Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
I. THE POWER WHICH MAN HAS TO HURT US.
1. He can wound our body. He can smite, can wound, can slay us. The sad story of human persecution contains only too many illustrations of this fact.
2. He can wound our spirit. This is a course he can, and still does very often take; he can mock, can sneer, can indulge in heartless ribaldry, can hold up our most sacred convictions to ridicule, and thus he can inflict on us a very deep wound. For words, though they may be the slightest, are yet the keenest of weapons, and "a wounded spirit who can bear?"
3. He can tempt us to evil. This is the worst thing he can do; he can make the evil suggestion, can give the perilous invitation, can make the guilty overture, which leads down to sin and to spiritual failure. There is no measure of pain he can inflict, or loss he can cause us to suffer, which equals in shamefulness this act of dark temptation. That is the deadly thing to do.
II. THE LIMITATION OF HIS POWER. Beyond these lines our worst enemies cannot go.
1. No man can follow us into the unseen realm. Beyond the veil we are safe from the questions of the inquisitor, the blows of the tyrant, the suggestions of the tempter. These may hunt us to very death, but "after that have no more that they can do." Truly, if this life were the sum of our existence, that would be much indeed - it would be everything. But since we know that it is not so, but only its first short term, only its initial stage, only its brief introduction, we may console our hearts with the thought that it is no great harm that the strongest potentate, with the sharpest sword, can do us.
2. No man can compel us to sin. A sinful deed includes the consent of the agent; and all the forces of iniquity and error can never compel a true and brave soul to assent to an evil act. The only great harm that can be done us is that which we do ourselves when we "consent to sin" when men tempt us to sin, - after that there is no more that they can do; if more is done, it' the line is crossed, it is of our own accord; the tempting is theirs, the sinning is ours.
III. THE ONLY ONE OF WHOM WE HAVE TO BE AFRAID. "Fear him," etc.; i.e. shrink from the disfavour of that Divine Lord of the human spirit who can punish according to our desert. To shrink from the condemnation of God is not an unworthy act on our part. It is both right and wise; for his condemnation is that of the Righteous One, and of the Mighty One also. It is only the guilty that are lost to all sense of obligation, and the foolish that are dead to all sense of prudence, who will be indifferent to the anger of God. Fear God's solemn displeasure, for if he rebukes it is certain that you are grievously in the wrong; fear it, for if he inflicts penalty there is none to deliver out of his hand, and, what is more, even death, that does deliver from the hand of man, is no shield from his power. Beyond the veil we are as much within his reach as we are on this side of it. There is every reason why we should seek and find his Divine favor, and live in the light of his countenance. We may go on in our thought, and be reminded by our Lord's words of -
IV. THE ONE WHOSE FRIENDSHIP WE SHOULD SEEN. "I say unto you, my friends. We do not simply want to escape the wrath of an offended Judge; we aspire to his favor and his love. Jesus Christ is offering us his friendship (see John 15:14, 15). If we will cordially accept him for all that he desires to be to us, we shall find in him the Friend in whom we shall implicitly confide, whom we shall gladly and happily love, by whose side and in the shelter of whose guardian care we shall walk all the way till the gates of home are reached. - C.
Not one of them is forgotten before God.
1. In the first place, God chooses for us our occupation. I am amazed to see how many people there are dissatisfied with the work they have to do. I think three-fourths wish they were in some other occupation; and they spend a great deal of time in regretting that they got in the wrong trade or profession. I want to tell you that God put into operation all the influences which led you to that particular choice. You know a man having a large estate. He gathers his working hands in the morning, and says to one, "You go and trim that vine"; to another, "You go and weed those flowers"; and to another, "You plough that tough globe"; and each one goes to his particular work. The owner of the estate points the man to what he knows he can do best; and so it is with the Lord. He calls us up, and points to that field for which we are best fitted. So that the first lesson coming from this subject is: Stay cheerfully where God puts you.
2. I remark, farther, that God has arranged the place of our dwelling. What particular city, or town, or street, or house you shall live in seems to be a mere matter of accident. You go out to hunt for a house, and you happen to pass up a certain street, and happen to see a sign, and you select that house. Was it all happening so? Oh, no. God guided you in every step. He foresaw the future. He knew all your circumstances, and He selected just that one house as better for you than any one of the ten thousand habitations in the city.
