Controlling the Universe, or Controlling Ourselves?
It is reported of a king of Spain, or rather of Portugal, that he presumed to say that if God had consulted him at the creation about the dispositions and motions of the planets, he would have contrived them better than they are. I suppose the poor man took the schemes and dreams of the astronomers of his day to be a just representation of the system. It sounds, however, like a blasphemous speech in our ears. We take it for granted that the sun, the moon, Jupiter, and the rest are exactly where they should be and move as they ought. But if we are content the Lord should manage the heavenly bodies without our assistance, we are ready enough to advise Him how He should dispose of our insignificant selves. We think we could point at twenty things in our situation which might be mended; and that we should serve Him much better than we do if we were but at liberty to choose where and how we would be thus placed.
Thus we can gravely censure the vanity and folly of King Alphonso, without being aware that the thoughts we sometimes indulge are no less arrogant than his, and that we might with as much reason offer to assist God in the government of the universe as in the direction of our own paltry concerns. I hope, however, as we grow older we shall grow wiser, and be more satisfied, that whether we are placed in town or country, whether we are sick or well, the present circumstances for the present time must be the best, because of His appointment.
…The most pleasant and most profitable course we can take is to be thankful. Let us praise the Lord that we know our disease and know our physician; that He has undertaken our case, and will, consequently, perfect it. But let us pray for patience and submission to be willing to wait His time and to take things in His way. The plain English of half our complaints is that we don’t like the cross. We would have victory without conflicts, and the crown without fighting for it. And while we lament many of the evils, we are apt to overlook or make light of the chief of all, which is the impatient workings of the self, which would have everything its own way. We are, we must be, sinners while we remain here; but if we are sinners believing in the name of Jesus, we may rejoice and sing. We must fight, we may be wounded, but we cannot be overcome.
– John Newton, 1778