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health, and how few in which we have suffered from illness. Let us oppose to the small number of troubles and vexations which we experience in civil and domestic life, the numerous pleasures which we enjoy. Let us compare all the good and virtuous actions by which men are useful to themselves and to their fellow-men, with the few actions they commit which are prejudicial to society. Let us enumerate if we can, all the pleasures attached to every age, state, and profession, the gifts which nature abundantly bestows upon us, and which human industry uses to procure an infinite number of enjoyments and conveniences. If we form such estimation in the moment of coolness and of serenity, and not at a time when we suffer from affliction, vexation, disappointment, or disease, we shall be sufficiently convinced, that the prevalence of good, even in this state of existence, is much greater than that of evil.
THE EQUITY OF PROVIDENCE.
Throw thyself down with trembling innocence,
The dispensations of providence are characterized by a spirit of equity. By Equity is to be understood, that treatment of a person, which his conduct deserves. To reward the good, and to punish the wicked, according to just and certain laws, and real desert, is to treat both equitably.
It is true, that the present life is a state of probation, and therefore we are not to expect
that rewards and punishments will be dealt out here in exact accordance with mens' desertsfull rewards and punishments are reserved for the future world. We are not therefore to expect that fire should fall from heaven in the ordinary course of providence; nor, when we see triumphant guilt or depressed virtue in particular persons, God will make bare his holy arm in the defence of the one, or punishment of the other. It is sufficient that there is a day set apart for the hearing and requiting of both, according to their respective merits.
But, though the reward of the virtuous, and the punishment of the wicked, are chiefly reserved for the future world, yet even now we may observe in the dispensations of providence, that, “verily there is a reward for the righteous, there is a God that judgeth in the earth.”
There are instances we know, in the course of providence, in which good men are exercised with heavy afflictions, and others in which bad men enjoy abundant prosperity, yet, it is certain, that, what is good tends to good, and what is evil tends to evil. “Wisdom's
ways are ways of pleasantness.” “Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.” A life of virtue and religion tends to health, and long life; while on the other hand, vice and ungodliness as powerfully tend
to disease, poverty, infamy, and death; and this wise distribution of things is a striking evidence of the equity of providence.
THE ELEMENTS OF NATURE AND THE PASSIONS OF MEN, are often providentially controlled, in order to reward or punish mankind.
“It is in this way,” says Sturm, “that at God's command the air is pure, or corrupt, and the seasons are productive, or unfruitful. He assists the designs of men, or prevents them; sometimes by winds, and others by the flux or reflux of the sea ; sometimes, by raising up for them a number of friends to exert themselves on their behalf: at other times, by raising up enemies to overpower and crush them. It is true that God does not in general interrupt the course of nature ; but it is equally certain that nature cannot act without his will and concurrence. Fire, water, wind, and rain, have their natural causes and peculiar properties; and God employs them to execute his designs in a manner suitable to their nature. A great part of the good and evil which we experience in the present life proceeds from surrounding objects, and as God interests himself in everything which happens to men, he has undoubtedly an influence upon those objects, and upon every object of nature, and on this are founded the rewards which he promises to virtue, and the chastisement with which he punishes vice. The one he generally crowns with peace and contentment; and when he pleases, he sends war, famine, and pestilence, to punish the other. It is in this manner that God shows himself to be righteous in all his ways, and in the course of his providence often deals with men by way of just recompense."
Many examples might be given to illustrate the truth of the foregoing remarks.
It is related of Mr. Colstone, an eminent merchant of Bristol, who lived a century ago, that he was remarkable for his piety and liberality, and equally distinguished for his success in commerce. The providence of God seemed to smile, in a peculiar manner on the concerns of one who depended upon God, and made so good a use of what God gave to him.
Once, a vessel belonging to him, on her voyage home, struck on a rock, and immediately sprang a leak, by which so much water was admitted as to threaten speedy destruction. Means were instantly employed to save the vessel, but all seemed in vain, as the water rose rapidly. In a short time however, the leak stopped without any apparent cause, and the vessel reached Bristol in safety. On examining the bottom part of the vessel, strange to tell, a large fish was found fast wedged in the fracture