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hatred by all that is before him. All things come alike to all. There is one event to the righteous, and the wicked : —to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not, As is the good, so is the sinner — This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun. There is one event unto all," cb. ix. 1-3.
And afterwards : “ This wisdom have I seen under the sun; and it seemed great unto me, There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it , and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no man remembered that same poor man,” ver. 13—15. If the place had been saved by some rich citizen, the performance would have been applauded ; and honour, and many distinguishing advantages would have been heaped upon him. But the great and eminent wisdom of the poor man was despised and forgotten, because of his mean condition. Such is the partiality of men! such their respect for outward appearances ! So that suitable recompences are not to be looked for from fellowcreatures, in proportion to virtue, or wisdom, from any considerations whatever, either of gratitude or interest.
These and other things said by Solomon, are not proposed with a view to disparage the divine government. For, notwithstanding all these disorders and inequalities in the present scene of things, he is persuaded of the righteousness, and of the remunerative, rewarding providence of God in due time.
For which reason he shuts up his book with that important advice: “ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments. For this is the whole of man;" his whole duty, or his whole interest and happiness.
“ For God will bring every work into judgment, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” And indeed, in the course of his observations, in that work, he more than once asserts the righteousness of God, and his favourable respect to good men. “ Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know, that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him," viii. 12.
I forbear to recite any passages at length from any of the Psalms : in which the prosperity of bad men, and the afflictions and sufferings of the righteous are taken notice of. See Ps. xvii. and lxxiii.
With regard then to this inquiry, whether the reason of men, or light of nature, teaches a future state of recompences, we may put the issue upon this one question : “ Can we
maintain the perfections of God, and the wisdom of his go-
may be said, that virtue has a reward in this world. For it is in itself an excellence and perfection, and cannot but be chosen by every rational and considerate person. And, if it be chosen and preferred, it must be an advantage, and contain in itself its own reward.
And it must be owned, that virtue is excellent, and therefore is approved. But yet it is exposed to many difficulties in this world, where iniquity is frequent; where there is abundance of partiality, and ingratitude, and perpetual emulation and contention; where success and prosperity are not annexed to any good dispositions, nor to the most valuable services. As Solomon says: “Wisdom is better than weapons of war. But one sinner destroyeth much good," Ecc. ix. 18.
Nor can it be allowed to be fit, that he who has a strict regard to the reason of things, who conscientiously endeavours to perform his duty to God and man, and laments all the neglects and transgressions which at any time he falls into, should upon the whole, and in the end, at the most, have only some small degree of happiness above those who without reluctance break through all the obligations of reason and religion. Would this be answerable to the descriptions of the divine perfection, sometimes given by wise and good men ? Would it be suitable to the instruction in the text, and the consequence thence deduced ? “ The Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee."
Man is the most excellent part of this lower creation.
His rational faculties give him a vast superiority above the rest of the beings on this earth. Nevertheless, he is on some accounts the least provided for of any, if there be no future state ; and his rational powers the least of all taken care of. He has a discernment between good and evil, and a power of choosing the one, and refusing the other. He is therefore the subject of moral government, and accountable to his Creator, who is all-knowing, and all-powerful. But this moral government of the Divine Being would be very imperfectly administered if there are to be no other distinctions made between good and bad, than those in this present life.
Supposing such a being formed, as just described, he will certainly be rewarded or punished, according to his choice and conduct. As that is not done now, it is reasonable to expect that it shall be done hereafter in another state.
A learned writer discoursing on this very point, has this observation. Were there to be no life hereafter, every
• man would undoubtedly be happy or unhappy here in
proportion to his virtues and vices. All the events and • dispensations of Providence would turn upon this hinge, * and the blessings of heaven be distributed by this rule. • But since we find it in fact very much otherwise, the doc• trine before us seems as clear and certain, as that God 6 + loveth righteousness, and hateth iniquity.
What encouragement would there be to deny present appetite and inclination? or to forego private interest for the sake of the public? What inducement could there be, with present self-denial, to seek the happiness of particular persons, if there be no future recompences ?
