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Borders of the Righteous and the Sinner, and sweep away one as well as the other. Thus far then the Reason of the Text most certainly extends, and shews us the great Mercy of God in forbearing to appear against Sinners in such visible and exemplary Punishments, which would destroy whole Countries, and bring even upon the best of Men the Punishments due only to the worst.
But are there not, you will say, many „Ways of punishing Men without including others in the Calamity? Do not Fevers, and many other Distempers, carry off single Perfons without spreading farther? And would not these be proper Messengers of Providence to single out desperate Sinners, in which Cafe there would be no Danger of involving the Righteous in the Punishment of the Wicked ? And if the Wicked are spared only for the sake of the Righteous, why are they exempted from these Punishments, in which the Righteous have no Concern or Connection with them?
In Answer to which several Things may be faid : And, First, to him that asks the Question, an Answer may be returned by a like Question ; How do you know but that the Wicked are often and commonly 'thus
punished ? and that the Thing is done
every Day, which you complain of as never done? Wicked Men die every Day, and die in the Way you speak of, some by Fevers, fome by other Distempers or Accidents. Can you distinguish which of them fall in the common Way of Nature, and which are taken away by the secret Judgments of God? Can you tell by the Pulse when a Fever is to be reckoned among the common Accidents of Life, and when to be ascribed to the Vengeance
of God? If not, how can you tell but that every Hour may produce such In , stances, as you complain are very rare and scarce to be found, and the Want of which you think so great an Objection against an overruling Providence? As to outward Appearance, the same Casualties attend both the Good and the Bad; but he has thought very Jittle, who cannot see that the outward Appearance is no Rule to judge by in this Case. Lazarus died, and the rich Man died also : Thus far there was no Distinction in their Fate ; the Lookers on could not say which was taken away in Mercy, and which in Judgment: Bụt the very next Scene cleared up
all the Doubt, and shewed how terrible a Judgment Death was to the rich Man,
how great a Mercy to the poor one: For the rich Man died, and was tormented in Hell; the poor
Man died, and was carried to Abraham’s Bosom. It may therefore be true, that God does exercise many Judgments on the Wicked in this silent manner, though it is not in our Power to point out the particular Instances, or pronounce upon single Persons, who are under Judgments, and who not. Now the Objection from the want of such Punishments can have no more Force, than the Objector has Certainty that there are no such Punishments; and since there is no Certainty in one, there can be no Force in the other.
But, Secondly, allow the Matter of the? Objection to be true, that there are great Numbers of wicked Men ripe for Destruction, who yet escape all these Punishments, who live and flourish in the World, and at last die the common Death of Men, and, as far as we can judge, go down in Peace to their Graves : Yet still, though this be allowed, the Reasoning of the Objection will not be good, because our Saviour's Resolution of the general Cafe extends to these Instances also ; and the Wicked are often exempted even from private Judgment, that the Righ
teous may not be overwhelmed in their Ruin. For consider ; You see a great wicked Man in a prosperous and flourishing Condition, and you think his happy Tranquillity a perpetual Reproach to the Providence of God: What would
have done? You would not have God rain Fire and Brimstone
upon for the sake of this great Offender, since many innocent Persons would necessarily fuffer in the Ruin? No; but
you would have God take him away suddenly by some secret and filent Method; or you would have him punished in his Fortune, and reduced to that Poverty which his Sins deserve. This, you think, would be very just and reasonable, and highly becoming the Wisdom of God. But pray, has your wicked Man no Friends nor Relations, whose Happiness depends upon his Prosperity ? Has he no Children, who must beg with him when he falls into Poverty and Distress ? There is no great Man, who is not related to others in fome, if not in all these Circumstances. If then you allow in general the Equity of sparing the Wicked for the sake of the Righteous, you must consider their Cafe over again, and answer thefe few Questions : Are all the Relations and Dependents of this
great Sinner as wicked as himself? Is there not one good Man the better for him? Are his Children all Reprobates ? Or, would you turn out a Family of innocent Children to seek 'their Bread in the Streets, rather than let the Iniquity of the Father go unpunished for a few Years ? Till
you can answer these Questions, you must not pretend to arraign the Wisdom and Goodness of God in sparing this Offender; for
know not how many innocent, how many virtuous Persons may be crushed in his Fall; and when you can answer them, you shall have Leave to judge. Now these Confiderations plainly shew the Equity and Goodness of God in delaying the Punishment of the Wicked for the present, both with respect to the public Calamities which the general Corruption calls for, and with respect to the private Punishments, which the Sins of
particular Men, if considered alone, and by themselves, do richly deserve. In both Cases Mercy triumphs over Justice, and the Guilty is preserved for the sake of the Innocent ; which is such an Act of Goodness as no Man surely has Reason to complain of. As to the Justice of God, neither will that suffer