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what is become of the Divine Equity? This inequality of affairs seems to persuade, that it is not the Holy and Righteous God of Heaven, but rather the God of this World, who governs the concerns of it; and that he spoke truth, when he told our Saviour, Luke iv. 6. The power and glory of this world is delivered unto one, and to whomsoever I will give it."
Now to answer this,
1. This quarrel is not only, of late, commenced against heaven; but it hath been the complaint of all ages.
It raised controversies among the very Heathens themselves; some of them upon this ground denying, and others again by whole treatises defending, the government of the world by Providence. And no wonder it should puzzle them, since the very best of God's saints and servants have likewise stumbled at this stone of offence : thus, the Psalmist, Ps. Ixxiji. 2, 3. As for me, my feet were almost gone ; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked'; so, likewise, the Prophet Jeremiah, xii. 1. Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy, that deal very treacherorisly? This, therefore, is an old grief; which, in all ages of the world, hath been complained of. And, though at first sight it seems to confute the Providence of God, yet, if we more narrowly consider it, it is a strong confirmation of it: for, since virtue and goodness are so despicable a thing in the world, since holy and good men have been always injured and persecuted, certainly were there not an All-wise Providence, that finds out ways and means of its own to counterpoise these disadvantages, and to preserve them amidst the rage and hatred of their implacable enemies, long ere this there had been none of them left, either to have suffered or complained. Were there no other argument to prove that God governs the world, this would suffice, even, That his servants have been continually oppressed in it, yet never could be rooted out of it: though men and devils have combined together against them, and God (as they have complained) hath seemed to abandon them; yet such a fenceless and forlorn generation as this, hath been hitherto and shall still be preserved to the very end of the world : doth not this speak forth the power and care of Almighty God, thus to keep a bush unconsumed,
in the midst of fire? to preserve fuel untouched, in the very embraces of flames?
2. God doth chastise his own people and prosper the wicked, that he might thereby rectify our judgments; and teach us not to account adversity the greatest evil, nor yet prosperity the chief good.
For, certainly, were they so, only the righteous should enjoy the grandeur, pomp, and glory of this world; and only the wicked and ungodly become miserable. Concerning this, St. Austin speaks excellently, in his LXXth Epistle:“Worldly things," saith he, “ are, in themselves, but indifferent; and good and evil, only as they are improved: but, lest they should be thought always evil, therefore God sometimes gives them to those who are good; and, lest they should be thought the highest and the chief good, they are sometimes given to those who are evil." And a like saying to this hath Seneca, in his Book de Provident. cap. 5. There is no such way, to traduce the riches, the honours, the pleasures of this life; those vain nothings, which are so earnestly desired and eagerly pursued by the most ; no such way to beat down their price in the esteem of all wise and good men, as for God to bestow those upon the vilest, which he sometimes denies to the best and holiest.
3. When God bestows any temporal good thing upon wicked and ungodly men, he gives it as their portion : and, when he brings any calamity on his own children, he inflicts it for their trial.
Is it not ordinary, that a servant receives more for wages, than a son may have for the present at his own command? God is the Father and bountiful Maintainer of the whole Family, both in heaven and earth; a Father to the Faithful, a Lord and Master over all: he may give his slaves large wages, when his own children possibly have not so much in-hand. · Is he therefore hard or unjust ? no: the inheritance is theirs, and that is kept in reversion for them. What wicked men possess of this world, is all that ever they can hope for: why should we grudge them filled bags, or swelling titles! it is their whole portion: they now receive their good things: hast thou food and clothing? that is children's fare: envy not ungodly men, who flaunt it in the gallantry of the world: they have more than you; but it is all they are like to have: the Psalmist gives us an account of their estate, Ps. xvii. 14. They are the men of this world, who have their portion in this life, and whose bellies God filleth with his hid treasure. Whereas thou, O Christian, who possessest
nothing, art heir-apparent of heaven, coheir with Jesus Christ who is the heir of all things, and hast an infinite mass of riches Jaid
up for thee; so great and infinite, that all the stars of heaven are too few to account it by : you have no reason to complain of being kept short; for all, that God hath, is yours : whether prosperity or adversity, life or death, all is yours. What God gives, is for your comfort: what he denies or takes away, is for your trial: it is for the increase of those graces, which are far more gracious than any temporal enjoyment. If, by seeing wicked and ungodly men Aow in wealth and ease, when thou art forced to struggle against the inconveniencies and difficulties of a poor estate, thou hast learnt a holy contempt and disdain of the world, believe it, God hath herein given thee more, than if he had given thee the world itself.
