Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Charnock: God's Providential Care of the "Meanest" (Insignificant) Creatures

Excerpt from Stephen Charnock, The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, vol. 1 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson; G. Herbert, 1864–1866), 14–15:
As the sun’s light, so God’s providence disdains not the meanest worms. It is observed, that in the enumeration of the works of creation, Gen. 1:21, only the great whales and small creeping things are mentioned, and not the intermediate creatures, to shew that the least as well as the greatest are under his care. It is one of his titles to be the preserver of beasts as well as men, Neh. 9:6. He is the great caterer for all creatures; Ps. 104:21, ‘The young lions seek their meat from God.’ They attend him for their daily portion, and what they gather and meet with in their pursuit, is God’s gift to them, ver. 27, 28. He listens to the cries of the young ravens, though they are birds of prey. ‘He gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry,’ Ps. 147:9. In Ps. 104. David throughout the whole reads a particular lecture of this doctrine, wherein you may take a prospect of God’s providence all over the world. He acts them by a commandment and imprinted law upon their natures, and makes them observe exactly those statutes he enacts for the guidance of them in their proper operations. Ps. 147:15, ‘He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth, and his word runs very swiftly,’ viz., his word of providence. God keeps them in the observation of their first ordinance. Ps. 119:91, ‘They continue this day according to thine ordinances, for all are thy servants,’ i.e. the earth and what is upon it. They observe their stations, the law God hath set them, as if they had a rational knowledge of their duty in their particular motions; Ps. 104:19, ‘the sun knoweth his going down.’ Sometimes he makes them instruments of his ministry to us, sometimes executioners of his judgments. Lice and frogs arm themselves at his command to punish Egypt. He makes a whale to attend Jonas dropping into the sea, to be an instrument both to punish and preserve him. Yea, and which is more wonderful, the multitude of the very cattle is brought among others as a reason of a people’s preservation from destruction, Jonah 4:11; the multitude of the cattle are joined with the multitude of the infants, as an argument to spare Nineveh. He remembers Noah’s cattle as well as his sons; Gen 8:1, ‘God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that were with him in the ark.’ He numbers the very hairs of our heads, that not one falls without his will. Not only the immortal soul, but the decaying body; not only the vital parts of that body, but the inconsiderable hairs of the head, are under his care.
        Obs. 1. This is no dishonour to God, to take care of the meanest creatures. It is as honourable for his power to preserve them, and his wisdom to govern them, as for both to create them. It is one part of a man’s righteousness to be merciful to his beasts, which he never made; and is it not a part of God’s righteousness, as the rector of the world, to take care of those creatures, which he did not disdain to give a being to?
        Obs. 2. It rather conduceth to his honour.
(1.) The honour of his goodness. It shews the comprehensiveness of his goodness, which embraceth in the arms of his providence the lowest worm as well as the highest angel. Shall infinite goodness frame a thing, and make no provision for its subsistence? At the first creation he acknowledged whatever he had created good in his kind, good in themselves, good in order to the end for which he created them; it is therefore an honourable thing for his goodness to conduct them to that end which in their creation he designed them for; and not leave them wild disorders, unsuitable to the end of that goodness which first called them into being. If he grow out of love with the operations of his hands, he would seem to grow out of love with his own goodness that formed them.
(2.) The honour of his power and wisdom. The power of God is as much seen in making an insect full of life and spirit in all the parts of it, to perform all the actions suitable to its life and nature, as in making creatures of a greater bulk; and is it not for the honour of his power to preserve them, and the honour of his wisdom to direct these little animals to the end he intended in their creation? For as little as they seem to be, an end they have, and glorious too, for natura nihil facit frustra. It seems not to consist with his wisdom to neglect that which he hath vouchsafed to create. And though the apostle seems to deny God’s care of brutes,—1 Cor. 9:9, ‘Doth God take care for oxen?’—it is true God did not in that law only take care of oxen, i.e. with a legislative care, as making a law only for them, though with a providential care he doth; but the apostle there doth not deny God’s care for oxen, but makes an argument a minore ad majus [from the smaller to the greater].
If you are interested in this topic - of God's providential care of the smallest creatures  - check out my article "God's Care for Creation: An Ode to the Little Things That Run the World," Leaven Vol. 21, No. 3, Third Quarter 2013