Monday, March 26, 2012

J. W. McGarvey: Addendum on Providence

The following is part of an ongoing commentary on J. W. McGarvey's Sermons Delivered in Louisville Kentucky. For an introduction to and table of contents for the series, see Happy Birthday, J. W.

We have already seen that J. W. McGarvey's vision of a patient, mysterious, mundane providence was intended to be a message of hope for his listeners. It involved a vision of a God who manifested Himself most powerfully in those features of our lives which often escape notice, a God who speaks in the whisper rather than the gale, so to speak. Just as important, however, was the forward-looking nature of providence. For McGarvey, the beauty of providence is that it is always oriented toward the great ends which God has planned and is not thwarted by the ugly people on which it works or by the often messy means through which it works. This truth is made apparent powerfully in the story of Joseph and his brothers:

Why did God select ten men to be the heads of ten tribes of his chosen people, who were so base as to sell their brother? O, my brethren, it was not the ten who sold their brother that God selected, but the ten who were willing to be slaves instead of their brother. These are the ten that he chose. If you and I shall get to heaven, why will God admit us there? Not because of what we once were, but because of what He shall have made out of us by His dealings with us. He had his mind on the outcome, and not on the beginning. If you and I had to be judged by what we were at one time, there would be no hope for us. I am glad to know that my chances for the approval of the Almighty are based on what I hope to be, and not on what I am. Thank God for that!

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