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PART SIXTH.
ON UNION WITH GOD IN HIS PROVIDENCES.



CHAPTER VI.


ON THE RELATION OF PROVIDENCE TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH.


The arrangements of Providence to the spiritual growth what the earth is to natural growth. — The analogy between the two extended to particulars.— Importance of remaining quiet under the operations of Providence. — Illustrations of the subject. — Remarks.

WE proceed now to a view of Providence, which commends itself to the special consideration of Christians. Providence, considered as the divine arrangement of things in relation to men, is the Lord's spiritual garden. It is to the spiritual growth what the earth is to the germination and growth of material products. If it be true, that the earth is the appointed instrumentality, through which and by which the seeds of things grow up, it is not the less true, though it may be less obvious, that the arrangements of Providence, spread out in the wide and variegated surface of things and events, constitute, in like manner, the instrumentality, the receptive and productive medium, in which the seed of the spiritual life is to be planted, to germinate and perfect itself.

2. The analogy is not limited to the productive medium. It extends to that which is produced, and also to the manner of production. The seed, which is planted in the earth, is a dead seed. So man's soul, when it is first cast into the soil of God's providence, is a dead seed. They are both alike dead, the material seed and the seed of immortality.

But neither the ground of nature nor that of providence, into which they are first received, would of itself alone reproduce them to a new life. To the natural seed, when planted in the earth, there must be applied the rain and the sunshine before it can be decomposed, incorporated with new elements, and vivified with new life and beauty. The earth, operating in connection with these exterior helps, takes off and removes the outer coats of the seed, until it reaches the central principle, which had been encrusted and shut out from all the benign influences of the sun and atmosphere, and with its fostering care rears it up from its embryo of existence to its developed and beautiful perfection. In like manner, when the seed of man's immortal spirit is planted in the midst of God's providences, it is not till the influences of the Holy Spirit are applied, that it is decomposed, if we may so express it, by a separation of the good and evil, and the eternal element, deprived of life by reason of sin, is made alive in the spiritual regeneration.

The analogy in the two cases is a very close one. The encircling system of providential arrangements, operating in connection with the aiding energy of God's Spirit, removes coat after coat of that selfishness which had enveloped and paralyzed every faculty; and reaching at last the central element of the soul, the principle of love, which had suffered this dreadful perversion, it restores it to that life, light, and beauty, from which it had wickedly fallen.

3. But neither the garden of providence nor that of nature can do its work, unless the seed which is planted remain quiet in its position. If the material seed, under the pretense that a moister or drier, a richer or poorer, soil is better, or for any other reason, is removed from place to place, the processes of nature are hindered, re-production does not take effect. So, if the soul of man, when it is planted in the midst of God's providence, does not remain quiet under the divine operation, but, before its coats of selfishness can be displaced, moves off in its blind and dead life into what it considers a better soil, it cannot be born into the true and living life. The hand of the great Master, operating by its prescribed laws, will always perfectly accomplish its purpose, if the subject upon which it operates will remain fixed and steady to the process, but not otherwise.

4. One stroke of God's providence, perhaps by destroying a man's barn or ship, will remove the coat of inordinate desire of possession. Another stroke of the same providence, perhaps by unfolding some act of human treachery, will strike off and destroy the corrupting envelope of inordinate desire for human applause. Another blow, coming in another direction, by disappointing and destroying some lofty and cherished expectations, will separate and remove from the soul the destroying adhesions of a wicked ambition. And thus every inordinate propensity and passion may be smitten and removed one after another, until the principle of love, which had been enchained by the tyranny of lust, disenthralled from this heavy oppression, returns at last, and finds its centre in God.

5. Stay, therefore, son of man, under the process of the divine excision. Remain in the union of time and place, however painful it may be, until God shall bring thee into the union of disposition. If he smites thee, it is only that he may heal. If the dead limb is cut off, it is only that a new one may be grafted in. If, like the seed in the earth, thy spirit must be planted in the dark­ness of the burial place, it will find an angel in the tomb, who will burst its prison house. If thou must be brought down, and crucified, and perish in the dead Adam, it is only that thou mayst be re-produced, and elevated, and made joyful in the living Jesus.