Stacks Image 905


PART SIXTH.
ON UNION WITH GOD IN HIS PROVIDENCES.



CHAPTER VIII.


0F THE UNION OF GOD AND MAN IN PROVIDENCE.


Union with Providence is union with God. — The unsanctified or sinful man at variance with both. — Union with God in Providence implies union with God in outward nature. — Illustrations of this view.— On turning from God. — Remarks.

IT will be seen, on a little examination, that the result of these views in relation to Providence must be, that harmony with Providence is union with God. As the law of Providence is only another expression for God's will, as that will is exhibited in connection with his providences, the man who lives in conformity with Providence necessarily lives in conformity with God.

2. This certainly cannot be said of the natural or unholy man. It is impossible that it should be. Living in the breath and heat of his own desires, in his own will and out of God's will, he is not more discordant with Providence, than with the Author of Providence. There is a perpetual conflict. Full of his own objects and purposes, he desires health, but God sends sickness; he desires riches, but God sends poverty; he desires ease, but God imposes activity and labor; he desires honor, but God sends degradation. Or, if God sends the objects of his desire, giving him health, wealth, and honor, he still complains of the way in which they are sent; or if he is satisfied with the way in which they are sent, he is not satisfied with the degrees. There will always be found a divergency, a want of harmony somewhere. It is impossible that they should walk together.

3. It is very different with the truly holy man, to whom God's providences are dear. In conforming to the law of Providence, he obeys the law which secures efficacy and application to every other law. The law of God, for instance, requires us to reprove sin in our neighbor; but unless we are guided in doing it by the providential law, we shall be likely to do more evil than good. If we reprove him without regard to time and place, — if we take an occasion to do it which will unnecessarily expose him to contempt and injury from others, while he is made the subject of our own reprehensions, — we shall obviously fail of our object.

The law of God requires us to do good, by speaking to impenitent persons on the subject of religion. But this requisition must be carried into effect, in connection with the law of Providence; in accordance with the appropriateness of time, place, the presence or absence of friends, and all other circumstances which are naturally or necessarily involved.

The law of God requires us to be benevolent; but benevolence, without regard Io the adjustments and claims of Providence, is not benevolence, but prodigality; in other words, it is unbelieving and unacceptable wastefulness. We are to consult God's will in the
manner of giving, as much as in the fact of giving. His written law requires the fact; — his providential law indicates the manner. A failure in the latter, if it is intentional, vitiates and annuls the obedience of the former.

The law of God requires us to be submissive and acquiescent under those afflictions which from time to time come upon us. But submission to afflictions, without recognizing God's providential foresight and arrangements in sending them, is mere acquiescence in unavoidable events, and not acquiescence in God's wise and just agency; it is the submission of a brute animal, and not the submission of a Christian.

4. It is hardly necessary to say anything in addition to what has already been intimated in various places, to show the importance of keeping steady to the line of Providence. It is when we are in this position, and only when we are in this position, that we may be said to walk with God; and walking with God is union with God.

6. Providence, expansive as the agency of the Divine Mind, includes things as well as events, material nature as well as human action. To be in harmony, therefore, with God's Providence, we must be in harmony with everything; — not excepting the material world. It is true, that things inanimate have no life in themselves; but they are the residence of a living mind. We might almost say, in a mitigated sense of the terms, that every thing, not excluding objects the most remote from moral intelligence, becomes God to us. There is no grass, no flower, no tree, no insect, no creeping thing, no singing bird, nothing which does not bring God with it, and in such a manner that the thing which we behold becomes a clear and bright revelation of that which is invisible.

