Stephen Charnock – Study Providence


It is a part of atheism not to think the acts of God in the world worth our serious thoughts. And if you would know the meaning of his administrations, grow up in the fear of God: Psalm 25:14 “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” God is highly angry with those that mind him not: Psalm 28:5 “Because they regard not the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up”. He shall utterly root them out.

Study Providence Universally

The darkest: God brings order out of the world’s confusion, even as he framed a beautiful heaven and earth out of a rude mass.

The terriblest: these offer something worth our observation; the dreadful providence of God makes Sodom an example to after ages: Jude 7; they are ‘set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,’ etc.

The smallest: God is a wise agent, and so the least of his actions are significant. There is nothing superfluous in those acts we account the meanest;, for to act vainly and lightly argues imperfection, which cannot be attributed to God. The wisdom of God may be much seen in those providences the blind world counts small; as a little picture is oftimes of more value and hath more of the workman’s skill than a larger, which an ignorant person might prize at a higher rate; the lilies, flowers, sparrows, our Saviour raises excellent observations from.

Study Providence Regularly

By the Word: compare providence and the promise together; God’s manner of administrations, and the meaning of them, is understood by the word: Psalm 77:13, “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary.”

By faith: we many times correct our sense by reason; when we look through a blue or green glass, and see all things blue or green, though our sense represents them so, yet our reason discovers the mistake. Why should we not correct reason by faith? Indeed, our purblind reason stands in as much need of a regulation by faith, as our deceitful sense doth of a regulation by reason. We may often observe in the gospel, that the Holy Ghost taking notice of the particular circumstances in the bringing Christ into the world, and in the course of his life, often hath those expressions, ‘as it is written; that the Scriptures might be fulfilled’. There is not a providence happens in the world, but there are some general rules in the word whereby we may apprehend the meaning of it. From God’s former work discovered in his word, we may trace his present footsteps. Observe the timings of providence wherein the beauty of it appears, since ‘God hath made everything beautiful in its time.’

Study Providence Entirely

View them in their connection: A harsh touch single would not be pleasing, but may rarely affect the concert. The providences of God bear a just proportion to one another, and are beautiful in their entire scheme; but when regarded apart, we shall come far short of a delightful understanding of them. As in a piece of tapestry folded up, and afterwards particularly opened we see the hand or foot of a man, the branch of a tree; or if we look on the outside, we see nothing but knots and threads, and uncouth shapes that we know not what to make of; but when it is fully opened, and we have the whole web before us, we. See what histories and pleasing characters are woven into it. View them in their connection.

View them in their end: there is no true judgment to be made of a thing in motion, unless we have a right prospect of the end to which it tends. Many things which may seem terrible in their motion, may be excellent in their end. Providence is crowned by the end of it. Asaph was much troubled about the prosperity of the wicked, and affliction of the godly, but he was well satisfied when he understood their end, which was the end of providence too; Psalm 73:16, 17 ‘When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary, then understood I their end.’ Moses: his rod was a serpent in its motion upon ,the ground; but when taken up, it Was a rod again to work miracles. God set us a pattern for this in creation. He views the creatures as they came into being, and pronounced them good; he takes a review of them afterwards in their whole frame, and the subordination of them to one another, and the ends he had destined them to, and then pronounceth them very good. The merciful providences of God, if singly looked upon, will appear good, but if reviewed in the whole web, and the end of them, will commence very good in our apprehensions.

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