The Divine Providence, by Louis A. Dole

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“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” – Matthew 10:30

Readings

1 Samuel 14:33-46 · Matthew 10:16-31 · Psalm 40

Sermon

In these words the Lord teaches us that His providence embraces all things down to the very least and minutest particulars.

Our text follows the admonition, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The power of men extends only to the body. To show them how little cause they had to fear men, the Lord calls the attention of His disciples to the providence that is ever over them and which enters into the smallest particulars of their lives. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Numbering denotes arrangement. The argument then is: if the Lord’s providential care extends to the least things in life, how much more to the greatest, if to the least individual, how much more to the government of nations and to the church which is His kingdom in the world? If the Lord provides for the sparrow, which is of so little worth, we have no cause for fear, for we are of more value than many sparrows.

These words of our Lord give us the light of hope in the night of trial and adversity, and give us strength and courage to meet all dangers and trials with full confidence for the future, whatever the appearance may be to us.

The Lord is infinite love and wisdom. It follows that at all times He does all that He can for us, watching over us from moment to moment and overruling everything for our highest good. His love and wisdom cannot err or fail in even the least particular; otherwise He would not be infinitely loving, wise, and powerful.

We may think that we can see many things that would be far better for us than what we have which the Lord might provide, many misfortunes and trials from which He might save us. But we must remember that we see almost nothing while the Lord sees the end from the beginning in every particular, in all its infinite relations. We can see only a few of the natural consequences of any event. How then can we judge its bearing upon our eternal good?

Looking back over the history of the world one can see that the Lord’s providence has been over the nations and he can acknowledge a general providence, but often he does not feel that the Lord’s providence is concerned with him as an individual.

Yet it is impossible that there be a general providence without a particular one. Could an automobile manufacturer make an automobile in general without first making its many particular parts down to the very least? We all know that the individual parts are made first and then assembled. This is the law of creation as well as of every human activity. So it is written: “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much,” There can be no general providence except as the result of a particular one.

Our ideas are so limited by time and space, we know so little about the Lord’s method of operating! When things go well with us, we think that the Lord is good; when misfortunes come, we think that He has forgotten us. But this is not the case. “The Divine providence is the government of the Divine love and the Divine wisdom of the Lord.” It is universal in the true sense of the word; that is, it embraces each individual thing in all its forms and relations. The Lord has for the end of all His works the highest possible happiness of men.

All those innumerable things necessary for our sustenance and comfort, which seem to come to us in the ordinary course of nature, are as truly a particular provision of the Lord as if they were furnished for the occasion. The material world contains everything our bodies need. Foods for our nourishment, cotton, flax, silk, and wool for our clothing are special provisions for our wants. The Lord knew that in certain stages man would need a greater amount of fuel. He provided it in the form of coal and oil. He knew that His children would need iron and other metals. These things were not thrown into the composition of the earth without a definite purpose. They are a particular provision for man’s particular wants.

The question may arise in the minds of some, “If the Lord created all things purposely for our use, why did He not create them in a form exactly adapted to this use so that we should not have to labor for them?” The answer is that we have other needs than material ones. We have an intellectual, moral, and spiritual nature, and only through labor of various kinds can this be developed. The fowls of the air “sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.” They have no moral and spiritual nature to develop, and therefore there is no necessity for this labor. No effort is exacted from man that is not for his good. Our occupations are the means of our performing uses to others.

But we find in our own lives and in the lives of others much that is painful. Sickness, suffering, disappointment, and death come upon all. Does the Lord provide these? No. But He provides for them or against them. He provides that they may be useful to us in one of two ways: either in the prevention of some greater evil, or in the production of some positive good. Pain cannot be called a positive good, but we can easily see how it can prevent a greater evil. It warns of danger, and thus it keeps us from a greater violation of laws and the suffering of a greater penalty. The Lord does not provide sickness and disappointment for us. But when – as a result either of our ignorance or of the misuse of our freedom of choice – they do come, He uses them in various ways to prevent greater evils. They lead us to put less confidence in ourselves and they tend to break the force of love of the world, to soften and subdue the hardness of our natures, and to teach us to look up to the Lord for help. We often live to see how the greatest disappointments have been our greatest blessings. Our choices are not always wise, and we know that if we were granted everything that we wish from day to day, we should soon destroy our possibilities for both natural and spiritual development. The end that the Lord has in view is our greatest happiness, and He directs everything to that end.

If our course is leading us away from the Lord and from His purposes for us, we find our way becoming more difficult. Taking all things into consideration, whatever happens to us is for our good. The great wars of recent years were accompanied by great loss of life and property. They carried suffering and sorrow into thousands of homes, yet greater evils were prevented.

The Lord’s providence provides for every exigency in the life of the world and of every individual. Let us try to bring this great truth home to our hearts. “The Divine providence is the government of the Divine love and the Divine wisdom.” Could there be a better government than that of Divine infinite love and wisdom? What is our prudence and foresight compared to that? Whatever comes to us, whatever may be our situation in life, let us live in the assurance that under the circumstances, taking everything into consideration, it is best for us. If we suffer, it is to save us from greater suffering. If we are disappointed, it is to save us from greater disappointment. If we sustain loss of property or friends or place, it is that we may not sustain a greater loss, perhaps a spiritual and eternal one.

In every particular of our life, in every thought and affection we exercise, in every act we perform the Lord is watching over us for our good to do the best that infinite love and wisdom can do for us, taking all our relations, states, and circumstances into view to eternity. “The hairs of our head are all numbered.”

Amen

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