We may, perhaps, deduce an illustration of the strictness of the law of Providence from the law of nature. We all know that if our action — that of the husbandman, for instance — does not conform to the law of physical nature, it has no reward, but is the occasion of loss. Accordingly, we never exhibit the folly of scattering our wheat and corn on the frozen clods of autumn and on the snowbanks of winter, because we know that it is entirely useless, and worse than useless, to anticipate, as we should thus do, the preparations of nature. Whatever we may do, we shall always find, if we would do it with any good results, that God must go first, and strike the first blow. Our business is, both in connection with the works of nature, and in morals and religion, to act concurrently
, to follow him, and, without running before him, to strive to be co-workers
with him. It is with this great practical religious principle in view, that the Saviour says, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." It is this principle, also, which is the foundation of the important remark of the apostle in his epistle to the Romans, " Let not, then, your good be evil spoken of." [Rom. 14: 16.]
We return therefore, to the great truth, which we wish to be left deeply impressed upon the mind; namely, that we can neither do good nor evil, irrespective of the law of Providence, without incurring guilt, and without experiencing a painful retribution. And this retribution, although it may scarcely be noticed at first, and although it may be delayed for a long time, is as certain and irresistible, with the single exception of cases of timely repentance, as the existence of God himself.
Even the man who stands in the divine order, and is a co-worker with God, is not, in the present state of things, exempt from trouble. Perhaps it is for this very thing God has placed him where he is; namely, that sorrow, in its various forms, that rebuke, and evil-speaking, and loss of earthly goods, and other temporal evils, may come upon him, and, in the fire of their consuming contact, destroy the dross that still adheres to his soul. But standing, as he does, with God before him as his guide, and therefore in the way of God's appointment, he will in the end come off victorious. But, for him who stands out of the divine order, and who opposes the weak shield of human strength to God's irreversible arrangements, there is no help. The chariot wheels of the Almighty will pass over him and grind him to powder.
— A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 6, Chapter 3.