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it is prescribed, it is doubtless expedient that some such cases of suffering should be permitted. The end would, indeed, be frustrated by making them common, and common they are not. But how signally is the honour of religion sustained by those that occur! Its truth, its excellence, and its stability when unsupported by prosperity, are all impressively displayed. Is not the reality and the power of a supernatural influence also convincingly proved ? And does not virtue itself, in the various principles of a new and obviously divine nature, shine forth with the most attractive lustre ? In the moral, as in the natural system, the darkness of night reveals much of celestial beauty, eminently glorifying to God, that could not otherwise be seen. Had not the sun of prosperity gone down upon Job, bis patience had not appeared so conspicuously as a star of the first magnitude. Then, next to the sufferings of Christ, the afflictions of the righteous furnish the most striking attestation of God's insuperable hatred of sin. They show that he cannot excuse it even in the objects of his love, and that nothing can produce the least change in him favourable to it, neither its being pardoned sin, nor the high character of those who commit it.Occasional instances of accumulated suffering, in those who are regarded by him as the only worthy part of mankind, impressively admonish others of the dreadful nature of sin, and the certainty of punishment. They at the same time prove, what it is proper should ever be kept in view, how truly and how largely all men are indebted to divine forbearance. There is enough of sin about the best to justify the severest inflictions, as Job was constrained to acknowledge ; but how seldom is the severity which God has shown might justly be employed even in paternal correction, exemplified ! Assuredly, then, in the present state, he never punishes any of the ungodly “ as their iniquities deserve." The troubles of the righteous, in fact, illustrate his benignity, both as a Father and as a Judge ; and in this view, besides all their happy influence on those who endure them, are calculated to have the farther beneficial effect of exciting the ungodly to serious reflection, and leading them to repentance.

“ If these things, said Jesus, “ be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" And on a similar principle, “ If judgment begin at the house of God, what shall the end be of them who obey not the gospel ? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” i Pet. iv. 17, 18.

2dly, With regard to physical evil, hath not the Deity triumphed also over this, if he hath made it contrary to its nature

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and originally penal character, the instrument of good,-of much good, not only to beings who look on and behold the works of God, but even to the subjects who have unhappily fallen under its power. Since physical evil must have been primarily only a method of displaying the divine triumph over moral evil, and since, as appears from the case of the incorrigible, it could have answered this purpose without being changed itself, that species of victory which consists in the change did not seem essential to the Grand Purpose of the Deity; he hath, however, attached it to his plan. One victory over it, indeed, was essential, as the only means of effecting the purpose in any form connected with the real and eternal good of the creature, And accordingly in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, by a most wonderful arrangement of circumstances, physical evil, even in its proper penal character as an infliction of the curse, hath been converted into an instrument of good. Its tendency to ruin was completely counteracted ;-it did not prove destructive of the person who suffered, and its very infiction, though it proclaimed the desert of the millions in whose name he suffered, instead of foreboding their ruin, hath become the basis of their present relief and everlasting felicity. But do we not see its native tendencies also counteracted in the afflictions of ihe righteous ? How kind their intention! How beneficial their operation ! How precious the results ! “ Whom the Father loveth, he chasteneth. And though no affliction be for the present joyous, but rather grievous, yet afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them who are exercised thereby. Even in its apparently worst aspect,- persecution for righteousness' sake, this species of evil hath been made to contribute to the honour of religion and the promotion of its interests. “ All things work together for good to them that love God ;” and even in those things which are apparently most hostile, and most powerful in their hostility, they “ are more than conquerors through him that loved them."

3dly, How completely are both moral and physical evil vanquished in the persons of the righteous, by their final and eternal liberation from all sorrow, and sighing, and death, from the existence of sin, and al} its consequences. In this will the divine triumph be more conspicuously displayed. “ If, indeed, in this life only they had hope, they would be of all men most miserable” and foolish. “ But God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city, an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven.” This is the last solution of the difficulty furnished by divine revelation. It hath “ brought life and immortality to light;" it assures us that even what " is sown in corruption shall be raised in glory.” It will ever fortify the saint against atheistical surmises, while he “ looks not at the things which are seen and temporal, but at those which are unseen and eternal." Entering the sanctuary of God, and there beholding " the beauty of the Lord,” in the wondrous plan of redemption and all its correlates, he will attain the relief which Asaph found, and the persuasion in which the apostles exulted : “ Nevertheless," said the former, “I am continually with thee ; Thou wilt guide me with thy counsel, and receive me to glory ; God is my portion for ever.”

66 Our light afflictions,” the latter subjoin, “ which are but for a moment, even work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Ps. lxxiij. 23–28. 2 Cor. iv. 8–18,

V.—THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED.

As the difficulty on this head, though apparently very perplexing, is nearly allied to the last, a few remarks may suffice for solution.

