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the Bible and read to find 'em, and to cry out with Holy David, not only o how plentiful is thy Goodnes which thou hast laid up for Them that fear Thee! (Provided for 'em in the World to come) but also as it immediately follows: and that thou hast prepard for them that put their Trust in Thee, even before the Sons of Men!
But in Opposition to all this, it will be and often has been urg'd, that the Contrary to what we have been asserting is by Experience rather found to be true; that Good Men are so far from being exempted from the Misfortunes and Crosses and Calamities of this Life, that they are as much, if not more, expos'd to them than the Wicked; and that often for their being so, for the fake of that Virtue and Piety, which we have been endeavouring to prove is their Security and Defence; and that on the Other side the Unjuft and the Sinful part of Mankind seem to enjoy the most Worldly Prosperity, and to be the moft free from the Āfictions and Crosses of this present Life. They come in no Misfortune like other Folk, neither are they plagued like other Men, Pf. 73. S.
To which may be answer'd, that firft, This Observation, that Good Men are the moft unhappy in this World, is not so generally true as it is believ'd, even in the outward Appearance of things. For seeing God
allows us all the reasonable Desires of Na. ture, and has only forbid us what is Unrea
sonable and Unnecessary; He that looks after the Happiness of a future Life, do's not lose any of the real Conveniencies of This; tho indeed He that places His Happiness here, cannot find it in this World, and is sure to be miserable in Another. But it is no difficult Task to shew, that God forbids nothing but what is really repugnant to Our Well being here. And upon the Forbearance of what is so, join'd with Our Entire Dependance upon Him for it, he hath made the gracious Offer of Eternal Happiness. It is true in Extraordinary Cases of Persecution he requires more, but then he proposes Extraordinary Rewards to make abundant Recompence for it, and affords Extraordinary Affistance to give sufficient Support under it; but in the common Ordinary Course of Mankind, he requires no more than the avoiding those Excesses in pleasing our Appetites, which even Nature itself and Right Reason condemn. And further it is certain by Experience, that even of these Worldly Goods many good Men have their Share, and that more of the Wicked than the Just fall into the most grievous and insupportable Calamities of this Life; insupportable indeed to them, because brought upon 'em by their Own Sins. For when
Guilt and Affliction lye heavy upon a Man together, they add to each other's Weight; whereas Affliction meeting with a Conscience clear from Sin or cleans'd by Repentance is always tolerable, for the moft part advantagious and comfortable.
Therefore 2dly, The true Answer to this Objection of the Miseries of the Righteous and the Prosperity of the Wicked, is this, That they that make it are generally mistaken in the Nature of Good and Evil, and have not the True Measures of the Truth of this Proposition of my Text, That no Evil happens to the Juft. For the Divine Dispensations, whether of Comforts or Croffes, are so far beneficial or hurtful, as they are receiv'd and us’d by Us. That is truly Relatively Good that makes a Man the better, and that truly Evil that makes a Man the worse. If therefore Profperity and Success make a Man Thankful, and Charitable, and Beneficent, then is Prosperity good for him; but if it make him Proud, Insolent, Vain glorious, forgetful of God, and Oppressive of his Neighbour, then whatever seemingly it may be, it is really Evil for him. So if Adversity make a Man Clamorous, Murmuring, Envious, Spightful, Injurious, then 'tis Evil indeed to him that suffers it; But if it makes himn Humble, Sober, Patient, and relying upon God, then it is good for him. So that the greatest Affliction in the Opinion of those that see no further than the Outside of things, when it falls upon a truly good Man, who has learnt out of God's Word to make the Right Use of all his Dispensations, when, I say, Affliction falls upon such a One, because it cannot make him Evil, it is by his Goodness overcome, and itself converted into , Good. It loseth the malignity of its Nature, lighting upon Him, and instead of a Curse becomes a Blessing. To the Just Every Affliction is a preventive of Sin, a Corrective of Corruptions, an Exercise of Grace, a Conformity to Christ, an Evidence of his being a Son of God, an Assurance of his Father's Love, and a Preparative for Heaven.
For these and the like are the Designs of God in inflicting, and the Uses that his Children make in bearing, the Evils that come from his Hand. For from thence they wisely consider that they come, that Affli&ion cometh not forth of the Duft, neither doth trouble spring out of the Ground, They know that troubles fall out to 'em, not by blind Chance, but by God's determinate appointment, not according to the Fury of the Wicked, but according to the Will of their Father, a Father that in very Love and Faithfulness doth correct, that hath a Heart
of Compassion even when he seems in his Providence to frown upon 'em, and has prepar'd Strength to support, and Grace to improve and Glory to reward all their Sufferings. And he who by Faith is affur'd that any disasters befalling him are not infliions of Wrath, but expresfions of Love towards him, by God in kindness dispens'd as Trials of his Faith, as Exercises of his Virtue, as occasions of acquiring more plentiful rewards, will count it, as St James says, all Foy when he falleth into divers Temptations, James 1. 2. and Rejoice that he is counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ.
For Aflictions have a great Influence and Tendency towards the begetting a Secret and a Spiritual Joy within the breafts of the Faithful and the Juft
. For from their Conformity with Chrift here, in Suffering grievous but short Amictions, they assuredly gather their Conformity with him hereafter, in the fruition of Everlasting Glory; According to that of St Paul Rom. 8. 17. If fo be we Suffer with him, we shall be also Glorify'd together; and that of St Peter, 1 Pet. 4.13. Rejoice in as much as ye are partakers of Chrifts Sufferings that when bis Glory fall be reveald, ye may be glad also with exceeding Foy. They glory therefore that they are thus made like to their blessed Master, and as Luther elegantly enough expresses it,