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from his Justice. Not that there lies an Abfoluie and Antecedent Obligation upon God to bestow greater Rewards upon greater Saints; for if Eternal Life it self be (as the Apostle represents it) the Gift of God, Rom. 6. 23. no doubt but the Degrees of it are so too. God cannot become a Debtor to Man, or to any other Creature but by a free Act of his own. He may indeed oblige himself to us by a voluntary Ingagement, but we cannot pass any.strict Obligation upon him by any thing we can do; and to talk of Meriting in this Sense is no less than Blasphemy, and I can hardly believe that any Man that understood himself, ever thus held it.
But tho'God be not absolutely obliged to his Creatures, but only upon Supposition, and consequently cannot be Absolutely bound to reward greater Saints with greater Happiness, yet if we once suppose him to ingage himself by Promise to be a Rewarder of Vertue in general; there will be all the Reason in the World to think that by the same Promise he has also Virtually obliged himself to crown the greatest Vertues with the greatest Rewards. For since the Reason why he ingaged himself to be a Rewarder of good Men was' not (as is already precautiond) any Absolute Merit of theirs, but only to shew his great Love of Vertue and Goodness, Pris reasonable to conclude that by the same Motives, and in pursuance of the fame End, he also ingaged himself to be a more liberal Rewarder greater Saints. Since this is as necessary a
Means to shew his Love to Vertue and Goodness as the other. And therefore tho' we should grant (which yet in the Sequel will appear otherwise) that God had exprelly promised only to be a Rewarder of Vertue in general, yet since the End and Reason of this His Ingagement was to shew His great Love to Vertue, this would be warrant enough to conclude, that he had implicitly and virtually ingaged Himself to have an equal regard to the several Degrees of Vertue, and to reward them after their respective Proportions.
But to rise higher yet, tho' God cannot be in Strict Justice obliged to reward the best of our Services but by an Ingagement of his own, much less to reward them with Eternal Happiness, yet I think there must be acknowledged a kind of Congruity or Becomingness on God's part fo to do, even Antecedently to any Promise or Covenant. There is indeed no ftrict Obligation till after fome Covenant; but there may, and I think must be a Congruity even before. For tho'there be no Proportion of Equivalence between our best Works and the Rewards of Heaven, and consequently no posfible room for any strict Merit, yet I cannot but think with a Person of great Judgment and
Theolog. p. 590. Moderation, that there is a Proportion of Conveniency ; that is, as he afterwards explains it, tho' there be nothing strictly due from God to the Services of good Men, yet ’tis highly worthy of God to reward them; upon
Le Blane Theses
which Account they also may be said to be worthy, according to that of the Apocalyps, They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy, Rev. 3. 4.
AND indeed unless we will admit of this Congruity, I do not see how to justifie the Sense of that Apostolical Maxim, He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a Rewar der of them that diligently seek him, Heb. 11. 6. 'Tis plain that the Apostle here speaks of the Grounds of Natural Religion, and what should move and qualifie a Heathen Man to make his first Addres. fes to God. This he tells you is to believe the Being and the Providence of God, that he is, and that he is a Rewarder. But now how shall a Heathen Man believe that God is a Rewarder? By any Revelation of his? But that he is not yet supposed to admit. He mult therefore conclude it by his own natural Reason, by considering the Idea and Nature of God, the to gows dy
Oið, that which may naturally be known of him, and how becoming it is for so excellent a Being to reward those who apply themselves seriously and heartily to him.
WELL then, 'if it be reasonable to believe upon the Stock of natural Principles that God is a Rewarder, without being assured of it by any Revelation (which is here supposed in the Heathen's Case) then it follows, that even antecedently to any Promise of God there is a great Congruity, tho’ not a strict Obligation that he should be a Rewarder. For otherwise what Ground could the Heathen Man have so to Conclude or Be.
lieve? This Congruity therefore must of Neceffity be allow'd, however apt some may be to startle at it, when the Word Merit is put before it. This is Prejudice, but the thing it self as I have here stated and explained it, is both innocent and necessary to be granted. And if there be such a Congruity that God should be a Rewarder in general, then by the same Proportion it follows that he should dispense his Rewards according to the Degrees of Vertue. There being certainly at least as much Congruity in this as in the other.
AND besides this, there is no reason to question but that the Goodness of God which is in it self infinite, and which is already supposed to exert it self so liberally as to reward the little and defective Services of a short Life with Eternal Glories, will also be so consistent with it self, as to reward those most, who have pressed fore. ward to the highest Degrees of Sanctity. And were it not for this, I do not fee what Incouragement there is for Men to Excel in Vertue, which yet the Goodness of God obliges us to suppose. For what should move a Man to be eminently good, considering how difficult it is to be so, and how little recompens'd in this World, if it were not in order to a greater Reward hereafter ?
If it be said, that the least Degree of Glory is a sufficient Incouragement for the greatest Degree of Vertue; I grant it is so, were that greatest Degree of Vertue the necessary Condition of it,
without which the least Glory could not be obtain'd. But since lefs will suffice for that (as must be admitted, unless you will say that all glorified Saints are equally good and vertuous) I do not see how there can be fufficient Incou‘ragement for higher Attainments, but only upon the Supposition of greatest 'Rewards. Which therefore from the Goodness as well as Justice of God there is good Reason to conclude.
THIRDLY and lastly, From Principles of Reafon I appeal to Holy Scripture, which I think will be found to speak as fully and plainly to this purpose as may reasonably be desired. For there we find that God will render to every man according to his deeds, Rom. 2. 6. And again, that every one sball receive the things done in his Body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad, 2 Cor. 5. 10.
And left this should be referr'd to the general Distribution of Rewards and Punishments, more exprefly it is said, that he that soms sparingly shall reap alsó Sparingly, and that he that Jows bountifully shall reap also bountifully
, 2 Cor.
6. The same again is expresly reprefented under the Parable of the Talents committed to the Management of Servants, who were severally rewarded according to their several Improvements, 19. And tho' Parables are not allowed to conclude throughout, yet certainly as to the thing directly and purposely intended by them they are as conclusive as any other Forms of Speech, which in this Parable must be the different Dispensation of Rewards hereafter, or