Ac 24:2, a superintending and forecasting care. The providence of God upholds and governs every created thing. Its operation is coextensive with the universe, and as unceasing as the flow of time. All his attributes are engaged in it. He provideth for the raven his food, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing. The Bible shows us all nature looking up to him and depending upon him, Job 38:41; Ps 104; 145:15-16; 147:8-9; and uniformly declares that every occurrence, as well as every being, is perfectly controlled by him. There is no such thong as chance in the universe; "the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord," Pr 16:23. Not a sparrow, nor a hair of the head, falls to the ground without his knowledge, Isa 14:26-27; Mt 10:29-30; Ac 17:24-29. Nothing that was not too minute for God to create, is too minute for him to preserve and control. The history of each man, the rise and fall of nations, and the progress of the church of Christ, reveal at every step the hand of Him who "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."
literally means foresight, but is generally used to denote God's preserving and governing all things by means of second causes (Ps 18:35; 63:8; Ac 17:28; Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). God's providence extends to the natural world (Ps 104:14; 135:5-7; Ac 14:17), the brute creation (Ps 104:21-29; Mt 6:26; 10:29), and the affairs of men (1Ch 16:31; Ps 47:7; Pr 21:1; Job 12:23; Da 2:21; 4:25), and of individuals (1Sa 2:6; Ps 18:30; Lu 1:53; Jas 4:13-15). It extends also to the free actions of men (Ex 12:36; 1Sa 24:9-15; Ps 33:14-15; Pr 16:1; 19:21; 20:24; 21:1), and things sinful (2Sa 16:10; 24:1; Ro 11:32; Ac 4:27-28), as well as to their good actions (Php 2:13; 4:13; 2Co 12:9-10; Eph 2:10; Ga 5:22-25).
As regards sinful actions of men, they are represented as occurring by God's permission (Ge 45:5; 50:20. Comp. 1Sa 6:6; Ex 7:13; 14:17; Ac 2:3; 3:18; 4:27-28), and as controlled (Ps 76:10) and overruled for good (Ge 50:20; Ac 3:13). God does not cause or approve of sin, but only limits, restrains, overrules it for good.
The mode of God's providential government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this government is universal (Ps 103:17-19), particular (Mt 10:29-31), efficacious (Ps 33:11; Job 23:13), embraces events apparently contingent (Pr 16:9,33; 19:21; 21:1), is consistent with his own perfection (2Ti 2:13), and to his own glory (Ro 9:17; 11:36).
Foresight, Greek pronoia "forethought" (Ac 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" (Ro 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 (Ps 33:6,13-16; Col 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 (Isa 64:8; Ro 9:20-23). God's interest in His own creation is Job's argument for God's restoring him (Job 10:3,9-12; 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 (Ge 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." (Isa 40:22,26.) 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 (Jer 5:22; Job 26:7-11; 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.)
(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 (Ro 5:3-4; 1Pe 1:6-7); David's noblest qualities were brought forth by Saul's persecutions, and even by Absalom's punitive rebellion (2Sa 15:25-26; 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; 42:2-6; contrast Job 10:2; 33:13).
(6) The issue of wickedness is seen even in this life generally, that though flourishing for a time (Jer 12:1) the wicked are "set in slippery places, and brought into desolation as in a moment" (Psalm 73; Ps 37:35-37; Job 20:5).
(VI) History vindicates providence. The histories of Israel, Judah, and Gentile nations show that "righteousness exalteth a nation" (Pr 14:34). The preparations made for the gospel of our Saviour indicate a providence (Ga 4:4), the distinctness of prophecy waxing greater and greater as the time for the evangelization of the Gentiles approached (Lu 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" (Ac 4:27-28; compare Ge 42:6; Pr 19:21; 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" (Ac 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" (Da 4:32), So minute is His providential care that "the very hairs of our head are all numbered" (Mt 10:30; Ac 27:34; Lu 21:18; Da
1. The word is not found in the OT. In the NT it is used only once; in the exordium of his address to Felix, the orator Tertullus says: 'By thy providence evils are corrected for this nation' (Ac 24:2). Here 'providence' simply means 'foresight,' as in 2Ma 4:6 'the king's providence.'
