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which the heathen world and the first rudiments of the Israelites did need; God, who pities us, and will be wanting in nothing to us, as he corroborates our willing spirits with proper entertainments, so also he supports our weak flesh, and not only cheers an afflicted soul with beams of light, and antepasts and earnests of glory, but is kind also to our man of flesh and weakness; and to this purpose he sends thunderbolts from heaven upon evil men, dividing their tongues, infatuating their counsels, cursing their posterity, and ruining their families,
· ἄλλοτε δ ̓ αὖτε
Η τῶν γε στρατὸν εὐρὺν ἀπώλεσεν, ἢ ὅγε τεῖχος,
Sometimes God destroys their armies, or their strong holds, sometimes breaks their ships.' But this happens either for the weakness of some of his servants, and their too great aptness to be offended at a prosperous iniquity, or when he will not suffer the evil to grow too great, or for some end of his providence; and yet, if this should be very often, or last long, God knows the danger, and we should feel the inconvenience. Of all the types of Christ, only Joshua and Solomon were noted to be generally prosperous: and yet the fortune of the first was to be in perpetual war and danger; but the other was as himself could wish it, rich, and peaceful, and powerful, and healthful, and learned, and beloved, and strong, and amorous, and voluptuous, and so he fell; and though his fall was, yet his recovery was not, upon record.
And yet the worst of evils that happen to the godly, is better, temporally better, than the greatest external felicity of the wicked: that in all senses the question may be considerable and argumentative, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly appear?" If it be hard with good men, with the evil it shall be far worse. But see the difference. The godly man is timorous, and yet safe; tossed by the seas, and yet safe at anchor; impaired by evil accidents, and righted by divine comforts; made sad with a black cloud, and refreshed with a more gentle influence; abused by the world, and yet an heir of heaven; hated by men, and beloved by God; loses one house, and gets a hundred; he quits a convenient lodging-room, and purchases a glorious country; is forsaken by his friends, but never by a
Hesiod. Epp. 243. Gaisford.
good conscience; he fares hardly, and sleeps sweetly; he flies from his enemies, but hath no distracting fears; he is full of thought, but of no amazement; it is his business to be troubled, and his portion to be comforted; he hath nothing to afflict him, but the loss of that which might be his danger, but can never be his good; and in the recompense of this he hath God for his father, Christ for his captain, the Holy Ghost for his supporter; so that he shall have all the good which God can give him, and of all that good he hath the holy Trinity for an earnest and a gage for his maintenance at the present, and his portion to all eternity. But, though Paul and Silas sang psalms in prison, and under the hangman's whips, and in an earthquake; yet, neither the jailor, nor the persecuting magistrates, could do so. For the prosperity of the wicked, is like a winter's sun, or the joy of a condemned drunkard; it is a forgetfulness of his present danger, and his future sorrows, nothing but imaginary arts of inadvertency: he sits in the gates of the city, and judges others, and is condemned himself; he is honoured by the passers-by, and is thought happy, but he sighs deeply; 'he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them;' he commands an army, and is himself a slave to his passions; he sleeps because he needs it, and starts from his uneasy pillows which his thoughtful head hath discomposed; when he is waking, he dreams of greatness; when he sleeps, he dreams of spectres and illusions: he spoils a poor man of his lamb, and himself of his innocence and peace: and in every unjust purchase, himself is the greatest loser.
Ὃς δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕληται, ἀναιδείηφι πιθήσας,
Καί το σμικρὸν ἐὸν, τό γ ̓ ἐπάχνωσεν φίλον ἦτος κ.
For, just upon his oppression or injustice, he is turned a devil, and God's enemy, a wolf to his brother, a greedy admirer of the baits of fishes, and the bread of dogs; he is unsafe by reason of his sin: for he hath against him the displeasure of God, the justice of the laws, the shame of the sin, the revenge of the injured person; and God and men, the laws of nations and private societies, stand upon their defence against this man he is unsafe in his rest, amazed in his danger, troubled in his labours, weary in his change, esteemed a base man, disgraced and scorned, feared and hated, flattered and derided, watched and suspected, and, it may be, dies in the Hesiod. Egy. 357.
middle of his purchase, and at the end is a fool, and leaves a curse to his posterity.
Τοῦδέ τ ̓ ἀμαυροτέρη γενεὴ μετόπισθε λέλειπται 1
"He leaves a generation of blacker children behind him ;" so the poet describes the cursedness of their posterity: and their memory sits down to eternal ages in dishonour. And by this time let them cast up their accounts, and see if, of all their violent purchases, they carry any thing with them to the grave but sin, and a guilty conscience, and a polluted soul; the anger of God, and the shame of men. And what help shall all those persons give to thee in thy flames, who divided and scattered that estate, for which thou diedst for ever?
