A Compendium of Christian Theology

By William Burt Pope, D.D.,

Volume One

Chapter 10




            The Several Persons of the Trinity,

            and the Divine Attributes in Relation to this Doctrine






The Triune God of Creation is the God also of Providence. This term, in its widest meaning, signifies the Divine presence in the world as sustaining, controlling, and guiding to their destination all things that are made. The will of God determines the end for which all orders of creaturely being exist. His Wisdom and His Goodness appoint the infinite variety of means by which that one end is attained: in the Conservation of the frame of nature, both spiritual and material; in the Care of all creatures that are the subjects of want; in the Government especially of intelligent and probationary beings.

And His Power insures the accomplishment of every design or end for which they exist.

The doctrine of Providence may be studied, therefore, in its connection with the Divine Being and the Divine attributes; then in relation to the objects and characteristics of its exercise.


God absolutely, and God in the Trinity of Persons, is the God of Providence. While His Wisdom and His Power are especially exhibited, it is only by connecting Providence with all the Divine attributes which have been seen to be related to the creature that we can form a true conception of its range.


Scripture furnishes all the elements of the doctrine in its relation to God; and this is its only method of teaching it. In collecting the substance of that teaching we must of necessity repeat much of what the preceding sections have enlarged upon; and also omit much of what they have anticipated.

1. The God of revelation is represented, generally, as at once present IN universal creaturely existence, as presiding OVER it, and as accomplishing THROUGH it His own designs. The combination of these three elements both explains the doctrine and defends it.

2. Pantheism takes the first to be the only truth: the universe is one ever-varying manifestation of one substance which is God. But by the idea of Providence that notion of God in the world is excluded. The Creator is a Personal Being Who has a design and carries it on through all the processes of nature. In philosophical language this is expressed by the term TRANSCENDENCE. The language of Scripture simply attributes to the Supreme an end which He keeps ever in view in the relation to Himself of all things that exist. This is the leading idea in the word PROVIDENCE, which in its derivation connotes the following conceptions, all present in the New Testament. To God is ascribed pronoia, or what, speaking after the manner of men, is making PROVISION for the accomplishment of a PURPOSE or prothesis; and, as purpose and accomplishment are one to the Divine knowledge, His provision and plan are one with His prognosis, or foreknowledge. Whatever else the word includes, this is its first meaning: the system of things as under Providence, that is, the supervision of a Being Who is using it for an end.

For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, eis auton, are all things. 1 This is a truth to be adored rather than discussed. In each of the three conceptions of the Supreme there is unfathomable mystery. That He is IN the universal creature with its evil and good; that He can be OVER it, as if in a personality like, ours marked off from what is God Himself; that the Absolute can use means: all these are thoughts with which Biblical terms make us as familiar as with OUR FATHER. But no thinking of ours can comprehend them.

1 Rom. 11:36.

3. The ancient Epicurean notion, unconsciously represented by much modern Theistic speculation, erred in the opposite direction. It adopts the second and third of their principles, but at the expense of the first. God is over the creature, and acts through it, but not as being in it. This conception of the Divine Being is also and equally precluded by our doctrine of Providence. As the Creator makes the universe an instrument for the accomplishment of a purpose, He watches its operation, and is intimately present to all its processes and developments. It needs His omnipotence for its conservation in being; and not less His omnipotence and wisdom to adjust everywhere and always the relations of its organic laws to the laws of life, and both to the laws of spiritual existence. This presence of the Eternal at the root of the elements of creaturely existence is termed in philosophy IMMANENCE, as opposed to or combined with Transcendence. The Scripture says, in the language of the Creator: Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?. . .

Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord; 1 and, in the language of His creature: In Him we live, and move, and have our being.2

