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to be the guardian and avenger of innocence, in prospering with his blessing the life of good men, in assisting their necessities, assuaging and comforting their sorrows, alleviating their calamities, and providing in all things for their safety. Nor should it perplex or eclipse his perpetual rule of righteousness, that hefrequently permits the wicked and guilty for a time to exult in impunity; but suffers good men to be undeservedly harassed with much adversity, and even to be oppressed by the iniquitous malice of the ungodly. We ought rather to make a very different reflection; that when he clearly manifests his wrath in the punishment of one sin, he hates all sins; and that since he now passes by many sins unpunished, there will be a judgment hereafter, till which the punishment is deferred. So also, what ample occasion he supplies us for the consideration of his mercy, while with unwearied benignity he pursues the miserable, calling them back to himself with more than paternal indulgence, till his beneficence overcomes their depravity.
VIII. To this end the Psalmist, (g) mentioning that God, in desperate cases, suddenly and wonderfully succours beyond all expectation those who are miserable and ready to perish, either protecting from beasts of prey such as are wandering in deserts, and at length reconducting them into the right way, or supplying with food the needy and hungry, or delivering captives from dreary dungeons and iron chains, or bringing the shipwrecked safe into port, or healing the diseases of some who are almost dead, or scorching the earth with excessive heat and drought, or fertilizing it with the secret showers of his mercy, or elevating the meanest of the vulgar, or degrading nobles from their dignified stations; the Psalmist, I say, having proposed such examples as these, infers from them, that what are accounted fortuitous accidents, are so many proofs of his heavenly providence, especially of his paternal clemency; and that hence the pious have cause to rejoice, while the mouths of the impious and reprobate are stopped. But since the majority of men, immersed in their errors, are blind amidst the greatest opportunities of seeing, he accounts it a rare instance
(y) Psalm cvii.
of singular wisdom discreetly to consider these works of God; (A) from the sight of which some who, in other instances, discover the greatest acuteness, receive no benefit. And, notwithstanding all the displays of the glory of God, scarcely one man in a hundred is really a spectator of it. His power and wisdom are equally conspicuous. His power is illustriously manifested, when the ferocity of the impious, universally deemed insuperable, is quelled in an instant, their arrogance subdued, their strongest fortresses demolished, their weapons and armour broken in pieces, their strength diminished, their machinations confounded, and they fall by their own exertions; when the audacity, which exalted itself above the heavens, is thrown down to the centre of the earth: when, on the contrary, "the poor are raised out of the dust, and the needy out of the dunghill:" (f) the oppressed and afflicted extricated from distressing extremities: and the desperate restored to a good hope: when the unarmed are victorious over those who are armed; the few over the many; the weak over the strong. But his wisdom is eminently displayed in ordering every dispensation at the best possible time, confounding the greatest worldly sagacity, " taking the wise in their own craftiness," (i) and finally disposing all things according to the dictates of the highest reason.
IX. We see that there is no need of any long or laborious argumentation, to obtain and produce testimonies for illustrating and asserting the Divine Majesty: since, from the few which we have selected and cursorily mentioned, it appears, that they are every where so evident and obvious, as easily to be distinguished by the eyes, and pointed out with the fingers. And here it must again be observed, that we are invited to a knowledge of God; not such as, content with empty speculation, merely floats in the brain, but such as will be solid and fruitful, if rightly received and rooted in our hearts. For the Lord is manifested by his perfections: perceiving the influence, and enjoying the benefits of which, we must necessarily be more acutely impressed with such a knowledge, than if we imagined a Deity, of whose influence we had no perception.
(A) Psalm cvii. 43. (i) Psalm cxiii. 7. (*) 1 Cor. xxxii. 19.
