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as they deserved; and then, in another mood, they would have him to be nothing but justice and severity, Jest there should be a God; as if no other notion could be framed of the divine nature, but of a rash fury, and impetuous revenge, and an impotent paffion, which, when it is offended and provoked, cannot contain itself, and forbear punishment for a moment. Justice is not such a perfection as doth necessarily exclude wifdom, and goodness, and patience; it doth in nowise contradict the perfection of the divine nature, to bear with finners, in expectation of their repentance and amendment; or if God foresees their final impenitency, to 'refpite their punishment to the most fit and convenient leafon. God may fuffer long, and yet be resolved, if finners perfist in the abuse of his goodness and patience, to execute vengeance upon them in due time. It is a pitiful ground of Atheisin, that because God is so much better than wicked men deferve, they will not allow him to be at all.

2. Others infer from the delay of punishment, that there is no providence that adminifters the affairs of the world, and regards the good and bad actions of men : for, though the being of God be acknowledged, yet if he do not regard what is done here below, nor concern himself in human affairs, finners are as fafe and free to do what they please, as if there were no God; and, upon This ground, the scripture tells us, many encourage themselves in their wickednefs; Pfal. Ixiv. 5. T lley encourage themselves in an evil matter: they commure of

Asying fnares privily; for they say, who shall féethem? And more expresly, Psal. xciv. 4. 5. 6. 7. How long Mall they'utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves? they break in pieces thy people, 0 Lord, and afflict thine heritage. They say the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they fay, the Lord Jhall not see, neither Jhall the God of Ja. cob regarit it. And if this were fo, well might they'encourage themselves. If it were true which Epicúrụs faith, “ That God takes no knowledge of the actions of men;

that he is far removed from us, and contented '" with himself, and not at all concerned in what we do:” If this were true, the inference which Lu

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cretius makes, were very just; Qulare religio pedibus fubjeéta vicifim obteritur; “ Men might trainple reli

gion under their feet, and live without any regard to " the laws of it."

But let us see how they infer this from the long-suffering of God, that he neglects the affairs of the world, and hath no consideration of the actions of because they see the ungodly to prosper in the world equally with others that are stridly devout and virtuous, yea, many times, to be in a more prosperous and flourishing condition; they are not in trouble like other men, neither are they plagued like other men. So that if there be a God, it seems, say they, that he connives at the crimes of men, and looks upon them that deal treacherously, and holds his peace, whilst the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than himself, as the Prophet expresseth it, Hab.

For answer to this, I shall only give this reasonable and credible account of the long-suffering of God, and the impunity of wicked men in this life, which not only the scripture gives us, but the Heathen were able to give from the light of nature, and is agreeable to the common sense of mankind, namely, that this life is 2. ftate of probation and trial, wherein God suffers men to walk in their own ways, without any visible check and restraint, and does not usually. inflict present and remarkable punishinents upon them for their evil decds; because this being a state of trial of the dispolitions and manners of men, is rather the proper scalon of pati; ence, than of punishments and rewards; and therefore it is very reasonable to suppose that God reserves sin pers for a folemn and publick trial at the great assizes of the world, when he will openly vindicate the honour of his justice upon the despisers of his patience and long. fuffering, when he will make his judgment to break forth as the light, and his righteousness as the noon-day. 19 the mean time, the providence of God, when he sees it fit, gives some remarkable instances of his justice upon great and notorious offenders in this life, as a pledge and earnest of a future judgment; and these, sometimes, more general, as in the destruction of the old world by an universal deluge, when he saw the

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wickedness of men to be great upon the earth; and such was that terrible vengeance which was poured down upon Sodom and Goinorrah, and the cities about them which, as St. Jude tells us, are set forth for an example, Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, that is, of a per. petual destruction by fire.

Another gross and atheistical inference, which men are apt to make froin the delay of punishment is, that there is no such difference of good and evil as is pretended; because they do not see the good and bad aEtions of men differenced in their rewards, because divine justice doth not presently manifest itself; and every transgresion and disobedience doth not immediately receive a just recompence of reward, therefore they cannot believe that the difference between good and evil is so great and evident.

