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This subject has been briefly considered in some preliminary observations to a preceding Disquisition, to which the reader is referred.* It was there observed, that our reason points out three modes by which the Divine Being may be supposed to execute his purpose.-By a stated concatenation of cause and effect, according to physical laws, destined to produce numberless beneficial effects, both in the natural and moral world; which may be equal to various purposes, both physical and moral, in the plans of his providence-By an open and ostensible manifestation of extraordinary power, in order to impress a conviction upon the human mind, of some important facts, which human reason could not have discovered, or to alarm and terrify a sinful world ;—and, thirdly, when these manifestations are not necessary or pro per, may we not imagine that the Deity exerts a secret influence, by which a new and extensive series of operations may arise, which could not have existed according to the former tenour of things; and which, had the operations been made manifest, would have been deemed miraculous?
Many facts are upon record which evince that a conviction of this secret agency may be founded,
*See Theological Disq. Preliminary Observations.
either upon the prediction uttered, that certain events should take place, by the instrumentality of natural causes; or upon so remarkable a coincidence in their operations with the peculiar exigence of the case, as compels us to acknowledge the hand of God. Many of the plagues of Egypt illustrate the former position:-the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea; the destruction of their enemies by the return of the mighty waters; and the occasional supply of quails in the wilderness, illustrate the latter. The extreme violence of an eastern or a western wind, cannot appear to us as a deviation from the laws of nature; nor the sudden and impetuous change of these winds; yet their oppor tune influence, and the important purposes answered by this influence, induce every one who believe in the Mosaic history, to infer that there was a miraculous interference of Providence. But the Almighty is at all times free to employ a similar agency, without admitting us into his counsels; and without our being able to trace his footsteps. This secret agency seems to be the proper object, as it is the encouragement of prayer; and although the time, manner, and degree, are totally. unknown, yet devout minds may safely rely upon the promise, that they shall not seek his face in vain.
The concealment is indubitably founded on wisdom. The laws of nature, or the operations of cause and effect, cannot be too intimately known. They are the foundation of all science, and a confidence in them is necessary to encou rage and direct our pursuits. Miraculous displays of power have sometimes been employed, to convince an ignorant and unthinking world, that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. But many evils would arise, were it distinctly known, in what cases, and to what a degree, the divine aids promised in the Gospel, were administered to each individual Christian. The favoured Mind would, in that instance, possess the infallibility of inspiration, which might inspire it with arrogance and pride, and induce it to neglect the ordinary means of improvement: while jealousy, envy, and despair, would torment those who were less favoured; and the free agency of man would be effectually destroyed.
"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it comes, and whither it goeth; so is every one, saith our Saviour, that is born of
the Spirit." Whoever confidently maintains
that, in any particular instance, he is influenced
by the Spirit of God, should he not impose
upon others, wretchedly deceives himself. For
a certain knowledge of the operation would render it miraculous. His feelings must be fallacious for in this department of the divine government, all the operations of God are designedly and wisely concealed from human knowledge. By their fruits alone are such influences to be inferred. These fruits are not a presumptuous confidence, but " love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."
We have been led, by the importance of the subject, into a train of speculations, beyond our usual practice, although it is not irrelevant to the moral history of the human mind, which we are attempting to trace in its ethical and religious pursuits. Whether our principles, or any other, be received or rejected, every Christian will admit that the duty of prayer is explicitly enjoined. It has, in the exercise of it, a beneficial tendency; a blessing is pronounced upon the serious and conscientious discharge of it; and it is through this medium, that our heavenly father is training up his spiritual offspring, in the ways of peace and righteousness.
On the future Inheritance of Sons.
AN earthly Parent who possesses wisdom and foresight, does not imagine that he is fully discharging the office of a Father, by supplying the immediate wants of his son; or by expending the whole of his affection in the gratification of his desires. He provides for futurity also. He often restrains his own personal gratifications to œconomise a store for the future benefit of his offspring. If this be impracticable, he is solicitous to prepare his son, by a suitable education, for his own future exertions, that he may pass through life with comfort, respectability, and usefulness. In every case, the future Good of his children is always before his eyes; it is a constituent part of all his plans.
The gospel of Christ pre-eminently assures us that this is the grand object, perpetually before the eyes of our heavenly Father. The good things scattered over the whole world are, as it