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The Providences of God considered as Interpreters of the inward Operations of the Holy Spirit.

WE propose in the present chapter, to enter upon a subject which may justly be regarded as one of especial importance and interest. The proposition, which we lay down and which we design to illustrate, is the following, viz;
We cannot, as a general thing, arrive at the true interpretation and import of the inward suggestions of the Holy Spirit, except by connecting them with, and considering then in their relation to God's outward providences.

Our first inquiry is, what are we to understand by the providences of God? In answering this question, it does not seem to be necessary for any purposes we have at present in view, to go into the distinction which is frequently and very properly made, of the ordinary or common providence of God, viz; that which is exercised in connection with secondary causes and in the common course of things; and of the extraordinary providence of God, or that which is altogether out of the common way and has the nature of a miraculous operation. Saying nothing of extraordinary providences, we apprehend, that there is no ordinary or common providence of God of such a nature, as to exclude him from an actual presence and supervision in relation to all things whatever. It is enough for us to know that the hand of God, is either positively or permissively in every thing. In our apprehension, therefore, all events, (excepting such as involve the commission of sin, and even these are to be regarded as permissively providential,) are to be considered as providential in the positive sense of the term. In other words, whatever takes place, sin only excepted, is to be regarded as expressive, in some important and positive sense,
of the will of the Lord. The controlling presence of the Almighty is there. God is in it. Certainly there is abundant foundation for this view. If God clothes the grass of the field, if not a sparrow falls to the ground without his notice, if the very hairs of our heads are numbered, how can it be otherwise? It seems to us, therefore, that every true Christian ought to see, and will see, God providentially and positively present, with the exception which has just been made, in the events of every passing moment.

We remark, in the second place, that the presence and agency of God, in his providences, is not an accidental thing; but is a result, which has reference to the divine wisdom and choice. What ever takes place, with the exception of sin, is not only a portion in the great series of events; but takes place in accordance with the well considered and divinely ordered arrangement or plan of things, Accordingly every thing, which takes place, indicates,
all things considered, the mind of God in that particular thing. And hence we may be said to reach, through the divine providences, a portion of the divine mind; and to become acquainted with it. We do not mean to say, that we possess, in respect to that particular thing, the whole of the divine wisdom; but we undoubtedly possess a portion of it, which is unspeakably valuable. To some extent certainly, it can always be said, that God reveals himself. That is to say, he reveals his mind and will.

We proceed to remark again, and in connection with what has been said, that the providences of God are, to a considerable extent, the interpreters of the mind of the Holy Spirit. The mind of God, as it is disclosed in his providences, and the mind of the Holy Spirit, as it reveals itself in the soul are one; and consequently in their different developments from time to time can never be at variance, but will always be in harmony with each other. And not only this, they have a relation to each other, which is mutually and positively illuminative. They throw light, the one upon the other. Certain it is that the mind of the Spirit, in all cases of mere practical action and duty, cannot, as a general thing, be clearly and definitely ascertained, except in connection with providential dispensations. Such dispensations are the outward light, which corresponds to and throws a reflex illumination upon the inward light. And this is so general a law of the divine operation, that persons, who are truly led by the Spirit of God, are generally and perhaps always found to keep an open eye upon the divine providences, as important and true interpreters of the inward spiritual leadings. And accordingly we find the following expressions in the Life of Madame Guyon. "My soul could not incline itself on the one side or the other, since that another will had taken the place of its own; but only nourished itself
with the daily providences of God." And again, "the order of divine providence makes the whole rule and conduct of a soul entirely devoted to God. While it faithfully gives itself up thereto, it will do all things right and well, and will have every thing it wants, without its own care; because God, in whom it confides, makes it every moment do what he requires. God loves what is of his own order." [Life of Madam Guyon Pt. I, Ch. 27; Pt. II, Ch. 2.]

Hardly any thing, in the conduct of the divine life in the soul, is more important than thus to keep an open and faithful eye upon the arrangements of divine providence. Until the divine intimations within are cleared up and illustrated by the subsequent openings of Providence, it seems to me to be the duty of Christians to remain in the attitude of patient expectation, and of humble and quiet faith. It is true, we may already be possessed of the inward voice, the declarations of the Spirit in the soul. But these inward intimations,
taken by themselves, may, in many cases, be very obscure. And so long as we do not satisfactorily know the information involved in them and the issues to which they lead, it is obviously a duty to keep looking upward, in a childlike simplicity and faith, for those further developments, which the openings of Divine Providence may impart.

I have sometimes thought, that there is a similitude or analogy between the natural mind and the spiritual mind, in relation to the subject now under consideration. The natural mind, (that is to say, the perceptive and reflective ability, which is naturally given us,) is adapted in its operations and results to the natural world around us. The ability, which we possess of realizing in ourselves the various auditory, visual, and tactual sensations and perceptions would be of no avail, would be practically useless, without the corresponding sounds, colors, and forms of the external world. The mind, therefore, in some of its important operations, and the external world, are precisely and admirably fitted to go together. They are practically the mutual correspondences and counterparts of each other. And it seems to be essentially the same with the spiritual mind, that is to say, with the mind enlightened and guided by the influences of the Holy Spirit. The mind is divinely inspired, in the first instance, with thoughts and views, which may be considered as conditionally instructive and binding upon us; but which can be drawn out of this state of conditionality, and be made positively clear and binding, only in connection with those various outward events, which the divine providence is continually developing. As instruments of music will not give utterance to their beautiful sounds, till they are touched and swept by an outward hand, so the inward inspiration of the Holy Ghost is, to some extent latent, in the mind, and is not susceptible of being distinctly analyzed and heard in its responses to the spiritual ear, until it receives its interpretation from the outward application of providential events. In other words, as the natural mind and the natural or outward world are mutually and reciprocally adapted, so also the spiritual mind and the providential world are mutually correspondences and counterparts of each other.

Accordingly although a person may be fully conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit operating upon and guiding his mind; still it remains a great truth, that it is a guidance, which in some important sense may be regarded as dependent on those prospective developments, which still remain in God's mysterious keeping. Hence as the interpretation of the inward suggestions of the Holy Spirit exists, in so great a degree, in the correspondent facts and aspects of outward providences, it becomes every one, as has already been intimated, and especially every one, who is seeking to live a truly devoted and holy life, to keep an eye humbly but conscientiously watchful, upon all providential events! As in the expressions which have already been quoted, he should "nourish himself with the daily providences of God."

In connection with the doctrine, which has been laid down, a few incidental remarks remain. And the first is, that this doctrine strikes at the root of too great eagerness of spirit and of all inordinate self-activity. He, who would walk with God, must walk in God's order. God not only requires us to obey and serve him; but to obey and serve him in his own time and way. In the eye of God voluntary disobedience in the
manner of the thing, is the same as disobedience in the thing itself. If therefore in order to walk with God, we must walk in God's order and must operate with him in his own time and way, it will be necessary for us to subdue our natural eagerness and impetuosity of spirit. Again, this doctrine is totally opposed to the indulgence of an inactive and sluggish spirit. He, who is seriously disposed to meet every movement of God's providence in the fulfillment of every known duty, will find no time, to be idly and uselessly thrown away. Every moment, as it comes, brings with it its appropriate instructions, and calls for its appropriate duties. It does not always call for outward action; but it calls for something to be done. It does not always, nor does it ever, call for a feverish and unreflecting excitement; but on the other hand, it never approves a listless and unprofitable inactivity. Nevertheless every moment brings its duty, although not always to be fulfilled in the same manner. That duty may be outward action: or it may be inward retirement and conversation with God. It may relate to the improvement of others; or it may have relation to the instruction and improvement of ourselves. It may call us to open and aggressive assaults upon the strong holds of sin; or to the secrecy of the closet and the sacredness of private supplication.

Finally, in view of what has been said, we may lay it down as a great principle in the practical doctrines of holiness, that a soul, wholly devoted to God, will always endeavor to move calmly, yet firmly and exactly, in the blessed order of the divine providences. Neither prematurely and excitedly hastening in advance, nor yet sluggishly and carelessly lagging behind.

And this truth, be it ever remembered, is one of the leading elementary conceptions, embraced in the great and glorious idea of walking with God. It is noticed by writers on philosophical subjects, that some sorts of motion are pleasant and beautiful to the beholder, while others are not so. And they assert further, that objects in motion are thus beautiful, (for instance, a winding stream or a ship under gentle sail,) partly at least, because they are in harmony with the laws of our own mental movement. But where the outward motion, which we are contemplating is accelerated beyond a certain degree of rapidity, so as to be out of correspondence with the natural movement of our own minds, it at once ceases to be pleasant and beautiful and becomes painful. And so, on the other hand, when the motion becomes unusually sluggish and tardy so as to fall in the rear of the movement of our own minds and retard it, it then also loses its character of beauty. And it is somewhat similar in relation to the providences of, God. When the inward operation of the holy soul keeps in exact correspondence with the progress of God's providences, moving in time and place just where he moves, then all is orderly and divinely beautiful. But when, through unfaithfulness to God's grace, we are jostled out of the divine order, either by going in advance through precipitancy, or falling in the rear through worldly sloth, we are no longer conscious of this divine harmony and beauty. Under such circumstances we necessarily lose, in a considerable degree, the sense of God's presence and favor; and wandering in our own position and out of the divine position, we experience but little else than darkness and sorrow.