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forth worthy fruits of piety and virtue. So much St. Paul observed of them; and not he alone did observe it, but even themselves were sensible of this their unhappiness; whence so many complaints concerning the blindness and infirmity of man's mind, concerning the obscurity and uncertainty of things, concerning the insuperable difficulty of finding truth, concerning the miserable consequences from these, do occur aniong them.
Now this being the natural state of men, destitute of divine conduct and assistance ; do they not (I pray) greatly need another light to guide them in this darkness, or to bring them out of it; a helpful hand, to free them from these inconveniences ? and is it not reasonable to suppose that God, who is alone able, will also be willing in due time to afford it? He, who in nature is most benign and bountiful, most pitiful and gracious; whose goodness fills the earth, and whose mercy is over all his works; he, who bears to man the special relation of a Father, and bears to him a suitable tenderness of affection and good will; he, all whose attributes seem concerned in engaging him on this performance; not only his goodness to instigate him, and his wisdom to direct him, but even his justice in some manner to oblige him thereto.
1. His goodness: Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb ?' Yea; though it is unnatural and unusual, it is yet possible she may, because nature in her is not unalterably constant and the same; but the immutable God cannot so cease to be mindful of, to be compassionate toward, his children. That gracious ear cannot hear mankind groan so dolefully under bitter oppressions ; that pitiful eye cannot behold his own dear offspring, the flower of his creation, lying in so comfortless, so remediless distress, without feeling some pity, without being moved to reach some relief; such notes surely cannot be grateful, such spectacles cannot be pleasant to him, nor can be then forbear long to provide means of removing them from his presence.
We esteein it want of goodness (yea an effect of very bad disposition) not to direct a bewildered traveller, nor to relieve, if we can, even a stranger fallen into great distress : and if we being in such degree bad, are inclinable to perform such good offices, how much more ready may we suppose him, who is goodness itself, (goodness infinite and absolute,) to do the like for all mankind, so much needing his guidance and help! He who hath settled our outward estate in so advantageous a posture, who hath made provisions so various and ample for the needs and conveniences (yea for the pleasure) of our bodies, would he have so little care over our better part, and leave our souls so slenderly furnished, letting them pine, as it were, for want of spiritual sustenance ? How can we think his good providence defective in so main, so principal a part thereof? Thus doth divine goodness (to my apprehension) very strongly confirm our supposition.
2. And his wisdom enforces the same : God made the world to express his goodness and to display his glory; and his goodness who can be sensible of, his glory who can perceive, who can promote, but man ? but he who is endued with reason, enabling him to reflect on the good he feels, to admire the excellency he discovers, to render grateful acknowlegements for the one, to utter acclamations of praise to the other ? which purposes yet will be utterly (or at least in great measure) frustrated, should God for ever suffer men to continue in such ignorance, doubt, or mistake concerning himself; if men are not fully persuaded that he made the world and governs it, how can they pay those due homages of dread to his glorious power, of admiration to his excellent wisdom, of love to his transcendent goodness? This grand theatre would, as it were, stand useless, and all the wonders acted thereon would appear in vain, should there be wanting a spectator; should man be altogether blind or heedless; yea man's faculty itself, that his seeing faculty of mind, would signify nothing, were there not a light rendering things visible to him. Common sense hath dictated to men that man is capable of showing respect, of performing duty and service to God, that also God requires and expects them from him ; the same declares that God best knows what kind of service, what expressions of respect best please him. Reason tells that God would have man act in the best manner, according to the design of his nature; that he would have the affairs of men proceed in some good order ; that he even desires earnestly the good of men, and delights in their happiness : and if so, it is reasonable to suppose that
being most wise he should dispose fit means for accomplishing those ends; for securing himself, as it were, from disappointment; that therefore he should impart to men a competent knowlege of himself, should declare his good-will and pleasure to them, should reveal both the best way of their serving him, and the best means of their attaining happiness to themselves. So divine wisdom grounds an argument for our supposition.
