Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

this Shadow, they are in great Danger of losing the Substance, the real Reward of Obedience, which shall one Day be bestowed on all, who can be contented to wait for Glory and Immortality.

To clear this point will be well worth your Attention. In order to it we must inquire what Reason or Authority we have to assert the Interposition of Providence in the private Affairs of Men, with a view of proportioning to their Virtue or Vice proper Rewards and Punishments:

If we view the whole Frame of the World, and consider the great Laws of Nature by which it is, and has for Ages past been, preserved in order and Beauty; we can no more question its being sustained by a conftant and immediate Influence of God's Providence, than we can of its being at first brought into Order by him. If we consider ourselves, and how we live, move, and have our Being, it is evident, that we are upheld every Moment by the Hand of God. I speak, and would be understood to mean, literally. If there be any thing in the Compass of our Knowledge certain, it is this, that we owe our Life to that Power, by the Influence of which the Functions of Life are

performed:

performed: Search diligently for this Power, and you

will not fail of finding God. If any Man be otherwise minded, let him account for the first Principle of Motion in animal Bodies, and he shall have leave to doubt of all the rest. But this is not our Point: The Question now is, fince God has made Man a reasonable Creature, and endowed him with a Liberty of acting, how far he has thought fit to leave him to his Liberty, and to give him up

here to the Issues and Consequences of his own Doings? Of his Power we doubt not; we know he can overrule every Action of Man, and every. Thought of his Heart: Our Search is not what he can do, but what he has been pleased to do, and what Method he has prescribed to himself, with respect to the Actions of Men, and the Consequences which flow from them in this Life. To "come at any Knowledge in this Cafe, there are but these three Ways; to consider, what Reason requires, what Experience teaches, what Scripture confirms.

Let us consider what Reason requires. It has pleased God to make us reasonable Creatures, that is, to endow us with a Power of judging, and a Liberty of acting. Why were these Powers given? Was it that we

might

N2

might use and exercise them, and give Proof of our Virtue or Vice in so doing? Or was it that God might overrule them, and render them in every particular Instance useless and infignificant? If this is the Case, had he not much better have made us Machines at first, than have created us free Agents, and then make us Machines by an arbitrary Interposition of Power ? Who can account for the Wisdom of God in making so great a Thing to no Use or Purpose; in filling this lower World with free Agents, and then excluding all Freedom by immediate Acts of his Power? Now this would in great measure be the Case, were Rewards and Punishments to be

punctually administered in this World; and that for this plain Reason: The temporal Prosperity of Men depends upon their own Actions, and the natural Consequences of them, and

upon

the Actions and natural Consequences of the Actions of others, with whom they live in Society. Now, to secure the Happiness of a Man, not only his own Actions, but the Actions of all others, with whom he is any way concerned, must be determined, so as to conspire in making him profperous ; that is, he and all about him must lose the Freedom of acting, in order

to secure his Welfare here. If a righteous Man must never suffer in this World, all the Wicked about him must be restrained from doing him Violence. If a wicked Man must be punished according to his Merit, all who would do him more Harm than he deferves to suffer, must be with-held; and if none designed him Harm enough, somebody must be employed to do the Work. Carry this Reflection abroad into the World, where the Fortunes and Interests of Men are mixed and complicated fo variously together, that one Man's temporal Prosperity depends upon the Actions of many besides himself, and it will be very clear, that there must be an End of all Freedom, upon Supposition that Rewards and Punishments are to be equally dispensed in this World,

This Confideration leads to another of still greater Weight: For, if the Freedom of human Actions cannot be maintained

upon

this Supposition, neither can the Distinction of Virtue and Vice. There is no Morality or Immorality, where there is no Choice or Freedom: Consequently were the Actions of Men under an absolute Controul, they would no more be answerable for their Doings, than a Clock is for its Motions; And there

fore

N 3

fore to call upon God to make all things work by immediate Interposition of his Power, for the present Reward of Virtue, and Punishment of Vice, is a Request not consistent with itself; it is defiring God to do that for the sake of Virtue, which would destroy Virtue, and leave no room for the Exercise of it, no Ground upon which to distinguish it from Vice and Iniquity.

But, to leave these Considerations, let us observe farther, That was Virtue to be constantly attended with Success in worldly Affairs, and Vice certainly pursued with Misery, there would be no room for that Trial of our Faith and Obedience, which is requisite to prepare us for the greater Bleslings of another Life. Upon this Supposition, Virtue would not be what it now is; it would be a kind of sensual Thing, arising often from Ambition, Avarice, and an inordinate Love of worldly Enjoyments : Reason and Judgment, the Love of God, and a just Sense of our Duty to him, would have little Efficacy in the Business. Now, fince God has placed us here in order to our fitting ourselves for a better World, and has ordained this World for a State of Trial only, it is absurd to expect from his Wisdom and Justice

such

2

« VorigeDoorgaan »