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Severity, left there should be a God; wo
2dly, Others infer from the delay
Ming of God be acknowledged, yet if Vol.VII.he do not regard what is done here
below, nor concern himself in humane Affairs, fingers are as safe 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 wickedness; Psal. 64. 3. They encourage themselves in an evil matter, they commune of laying frares privately; for they say, Who shall see them? And more expresly, Psal
. 94. 4,5,6,7. How long shall the workers of iniquity boast themselves? They break in pieces thy People, O Lord, and afflict thine heritage, and pay the widow and the franger, and murder the fatherless ; and yet they say, The Lord foall not see, nei, Iber sball the God of Jacob regard it. And if this were so, well might they encourage themselves. If it were true which Epicurus 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 Lucretius makes, were very just; Quare relligio pedibus subject a viciffim Obteritur ; " Men miglit trample
" Religion under their Feet, and live “ without any regard to the Laws of VaLVE < 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 A&tions of Men, because they see the ungodly to prosper in the World, equal. ly with others that are ftri&tly 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 on upon them that deal treacherously
, and holds his peace, whilst the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than bimself; aš the Prophet exprefseth it, Hab. 1. 13.
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 a state of pro
bation and tryal, wherein God suffers men to walk in their own ways without any visible check and restraint, and does not usually inflict present and remarkable punishments upon them for their evil deeds; because this being a ftate of tryal of the dispositions and manners of Men, is rather the proper season of Patience, than of punishments and rewards ; and therefore it is very reasonable to suppose, that God reserves finners for a solemn and publick Tryal, at the great Assises of the World, when he will openly vindicate the honour of his Justice, upon the despisers of his Patience and longsuffering, when he will make his judgment to break forth as the light, and his righteousness as the noon day. In the mean time the providence of God, when he sees it fit, gives some remarkable Instances of his Justice upon great and notorious Ofenders in this life, as a pledge and earnest of a future Judgment; and these fome. times more general, as in the destru. &tion of the old World, by an universal Deluge, when he saw the wickednes of men to be great upon the earth. And such was that terrible Vengeance
which was poured down upon Sodom
Sodom na and Gomorrah, and the Cities about Vol. VIE them; which, as St. Jude tells us, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, that is, of a perpetual destruction by Fire.
3dly, Another gross and Atheistical Inference, which Men are apt to make from 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 Actions of Men differenced in their rewards, becaufe Divine Justice doth not presently manifeft it self, and every transgres fion and disobedience doth not immediately receive a just recompence of re ward, therefore they cannot believe, that the difference between good and evil is so great and evident.
For answer to this. Not to infift upon the difference which, the Provi. dence of God fometimes makes between them in this life, I appeal to the Consciences of Men, whether they do not secretly 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 just and ho