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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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General and Special Providence

The true Christian mind finds equally in all things, including the important and unimportant, the divine presence and supreme control of our heavenly Father. According to A. A. Hodge:

The word PROVIDENCE means, first, to see beforehand, and then to exercise all that care and control which God’s infinite prevision of his own ends and his knowledge of his appointed instrumentalities may suggest. . . .

Our term “providence,” then, includes generally the entire sum of all God’s activities exterior to himself and subsequent to creation through all time. . . .

The fact that we cannot understand the modus operandi of God in his works of grace or of miracle can be no objection to the admission of their reality to the man who believes in the reality of God’s ordinary providence without being able to explain its method. We know that God’s methods of operation, whether natural or supernatural, whether in the forms of ordinary providence, of grace or of miracle, are all carried on simultaneously, are all mutually harmonious, are all the activities of one and the same infinite Agent and in the execution of one all comprehensive plan. . . .

[T]he providence of God in all its modes, whether natural or supernatural, whether ordinary, gracious or miraculous, must be, all and several, the execution of one single indivisible plan. There can be no real incongruities or antagonisms between the natural and the supernatural or between ordinary providence and grace. God, being eternal and infinite in knowledge and wisdom, sees the end from the beginning. . . .

Hence it follows with equal certainty that the providence of God must be universal. It must comprehend in its grasp equally every agent and every event without the least discontinuity or exception. One event is never in any degree more providential than any other event. There prevails a very unintelligent and really irreligious habit among many true Christians of passing unnoticed the evidence of God’s presence in the ordinary course of nature, and of recognizing it on the occasion of some event specially involving their supposed interests, as if it were special and unusual. They will say of some sudden, scarcely hoped for deliverance from danger, “Why, I think I may venture to say it was really providential.” But would it have been any the less providential if they had been destroyed and not delivered? Would it have been any the less providential if they had not been in jeopardy at all and had needed no deliverance? …

God is in the atom just as really and effectually as in the planet. He is in the unobserved sighing of the wind in the wilderness as in the earthquake which overthrows a city full of living men, and his infinite wisdom and power are as much concerned in the one event as in the other.

There is a distinction to be observed between God’s natural providence, which is universal and ordinary, and his supernatural providence, which is occasional and special. His natural providence is equally in every thing and event, but his grace and his supernatural intervention are in one event and not in another, at one time and not at another. It is proper, therefore, to distinguish his natural providence as general, and his grace or his supernatural providence as special. But it is essential to understand that in the ordinary sense of providence relating to the course of events in our natural lives, the common distinction between general and special providence is unintelligent and irreligious. All God’s providence is at the same time both general and special, and general because it is special, and special because it is general. . . . That which controls the every link controls the whole chain. That which controls the movement of every atom controls the whole world. That which controls the thought and volition of every man controls the entire course of human history. God does not come down from above upon the course of our lives in spots. His whole infinite being dwells everlastingly in each atom and each spirit. (“The Scripture Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

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