What is Providence?
There are three things in providence: God’s foreknowing, Gods determining, and God’s directing all things to their periods and events. (Thomas Watson)
Providence is the perpetuity and continuance of creation. (Richard Sibbes)
Tell me, if God had never a creature to look to in all the world but thee, wouldst thou believe that He would regard thy heart. and words, and ways, or not? If He would, why not now as well as then! Is He not as sufficient for thee, and as really present with thee, as if He had no other creature else? If all men in the world were dead save one, would the sun any more illuminate that one than now it does? Mayest thou not see as well by the light of it now, as if it had never another to enlighten? And dost thou see a creature do so much, and wilt thou not believe as much of the Creator? If thou think us worms too low for God so exactly to observe, thou mayest as well think that we are too low for Him to create, or preserve? (Richard Baxter)
Why God’s providences are often misunderstood?
Take a straight stick, and put it into the water; then it will seem crooked. Why? Because we look upon it through two mediums, air and water: there lies the deception visus; thence it is that we cannot discern aright. Thus the proceedings of God, in His justice which in themselves are straight, without the least obliquity, seem unto us crooked: that wicked men should prosper, and good men be afflicted, that the Israelites should make the bricks, and the Egyptians dwell in the houses; that servants should ride on horse–back, and princes go on foot: these are things that make the best Christians stagger in their judgments.
And why? Because they look upon God’s proceedings through a double medium of flesh and spirit, so that all things seem to go cross, though indeed they go right enough. And hence it is that God’s proceedings, in His justice, are not so well discerned, the eyes of man alone being not competent judges thereof. (Thomas Fuller)
Some providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backwards. (John Flavel)
When it is providence versus promise?
God is to be trusted when His providences seem to run contrary to His promises. God promised David to give him the crown, to make him king; but providence turns contrary to His promise; David was pursued by Saul, was in danger of his life; but all this while it was David’s duty to trust God. The Lord does oftentimes, by cross providence, bring to pass His promise. God promised Paul the lives of all that were with him in the ship, but now the providence of God seems to run quite contrary to His promise; the winds blow, the ship splits and breaks in pieces; and thus God fulfilled His promise; upon the broken pieces of the ship, they all come safe to shore. Trust God when providences seem to run quite contrary to promises. (Thomas Watson)
Grace makes the promise and providence the payment. (John Flavel)
Let not fortune, which hath no name in Scripture, have any in thy divinity. Let providence, not chance, have the honor of thy acknowledgments, and be thy Oedipus in contingencies. Mark well the paths and winding ways thereof, but be not too wise in the construction, or sudden in the application. The hand of providence writes often by abbreviatures, hieroglyphics, or short characters, which, like the laconism on the wall, are not to be made out but by a hint or key from that Spirit which indited them. (Sir Thomas Browne)
Their perfect timing:
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. . . . The angel calls to Abraham, and, shows him another sacrifice just when his hand was giving the fatal stroke to Isaac (Genesis 22:10–11). A well of water is shown to Hagar just when she had left the child, as not able to see its death (Genesis 21:16, 19). Rabshakeh meets with a blasting providence, hears a rumor that frustrated his design, just when ready to make an assault upon Jerusalem. (Isaiah 37:8). (John Flavel)
The wisdom of providence in our provisions. And this is seen in proportioning the quantity, not satisfying our extravagant wishes, but answering our real needs; consulting our wants, not our wantonness. “But my God shall supply all your need.” (John Flavel)
God made meat before mouths. (John Trapp)
I.D.E. Thomas, A Puritan Golden Treasury