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and prove me ; try my reins and my heart.' James i. 2, 3. 'my brethren, count it all joy when ye
fall into divers temptations ; knowing this, that the trying of
your faith worketh patience.'
God also promises a happy issue. 1 Cor. x. 13. • there hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man ; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.' James i. 12. blessed is the man that endureth temptation ; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life.'
Yet even believers are not always sufficiently observant of these various operations of divine providence, until they are led to investigate the subject more deeply, and become more intimately conversant with the word of God. Psal. lxxiii. 2, 17. my feet were almost gone....until I went into the sanctuary of God: then understood I their end.' Dan. xii. 10. many shall be purified, and made white, and tried ; but the wicked shall do wickedly : and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.'
Having said in the prefatory definition, that the providence of God
of God extends to all things, and that it has enacted certain immutable laws, by which every part of the creation is administered, it may not be an useless digression to inquire in this place, whether, among other fixed regulations, a limit has been set to the duration of human life, which is not to be passed. *
That such is the case, Scripture clearly inti** Tertia quæstio spectat conservationem individuorum, utrum Deus absoluto decreto unicuique homini certum vitæ terminum assignarit, quem nemo ulla ratione aut contrahere aut producere possit.' Curcell. Institutio, III. 11. 1.
mates. Job xiv. 5. seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.' Psal. xc. 10. the days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.' From these and similar passages, and especially from the early history of the world, it is evident that God, at least after the fall of man,* limited human life to a certain term, which in the progress of ages, from Adam to David, gradually became more and more contracted; so that whether this term be one and the same to all, or appointed differently to each individual, it is in the power of no one to prolong or exceed its limits. This is the province of God alone, as is proved beyond all doubt by the promise of long life made by him to his people, and by his addition of fifteen years to the life of Hezekiah when at the point of death. The power of shortening or anticipating the term in question, on the contrary, is not the exclusive privilege of God, though this also is exercised by him, both for purposes of reward and punishment; the
* This seems to intimate a belief in the doctrine held by the Fathers and best divines, that if Adam had not sinned, he would not have died. The opinion is expressed in the same doubtful manner in a speech of Raphael :
time may come, when men
Paradise Lost, V. 493.
same effect may be, and in fact frequently is, produced by the crimes or vices of mortals themselves. Prov. x. 27. the fear of Jehovah prolongeth days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.' Exod. xx. 12. honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land,' &c. See also numerous passages to the same purpose, during the time of the law. Psal. lv. 23, bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days, that is, they shall not live to the end of that term, to which by the constitution of their bodies they might otherwise have arrived ; in which class are to be placed all those who lay violent hands on themselves, or who accelerate death by intemperate living.
The providence of God is either ordinary or extraordinary.* *
His ordinary providence is that whereby he upholds and preserves the immutable order of causes appointed by him in the beginning. This is commonly, and indeed too frequently, described by the name of nature ; for nature cannot possibly mean anything but the mysterious power and efficacy of that divine voice which went forth in the beginning, and to which, as to a perpetual command, all things have since paid obedience. Job xxxviii. 12. hast thou commanded the morning since thy days?' v. 33. "knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?' Psal. cxlviii. 8. · fire and hail, snow and vapours, stormy wind fulfilling
*« Qualitas providentiæ in duobus præcipue spectatur. 1. Quod alia sit ordinaria, alia vero extraordinaria . . . Providentia ordinaria est, qua Deus in hominum regimine ordinem a se ab initio institutum observat, et omnia convenienter naturæ, quam ipsis indidit, gubernat.' Curcell. Institutio, III. 12. 10.
his word.' Isai. xlv. 12. I have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.' Jer. xxxi. 36. if those ordinances depart from before me.' xxxiii. 20. my covenant of the day and my covenant of the night.'
The extraordinary providence of God is that whereby God produces some effect out of the usual order of nature, or gives the power of producing the same effect to whomsoever he may appoint. This is what we call a miracle. Hence God alone is the primary author of miracles, as he only is able to invert that order of things which he has himself appointed. Psal. lxxii. 18. “who only doeth wondrous things.' John X. 21. 'can a devil open the eyes of the blind ?' 2 Thess. ii. 9. “whose coming is after the power of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders.”
The use of miracles is to manifest the divine power, and confirm our faith. Exod. vi. 6, 7. I will redeem you .... with great judgements .... and ye shall know that I am Jehovah your God.' viii. 22. • I will sever in that day the land of Goshen .... to the end thou mayest know that I am Jehovah.' 1 Kings xvii. 24. now by this I know that thou art a man of God.' Mark xvi. 20. “the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Heb. ii. 4. “God also bearing them wit. ness, both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will.'
Miracles are also designed to increase the condemnation of unbelievers, by taking away all excuse for unbelief. Matt. xi. 21. 6 woe unto thee, Chorazin
for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, John xv. 24. if I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin : but now they have no cloak for their sin.'