1 Jer. 23:23,24; 2 Acts 17:28.

4. The Divine apostrophe in Jeremiah, wherein the Supreme claims to be at once far from every creature and very near to it, is of great importance in any philosophical view of Divine Providence. It gives the true doctrine in regard to its bearing on the widest relations of the creature to God, suggesting the union of the two ideas of immanence and transcendence. God is present to all things, to every physical force in its operation, to that higher than physical force which is life, to that life which man has more abundantly than the beasts which perish, to every movement of the free mind of man originating its own thoughts, as the FIRST CAUSE: not the first in the order of priority only; first also in the order of efficiency. This is the true Immanence. But God is present through SECOND CAUSES, to the operation of which, as the established laws of physical, mental, and spiritual nature, He has consigned the universe. This is His true Transcendence. The order of Divine Providence blends with infinite ease the two theories between which human philosophy finds it necessary to fix an impassable gulf. The mystery of the relation between the almighty, ever-present efficiency of God and the imparted quasi-independent forces of nature and of will, is not to be solved by any faculty of man. A multitude of hypotheses have been devised to bridge over that gulf, and bring the infinite into contact with all the finite. Some of these have been already mentioned under the high-sounding names of Pre-established Harmony, Plastic Medium, Emanations, and so forth. They serve little purpose in an inquiry which is interdicted to every created intelligence. No investigation has brought us nearer to the secret of the action of mind on body in our own constitution; and this is an ever-present illustration of the futility of that other attempt.

Something but not much is gained by the invention of the term CONCURSUS, to signify the concurrence or co-operation of the Divine Power with all subordinate powers according to the pre-established laws of their operation. It is certain that God does not use His creation simply and only and absolutely as a mere instrument of His own direct energy.

He does not make anything immediately dependent on Himself: no attribute of Absolute Sovereignty presides over either nature or grace. When the Omnipresent Controller of all dispenses with second causes in either of these departments He makes a NEW THING: in the former department that of nature, it is called MIRACLE; and supposing it to occur in the latter, it is Miracle whether so called or not. The delegation to second causes never can shut out the First. They cannot rest without Him, but He may dispense with them.


The Providence of God is in all its acts and offices attributed to the several Persons of the Holy Trinity respectively.

1. My Father worketh hitherto: 1 these words might be understood as referring to that universal activity of God in the universe, and especially in this world, which is generally assigned to the Father to distinguish it from the special work of the Son in redemption.

The Creator rested from His works: but He continues His work in Providence: that is, in the never-failing control, direction, and guidance of all the forces of nature and the free volitions of men. The long Divine Sabbath has been and still is, and will be to the end, filled up with the ceaseless activity of perfect rest, with the perfect rest of ceaseless activity: not indeed through a continuous creation, but by a continuous sustentation of what has been created. When our Lord goes on to say, I WORK, He tells us, first, that there never has been any Providence of the Father from which He has been excluded; secondly, that the time had come for a special delegation of the government of things to the Son Incarnate; and, thirdly, that, as the Father had, humanly speaking, broken in upon the rest of the long Sabbath by the working of miracles, so also the Son in like manner goes out of the ordinary operation of nature on the present occasion. But it must be remembered that the term Providence is still in the language of religion appropriated to God generally: that is, to the Father. Without making any formal distinction, we understand by it that underlying or overarching or all-pervading presence and care which has reference to the well-being of man rather as a creature than as a redeemed creature. In this sense we speak of the GOOD PROVIDENCE OF GOD. The Lord's Prayer keeps this ever before our minds. It addresses Our Father Which art in heaven, 2 and asks Him for the daily bread of our common life, the trespasses of which are forgiven, and from the evil of which we are delivered, in the economy of redemption. It is an instance, and a very high one, of the conventional use of terms in theology, that the word Providence is employed to designate the presence of God among His creatures in the widest sense.

1 John 5:17; 2 Mat. 6:9.

2. There is a Providence, however, which is the especial department of the Son Incarnate, and is bound up with the Kingly office of His mediatorial work. It was inaugurated, so to speak, by the stupendous miraculous interventions that make up the incarnate manifestation and atoning work of Christ as sealed in His resurrection and ascension. Between the resurrection and the ascension we hear the great saying which unites them: All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. 1 These words explain the earlier declaration of our Lord, All things are delivered unto Me of My Father: 2 spoken not only of the mysteries of knowledge to be imparted, but of the universal power which should be His. The later testimonies of the Apostles are abundant on this subject.

One may be quoted, which is remarkable as combining the Providential preservation and dominion of the pre-temporal Son with that of the Son Incarnate: Whom He hath appointed heir of all things; by Whom also He made the worlds; Who, being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power. 3 This government of the Son is not usually in Scripture or in dogmatic theology called Providence, but all that the word imports is included in the authority vested in Him Who is Head over all things to the church. 4 Indeed, in the unity of the Holy Trinity the mediatorial sway of Christ is still the Providence of the Father; and in heaven also our Lord may say: My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 5 What is specifically His economical direction of the universe will be laid down at the last day.