3. I remark, further, that God arranges all our friendships. You were driven to the wall. You found a man just at that crisis who sympathized with you and helped you. You say: "How lucky I was." There was no luck about it. God sent that friend just as certain as He sent the ravens to feed Elijah, or the angel to strengthen Christ. Your domestic friends, your business friends: your Christian friends, God sent them to bless you; and if any of them have proved traitorous, it is only to bring out the value of those who remain. If some die, it is only that they may stand on the outpost of heaven to greet you at your coming. You always will have friends — warm-hearted friends — magnanimous friends; and, when sickness comes to your dwelling, there will be watchers; when trouble comes to your heart, there will be sympathisers; when death comes, there will be gentle fingers to close the eyes and fold the hands, and consoling lips to tell of a resurrection. Oh! we are compassed by a bodyguard of friends. Every man, if he has behaved himself well, is surrounded by three circles of friends; those on the outer circle wishing him well; those in the next circle willing to help him; while close up to his heart are a few who would die for him. God pity the wretch who has not any friends; he has not behaved well.
4. I remark, again, that God puts down the limit to our temporal prosperity. The world of finance seems to have no God in it. You cannot tell where men will land. The affluent fall; the poor rise. The ingenious fail; the ignorant succeed. An enterprise opening grandly shuts in bankruptcy; while out of the peat dug up from some New England marsh, the millionaire builds his fortune. The poor man thinks it is chance that keeps him down. The rich man thinks it is chance which hoists him, and they are both wrong. It is so hard to realize that God rules the money market, and has a hook in the nose of the stock gambler; and that all the commercial revolutions of the world shall result in the very best for God's dear children. My brother, don't kick against, the Divine allotments. God knows just how much money it is best for you to have. You never lose unless it is best for you to lose, and you never gain unless it is best for you to gain. You go up when it is best for you to go up, and go down when it is best for you to go down. Prove it, you say. I will. "All things work together for good to them that love God." You go into a factory, and you see twenty or thirty wheels, and they are going in different directions. This band is rolling off this way, and another band another way; one down and the other up. You say "What confusion in a factory." Oh, no, all these different bands are only different parts of the machinery. So I go into your life, and see strange things. Here is one providence pulling one way, and another in another way; but they are different parts of one machinery by which He will advance your present and everlasting well-being.
(Dr. Talmage.)I. THERE IS A PROVIDENCE. This appears —
2. From the nature of God, who being independent, and the first cause of all things, the creatures must needs depend upon Him in their being and working. He is the end of all things, wise, knowing how to manage all for the best; powerful to effectuate whatever He has purposed, and faithful to accomplish all He has decreed, promised, or threatened.
3. From the harmony and order of the most confused things in the world. Everything appears to a discerning eye to be wisely ordered, notwithstanding the confusions that seem to take place.
4. From the fulfilment of prophecies, which could not possibly be without a providence to bring them to pass.
II. Let us, in the next place, consider THE OBJECT OF PROVIDENCE, or that which it reacheth and extendeth to. And this is all the creatures, and all their actions — "Upholding all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). "His kingdom ruleth over all" (Psalm 103:19).
III. I proceed to consider THE ACTS OF PROVIDENCE. They are two, preserving and governing the creatures and their actions.
1. God by His providence preserves all the creatures.
2. God does not only preserve the creatures, but governs and manages them, which is the second act of providence; whereby He disposes of all things, persons, and actions, according to His will; "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will" (Proverbs 21:1). "The lot is cast into the lap: but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33). "A man's heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). And this act of providence is also necessary: for as the creature cannot be or exist without God, so neither can it act without Him (Acts 17:21). God does not make man as the carpenter doth the ship, which afterwards sails without him; but He rules and guides him, sitting at the helm, to direct and order all his motions: so that whatever men do, they do nothing without Him; not only in their good actions, where He gives grace, and excites it, working in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure; but also in their evil actions, wherein they are under the hand of providence, but in a very different manner.(1) God permits sin, when He does not hinder it, which He is not obliged to do.(2) God leaves the sinner so far as He sees meet to the swing of his own lusts, and denies him restraining grace.(3) God bounds sin, and restrains men in their sins, as He does the raging sea, allowing it to go so far, but no further.(4) God overrules all to a good end. God has one end in wicked actions, and the sinner another. The sinner minds and intends evil, but God means and designs good by them all.
