« Prev CHAPTER I. Of God's Moral Government Next »



§ 1. THE Creator of the world is doubtless also the Governor of it. He that had power to give being to the world, and set all the parts of it in order, has doubtless power to dispose of the world, to continue the order he has constituted, or to alter it. He that first gave the laws of nature, must have all nature in his hands; so that it is evident God has the world in his hands, to dispose of as he pleases. And, as God is able, so he is inclined, to govern the world. For, as he is an intelligent being, he had some end in what he did, otherwise he did not act as a voluntary agent in making the world. That being never acts voluntarily, that has no end in what he does, and aims at nothing at all in it. Neither God nor man is properly said to make any thing that necessarily or accidentally proceeds from them, but that only which is voluntarily produced. Besides, we see in the particular parts of the world, that God had a particular end in their formation. They are fitted for such an end. By which it appears, that the Creator did act as a voluntary agent, proposing final causes in the work of creation; and he that made the particular parts for certain ends, doubtless made the whole for a certain end. And, if God made the world for some end, doubtless he will choose to have this world disposed of to answer that end. For his proposing the end, supposes, that he chooses it should be obtained. Therefore, it follows, that God will choose to take care that the world be disposed of to the obtaining of his own ends, which is the same thing as his choosing to have the government of the world. And it is manifest, in fact, that God is not careless how the affairs and concerns of the world he has made proceed, because he was not careless of this matter in the creation itself; as it is apparent, by the manner and order in which things were created, that God, in creating, took care of the future progress and state of things in the world. This being established, I now proceed to show, that it must be, that God maintains a moral government over the world of mankind.

§ 2. If it be certain, that God is concerned, and does take care, how things proceed in the state of the world he has made, then he will he especially concerned how things proceed in the state of the world of mankind. Mankind are the principal part of the visible creation. They have understanding, are voluntary agents, and can produce works of their own will, design, and contrivance, as God does. And the Creator looks upon them as the principal part of his visible creation, as is manifest, because he hath set them at the head of his creation. The world is evidently made to be a habitation for roan, and all things about him are subordinated to his use. Now, if God be careful how the world that he has made be regulated, that his end may be answered, and that it may not be in vain, he will be especially careful of this concerning the principal part of it, and in the same proportion that it is principal or superior in his own account to the rest. The more God has respect to any part of the world he has made, the more concerned he will be about the state of that part. But, it is manifest by the creation itself, that God has more respect or regard to man, than to any other part of the visible creation; because he has evidently made and fitted other parts to man’s use. And therefore God will not leave the world of mankind to themselves, without taking any care to govern and order their state. It is evident, by the manner in which God has formed and constituted other things, that he has respect to beauty, good order and regulation, proportion and harmony; so, in the system of the world, in the seasons of the year, in the formation of plants, and of the various parts of the human body. Surely, therefore, he will not leave the principal part of the creation, about the state of which he is evidently, in fact, chiefly concerned, without making any proper provision for its being in any other than a slate of deformity, discord, and the most hateful and dreadful confusion.