What profit could there be of the study of virtue? What inducement to advance therein, if the progress of it is to come to an end at death, and can last no longer, at the utmost, than the period of this very short and uncertain life? What benefit has such an one from his labour and application in the highest design conceivable? What profit has he of his labour, who has contemplated the divine perfections, who has considered the reason of things, the beauty of virtue, and the deformity of its contrary, who has moderated and subdued his affections, till he has gained in a great measure the conquest of anger, ill-will, envy, and every passion, or degree of it, that is unworthy his nature? What profit, I say, is there of this labour and increase, if this noble design is to come to an end at the period of this mortal life? This might be an indelible blemish on the divine govern
• Five Sermons, &c. p. 84, 85. VOL. IX.
ment, if it could be supposed, For it is as easy for God to raise to another life, or to continue the rational life, the thinking power, as to bestow it at first.
This argument therefore for a future state, wbich reason affords from the consideration of the divine perfections, and the circumstances of things in this world, is conclusive.
It is also obvious. And accordingly different recompences for good and bad, in another state after this, have been the general belief and expectation of all nations and people upon the face of the earth. And hereby some have been animated to great and generous actions, and have been induced, with much disinterestedness, to promote religious truth, and virtuous conduct among their fellow-citizens and countrymen; and have at length freely and deliberately submitted to sufferings from overruling power and malice, when by compliance with the majority, and recanting the principles they had recommended, they might have saved themselves, and obtained preferment.
2.) I shall now consider objections.
Obj. 1. It may be said, Did not some of the ancient heathens, and particularly some of the philosophers, dispute or deny this doctrine ?
To which I answer, that some persons entering far into abstruse and metaphysical speculations about the Deity, and matter, and the human soul, and taking offence at the vulgar, prevailing sentiments concerning future rewards and punishments, as low and mean, might dispute the truth of this expectation, or admit of doubts about it. But that future recompences were the common belief of heathen people, is evident from many ancient writings still extant. And if some, and those of reputed knowledge and learning, did by some discourses weaken this expectation, it does not follow, that there was no good foundation for it in reason. For it is not uncommon for men, by prejudice and false reasonings, to be misled against evidence; as we still see among christians. The sadducees in our Saviour's time denied the resurrection of the body, and all rewards after this life. But yet it cannot be said, that the Jewish people at that time had no good reason to expect another life after this.
Obj. 2. St. Paul says, that Jesus Christ “ bad abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, through the gospel,” 2 Tim. i. 10. True. But these expressions are to be understood comparatively, not absolutely; as if a future state of immortal life had been altogether hid from men till the coming of Christ. For it is certain, that among the Jews at least there were expectations of a resurrection, and of eternal life. And the apostle to the Hebrews, speaking of the ancient patriarchs says: “ they confessed, that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth : and looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” Heb. xi. 10, 13. The meaning therefore of that text is, in general, that the doctrine of a future state had been set in a much clearer light by the gospel than before.
Obj. 3, St. Paul, writing to the christians at Ephesus, who were once in the darkness of heathenism, reminds them," that at that time they were without Christ, being alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Eph. ii. 12.
But these expressions should not be understood absolutely, as if those persons had not, and could not have any knowledge of God, or hopes from him. For in the epistle to the Romans the apostle says of Gentile people, that " whereas they knew God, they glorified him not as God;" and that " they knew the judgment of God," though they did not act accordingly, Rom. i. 21, 32. Therefore those Ephesians also, before their conversion to christianity, were without God, and without hope, comparatively. They had not that knowledge, and that hope, which they now had through the gospel, nor which the Jews had; they having been, in their Gentile state, strangers from the covenants of promise, delivered to that people.
Obj. 4. Still it may be urged: would it not be more for the honour of the gospel, to suppose, that a future state is an entirely new discovery ? Would it not tend to induce people, who have only the light of nature, to embrace the christian religion, if they were told, that they have not any ground at all for the belief of a future life, and that revelation alone can give men hopes of it?
I answer, No. This would not be of use. If you met a heathen, who already had an apprehension of future recompences for good and bad : (which is certainly the general expectation of all people upon the face of the earth; though their ideas may be low and imperfect, yet however somewhat inviting and agreeable for the good, and disagreeable and frightful for the bad :] would you venture to tell him, that he has no foundation for such a belief? and that it is to be had from the gospel only? I think we should be cautious of saying any thing which would tend to diminish in men honourable apprehensions of the Deity.
It cannot but be of advantage for men to have honourable sentiments of God, as a Being of wisdom, power, righteous