1 Mat. 28:18; 2 Mat. 11:27; 3 Heb. 1:2,3; 4 Eph. 1:22; 5 Luke 5:17.

3. The Holy Ghost is also the God of Providence, and in two senses. In the unity of the Father and the Son He has—to speak after the manner of men—co-operated from the beginning in all acts of Providential administration. It is not the mere language of metaphor that said: Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they are created: and Thou renewest the face of the earth: the beginning and the continuance of all things are ascribed to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, and we may safely regard Him as the Lord and Giver of life throughout the universe: the Direct Efficient who connects the unseen with the seen in the whole economy of things. But the Holy Ghost is specially the God of Christian Providence, as sent forth to accomplish the will of God and of His Christ in that department of it which is supreme: the Administration of Redemption whether in its preparatory stages or in its complete fulfillment. As it respects both the Church and the individual believer the Spirit of Christ is the very Hand of Providence from the day of Pentecost and the Ethiopian at Gaza downwards through all the experiences of Christian history. In all the processes of salvation, preceding, accompanying, following conversion, He is the Christian's Providence. But, as the government of the Son is not generally so termed, neither is the administration of the Spirit. The word, as we have seen, is conventionally appropriated to God or the Father.

4. Though the precision of theology requires these economical distinctions in the Holy Trinity of Providence, it must always be remembered that GOD is ONE. What is said concerning the special gifts of the Christian Ministry may be applied to the whole subject we are here considering. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God Which worketh all in all. 1 The diversities of operation are real, and pervade the mediatorial economy, as will be hereafter more fully seen. But there is one Triune God of Providence; and the coming end, when God shall be all in all,2 will be only the great and final demonstration of a truth that already is assured to Christian faith.

1 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 1 Cor. 15:28.


The theological doctrine of Providence introduces the Attributes of God generally and particularly.

I. In its more limited meaning, —that in which the specific doctrine of Providence touches creation and redemption, but is independent of both and includes neither, —it is the sphere of those attributes which are related to the creature as such, and of which we may reverently say that they owe their existence in our thoughts to the creature. And the right understanding of the doctrine—not to speak of the solution of its mysteries— depends on the union and harmony of these attributes in every view of it. Sometimes, for instance, the Omniscience and Omnipotence of the Creator are placed under a supposed attribute of Absolute Sovereignty; and then Providence is only Christianized Fatalism.

The Knowledge that foresees and the Will that determines and the Power that executes are not distinguished; and there is no room left for the boundless display of what the Supreme is pleased to term His Wisdom. It avails not to say that to the Divine Mind all space is HERE and all time is NOW: all things being viewed as projected and accomplished at once. This cannot be denied, for God is the Absolute and dwelleth in eternity. But in His eternity He gives birth to time and all its succession and contingency.

We cannot reach this mystery; we must bow down before it. It should suffice us that the same Word on which we depend for all our knowledge tells us that the Infinite descends to finite succession in the process of His works, and makes space a reality in which to carry them out: He seeth the end from the beginning. If Providence is taken in its widest meaning, as including all the ways of God with man, then we are bound to regard it as the sphere in which those other attributes are manifested which in human language, and with human meaning too, are called Love, and Righteousness, and Faithfulness. If we give all the revealed Divine perfections their equal homage, Providence is no other than the purpose of infinite Love using with almighty Power the means which unfailing Wisdom ordains. If this definition is rejected by transcendental theological philosophy we make our appeal to Him from Whose words we derive it.

II. This equal tribute to the Divine attributes will secure at once the unity and the distinction between the GENERAL and the SPECIAL Providence of God.

1. As He is present everywhere in His infinite power, all providential relation must be minute and special: to think otherwise of the Divine control of the laws of nature and the actions of men is inconsistent with the first principles of the doctrine. This is the glory of the Scriptural teaching, that it knows nothing of a Divine general care which does not descend to the minutest particulars. All general Providence must needs be special also.

The ancient Epicureans thought that the gods were either indifferent to human affairs or limited their care to the more important interests of their creatures: " Magna dii curant, parva neglignnt." From the beginning of Scripture to the end the presence and. influence of God are brought into the most immediate relation with all things and all events. 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.

1 1 Mat. 10:29-31.

