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Many remarkable instances of which have been in the late times of confusion; in which, when a violent
1 faction had, by perjury and rebellion, and success in both, rode triumphant over the best of kings, the loyalest of subjects, and the justest of causes that was ever fought for; how then was the black decree of reprobation opened and let fly at them, both from pulpit and from press, and how were all the vials of wrath in the Revelation poured down upon their heads! Every mother's son of them was a reprobate and a castaway, and none to hope for the least favour hereafter, who had not Cromwell or Bradshaw for his friend here. And as for the poor, oppressed episcopal clergy of our church, I myself, in those blessed times, have heard one of their leading doctors, or rather pulpit officers, thus raving against them, in a sermon in the university. “See,” says he, “ those of the “ late hierarchy, (as they called themselves,) how God, “ for their uselessness, has wholly laid them aside, “ with a design never to use them more.” But what, never? Could the man of prophecy be sure of this, when the year sixteen hundred and sixty was then so near? Or did God then so wonderfully restore the church and clergy, for no other end but to make no further use of them for ever? Or does he do miracles only to make sport for the world? But so full were these sons of arrogance and imposture of the prophetic spirit, (true or false it mattered not, so long as it served a turn,) that in time, with the help of a little more confidence, and less sense, (if possible,) they might have set up for the writing almanacks, and even vied with their oracle Lilly himself, in his famous predictions of the glories of a deposed, pitiful protector, not able to protect himself.
Nor were these enthusiasts less liberal in denouncing God's curses upon their enemies, than in engrossing his blessings to themselves; there being none of those reforming harpies, who, by plunders and sequestrations, had scraped together three or four thousand a year, but presently (according to the sanctified dialect of the times) they dubbed themselves God's peculiar people and inheritance; so sure did those thriving regicides make of heaven, and so fully reckoned themselves in the high road thither, that they never so much as thought that some of their saintships were to take Tyburn in their way.
Thus we see how those saucy arbitrators upor and dispensers of God's judgments took upon them to distribute life and death, election and reprobation, at their pleasure; and all this in direct contradiction to, or rather defiance of, the Spirit of God himself, (so impudently pretended to by these impostors all along,) who, as positively as words can express a thing, in Eccles. ix. 1, assures us, that no man knows either love or hatred by all that is before him; nor consequently can conclude himself in favour or out of favour with Almighty God by any thing befalling him in this life; indeed, no more than he can read the future estate of his soul in the lines of his face, or the constitution of his body in the colour of his clothes. For should the quality of a man's condition here determine the happiness or misery of it hereafter, no doubt Lazarus would have been in the flames, and the rich man in Abraham's bosom. But the next life will open us a very different scene from what we see in this, and shew us quite another face of things and persons from that which dazzles and deludes men's eyes at present; it being the signal
and peculiar glory of the day of judgment, that it will be the great day of distinction, as well as retribution. But in the mean time, does not common experience undeniably convince us, that God sometimes curses men even with prosperity, confounds them in the very answer of their prayers, and, as it were, chokes them with their own petitions ? Does he not, as he did formerly to the Israelites, at the same time put flesh into their craving mouths, and send leanness withal into their souls? And is there any thing more usually practised in the world, than for men to caress, compliment, and feast their mortal enemies ? persons whom they equally hate and are hated by? While, on the other side, as a father chides, frowns upon, and lashes the child whom he dearly loves, (his bowels all the time yearning while his hand is striking ;) so how common is it, in the methods of divine love, for God to cast his Jobs upon dunghills, to banish into wildernesses, and so sell his most beloved Josephs into slavery and captivity; and, in a word, to discipline and fit them for himself by all that is harsh and terrible to human nature ? And still there is nothing but love, and designs of mercy, at the bottom of all this : Thy rod and thy staff, says David, comfort me, Psalm xxü. 4; that is, with his staff he supports, and with his rod he corrects, but still with both he comforts.
Now, though I think it is sufficiently manifest to the impartial and judicious, that neither the sufferings of our prince or his loyal subjects were any arguments of God's hatred of them, yet I hope his restoration was an effect of God's love to these poor, harassed kingdoms; I say, I hope so; for our great ingratitude, sensuality, and raging impiety ever since our deliverance, makes me far from being confident that what was in itself incomparably the greatest of earthly blessings, may not be made the fatal means to sink us lower, and damn us deeper, than any sins committed by us under the rod of the usurpers could have done. This is certain, that God may outwardly deliver us, and yet never love us; he may turn our very table into a snare. And I know no certain mark or criterion whereby we may infallibly conclude that God did the glorious work, which we celebrate this day, out of love to us, but only this one, that we become holier and better by it than before. But if it should prove otherwise, will it not rank us with the hardened and incorrigible, whose infidelity such miracles could not cure, and whose obstinacy such mercies could not melt down ? and having upon both accounts done so much for us to so little purpose, resolve never to do more? And thus much for the first false cause, commonly assigned by confident and conceited men, of the dealings of God's providence, namely, God's love or hatred of the persons upon whom they pass. But,
2. Another false cause, from which men derive the different proceedings of Providence, is, the different merit of the persons so differently treated by it: and from hence still supposing, that the good only must prosper, and the bad suffer, they accordingly from men's prosperity conclude their innocence, as from their sufferings their guilt. A most absurd assertion certainly: for if men's happiness and misery in this world (of which only we now speak) be measured out to them according to their goodness or badness respectively, how infinitely vain and senseless must that old and celebrated question, Cur bonis male et malis bene? needs have been; when, according to the aforesaid doctrine, the very subject of this question is quite taken away, and a man's happiness as necessarily presupposes his goodness, and his misery his sin or wickedness, as, in the natural course of things, the consequent does and must the antecedent. And therefore, so far has this opinion been from obtaining with the more sober and knowing part of mankind, that there has hardly been any age of the world in which the said question has not exercised the minds of some of the wisest and best men in it; and that to such a degree, that it has proved a constant stumblingblock to most, and of all temptations to infidelity the strongest and most hardly conquered. For it was this which so staggered David himself, that he confesses, that his feet had well nigh slipped, Psalm lxxiii. 2; and so confounded the prophet Jeremiah, Jer. xii. 1, that he could almost have offered to dispute the point with God himself: so utterly puzzled and distracted were these great men, till religion came in to their aid, and unriddled what philosophy could not solve; and faith cut asunder what reason could not untie. And from the same topic it was that Job's friends argued, and that with such assurance, that one would have thought that they took all that they said for demonstration; but how falsely and rashly they did so, appears from the verdict passed by God himself upon the whole matter, both rejecting their persons and condemning their reasonings, by a severe remark upon the presumption of the one and the inconsequence of the other : for where the rule is crooked, how can the line drawn by it be straight? It is most true, that there is no man (our blessed Saviour only excepted) who either does