§ 3. By what has been already said, God is most concerned about the state and government of that which is highest in his creation, and which he values most; and so he is principally concerned about the ordering the state of mankind, which is a part of the creation that he has made superior, and that he values most: and therefore, in like manner, it follows, that he is principally concerned about the regulation of that which he values most in men, viz. what appertains to his intelligence and voluntary acts. If there be any thing in the principal part of the creation, that the Creator values more than other parts, it must be that wherein it is above them, or, at least, something wherein it differs from them. But the only thing wherein men differ from the inferior creation, is intelligent perception and action. This is that in which the Creator has made-man to differ from the rest of the creation, and by which he has set him over it, and by which he governs the inferior creatures, and uses them for himself; and therefore it must needs be, that the Creator should be chiefly concerned that the state of mankind should be regulated according to his will, with respect to what appertains to him as an intelligent, voluntary creature. Hence it must be, that God does take care that a good moral government should be maintained over men; that his intelligent, voluntary acts should be all subject to rules; and that with respect to them all, he should be the subject of judicial proceeding. For unless this be, there is no care taken that the state of mankind, with respect to their intelligent, 512voluntary acts, should be regulated at all; but all things will be remedilessly in the utmost deformity, confusion, and ruin. The world of mankind, instead of being superior, will be the worse, and the more hateful, and the more vile and miserable, for having the faculties of reason and will; and this highest part of the creation will be the lowest, and infinitely the most confused, deformed, and detestable, without any provision for rectifying its evils. And the God of order, peace, and harmony, that constituted the inferior parts of the world, which he has subjected to man, and made subservient to him, in such decency, beauty, and harmony, will appear to have left this chief part of his work, and the end of all the rest, to the reign of everlasting discord, confusion, and ruin; contradicting and conflicting with its own nature and faculties; having reason, and yet acting in all things contradictory to it; being men, but yet beasts; setting sense above reason; improving reason only as a weapon of mischief and destruction of God’s workmanship.

§ 4. I would again argue, that God must maintain a moral government over mankind, thus: It is evident, that it was agreeable to the Creator’s design, that there should be some moral government maintained amongst men; because, without any, either in nations, provinces, towns, or families, and also without any divine government over the whole, the world of mankind could not subsist, but would destroy itself. Men would be not only much more destructive to each other, than any kind of animals are to their own species, but a thousand times more than any kind of beasts are to those of any other species. Therefore, the nature that God has given all mankind, and the circumstances in which he has placed them, lead all, in all ages throughout the habitable world, into moral government. And the Creator doubtless intended this for the preservation of this highest species of creatures; otherwise he has made much less provision for the defence and preservation of this species, than of any other. There is no kind of creature that he has left without proper means for its own preservation. But unless man’s own reason, to be improved in moral rule and order, be the means he has provided for the preservation of man, he has provided him with no means at all. Therefore, it is doubtless the original design of the Creator, that there should be moral subordination amongst men, and that he designed there should be heads, princes, or governors, to whom honour, subjection, and obedience should be paid. Now, this strongly argues, that the Creator himself will maintain a moral government over the whole. For, without this, the preservation of the species is but very imperfectly provided for. If men have nothing but human government to be a restraint upon their lusts, and have no rule or judgment of an universal omniscient governor to be a restraint upon their consciences, still they are left in a most woeful condition; and the preservation and common benefit of the species, according to its necessities, and the exigencies of its place, nature, and circumstances in the creation, is in nowise provided for, as the preservation and necessities of other species are.

Now, is it reasonable to think, that the Creator would so constitute the circumstances of mankind, that some particular persons, that have only a little image and shadow of his greatness and power over men, should exercise it in giving forth edicts, and executing judgment; and that he who is above all, and the original of all, should exercise no power in this way himself, when mankind stand in so much more need of such an exercise of his power, than of the power of human governors? He has infinitely the greatest right to exercise the power of a moral governor, if he pleases. His relation to man as his Creator, most naturally leads to it. He is infinitely the most worthy of that respect, honour, and subjection that is due to a moral governor. He has infinitely the best qualifications of a governor, being infinitely wise, powerful, and holy, and his government will be infinitely me most effectual to answer the ends of government.

§ 5. It is manifest, that the Creator of the world, in constituting human moral governments among men, has, in that constitution, had great respect to those qualifications, that relation, and those rights and obligations, in those whom he has appointed to be rulers, and in putting others under their moral government, which he has in himself in a vastly more eminent degree. As particularly, in the government of parents over their children, which of all other kinds of human moral government is most evidently founded in nature, and which the preservation of the species doth most immediately require. Here God hath set those to be moral rulers, who are the wiser and stronger, and has appointed those to be in subjection who are less knowing, and weaker, and have received being from their rulers, and are dependent, preserved, and maintained. Would not he therefore maintain moral government himself over mankind, who is their universal fattier, their universal preserver, who maintains all, and provides all with food and raiment, and all the necessaries and enjoyments of life, and is infinitely wiser and stronger than they? Would not he maintain a moral government over men, who need his government, as children need the government of their parents, and who are no more fit to be left to themselves in the world without his rules, directions, authority, promises, threatening, and judgment, than children are fit to be left to themselves in a house?

