Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

swer: There is no hope : but we will walk every one after his own devices, and we will do every one the imagination of his evil heart. Jer. xvii. 11, 12. But how much more arrogant would it have been, had the judgment which was only devised against them been actually executed upon them! Such an answer then had been a plain declaration, that they were finally resolved to stand it out against God to the last, and to take no quarter at his hands, though they perished for ever in their rebellions. And when men's guilts are thus enhanced, it is fit their punishments should be proportionable: for otherwise they would be looked upon as things that happen to men without any providential disposal. But now, by regularly proportioning the evils of suffering to the evils of sin, and coupling lesser evils with lesser guilts, and greater with greater, and so equally balancing and adjusting the punishment to the fault; God makes his arm bare to us, and gives us a plain demonstration, that the evils we suffer are the rods of his just displeasure.

(2.) God punishes men with heavier, when they continue obstinate under lighter judgments; because their obstinacy renders heavier judgments necessary. For punishments being designed by God for our cure and recovery, it is necessary they should be proportioned to the degree and strength of our disease; and consequently, when the disease of our sin is grown stronger and more malignant, the remedy of our punishment should be made sharper and more operative. For when men are grown inveterately wicked, to attempt their reformation with smaller judgments is to batter a wall of marble with a potgun. Such obstinate rebels must be stormed with

the loudest artillery of heaven, before they will listen to a surrender. An anvil will as soon yield to the fillip of our finger, as a hardened sinner relent under soft and gentle corrections. He must be alarmed with some rousing judgment, and lashed till he bleeds again under the rods of the Almighty, or in all probability he will be undone for ever. His disease is inveterate, and not to be removed but by the strongest cathartics; and therefore to prescribe him a course of gentle physic would be to try experiments upon him, and vex and disturb him to no purpose. God therefore, to cure the folly and obstinacy of sinners, is many times fain to treat them with rigour and severity, when he finds the mild and gentle methods of his providence defeated by them : but first, usually, he tries the softer and more grateful remedies, being unwilling to grieve and afflict his creatures, when there is any other way to recover them. But when softer will not do, it is mercy in him to apply severer; and his last most commonly are the severest; these being the caustics, as it were, which he is fain to apply to our lethargic souls, when no other means will awake and reco

ver us.

(3.) And lastly, God punishes men with heavier, when they continue obstinate under lighter judgments, to render their final destruction more inexcusable, if they will not be reclaimed. For when God's threats will not awake men, he usually sends forth his smaller judgments; which, like the vancouriers of an army, are to begin the skirmish, before he falls on with his main body to ruin and destroy them. Which method he observes out of great pity to his sinful creatures, whom he always threatens before he strikes, and always strikes before he destroys, that he may give them timely and effectual warning to arm themselves by repentance, to prevent their destruction : and accordingly, the first judgment he lets off, he designs for a warning-piece, to give notice of a second, and the second of a third, and all, of that ruining and exterminating judgment which brings up the rear, and is to conclude the tragedy: so that his foregoing judgments do still give notice of the following, and these of the succeeding; and all of that final destruction in the war which closely pursues, and, unless we repent, will at last overtake us. And when our designed destruction approaches us step by step, and every succeeding judgment brings it nearer and nearer to us, so that we plainly see it coming on when it is yet at a distance from us, and yet will not stand out of its way, but desperately meet, dare, and defy it; how can we charge God with being either unjust or unkind to us, who hath taken such an effectual course to warn us of, and retrieve us from it? When he thus punished us more and more, as our sin grew greater and greater; this, one would have thought, might have been sufficient to terrify us from our sins, which we plainly saw were bringing such mischiefs upon us, and to forewarn us of that gloomy and fatal issue that attended them. By all which God doth abundantly manifest, how extremely unwilling he is to destroy us. But if, after all, we will force him to it, men and angels must confess, that he hath been infinitely just and good to us, and that the guilt of our blood lies upon our own heads.

And if this be true, that, when lesser judgments will not reclaim men, God's usual method is to second them with greater, how much reason have we of this nation to expect and dread a succession of greater judgments than those we have hitherto felt, considering how much we have degenerated under our past corrections, and all along hardened ourselves under the strokes of the Almighty! I do not love to bode ill things: and did not our own sins prognosticate more mischief to us, than any of those suspected appearances that fill our heads with so many fears and jealousies, I could easily secure my mind of the continuance of our happiness under far more threatening apprehensions. But, alas ! when I consider how obstinately we have persisted in our sinful ways, in defiance both of the mercies and judgments of Heaven; how, notwithstanding the advantage we have had of being better, as having been baptized into the best church, and educated in the purest religion in the world; a religion that advances no temporal design, no invention to enrich or aggrandize its priests; that hath no aim or project, but only that blessed one of making men good here, and happy hereafter; that hath no arts of compromise between men's lusts and consciences; no devices to supersede the eternal obligations of piety and virtue, but binds them fast upon our consciences by all that we can hope or fear: when, I say, notwithstanding we had this advantage of being good, by being instituted in such a religion as this, I consider how we have grown worse and worse, as if we had resolved to give the world an experiment how bad it is possible for men to be under the most effectual means of being good; I cannot but be fearful and jealous, that our multiplying our guilts will at length provoke God to multiply his judgments upon And O would to God that for this reason we would all be jealous ; that we would ground our fears upon our sins and incorrigibleness under the past judgments of God! Then they would produce in us far different effects from what they have hitherto done. Then, instead of firing us with discontent against our governors, and exciting us to faction, sedition, and clamour, they would turn all our animosities against our own wicked lives, which are the causes of all the evils that we feel or fear : then would our fears and jealousies improve into piety towards God, loyalty towards our prince, and charity and justice towards one another; and render us constant to the profession, and faithful as to the practice of our holy religion. Which blessed effects could they once produce, then farewell to all causes of fears and jealousies : then our God would soon disperse all the clouds that hang over us with the light of his countenance, and render us a glorious, a happy, and a prosperous people, and crown us with everlasting glory and happiness hereafter.

us.

« ПредишнаНапред »