4. God doth, many times, even in this world, expound the mystery of his Providence, by the fatal and dreadful overthrow of those wicked men, whom he, for a while, suffered to prosper.
The triumph of the wicked, saith Job, xx. 5. is short. At longest, it is but short; because measured out by a short life: now, is their triumph; hereafter, their torment. But, many times, God brings them to ruin, even in this life : he turns the wheel of Providence, and makes it pass over those, who, but a while before, set vaunting a-top of it. And then wilt thou doubt, whether God governs the world by Providence ? wilt thou doubt, whether God be just, in suffering wicked men to prosper and flourish ? God lifts them up on high, only that he may cast them down with the more terrible fall. When all the workers of iniquity prosper, saith the Psalmist Ps. xcii. 7. it is that they might be destroyed for ever. Now when God comes thus to execute judgment upon them, those, who questioned the Providence of God in their advancement, will the more glorify it in their downfal: The righteous shall see it and be glad; and shall say, Verily, there is a reward for the righteous : verily there is a God, that judgeth in the earth : Ps. lviii. 11.
5. If God doth not clear up this inequality of his Providence, in this life ; yet he will certainly do it, at the Day of Judgment.
And, indeed, the strange dispensation of affairs in this world is an argument, which doth convincingly prove, that there shall be such a day, wherein all the involucra and entanglements of Providence shall be clearly unfolded. Then, shall the riddle be dissolved, why God hath given this and that profane wretch sq
much wealth, and so much power to do mischief: is it not, that
things; and want and affliction, evil; but, when we come to consider these with relation to eternity, the true standard to measure them by, then poverty may be a mercy, and riches a judgment : God may bless one by afflictions, and curse another by prosperity: he may bestow more upon us in suffering us to want, than if he should give us the store and treasures of all the earth. And, certainly, whatever our thoughts of it are now, yet within awhile this will be the judgment of us all: when we are once lodged in our eternal state, then we shall acknowledge that nothing in this world deserved the name of good, but as it promoted our eternal happiness; nor of evil, but as it tended to eternal misery
And thus you see this grand objection answered; and the Providence of God cleared from that injustice, which we are apt peevishly to impute unto it.
Other doubts are of less moment, and therefore shall be more briefly resolved.
ij. " IF GOD'S PROVIDENCE ORDAINS ALL THINGS TO COME TO PASS ACCORDING TO THE IMMUTABLE LAW OF HIS PURPOSE, THEN WHAT NECESSITY IS THERE OF PRAYER? We cannot, by our most fervent prayers, alter the least circumstance or punctilio in God's decrees. If he hath so laid the method of his Providence in his own counsels, as to prepare mercies and blessings for us, our prayers cannot hasten nor maturate them before their time : or, if he determine, by his Providence, to bring afflictions upon us, our prayers cannot prevent nor adjourn them beyond their prefixed time."
Now to this Aquinas 2. 29. 83. Art. 2. answers well, that the Divine Providence doth not only ordain what effects shall come to pass, but also by what means and causes, and in what order: they shall flow. God hath appointed, as the effect itself, so the means to accomplish it. Now
prayer is a means to bring to pass that, which God hath determined shall be. We do not pray, out of hope to alter God's eternal purposes; but we pray, to obtain that, which God hath ordained to be obtained by our prayers: we ask, that thereby we may be fit to receive, what God hath from all eternity determined to give by prayer, and not otherwise, And,