§ 6. As man is made capable of knowing his Creator, so he is capable of a high esteem of his perfections, his power, wisdom, and goodness. He is capable of a proper esteem of God for his wise, excellent, and wonderful works, which he beholds; and for their admirable contrivance, which appears in so excellently ordering all things; and of gratitude to him for all the goodness of which he himself is the subject: or, on the contrary, of slighting and despising him, and hating him, finding fault with his works, reproaching him for them, slighting all his goodness which he receives from him; yea, hating him for ordering things in his providence to him as he has done, and cursing and blaspheming him for it.

Now, it is unreasonable to suppose, that God should be an indifferent spectator of those things in his creature made in his own image, and made superior to all other creatures; and in a creature that he values above all the rest of the creation. It cannot be equally agreeable to him, whether man gives him proper esteem, love, honour, and gratitude; or, on the contrary, unreasonably despises, hates, and curses him. And if he be not an indifferent spectator of these things, then he will not act as a perfectly indifferent spectator, and wholly let men alone, and order things in no respect differently for those ends one way or other. But so it must be, if God maintains no moral government over mankind.

§ 7. As man is made capable of knowing his Creator, so he is capable of knowing his will in many things, i. e. he is capable of knowing his ends in this and the other works which he beholds. For it is this wav principally that he comes to know there is a God, even by seeing the final causes of things; by seeing that such and such things are plainly designed and contrived for such and such ends; and therefore he is capable of either complying with the will of his Creator, or opposing it. He is capable of falling in with God’s ends, and what he sees his Creator aim at, and co-operating with him, or of setting himself against the Creator’s designs. It is manifest, that it is the Creator’s design, that parents should nourish their children, and that children should be subject to their parents. If a man therefore should murder his children, or if children.should rise up and murder their parents, they would oppose the Creator’s aims. So if men use the several bodily organs to quite contrary purposes to those for which they were given, and if they use the faculties of their own minds to ends quite contrary to those for which they were fitted, (for doubtless they were given and fitted for some end or other,) he may perversely use his dominion over the creatures against the ends to which they were ^given. For, however far we suppose man may be from being capable of properly frustrating his Creator, yet he is capable of showing that his will is contrary to his Creator’s ends. He may oppose his Creator in his will; he may dislike God’s ends, and seek others. Now, the Creator cannot be an indifferent spectator of this; for it is a contradiction to suppose, that opposition to his will and aims should be as agreeable to him in itself, as complying with his will. And if he is not an indifferent spectator, then he will not 513act as such, and so he must maintain a moral government over mankind.

§ 8. This argument is peculiarly strong, as it respects man’s being capable of falling in with or opposing God’s ends in his own creation, and his endowing him with faculties above the rest of the world. It is exceeding manifest concerning mankind, that God must have made them for some end; not only as it is evident that God must have made the world in general for some end, and as man is an intelligent voluntary agent; but as it is especially manifest from fact, that God has made mankind for some special end. ‘For it is apparent, in fact, that God has made the inferior parts of the world for some end, and that the special end he made them for, is to subserve the benefit of mankind. Therefore, above all, may it be argued, that God has made mankind for some end. If an artificer accomplishes some great piece of workmanship, very complicated, and with a vast variety of parts, but the whole is so contrived and connected together, that there is some particular part which all the other parts are to subserve, we should well conclude that the workman had some special design to serve by that part, and that his peculiar aim in the whole, was what he intended should be obtained by that part. Now, man, the principal part of the creation, is capable of knowing his Creator, and is capable of discerning God’s ends in the formation of other things; therefore, doubtless, since God discovers to him the ends for which he has made other things, it would be very strange if he should not let him know the end for which he himself is made, or for which he had such distinguishing faculties given him, whereby he is set above other parts of the creation. Therefore, in the use of his own faculties, he must either fall in with the known design of the Creator in giving them, or thwart it. He must either co-operate with his Creator, as complying with the end of his own being, or wittingly set himself as his enemy. Of this the Creator cannot be an indifferent spectator; and therefore, by what was said before, must maintain moral government over mankind.