Whence we conclude this to be the right way, and the best method of seeking God; not with presumptuous curiosity to attempt an examination of his essence, which is rather to be adored than too curiously investigated; but to contemplate him in his works, in which he approaches and familiarizes, and in some measure, communicates himself to us. To this the Apostle referred, when he said, that he is not to be sought far off, since, by his attribute of omnipresence, he dwells in every one of us. (/) Therefore David, having before confessed his ineffable greatness, after he descends to the mention of his works, adds, that he will "declare this greatness." (m) Wherefore it becomes us also to apply ourselves to such an investigation of God, as may fill our understanding with admiration, and powerfully interest our feelings. And, as Augustine somewhere teaches, being incapable of comprehending him, and fainting, as it were, under his immensity, we must take a view of his works, that we may be refreshed with his goodness, (n)
X. Now such a knowledge ought not only to excite us to the worship of God, but likewise to awaken and arouse us to the hope of a future life. For when we consider, that the specimens given by the Lord, both of his clemency and of his severity, are only begun and not completed; we certainly should esteem these as preludes to greater things, of which the manifestation and full exhibition is deferred to another life. When we see that pious men are loaded with afflictions by the impious, harassed with injuries, oppressed with calumnies, and vexed with contumelious and opprobrious treatment; that the wicked, on the contrary, flourish, prosper, obtain ease and dignity, and all with impunity; we should immediately conclude, that there is another life, to which is reserved the vengeance due to iniquity, and the reward of righteousness. Moreover, when we observe the faithful frequently chastised by the Lord's rod, we may conclude, with great certainty, that the impious shall not always escape his vengeance. For that is a wise observation of Augustine: " If open punishment were now indicted for every sin, it would be
(/) Acts xvii. 27. (m) Psalm cxlv. €. (n) Aug. in Psal. cxliv.
supposed that nothing would be reserved till the last judgment. Again, if God now did not openly punish any sin, it would be presumed that there was no divine providence." (e) It must therefore be confessed, that in each of the works of God, but more especially in the whole considered together, there is a bright exhibition of the divine perfections; by which the whole human race is invited and allured to the knowledge of God, and thence to true and complete felicity. But though those perfections are most luminously pourtrayed around us, we only discover their principal tendency, their use, and the end of our contemplation of them, when we descend into our own selves, and consider, by what means God displays in us his life, wisdom, and power, and exercises towards us his righteousness, goodness, and mercy. For though David justly complains, that unbelievers are fools, because they consider not the profound designs of God in the government of mankind; (/>) yet there is much truth in what he says in another place, that the wonders of Divine Wisdom in this respect exceed in number the hairs of our head, (y) But as this argument must be treated more at large in due course, I at present omit it.
XI. But, notwithstanding the clear representations given by God in the mirror of his works, both of himself and of his everlasting dominion, such is our stupidity, that, always inattentive to these obvious testimonies, we derive no advantage from them. For, with regard to the structure and very beautiful organization of the world, how few of us are there, who, when lifting up their eyes to heaven, or looking round on the various regions of the earth, direct their minds to the remembrance of the Creator, and do not rather content themselves with a view of his works, to the total neglect of their Author? And with respect to those things that daily happen out of the ordinary course of nature, is it not the general opinion, that men are rolled and whirled about by the blind temerity of fortune, rather than governed by the providence of God? Or if, by the guidance and direction of these things, we are ever driven (as all men must sometimes
(e) De Civit. Dei. lib. 1. cap. 8. (p) Psalm xcii. 6. (?) Psalm xl. 12.
be) to the consideration of a God; yet, when we have rashly conceived an idea of some Deity, we soon slide into our own carnal dreams, or depraved inventions, corrupting by our vanity the purity of divine truth. We differ from one another, in that each individual imbibes some peculiarity of error: but we perfectly agree in an universal departure from the one true God, to preposterous trifles. This disease affects, not only the vulgar and ignorant, hut the most eminent, and those who, in other things, discover peculiar sagacity. How abundantly have all the philosophers, in this respect, betrayed their stupidity and folly! For, to spare others, chargeable with greater absurdities, Plato himself, the most religious and judicious of them all, loses himself in his round globe. (r) And what would not befal others, when their principal men, whose place it was to excel the rest, stumble upon such gross deceptions! So also, while the government of human actions proves a providence too plainly to admit of a denial, men derive no more advantage from it, than if they believed all things to be agitated forwards and backwards by the uncertain caprice of fortune: so great is our propensity to vanity and error! I speak exclusively of the excellent of mankind, not of the vulgar, whose madness in the profanation of divine truth has known no bounds.
XII. Hence that immense flood of errors, which has deluged the whole world. For every man's understanding is like a labyrinth to him: so that it is not to be wondered at, that the different nations were drawn aside into various inventions, and even that almost every individual had his own particular deity. For, amidst the union of temerity and wantonness with ignorance and darkness, scarcely a man could be found, who did not frame to himself some idol or phantasm instead of God. Indeed, the immense multitude of gods proceeding from the mind of man, resembles the ebullition of waters from a vast and ample spring, while every one, with an extreme licentiousness of error, invents one thing or another concerning God himself. It is not necessary here to compose a catalogue of the superstitions which have perplexed
(r) Plut. de Plulosoph. plaeitis, lib. 1. Plato in Timw>. Ciclib. l.de Natur. Deor.