2. The first appearance of the word 'providence' (Gr. pronoia) in Jewish literature is in Wis 14:3, where God is represented as making for a ship 'a way in the sea'; the Jewish author, borrowing the expression from the Stoic philosophers, says: 'Thy providence, O Father, guideth it along.' In a later passage, recognizing the sterner aspect of the truth to which the OT also bears witness, he contrasts the destinies of the Israelites and Egyptians and describes the latter, when they were 'prisoners of darkness,' as 'exiled from the eternal providence' (Wis 17:2).
3. Although the OT does not contain the word 'providence,' it is a continuous and progressive revelation of Him 'whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth.' Historians narrate the gradual accomplishment of His redemptive purpose concerning the Chosen People and the world at large (Ge 50:20; Ex 8:22; De 32:8 ff.; cf. Ps 74:12 ff.); poets delight to extol Him 'whose tender mercies are over all his works' (Ps 145:9; cf. Ps 29:3 ff., Ps 104; 136); prophets point to the proofs of God's guidance in the past in order that the people may gain wisdom for the present and courage for the future (De 32:7 ff., Hag 2:9; Isa 51:2; Mal 4:4 ff.). The Book of Job has been called 'the book of Providence,' because it not only gives the author's solution of perplexing problems, but also 'furnishes reasons for believing in the righteous providence of God from the consideration of His character and His dominion over nature' (Oehler, Theology of OT, ii. 474; cf. Job 27; 34:10; 36:22; 37:21).
4. Belief in Providence stands or falls with belief in a personal God. It is incompatible with mechanical or pantheistic theories of Creation. Ancient problems which perplexed Greek philosophers and Hebrew sages press heavily upon the modern mind as it strives to reconcile its trust in Divine providence with the reign of law in the universe and with the existence of pain and evil. Jesus Christ taught that the laws of nature are the established methods of His Heavenly Father's working, and that they fulfil as well as reveal His will (Mt 6:25 ff; Mt 10:29 ff., Joh 5:17). Belief in Providence means to the Christian, trust in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has so clearly revealed His will in His Son as to make it plain to His children that natural laws may not only subserve moral and spiritual ends in this present time, but may also further His unerring purposes which are not bounded by this mortal life (Ro 8:28; 2Co 4:11 ff., 1Pe 1:6 ff.).
J. G. Tasker.
PROVIDENCE, the conduct and direction of the several parts of the universe, by a superior intelligent Being. The notion of a providence is founded upon this truth, that the Creator has not so fixed and ascertained the laws of nature, nor so connected the chain of second causes, as to leave the world to itself, but that he still preserves the reins in his own hands, and occasionally intervenes, alters, restrains, enforces, suspends, &c, those laws by a particular providence. Some use the word providence in a more general sense, signifying by it that power or action by which the several parts of the creation are ordinarily directed. Thus Damascenus defines providence to be that divine will by which all things are ordered and directed to the proper end: which notion of providence supposes no laws at all fixed by the author of nature at the creation, but that he reserved it at large, to be governed by himself immediately. The Epicureans denied any divine providence, as thinking it inconsistent with the ease and repose of the divine nature to meddle at all with human affairs. Simplicius argues thus for a providence: If God does not look to the affairs of the world, it is either because he cannot or will not; but the first is absurd, since, to govern cannot be difficult where to create was easy; and the latter is both absurd and blasphemous. In Plato's Tenth Dialogue of Laws, he teaches excellently, that (since what is self-moving is, by its nature, before that which moves only in consequence of being moved) mind must be prior to matter, and the cause of all its modifications and changes; and that, therefore, there is a universal Mind possessed of all perfection, which produced and which actuates all things. After this he shows that the Deity exercises a particular providence over the world, taking care of small no less than great things. In proving this he observes "that a superior nature of such excellence as the divine, which hears, sees, and knows all things, cannot, in any instance, be subject to negligence or sloth; that the meanest and the greatest part of the world are all equally his work or possession; that great things cannot be rightly taken care of without taking care of small; and that, in all cases, the more able and perfect any artist is, (as a physician, an architect, or the ruler of the state,) the more his skill and care appear in little as well as great things. Let us not, then," says he, "conceive of God as worse than even mortal artists." The term providence, in its primary signification, simply denotes foresight; and if we allow the existence of a supreme Being who formed the universe at first, we must necessarily allow that he has a perfect foresight of every event which at any time takes place in the natural or moral world. Matter can have no motion, nor spirit