§ 9. It may be argued, that God maintains a moral government over the world of mankind, from this, that the special end of the being of man is something wherein he has to do with his Creator. The special end of the brute creation is something wherein they are concerned with men. But man’s special end is some improvement or use of his faculties towards God. For the special end for which God made mankind, is something very diverse and very superior to those ends for which he made any part of the inferior creation; because God has made man very different from them. But man’s special end does not respect any other parts of the visible creation. All these are below him, and all, as we observed before, are made for him, to be subservient to his use. Their special end respects him; but his special end does not respect them. For, this is unreasonable in itself: if they are in their formation and end subordinated to him, and subjected to him, then the Maker sets a greater value on him than them, and therefore he has not made him for them. For that would be to suppose them most valuable in the eyes of their Maker. And it is manifest, in fact, that the being of mankind does not subserve the benefit of the inferior creatures, any farther than is just necessary to turn them to his own use, and spend them in it.

To this we may add, that the happiness of the greater part of mankind, in their worldly enjoyments, is not great enough, or durable enough, to prove that the end of all things in the whole visible universe is only that happiness. Therefore, nothing else remains, no other supposition is possible, but that man’s special end is something wherein he has immediately to do with his Creator.

§ 10. If God has made men above other creatures, with capacities superior to them, for some special end, for which other creatures are not made, that special end must be something peculiar to them, for which they are capacitated and fitted by those superior faculties. Now, the greatest thing that men are capacitated for, by their faculties, more than the beasts, is, that they are capable of having intercourse with their Creator, as intelligent and voluntary agents. They are capable of knowing, esteeming, and loving him, and capable of receiving instructions and commands from him, and capable of obeying and serving him, if he be pleased to give commands, and make a revelation of his mind. Surely this is not without some end. He that has done nothing in the inferior world in vain, has not given man this capacity in vain. The sun has not its light given it without a final cause; and shall we suppose, that mankind has this light of the knowledge of their Creator without a final cause?

Thus, it is evident, that the special end for which God has made man, is something wherein he has intercourse with his Creator, as an intelligent, voluntary agent. Hence, the consequence is certain, that mankind are subject to God’s moral government. For there can be no such thing maintained, as a communication between God and man, as between intelligent, voluntary agents, without moral government. For in maintaining communication or converse, one must yield to the other, must comply with the other; there must be union of wills; one must be clothed with authority, the other with submission. If God has made man to converse with himself, he is not indifferent how he is conversed with. One manner of behaviour must be agreeable to his will, and another not; and therefore God cannot act as indifferent in this matter. He cannot let man alone, to behave toward him just as he pleases; therefore there must be moral government. God cannot be indifferent, whether he is respected and honoured, or is contemned and hated.

§ 11. Now as the consequence of the whole, I would infer two things:

1. A future state of rewards and punishments. For, unless there be such a state, it will certainly follow, that God, in fact, maintains no moral’ government over the world of mankind. For, otherwise, it is apparent, that there is no such thing as rewarding or punishing mankind, according to any visible rule, or indeed, according to any order or method whatsoever. Without this, there may be desires manifested, but there can be no proper laws established, and no authority maintained. Nothing is more manifest, than that in this world there is no such thing as a regular, equal disposing of rewards and punishments of men according to their moral estate. There is nothing in God’s disposals toward men in this world, to make his distributive justice and judicial equity visible, but all things are in the greatest confusion. Often the wicked prosper, and are not in trouble as other men. They become mighty in power; yea, it has commonly been so in all ages, that they have been uppermost in the world. They have the ascendant over the righteous. They are mounted on thrones; while the righteous remain in cottages. And, in this world, the cause of the just is not vindicated. Many wicked men have the righteous in their power, and trample them under foot, and become their cruel persecutors: and the righteous are oppressed, and suffer all manner of injuries and cruelties; while the wicked live, and reign in great glory and prosperity.

