boston on providence

Thomas Boston:

  1. The design of providence may sometimes lie very hid; and therefore it is good to wait, and not be rash, Psa 78:19.
  2. Sometimes providence seems to forget the promise; but it is not so, but only the time of the promise is not then come. Gen 15:4 with 16:2.
  3. Sometimes providence seems to go quite cross to the promise, and his work to go contrary to his Word. But wait ye, they will assuredly meet. Gen 22.
  4. Ofttimes providence favours a design which yet will be blasted in the end, for that it was not the purpose of God. Jonah 1:3.
  5. Ofttimes providence will run counter in appearance to the real design, and, by a tract of dispensations, will seem to cross it more and more, till the gravestone appear to be laid on it. And yet, ‘at evening-time it shall be light,’ Zech 14:7.
  6. Providence many times lays aside the most likely means, and brings about his work by that which nothing is expected of, 2 Kings 5:11-12.
  7. Lastly, sometimes providence works by contraries, as the blind man was cured with laying clay on his eyes.

From The Beauties of Boston, p344-345. Titled there ‘Important instructions concerning providence.’ Don’t know what the original context was.

3 thoughts on “boston on providence

  1. Ah! Thanks for the background to your previous post.

    Ofttimes it is not helpful to attempt an explanation of providence’s mysterious ways as if the Lord’s goodness depended on our defense. He who does neither trust in that goodness nor start his wisdom with the fear of God will not be brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord by examples and counter-examples of providence. As always, there may be exceptions to this rule. So, you may providentially continue to explain away … :-)

    Greetings from Nairobi!


  2. I went on the hunt in Boston after the discussions that prompted the last post :)

    An afterthought – these kinds of providences that Boston describes are identified on the basis of examples from scripture, where it’s safe to assume that we’ve been given all the relevant information from which to draw conclusions.
    Things become much more tricky when the data is not scriptural history but personal experience – where we can too easily be biased observers/interpreters (either too soft on ourselves or too hard on ourselves) and in any case have no way of telling whether we’re taking all the appropriate factors into consideration (or even of really knowing what these factors are).
    So our interpretations especially of things that are biting deeply in our own experience must surely have to be always tentative and cautious.

    But it came up in another real-life conversation i had on the question (and i’ve duly aired it on the other thread :) ) that cultivating the right response (or, better, ongoing attitude) to our providences might be a higher priority than puzzling over what they might mean.

    Boston’s observations here are based on hindsight. Which is not a bad thing. But it’s a kind of clarity which obviously isn’t granted at the time. So in a situation characterised by ongoing turmoil, it must surely be wiser to wait and see what these things might mean eventually, instead of potentially adding to the present distress by increasing your own confusion.

    Which easy to say at a distance, and is not intended as a criticism of anyone in the middle of a difficult situation who feels/acts otherwise.


  3. Thanks, Cath, for a balanced reply sympathetic to suffering humanity.

    While I could write some on Biblical interpretation (obviously, I’m not yet 100% convinced of Boston’s hindsight’s accuracy), I probably shouldn’t. I have a feeling that providence has other tasks in stock for me right now. ;-)


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