« PreviousContinue »
SE R M O N II.
Of the Goodness of God.
PSALM cxlv. 9.
The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are
over all his works.
SHALL now more particularly consider the se-S ER M.
veral instances before mentioned. I. The punishment inflicted on mankind for the first transgression containeth in it much of depth and mystery, surpassing perhaps all capacity of man to reach ; its full comprehension being by divine wifdom, I conceive, purposely concealed from us; so that I cannot pretend thoroughly to explain it; and shall not therefore speak much about it.
This indeed is clear, that God did in his proceedings, occasioned thereby, intend remarkably to evidence his grievous resentment and indignation against wilful disobedience ; yet in the management thereof we may observe, that,
1. After the provocation (in itself so high, and liable to so great aggravations) * God did express his resentment in so calm and gentle a manner, that
* Vid. Chryf. 'Ανδρ. ζ'. Ου γαρ είπε, καθάπερ είκός ήν υβρισμένον cinsiy, w prape xuj trajapíapi, &c. Ibid.
S ER M. Adam, though abashed upon the conscience of his
fault, was not yet by the vehemency of the reproof utterly dismayed or dejected.
2. God used great moderation in the infliction of
this punishment; mitigating the extremity of the Gen, ii. 17. sentence justly decreed and plainly declared to Adam,
(that, in case of his offending against the law preîcribed him, he should immediately die) for notwithstanding his forfeiture that very day of life, God reprieved him, and allowed him a long life, almost of a thousand years after.
3. God did not quite reject man thereupon, nor did withdraw his fatherly care and providence from him, but openly continued them; insomuch that immediately after the curse pronounced upon our
first parents, the next passage we meet with is, that Gen, iii. 21.'unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make
coats, and clothed them.
4. Although indeed man was by his fault a great loser, and became deprived of high advantages; yet the mercy of God did leave hini in no very deplorable estate, simply considered, as to his life here; the relicks of his first estate, and the benefits continued to him, being very considerable; so that we the inheritors of that great disaster do commonly find the enjoyment of life, with the conveniencies attending it, to be sweet and desirable.
5. The event manifests, that while God in appearance fo severely punished mankind, he did in his mind reserve thoughts of highest kindness toward us; even then designing not only to restore us to our former degree, but to raise us to a capacity of obtaining a far more high pitch of happiness. While he excluded us from a terrestrial paradise here, he provided a far better celestial one, into which, if we please, by obedience to his holy laws, we may certainly enter. So that in this of all most heavy instance of vengeance, God's exceeding goodness and clemency do upon several considerations moft clearly shine.
II. The calamity, which by the general deluge s e R M. did overflow the world, was not (we may consider) brought upon men but in regard to the most enormous offences long continued in, and after amendinent was become desperate : not till after much forbearance, and till men were grown to a superlative pitch of wickedness by no fit means (by no friendly warning, no Tharp reprehension, no moderate chastisement) corrigible: not until the earth was become (especially for persons of any innocence or integrity) no tolerable habitation, but a theatre of lamentable tragedies, a seat of horrid iniquity, a sink of loathsome impurity. So that in reason it was to be esteemed rather a favour to mankind, to rescue it from so unhappy a state, than to suffer it to persist therein. To snatch men away out of so uncomfortable a place, from so wretched a condition, was a mercy; it had been a judgment to have left them annoying, rifling, and harassing ; biting, tearing, and devouring; yea, defiling and debauching each other; and so heaping upon themselves loads of guilt, and deeper obligations to vengeance. The earth, faith the Gen. vi. text, was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence. God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its way upoil the earth; which universal and extreme corruption had not in probability sprung up in a small time; for,
Nemo repente fuit turpidimus, is true not only of single men, but of communities; no people, no age, doth suddenly degenerate into extreme degrees of wickedness; so that the divine patience had long endured and attended upon men, before the resolution of thus punishing them was taken up; the which also was not at first peremptory and irreversible, but in God's design and desire it was revocable; for the world had a long reprieve after the sentence pasled; execution was deferred till Noah's long preaching of righteousness, and denounc
SER M. ing of judgment in a manner so notorious and fig
nal (not by verbal declarations only, but by the visible structure of the ark) could prevail nothing toward their amendment, but was either distrusted or dis
regarded, and perhaps derided by them. For, as 1 Pet. iii. - St. Peter tells us, they were disobedient, when once the 2 Pet. ii. s. long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while
the ark was preparing ; that is (as is collected by fe.
veral interpreters from the text of the story) durGen. vi. 3. ing no less than one hundred and twenty years; a
competent time for their recollecting themselves, and endeavouring by amendment of life to prevent the ruin threatened to come upon them. Yet notwithstanding that, this obstinate and incorrigible disobe
dience did so much displease God, as that in consiGen. vi. 6. deration thereof God is said to have repented that
he made man on the earth, and to have been thereby grieved at the heart: yet did he fo temper his anger as not utterly to destroy mankind, but provided against its total ruin, by preserving one family as a seminary thereof; preserving the father thereof (questionless by a special grace) from the spreading contagion, inspiring him with faith, and qualifying him for the favour, which by him he designed to communicate unto the world; the reparation thereof, and restoring the generations of men. So that also through this passage of providence, how dismal and dreadful foever at first sight, much goodness will be transparent to him that looks upon it attentively.
III. In the next place, as to that extermination
and excision of the Canaanites, which carries so horLevit. xviii. rible an appearance of severity, we may find it quali
fiable, if we consider, that for the nature of the trefpasses, which procured it, they were insufferably heinous and abominable : most fottish, barbarous, and base superstitions (cruelty and impurity being effential ingredients into their performances of religion, and it being piety with them to be exceedingly wicked), and in their other practice most beastly lascivious