2. What has been said, does invincibly argue a divine revelation. Because, if God maintains a moral government over mankind, then there must be rewards and punishments. But these sanctions must he declared: for instance, the punishments which enforce God’s laws must be made known. To suppose that God keeps up an equal, perfect moral government over the world, and yet leaves men wholly at a loss about the nature, manner, degree, time, place, and continuance of their punishment, or leaves it only to their guesses, or for them to argue it out from the nature of things, as well as they can, and every one to make his judgment according as his notions shall guide him, is a very unreasonable supposition. If moral government be maintained, the order and method of government must be visible; otherwise it loses the nature of moral government. There may be a powerful disposal, as inanimate, unintelligible things are the subjects of God’s government, in a visible and established order; but no moral government. The order of government serves to maintain authority, and to influence and rule the subject morally, no further than it is visible. The notion of a moral government, without a revelation or declaration of the mind of the head, by his word, or some voluntary sign or signification, in the whole of it is absurd. How absurd is it to suppose, that there should be converse and 514moral government maintained between the head and subjects, when both are intelligent, voluntary agents, without a voluntary communication of minds and expressions, thoughts and inclinations, between the head and the members of the society!

§ 12. It need not be looked upon as any objection to men’s remaining in being after the death of their bodies, that the beasts that are made for man cease to be when they die. For it is manifest, in fact, that man is the end of the rest of the creatures in this lower world. This world, with all its parts, inanimate, vegetative, and sensitive, was made for an habitation for man during his present state: and if man be the end of the rest of the creatures, for which the rest were made, and to whose use they are subordinated, then man is imtar omnium. The end of all is equivalent to the whole. Therefore there is no need of any thing else to be preserved; nothing is lost; no part is in vain. If the end of all be preserved, all is preserved: because he is all, the rest is only for his occasional use. The beasts subserve man’s use in the present state: and then, though they cease, yet their end is obtained, and their good, which is their end, remains still in man. Though the tent that was set up for man to sojourn in during his state of probation, ceases when that occasion is over, surely that is no argument that the inhabitant ceases too.

And that the beasts are made for man, affords a good positive argument for a future state of man’s existence. For that all other creatures in this lower world are made for man, and that he himself should be made for no more than they, viz. a short continuance in this world to enjoy the good thing? of it is unreasonable.

§ 13. The natural world, which is in such continual labour, as is described in the first chapter of Eccles., constantly going round in such revolutions, will doubtless come to an end: these revolutions are not for nothing. There is some great event and issue of things, some grand period, aimed at. Does God make the world restless, to move and revolve in all its parts, to make no progress? to labour with motions so mighty and vast, only to come to the same place again? Some great end is nearer to an accomplishment, after a thousand revolutions are finished, than when there was only one finished. The waters of the sea are not so restless, continually to ascend into the heavens, and then descend on the earth, and then return to the sea again, only that things may be as they were before. One generation of men does not come, another go, and so continually from age to age, only that at last there may be what there was at first, viz. mankind upon earth. The wheels of God’s chariot, after they have gone round a thousand times, do not remain just in’ the same place that they were in at first, without having carried the chariot nearer to a journey’s end.