2. OF MORE VALUE. It is not always the same relation, nor is all Providence the same Providence. There are, as will be seen, gradations of care among the objects of the Divine universal loving-kindness. But when we include some other attributes, the Divine love in Christ Jesus and fidelity to His promises, the doctrine of a Special Providence begins at once to emerge. A man's heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps: 1 this is an unlimited declaration of a universal control. But when it is said that the steps of a GOOD man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way, 2 there is implied that most special and minute supervision of the life of the righteous which adds one more to the blessed mysteries of the Providence of heaven. The New Testament teaches us everywhere that a special supervision is bound up with answers to prayer; and generally that all things work together for good to them that love God: 3 the provision of His Providence carries out the purpose of His grace. It is not, however, a doctrine of the New Testament only: it is the gracious teaching of the whole Bible, exhibited in all its narrations and histories, and confirmed by a thousand promises.

1 Pro. 16:9; 2 Psa. 37:23; 3 Rom. 8:28.

3. The only method, lastly, by which we can deal with OBJECTIONS to the doctrine of Providence is to connect that doctrine with all the attributes of God unitedly and impartially. Those objections have been the same in all ages: the refuge of those whose secret desire is to rid their conscience of its terror, the sincere though fruitless arguments of philosophy, the stumbling-blocks of unbelief, and the trial of the faith and patience of the saints. We take refuge in that only revelation of the Divine character and indication of His purposes which He has given us in His Word: remembering always that we see only parts of His ways, but also remembering that we must interpret what we see by all His attributes. There we find these difficulties propounded in every variety of form: there is no appeal of man's questioning spirit which does not find expression in that Book which is no less a revelation of man's heart than of God's counsel. But the answer is given always in one way: by a demand for submission to the unerring wisdom and unfailing love of that Providence which reserves the solution of its mysteries for another state. The last book of the Old Testament contains a remarkable record of human struggles with the difficulties of this subject: that colloquy between man and his Maker sums up on the human side all that can be said, and equally sums up the everlasting reply of God; Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked. 1 There is no more complete exhibition of the contest between the human mind and the unsearchable mysteries of Providence than in the prophecy which ends the Old Testament and anticipates the New. Similarly in the prophet Ezekiel the challenge of unbelief receives its answer: Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, 0 house of Israel; Is not My way equal? are not your ways unequal? 2 The Divine ways are equal, when measured by all His attributes, unequal when measured by part of them. Our Lord's words to Simon Peter may bear the widest application: What I do thou knowest not now but thou shalt understand hereafter. 3 To go back to the Old Testament, Job gives the practical issue of all: Behold I go forward but He is not there; and backward but I cannot perceive Him.

On the left hand where He doth work but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand that I cannot see Him. But He knoweth the way that I take. 4 After all that has been said and written on THEODICY—the vindication of Divine Providence—it is a branch of theology which God reserves for Himself and for the revelation of the Great Day.

1 Mal. 3:14-18; 2 Eze. 18:25; 3 John 8:7; 4 Job 23:8-10.


Another view of the doctrine presents to our study the range over which Providence extends; and the consideration of this will confirm, supplement, and illustrate what has been already said. First, the Universe as such is the object of what may be termed Conservation. Secondly, that part of it which is the subject of creaturely wants is the object of ceaseless providential Care. Thirdly, that more select and highest portion which consists of probationary beings is the object of Providential Government.

Here we have Divine Providence in the centre of three widening circles; or, to put it in another form, there is in the sphere of its objects both a descending and an ascending scale. The Universe, as the universal all in one, includes in its vast extent the sum of creatures in their very nature needy and dependent, and within this sphere there is a very much more limited range of probationary beings: this is from the wider to the more limited. But we pass from the sum of things as such: up to the living creatures generally, and then still upwards to the intelligences for whom all other things exist: this is from the less to the greater-Preservation embraces all; the loving-kindness of God is over the inner circle of such creatures as have to seek their means of life; the Rule of God is over free intelligence.


Providence over the universe is the CONSERVATION of all things with reference to the end for which they are called into being.

1. Hence it is not a CONTINUOUS CREATION, according to an hypothesis favored by many thinkers. This notion seems to involve the denial of the continuity of creaturely existence; and, if applied to the material universe, must be applied to the spirit of man. So applied, it further involves the perpetual fiat that brings evil as well as good into being; it is therefore Pantheism in another form, or rather the idea of creation becoming Pantheistic.