IV. Our next business is to consider THE PROPERTIES OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
1. God's providence is most holy (Psalm 145:17).
2. It is most wise (Isaiah 28:29).
3. Providence is most powerful.I shall conclude with an use of exhortation.
1. Beware of drawing an excuse for your sin from the providence of God, for it is most holy, and has not the least efficiency in any sin you commit.
2. Beware of murmuring and fretting under any dispensations of providence that ye meet with; remembering that nothing falls out without a wise and holy providence, which knows best what is fit and proper for you. And in all cases, even amidst the most afflicting incidents that befall you, learn submission to the will of God.
3. Beware of anxious cares and diffidence about your through-bearing in the world.
(T. Boston, D. D.)crown of mighty dominion.
Christian Age.It has been said, "God is great in great things, but He is very great in little things." This was illustrated by an incident which occurred in a room during a Scripture reading. There was a beautiful engraving on the wall of the Matterhorn mountain. It was remarked that the wondrous works of God were not only shown in those lofty, snow-clad mountains, but also the tiny mosses found in their crevices. A friend present said, "Yes, I was with a party at the Matterhorn, and, while we were admiring the sublimity of the scene, a gentleman of the company produced a pocket microscope and, having caught a tiny fly, placed it under the glass. He reminded us that the legs of the household fly in England are naked; then called our attention to the legs of this little fly, which were thickly covered with hair"; thus showing that the same God who made these lofty mountains rise, attended to the comfort of the tiniest of His creatures, even providing socks and mittens for the little flies whose homes these mountains were.
New Cyclolpoedia of Anecdote.An aged Christian who had long been an invalid, and was dependent on Christian charity for her support, on sending for a new physician who had just come into the place, and united with the same Church of which she was a member, said to him, "Doctor, I wish to put myself under your care, but I cannot do it unless you will trust my Father." "Well, Ma'am," replied the physician, "I believe your Father is rich; I may safely trust Him."
(New Cyclolpoedia of Anecdote.)
(R. South, D. D.)
(J. H. Newman)
I. MAN'S FEARS. They are of two kinds —
1. Those which respect this world. Some people go through life much more anxiously than others, though in outward circumstances there seems little difference in their respective lots. A good deal depends upon a man's temperament as to the way in which he will take things. Those on the lower ground have the least care. As we rise higher in the social scale, then it brings increasing solicitude. Provision has to be made not only for the wants of the day, but for appearances. It is right enough that men should look to appearances. God looks to appearances. He has made this world-house beautiful, and we are but following the Divine example when we try to make our life a thing of variety, largeness, and grace. But in doing so, the gates of anxiety are opened to us, and we are careful and troubled.
2. Fears respecting the world to come and our spiritual state and relation to that. The fullest victory over the cares and fears of this life is to be gained only by living for a higher world. Let us try to see Jesus standing as Lord of both worlds, and saying, "Fear not."
II. THE DIVINE DISSUASIVE. "Fear not." This is supported and recommended by several arguments, as the limited power of man and of circumstances. Men may say and do a great deal which may be injurious to you, but you always come to the limit: "After that, there is nothing more they can do. Again, there is unlimited power with God, and if we are true trusting disciples of Christ this is a great dissuasive from fear. God will use all that infinite power to protect and save His trusting children. "He telleth the number of the stars," and has regard to every sparrow that flies. Why should we fear? Then our Lord teaches us that we are of more value to God than the inferior creatures. He has a higher care about us.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)I. I SHALL ENDEAVOUR, IN THE FIRST PLACE, TO ILLUSTRATE THE SUBJECT OF A DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
