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OF THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE IN GENERAL.
God, then, Theotimus, needs not many acts, because one only divine act of his all-powerful will, by reason of its infinite perfection, is sufficient to produce all the variety of his works. But we mortals must treat them after the method and manner of understanding which our small minds can attain to; according to which, to speak of divine providence, let us consider, I pray you, the reign of the great Solomon, as a perfect model of the art of good government.
This great king then, knowing by divine inspiration that the commonwealth is to religion as the body to the soul, and religion to the commonwealth as the soul to the body, disposed with himself all the parts requisite as well for the establishment of religion as of the commonwealth. As to religion, he determined that a temple must be erected of such and such length, breadth, and height, so many porches and courts, so many windows and thus of all the rest which belonged to the temple; then so many sacrificers, so many singers and other officers of the temple. And as for the commonwealth he determined to make a royal palace and court for his majesty, and in this so many stewards, so many gentlemen and other courtiers; and, for the people, judges, and other magistrates who were to execute justice further, for the assurance of the kingdom, and securing of the public peace which it enjoyed, he arranged to have in time of peace a powerful preparation for war, and to this effect two hundred and fifty commanders in various charges, forty thousand horses, and all that great equipage which the Scripture and historians record.
Now having disposed and arranged in his mind all the principal things requisite for his kingdom, he came to the act of providing them, and thought out all that was necessary to construct the temple, to maintain the sacred officers, the royal ministers and magistrates, and the soldiers whom he intended to appoint, and resolved to send to Hiram for fit timber, to begin commerce with Peru6161According to the opinion not uncommon in. S. Francis's day. (Tr.) and Ophir, and to take all convenient means to procure all things requisite for the fulfilment and success of his undertaking. Neither stayed he there, Theotimus, for having made his project and deliberated with himself about the proper means to accomplish it, coming to the practice, he actually created officers as he had disposed, and by a good government caused provision to be made of all things requisite to carry out and to accomplish their charges. So that having the knowledge of the art of reigning well, he put it into practice, executed that disposition which he had made in his mind for the creation of officers of every sort, and provided in effect what he had seen it necessary to provide; and so his art of government which consisted in disposition, and in providence or foresight, was put into practice by the creation of officers and by actual government and good management. But inasmuch as the disposing is useless without the creation of officers, and creation also vain without that provident foresight which looks after what is needed to maintain the officers created or appointed; and since this maintaining by good government is nothing more than a providence put into effect, therefore not only the disposition but also the creation and good government of Solomon were called by the name of providence, nor do we indeed say that a man is provident unless he govern well.
Now, Theotimus, speaking of heavenly things according to the impression we have gained by the consideration of human things, we affirm that God, having had an eternal and most perfect knowledge of the art of making the world for his glory, disposed before all things in his divine understanding all the principal parts of the universe which might render him honour; to wit, angelic and human nature,—and in the angelic nature the variety of hierarchies and orders, as the sacred Scripture and holy doctors teach us; as also among men he ordained that there should be that great diversity which we see. Further, in this same eternity he provided and determined in his mind all the means requisite for men and angels to come to the end for which he had ordained them, and so made the act of his providence; and not stopping there, he, in order to effect what he had disposed, really created angels and men, and to effect his providence he did and does by his government furnish reasonable creatures with all things necessary to attain glory, so that, to say it in a word, sovereign providence is no other thing than the act whereby God furnishes men or angels with the means necessary or useful for the obtaining of their end. But because these means are of different kinds we also diversify the name of providence, and say that there is one providence natural, another supernatural, and that the latter again is general, or special, or particular.
And because hereafter, Theotimus, I shall exhort you to unite your will to God's providence, I would, while on this part of my subject, say a word about natural providence. God then, willing to provide men with the natural means necessary for them to render glory to the divine goodness, produced in their behalf all the other animals and the plants, and to provide for the other animals and the plants, he has produced a variety of lands, seasons, waters, winds, rains; and, as well for man as for the other things appertaining to him, he created the elements, the sky, the stars, ordaining in an admirable manner that almost all creatures should mutually serve one another. Horses carry us, and we care for them; sheep feed and clothe us, and we feed them; the earth sends vapours to the air; and the air rain to the earth; the hand serves the foot, and the foot the hand. O! he who should consider this general commerce and traffic which creatures have together, in so perfect a correspondence—with how strong an amorous passion for this sovereign wisdom would he be moved, crying out: Thy providence O great and eternal Father governs all things!6262Wisdom xiv. 3. S. Basil and S. Ambrose in their Hexaemerons, the good Louis of Granada in his introduction to the Creed, and Louis Richeome in many of his beautiful works, will furnish ample motives to loving souls profitably to employ this consideration.
Thus, dear Theotimus, this providence reaches all, reigns over all, and reduces all to its glory. There are indeed fortuitous cases and unexpected accidents, but they are only fortuitous or unexpected to us, and are of course most certain to the divine providence, which foresees them, and directs them to the general good of the universe. These accidents happen by the concurrence of various causes, which having no natural alliance one with the other, produce each of them its particular effect, but in such a way that from their concourse there issues another effect of a different nature, to which though one could not foresee it, all these different causes contributed. For example, it was reasonable to chastise the curiosity of the poet Æschylus, who being told by a diviner that he would perish by the fall of some house, kept himself all that day in the open country, to escape his fate, and as he was standing up bareheaded, a falcon which held in its claws a tortoise, seeing this bald head, and thinking it to be the point of a rock, let the tortoise fall upon it, and behold Æschylus dies immediately, crushed by the house and shell of a tortoise. This was doubtless a fortuitous accident, for this man did not go into the country to die, but to escape death, nor did the falcon dream of crushing a poet's head, but the head and shell of a tortoise to make itself master of the meat within: yet it chanced to the contrary, for the tortoise remained safe and poor Æschylus was killed. According to us this chance was unexpected, but in respect of the Divine providence which looked from above and saw the concurrence of causes, it was an act of justice punishing the superstition of the man. The adventures of Joseph of old were admirable in their variety and the way they passed from one extreme to the other. His brethren who to ruin him had sold him, were amazed to see that he had become viceroy, and were mightily apprehensive that he remained sensible of the wrong they had done him: but no said he: Not by your counsel was I sent hither, but by the will of God. You thought evil against me, but God turned it into good.6363Gen. xlv. 8; l. 20. You see, Theotimus, the world would have termed this a chance, or fortuitous event, which Joseph called a design of the sovereign providence, which turns and reduces all to its service. It is the same with all things that happen in the world yea, even with monstrosities, whose birth makes complete and perfect works more esteemed, begets admiration, provokes discussion, and many good thoughts; in a word they are in the world as the shades in pictures, which give grace and seem to bring out the colours.
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