Gods providence, a sermon preached before the honourable House of Commons at their late solemne fast, Decemb. 28, 1642, in S. Margarets Church at Westminster by Ed. Corbett ...
Corbet, Edward, d. 1658.

3.God governs all things to their ends.

*Gods Providence is as generall as his Creation, governing all things by the same infinite power by which they were made. This glorious fabrick of the world would soone lose its beautie and the great familie and rich furniture thereof fall into confu∣sion, if the hand of Providence did not guide their motions and by a sweet command conduct them to their ends.* The waters would overflow the earth, the fire would ascend above its proper spheare, Lions and beasts of strength and Crueltie would quickly devoure the generations of Men: Nay the creatures have destru∣ction enough within themselves, and for want of enemies abroad would become their own Executioners.* Divines & naturalists have spoken so much of the parts of man, the use & order of the actions and fabrick of rationall creatures, of the vertue of plants & stones, that wonder is fitter herein then words, &, he doth best relate that storie who most admires it; I shall therfore only tell you, Galen by the light of Nature did extoll the wisdom of Godin the making of a Gnat, in the very thigh of a Gnat that which we do so little re∣gard, which we do so much scorne, which many of us never took notice of, the thigh one of the least & low'st parts of a gnat, a poor, imperfect creature, yet confesseth the hand of God and magni∣fieth that Name which Christians many times blaspheme; the Page  11 basest worme which creepeth in the dust hath matter enough to silence the wisest Man, and by how much the lesser any creature is, by so much it raiseth the greater wonder. As a small watch re∣quires a curious hand, and pictures of the least volume shew most of all the limners skill. Let us consider the whole species of man∣kind, every child of Adam from the Creation to the last Iudge∣ment, and when we have considered let us be astonished, and cry out with Saint Paul, How unsearchable are his Iudgements who gives to so many millions of millions a distinct Face?* by which the Husband knowes his wife, the Father his Child, the Creditor his Debter, the Magistrate the Delinquent, the Subject his Prince, by which we know our Friends from our Enemies: and without which Treason, Incest, Parricide, Every wicked∣nesse would fill the world, and confusion overwhelm all Govern∣ment, there is not a Lillie grows in the Field,* not a drop sinks from the cloudes, not a haire falls from our Head or a sparrow lights on the ground without the Eye of Providence; grasse hath measure and the sands of the Sea are numbred, the whole disposing of a Lot is of the Lord. He guideth the stroke of every sword in a battel, and not a bullet flies to any other place then he hath appointed.

Those things which be most free and absolute, the hearts and wills of Men follow the Influence of Divine Providence, they do whatsoever liketh them, But yet they can do no more and in no other manner then God hath Decreed, He guideth them to his own Ends yet guideth according to that Nature he hath put into them, they voluntarily performe, what certainly shall come to passe. He causeth good actions, he permitteth bad actions, he rules and orders all. Absolon shall refuse the good Counsell of A∣chitophell if God have so determined,* and Elie's Sonnes shall not obey the voyce of their Father if the Lord resolve to slay them. The Heart of the King is in the hand of God as the Rivers of water, the Kings heart, who hath all things at command, and is of all men most free, and whose wrath is as the roaring of a Lion,* his heart, his will, his favours, his frown, his power, his pur∣poses, are call'd by Gods Providence as the waters are carried in Page  12 their channels at the pleasure of those who have skill to derive them. Posidonius in the life of Saint Augustine gives us two me∣morable examples to this purpose The good Father being to vi∣sit and instruct the people of a certaine place,* and having a guide to direct the way and conduct him thither, did notwithstanding mistake the Common and usuall roade and ignorantly fall into a by-path and so escaped the bloudy hands of some Donatists who knowing of his journey lay in ambush to take away his life:* At an∣other time this Holy Bishop preaching to the Congregation, and forgetting the Argument, which first he proposed, fell upon the Errors of the Manichees, which he never intended, and by that meanes converted one Firmus his auditor who afterwards fell down at Saint Augustines feet,* weeping and confessing that he had lived a Manichee many yeares, and now, by Gods mercy and his last Sermon was reduced to the Catholick beliefe. We all know that Augustus made the generall taxe to enrich his own coffers, but God used it as a meanes to fulfill the Prophesie of Christs birth at Bethlahem. Nay God is the cause why things are not, why a wise Councell of State-Physitians cannot cure the wounds of a bleeding Kingdom, why a peace desired betwixt two contrary Armies finds no successe, why the Enemies which were round about the People of Israel could not desire their Land, the men being absent thrice every yeare,* and none but women to op∣pose them. It is God who hinders and gives way to every work, nothing is independant on him who depends on nothing.