1. Divine providence implies the preservation of all things.
2. Providence also implies the government of the world by its great and almighty Ruler.(1) Divine providence is particular in its government. A general providence must, in the nature of things, include a particular one. God cannot superintend the larger parts of the universe without taking care of the most minute parts. The all-wise and all-gracious Being who created all things, sustains all things. He is the Preserver as well as the Creator of everything that exists. As no part of His universe can be neglected or overlooked by Him, so no circumstance, however trivial, in the history of any individual is beneath His notice. No created thing can continue either to exist or to act independently of Him. He governs each individual with the same care and attention that He pays to the whole.(2) Divine providence is special in its regards. We know that God Almighty is the Father, the kind and gracious Father of all mankind; His providence is, consequently, exercised on behalf of all living things. He careth for the animal creation, every part of which is under His government; for "He giveth food unto the cattle, and feedeth the young ravens that call upon Him. The lions roaring after their prey do seek their meat from God; He openeth His hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness." His providence is exercised also on behalf of the unholy and unthankful: to them He is kind and merciful, and for them He makes rich and constant provision. His love is not confined — "The Lord is loving unto every man, and His mercy is over all His works." We must, however, distinguish betwixt that general regard which the Almighty exercises towards the whole race of mankind, and that tender and special regard which He feels towards those who love Him, and constantly worship Him in spirit and in truth.(3) The administration of Divine providence, though often mysterious, is uniformly conducted by infinite wisdom, and with the most benign intentions.
II. LESSONS WHICH FLOW FROM THIS REPRESENTATION OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE.
1. We are reminded of the supreme worth and importance of the friendship of God.
2. By this subject we are taught the duty of devout attention to the dispensations of Divine providence.
3. Reverential submission is another lesson that we derive from this important subject.
4. Finally, we derive from this representation of Divine providence a reason for cheerful and implicit confidence in God. This is the practical and consolatory use to which our blessed Lord applies the great truth now before us: "Fear not, therefore." If you truly fear God, you need fear none beside.
1. The doctrine of God's providence is, at first, as terrible to contemplate as it is hard to realize; no one can bear to think of it, no one willingly admits it, who is leading an evil life. It means that there is nothing about you, or in you, or of you, but God knows and sees it all; the thoughts of your heart, the springs and motives of your acts, the vices of your blood. Then, also, those eyes sweep the entire circumference of the sphere in which you move; they see your friends and your foes, the tempting spirits which allure you, the guardians set for your defence; they mark the rise of the storms, as yet no bigger than a man's hand, which are coming up against you, and see, beyond, the sunshine which, after many days, may break out once more. You, just as you are, stand now before God, and simply for what you are, since there is no deceiving Him.
2. The truth of God's never-failing providence is awful indeed to those who know Him not, nor have Him in their thoughts; but to those who are near Him, and love to set Him ever before them as the Father and the Saviour, it is more precious than words can tell. To such it serves three purposes: it gives them guidance; it gives them strength; it gives the sense of safety. It shows them what they ought to do; it assures them of success; it blesses with the blessing of peace. That is the other side of the picture; and it shines in lovely light. If our sins are before Him, so also are our humble attempts to do right, our desires to win His approval, and regrets when we fear that we have failed. He follows us with merciful and tender consideration. When we go forth, the strong Hand is there to sustain us as we walk, and lead us through peril in safety. When we come in, the faithful guardian opens to us, and bids us rest in the quietness of perfect love and trust. We see Him in each event of life, and in the smallest particulars of each day, as the Friend who is near us all the time; we find Him in our rising up and in our lying down, in the home and its pure joys, in the loving faces them; we bless Him as the Author of every innocent pleasure; when the heart is glad We know that what filled it so full is the habitual sense that God is in our happiness, as the Author and Giver: all is of Him, and to Him do we give thanks. When we take up our daily work, it is with a song in the heart, because He worketh with us and will show us how our work should be done; and when we lay it down, it is with quiet satisfaction, because He has seen all, and remembers, and knows that though we may not have been perfect, we did what we could. His Holy Spirit, called the "Paraclete," the "Comforter," and the "Loving Spirit," is ever near us, and even within, since these mortal bodies are His consecrated temples; and the musical sounds often heard in the soul, like songs without words, are the voice of that Spirit, telling our spirit of the love of God for us and the reward of love for Him.