§ 14. This is a confirmation of a future state. For, if these revolutions have not something in another state that is to succeed this, then they are in vain. If any thing of this world is to remain, after its revolutions are at an end, doubtless it will be that part which is the head of all the rest; or that creature for which all the rest is made; and that is man. For, if he wholly ceases, and is extinct, it is as if the whole were totally extinct: because ho is the end of all. He is that creature, to serve whom the labours and revolutions of this world are, and whom they affect; and therefore, if he does not remain after the revolutions have ceased, then no end is obtained by all these revolutions: because nothing abides as the fruit of them after they are finished. But all comes to no more than just what was before this world itself began, viz. an universal nonexistence; all is extinct; all is as if the world had never been; and therefore all has been in vain; for nothing remains as the fruit. He that is carried in the chariot, does not remain after he is brought with so much labour and vast ado to the end of his journey; but ceases to be, as the chariot itself does.

§ 15. This confirms the divinity of the Christian revelation; which gives this account of things, that this world is come to an end; it is to be dissolved; that the revolutions of the world have an appointed period; and that man, the end of this lower world, is to remain in being afterwards; and gives a rational account of the great period, design, and issue of all things, worthy of the infinite wisdom and majesty of God.

§ 16. Some part of the world, viz. that which is the highest, the head, and the end of the rest, must be of eternal duration, even the intelligent, reasonable creatures. For, if these creatures, the head and end of all the rest of the creation, come to an end, and be annihilated, it is the same thing as if the whole were annihilated. And if the world be of a temporary duration, and then drops into nothing, it is in vain, i. e. no end is obtained worthy of God. There is nobody but what will own, that if God had created the world, and then it had dropped into nothing the next minute, it would have been in vain; no end could be obtained worthy of God. And the only reason is, that the end would have been so small, by reason of the short continuance of the good obtained by it. And so it is still infinitely little, if it stand a million of ages, and then drops into nothing. That is as a moment in the sight of God. It is, in comparison of him, absolutely equivalent to nothing, and therefore an end not worthy of him. No end is worthy of an infinite God, but an infinite end; and therefore the good obtained must be of infinite duration. If it be not so, who shall fix the bounds? Who shall say a million of years is long enough? And if it be, who shall say a good of a thousand years’ continuance does not become the wisdom of God f And if it does, how can we say but that a good of still shorter continuance would not answer the ends of wisdom? If it would, who can say that the sovereignty of God shall not fix on a good of a minute’s continuance as sufficient; which is as great in comparison with him as a million of years? The only reason why a good of a minute’s continuance is not great enough to become the Creator of the world, is, that it is a good so little, when compared with him. And the same reason stands in equal force against a good of any limited duration whatsoever.

§ 17. It is often declared in the Old Testament, that God will bring every work into judgment; that there is verily a God that judgeth in the earth; that his eyes are on the way of man; that he considers all his goings: that the sins of the wicked, and the good deeds of the righteous, are exactly observed, and written in a book of remembrance, and none of them forgotten; that they are sealed and laid up among God’s treasures; and that he will render to every man according to his works: that the Judge of all the earth will do right; and that therefore God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked: that as to the righteous, it shall be well with him, for he shall eat the fruit of his doings; that as to the wicked, it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him; that it is impossible it should be otherwise; that there is no darkness nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves from God the Judge; that God cannot forget his people; that a woman may sooner forget her sucking child; that God has graven them on the palms of his hands; that God beholds and takes notice of all their afflictions, and pities them, as a father pitieth his children; but that he is the enemy of wicked men; that their sins shall find them out; that though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished; that the way of righteousness is a certain way to happiness, and the way of sin a sure way to misery. Solomon himself is more abundant than all other penmen of the Old Testament, in observing the difference between the righteous and the wicked in this respect, the greatness and the certainty of that difference. 482482    • See Prov. i. 31. 32. and li. 11, 21, 22. and iii. 2, 4, 8, 13-18, 21-26, 32, 35. iv. 5-13, 22. viii. 17-21, 35, 36. ix. 5. 6. 11. 12. x. 16. 17, 27, 28, 29. xi. 7, 8, 18, 19, 21, 30, 31. xii. 2, 3, 14, 21, 28. xiii. 9, 13, 14. 15, 21. xiv 19. 26, 27. xv. 3. 6, 24. xvi. 3-7. xix. 23. xxi. 15. 16. 18. 21. xxii. 4, 8. ixiii. 17, 18. xxlv. 1-5, 12, 15, 16, 19-22. xxviii. 10. 13, 14. 18. xxix 6. and in many other places in the book of Proverbs. And, in Eccles. xii. 13,14. Solomon declares, “That to fear God and keep his commandments, is the whole duty of man: because God will bring every work into judgment, with ever secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” And chap. v. 8. “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and the violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter; for he that is higher than the highest regardeth, and there be higher than they.” Chap. viii. 11. ” Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” 515 And therefore, there is some other time, beside the time of this life, for executing the sentence which he observes will so surely lie executed. In Prov. x. 7. Solomon says, the memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot. And of this memory or good name of the just, he says, (Eccles. vii. 1.) that “it is better than precious ointment, (meaning the precious ointment they were wont to anoint the children of great and rich men with, when first born,) and that, upon this account, the day of a godly man’s death (followed with a good name and so blessed a memory) is better than the day of one’s birth.”

