« VorigeDoorgaan »
Care and Government of the moral part of the World. It is one Thing to turn a State of Trial and Probation into a State of Rewards and Punishments, by dispensing Good and Evil to every Man according to his Work; and another Thing to exercise Acts of Government suitable to the State, and subservient. to the Ends of Creation. If God thinks fit to prosper any Nation, or to afflict
People, he has a thousand Ways of doing it, without interfering with the Freedom and. Liberty of one Man. Years of Plenty are a great Blessing, but the Fruitfulness of the Season is no Restraint on you or me; it is a general Blessing, but it makes no Distinction between Good or Evil. Plague and Pestilence are general Calamities, they may and ought to awaken all the World to a sober Sense of God and themselves : But their Rage is not so directed, as to touch the Sinners only; the Good perish with the Bad, and he that called both out of the World will foon make a Difference; though in the Sight of the World the End of both was taken to be Misery. The same holds true with respect to private Persons: God can correct them without breaking in upon
the ordinary Course of his Providence. If a Man wants
to be bowed down by Afflictions, Fevers and Agues, and all the Tribe of Distempers, stand ready to obey the Order of Providence: But there is no Mark to know a Fever so sent from another; there is no Appearance of the Execution of Judgment upon a Person so visited; the Physic may be sent, because it is wanted, but the Hand that administers it does not appear.
Thus much is said to prevent Mistakes : But the forementioned Reasons remain still in force against the Expectations, which Men are too apt to raise, of some immediate Recompence to be bestowed on them by the Interposition of Providence
account of their Virtue and Goodness.
Let us now proceed to consider what Experience teaches in this case. That Good and Evil are not dispensed in this Life in Proportion to the Merits of Men, appears so plainly to all Men of Sense and Reason, that the Fact, I think, has never been disputed. The World has never been without Complaints upon this Head. The Righteous in all Times have lamented their Case; their Hearts have been even ready to fail under the Oppression of the Ungodly. On the other Side,
the Wicked, seeing their own Prosperity, have been hardened, and grown secure in their Iniquity, upon the foolish Presumption, that God regarded not them, nor their Doings. To abate these Presumptions on one hand, to silence the Fears and Clamours on the other, has found Work for good and wife Men in all Ages; yet none of them called in question the Truth of the Case, though all condemned the perverse Use made on all Sides of this Administration of Providence. Becaufe Sentence, says the Preacher, against an evil Work is not executed
speedily, therefore the Heart of the Sons of Men is fully set in them to do evil. That the Case was fo, he acknowledges: For all this I considered in my
Heart even to declare all this, that the Righteous and the Wife, and their Works, are in the Hand of God: No Man knoweth either Love or Hatred by all that is before them. All Things come alike to all; there is one Event to the Righteous, and to the Wicked; to the Good, and to the Clean, and to the Unclean ; to him that facrificeth, and to him that facrificeth not: As is the Good, fo is the Sinner; and be that fweareth, as he that feareth an Oath. But this is indeed a very plain Thing, and needs not to
be insisted on; we may leave it to every Man to judge for himself by what he can observe in the World, and he will soon find, that in fact God has not made this a Place for distributing Rewards or Punishments, but that one Event happeneth alike to all.
Lastly, Let us inquire how far this Experience is confirmed by what the Scripture teaches us to expect.
There are some Passages of Holy Writ, which, at first hearing, and before they are duly weighed, may seem to promise more to the Righteous in this Life, than we have been able to find either Reason or Experience to justify. Let us hear the Psalmist: I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the Righteous forsaken, nor his Seed begging Bread. How! his Son Solomon saw a different Scene in his Days; then there were just Men unto whom it happened according to the Work of the Wicked. Again, there were wicked Men to whom it happened according to the Work of the Righteous. In the Days of our Saviour and his Apostles, there were some Righteous in Ifrael, who begged their Bread by the Way-side, and at the Doors of the Temple. Among these we find some,
who had Faith enough in the Son of God to be made whole of their Infirmities: An Evidence, I think, that they were not in a worse Condition than others, because they were worse Men. The Truth is, that this Passage in the Psalms relates not to our present Purpose; it describes a general Case of Providence over good Men in providing them the Necessaries of Life, whilst they endeavour to ferve God, but of a just Reward for them in this World it says nothing: The Seed of the Righteous, says the Psalmist, mall not beg their Bread. Take it literally, and make the most of it, it will bear no Resemblance to a just Reward for their Goodness: For, if the Righteous and the Wicked were to be distinguished in this Life by temporal Prosperity and Adversity, we might expect to hear of much better Promises to the Good than this, That their Seed should not beg their Bread; we might expect to hear of Crowns and Scepters to be given them: But of this we hear nothing. As to the providential Care of God over the Righteous in supplying their natural Wants, our Saviour has given us great Reason to expect it: Seek ye first, says he, the Kingdom of God, and his Righteousness,