of Siberia or Lapland, I shall have the eyes of God there; send me to Australia, and let me toil at the gold diggings, there will he visit me. If you send me to the utmost verge of the round globe, I shall still have the eye of God upon me. Put me in the desert where there is not one single blade of grass growing, and his presence shall cheer me. Or let me go to sea, amid the howlings of the tempest and the shrieking wind, where the mad waves lift up their hands to the skies as if they would pluck the stars from their cloudy thrones, and I shall have the eye of God there. Let me sink, and let my gurgling voice be heard among the waves -- let my body lie down in the caverns of the sea, and the eye of God shall be on every bone, and in the day of the resurrection shall my every atom be tracked in its wanderings. Yes, the eye of God is everywhere; Providence is universal.
Now there may be some here who have friends far away -- let me comfort them. The eye of God is looking on them. There may be some here who are about to part with beloved ones who are going to distant countries. Wherever they are, they will be as much in the keeping of God as though they were here. If one part of the world is not as near the sun's light as another, yet they are all equally near the eye of our God. Transport me where you please -- wherever the cloudy pillar of Providence shall guide me -- and I shall have God with me. That thought comforted the great traveler, Mungo Park, when he was in the desert of Sahara. He had been robbed and stripped of every thing, and was left naked. He suddenly saw a little piece of moss, and taking it up, he saw how beautiful it was. He said: "Then the hand of God is here -- here is one of his works; though I call loudly none can hear me, for there is nothing but the prowling lion and the howling jackal; yet God is here." That comforted him. Wherever you may be, whatever may be your case, God will be with you. Whatever period of your life you may now be in, God is with you. His eye is at the bridal and at the funeral; at the cradle and at the grave. In the battle, God's eye is looking through the smoke; in the revolution, there is God's hand managing the masses of men who have broken loose from their rulers. In the earthquake, there is Jehovah manifest; in the tempest, there is God's hand, tossing the bark, dashing it against the rocks, or saving it in his hand from the boisterous waves. In all seasons, at all times, in all dangers, and in all climates, there is the hand of God.
IV. Our next remark is, that PROVIDENCE IS UNIFORM.
It is only one Providence, and ever one. "Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl: and they four had one likeness." There were four wheels and four faces, yet one likeness. There was but one piece of machinery; and thus we are taught that Providence is all one. Sometimes providences seem to cross each other. One thing that God does seems to contradict the next thing; but it never really does so.
It is a great truth, though hard for us to grasp, that Providence is one. Just look at the case of Joseph. God has it in his mind that Joseph shall be governor over all the land of Egypt: how is that to be done? The first thing to be done is that Joseph's brethren must hate him. O, say you, that is a step backward. Next, Joseph's brethren must put him in the pit. That is another step backward, say you. No, it is not: wait a little. Joseph's brethren must sell him; that is another step backward, is it not? Providence is one, and you must not look at its separate parts. He is sold; he becomes a favorite: so far, so good. That is a step onward. Anon, he is put in a dungeon. Wait and see the end; all the different parts of the machinery are one. They appear to clash; but they never do. Put them all together. If Joseph had not been put in the pit, he never would have been the servant of Potiphar: if he never had been put in the round-house, he never would have interpreted the jailor's dream; and if the king had never dreamed, he would not have been sent for. There were a thousand chances, as the world has it, working together to produce the exaltation of Joseph. Providence is one: it never clashes.
"Oh!" says one, "I cannot understand that; Providence seems to be very adverse to me. Mrs. Hannah More, I think it is, says, she went into a place where they were manufacturing a carpet. She said: "There is no beauty there." The man said: "It is one of the most beautiful carpets you ever saw." "Why, here is a piece hanging out, and it is all in disorder." "Do you know why, ma'am? You look at the wrong side." So it is very often with us. You and I think Providence is very bad, because we are looking at the wrong side. We do took at the wrong side while we are here, but when we get to heaven we shall see the right side of God's dealings; and when we do we shall say., "Lord, how wonderful are thy works: in wisdom thou hast made them all: glorious are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well." You have been puzzled sometimes to think why that friend was brought into the grave. You have said, Why was I made sick at such a time? Why that trouble and that calamity? That is no business of yours. It is yours to believe that all things work together for one great purpose: that one thing never crosses another. But you must not expect to see it so just yet. Here on earth the machine appears to be broken into pieces, and we can only see it in confusion: but in heaven we shall see it all put together. Suppose I go into a place where some great artist is manufacturing a machine: I say, Do you mean to say this is a machine? Yes, and an exquisite one it will be. It does not look like it; I could not put it together. O, no, sir, you could not, but I can: and come and see it when I have put it together, and you shall see that each part fits -- that each cog on one wheel will work on the cog of another wheel, and all the parts will move together when I adjust them. Do not find fault with it, and say, One is too small and another too large, because you know nothing at all about it. So, dear friends, you and I can never see but parts of God's ways. We only see here a wheel and there a wheel; but we must wait till we get to heaven, then we shall see the right side of the carpet; we shall see it all put together, and then we shall see it was one piece of machinery, had one end, one aim, one object, and was all one.
V. The next thought is, that, in this text, PROVIDENCE IS COMPARED TO THE SEA.
Look to the 16th verse -- "The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl." The word beryl is commonly used in Scripture to denote the ocean, because it bears the greatest likeness to that deep green you sometimes see, and at other times the blue appearance of the sea. Let us transport ourselves for a moment to the top of some high cliff, and we look down on the noisy ocean. It has been the theme of a thousand songs; it has bome myriads of fleets on its mighty breast. Ay! and yet there it is rolling on. If you begin to think about the ocean, though it is one of the minor parts of God's works compared with the constellations of the heavens, and the globes which he has hung on high, you begin to be lost in the vastness of your conceptions concerning the greatness of God's works. And so with providence.
It is like the ocean for another reason. The sea is never still; both day and night it is always moving. In the day, when the sun shines upon it, its waves march up in marshaled order as if about to capture the whole land, and drown all the solid earth. Then again they march back each one as if reluctant to yield its prey. It is always moving: the moon shines upon it, and the stars light it up; still it moves. Or, it is darkness, and notfiing is seen; still it moves -- by night and day the restless billows chant a boisterous hymn of glory, or murmur the solemn dirge of mariners wrecked far out in the depths. Such is Providence; by night or day Providence is always going on. The farmer sleeps, but his wheat is growing. The mariner on the sea sleeps, but the wind and the waves are carrying on his bark. Providence! thou never stoppest; thy mighty wheels never stay their everlasting circles. As the blue ocean has rolled on impetuously for ages, so shall Providence, until he who first set it in motion shall bid it stop; and then its wheels shall cease, forever fixed by the eternal decree of the mighty God.
Again, you will see another reason why the sea is like Providence. Man cannot manage it. Who can rule or govern the sea? Men cannot. Xerxes made chains for the Hellespont, and lashed the sea with whips because it washed away his boats; but what cared the sea about that? It laughed at him; and if he had not been too great a coward to put himself on its bosom, it might have swallowed him. Canute put his chair on the beach, and bade the waves retire. What cared they for him? They came and would have washed him and his chair away if he had not moved backward. The sea is not to be governed by man. A whole fleet sails over it, and it is only like a feather blown by the wind across the surface of a brook. All we ever put on the sea is as nothing. It can nevcr be restrained, nor chained, nor managed by man. Greedy man hath carved the land, but the sea has no landmark. It is impetuous; it follows its own will. So does Providence; it will not be managed by man. Napoleon once heard it said, that man proposes and God disposes. "Ah," said Napoleon, "but I propose and dispose too." How do you think he proposed and disposed. He proposed to go and take Russia; he proposed to make all Europe his. He proposed to destroy that power, and how did he come back again? How had he disposed it? He came back solitary and alone, his mighty army perished and wasted,. having well-nigh eaten and devoured one another through hunger. Man proposes and God disposes. Providence, like the sea, cannot be directed by man; it can be controlled by God. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" --
"Chained to his throne a volume lies,
With all the fates of men."
Man cannot alter it, and cannot change it. Let him try to stand against God's Providence; and Providence will grind and crush him.
There are many more reasons; but I think it would be wasting time to notice them. I leave you to finish that part of the subject.
VI. Again, GOD'S PROVIDENCE IS INTRICATE.
This is our sixth remark; and that you will find is here too. "The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl; and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel." We have just said that Providence is intricate. When Joseph brought his two sons up to Jacob's deathbed side, Jacob ordered the two boys to be brought; and when he was about to bless them, he guided his hands wittingly; and he put his right hand on the head of the youngest, and his left hand on the head of the eldest. "O!" said Joseph, "not so, my father." But he said, "it is even so;" and he gave the blessing. He would not give the blessing in any other way; but he crossed his hands. And so God usually blesses his children by crossing his hands. We say, "Do not deal so with me." "It is even so, child; there is a blessing on thy head." Do not say, Uncross thy hands; that is the way to bless the most of all. I wish to put thee greatest blessing upon thee; and therefore I have crossed my hands. Providence is wonderfully intricate. Ah! you want always to see through Providence, do you not? You never will, I assure you. You have not eyes good enough. You want to see what good that affliction was to you; you must believe it. You want to see how it can bring good to the soul; you may be enabled in a little time; but you cannot see it now; you must believe it. Honor God by trusting him. God has many gordian knots which wicked men may cut, and which righteous men may try to unravel, but which God alone can untie. We see the wicked prosper; they flourish, and great is their power, while the righteous are cast down. We say why? There are wheels within wheels. Do not fret yourselves because evil-doers are more prosperous. There may be a nation that seems to have right on its side; that nation may be crushed, and another people who are tyrannical may get the victory. Do not say why? Do not ask? You shall know the reason when you get up yonder:
"God plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm."
