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God's Especial Providence in favour of his Servants, especially since they have happend so often, that we cannot say the Cafe is very rare and extraordinary? This is the obvious Objection against what hath been said.
Now indeed there is this, Reason why we need not be sollicitous for an Answer to it, because this is not our Cafe, whore Religious Assemblies for the Service of God are Protected by the Civil Authority. But then there is another Reason why we should be concern’d what to say to it, because the Sufferings of the Faithful have been objected against the Cause for which they suffered, because also they have been produced against the Belief of Providence by Atheists and profane Persons, and because it is for the strengthening of our. Faith, to understand well how the Truth of God's Promises, and the Wisdom of his Providences, and his particular Care of Righteous Men, can stand with fuch Instances as seein to conclude the contrary.
To the Objection therefore I answer,
1. That the Case of Suffering for the Truth and Faith is a Cafe exprefly excepted by St. Peter.
2. That the Permission of it is plainly consistent with the Care, and Wisdom, and Goodness of Providencea
3. That Good Men in such a Case do not suffer more under the Malice of their Enemies than those do under God's Judg
1. That it is plainly an excepted Cafe For immediately after St. Peter had faid, Who is be that will barm you, if yė be followers of that which is Good? He continues his Speech, But and if je suffer for Righteousness fake, happy are ze. And fo he goes on, fhewing what little Reason they had to be troubled, who suffer with a good Conscience, and for Well-doing. So that this Limitation coming inmediately after the Rule in the Text, clears the Scripture from using a deceitful Argument to persuade Well-doing. If we would be Safe and Happy, Well.doing is the only Method you can take for this End; for if you follow that which is good, your Innocence and Virtue will gain upon the Affections of Men, they will procure the Protection of the Government, and the favourable Providence of God. But if you should object against this the Sufferings of the Church under Jews or Heathens, I answer, That is a particular Cafe, which does not fo properly come under the Rule, and is therefore to be ex.' cepted from it; but even in that Case ye are Happy also upon other Accounts, because This is Thank-worthy, if a Man for Confci
ence towards God, endures: Grief, suffering wrongfully; and if when je do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. And thus he shews us that the Motive to Well doing from that Happiness it will procure us, holds even in that extraordinary Case, when it does not fecure us from outward Harm, Now altho' the excepting of the Case is a plain Vindication of the Sincerity of the Scriptöre, yet it doth not of it felf Thew how God's permitting this Cafe to happen is conconsistent with the Particular Providence of God over Righteous Men, mention'd in the Verse foregoing the Text, That the Eyes of the Lord are over the Righteous, and his Ears are open to their Prayers. Let us therefore confider,
2. How it stands with the Wifdom and Goodness of God's Special Providence over Righteous Mer.
Now although our general Belief of Providence, and of God's infinite Wisdom and Goodness, is fo strongly grounded, that we may well argue as to those Instances of his Providence, that they are Wife and Good, in which we are not able to discern God's particular- Reafon and Counsel, yet of this Case it is by no means hard to give a reasonable Account proper to the Case:
There are three Things' very requisite to the propagating of the true Christian Faith, and Profession in the World, and for the Good of the Church :
1. That it should represent to the World fome extraordinary Examples of Virtue and Piety.
2. That it should be purg’d from Hypocrites, and loose Profeffors.
3. That the middle Sort of Christians should be awaken'd to inore Diligence in Well-doing.
Now these Ends are all attained by the excepted Case ; and this gives a plain Ac- . count of that ancient Observation, That the Church was always a Gainer in the end by the fiercest Opposition, and therefore shews also plainly enough the Goodness of God's Providence, and his especial Care over his Servants in suffering it,
J. It hath presented the World with extraordinary Examples of Virtue and Piety : For the greatest Height of Virtue is to suffer for Righteousness sake with Patience and Meekness, and Charity, and a steady Resolution. It is the noblest Work of Faith to raise the Minds of Men above this World ; above the Resentments of Injuries and Provocations; above the love of Life, and fear of Death : And therefore the Examples of this Virtue and Faith do
mightily prove the Divinity of that Doctrin which inspirés Men with such excellent Qualities, and the Reality of a Divine Presence and Allistance, which supports them under the hardest Tryals. Now the Sufferings of such Men are fo far from arguing that they are neglected and forsaken by the Providence of God, that they argue the quite contrary; for God rais’d them up on purpose to thew the Power of his Truth, and the Mightiness of his Grace in their Examples : He appointed them to be Spectacles to the World, to Angels, and to Men for this very End, and therefore he endued them with noble Spirits, and heroical Minds, and all Qualities requisite for such Tryals, and for the attaining of such Ends. In the mean time their Sufferings wrought out for them a far more exceeding and eternal Weight of Glory ; and in that Hope they rejoyced with exceeding great Joy, and were strength. ned with all Might unto all Long-suffering with Patience. In truth they made nothing of what they so endured : Their Suffera ings might be terrible to others, but they were not so to themselves, but very profi. table they were to themselves and others 3 to themselves, for the increasing of their Reward, to others, by recommending that Profeflion to the World, which was accompanied with so Divine a Power ; and in truth Hh