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lives in a world, where nothing happens to him by chance, or at random; but where a great, a wise, and beneficent Mind continually superintends every event.
Under the faith of this great principle of religion, let us proceed, in the course of our duty, with stedfast and undismayed mind. Let us retain faithful allegiance to our Creator and our Redeemer; and then we may always hope the best ; and cast our care upon him who careth for us. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Although thou sayest, thou canst not see him, yet judgment is before him; therefore trust thou in him. Let us begin every undertaking with an humble dependence on his assistance for enabling us to prosecute it to the end. When our undertakings are finished, and the close of life approaches, with praise to him let us conclude all our labours.
Unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever! Amen.
The COMPASSION and BENEFICENCE of the Deity.
[Preached before the Society for the Benefit of the Sons of the
Clergy of the Established Church of Scotland, 20th May 1766.]
JEREMIAH, xlix. 11.
Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them
alive ; and let thy widows trust in me.
No subject is more open to general observation, or
more confirmed by manifold experience, than the goodness of God. The contemplation of the universe in which we dwell, presents it perpetually to our view. Amidst the vast extent of creation, we discover no instance of mere pomp, or useless grandeur, but behold every thing contributing to the general good, and rendered subservient to the welfare of the rational or sensible world. In the administration of Providence, the same principle of beneficence is conspicuous. The seasons are made regularly to return, and the earth to flourish ; supply is bountifully provided for the wants of all creatures ; and numberless comforts are prepared to sweeten human life. Most justly is he who hath established, and who upholds, this admirable order of things, to be esteemed the Father of mercies : and, accordingly, in this view, he is often celebrated in Scripture. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
His tender mercies are over all his works. His mercy is great unto the heavens, and it endureth for
It appears worthy of particular observation that there is one light, in which more frequently than in any other, the goodness of God is presented to us in the Sacred Writings, namely, the light of compassion to the distresses of mankind. Most of the situations are mentioned in which men are sidered as most forlorn ; and in some passages of Scripture, God is represented as interesting himself, in a peculiar manner, for those who are in such situations. Particular emphasis is always laid upon this circumstance, in the general views which are given of his goodness. He is the Hearer of prayer, unto whom all flesh shall come. But he is described as listening with particular attention to the cry of the poor ; and regarding the prayer of the destitute : He will prepare their heart, and cause his ear to hear. All creatures are the objects of his providential care. But the widow and the fatherless, the bowed down and the broken in heart, are particularly attended to, and commiserated by him. The Lord executeth judgment for the oppressed; the Lord preserveth the stranger; he looseth the prisoner, and giveth food to the hungry. He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted ; nor hides he his face from them ; but hears when they cry unto him.* In short, when we are deprived of all human consolation and aid, the Almighty is represented as then most accessible to our prayers, and most disposed to help and relieve us.
* Ps. cii. 17.; x.17.; lxviii. 5.; Ixix. 33.; cxlvi. 7.; xxii. 24, &c. &c.
The words which I have chosen for the text afford a very amiable view of that compassion which Scripture so often ascribes to the Supreme Being. The context in which they stand contains much dark and mysterious prophecy relating to nations in the neighbourhood of Judea, but leads to no particular illustration of the text. The words of it, taken by themselves, are plainly to be understood as spoken by God to an aged parent, who, in the view of approaching dissolution, is anxious about the future condition of his family in the world; and they present a most affecting display of God's compassionate regard to the children of those who have been his faithful servants on earth. Leave thy fatherless children ; I will preserve them alive ; and let thy widows trust in me. - It will be worthy of our attention at present, to enquire into the reasons why the Almighty is pleased to represent himself so often to us under this view ; not only as the just and good Ruler of the universe, which is the first and leading idea we naturally form of him, but as the Patron and Friend of the distressed part of mankind.
It will be found that there are two very important purposes which such discoveries of the Divine nature serve. First, they furnish particular ground for trusting in God, amidst all the vicissitudes of human life; and next, they exhibit the pattern of that disposition, which we ought, in our measure, humbly to follow and imitate.
: I. The discoveries of Divine compassion were purposely intended to furnish to us particular ground for trust in God, amidst all the vicissitudes of human life. Man, during his abode on earth, is exposed to various distresses. Even in his most flourishing
state, his condition is extremely precarious. Prosperous as he may at one time seem to be, he cannot tell how soon, by some unforeseen vicissitude, he may be humbled to the dust; and still less can he tell
in future befal his children, to whose fortunes he often looks with anxious solicitude. In the moments when his mind is oppressed, either by the immediate feeling of sorrows or by the dread of impending evils, it is natural for him to fly to that Supreme Being under whose direction all human events are placed, and earnestly to implore protection from him. But though he hold the belief that justice and goodness are ever to be found at the throne of the Almighty, yet, even there, particular discourage-, ments meet him. For that Supreme Being to whom he looks up is a great and awful Being. His nature is, to us, unknown. He dwells in the secret place of Eternity; and is surrounded with clouds and dark
We hear his tremendous voice in the thunder ; and in every commotion of the elements we behold the irresistible hand of his power. A nature so infinitely superior to our own, cannot be looked up to without some measure of dismay. It is overwhelming to the timid apprehensions of the distressed. It is contemplated with that awful and mysterious reverence which overpowers confidence and trust.
It is for this reason that, in condescension to human weakness, God has been pleased so often to represent himself as actuated by a principle of compassion and pity. This gives a shade and softening to the awful greatness of the Divinity. It brings down his goodness to the level of our conception, and fits it to be the object of our trust. Compassion is a principle which we all feel and know.