If, in the reference to the Providential conservation of all things by the Son, the Word of His power 1 might serve to warrant a perpetual creating fiat, the upholding all things denies it again; and the Upholding has the priority in the sentence. Nothing is really gained by effacing the distinction between the creating act and the conserving power. But very much is lost by it.

1 Heb. 1:3.

2. The hypothesis of CONCURSUS, so far as it is amenable to definition, tends to the same issue: it is only the shadow of the former; disguising under the term Concursus the idea of such a co-operation between the First Cause and second causes as makes the resultant action equally that of God and that of the immediate agent. Outside of the sphere of moral action we may hold what the Lutheran Quenstedt thus formulates: Non est reipsa alia actio influxus Dei, alia operatio creaturae, sed una et indivisi-bilis actio.

Quemadmodum eadem numero scriptio pendet a manu et calamo, nee pars una a manu et alia a calamo, sed tota a manu et tota a calamo : ita concursus Dei non est prior actione creaturae propria prioritate causalitatis, cum in re sit omnino eadem actio. But, however true this is, and however easy to understand, as to all functions of the reasonable creature which are outside of the sphere of others, it is hard either to understand or to apply it when the distinction of virtue and vice enters.

3. There is but a step between this doctrine and that which asserts the ABSOLUTE DEPENDENCE of all things on the immediate energy of the First Cause, thus denying second causes altogether. This is the secret of Pantheism in modern philosophy, as it was of Fatalism in ancient heathen systems, and, it may be added, of rigid Predestinarianism in modern theology. The Scripture which asserts that in Him we live and move and have our being 1 does not convert the proposition and say that God lives and moves and has His being in us. The very passage which seems to declare the unconditional dependence of the inanimate universe on God as its soul, and of every breath of all that lives on God as its life, represents the Supreme as making Himself, in a certain sense, dependent on the course of action adopted by His free and intelligent creatures. The term Absolute Dependence, therefore, as applied to the creature, like that of Absolute Sovereignty as applied to the Creator, is an exaggeration of an undeniable ultimate truth, that without the will of God nothing is in the universe.

1 Acts 17:28.

4. The only safeguard against these incomprehensible hypotheses is the firm assurance that the Divine Author of all things permits us to regard Him as co-operating with the forces to which He has given a real though not independent existence. He is pleased to accommodate His infinite presence and operation to the laws which He has established, concurring with them according to their nature: with free agencies as Himself free, and with those that work necessarily as guiding their necessary action. But it is only with the movements of free intelligence that He is said to co-operate: the word sonergin is strictly limited to this, and suggests a most important distinction. No efforts of the human mind can go beyond this acknowledgment of a mystery that cannot be solved.

5. But the purpose of this co-operation must ever be kept in view. It is not merely the upholding of created nature: the end for which all things are what they are, is inseparably bound up with the term Providence, and alone justifies its application to the Divine supervision and control of the universe. It may be said of all created things that they HAVE AN END: not an end of being, but an end of development, even the smallest atom having its predetermined place in every molecule, and every movement produced by every force having its relation to the motion of the whole. The Providence of God as Preservation and Co-operation is exercised over the vast system of things as one immense but not unbounded organic unity. That unity embraces the sum of all that exists by the will of the Creator: the Cosmos is a complex of endless varieties of motion, all mutually interacting, and all tending to one foreseen and predetermined issue. The moving life of matter which is its Force, the animated life of the unconscious vegetable world, the sentient life of animal or impersonal creatures, the higher and spiritual life of angels and men, all form one great economy, the necessary and the free processes of which are all controlled alike, and directed toward the one issue purposed in the supreme, eternal Mind. And, Providence being a term of theology as belonging to man, that supreme purpose is, in our present discussion, connected with the final issues of redemption. The Apostle gathers the entire compass of things into one when he says, All things were created by Him, and for Him: 1 for Him Who is the Head of the body, the Church. 2 It is His Name which makes it the Universe to man.

1, 2 Col. 1:16-18.


Providential CARE is exercised over the creatures that are dependent for the sustentation of sensitive life on the supply of other forms of matter. Here we must distinguish between two orders of these dependants—impersonal living creatures and personal intelligences— but without including as yet the spiritual relations of the latter.