For answer to this: not to insist upon the difference which the providence of God sometimes makes between them in this life, I appeal to the consciences of men, whether they do not fecretly and inwardly acknowledge a clear difference between good and evil. Are not the worst of men apt to conceive better hopes of success, when they are about a juft and honest undertaking, than when they are engaged in a wicked design? Do not bad men feel a secret shame and horror, when no eye sees them, and the wickedness they are about to commit doth not fall under the cognizance and censure of any human court or tribunal? have they not many checks and rebukes in their own spirits, much difturbance and confusion of mind, when they are enterprizing a wicked :hing? And does not this plainly argue, that they are guilty to themselves that they are about something which they ought not to do?

It is very true, that most men are more sensible of the evil of an action, when they feel the ill effects and consequences of it, and suffer the punishment that is due to it: but yet the sense of good and evil is so deeply impreft upon human nature, that I think no man, remaining a man, can quite deface and blot out the difference of good and evil.' So that if men will but at. tend to the natural dictates and suggestions of their own minds, they cannot polibly infer, from the delay of panishment, that there is no difference of good and evil.

But, because those who are thus are but few, in com, parison, there being not many in the world arrived to that degree of blindness, and height of impiety, as to disbelieve a God, and a providence; and I think none have attained to that perfect conquest of conscience, as to have lost all sense of good and evil; therefore I shall rather in sist,

Secondly, Upon thofe kind of reasonings which are more ordinary and common among bad men, and where by they cheat themselves into everlasting perdition; and they are such as these:

1. Because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, therefore lin is not so great an evil.

2. Therefore God iş not fo highly offended and provoked by it. Or,

3. God is not so feyere in his own nature, as he is commonly represented.

4. Therefore the punishment of lin is not so certain. Or, however,

5. It is at a distance, and may be prevented time enough, by a future repentance in our old age, or at the hour of death. By fome such falle reasonings as there, which men think may probably be collected from the Patience and long-suffering of God, they harden and en courage themselves in an evil course.

I, Because the punishment of fin is deferred, therefore they conclude it is not so great an evil; they do not feel the ill effects of it at present; all things go well and prosperously with them, no less than with those who are so kriet and conscientious; and therefore they hope there is no such great evil in sin, as melancholy people are apt to fancy to themselves. For answer to this,

1. Consider ferioufy what {in is, and then thou wilt see reason enough to call it a great evil. To Gon against God, iş to contemn the greatelt authority in the world, to contradict the greatest holiness and purity, to abuse the greatest goodness, and to provoke almighty justice to take vengeance upon thee, and to make thee as miser. able as thou art capable of being. To fin against God, is to be disobediept to thy Sovereign, and unthankful to

thy

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thy belt Benefactor, and to act contrary to the greatest obligations, again it thy best reason, and truest intereft ; to disoblige thy kindest friend, and to gratify thy worft and bitterest enemy; it is to disorder thyself, to create perpetual difquiet to thy own mind, and to do the greatest mischief possible to thyself; to deprive thyself of the greatest happiness, and to draw down upon thyself extreme and eternal misery. And what do we call a great evil, if this be not, which contains in it all the kinds, and all the aggravations of evil that can be, and hath all the circumstances of ugliness and deformity in it that can be imagined?

2. Whatever sin be in itself, yet from hence we can in nowise conclude that it is not a great evil, because the punishment of it is deferred for a while: from hence indeed it follows, that God is very good in deferring the punishment which is due to thee for thy sins, but by no means that sin is not very evil. The reprieve of a traitor does indeed argue the goodness and clemency of the Prince, but doth not at all abate of the heinousness of the crime for which he is sentenced. The great evil of sin is evident, because the holy and just God hath forbidden it, and declared his hatred and deteftation of it, and threatened it with most severe and direful punishment: but that God respites the punishment which is due to fin, and does not immediately take vengeance upon linners, but affords them a space, and means, and oppor. tunity of repentance; this doth not at all lessen the evil of sin, but is rather an aggravation of it, that we should offend and provoke that God who is so patient and long-suffering towards us, so very loth to bring those evils upon us, which we are so rath and forward to pull down upon ourselves.

II. If God doth not immediately punish fin upon the commission of it, and instantly let fly at the finner, this they would construe to be a sign that he is not so highly offended and provoked by it; if he were, he would inanifest his.displeasure against it, by the sudden and violent effusions of his wrath. For answer to this, I defire these two things may be considered:

3. That God himse in his word, every where plainly declares to us his great displeasure against fin :

Pfal.

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