3. God's justice also seems not a little to favor it: every good governor thinks it just to take care that his subjects should understand his pleasure, and be acquainted with his laws; he causes them therefore to be solemnly promulgated, that all may take notice; if any of them by long disuse are become unknown, he revives the knowlege of them by new proclamations; to quicken obedience he propounds fit rewards, and deters from disobedience by menacing suitable punishments, knowing man's nature, resty and unapt to move without these spurs : and is it likely the sovereign Governor and Judge of all the world should observe less equity in his administrations ? that he should neglect any means necessary or apt to promote his subjects' performance of their duty, to prevent the breaches of his laws? He that loves righteousness above all, he that so earnestly desires to be duly obeyed, he that infinitely delights in his subjects' good; can he fail sufficiently to declare his will, to encourage men to comply with it, to terrify themi from transgressing it? will he suffer his laws to remain unknown or uncertain ; will he not consider the infirmities of his subjects, will he leave any fair apology for disobedience ? No, the superlative justice of God seems to persuade the contrary.
4. I might add that generally it seems unbecoming the Majesty Divine, that he should endure the world, his kingdom, to continue under a perpetual usurpation and tyranny; to suffer that his imperial throne should be possessed, his authority abused, his name insulted over, by enemies and rebels against. him, (by evil spirits, whether those of hell, or those on earth ;) that a cruel tiend, that a cursed ghost, that a brute beast, that a chimera of man's fancy should be worshipped, while himself is forgotten and neglected, is dishonored and despised ; that iniquity and wickedness (with all the filthy brood of ignorance and error) should every where flourish and domineer, while
righteousness and virtue lie prostrate, and are trampled on : this surely the King of Glory, the great Patron of Goodness, will not permit to be ; sooner rather may we conceive that, to remove these indecencies and these mischiefs, he would presently turn the world into a desert and solitude, or pour a deluge of water over the face of the earth, or with flames of vengeance consume it into ashes.
We cannot indeed judge or determine concerning the special circumstances or limits of God's dealing toward man in this particular; concerning the time when, the manner how, the measure according to which, God will dispense those revelations of himself : those depend on mysteries of counsel and wisdom surpassing our comprehension. That God should for a while connive at men's ignorance, and suffer them to grope after divine truth; to try them, as he did the Israelites in the wilderness, how they would behave themselves in that state ; to prove how they would use their talent of natural light, to make them sensible of their own infirmity, to show them whence all their welfare must proceed, on whom all their happiness depends, to make them more able to value, more desirous to embrace, the redress vouchsafed them; as also, to demonstrate his own great clemency, longsuffering, and patience; that, I say, for such purposes, and others unsearchable by our shallow understanding, God should for some time forbear with a full evidence to declare all his mind to men, is not so strange or unlikely; but that for ever, through all courses of time, he should leave men in so forlorn a condition, in such a depth of ignorance, such perplexity of doubt, such captivity under sin, such subjection to misery, seems not probable, much less can it seem unprobable that he hath done it: it cannot, I say, in any reason seem misbecoming the goodness, wisdom, or justice of God, clearly to discover to us what he requires us to do, what good he intends for us, what way leads to our happiness, how we may avoid misery. This consideration, if it do not prove peremptorily that God cannot but sometime make such a revelation, nor that he yet hath actually done it, (forasmuch as we cannot reach the utmost possibilities of things, nor are fit judges of what God must necessarily do; although to my apprehension this sort of reasoning, with due caution used, sub
sisting in general terms, and not over precisely applying it to particular cases, (implicated by circumstances and specialties not falling under our judgment) hath great force ;) yet it removes all obstruction to our belief, and disposes us with more readiness to admit the reasons which follow : for it being not unprobable, yea, according to the reason of the thing, very probable that he should do it, we have cause with attention and expectation of success on this hand to regard the arguments that pretend to prove he hath done it.
This is the first step of our discourse, at which we shall stop
for the present.