1. It may be said that the Creator's care over the lower orders, or His. Providence, extends far beyond the animal world, and passes over that mysterious frontier line, if there be such a line, where animal passes downward into vegetable life, or the distinction between them ceases to exist. As soon as the life-cell breaks the dead monotony of the creation, the care of the Supreme is wanted to provide for its expansion into its predestined forms.

Everywhere reigns the law of Selection, not natural but supernatural. The Disposer of all things appoints the ten thousand contrivances by which the plants find out their appropriate soil, and even allure and devour their insect and animal prey. In this domain, as well as in that of the beasts which perish, and of man that perishes not, the word holds good: He hath determined their appointed seasons and the bounds of their habitation.1 When, however, we rise to the creatures which not only share man's animal life but reflect many of his passions and infirmities, the revelation of God becomes most explicit as to the minuteness of His superintending care. Some of the most affecting words both of the poetry and of the prose of the Old Testament suggest themselves; too familiar to need quotation But, lest it might be thought possible that His supreme demonstration of love to man in His Son might make us forgetful of His care over creatures that need no mercy, that Son has surpassed all other witnesses in declaring the loving-kindness of His Father to everything that breathes. Ye are of more value than many sparrows is preceded by, One of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 2 To that Father is even given His highest name in this connection: Your Heavenly Father feedeth them, 3 with which we may conjoin the most ancient of all testimonies: In Whose hand is the soul of every living thing. 4 This means His care, as the universal loving-kindness of the Creator is over all His works; 5 but it is Providence, as that loving-kindness is exercised according to appointed secondary laws, and for an end which includes the subordinate ends that order the troubled destiny of the groaning creation. The young lions . . . seek their meat from God, 6 and find it through His care; it is, however, especially of His Providence that they, as the same touching verse tells us, roar after their prey. This word is wanted to reconcile care for the devourer with loving-kindness to the victim. Both belong to a deeplaid plan: deep as eternity. There is profound mystery in the relation of the Creator to the irrational and helpless creature of His hands. We must be content to merge it in the still deeper mystery of the reappearance of ravage and death in the reorganized world as the result of human sin: remembering always that there is a universal Theodicy in the future.

'Shall not the Judge of all the earth7 — of all the earth with all its myriads of wronged inhabitants—do right?

1 Acts 17:26; 2 Mat. 10:29-31; 3 Mat. 6:26; 4 Job 12:10; 5 Psa 114:9; 6 Psa. 104:21; 7 Gen. 18:25.

2. As the creature for whom the earth was formed, Man is specially the object of that care of which we speak. The human race, that is; concerning which it is affirmed by St. Paul that God determined their appointed seasons and the bounds of their habitation. 1 This word must have its full force, as revealing the great truth that the historical spread of the races of men is not only superintended and watched by the Eternal Eye, but was predetermined in the foresight of all national life. Human history, as well as human salvation, comes under the sway of a preordination which is bound up with the free development of all those principles which mould the course of events on this earth.

Men generally, both good and evil, are equally its objects: He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 2 The apocryphal book of Wisdom says: He hath made the small and great, and careth pronoei, for all alike; a sentiment, however, which Scripture does not so broadly state, but modifies the omoios: not literally FOR ALL ALIKE. Especially does it reign over individual human life, the entrance upon it, continuance in it, and exit from it: Thou hast granted me life and favor, and Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.3 His days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds. 4 It extends over all the variations and chances and changes of man's probationary career: A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. 5 My times are in Thy hand. 6 So also it descends to all the common needs of life, which make all creatures one. Our Savior says: Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 7 These words of highest authority contain all the elements of the doctrine of Providence. There is a special care over all creatures; especially over man, the highest creature on earth. Our own provision for our own necessities avails not without that heavenly forethought for us, acknowledged or unacknowledged. Providential care is exercised over all men, good and evil alike: in virtue of the bond of dependence that links them with the lower orders. Yet as men, especially Christian men, are better than they, 7 there is a higher place for them in this graduated scale of Divine consideration. Yet it is a Providence which provides in harmony with secondary causes and human forethought, the gathering into barns.

Finally, our Lord has added elsewhere this, that in the specific allotments of men's conditions of life there is mystery which He not only does not solve Himself, but forbids us to pry into: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. 8 Which may be said to be one of our Lord's last words on this subject.