3. Its own reward follows on just and righteous doing; its reward follows surely on faith. It shall come to you along the three lines of warning, help, and comfort: the assurance of the Providence that never faileth, and never forgetteth, shall bring to you as its fruit, these precious results: A sober and awful sense of responsibility; a check and salutary restraint on action; a courage and energy above natural force; a constant sense of the Divine companionship; a transfiguration of your entire life; and, for the future, a settled restfulness and peace, the harbingers of eternal satisfaction in the likeness of Him whom now His children see by faith, but whom they shall know hereafter even as they are known.
(Morgan Dix, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(G. G. Findlay, B. A.)I. To prove that the providence of God extends to all human affairs; and —
II. To point out the practical uses we should make of this doctrine.
I. Let us establish, by reference to the Scriptures, this great and important truth, THAT THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS UNIVERSAL; that it extends to all creatures and things throughout the whole world; but, as that concerns us most, especially to all human affairs. By the providence of God, we mean His preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions.
1. This appears even from the light of nature. It seems necessarily to follow from His being the Creator of the world; for it is reasonable to believe, that He who made all things, governs all things (Romans 1:18-21; Acts 14:17). The existence of God, a Being of infinite power and wisdom and goodness, obliges us to believe that He will take care of His creatures.
2. But we have clearer light and fuller proof of this from the Bible, God's own revelation of Himself. There we read that God is the great Preserver. What shall I do unto Thee," said holy Job, "O thou Preserver of men!" (Job 7:20). And the psalmist exclaims, "How excellent is Thy loving kindness, O God I therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. O Lord, thou preservest man and beast" (Psalm 36:6, 7). And in the book of Nehemiah, the good providence of God is celebrated in these exalted strains: "Thou, even Thou, art Lord alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and Thou preservest them all!" (Nehemiah 9:6). The predictions of future events, and their fulfilment, of both which the Scriptures afford very numerous instances, furnish us with another proof of the reality of a Divine Providence; for if God did not govern the world, He could not foretell what would come to pass. God forewarned Noah of the flood 120 years before it came. He foretold the bondage of Israel in Egypt; how long it should last, and how they should be delivered. The captivity of Judah was foretold long before it happened; how many years it should continue; by whom, and by what means the people should be restored, and the temple rebuilt. All the circumstances relating to the birth, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ were exactly predicted. God, who preserves all creatures, governs them also. He does not commit the management of the world to deputies, as many of the heathen supposed. "The Lord reigneth." "He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: He enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again. He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle. He leadeth princes away spoiled, and over-throweth the mighty" (Job 12:18, 19, 23). The providence of God is to be owned in the affairs of families (Psalm 68:6; Psalm 107:41). Nor are individuals beneath His notice, as the text plainly imports; not even the least of their concerns, "for the very hairs of their head are all numbered".; consequently all their more important concerns. Even as to those events which we call contingent, or accidental, even they are under the direction and control of the Almighty (Proverbs 16:33). This providence of God, the existence of which we have clearly proved.(1) It is sovereign and uncontrollable. Who hath resisted, who can resist, His will?(2) It is wise. "His work is perfect, all His ways are judgment." He cannot err: He cannot be deceived or mistaken.(3) It is mysterious. "Clouds and darkness are round about Him."(4) Always good. "Truly, God is good to Israel." "His eyes," directing all human affairs, "run to and fro throughout the earth"; and for what purpose? "To show Himself strong" in behalf of all that fear and love His name. Yes, assuredly; for all "things work together for the good" of His people.
II. We now proceed to the second part of the subject; namely, TO POINT OUT THE PRACTICAL USES WE OUGHT TO MAKE OF THE DOCTRINE OF PROVIDENCE. This doctrine is, in truth, connected with the whole of practical religion. Take away providence, and you destroy the whole system of godliness, and leave no room for prayer or praise.
1. Let us stand in awe of the great Ruler of the world. Do His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men? Is He in every place, beholding the evil and the good? In His hand is our breath and all our ways? Who, then, shall not fear Him? who shall not tremble at His presence?
2. Let us rejoice that the reins of universal government are in the hands of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our Lord — of Him who is our Mediator, our Redeemer, our Brother, and our Friend.
3. The doctrine of providence shows the propriety and utility of prayer; it affords the strongest motive, and the best encouragement to that duty.