Audire est operæ pretium, procedere rectè
Qui mochis non vultis, ut omni parte laborent;
And let but a sober answerer tell me, if any thing in the world be more distant either from goodness or happiness, than to scatter the plague of an accursed soul upon our dearest children; to make a universal curse; to be the fountain of a mischief; to be such a person whom our children and nephews shall hate, and despise, and curse, when they groan under the burden of that plague, which their fathers' sins brought upon the family. If there were no other account to be given, it were highly enough to verify the intent of my text; If the righteous scarcely be saved,' or escape God's angry stroke, the wicked must needs be infinitely more miserable.
Νῦν δὴ ἐγὼ μήτ ̓ αὐτὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποισι δίκαιος Εἴην, μήτ ̓ ἐμὸς υἱὸς, ἐπεὶ κακὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον *Εμμεναι
"Neither I nor my son" (said the oldest of the Greek poets) "would be virtuous, if to be a just person were all one as to be miserable." No, not only in the end of affairs, and at sunset, but all the day long, the godly man is happy, and the ungodly and the sinner are very miserable.
Pellitur a populo victus Cato; tristior ille est
1 Hes. Epy. 282. m Hor. S. 1. 2. 37.
" Hes. Egy. 268. Gaisf. p. 22.
And there needs no other argument to be added but this one great testimony; that though the godly are afflicted and persecuted, yet even they are blessed, and the persecutors are the most unsafe. They are essentially happy whom affliction cannot make miserable, but turns unto their advantages: and that is the state of the godly. And they are most intolerably accursed, who have no portions in the blessings of eternity, and yet cannot have comfort in the present purchases of their sin, to whom even their sunshine brings a drought, and their fairest is their foulest weather and that is the portion of the sinner and the ungodly. The godly are not made unhappy by their sorrows and the wicked are such, whom prosperity itself cannot make fortunate.
3. And yet after all this, it is but μódis σwhɛrai, not μódis owlnoɛraι, he 'escapes but hardly' here: it will be well enough with him hereafter. Isaac digged three wells. The first was called Contention;' for he drank the waters of strife, and digged the well with his sword. The second well was not altogether so hard a purchase, he got it with some trouble; but that being over, he had some room, and his fortune swelled, and he called his well Enlargement.' But his third he called 'Abundance;' and then he dipped his foot in oil, and drank freely as out of a river. Every good man first 'sows in tears;' he first drinks of the bottle of his own tears, sorrow and trouble, labour and disquiet, strivings and temptations: but if they pass through a torrent, and virtue becomes easy and habitual, they find their hearts enlarged and made sprightly by the visitations of God, and refreshment of his Spirit; and then their hearts are enlarged, they know how to gather the down and softnesses from the sharpest thistles.
Τῆς δ ̓ ἀρετῆς ἱδρῶτα θεοὶ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκαν
At first we cannot serve God but by passions and doing violence to all our wilder inclinations, and suffering the violence of tyrants and unjust persons: the second days of virtue are pleasant and easy in the midst of all the appen
Quis curam neget esse te Deorum,
Mart. 1. 83.
dant labours. But when the Christian's last pit is digged, when he is descended to his grave, and hath finished his state of sorrows and suffering; then God opens the river of abundance, the rivers of life and never-ceasing felicities. And this is that which God promised to his people: "I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy redeemer." So much as moments are exceeded by eternity, and the sighing of a man by the joys of an angel, and a salutary frown by the light of God's countenance, a few groans by the infinite and eternal hallelujahs; so much are the sorrows of the godly to be undervalued in respect of what is deposited for them in the treasures of eternity. Their sorrows can die, but so cannot their joys. And if the blessed martyrs and confessors were asked concerning their past sufferings and their present rest, and the joys of their certain expectation, you should hear them glory in nothing but in the mercies of God, and in the cross of the Lord Jesus.' Every chain is a ray of light, and every prison is a palace, and every loss is the purchase of a kingdom, and every affront in the cause of God is an eternal honour, and every day of sorrow is a thousand years of comfort, multiplied with a never-ceasing numeration; days without night, joys without sorrow, sanctity without sin, charity without stain, possession without fear, society without envying, communication of joys without lessening: and they shall dwell in a blessed country, where an enemy never entered, and from whence a friend never went away. Well might David say, "Funes ceciderunt mihi in præclaris," "The cords" of my tent, my ropes, and the sorrow of my pilgrimage, "fell to me in a good ground, and I have a goodly heritage."-And when persecution hews a man down from a high fortune to an even one, or from thence to the face of the earth, or from thence to the grave; a good man is but preparing for a crown, and the tyrant does but first knock off the fetters of the soul, the manacles of passion and desire, sensual loves and lower appetites: and if God suffers him to finish the persecution, then he can but dismantle the soul's prison, and let the soul forth to fly to the mountains of rest and all the intermedial evils are but like the Persian punishments; the executioner tore off their hairs, and rent their silken mantles, and discomposed their curious dressings,
4 Isa. liv. 8.