1 Acts 17:26; 2 Mat. 5:45; 3 Job 10:12; 4 Job 14:5; 5 Pro. 16:9; 6 Psa. 31:15; 7 Mat. 6:26; 8 John 9:3.


Providential GOVERNMENT is limited to intelligent or probationary creatures. It is a vague use of the term government which applies it to the control of all things: there is no rule, worthy of being connected with the name of the Supreme, save over free beings, conscious of their freedom and of their responsibility. Similarly, the word strictly belongs to the control of God over probationary creatures, that is, over beings undergoing a temporary trial with reference to an eternal issue. From these two principles flow certain very important applications of the doctrine which we now study.

1. The moral government of God is, by the very terms, exercised over beings free and consciously responsible for the use of their freedom. It is sufficient to appeal to the consciousness of the spirit in man which asserts its own origination of the movements of will, that is of its own acts; and, in the form of conscience, or moral consciousness, proclaims universally its sense of obligation and responsibility to a supreme moral Governor. On any other theory the word Providence loses the better part of its meaning: part indeed it may retain in the form of predestination, the unbending government of a soul that must act out its destiny; but all that belongs to the administration of law as a means of discipline and education for the human spirit on its way to the highest perfection, which is necessary obedience in perfect liberty, is taken from it.

2. It is only another way of presenting the same truth to say that the Providence of government is exercised only over beings in a state of probation. Over those who are fixed in their eternal estate there may be a Divine rule, in a limited sense, but there is no Providence in the strict meaning of the word. They are instruments of that Providence, and are themselves bound up with a scheme which includes them in common with all orders of creation in its ultimate designs: but they are not objects of that all-wise adjustment of means to ends, and of that rectoral supervision of free volitions and acts, which are connoted in the term. Hence, the most impressive view that may be taken of this doctrine regards it as the slow but sure guidance of all creatures whose state is not yet eternally fixed to the consummation of their destiny as foreappointed of God.

3. It follows that theology has no doctrine on this subject which does not connect it with sin and redemption: not with the one without the other, but with both. Strictly speaking, the whole of revelation is the history of the dealings of God with Sinners redeemed: we cannot, therefore, dissociate the term Providence, which is a name for that history, from the idea of provision to meet a foreseen, permitted, restrained, condemned, and vanquished, though not eternally abolished, evil.

(1.) Sin, or the separation of the created will from the will of God, was foreseen by the Creator. This first great and awful truth involved in the word Providence, as it has been defined, lies at the threshold of all theology as an unquestioned and unfathomable fact.

But this is equivalent to saying that it was permitted: in other words, that no Divine restraint was laid upon the freedom of the creature in that possibility of its direction which was towards departure from God. "Deus quidem permittit, sed non vult to PERMISSUM." There is no decretive will—mee ginosko—in the Providence that foresees, humanly speaking, the whole history of sin. The difficulty of reconciling this permission with the holiness and goodness and all the perfections of the Supreme must be left, finally, —let speculation and controversy say their utmost, —to the Divine THEODICY, or God's vindication of Himself. As every mouth is stopped in the silent confession of universal guilt of sin, so must every mouth be stopped in silent awe before the mystery of the fact of sin. Suffice that SIN is, and that it has had by human measurement a long career.

(2.) Providence is the history of Divine dealings with men as fallen and restored. The relation of the idea of pronoia to the counteraction of evil needs only to be indicated: the specific doctrines of Sin and Redemption will require fuller treatment of what is here only suggested. The government of the world from the beginning has been conducted on the basis of a Divine scheme, the evolution of which has been so interwoven with the development of the sinning race as to make the history of mankind one great display of the wisdom and forethought of what we call Providence: foreappointment or prothesis presiding over the beginning of all things, foreknowledge presiding over the end, and Providence between these as their union. This is impressively set before us under twoaspects: with reference to the coming of Christ and the preparation of the world for His coming, and the provisional forbearance of Divine righteousness in the prospect of the atoning sacrifice. As to-the former, let these sentences of Scripture be instead, of any further enlargement. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh: as it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. 1 This name of the Eternal expresses all that is meant by His-Providence: The Lord will see and provide. JEHOVAHJIREH is the watchword of the doctrine in its relation to the one great object of the Divine Provision for man; to that future mount all the Providential dealings of the Governor of mankind converged. Our Lord said, your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it and was glad. 2 We of the Gentiles may remember that Abraham was our father also, and we also now see and rejoice with him. Until He came, Whom His Father provided for the infinite need, the law of the government of the world, whether Jewish or Gentile, had reference to the preparation of His coming: of His coming in the fullness of the time. 3 He Who was to be provided was the Lamb of God Which taketh away the sin of the world; 4 and the fullness of time was the time of His incarnation and redeeming death.

