Spiritual Food

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After I read a short snippet on Providence from William S. Plumer in the Free Grace Broadcaster I was delighted to find out that it was simply a chapter from a whole book he wrote called Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord will Provide). So I ordered the book and have just finished reading it.  It is excellent and so I thought I would spread out some posts of some of its content here.

Providence Defined: The providence of God is his almighty and everywhere present power, whereby as it were by hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yes, and all things come, not by chance–but by his fatherly hand. (Heidelberg Catechism)

This chapter is from Jehovah-Jireh, by William S. Plumer

I. What a theme for humble, devout and joyous meditation have we in this doctrine of providence!

The pious Flavel says–” It will doubtless be a part of our entertainment in heaven to view with transporting delight how the designs and methods were laid to bring us hither–and what will be a part of our blessedness in heaven may be well allowed to have a prime ingredient into our heaven upon earth. To search for pleasure among the due observations of Providence is to search for water in the ocean.” Vol. 4, p. 340. In a like strain the amiable John Howe says–“When the records of eternity shall be exposed to view, all the counsels and results of the profound wisdom looked into–how will it transport, when it shall be discovered! Lo, thus were the designs laid; here were the apt junctures and admirable dependencies of things, which, when acted upon the stage of time, seemed so perplexed and intricate.” Let God’s “loving-kindness” be continually before your eyes.

Think on his judgments. “He, that will observe the wonderful providences of God, shall have wonderful providences of God to observe.” ” Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.” Charnock says: “It is a part of atheism not to think the acts of God in the world worth our serious thoughts. . . . God is highly angry with those that mind him not; ‘Because they regard not the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up.'” Ps. xxviii.5. It is a divine art to view the hand of God in everything. It is an ennobling employment to meditate on all the wonders he has wrought. ” The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” Ps. cxi. 2. That was a good resolution of Asaph–” I will remember the works of the Lord ; surely I will remember thy wonders of old: I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” Ps. lxxvii. 11, 12.

II. There is excellent wisdom in our Saviour’s saying, “What I do thou knowest not now; but hereafter thou shalt know it.”

In this world nothing in providence is fully finished. Judge artists or artisans by appearances when their work is but half done, and not one of them could stand so unfair a test. Peter was greatly opposed to Christ’s dying at all. The disciples were overwhelmed when he did die. But out of his death sprang the life of the world. There would have been no gospel to believe or to preach, had Jesus not died. God’s “way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known.” Ps. Ixxvii. 19. A carpenter’s rule is too short to measure the heavens with. The waters of the sea can never be comprehended in a bottle. Neither can we ever fully know any act of providence as God knows it. But to judge of an event before the final issue is great folly. It is also sin. It is both arrogant and presumptuous. It also brings much misery with it. Who is more wretched than the man, who sees nothing but desolating storms in every cloud, nothing but disaster in every undertaking, nothing but sorrow in the very means used for his joy, nothing but overthrow in the steps which lead to his exaltation? Oh for a stronger faith. Oh for more patience. Could we but calmly wait and let the God of all the earth do as he pleases, all would be well. We are so wrapped up in selfishness that we egregiously over-estimate the importance of our own affairs.

A splendid steamer is swiftly passing up the Mississippi. She has more than five hundred passengers, pressing home to soothe sorrow, or scatter joy, to give life to commerce, and to carry messages of government. Vast interests depend on her safety and her speed. A little boy darts into the saloon, crying for the captain. At length he finds him, and says,”O captain, stop the boat, do stop the boat.” “Why so, my son?” said the veteran officer. The boy replied, “I have dropped my orange overboard, do stop the boat.” He was told it could not be done. His solicitude settled into sadness, which left him only after sleep. Think of that boy and his orange. There was some proportion between the value of that orange and the other interests involved, yet it was exceedingly small. But there is no proportion between our comfort for a day and the glory of God to eternity, or between our afflictions here and the glory that shall be revealed in us hereafter. “Be patient, brethren, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We know not what is best for us. Foolish children eat green apples, but prudent people first let them mature. Let us trust God joyfully. Ps. xxvii. 5.

III. How entirely do just views of God’s word and providence change the aspects of every thing.

He, who has any right views, would rather be with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace, or with Daniel in the lions’ den than with Nebuchadnezzar on the throne. Paul bound with a chain was far more to be envied than Nero wearing the imperial purple. Paul and Silas were far from being the most unhappy men in Philippi the night their feet were in the stocks. There are two sides to every providence, as there were to the pillar of cloud and of fire. The bright side is towards the children of God. It ever will be so. God has ordained it. He will make good all his promises. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright.” Therefore, ye heroes of the cross, gird on your armor. Fight the good fight of faith. Never yield to fear. Endure hardness. Live to please him who has called you to be soldiers. Jesus reigns. Hear him proclaiming: “All power in heaven and earth is given unto me.” He is King of kings. He rules in the kingdoms of men. He is God in Zion. He loves the church more than you do. He died for it. He loves his people as the apple of his eye. Nothing shall harm those who are the followers of that which is good. O shout and give thanks. Robert Southwell, awaiting martyrdom in prison, wrote to his friend: “We have sung the canticles of the Lord in a strange land, and in this desert we have sucked honey from the rock, and oil from the hard flint.” Learn this heavenly art.

IV. Sinners, will not you give your hearts to God, and secure the blessings of his kindness, the care of his special providence?

Do you not need a Father in heaven? Do you not wish for a shield and buckler and horn of salvation? Persisting in sin and folly, the stars will fight against you in their courses. Yielding to the claims of divine love and authority all nature will at Jehovah’s bidding fight for you. Will you bow your neck? Will you take Christ’s yoke upon you? Will you be saved?