Do not attempt to do what Gabriel never dare do -- to ask the reason why, for God will never give it.
VII. PROVIDENCE IS ALWAYS CORRECT.
I shall not detain you long over this. The prophet saw the wheels, and he well says, they turned not when they went, they always went straight forward; they never turned to the right or to the left. Such is God's Providence. Man marks out plans: he says, I shall build this tower; he gets it halfway up, and he finds he has not enough to finish it with; he has to pull it down, lay a smaller foundation, and build again. God never does so; he has a plan when he begins, and he carries that plan out: he lays the foundation, and always finishes the topstone. There are some who talk about God's changing his purpose; such people do not know what God is at all. How could God change? God must either change from a better to a worse, or from a worse to a better. If he change from a worse to a better, he is not perfect now; and if he change from what he is to something worse, he will not be perfect then, and he will not be God. He cannot change. It is not possible that God should ever change or shift in any of his purposes. Can he change because he has not power? Why, sirs, he could girdle this globe with mountains, or move the hills into the sea. Can he change because he has not patience enough? What, he who from his purpose never swerves? Shall he change because he has made a mistake? Shall the Most High, Jehovah, ever have an error in his mighty mind? To err is human. With the divine Being the whole goes on, and what he has ordained shall be. On the iron rock of destiny it is written, and it cannot be altered. God moves the wheel, and the wheel goes on; and though a thousand armies stand to stop it, it goes on still. "They turned not to the right hand not to the left when they went."
I cannot make out what some of you do with your comfortless gospel -- believing that God loves you today, and hates you tomorrow -- that you are a child of God one day, and a child of the devil the next. I could not believe a gospel like that. If I were a heathen, I could believe it at once, because I could manufacture a god of wood and stone. I would have a god of mud, that I could alter with my fingers, and change it to any fashion. But if I once believe in a God that "was and is, and is to come," I know he cannot change; and I feel a constancy of faith, and a firmness of hope, which the cares and trials of this mortal life cannot destroy. He will not cast off his people whom he hath chosen.
VIII. One more thought. PROVIDENCE IS AMAZING.
We shall not dwell on this; but just show you that the text says so. "As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four." Even the man that knows that every wave that dashes against the ship is washing him nearer home -- that every breath of wind that rises comes to his sail and fills it, and sends it to the white cliffs of his native Albion -- even the man that feels that all is for him -- even he must say that Providence is amazing. O! that thought, it staggers thought! O! it is an idea that overwhelms me -- that God is working all! The sins of man, the wickedness of our race, the crimes of nations, the iniquities of kings, the cruelties of wars, the terrific scourge of pestilence -- all these things in some mysterious way are working the will of God! We must not look at it; we cannot look at it. I cannot explain it. I cannot tell you where human will and free agency unite with God's sovereignty and with his unfailing decrees. This has been the place where intellectual gladiators have fought with each other ever since the time of Adam. Some have said, Man does as he likes; and others have said, God does as he pleases. In one sense, they are both true; but there is no man that has brains or understanding enough to show where they meet. We cannot tell how it is that I do just as I please as to which street I shall go home by; and yet I cannot go home but through a certain road. John Newton used to say, there were two streets to go to St. Mary Woolnoth; but Providence directed him as to which he should use. Last Sabbathday I came down a certain street I do not know why -- and there was a young man who wished to speak to me; he wished to see me many times before. I say that was God's Providence -- that I might meet that young man. Here was Providence, and yet there was my choice; how, I cannot tell. I cannot comprehend it. I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes -- that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit as well as the sun in the heavens -- that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphis over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence -- the fall of sere leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche. He that believes in a God must believe this truth. There is no standing-point between this and atheism. There is no half way between a mighty God that worketh all things by the sovereign counsel of his will and no God at all. A God that cannot do as he pleases -- a God whose will is frustrated, is not a God, and cannot be a God. I could not believe in such a God as that.