In the prevision of this provision the peoples were governed in forbearance during the long ages of their darkness and errors. The wickedness of mankind has been marked, controlled, and punished by stern visitations, on the one hand; on the other, there has been manifested a Divine forbearance in reference to which St. Paul says that the times of this ignorance God winked at: 5 words to be expounded, if expounded at all, as teaching that the heathenism of the wandering nations had never been, as it never will be, beyond the reach of the infinite resources of Providence. But the relation of the God of redemption to the part of mankind unvisited by the light of the Gospel is one of the inexhaustible mysteries of that Providence before which its greatest expositor recoiled in the adoring humility of his reason, and we must join him: 0 the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!6

1Gen. 22:14; 2 John 8:56; 3 Gal. 4:4; 4 John 1:29; 5 Acts 17:30; 6 Rom. 11:33.

(3.) Certain general principles there are which serve to protect ns from error, though they still leave the clouds and darkness round the throne of the Divine Ruler. Evidence is abundantly given on all sides that sin is opposed to the will of the Supreme Controller of events. Not only is there an abiding remembrancer of this in conscience; it is also confirmed by the judgment of mankind interpreting history. Sin is for ever bound up with evil; and, whatever triumphs may be permitted to the cause of iniquity—so that men go so far as recklessly to call evil good and good evil— no reasonable mind ever yet doubted that the course of things is utterly opposed to wrong of every kind, and steadfastly in favor of righteousness. Even Manichaeism, at least in its more ancient forms, tended to the admission of a final triumph of the good: it never contemplated evil as eternally rooted in nature, and triumphant against its opposite. Again, it must not be doubted that Divine Providence uses evil for the accomplishment of His purposes. It derogates from His dignity to suppose that He would permit sin to coexist with goodness, and be everywhere diffused around and within His kingdom, without subserving His designs.

Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee is the striking expression of an eternal truth; as is also that other, the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain! 1 Even when eternally cast out of His presence and condemned, it will yield its tribute of glory to His attributes. But much more is this seen to be the case in the world of mixed Providential dealings. Good is in many ways brought out of evil. The records of the Bible constantly show, so consistently that quotation is needless, how the evil as well as the good, and sometimes in even a more striking manner, have helped on the cause of God and of truth. Experience proves that much of the spiritual discipline, education, and advancement of God's people is the result of their conflict with sin. 0 felix culpa! is not to be rejected absolutely; there is a sense in which it is true for ever. Lastly, there is a never-failing judgment, or discrimination, going on which is the precursor of the final judgment. Many of the rewards of virtue and punishments of vice are meted out even in this world: enough at least to show that Verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth; 2 and to prophesy Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?3

1 Psa. 76:10; 2 Psa. 58:11; 3 Gen. 23:25.


A few general observations are still necessary to complete this view of Providence. It is obviously the most comprehensive term in the language of theology: the background, mysterious in its brightness or darkness, of all the several departments of religious truth.

Rather, it penetrates and fills the whole compass of the relations of man with his Maker.

It connects the Unseen God with the visible creation, and the visible creation with the work of redemption, and redemption with personal salvation, and personal salvation with the end of all things. There is no topic which has already been discussed, none which awaits discussion, that does not pay its tribute to the all-embracing, all-surrounding: doctrine of Providence. The word itself—let it be once more impressed—in one aspect of it carries our thoughts up to that supreme Purpose which was in the beginning with God, and in another carries our thoughts down to the foreseen End or consummation of all things; while it includes between these the whole infinite variety of the dealings of God with man. It silently accompanies theology therefore into all its regions of study and meditation; touches it literally at every point, and sheds its glory, oppressive to reason but invigorating to faith, over all branches of its investigation. It ought to be the grand Reconciler of the contending advocates of predestination and conditional election. The former claim and must have all the legitimate rights of the prothesis; the latter should not be defrauded of the rights of the prognosis; while both must rejoice in the pronoia that comes between. All theological truths are rounded by this unfathomable word. But for the very reason that it is, in its widest compass, so literally boundless and universal, we find it necessary to give it only a scanty treatment as one distinct department.