4. The doctrine of providence shows the propriety of offering to God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
5. It shows the propriety of submission to the will of God. Does the Lord rule? Submit to His government.
6. Improve the doctrine of Divine Providence, as a remedy against anxiety.
7. Finally: let this subject lead our minds forward towards the future and eternal world.
(G. Burder.)all, and yet He is my God. This view of God we all have a deep interest in impressing on our minds. We must strive to combine, in our conception of Him, the thoughts of a particular and a universal providence. On the one hand, we must not narrow His loving care, as if it were mindful of ourselves alone, nor think of Him only as doing us good. For this would be to rob Him of His infinitude, and darken the splendour of His boundless beneficence. Such a view would make religion the nurse of selfishness, and convert our connection with the Supreme Being into one of self-interest. Never let us try to monopolize God. Never let us imagine that God exists only as administering to our individual wants. Never let us for an instant forget His relation to the universe. But on the other hand, beware lest in thus enlarging your views of the Infinite One, you lose your hold of the correlative truth — that though all beings of all worlds are His care, though His mind thus embraces the universe, He is yet as mindful of you, as if that universe were blotted out, and you alone survived to receive the plenitude of His care. God's relation to you is not an exclusive one, but it is as close as if it were. Never conceive that your actions are overlooked and forgotten, because of the multiplicity of agents and beings who are to be guided and governed. Never fear that your wants are forgotten, because the boundless Creation sends up a cry to its common Father, and He has an infinite family for whom to provide. Never think that your characters are objects of little interest, because innumerable orders of beings of higher attainments and virtues attract the regards of this munificent King. Were you His only creature alive, He could not think of you more constantly and tenderly, or be more displeased with your resistance to duty, or feel more joy in your fidelity to right, than He does now. The human mind, apt to measure God by itself, has always found a difficulty in reconciling the two views which have just been stated. Through this propensity it fell into Polytheism, or the worship of many gods. Wanting a Deity, who would watch over their particular interests, and fearing that they would be overlooked by the Father of all, men invented inferior divinities — gods for each particular country and nation — and still more household gods, divinities for each particular dwelling, that they might have some superior power beneath which to shelter their weakness.
I. BUT THERE IS NO INCONSISTENCY IN AT ONCE BELIEVING IN GOD'S PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE AND IN HIS UNIVERSAL PROVIDENCE. He may watch over all, and yet watch over each, as if each were all. There is a simple truth, which may help us to understand, that God does not intermit His attention to individuals in consequence of His inspection of the infinite whole. It is this. The individual is a living part of this living whole — vitally connected with it — acting upon it and reacted upon by it — receiving good, and communicating good in return, in proportion to his growth and power. From this constitution of the universe it follows, that the whole is preserved and perfected by the care of its parts. The general good is bound up m the individual good. So that to superintend the one is to superintend the other; and the neglect .of either would be the neglect of both. What reason have I for considering myself as overlooked, because God has such an immense family to provide for? I belong to this family. I am bound to it by vital bonds. I am always exerting an influence upon it. I can hardly perform an act that is confined in its consequences to myself. Every new truth that I gain makes me a brighter light to humanity. I ought not then to imagine that God's interest in me is diminished, because His interest is extended to endless hosts of spirits. On the contrary, God must be more interested in me on this very account, because I influence others as well as myself. I am a living member of the great family of all souls; and I cannot improve or suffer myself, without diffusing good or evil around me through an ever-enlarging sphere. In these remarks we have seen, that from the intimate and vital connection between the individual and the community of spirits, God in taking care of each person is taking care of the whole, and that there is a perfect harmony between the general and the particular superintendence of God. From the same vital connection of beings, I derive another encouraging view, leading to the same result. I learn from it that God's attention to His whole creation, far from withdrawing His regard from me, is the very method whereby He is advancing my especial good. I am organically connected with the great family of the universal parent. Plainly then it is for my happiness, that this family should be watched over and should prosper. Suppose the Creator to abandon all around me, that He might bless me alone, should I be a gainer by such a monopoly of God's care? My happiness is manifestly bound up with and flows from the happiness of those around; and thus the Divine kindness to others is essentially kindness to myself. This is no theory; it is the fact confirmed by all experience. Every day we receive perpetual blessings from the progress of our race. We are enlightened, refined, elevated, through the studies, discoveries, and arts of countless persons, whom we have never seen and of whom we have never even heard. Daily we enjoy conveniences, pleasures, and means of health and culture, through advancements in science and art, made in the most distant regions. And in so far as we possess elevated, disinterested, and holy characters, or enlarged intelligence, have not these been cherished and encouraged by the examples, writings, deeds, and lives of far-spread fellow-beings, through all ages and nations? How much would each of us assuredly be advanced in happiness, wisdom, virtue, were the community around us — were all the persons with whom we hold intercourse — more humane and more heavenly! Is God, then, neglecting us in His care of others? How could He bless us more effectually than by carrying forward the great spiritual system to which we belong, and of which we are living parts?