V. The right observance of providence is a great duty.

The particulars of this duty are well stated by Thomas Boston:

1. We should watch for them till they come. Heb. 2:1-3; Ps. 130:1, 5, 6; Lam. 3:49, 50.

2. We should take heed to them, and mark them when they come. Isa. 25:9; Ezek. 1:15; Zech. 6:1 ; Luke 19:44.

3. We should seriously review them, ponder and narrowly consider them. Ps. 111:2; Ezek. 10:13; Ps. 73:16; Job 10: 2; Ps. 77:6.

4. We should lay them up, and keep them in record. Luke 1:66; 1 Sam. 17:37; Ps. 37:25.

5. We should observe them for practical purposes, that they may have a sanctifying power over our hearts and lives. Ps. 64:7, 9; Deut. 29:2, 3, 4; 2 Kings 6:33; Ecc. 7:14.


By William S. Plumer:

Providence is the care of God over His creatures. God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.

To deny providence is as truly atheistic as to deny God’s existence. One who neither sees, nor hears, nor knows, nor cares, nor helps, nor saves is no God at all. No right-minded man could worship such a being.

Both the Old and New Testaments declare with great frequency God’s providence over the world. In the hand of the Lord is “the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). “For in him we live, and move, and have our being” (Act 17:28). “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev 19:6). Pious men of all ages have been very much agreed on the general doctrine of providence. They have felt that the world may as well be without a God as to have one who controls it not.

God’s providence partakes of His own excellent nature. Because He is supreme, holy, just, good, wise, kind, and almighty, His government is irresistible, kind, wise, good, just, holy, and over all. Nothing escapes the divine notice. Living creatures invisible to the naked eye as well as the great sea monsters alike evince His presence and His power. He never slumbers nor sleeps (Psa 121:4). He calls the stars by their names (Psa 147:4). That which is to us chance is to Him a matter of exact arrangement. He makes the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He restrains (Psa 76:10). His providence is not extemporaneous and conducted by a plan formed from day to day, but by a plan fixed and settled according to a holy, wise, and eternal purpose (Eph 1:11, 3:11; 2Ti 1:9). God does not change His plan: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa 46:10).

Very remarkable is the long-suffering of God’s providence. For their sins, God might justly and instantly cut men down; but His long-suffering prevails, and the guilty are spared so as to have time for repentance.

The Scriptures forewarn us that God’s doings will often confound us: “Thy judgments are a great deep” (Psa 36:6). “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Psa 77:19). God saves or He destroys, by few or by many, by the strong or by the weak, by friend or by foe. He is on the right hand, but we perceive Him not. None are more surprised than wicked men when God brings their conduct to its natural end. Nor does He give account of any of His doings. Often He does not even give us notice when He is about to effect His greatest wonders. He hangs the earth upon nothing. He often seems to hang the destiny of empires upon a thing of naught. Both His means and His instruments are commonly such as man would reject. God sees order where we see but confusion, and light where we see but darkness. He has as perfect control over invisible agents as He has over things seen by men. “His kingdom ruleth over all” (Psa 103:19). Many think it vastly strange that God takes the poor from the dunghill and sets them among princes and pours contempt on birth and blood, on prowess and on princes.

There is something very wonderful in God’s care of good men. They often speak of it here. They will oftener speak of it hereafter. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Psa 37:23). There is a wonderful connection between the prayers of saints and the providence of God. For thousands of years, one good man after another has repeated the words of the Psalmist as applicable to himself: “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (Psa 34:6). It does not at all diminish the wonder of God’s care of His people that He protects them without the interposition80 of miracles.

All the argument brought against providence from the apparent confusion in human affairs is easily enough answered. In this world, nothing is finished; nothing is perfected. Let men wait until they see Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and the rich sinner beyond the reach of hope, and they will not doubt that there is a God that judgeth in the earth.

In one respect, providence is a continual exhibition of creative energy. “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psa 104:30). Every man on earth is as truly the creature of God as was Adam in the garden of Eden.

It seems strange that any should limit or wish to limit the control of God over free agents. The Scriptures clearly show that God as much governs the free acts of malignant men as He does material causes. It is true that both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together; but it was for to do whatsoever God’s hand and God’s counsel determined before to be done (Act 4:27-28). No power had they against Jesus except as the Almighty lengthened their chain (Joh 19:11). “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psa 115:3). None can stay His hand (Dan 4: 35).

Sometimes our minds dwell on great affairs and the vastness of the universe until we almost doubt whether the Most High cares for little things. But when we take the microscope and look at the vast numbers of little creatures too small to be perceived by the naked eye, we find His wisdom, power, and goodness to them as manifest as towards creatures of the greatest size and beauty. And when we look at the Scriptures, the same doctrine is abundantly taught: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Mat 10:29-31). Some have said that the care of so many things, great and small, could not be expected of God. They forget that to create and neglect would be indeed a blot on the divine character, and that it is no labor to the Almighty to take infinite care of His creatures. “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works…The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing” (Psa 145: 9, 15-16).

This doctrine of providence cuts up by the roots the spirit of self-sufficiency and vain-boasting. “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” (1Co 4:7). “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (Jam 1:17). “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phi 2:13).

In the Church below and in the Church above, the doctrine of providence fills pious hearts with joy and pious mouths with praise. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom 11:36). “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” (Rev 19:6).

From the Free Grace Broadcaster, issue #237. Providence by William S. Plumer