Works of God- Providence: Natural Government- Book Third- Chapter 3- Section 3
SECTION III.–NATURAL GOVERNMENT.
Among our earliest lesson, we learn that the relation of cause and effect exists, and that events occur because of this relation in an established order of sequence. Were the order of succession not established, or were we ignorant of it, we should be unable to mange the most common concerns of life. If food sometimes nourished, and sometimes poisoned, or if we were incapable of learning whether the nutritive quality belonged to bread, or to arsenic, we should be unable to regulate the process of eating, so necessary to the preservation of life. But our Creator has made us capable of observing the sequences of nature, and of learning the order in which they occur, and the relation of cause and effect, which the parts of the succession sustain to each other. The study of these sequences is the business of philosophy; but philosophy is not confined to the university, or the lecture-room. It is found in every man’s walk, and in the every-day experience of life. The child begins to learn it in the cradle; and without some knowledge of it, men would not know how to shun the flood, the flames, or the precipice.
In all departments of knowledge we classify the things known; and the sequences of nature, classified, become what we call laws of nature. These are only the regular modes in which the sequences of nature occur. In the phrase, law of nature, the term law is used in a transferred sense. When employed in morals, it implies an authority commanding, and a subject bound to obey. But nature is not a being possessing authority; and natural things are not capable of obedience in the proper sense. In morals, laws given may be disobeyed; but the processes of nature always conform to what are called the laws of nature. The laws of nature may be regarded as the modes in which the providence of God operates. His will has determined the relation of cause and effect; and, therefore, the laws of nature are the orders of sequence, in which it is his will, that the changes of natural things should occur.
When we contemplate the order which prevails in the natural world, we behold the exhibition of the wisdom which God’s providence displays. His natural government, as well as his moral, abounds with wisdom. All his reasons for planning the system of things precisely as it is we cannot presume to understand; but the advantage resulting from its order meets us in every experience of life. It would be to no purpose that we have been so made as to be capable of observing the sequences of nature, if these sequences took place without order. If chaos reigned in the succession of events, philosophy would be impossible, and equally impossible the most common arts of life. Reason would be an unavailing gift; and if human life were not filled with perpetual terror, the exemption would arise rather from inability to comprehend its danger, than from the circumstances of its situation.
John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology