Foresight, Greek pronoia "forethought" (Acts 24:2). As applied to God, it expresses His never ceasing power exerted in and over all His works. It is the opposite of "chance," "fortune," and "luck." It continues creation. In relation to all things it is universal, and nothing is too minute for its regard; to moral beings special; to holy or converted beings particular. Each is an object of providence according to its capacity. God's providence is concerned in a sparrow's fall; His children are of more value than many sparrows, and therefore are assured of His providential care in all their concerns. Its acts are threefold; preservation, co-operation, and government. He controls all things for the highest good of the whole, acting upon every species conformably to its nature: inanimate things by physical influences, brutes according to instinct, and free agents according to the laws of free agency. Providence displays God's omnipresence, holiness, justice and benevolence.
If the telescope reveals the immense magnitude and countless hosts of worlds which He created and sustains, the microscope shows that His providence equally concerns itself with the minutest animalcule. Nothing is really small with God. He hangs the most momentous weights on little wires. We cannot explain fully why evil was ever permitted; but God overrules it to good. If no fallible beings had been created there could have been no virtue, for virtue implies probation, and probation implies liability to temptation and sin. Sin too has brought into view God's wisdom, mercy, and love, harmonized in redemption, and good educed from evil; yet the good so educed by guilt does not exculpate sinners, or warrant the inference, "let us do evil that good may come" (Romans 3:8).
Proofs of providence.
(I) We can no more account for the world's continued preservation than for its original creation, without God's interposition.
(II) He sustains because He originally made it (Psalm 33:6; Psalm 33:13-16; Colossians 1:17); as one may do what one will with his own, so God has the right to order all things as being their Maker (Isaiah 64:8; Romans 9:20-23). God's interest in His own creation is Job's argument for God's restoring him (Job 10:3; Job 10:9-12; Job 14:15).
(III) God's power, wisdom, knowledge, and love all prove a providence. "He that denies providence denies God's attributes, His omniscience which is the eye of providence, His mercy and justice which are the arms of providence, His power which is its life and motion, His wisdom which is the rudder whereby providence is steered, and holiness the compass and rule of its motion" (Charnock).
(IV) The prevailing order in the world proves providence (Genesis 8:22). The Greek word for world and order is one and the same, kosmos, Latin, mundus; and modern science has shown that the very seeming aberrations of the planets are parts of the universal order or law which reigns. "All discord harmony not understood, All partial evil universal good." (Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 40:26.) The plagues, earthquakes, drought, flood, frost, and famine subserve ends of providence which we only in part see; and they also suggest to us the need of a providence to control them within appointed bounds, and that without such a providence all nature would fall into disorder (Jeremiah 5:22; Job 26:7-11; Job 38:4-14).
(V) The present moral government of the world. Conscience stings the wicked, or civil punishments or the consequences of violating nature's laws overtake them.
(1) The anomalies apparent now, the temporary sufferings of the righteous and prosperity of the wicked, the failure of good plans and success of bad ones, confirm the revelation of the judgment to come which shall rectify these anomalie.s (See JOB.)
(2) The godly amidst affliction enjoy more real happiness than the ungodly, whose prosperity is "shining misery"; (1 Timothy 4:8; Mark 10:29-30).
(3) The sorrows of godly men are sometimes the result of their running counter to laws of nature, or even of revelation; as Jacob's lying to Isaac, repaid in kind retributively in Jacob's sons lying to him, etc., David's adultery and murder punished retributively by Absalom's lying with his father's concubines and by the sword never departing from David's house (2 Samuel 12).
(4) Yet even so they are overruled to the moral discipline of the saint's faith, patience, and experience (Romans 5:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7); David's noblest qualities were brought forth by Saul's persecutions, and even by Absalom's punitive rebellion (2 Samuel 15:25-26; 2 Samuel 16:10-12).
(5) There is sin even in men sincere before God; they need at. times to be brought, as Job at last was, to abase themselves under God's visiting hand, and instead of calling God to account to acknowledge His ways are right and we are sinful, even though we do not see the reason why He contends with us (Job 40:4-5; Job 42:2-6; contrast Job 10:2; Job 33:13).
(6) The issue of wickedness is seen even in this life generally, that though flourishing for a time (Jeremiah 12:1) the wicked are "set in slippery places, and brought into desolation as in a moment" (Psalm 73; Psalm 37:35-37; Job 20:5).
(VI) History vindicates providence. The histories of Israel, Judah, and Gentile nations show that "righteousness exalteth a nation" (Proverbs 14:34). The preparations made for the gospel of our Saviour indicate a providence (Galatians 4:4), the distinctness of prophecy waxing greater and greater as the time for the evangelization of the Gentiles approached (Luke 2:32). The translation of the Jewish Scriptures into the language of a large part of the civilized world, Greek, by the Septuagint (by it the history of providence and the prophecies of Messiah became accessible to the learned everywhere; all possibility of questioning the existence or falsifying the contents of the prophecies was taken away; the closing of the canon just before proved that the Scriptures, so translated, supplied complete all that God revealed in Old Testament times); the expectation throughout the East of a great King and Deliverer to arise in Judaea; the increasing light of philosophy; the comprehension of most of the known world by the Roman empire, breaking down the barrier between E. and W., establishing a regular police everywhere, and the universal peace which prevailed at the coming of the gospel of peace; the multiplication and settling of Jews in Egypt, Asia, Greece, Italy, and western Europe (Horace, Sat. i., 9:69-71; 4:140): all paving the way for promulgating the gospel.
The remarkable working of providence secretly (for God's name never occurs in the book) is apparent in the case of Esther, whereby the fate of the whole Jewish nation hung upon a despot's whim, acted on by a favorite. (See ESTHER.) The providential preparations for the appointed issue, Ahasuerus' feast, Vashti's womanly pride, Mordecai's informing the king of the design against his life, the choice of Esther as queen, Haman's plot, laid so cleverly yet made to recoil on himself, so that after having himself to thank for dictating the honours which he had to pay to the very man whom he wished to destroy he was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
So in the case of Joseph; the brothers' wicked and seemingly successful plan for defeating God's will of elevating him above them, as revealed in his dreams, was overruled to being made the very means of accomplishing it. So "Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel,were gathered together against Christ, for to do whatsoever God's hand and God's counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28; compare Genesis 42:6; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 21:30). Fighters against the truth have been by providence made, in spite of themselves, instrumental in spreading it, by calling attention to it and to its power in ennobling believers' lives. "They that were scattered abroad" by persecutors "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4), the storm that would rend the oak scatters its seed in every direction.
(VII) Belief in providence is the basis of religion, especially of revealed religion: "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will" (Daniel 4:32), So minute is His providential care that "the very hairs of our head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30; Acts 27:34; Luke 21:18; Daniel 3:27); nor is the smallest saint forgotten amidst countless multitudes: "Thou art as much His care as if beside Not man nor angel lived in heaven and earth; Thus sunbeams pour alike a glorious tide, To light up worlds or wake an insect's mirth." See Amos 9:9. It is God who "clothes the grass of the field." "The lot cast into the lap" seems chance, "but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord" (Proverbs 16:33; Jonah 1:7). God's guardianship of His people amidst dangers and plagues appears in Psalm 91 and in His putting a difference between Israel and the Egyptians (Exodus 11:6-7; Exodus 10:23); the dependence of all creatures on God's providence in Psalm 104; Acts 17:28. Christ upholdeth all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3); "by Him all things consist" (Colossians 1:17; Job 38-41).
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