Divine Providence – a Give and Take Relationship.

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Divine Providence – A Give and Take Relationship.
The Indian freedom fighter, Mahatma Gandhi once said ‘Providence has its appointed hour for everything. We cannot command results, we can only strive’. Providence is the outward provision which God makes through the ages of the world for the temporal benefit and comfort of mankind, in causing his sun to shine and his rain to descend upon them, and in numberless other things. The Puritans saw God as the Father-God and that He was maintaining and directing everything in the universe as providence to man-kind. They believed that God’s providence was His promise to Adam, in return for perfect obedience. In other words, providence was God’s reward to Adam for his obedience towards God. This reward does not result from grace; rather, it is a debt owed to Adam for being obedient to God. Unfortunately, Adam failed to keep the covenant and after the fall, the reward withdrawn. Thus, the puritans strived to earn God’s providence by considering all their hardships as the divine will while hoping that God ‘had their back’ while they went through it. From the book ‘The literature of the Puritans’ we can see that almost all of the early puritans believed this and as a result no one ever spoke or murmured against the trials and hardships of their life but instead as Anne Bradstreet puts it – ‘they blest His name, who gave and took’ (232). Below are my thoughts on three of the Puritan writers, Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson and William Bradford who explain how the Puritans earned their divine providence through strife. Among the Puritan writers was a true poetic writer named Anne Bradstreet who lived in a difficult time for women. She had followed her father, brothers and husband to a new land. As is evident from her poetry, the women if her time were not able to express themselves openly so she used her poetry. Bradstreet is an example of the extent to which the Puritans strived to earn providence of God. In her poem ‘Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our house’, Bradstreet talks about her state of mind while she sees the greatest asset of her life – her own house, fall down into ashes. Though she feels a sense of regret, she continues on to argue that she blesses ‘His name that gave and took/ that laid her goods now in dust/ Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just’ (232). She believed that God was just in all his works and this was just a test for her in God’s divine eyes. In a later verse, she says ‘Farewell my pelf/ Farewell my store…’ (233). These lines indicate that even though she knew that she had lost her best asset and that there was no way that another house would miraculously rise up in its place with all her belongings intact, she was ready to bid farewell to all of her ‘moldering dust’ (233) and put her hope on the treasure above. For Bradstreet, it wasn’t necessary that she should see her divine providence while she lived, rather on the divine providence of what she could not see while still being on earth. Another Puritan writer, Mary Rowlandson, expressed the providence of God through her ‘Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration’. In her narrative, Mary didn’t blame the Indians for being taken captive. Instead, she regarded it as God’s test of her loyalty. When assessing the mass destruction of her home in the aftermath of the Indian attack, she reasoned, ‘Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth’ (259). As Mary, whose foot had been injured by a bullet, carried her critically wounded child in her lap, she thought deeply of how, ‘the Lord renewed my strength still, and carried me along, that I might see more of His power... Oh, I may see the wonderful power of God, that my Spirit did not utterly sink under my affliction: still the Lord upheld me with His gracious and merciful spirit, and we were both alive to see the light of the next morning’ (260). As long as Mary had her faith, she truly believed that she could overcome...
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