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Lastly, the several ends and designs of God's visiting men with affiictions are very different from what this opinion supposes.
Human misery is indeed the consequence of sin; and moral evil is the original cause of natural evil in this world. But as this present state is a state of trial, not of retribution, there is no necessity that natural evil should be dispensed in exact proportion to moral: it is enough, that this will be finally adjusted with the exactest equity at the great day of judgment. In the mean time God administers and dispenses the several evils of this life by different measures, and in various ways, as best may answer his wise, his righteous, his good and merciful designs: to humble us; to check our pride and sufficiency; to awaken us out of a state of carelessness and inconsideration; to bring us to repentance ; to wean our hearts from an immoderate fondness of the pleasures of the world, and its uncertain and transitory enjoyments; to try, to improve, and to perfect our virtues; and to make some chosen persous eminent and edifying examples of constancy and resignalion to the rest of mankind.
But granting, that great afflictions are chastisements of sin; yet ought we not to conclude from thence, that the upbappy sufferers are more wicked than others: or that we, wlio escape, are more righteous than they. We all deserve punishinent; and God as a tender father may correct thein, and warn is. As a warning, the sufferings of the eminently righteous might have a better effect, than the punishinent of the notoriously wicked: in the latter case, our conscience might assure us, or we might flatter ourselves, that we were not like them; but in the former, we could not but ask ourselves, “ If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? and if judgment begin at the house of God, what shall be the end of those who obey not the gospel ?" If God should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, wlio may abide it. He may in justice and in mercy punish his most faithful servants; if with severity, yet not beyond their deserts : while he withholds his band from others more deserving of punishment; and tries, if by such warnings, if by forbearance and long-suffering, it by the riches of his goodness, he may lead them to repentance. Upon the whole then, we have no reason to conclude of those, who are oppressed with great calami
ties, that they are sinners above all others, because they suffer such things.
But though our blessed Saviour disapproves of and rebukes this presumptuous practice of interpreting God's visitation of particular persons, and uncharitably in ferring from signal calamities great wickedness in the sufferers: yet at the same time he threatens the whole nation with temporal judgments of the like kind ; unless they should avert God's wrath by repentance: “ I tell you, nay, they are not greater sinners than others; but except ye repent, ye shall all, the whole nation of you, for your general depravity, for your manifold crimes and provocations, for your contempt of the forbearance and longsuffering of God, ye shall all perish in like manner; and your destruction shall be so signally marked with the hand of God, that all men shall see, that it is his work, and that the Lord himself hath done it." All this, as the event shewed, was implied in our blessed Saviour's admonition to the Jews.
“ The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men; he giveth it to whomsoever he will; he putteth down one, and setteth up another; he increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them; he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.” On the grounds of reason and experience, and from our notions of the wisdom and justice of God, we may be allowed to observe a more equal providence dispensed in the fates of kingdoms, than in the affairs of individuals. The cases are widely different; and the same reasons, motives, and ends, do not hold in both. Kingdoms and nations, as such, are beings of the present world, and they are obnoxious to the judgments of God in this life only: therefore the counsels of God with regard to them may be governed by other rules; and we are warranted to estimate their prosperity and adversity by measures different from those, by which we ought to judge of the merits and demerits of private persons. The language of Scripture is in this respect agreeable to the universal testimony of History; “ That righteousness exalteth a nation, but wickedness is not only a reproach, but in the end sure destruction to any people.” It hath pleased God so to constitute the nature and order of things, that the one follows the other by certain consequence; as well as sometimes also by his peculiar decree.
The Scripture gives us many instances of the extraordinary interposition of God in some remarkable cases.
Vol. X. Churchm. Mag. for May 1806. 3 A Thus
Thus he destroyed the old world with a flood, because it was full of violence, and all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. Thus likewise he overthrew in his just wrath the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin was very grievous. As soon as the iniquity of the Amorites was full *, the Israelites received a divine commission to destroy them. And Moses speaks the common sentiments of mankind, when he tells the Israelites, what hath been fully justified in the event, “ that when the stranger, that shall come from a far country, shall see the plagues of their land like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah ; even all nations that shall see it, shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land ? then men shall say, Because they had forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God +."
