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The Judgments of God are sometimes very terrible, but they come but seldom : For a Year's Plague or Famine, we enjoy some Ages of Health and Plenty. And the Ruins and Desolations of War are recompenced and forgot by a more lasting and flourishing Peace. But the Goodness of God moves in a constant and uniform Round, visits all Parts and Corners of the Earth, as the Sun does with its Light and Heat: That considering how little Mankind deserves of God in this corrupt and degenerate State; how highly they provoke him every Day, and how constantly and universally he does Good to them, instead of complaining of the many Evils that are in the World, we have reason to admire the Patience and Goodness of God to Sinners.
This I take to be a true Account of the Nature and Exercise of God's Goodness, as it refpe&s a State of Discipline; and so it must be considered in the Government of this World ; and then all the Objections against the Goodness of Providence vanish of themselves : Though this world be not fo happy, as perfect and absolute Goodness can make it, yet God abounds in all the Expressions of Goodness which a State of Trial and Discipline will allow, which is all that we can reasonably expect, and all that God can wisely do for us in this State.
2dly, Especially if we consider in the next place, what the true Notion of Good and Evil is in a State of Discipline; for this is another occasion of moft Objections against the Goodness of Providence ; That Men consider Human Nature absolutely, and appeal to their Senses for the Notions and Differences of Good and
Evil, without any regard to the present State of Human Nature ; that is, by Good and Evil, they mean only Natural Good and Evil ; such as Pleasure or Pain, a State of Eafe and Reft, or of Trouble, and Labour, and Difficulty, Riches or Poverty, Honour or Disgrace; and measure the Goodness of Providence by the Natural Good or Evil that is in the World
if Mankind and particular Men be happy and prosperous, then God does Good, and they will acknowledge that Providence is Good;
if they be Affiliated, this is very Evil, and therefore an Objection against the Goodness of Providence. But does not every Man know the difference between the good of the End, and the good of the Means? The End is Happiness, which is the good of Nature'; and therefore whatever is the Happiness, or any part of the Happiness of Man, is the good of Nature ; the good of the Means is that which is good to make Men happy; and the more effe&ual it is to promote our Happiness, the greater Good it is, 'tho' it may be a great Natural Evil; and whatever will hinder or destroy our Happiness, is a great Evil, though it may be a great Natural Good. In all such Cafes, Things are Good or Evil with respect to their End, or to their Natural or Moral Consequences : When we are in Health, that is good Food which is pleasant and wholsome, and will preserve Health ; but the same Diet may be very hurtful, and fatal, when we are Sick. Indulgence or Severity to Children is either Good or Evil, in proportion to their Tempers and Inclinations, as it is apo either to 'corrupt their Manners, or to train them up to Piety and Vertue. And therefore when we speak of Discipline and Government,
which is the true Notion of God's Providence in this world, we must not consider so much what is naturally Good and Evil, as what the State of those is, who are the Subjects of Discipline, and what is good for them in such a State ; for how many Natural Evils foever there are in the World, the Evils of Afflictions and Judgments, of Plague, and Famine, and Sword, if such Severities be good for Mankind, it is as great an Argument of the Goodness of Provi. dence to inflia them, as it is for a Parent, or a Prince, to reclaim and reform his Children, or his Subjects, by great Severities : And an easy and prosperous State, when the Wickedness of Mankind requires severe Restraints, is no more an A&t of Kindness and Goodness, than the fond Indulgence of Parents is to disobedient Children.
So that this takes away the very Foundation of this Objection against the Goodness of Providence. The principal Obje&tion is, That there are a great many Evils and Miseries in the World; we grant it; but then we say, That Good is very Good in it, and that these Natural Evils, tho' they are grievous, are not Evils to us, because they are, and are intended for our Good : We can neither prove, nor disprove the Goodness of Providence meerly by external Events, especially with respect to particular Men: For Prosperity is not always good for us, nor is Affliction always for our hurt; God may make some Men prosperous in his Anger, and chastise others in great Love and Goodness; and this I take to be the meaning of the wife Man, Eccl. 9. 1, 2. No man knoweth either.love or batred by all that is before them. For 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 bim that sacrificeth, and to him that fac crificetb not ; as is the good, so is the finner ; and be tbat /weareth, as be that feareth an Oath. Which does not fignify, that the Divine Providence makes no Difference between good and bad Men; for God does love good Men, and hate the wicked ; and his Providence makes a great Difference between them, tho' this Difference is not always visible in external Events : For when the same Event happens to both, whether it be a Natural Good or Evil, it may be an Act of Favour to good Men, and of Judgment to the wicked. For External Prosperity and Adversity, in a State of Discipline, may either be good or evil ; and may be good for one, when at the same time it is evil to another; and therefore the Providence of God may make a Difference, when the External Event makes
The Wise Man confesses, This is an evil among all things that are done under the Sun, that there is one event unto all. Bad Men, who look no farther than External Events, make a very bad Use of it ; and conclude, that God makes no Difference, when they see none made : And thus the heart of the fons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead, v. 3. But those who consider wisely, see no Reason from External Events, from such a promiscuous Distribution of Good and Evil, either to deny a Providence, or the Goodness or Justice of Providence ; since Good and Evil, in this State, are not in the Things themselves, but in the End for which they are intended, and which they serve.
It is of great Consequence rightly to understand this Matter , to give us a firm Persuasion of the Goodness of God, even when he corS 3
reets and punishes, and to cure our Discontent at the Prosperity of the Wicked ; and therefore I shall briefly represent to you the State of Mankind in this world, and what is good in such a State.
Man has sinned, and Man must die ; but God has, in infinite Goodness to Mankind, sent his own Son into the World, to save Sinners
; who, by Death, hath destroyed him who had the Power of Death, that is, the Devil, and hath brought Life and Immortality to Light by the Gospel. This removes the Scene of Happiness from this world to the next, and makes this present Life only a State of Probation for Eternity. If we obey the Laws of our Saviour, and imitate his Example, he has promised to raise us again, when our Dead Bodies are puerified in the Grave, into Immortal Life ; but has threatned all the Miseries of an Eternal Death against incorrigible Sinners : So that the greate eft Good that God or Man can do for us in this World, is, by all the wise Methods of Discipline and Government, to prepare us for the Happiness of the next ; and to preserve us from those Eternal Miseries, which will be the Portion of Sinnors. Tho' there are Thousands of foolish Sinners, who never consider this, yet all Mankind agree, thąc that is best for us in this World, which will make us eternally Happy in the next ; and that is a very great Evil, which will betray us to Eternal Miferies. There are a great many Infidels, who believe neither a Heaven, nor a Hell ; but yet these very Infidels are not so void of common Sense, as to deny, supposing there were a Heaven, and a Hell, that to be the best Condition for us in this World, whatever it be upon other Accounts,