1632 By George Herbert

The Parson's Consideration of Providence.

He Countrey Parson considering the great aptnesse
if Countrey people have to think that all things come by
a kind of naturall course; and that if they sow and soyle their
grounds, they must have corn; if they keep and fodder well
their cattel, they must have milk, and Calves; labours to
reduce them to see Gods hand in all things. and to beleeve.
that things are not set in such an inevitable order, but that
God often changeth it according as he sees fit, either for
reward or punishment. To this end he represents to his
flock, that God hath and exerciseth a threefold power in
every thing which concernes man. The first is a sustaining
power; the second a governing power; the third a spirituall
power. By his sustaining power he preserves and actuates
every thing in his being; so that corne doth not grow by any
other vertue, then by that which he continually supplies,
as the corn needs it; without which supply the corne would
instantly dry up, as a river would if the fountain were stopped.
And it is observable, that if anything could presume of an
inevitable course, and constancy in its operations, certainly
it should be either the sun in heaven, or the fire on earth,
by reason of their fierce, strong, and violent natures: yet
when God pleased, the sun stood stil,1 the fire burned not.2
By Gods governing power he preserves and orders the
references of things one to the other, so that though the corn
do grow, and be preserved in that act by his sustaining power,
yet if he suite not other things to the growth, as seasons, and
weather, and other accidents by his governing power, the
fairest harvests come to nothing. And it is observeable, that
God delights to have men feel, and acknowledg, and reverence
his power, and therefore he often overturnes things, when
they are thought past danger; that is his time of interposing:
As when a Merchant hath a ship come home after many a
storme, which it hath escaped, he destroyes it sometimes in
the very Haven; or if the goods be housed, a fire hath
broken forth, and suddenly consumed them. Now this he
doth, that men should perpetuate, and not break off their acts
of dependance, how faire soever the opportunities present
themselves. So that if a farmer should depend upon God all
the yeer, and being ready to put hand to sickle, shall then
secure himself, and think all cock-sure; then God sends such
weather, as lays the corn, and destroys it: or if he depend on
God further, even till he imbarn his corn, and then think all
sure; God sends a fire, and consumes all that he hath: For
that he ought not to break off, but to continue his dependance
on God, not onely before the corne is inned, but after also;
and indeed, to depend, and fear continually. The third
power is spirituall, by which God turnes all outward blessings
to inward advantages. So that if a Farmer hath both a faire
harvest, and that also well inned, and imbarned, and con-
tinuing safe there; yet if God give him not the Grace to use,
and utter this well, all his advantages are to his losse. Better
were his corne burnt, then not spiritually improved. And
it is observable in this, how Gods goodnesse strives with
mans refractorinesse; Man would sit down at this world,
God bids him sell it, and purchase a better:3 Just as a Father,
who hath in his hand an apple, and a piece of Gold under it;
the Child comes, and with pulling, gets the apple out of his
Fathers hand: his Father bids him throw it away, and he will
give him the gold for it, which the Child utterly refusing,
eats it, and is troubled with wormes: So is the carnall and
wilfull man with the worm of the grave in this world, and
the worm of Conscience in the next.

1 Joshua 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769. [Return]
2 Moses' burning bush or Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego. [Return]
3 Editor's Note: In the "purchase a better" there is a suggestion of the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. Matthew 13:45f. [Return]

See also the poem Providence from The Temple.

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