IX. Our last and closing idea is, that PROVIDENCE IS FULL OF WISDOM.
You will see this by the last part of the 18th verse -- "And their rings were full of eyes round about them four." You will say this morning, Our minister is a fatalist. Your minister is no such thing. Some will say, Ah! he believes in fate. He does not believe in fate at all. What is fate? Fate is this -- Whatever is, must be. But there is a difference between that and Providence. Providence says, Whatever God ordains must be; but the wisdom of God never ordains any thing without a purpose. Every thing in this world is working for some one great end. Fate does not say that. Fate simply says that the thing must be; Providence says, God moves the wheels along, and there they are. If any thing would go wrong, God puts it right; and if there is any thing that would move awry, he puts his hand and alters it. It comes to the same thing; but there is a difference as to the object. There is all the difference between fate and Providence that there is between a man with good eyes and a blind man. Fate is a blind thing; it is the avalanche crushing the village down below and destroying thousands. Providence is not an avalanche; it is a rolling river, rippling at the first like a rill down the sides of the mountain, followed by minor streams, till it rolls in the broad ocean of everlasting love, working for the good of the human race. The doctrine of Providence is not, that what is, must be; but that, what is, works together for the good of our race, and especially for the good of the chosen people of God. The wheels are full of eyes; not blind wheels.
Let us close with the thought, that there is the greatest wisdom in the workings of Providence. Now you were in great distress probably, and you could not see why. The next time you are in distress, you must say, The wheels are full of eyes: I have but two eyes; but God's wheels are full of eyes -- God can see every thing; I can only see one thing at a time. I see it looks good for me now; I do not know what it will be tomorrow. I see what the plant is now; I do not know what it will be tomorrow. I see what the plant is now; I do not know what it will be tomorrow. I know not what kind of flower that herb will yield. This affliction is a cassava root, full of poison, and would soon destroy me; but God can put that in the oven, so that all the poison shall evaporate, and it shall become food for me to live upon. This trouble of mine seems to me to be destructive: God shall get all the destroying power out of it, and it shall be made food. Now, thou tried one, groaning down in the valley, up with thine heart; away with thy tears; put thy hand on thy breast, and make thy heart stop its hard beating -- thou poor soul! dash the cup of misery from thine hand; thou art not condemned; thou art a pardoned Christian. Remember that God hath said, "All things work together for good" -- more still, they "work together for good to them that love God, even to them that are called according to his purpose." O! how I would like to make your hearts like flint and steel against trouble! We cannot bear the winds of trouble; we are soon cast down and broken-hearted. When we are in prosperity, we are giants; we think we can do like Samson; we can take hold of the two pillars of trouble and distress, and we can pull them down. But once tell us that the Philistines will be upon us, and we have no power.
He who has faith is better than the stoic. The stoical philosopher bore it, because he believed it must be; the Christian bears it because he believes it is working for his good. Next time trouble comes, disease comes, pestilence comes, smile at it, and say:
"He that has made his refuge God,
Shall find a most secure abode;
Shall walk all day beneath his shade,
And there at night shall rest his head."
Let this be thy shield to keep off the thrusts of distress, let this be thy high rock against all the winds of sorrow. Sing,
"Though the way may be rough, it cannot be long,
So smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song."
Verse 1. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.1
Come, my heart, be down in the dumps no longer, take thy harp from the willows, tune its strings, and begin to pour forth its music to the praise of love divine.
2-4. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
This is a better crown than any emperor ever wore, unless he also was a child of God. Priceless gems and jewels rare adorn this wondrous coronet; "who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies."
5-9. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; is that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's. The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide.2
Art thou suffering his chidings just now? They are good for thee, but they will not last for ever: "He will not always chide:" --
9, 10. Neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; --
It is all of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed: "He hath not dealt with us after our sins;" --
10-12. Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.3
Then, surely, he will also remove our troubles from us; but if not, as he has removed our transgressions so far away that they can never be brought back again, we have real cause for joy whatever happens to us here.
13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.4
The very best of them are only objects of pity. Though they are the best, they need that he should look down upon them with infinite compassion.
14-19. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heaven; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
What a comfort this is for us! Over the great as well as over the little, over all parts of the earth, as well where war rageth as where peace reigneth "his kingdom ruleth over all." Nothing happeneth without his permission, even the little things of life are ordered by him; the foreknown station of a rush by the riverside is as fixed as the place of a king, and the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as surely as the stars in their courses; for, to God, nothing is little and nothing is great.
20, 21. Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts;" --
Let all the armies of heaven break forth into one song: "Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts;" --
21.22. Ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No.1,077, "The Lord Blessing His Saints;" No.1,078, "The Saints Blessing the Lord;" and No.2,121, "The Keynote of the Year."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No.1,171 (double number), "The Lord Chiding His People."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No.1,108 (double number), "Plenary Absolution."
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No.941, "The Tender Pity of the Lord;" No.1,650, "God's Fatherly Pity;" and No.2,639, "Our Heavenly Father's Pity."