6. We go, for instance, into a garden and pluck a flower; and, as we permit our eye to wander over it and to behold the various elements of its graceful beauty, we not only see the flower, but the eye of faith, making a telescope of the bodily eye, and reading the invisible in the visible, sees, also, the God of the flower. Often has the devout Christian, in all ages of the world used expressions, which indicate the fact of this divine perception. "The God, whom I love," he says, "shines upon me from these blooming leaves." And the expressions he uses convey a great truth to him, however they may fail to convey it to others. That flower is God's development. It is not only God present indirectly by a material token, by a mere manifested sign, while the reality of the thing signified is absent; but it is God present as a being, living, perceptive, and operative. We do not mean to say, that God and the flower are identical. Far from it. But what we do mean to say is, — that the life of God lives and operates in the life of the flower. It is not enough to say, as we contemplate the flower, that God created it; implying, in the remark, that, having created it, he then cast it upon the bosom of the earth to live or die, as a thing friendless and uncared for. This is the low view which unbelief taken. The vision of faith sees much further than this. God is still in it; — not virtually, but really; not merely by signs, but as the thing signified. God is the "God of the living." And while the flower lives, he, who made it, is still its vital principle just as much as when his unseen hand propelled it from its stalk; not only the author, but the support of its life, the present and not the absent source of its beauty and fragrance, still delighting in it as an object of his skill and care.

The sanctified mind realizes this in a new and higher sense; — so much so that the truly holy man enjoys especial intercourse with God, and enters into a close and divine unity with him, when he walks amid the various works which nature, or rather the God of nature, constantly presents to his view.

7. But this is not all. In a similar sense every event which takes place in God's providential government may be said
to be God to us; — that is to say, not merely to remind us of God as coldly beholding the event at a distance, but to bring God with it, and to manifest him in a very especial manner. I am aware that it is a common saying, and one which is generally assented to, that God is present in all events. The man of the world will assert this; — the disbelievers in the Bible will sometimes assert it. But it is hardly necessary to say, that they have not the faith which enables them to realize that which they assert. The mere declaration of his presence is a very different thing from a practical conviction, a realizing sense, of his presence. If God, in the events of his providence, afflicts me with sickness, or if he permits my neighbor to defame me, God, it is true, is not the sickness, and is not the defamation; but he is in the sickness and in the defamation, in such a sense that we are to think of him and receive him as a present God, and present probably for the specific purpose of trying our faith and patience. The event, painful as it is, and criminal as it is under some circumstances, is nevertheless a manifestation of God; and not of a God absent, but of a God present. And happy is the man that can receive this.

8. In connection with this interesting subject, one thought more remains to be considered. What is it
to turn from God? In the earlier stages of experience, we are apt (and perhaps it is difficult to do otherwise) to assign to God a form and locality. The term from, in its original meaning, involves the idea of place; and regarding God as having form and locality, we easily adjust the expression to our conceptions, and speak with a degree of propriety, relatively to our view of things, of turning our thoughts and feelings from God. But when, in a more advanced state of experience, the idea of a local God expands itself into the idea of God “un-local" and infinite, not only associating himself with all things as an attendant, but existing in all things as a living spirit; — what is meant by turning from God then?

In the experience of a truly sanctified mind, to turn from God, in one important sense at least, is to be out of harmony with his providences. For God, in being expanded, as it were, from the local and the finite to the
un-local and infinite, can be found, as a God developing himself within the sphere of human knowledge, only in those things, acts and events, which constitute providences. To be out of harmony with these things, acts, and events, which God in his providence has seen fit to array around us, — that is to say, not to meet them in a humble, believing, and thankful spirit, — is to turn from God. And, on the other hand, to see in them the developments of God's presence, and of the divine will, and to accept that will with all the appropriate dispositions, is to turn in the opposite direction, and to be in union with him.

9. The man who is thus united with God in his providences, not only sees God in everything else, but he has God in himself. His soul is the "temple of the Holy Ghost." The God inward, or perhaps we should say the purified soul in the likeness of God, corresponds to the God outward. God manifests himself in his providences, sometimes in sending joy and sometimes in sending sorrow — and the life of Jesus in the heart, the God in
miniature, if we may so express it, corresponds, with entire facility and perfection of movement, to the God that is manifested in the events and things around. And thus it is easy to understand, looking at the subject in these various points of view, and especially when we consider that God in his providences is the exact counterpart of God reestablished in the sanctified human heart, how man may be said, in the language of Scripture, "to walk" with his Maker, and that harmony with Providence is union with the Divinity.