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SERMON XVIII.

The Wheels of Providence.

A Faft Sermon, April 1806.

EZEKIEL i. 16.

Their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle

of a wheel.

THE prophet Ezekiel was carried to Babylon among some of the first of the captive Jews. Before his captivity he saw many changes ; and afterward by a spirit of prophecy he forefaw maAy more, which are recorded in this book.

The great events in providence, which awaited his own, and some other countries, are represented to him in an emblematic vifion. He saw "a whirlwind rising out of the north,” or out of Babylon, which lay northward of Judea. This be. tokened new calamities coming on his country from that quarter. “ There was a great cloud and fire infolding itfelf;" or rolling in wreaths of fmoke, as when clouds are blown by a whirlwind. This denoted the terrible majesty and irresistible power of God's judgments executed on à guilty land. From the midft of the fiery cloud

« he saw four living

creatures come forth,” representing the angels of God, who were the ministers of his providence and the executioners of his wrath on guilty nations. These living creatures, in all their movements, were under the direction of one governing Spirit. All the angels are “ ministers of God, hearkening to his voice, obeying his commands, and doing his pleasure.” They “had each four wings,” with two of which they covered their bodies in token of their profound reverence, and with two they flew to perform the divine behests. “ Their wings were stretched out, and the wings of one touched those of another," to signify that they moved in concert.

" Whither the Spirit was to go they went, and they turned not, when they went ;" but proceeded with fteadiness in their work, till it was accomplished. To express the alacrity and rapidity of their motions, the prophet says, “ Their appearance was as a flash of lightening."

In describing the scenery of the vision, Ezekiel : further adds, that “ by each of the living creatures there was a wheel.As there were four living creatures, fo there were four wheels. “And their appearance and their work were as the colour of Beryl, and they four had one likeness, and there was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel.This description is designed to represent the mysterious, but regular manner, in which God guides and orders events in relation to the nations of the earth.

To illustrate and improve this figurative representation of God's providence, is what we now design.

1. The providence of God is represented by a wheel, to signify, that it is always in motionala ways operating, to effectuate its various designs. Vol. V.

li,

The Being, who made the world at first, “works hitherto," and will continue forever to work. He upholds and governs the world, and superintends all events, great and {mall, which take place in it. If he fhould fufpend his influence and withdraw his hand, the fystem of nature would be diffolved, the ftars would start from their orbs, planets run lawless through the void, and creation return to chaos.

The fame providence which fuftains the universe, overrules all events in our world. Not only the armies of heaven, but alfo the inhabitants of the earth, are subject to its power. The revo. lutions of states and kingdoms are under its controul. “ There are many devices in the hearts of men ; but the counsel of the Lord thall stand.” They have neither wisdom to guide, nor power to effect their purposes without his support and permiffion. He raises up one, and cafts down another whatsoever he pleases, that he does, and none can stay his hand. He weakens the strength of the mighty, and turns to foolishness the devices of the crafty. He gives power to the faint, and to them who have no might he increafes strength. The great events, which are often brought about by disproportionate means, are proots of an almighty, superintending providence.

The prophet, describing the wheel of providence, fays, " It was on the earth, and its rings were fo high, that it was dreadfúl." All things were comprehended within its vaft circumference, and moved with its motions. There is a fimilar reprefentation in the book of Job.

66 Who can by searching find out God? Who can find out the almighty to perfection ? It is high as heaven ; what can we do? Deeper than hell ; what can we know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and

broader than the sea.” The majesty of providence is described in the like elevated language by the prophet Isaiah. God sits on the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grafihoppers. He weigheth the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance. All nations before him are as a drop in a bucket, or a small dus in a balance. As the heavens are higher than the earth, fo are his thoughts, and his ways above

ours."

II. Providence is compared to a wheel, to signify the mutability of all things on earth.

As the condition of particular persons, fo the state of nations and kingdoms is always changing. They are all on this mighty, stupendous wheel. All are in motion. None are stationary. Some are rising ; others falling. They who rise, exult in their ascending progress, and forget that their motion will soon be reversed, and that the nations, which now seem to lie under them in the duft, will, at a future time, change places with them.

There was a time, when the Jews were high above all nations. In Ezekiel's day they had funk to the lowest degradation. They were at the bottom of the wheel. They had loft their pow. er, their government, their liberty. Many were carried captive to a distant land; those who re. mained at home, were llaves there. But they were to rise again, and their enemies were to fall. The Assyrians, now their masters, were afterward conquered by the Persians. At that time the Jews were released from bondage, and allowed to return to their own country. The Perfians foon funk from their elevated position on the wheel and the Grecians rofe over them. These, in their turn, rolled down, and the Romans ascended. Thus

the nations of the earth have been, ftill are, and, for a time, will be in continual rotation.

These changes are the immediate effects of the pride, ambition and avarice of men; but they are all under the superintendency of a wife and righteous providence. “ The rings of its wheels are full of eyes.” Their motions are not casual, but intelligent ; the effects, not of blind impulse, but of rational design. " The Spirit of life is in the wheels, and whithersoeverthe Spirt goes, they go."

God has some great and benevolent design in all his works. Men have designs too, but they are often very different from his. The end, which divine wisdom has in view, is the protection and enlargement of the church, the diffusion of knowledge, and the eventual establishment of virtue and righteousness. The objects, which earthly powers are pursuing, are the enlargement of territory, the extension of dominion, the accumulation of wealth. But all their purposes God overrules to the furtherance of his own holy and benevolent ends. “ The wrath of men he makes to praise him, and the remainder of their wrath he restrains." Powerful kings are often “the rods of his anger to chastise the people of his wrath ; howbeit they mean not so, neither doth their heart think so, but it is in their heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few." And when they have accomplished God's righteous design in the punishment of guilty nations, then “ he will punish the fruit of their stout heart, and the glory of their high looks.”

III. The text suggests to us, that there is a wonderful order and connexion in the works of providence.

The wheels in Ezekiel's vision were so nicely framed and adjusted, that they moved in concert,

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