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Serm.IV, reflecting upon them. God, say they, is
all Goodness; and therefore they dare to be what he must necessarily hate, the very Reverse of Him- all Wickedness : Not considering, that the Goodness of God should lead them to Repentance. For God cannot love a Nature directly and habitually contrary to his ; and cannot but love what is in some Degree conformable to his Holiness and Purity. Now what he loves must be for ever happy; and what he hates for ever miserable. Let Men think or say, what they will, to the contràry; it is Goodness which ought to make every immoral Agent afraid, a determined, impartial, universal Goodness in a Being, who, because he is infinitely Good, will inflict every deserved Evil, which is productive of a prepollent Good; and will inflict none, but what is productive of such ; who will consult the universal Interest, and not that of a few incurable Members of the whole stupendous Body of the Universe.
Such Men would do well to reflect, that Men even here in the natural Course of Things bring upon themselves such ill Habits of Body, and Miferies of all kinds, that they can never extricate themselves from, as long as they live. The Course
of Nature is so established, that Death alone Serm.IV. sometimes puts a Period to those Ills, which they have plunged themselves into by their Follies and Vices : If they were to live for eyer, they would be probably miserable for ever, by the ill Consequences of their Sins, which take place in a natural Way. Now whatever comes to pass by the settled Course of Nature, is as much done by him, who appointed the Course of Things, and foresaw every Consequence that would arise from every Manner of Acting; as if he had immediately inflicted the Punishment himself. And as the fame God, who appointed the Nature of Things here, is the God of the other World as well as this; may not something like this come to pass in that other State ? May not the Impenitent be for ever lamenting those Ills, which no Prudence can redress, no Patience make supportable, and no Time put a Period to?
I cannot conclude this Head, without wishing, that all of us may believe the Doctrine which I have here inculcated, to be true ; and that this Belief, with the Concurrence of other Motives, may have that Effect, that none of us may feel it to be so.
The Nature, Possibility and Truth, of a particular Providence set forth.
Who is like unto the Lord our God, who
hath bis Dwelling so high; and yet humbleth bimself to behold the Things that are in Heaven and Earth ?
T is one great Recommendation of the Serm. V.
Sacred Writings, that they have ex
pressed themselves with more Justness of Thought concerning the Nature of God, than
any other Compositions whatever. What the Vanity of Science, falsely so called, has ascribed to Nature, or to second Causes, exclusively of the First, is by them resolved into the immediate Will and Providence of God. This is the truest Philosophy, as well as the best Divinity. For what is Nature ? is it an understanding Being ? or is it not? If it be not, how can an undeK 2
Serm. V. figning Being produce plain Notices of Con
trivance and Dehgn? If it be an Understanding Being, who acts throughout the Universe; then it is that great Being, whom we call God.
For Nature, Necessity, and Chance, mere Phantoms, which have no Reason, Wisdom, or Power, cannot act, with the utmost Exactness of Wisdom, powerfully, incessantly, and every where. And here I would observe, that no Words are more undetermined in their Signification, than those, which pass current in common Conversation. We never question, but that we clearly understand Terms, which are daily in use, and familiar to us : Whereas those Words are often mere Sounds, without Sense, or any fettled Signification. Thus few seem to know (though it is the only clear and determinate Meaning of it) that Nature in this Case means nothing, but the constant and stated Operation of God upon Matter.
We have no lefs Reason to beg our daily Bread of Almighty God, than the Israelites had to pray for their Sustenance, when they were fed with Manna from Heaven. For that a Handful of Corn should multiply to a prodigious Degree, and that the Fields 3