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well as of That which is to come. And yet, the same Holy Spirit, which Sometimes gives us a prospect of Good Men, Drawn in the most Agreeable and Beautiful Light, does Elsewhere represent Them under the utmost Disadvantages of Shade and Situation: They are Sometimes Figured out, as Crown'd with Happiness, and at Other times, as Loaded with Misery.
It will Therefore be necessary, in treating of this Subject, to consider Three Things: .
I. First, That the Proposal of Temporal Advantages, in the Text, is subječt to Several Limitations and Conditions, and not Intended to be Understood in an UNIVERSAL and ABSOLUTE sense, as Infallibly Ascertaining these Advantages to every Good man in the World;
II. Secondly, That according to the Natural state of Things, which God hath Determin’d, according to the Ordinary and settled Course and Tendencies of Human Affairs, a Religious Life is the most proper and Likely means of securing those Advantages; And
III. Thirdly, III. Thifdly, That, Abstracting from the Natural Tendency of Things, God does frequently, by his Special Providence, vouchsafe these Advantages to his Faithful fervants; And such Advantages, when placed in the hands of Good men, may be properly accounted Blessings.
I. That the proposal of Temporal Advantages, in the Text, is subject to several Limitations and Conditions, and not intended to be understood in an UNIVERSAL and ABSOLUTE sense, as Infallibly Ascertaining these Advantages • to every Good man in the World. And the Truth of this Proposition may appear from the following Particulars. · Ift. The Encouragement proposed in the Text, cannot be understood Otherwise, than as they are Compatible with the Established State and Order of Things in the World. If Honour and Riches, in the Highest sense of Them, were to be the Portion of every Good Man, the Consequence must be, (as Few Good men as there are in the World) that the Honourable and the Mighty would do more than bear a Just Proportion to their
Inferiours; And many of the most Necefsary Offices in Human Society must be Neglected, through want of proper Persons to Sustain and Discharge Them. .
Indeed, as Riches stand purely Op-posed to Want, and signify only such a Plenty, as is Suitable to every Man's Particular Station; And as Honour is Strictly Opposed to Disgrace, and signifies only such a Fair Esteem and Reputation, as is Suitable to every Man's Rank and Order; As Riches and Honour are taken in This Sense, and it seems to be a proper sense of them, in the Promise of them annex'd to Religion, They are without Doubt, Generally bestowed upon Good men, when they are not In
consistent with any Condition necessari- ly Implied in That Promise. In like manner, the Promise of Long Life must needs be Interpreted, under the Implicit condition of it's consistency with men's Natural Frame and State, whereby one Man is Disposed to a much Earlier Difsolution than Another; Insomuch that Nothing Less than a Miracle can bring
the Lives of all Good men to one and the fame Measure of Duration.
There may indeed be Instances, as will be observed below, of God's pro longing a Good man's Life, in an Extraordinary manner. But the promise of Long Life to Good Men, confider'd in General, cannot well be understood to signifie any more than This, that their Lives shall, Ordinarily, be carried on, by Divine Providence to their Natural Period, and not be Judicially cut off, as Other men's Lives may be, before They have filled up the Bounds, which Nature hath Assigned to Them. , And yet, 'tis here to be observed, that it is sometimes matter of Divine Favour to Good men, that they are taken away, before the Term of their Natural Lives is expired. For thus the Holy Spirit hath taught us, and 'tis a Lesson fufficient to prevent our Judging Rafhly and Censoriously of Events, which we know not the Reasons of; The Righteous perispeth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none
considering, that the Righteous is taken away from the evil to come. *
2dly, The Truth of the Proposition before us appears from Hence, that the Spiritual and Eternal Welfare of fome Good Men might be very much Obstructed, if not Finally Prevented by Temporal Prosperity. Everlasting Life is the Grand Blessing, to which Good men are Intitled by the promise of God; And all Other Promises, which he hath made them, do Presuppose and Imply their Consistency with That. Whenfoever therefore, their Tempers and Difpositions are fuch, that their full enjoyment of Earthly Blessings would interfere with their Attainment of Celestial Bliss; the Divine Providence Graciously witholds those Advantages from them, which would prove Destructive to them.
Indeed Men Obstinately Wicked are oftentimes Indulged, by Providence, in a state of Affluence, in the Enjoyment of all Temporal Advantages; which they
* Ifa. lvii. 1,