In the accomplishment of such a plan, as we have shown to be worthy of God in the estimate of reason, and actually unfolded by Scripture, the wicked must be spared for various purposes in which they may be made personally subservient to the divine glory, and also for the sake of those of their postenity who are destined to be the subjects of moral restoration. It is only among the wicked, or in the state of men prior to conversion, that moral evil can display its domination, or exhibit the various forms in which God intends it should be vanquished, whether by judgment or mercy. Only this description of persons, also, can furnish the proper instruments for executing certain purposes, which would neither comport with the dignity, nor befit the spiritual character of the righteous. They are, according to Scripture, “ the rod, the saw, the axe,” in the hand of the Almighty.

If spared on these grounds, they must enjoy their share of that species of happiness which belongs to the system of forbearance. “ But why should they prosper in the earth ? Why should they, for the most part, possess the largest share of temporal substance ?" The reason is not, that the Lord hath forsaken the earth, far less that he approves the ways of

, the wicked. Much must, doubtless, be ascribed to sovereignty ; and temporal good things, like the original physical distinctions among the human race, afford a proper sphere for the manifestation of divine liberty. This, it will be granted, unlike the caprice of men, ever harmonizes with the holiness of the Deity, and is directed by his wisdom. But if such be the nature of temporal things, that they are capable of being acquired by means abhorrent to the temper of the righteous, can it be inconsistent either with the holiness or wisdom of God, not to prevent the success of such means in the hands of those who will use them? If it be so, then must he be under the necessity of ever interposing by miracles ; for to supersede this, by changing the nature of the things themselves, or their relation to the means referred to, is absolutely impossible. We shall not determine whether the fact of the prosperity of the wicked may not also be accounted for on the principle of God's displaying his benignity, by gratifying his creatures with the only pleasures they can relish. The language of Scripture seems to be emphatic, “ they have their portion in this life ;” they have “ their good things.” But the reason assigned is—not that God would gratify them as if he had originally made peculiar provision for wicked beings, which is disproved by the common nature of the good things in question, but that he “ by this goodness would lead them to repentance," which surely is sufficiently agreeable to his nature. If he elevate them to wealth or power, by a visibly favourable ordering of events, it is, according to Scripture, either to fit them for the work they have to accomplish in executing his plan, or to reward them appropriately for services done. Then, the reward is such as can in no respect imply an approbation of their motives or manner, for temporal things are not the highest species of good ; on the contrary, they are capable of being blasted with a curse. The affluence of the wicked is always designed to be, and is often actually made, useful to the saints, whose religious excellence, and all the satisfactions connected with it, might have been impaired by possessing that affluence themselves. Like Judas among the disciples, the bad in human society may be made stewards for the good, who are occupied with matters of superior importance. Like Judas, indeed, they may often embezzle their trust; but for this the Deity cannot be blamed. The treasures may expose them to temptation ; but it is their will to have them, and the covetous deflection of their will from the divine law could not be prevented without miraculous agency, as long as their moral state continues unchanged.

The true question, however, must be, have the wicked in

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deed the largest share of genuine happiness, or the means of it? Unless this can be proved, the EQUITY of God will remain unimpeached. But reason requires us to regard worldly prosperity only as means directed to some ulterior end. It re- , minds us farther, that when an intelligent being like man intervenes, the case will be different from those in which inseparable connexion subsists between cause and effect; the means may be possessed, and yet the end, whether near or remote, be totally lost. It disclaims the idea that such prosperity can be considered as the last boon of the All-sufficient, the best medium of enjoying the Deity, or itself the highest species of felicity to which the human soul is adapted. Then, observation and experience shew how frequently temporal prosperity fails to impart the happiness apparently most within its range; how easily the worst species of misery may be combined with the greatest affluence, or even with the highest literary honours, though these seldom decorate the grossly immoral ; how necessary some other resources are for sustaining the spirit under the sufferings which arise from the loss of health or of worldly prosperity,-a loss by which the sufferer is bereaved of the only solace his portion can furnish.— The verdict of Scripture may be given in the words of David, “ 0 ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity ? Many there be that say, who will shew us any good ? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness into my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine abounded.” Annex to this, the ever-memorable question of our Saviour, “ What is a man profited though he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Ps. iv. xvii. 14, 15. Matth. xvi. 26.

While the Equity of God stands clear, may not his WISDOM and BENIGNITY be seen in the various ways by which this department of his plan--the prosperity of the wicked—is made subservient to the general good ? Most worthy of him will it be, if it be admirably calculated to correct the views of mankind, and prevent mistakes about temporal blessings, which are ever apt to engross their attention, and even assume the imposing appearance of the chief good. Most worthy, if it tend to force upon the mind, certain fundamental truths requisite to all order and government, — the reality especially of a future state ; and if it farther minister to the interests of religion, by disclosing the estimate of the Deity, showing how little he values those benefactions which he so liberally confers on the worthless, and thus directing the

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