Agreeable to this was our Saviour's admonition to the Jews in the text; “ Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” It was a charitable and gracious warning, and at the same time a prophetic denunciation of the just vengeance of God hanging over them. In a few years afterwards, through their impenitence, they suffered more than those on whom the tower of Siloam fell, had suffered. It was not only a few of them that were slain while they were sacrificing, but the greatest part of the inhabitants of Judea, gathered together to celebrate the Passover, were shut up in Jerusalem by the Roman armies, and devoted to destruction: not only was their blood mingled with their sacrifices, but to the rage of the sword were added all the horrors of pestilence and famine: it was not only one tower that fell
and slew them, but almost the whole nation was buried under the ruins of thair walls, their city, and their temple ; above a million of souls perished, and there was not one stone
another that was not thrown down. Now, what our Lord said unto them, he saith to every exceedingly wicked and ungodly nation;
nation; “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” The method of God's acting in these cases, as far as we can infer it from the Holy Scriptures, seems to be this: he limits a time in his own secret counsels for the extension of his patience and Jong-suffering; he gives the objects of his wrath sufficient warnings to awaken them from their inconsiderate progress in wickedness, that they may appease his anger
* Gen, xv, 16.
Deut, xxix. 22
by repentance : of old he did it by his special messengers the prophets : he doth it now by various remarkable dis. pensations of his providence, and by his revealed word, the standing declaration of his will. Thus he did in the days of Noah, who was then the preacher of righteousness, the messenger of God's threatened vengeance to a sinful world, in order to reclairn them : “My Spirit, saith God, shall not alway strive with man; yet his days," the space allowed him for repentance, “ shall be a hun. dred and twenty years
" Yet forty days, and Niniveh shall be overthrown,” said the prophet Jonah by the special comniand of God. " And God saw the works of the people of Nineveh, that they turned from their evil way, and God repented him of the evil that he said he would do unto them; and he did it not t." What time God hath determined upon this sinful nation, is sealed up among his hidden decrees. Let us consider, whether we are not approaching fast to the utmost term of his forbearance. Let us reflect upon the various warnings, which he hath given us from time to time in his past dealings with us; and which we have as little regarded, as the voice of his blessed Son, and of his holy apostles, perpetually calling us to repentance.
While the Divine judgments seem to be hanging immediately over our heads, let us consider these ways of God; and let us consider our own ways. Let us seriously apply these things to ourselves: let us search our own hearts, and impartially examine our state in respect of God, both particular and national, while the day of salvation lasteth, and there is yet room for repentance. Are we not a nation greatly distinguished by various deliverances and singular blessings, which God hath vouchsafed to us ? Have we shewed ourselves worthy of those blessings ? have we not forgotten his mercies, despised his corrections, neglected his warnings, and made an ill use of his goodness? have we not abused wealth and prosperity to luxury and dissoluteness; turned civil liberty into licentiousness, and religious liberty into profaneness and impiety ? are we not a people among whom the purest religion has very little influence; and the best laws can hardly be carried into execution ? testifying upon all occasions an eager impatience of all restraint both religious and legal ? Our excellent Constitution, the glory of modern po* Gen. vi, 3, compare 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20. + Jonah iii, 4, 10. 3 A2
licy, and the envy of the rest of the world, is it not greatly weakened and rendered ineffectual by a general national depravily, by a decay of public spirit, and every virtuous principle? And this weakness of the Constitution do not the enemies of all order make a pretence, and use as an occasion, to endeavour, instead of restoring, totally to subvert it? Are there not many, whose study it has long been to introduce disorder and confusion, to encourage tumults and seditions; to destroy all rule and all authority, by traducing government, despising dominion, and speaking evil of digpities? by assuming visionary and impracticable principles, as the only true foundations of a free government, which tend to raise discontent in the people * ; to harden some in actual rebellion, and to dispose others to follow their example? Is not a true sense of piety and religion very much lost among the rich; and industry, probity, and sobriety, as much decayed among the poor? hath not extravagance and dissipation taken possession of the great, and by the influence of their example descended far into the lower orders of men? whence distress of families, bankruptcies, frauds, forgeries, robberies, perjuries, self-murders, without number and without example? Is not the age peculiarly disgraced with frequent adulteries; and those among the higher ranks, of most extensive scandal, and most pernicious influence; in which one sex seems to have cast off all restraint of natural modesty, and both to have lost all sense of decency, faith, dignity, and honour? With all this load of guilt upon our heads, and the hand of God stretched out in vengeance over us; while the Lord God of hosts calls us to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth; what is the demeanor of too many among us? Behold joy and gladness, mirth and festivity, eating and drinking ;- let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. “ Shall I not visit for these things ? saith the Lord ; shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” Surely he will visit such a sinful people ;--unless they repent, and turn from As far
any instance, the operation of any cause comes in to restrain the power of self-government, so far slavery is introduced.” Dr. Price, Observations on Civil Liberty. Sect. I. " The representation must be complete. No state, a part of wbich only is represented in the Legislature that governs it, is self-governed.” Additional Observations, Sect. I. From which it follows, that a vast majority of the people of England, all that have no vote for representatives in parliament, are slaves,