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disown our plans and measures, he will not neglect his own. The condescending kindness which has provided the means, will not withhold the appropriate and necessary influence. The more of skill which he has employed upon the apparatus, and the more perfectly it seems to be adapted to the purpose,
the more confidence are we encouraged to entertain, that all things necessary to its effectual operation will be afforded; and that it we do not mar and injure it, by our contrivances and interference, it will be honoured and eminently blessed of God.
Merely to try, far less to tantalize his creatures, is no part of God's procedure towards them. He knows that the means, even of his own institution must fail, unless his influence be exerted along with them. We know that Paul might plant, and Apollos water in vain; but his appointment of them to plant and to water involved his pledge to bless them, and he redeemed that pledge. We know that Ezekiel unaided, must have prophesied in vain to the dry bones; God did not promise that he would make him the instrument of quickening them: but as it was not his intention to expose the prophet to derision, while doing his own work, the employment of the appointed means brought the corresponding power from above. So much, I conceive to be implied in the established means for the diffusion of God's salvation. The full exercise of them, I believe to be essentially connected with the promised blessing of God; and that in whatever degree
they are employed, will they be accompanied with the influence of his Spirit. A different state of matters, I should consider an inexplicable problem in the divine administration. That God should provide means, and command them to be used; that his people should comply, and he withhold the power which accomplishes the end, are things not only, not to be supposed, but subversive of all those principles by which he expects his conduct to be approved, and our conduct to be governed.
2. Reasoning from analogies suggested by other parts of God's administration, will lead to the same conclusion,-that an economy of means is inseparably connected with an economy of influence to render it beneficial. A most striking illustration is supplied by our text. The labours of the husbandman and the agriculturist are there referred to;-just as the planter and the waterer are spoken of, in reference to the vineyard of God. With these labours are connected the fertilizing showers of Heaven; the rain and the snow which descend to water, and refresh, and fructify the earth. There seems to be no necessary connexion between them, and get the connexion is so intimate that every one employed in these labours, feels assured that there shall be seed to the sower and bread to the eater.
Were a man to plead as an excuse for his neglecting the ordinary labours of the field, that God has promised there shall be seed time and harvest while the world shall endure, and therefore his
exertions might be dispensed with; we should instantly accuse him of folly or fanaticism; and remind him, that the divine engagement to bless the earth was not intended to supersede, but to encourage human labour. Or were an individual to allege as an excuse for his indolence, and carelessness in the preparation of the ground and of the seed, the great uncertainty of the weather, and the possibility that all his labour might be thrown away; we should remind such an individual of the faithfulness and goodness of God, and of the experience of all ages; and urge him to do his duty, if he would not lay his account with disappointment and ruin. On the other hand, would it not appear surprising if, after the rescinding of the curse, to a certain extent, by the covenant of Noah, all the labours of men were directed to the culture of the earth, and the showers of heaven, and the blessing of God were to be universally withheld, or even very partially afforded ?
The rain and the snow appear to be distributed in the most irregular and capricious manner. Sometimes they fall upon one spot, and are withheld from another, without our being able to account for it. Yet we are satisfied that they form part of a beautiful economy, under the regulation of the wisest and most perfect principles. They are measured out in the nicest proportions, they are allotted according to the wisest arrangements, and even when driven by the sportive winds of heaven, every drop descends in its proper place.
The connexion of the appointed means, with the enjoyment of the enriching of Heaven, in regard to temporal things, is closer and more intimate than we are aware of. In the former discourse, we found that the improper conduct of the people was referred to, as a reason for the sterility under which they groaned, and that they were exhorted to prove God by doing his will, when he would no longer withhold his abundant blessing God tells the people of Israel by Jeremiah, that for their idolatries and their abominations, were “the showers withholden, and they had no latter rain.”* It is certain, though the connexion is not perceivable, that, between the part which men act, and the wondrous economy of nature and providence, there is a constant correspondence and re-action going on. A striking view of this is given in the prophecies of Hosea. “And it shall be in that day I will perform, saith Jehovah ;-I will perform my part upon the heavens ; and they shall perform their part upon the earth; and the earth shall perform her part upon the corn, and the wine, and the oil, and they shall perform their part for the Jezreel, the seed of God.”+ Here, there is a beautiful representation of that mysterious chain of causes and effects, which unites the heavens and the earth together, as a mighty system of providential operation. Jehovah as the first cause, the head of all, is represented as operating on the heavens; directing the heat of the
* Jer. iii. 3.
+ Hosea iii. 21, 22. See Note [CC].
sun, and the diffusion of the showers: these again act upon the earth, causing it to bring forth and bud, and yield its fruits; and these finally promote the good of the chosen race.
Who can estimate then the effects of a good man's prayer, , on Him who holds the winds in his fists, and comprises the waters in the hollow of his hand? The investigations of experimental philosophy cannot go beyond the narrow boundaries, which circumscribe the system to which we more immediately belong. What impresses the first movements on those regions which lie far beyond our power and our experiments, and from which the secondary operations derive their impulse, we cannot ascertain, and therefore we may justly say,
“All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
The more that we know God, the more shall we be convinced that there is nothing irregular or capricious in his proceedings; that all which takes place in the natural and moral world, is the result of fixed and immutable principles; that what we deem accidental or irregular, arises from the operation of causes unknown or imperfectly known to us; and that we ascribe many things to sovereignty, merely because we cannot assign a reason for what we see. If there be any force in the analogy suggested by the text, then it will follow, that in the spiritual economy, there is as certain a connexion between the employment of divinely-appointed means and success, as there is be