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serve it no better, perhaps not so well. Or if we did, or if it appeared not who would be hurt by greater indulgence to us, it doth not follow, that no one would; and that no inconvenience to any part, or in any respect, would arise from it. In this wide world the connections of things are innumerable: and may be very important, where they are absolutely hidden from our view, who probably discern but an inconsiderable portion of them. Subordinations are necessary in every system of every kind. The low rank and helplessness of many creatures fits them for our use ; our advantages proceed from their sufferings; from the very sufferings which we inflict on them; yet they are totally ignorant of this : and how know we, what advantages may, some way, though quite different and quite inconceivable to us, proceed from our low rank and our sufferings ? And as God hath wisely and kindly made so many orders of beings beneath us; why may it not be as wisely and kindly, notwithstanding we are ignorant on what account, that he hath made us just such as we are, and no higher or happier ?
But though, in all likelihood, we can see only a few of the reasons of God's ways, yet several we may see, at least in some measure. For instance: he governs the world by general laws. On some occasions indeed he hath openly departed from them, and wrought miracles : on many, we have cause to think he secretly restrains and varies them for gracious purposes, or just correction : but were he not to observe them in the ordinary course of things, we should neither know, what to expect, nor how to proceed. If solid bodies did not weigh downwards, if bodies in motion did not communicate their motion to others, if winds had not a strong force, if rain
was not carried about by them, if fire did not heat and consume, if sharp instruments did not cut, the whole frame of nature would be disordered, and stop. If what tends to destroy our lives or our healths did not give us pain, we should take no sufficient care to avoid it. If any one thing almost, that we know, were to fail of commonly producing its natural effect, very general mischiefs, or however inconveniences, would follow : and yet, if they are left to produce their effects, grievous distresses to particulars, from time to time, must be the consequence. Therefore we should learn to respect the regulations of Providence, though occasionally we suffer by them. We honour, if we are at all reasonable, whatever laws of our country we know to be for the common good, though often greatly opposite to our own private interest: and surely less honour cannot be due to the laws of Heaven.
He, who could make such a world as this, may doubtless have, throughout his conduct of it, wise and good ends in his view, of which we cannot possibly form any conception. Were God to question us, as once he did Job; Where wast thou, when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding*: our answer must be, what one of his friends acknowledged, we are of yesterday, and know nothing t: or as the book of Wisdom expresses it more largely; What man is he, that can know the counsel of God; or who can think, what the will of the Lord is? For the thoughts of mortal men are miserable, and our devices are but uncertain I. Indeed creatures of our own rank, only of abilities perhaps a little superior, lay schemes of which we should never have the least notion, and compass them by
Job xxxviii. 4. + Job viii. 9. Wisd. ix. 13, 14.
methods which we should never suspect, if we were not told them. Now God hath not told us all his ways, and all the reasons of them. Therefore with respect to many things, we must apprehend him to say to us, as the blessed Jesus did to Peter: What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter*. If we observe with attention, and enquire with humility, we shall find, sooner or later, in various instances, even while we continue on this earth, that seeming evil is real good in some respect or other. But a future life will draw back the veil from multitudes of the divine dispensations, and shew us beauty and order, where nothing appeared to us but horror and confusion. Yet even then we must not expect to know the whole : nor are the highest angels capable of fathoming all the depths of the universal providence of the only wise Godt.
Faith is the evidence of things not seenf: and implicit faith is one of the first and greatest duties of creatures to their Creator. We pay it to men like ourselves every day: and contentedly trust our fortunes, our healths, our lives with them, in consequence of it; notwithstanding they may often mistake, nay sometimes mean us ill. Surely then, without a single murmur, without the least hesitation, we may trust every thing, trust body and soul with God. For are they wiser and better, are we wiser and better, than he ? Are we not safer in his hands, than in our own! He doth not do all for us, that we wish. But perhaps we wish indiscreetly for what would be much harm to us. Or if not, we think it very fitting, that our servants and inferiors when we command them, should undergo a great deal for the accom
* John xiii. 7. + Rom. xvi. 27. 1 Tim. i. 16. Jude, ver. 25. + Heb. xi. 1.
plishment of our purposes; and that multitudes of persons, when required by authority, should risque every thing dear to them, for the general welfare: why is it not fitting then, that we in our turn, should both give up satisfactions, and bear uneasinesses, to serve the good purposes of God? We are willing, I hope, to suffer more than a little for our friends, for our country, for our prince: why should we not be as willing to suffer every thing for the sake of mankind, and the system of which we are part, when the Sovereign of all demands it? We see not indeed perhaps, in what manner our sufferings or our disadvantages benefit others, or make the general state of things better. But here is the patience and the faith of the saints*. Thus they have the means of shewing patience in every situation, built on the faith, that all things are conducted well. So far they are conducted well for us, that in our lowest and most afflicted condition, when the face of God seems hid from us, his eye
watches over us; and while his hand is heaviest upon us, it is leading us to our proper share of happiness. Therefore, as the Apostle exhorts, be content with such things as ye have : for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake theet. But all matters are conducted in the highest degree well for the whole: and doubting it is thinking ill of our heavenly Father; for which we can never have cause. Nothing can win upon him to do wrong, nothing deter him from doing right, nothing resist his power; nothing mislead his judgment, nothing escape his attention, who sees through the universe at once. He hath fixed the proper laws and limits for every part, and we have no claim to be exempted. Therefore when we feel ourselves inclined to object, to be * Rev. xii, 10.
+ Heb. xiii. 5.
moved with indignation, and tear ourselves in our anger, as Job's friends accuse him of doing, we should check our vehemence, as they check his, by asking, shall the earth be forsaken for thee, and the rock be moved out of its place * ? Shall the foundations, on which the great system of nature stands, and by which its good state is preserved, be shaken for the seeming, or the real, benefit of this or that person ? If of any one, why not of every one: for what are we more than others? And then nothing can follow, but universal inconsistence and confusion.
Still the duty of submission to God's good pleasure doth not require from us insensibility; for we cannot be insensible, of what we undergo, or what we want, or what superior advantages others enjoy. It doth not forbid us to think the present state of things, were we not to look beyond it, irregular and disorderly ; provided we look on it as part of a regular whole, that is worthy of its Author. For the afflictions and inequalities of this life are a strong argument for a future
And though entertaining too low an opinion of the wisdom and goodness, which appears now in the administration of the world, may often proceed from a bad temper, and produce or strengthen impious opinions; yet some may undervalue or dislike beyond reason what they see, merely because they conceive they are bound to excite in their hearts the highest possible esteem of what they hope for : and these, though mistaken, may be in the highest degree religious. Again : thinking with complacency, how agreeable it would be to us, were Heaven to change our lot in this or that respect, or place us in the condition of this or that person; nay, wishing it were actually done, provided the wish be formed on the
# Job xviii. 4.