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7. These natural Rewards and Punishments of Virtue and Vice, are a great Instrument of Providence, as they are a most effectual Antidote and Remedy against Superstition, which corrupts the Manners of Men, and debauches the world.
By Superstition, I mean all those hypocritical Arts of appeasing God, and procuring his Favour, without obeying his Laws, or reforming our Sins: Infinite such Superstitions have been invented by Heathens, by Jtv>s, by Christians themselves,' especially by the Church of Rome, which abounds with them: Now these Superstitions do not only spoil all Religion, but corrupt mens Lives, and give them great' security and impudence in sinning, which overturns the good Government of the World. For; while men persuade themselves, that they may live as they list, and commit what villanies they please, and yet escape the Wratji and Vengeance, nay obtain the Favour of God, both in this world and in the next, it sets them free from all Laws and Government, and leaves no restraint on them, but what the Laws of Men, and the Rods and Axes of Princes lay on them.
But when men consider, that God has so contrived the nature of things, that Virtue must make men happy, and Vice miserable, they can." not imagine, that God can be reconciled to wicked men, unless they think that he will alter the nature of Virtue and Vice for them; the Rewards and Punishments, the Happiness and Misery of good and bad men are not now arbitrary things, at the disposal of God's arbitrary will and pleasure, but God must new make, Man again, to '' '.' V - , make make good men miserable, and bad men happy; they may as well expect ease in a .fit of the Gout or Stone j or Health in the Paroxyms of a Fever., as that a wicked and corrupt Nature should receive the Rewards of Religion and Virtue. \.. .
This is the first Evidence we have of a Divine Providence, which governs the world, that Divine Justice which is interwoven in the nature of things, which has annexed such natural Rewards and Punishments to Virtue andVice,and thereby marked them out for the proper Objects of God's Favour or Vengeance.., ,..
II. Another Evidence of God's Providence and Government, is the institution of Human Governments'for the Punishment of Wickedness, and the Rewards of Virtue it is very plain in Scripture, that Humane Power and Authority is 6rdained by God; I need only direct you to 15. Rom. for the proof of it; though indeed the nature of the thing proves it self, if we allow that God made the world; for he has made man such a Creature, that Human Government is absolutely necessary, and to make Human Government necessary is a natural Institution of it. Man is a sociable Creature, who cannot live alone, but must unite into Societies; and the experience of Mankind proves, that Societies cannot be preserved without Civil Government, to maintain the Rights, and tp restrain the Violences and Injuries of men; that if God had not by any direct and immediate Institution set up any Government, nor invested any particular persons with Authority and Power to govern others; yet men, if they ,wpuld live together, which is necessary to the happine/s of Human- Life, must set up a Government themselves by mutual consent, and intrust some persons with the administration of it; to. be sure thus it is , there is no Nation in the world without some kind of Government, and .God, who made the world, has made it necessary that it /hould be so ; and whatever .-the nature of things makes necessary, ought to be ascribed to the design and contrivance of the wise Maker of them. I have. often despised the Reasonings of a late Atheistical Philosopher,who has contributed so much to the debauching this Age ;< who will by no means allow, that there is any such thing as a Law of Nature, but what other men call Laws of Nature, he resolves into arbitrary Compacts and Agreements among^ men, and industriously proves, how necessary it is for men to consent to such Laws, if they would live happily together; as if there could be a plainer demonstration , or a better definition of a Law of Nature, than what the Nature of things makes necessary to the Happiness of Mankind, and of Human Societies; for if this be not a Law of Nature, nothing is. And whatever Laws and Institutions necessarily result from the Na? ture of Things, must be owing to the Author of Nature. . i . i
This is sufficient to the design of my present Argunent, to prove , that God does take care t>f trie Government of the World, in that he has instituted Human Government , which is so great an Instrument of his Providence; which indeed our Experience tells us, lays greater Restraints in many cafes upon the Luns and J;; ."' PasPassions of men, than the Hopes and Fears of the other world do. Now will any man fay, that God takes no care of the Government of the world, when in all Nations he has his Officers and Ministers to execute Justice, and to maintain Peace and Order? We may as well fay, that a Prince neglects the Government of his Kingdom, because he does not do every thing in his own Person, but by his Ministers: it becomes the Wisdom and Majesty of the Divine Providence to govern the world by Human Methods, and by the Ministry of his Creatures, as far as it can be so governed, and not to interpose by an immediate Power, but in urgent Necessity, where Human Methods fail.
3. And this we have plain Proofs of also, that God does interpose by a secret and invisible Providence to supply the Defects, or correct the Miscarriages of Publick Government, or to reward and punish Men, and take care of his Creatures, in such Instances as fall not under the cognizance of Human Government.
I confess, it is no easy matter in ordinary cases to' prove the interposal of the Divine Providence, because God brings great things to pass by Natural Causes, Unseen Accidents, or the Ministry of men, while they seem to follow their own Natures; and to pursue their private Interests, Designs and Passions. For in all such Events we know not what to attribute to God, and what to Creatures, when God concurs" with Creatures by a secret and invisible Influence and Power, which makes such men as are unwilling to believe a Providence, to ascribe all to
Crea? (Creatures, who are the visible Actors in it: and therefore to satisfy y#u, that God does by a wife and just, though many times an invisible Power and Influence over-rule all Human Affairs, coftft» derwithme:
i. "That we have many Examples of God's governing the World by an immediate and visible Power, which proves, that at least in such cases he does concern himself in Human Affairs, to reward good men, and to punish the wicked. If we will allow the Books of Mo fes and Jtfhua to be a true History, we need no other proof of this: there we read, that God destroyed the old World by a deluge of Water, and preserved Noah and his Family in the Ark; that he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with Fire from Heaven, and sent his Angels to fetch Lot out of it; there we read all the Miracles God wrought in Egypt by the hand of Mosesj for the punishment of the Egyptians, and the deliverance of Israel; how God overthrew Pharaoh and his Host in the Red Sea, which divided its waters and gave a safe passage to the Armies of Israel, what a long series and succession of Miracles God led Israel through the Wilderness, punished their rebellion and wickedness, destroyed their Enemies, and gave them possession of the promised Land; how he delivered them his Laws- from Mount Sinai, in an audible Voice, , and with a terrible Appearance ; placed his Ta-' bernacle among them, where he dwelt, and from whence he gave forth his Oracles and Responses, and governed Israel as visibly as a Temporal Prince governs his- Subjects.