any energy, but what is derived from him; nor can he be ignorant of the effects which they will, either separately or conjointly, produce. A common mechanic has knowledge of the work of his own hands: when he puts the machine which he has made in motion, he foresees how long it will go, and what will be the state and position of its several parts at any particular point of time; or, if he is not perfectly able to do this, it is because he is not perfectly acquainted with all the powers of the materials which he has used in its construction: they are not of his making, and they may therefore have qualities which he does not understand, and consequently cannot regulate. But in the immense machine of the universe there is nothing except that which God has made; all the powers and properties, relations and dependencies, which created things have, they have, both in kind and degree, from him. Nothing, therefore, it should seem, can come to pass at any time, or in any part of the universe, which its incomprehensible Architect did not, from the moment his almighty fiat called it into existence, clearly foresee. The providence of God is implied in his very existence as an intelligent Creator; and it imports not only an abstract foresight of all possible events, but such a predisposition of causes and effects, such an adjustment of means and ends, as seems to us to exclude that contingency of human actions with which, as expectants of positive rewards and punishments in another world, we firmly believe it to be altogether consistent.
By providence we may understand, not merely foresight, but a uniform and constant operation of God subsequent to the act of creation. Thus, in every machine formed by human ingenuity, there is a necessity for the action of some extraneous power to put the machine in motion: a proper construction and disposition of parts not being sufficient to effect the end: there must be a spring, or a weight, or an impulse of air or water, or some substance or other, on which the motion of the several parts of the machine must depend. In like manner, the machine of the universe depends upon its Creator for the commencement and the conservation of the motion of its several parts. The power by which the insensible particles of matter coalesce into sensible lumps, as well as that by which the great orbs of the universe are reluctantly, as it were, retained in their courses, admits not an explanation from mechanical causes: the effects of both of them are different from such as mere matter and motion can produce; they must ultimately be referred to God. Vegetable and animal life and increase cannot be accounted for, without recurring to him as the primary cause of both. In all these respects the providence of God is something more than foresight; it is a continual influence, a universal agency; "by him all things consist," and "in him we live, and move, and have our being." Much labour has been employed to account for all the phenomena of nature by the powers of mechanism, or the necessary laws of matter and motion. But this, as we imagine, cannot be done. The primary causes of things must certainly be some powers and principles not mechanical, otherwise we shall be reduced to the necessity of maintaining an endless progression of motions communicated from matter to matter, without any first mover; or of saying that the first impelling matter moved itself. The former is an absurdity too great to be embraced by any one; and there is reason to hope that me essential inactivity of matter is at present so well understood, and so generally allowed, notwithstanding some modern oppugners of this hypothesis, that there can be but few who will care to assert the latter. All our reasonings about bodies, and the whole of natural philosophy, are founded on the three laws of motion laid down by Sir Isaac Newton, at the beginning of the "Principia." These laws express the plainest truths; but they would have neither evidence nor meaning, were not inactivity contained in our idea of matter. Should it be said that matter, though naturally inert, may be made to be otherwise by divine power, this would be the same with saying that matter may be made not to be matter. If inactivity belong to it at all, it must belong to it as matter, or solid extension, and therefore must be inseparable from it. Matter is figured, movable, discerptable, inactive, and capable of communicating motion by impulse to other matter; these are not accidental but primary qualities of matter. Beside, matter void of inactivity, if we were to suppose it possible, could produce no effects. The communication of motion, its direction, the resistance it suffers, and its cessation, in a word, the whole doctrine of motion cannot be consistently explained or clearly understood without supposing the inertia of matter. Self-moving matter must have thought and design, because, whenever matter moves, it must move in some particular direction, and with some precise degree of velocity; and as there is an infinity of these equally possible, it cannot move itself without selecting one of these preferably to and exclusively of all others, and therefore not without design. Moreover, it may be plainly proved that matter cannot be the ultimate cause of the phenomena of nature, or the agent which, by any powers inherent in itself, produces the general