Indeed Ticho-Brach, and Kepler two famous Mathematicians, seeme to Crosse this doctrine, attributing much to the Influences of the Starrs, and to that great conjunction of Saturne and Jupiter. From whose pens some in these times give out many ominous conjectures: and in truth few can be ignorant that the heavenly bodies have great power over inferior Creatures and are the par∣tiall causes of many alterations here below; but such crosse acci∣dents do frequently happen in the Matter on which they work, especially in the bodie and actions of men which are swayd by reason and education and Religion. And God doth so controll and check them at his pleasure, that our sinns are more to be Page  13 feared then the Starrs,* and nothing certaine can be concluded from their aspects, but that they work together for the best to them that love the Lord.* They make somewhat to fore-tell Mans inclination▪ and are signes of spirituall events, but they bring no fatall necessity with them, and things contingent are as far above their power, as they are below the Almightie's. If we can be∣leeve that the 1000. yeares mentioned in the Rev. for the binding up of Sathan, is yet to come as divers do strongly perswade us,** we need not cast the great fury and confusion of all the world, upon the starrs, we need not wonder at those Civill dissentions by which we devoure our selves, and when no other enemy could do us any harme, we labour our own destruction. For the old Serpent is such an enemy to goodnesse and is now so madly furious because his time is short, that he brings foorth all his wicked instruments which are in the 4. quarters of the world to compasse the Tents of Saints about and the beloved City, to strik Religion at the heart, and to banish, if it were possible, the Church of Christ from off the earth; & yet thankes be to our gra∣cious God his power is limited both in regard of time and mea∣sure and manner, he can go but to the end of his chaine, witnesse Jobs afflictions; He may expresse his malice, he cannot effect his will: For wickednesse it self is under subjection, and all the strength the Divell hath rests in God; I am confident that these rageing waters which do so overflow the banks of Christendome are trialls of the Godly, punishments of sin, and instruments of Divine Providence. I do not more beleeve that the sun is in the Heaven, or that I am speaking to this Congregation then I do be∣leeve that all the calamities which are fallen upon this Land, shall turne to the benefit of Gods people,* that Antichrist shall concur to his own subversion, and the very enemies of Truth shall ad∣vance it, then that scarlet whore, who hath so long made the Nations drunk with her fornications shall fall, and it is most pro∣bable that her ruine is neare at hand: when a more full and entire calling of the Gentils then hitherto hath been, shall be accom∣plished, and their reasons are prevailing with me, who yet expect such a calling: when the Iewish Nation shall be fully reduced to Page  14 Christian Religion and it is a granted truth amongst the best Di∣vines that such a conversion is yet to come,* then shall the Church of Christ break through the clouds of affliction, prevaile over Antichrist and all the instruments of hell, and flourish more in do∣ctrine and manners,* in peace and power and glory then ever it hath done since men first inhabited the earth. What Aristotle therefore relates of Phydias the famous Carver, I shall apply to Divine Providence, for as he being to make the Image of Mi∣nerva, did with such curious Art work his own face upon the sta∣tue, that whosoever should scrape out the face, must of necessitie deforme the whole Image: so the great Architect of Heaven and earth, hath in such a wonderfull manner engraven as it were his own glorious face, his power, his wisdom, his goodnesse, upon the whole fabrick of the world, and upon every part thereof, that this Divine face of God cannot be separated from any Creature without the Creatures ruine and annihilation. I will conclude this point, and my first Proposition with Davids Confession. Psal. 40. v. 5. O Lord my God thou hast made thy wonderfull works so many that none can count in order thy thoughts towards us, I would declare and speak of them, but they are more then I am able to expresse.