John Flavel, The Work of Providence for the Saints:
If there is not an over-ruling Providence ordering all things for the good of God’s people, how comes it to pass that the good and evil which is done to them in this world is accordingly repaid into the bosoms of them that are instrumental therein?
How clear is it to every man’s observation, that the kindnesses and benefits any have done to the Lord’s people have been rewarded with full measure into their bosoms. The Egyptian midwives refused to obey Pharaoh’s inhuman command, and saved the male children of Israel; for this ‘the Lord dealt well with them and built them houses!’ (Exod. 1.21). The Shunammite was hospitable and careful for Elisha, and God recompensed it with the desirable enjoyment of a son (2 Kings 4. 9,17). Rahab hid the spies, and was exempted from the destruction of Jericho (Heb. 11. 31). Publius, the chief man of the island of Melita, courteously received and lodged Paul after his shipwreck, the Lord speedily repaid him for that kindness, and healed his father, who lay sick at that time of a bloody flux and fever (Acts 28.7,8).
In like manner, we find the evils done to God’s people have been repaid by a just retribution to their enemies. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were cruel enemies to God’s Israel, and designed the ruin of their poor innocent babes, and God repaid it in smiting all the first-born of Egypt in one night (Exod. 12.29). Haman erected a gallows fifty cubits high for good Mordecai, and God so ordered it that he himself and his ten sons were hanged on it. And indeed it was but meet that he should eat the fruit of that tree which he himself had planted (Esther 7.10). Ahithophel plots against David, and gives counsel like an oracle how to procure his fall; and that very counsel, like an overcharged gun, recoils upon himself, and procures his ruin. Seeing his good counsel rejected (good politically, not morally), it was now easy for him to guess the outcome, and so his own fate (2 Sam. I7.23).
Charles IX most inhumanly made the very canals of Paris flow with Protestant blood, and soon after he died miserably, his blood flowing from all parts of his body. Stephen Gardiner, who burnt so many of God’s dear servants to ashes, was himself so scorched up by a terrible inflammation that his very tongue was black and hung out of his mouth, and in dreadful torments he ended his wretched days. Maximinus, that cruel emperor, who set forth his proclamation engraven in brass for the utter abolishing of the Christian religion, was speedily smitten like Herod with a dreadful judgment, swarms of lice preying upon his entrails, and causing such a stench that his physicians could not endure to come near him, and for refusing to do so were slain. Hundreds of like instances might easily be produced to confirm this observation. And who can but see by these things that ‘verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth!’
Yea, so exact have been the retributions of Providence to the enemies of the Church, that not only the same persons, but the same members, that have been the instruments of mischief, have been made the subjects of wrath. The same arm which Jeroboam stretched out to smite the prophet, God smites. The emperor Aurelian, when he was ready to subscribe the edict for the persecution of the Christians, was suddenly cramped in his knuckles that he could not write. Greenhill, in his exposition upon Ezekiel 11.13, tells his hearers that there was one then present in the congregation who was an eye-witness of a woman scoffing at another for purity and holy walking, who had her tongue stricken immediately with the palsy, and died of it within two days. Henry II of France, in a great rage against a Protestant counsellor, committed him to the hands of one of his nobles to be imprisoned, and that with these words, that ‘he would see him burned with his own eyes.’ But, mark the righteous providence of God, within a few days after, the same nobleman, with a lance put into his hands by the king, did at a tilting match run the said king into one of his eyes, from which he died.
Yea, Providence has made the very place of sinning the place of punishment: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood (1 Kings 21.19); and it was exactly fulfilled (2 Kings 9.26). Thus Tophet is made a burying- place for the Jews, till there was no room to bury, and that was the place where they had offered up their sons to Moloch (Jer. 7.31,32). The story of Nightingale is generally known, which Foxe relates, how he fell out of the pulpit and broke his neck, while he was abusing that Scripture (1 John 1.10). And thus the Scriptures are made good by Providence. ‘Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein; and he that rolleth a stone, it shall return upon him’ (Prov. 26.27), and ‘with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again’ (Matt. 7.2).
We find a multitude of providences so timed to a minute, that had they occurred just a little sooner or later, they had mattered little in comparison with what now they do. Certainly, it cannot be chance, but counsel, that so exactly works in time. Contingencies keep to no rules.
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