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which will carry us to Heaven, and keep us out of Hell.
Now if this be the Cafe, there cannot be so great Evils in this World, but what may be good for us, and therefore may be an Expresfion of God's Goodness to us : For if Pain and Sickness, Poverty and Disgrace, wean us from this World, subdue our Lufts, make us good Men, and qualify us for Eternal Rewards;
tho' they are great AMictions, yet they are very good, as the Way; tho'a rough and difficult Way, to Happiness.
That Prosperity does oftentimes corrupt Mens Lives and Manners, make them proud, and sensual, regardless of God, and of Religion, and so fond of this world, that they never care to think of another; and that AMidion and Adversity has many times a quite contrary Effect, to make Men serious and considerate, to possess them with an Awe and Reverence of God, to correct and reform Bad Men, and to exercise the Graces and Virtues of the Good; both the Reason of Things, and the Experience of Mankind, may facisfy us. That this is what God designs, in those Afflictions and Sufferings he brings on Mankind, the Scripture every where affures us ; and the Natural Conclusion from hence is, That Aflictions are not evil, nor any Objection against the Goodness of Providence : If they prove evil to us, it is our own Fault, for God designs them for good. As the Apostle exprelly tells us, That all things work together for good to them that love God : And wbom the Lord loveth be chastenetb, and scourgetb every son whom he receiverb. If ye endure chastening, God dealetb witb you as with Sons : For what Son is he, whom the father chafteneth not? But if ye
be without cbaftisement, whereof all are partakers, tben are ge baftards, and not fons, Heb. 21.6, 7, 8.
This then must be our great Care, to re&ify our Notions of Good and Evil, to withdraw our Minds from Sense, and not to call every Thing good that is pleasant, nor every Thing evil that is affli&ing. This Diftin&tion the Heathen Poet long since observed ; and gives it as a Reason, and a very wife and good Reason it is, why we should entirely give up our selves to God, and leave him to chuse our Condition for
Nam pro jucundis aptissima quæque dabunt Dij. That tho' God will not always give us those Things which are most pleasant, he will give us what is most profitable for us. And if we judge of Good and Evil, not by Sense, nor by external Appearances, but by that spiritual Good they do, or are intended to do us, in making us good Men here, and happy hereafter ; Men may, if they so please, as reasonably quarrel with the great Ease and Prosperity which so many enjoy, as with the Amidions which others suffer: For Prosperity does oftner corrupt Mens Manners, and betray them to Sin and Folly, than Amiąions do : Good Men ehemselves can hardly bear a Prolperous State, nor resist the Temptations and Flatteries of Ease and Pleasure ; whereas Affi&ions many times reform Bad Men, and make good Men better, as the Psalmist himself owns ; It is good for me that I have been afflited; for before I was, afflicted, I went astray, but since I have learned to keep thy laws. And if both Prosperity and Adyerfiey may be either for our Good or Hurt, and when they are so, we cannot always rell, we must leave this to God, and commit our selves to his Care and Disci
pline, who knows us better than we know our felves, and knows what is best for us.
But this may seem to start a new and more difficult Obje&ion; That if we must not judge of Good and Evil by external and sensible Events, we can have no sensible Proofs of the Goodness or Justice of Providence. As we cannot object the external Evils and Calamities that are in the World against the Goodness of Providence; so neither can we prove the Goodness of Providence from those external and sensible Blessings which God bestows upon Mankind : So that Religion gains nothing by this ; it filences indeed the Objections against Providence, but it also destroys the Proofs of a good and just Providence. The Answer to this Objection will give us a truer Notion and Understanding of the Goodness of Providence.
For though we cannot know Love or Hatred merely by external Events, yet this does not destroy the natural Good or Evil of Things, nor the Justice or Goodness of Providence, in doing good, or in sending his Plagues and Judgments on the World. Natural Good and Evil are the Instruments and Methods of Discipline; good Men are encouraged and rewarded in this World by some external and natural Blessings, and bad Men are restrained and governed by some natural Evils; and the Goodness and Juftice of God in doing good, and in punishing, make these external Blessings and Punishments the Methods of Discipline, which could have no Efficacy in them either to encourage Good Men, or to reform the Wicked, but as they are the visible Significations of God's Favour or Displeasure ; and therefore such external Blessings and Punishments are evident Proof of the Goodness and Justice of Providence, or else they could not be the Methods of Discipline, nor have any moral Efficacy upon Mankind.
But yet when these Aas of Goodness or Juftice are made the Methods of Discipline, and not intended as the proper Rewards or Punishments of Vertue or Vice, they are not always confined to good or bad Men, and therefore are not certain and visible Marks of God's Love or Hatred.
It is an Act of Goodness in God to do good to the Evil, and to the Good : To the Good it is a mark of his Favour and an incitement to a more perfect Vertue ; to the Evil, an expression of his Patience, and an invitation to Repentance; but when he is good both to the Evil and to the Good, the mere external Event can make no difference. The external Good may be the same, and God is good to both, and intends good to both, but yet has not equal favour to both.
It is an Act of Justice in God to punish, and to correct Sin, and both good and bad Men many times feel the same Severities; to correct and chastise the Follies, and to quicken and inflame the Devotions of good Men; and to over-awe and terrify bad Men with the sense of God's Anger, and the Fears of Vengeance : This is to be Just, and to be Good to both, as great Goodness and Justice as it is to reform bad Men, and to make good Men becter ; tho' the external Events of Providence in such Cafes make little distinction between them : We see in all these Instances manifest Proofs both of the Justice and Goodness of God, though Prosperity is not always a Blessing, or Aficions always Evil. They are always indeed in themselves Natural
Goods and Evils, and therefore are the proper Exercise of a Natural Goodness and Justice; but with respect to Moral Ends, to that influence they have upon the Direction and Government of our Lives, what is naturally Good, may prove a great Evil to us; and what is naturally Evil, may do us the greatest Good; and then we must confess, That the Goodness of Providence must not be measured merely by the Natural Good or Evil of External Events, but by such a mixture and temperament of Good and Evil, as is best fitted to govern Men in this world, and to make them happy in the next.
3dly, There is another Miftake about the Nature of Government, and what Goodness is required in the Government of the World. Now the Universal Lord and Sovereign of the World must not only take care of particular Creatures, but of the good of the whole : And this in some Cases may make the greatest and most terrible Acts of Severity, such as are enough to affright and astonish the World, AAs of the greatest Goodness and Mercy too; which will vindicate the Goodness of Providence, when God seems to be moft severe, and to have forgot all Goodness and Compassion. As to explain this in some particular Cases.
The good Government of the World requires the Defence and Protection of Mankind from violent and unjust Oppreffions; and the most exemplary Vengeance executed upon such private or publick Oppreffors, is a great Act of Goodness, and a great Deliverance to the Oppressed. Psalm 136. the Psalmist exhorts us, To give thanks to the Lord, for be is good, for bis mercy enduretb for ever. And among other Expressions