A man has a family, or is in some way connected with one. He is a father, brother, husband, or son. Perhaps he sustains all these important relations at once. He has a moral nature; and Providence which makes all these arrangements, has assigned and settled his position. Out of his moral nature and the position which is thus assigned him, is developed the obligation or law of specific duty. We properly denominate it, in this case, as in others, the providential law. As a father, brother, husband, or son, he has duties to perform, which would not be binding upon him if he were not placed in that particular situation. If he fails in those duties, whatever their nature, and whether the failure be more or less, he incurs a penalty, which may not be particularly noticed or felt at the time, but from which there is and can be no escape.
There is no apparent administration. There is nothing exterior, nothing seen. No judge is seated on the bench of justice. No audible sentence is pronounced. No prison doors are shut or opened. No sword is uplifted. And yet the blow falls, — reaching always the precise centre of its object, — the sharper for being invisible; as inflexibly certain in its movement and its results as the decrees of infinite wisdom.
We proceed now to a remark of no small importance The strictness of the providential law is such, that the penalty attending a violation of it will be experienced, whether the object which we had in view in our conduct be good or evil. In other words, God, as the administrator of Providence, will punish us for actions, originating in a good motive, if that motive has been exercised without a careful regard to the facts in the case.
If a father, for instance, from the impulse of benevolent parental feeling, gives a large amount of property to a son, who obviously has no capacity and no heart to manage it aright, he violates a providential law, by attempting to unite things which are incompatible, and the most painful results will sooner or later ensue. If a benevolent man has a poor but very vicious neighbor, and, without any suitable reflections upon the matter, bestows upon him liberal donations, he obviously does a wrong thing, although he may have meant it right. He thus sets himself, perhaps without any specific intentions of that nature, in opposition to the providential design; and is found in the ruinous situation of one who is fighting against God. God knows what is best. He sees that, to the vicious man, who expends his wealth upon his lusts, poverty, yea, extreme poverty, is the best riches.
— A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 3.