II. Thus having seen how consistent is the doctrine of God's care for the whole with the doctrine that He watches minutely over every individual, let ME NOW ASK YOU TO LOOK AT THIS DOCTRINE MORE CLOSELY, IN ITS PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS. Consider what affecting ideas it involves! According to this truth, we are, each one of us, present to the mind of God. We are penetrated, each one of us, instant by instant, by His all-seeing eye; we are known, every single person of us, more interiorly by Him than we are known to ourselves. Moment by moment the living God sustains us; and His own life continually flows into us through His omnipotent good-will. In fine, and above all, the Holy One never loses sight of our character and conduct. He witnesses and delights in our virtues. And He too witnesses and condemns every sin. Intimate and tender, beyond our highest conception, is our Heavenly Father's relationship to us! He is incessantly our creator and renewer, our upholder and benefactor, our witness and judge. The connection of all other beings with us, when compared with this, is foreign and remote. The nearest friend, the most loving parent, is but a stranger to us, when contrasted with God. No words can adequately express this living alliance of the Creator with His creatures. And knowing thus the intensity and the extent of this relationship, how is it possible that I can forget Him? My hearers, I have thus turned your attention to this sublimely affecting subject of our vital connection with God, not for the purpose of awakening temporary fervour, but that we may feel the urgent duty of cherishing these convictions. Were a person, who had lived in ignorance of all beyond mere sensitive existence, suddenly to receive a clear impression of God's all-embracing presence, he would undergo a greater change of condition, than if he were to awake some morning in a wholly new world, peopled by new beings, clothed in new beauty, and governed by laws such as he had never known by experience. He would be uplifted with the assurance, that at length he had found for his soul an all-sufficing object of veneration, gratitude, trust and love, an unfailing source of strength for every mortal weakness, an exhaustless refreshment of his highest hope, an ever-springing fount of holy emotion, virtuous energy, and heavenly joy, infinitely transcending all modes of good to which he had been wont to look. In a word, he would be utterly transformed. On the other hand, in degree as by faithlessness I lose sight of my intimate relationship with God, I am bereft of inward peace, of the desire for progress, of power to escape from myself. The future grows dim, and hope dies. A change comes over me like that which befals the traveller when clouds overspread the sky, when gathering mists obscure his path, and gloom settles down upon his uncertain way, till he is lost. The light of life is a constant consciousness of Divine fellowship.
III. How THEN CAN WE ATTAIN TO AN ABIDING CONSCIOUSNESS OF LIVING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LIVING GOD? How can we reach the constant feeling that He is always with us, offering every aid consistent with our freedom, guiding us on to heavenly happiness, welcoming us into the immediate knowledge of His perfection, into a loving fellowship with Himself? I shall confine myself to what seems to be essential, as the first step, in this approach to true communion with the ]Father of spirits. My belief is, that one chief means of acquiring a vivid sense of God's presence is to resist, instantly and resolutely, whatever we feel to be evil in our hearts and lives, and at once to begin in earnest to obey the Divine will as it speaks in conscience. You say that you desire a new and nearer knowledge of your Creator. Let this thirst for a higher consciousness of the Infinite Being lead you to oppose whatever you feel to be at war with God's purity, God's truth, and God's righteousness. Just in proportion as you gain a victory over the evil of which you have become aware in yourself, will your spiritual eye be purged for a brighter perception of the Holy One.
(W. E. Channing.)
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