§ 18. If God has perfectly forgiven all the sins of the righteous, and they are so high in his favour; and if the great evidence of this favour be the durableness of the benefits that are the fruits of it, and the chief fruit of it is life; then it is at least to be expected, that they will escape that mortality which is such a remarkable disgrace to those that have (lie human nature, and so wonderful to behold in those whom the Most High has made to differ so much from the beasts in capacity, dignity, end, and design. We might surely expect, that these high favourites should, with regard to life and durableness of happiness, not be mere beasts, and have no pre-eminence above them; and that they should not be like the grass, and the Rower of the field, which in the morning flourisheth and groweth up, but in the evening is cut down and withered; that all their happiness and all the benefits of God’s favour should not be like a shadow, like a dream, like a tale that is told; that it should not be as a span, and should not pass away as the swift ships, as the eagle that hasteth to the prey; to which things the life of man is compared in Scripture.

The things of this world are spoken of as having no profit or value, because they are not lasting, but must be left at death, and therefore are mere vanity, and not worthy that any man should set his heart on them; Psalm xlix. 6,. to the end; Prov. xxiii. 4, 5. Prov. xi. 7. Eccles. ii. 15, 16, 17. chap. iii. ten first verses.; verse 19. chap. v. 14, 15, 16. But the rewards of righteousness are abundantly represented as exceedingly valuable and worthy that men should set their hearts upon them, because they are lasting; Prov. iii. 16. viii. 18. and Isa. lv. 3. Psalm i. 3,. to the end; Isa. xvii. 7, 8. and innumerable other places. How can these things consist one with another, unless there be a future state?

It is spoken of as a remarkable thing, and what one would not expect, that good men should die as wicked men do, as it seems to be, by good men’s dying a temporal death as wicked men do; Eccles. ii. 16. chap. ix. 3, 4, 5. And therefore, it may be argued, that it does but seem to be so; but that in reality it shall not be so, inasmuch as, though good men die a temporal death as wicked men do, yet, as to their happiness, they die not, but live forever in a future state. It is an evidence of a future state, that in the Old Testament so many promises are made to the godly, of things that shall be after they are dead, which shall be testimonies of God’s great favour to them, and blessed rewards of his favour; so many promises concerning their name, and concerning their posterity, and the future church of God in the world; and yet that we are so much taught in the Old Testament that men are never the better for what comes to pass after they are dead, concerning these things, (i. e. if we look only at the present life, without taking any other state of existence into consideration,) Job xiv. 21. Eccles. i. ii. iii. 22. and ix. 5, 6. Yea, the wise man says expressly, that the dead have no more a reward, (Eccles. ix. 5.) i. c. in any thing in this world. That man shall die as a beast, seems to be spoken of, Eccles. iii. 16,. to the end; as a vanity, an evil, a kind of mischief and confusion, that appears in the world. Therefore this is an argument, that God, the wise orderer of all things, who brings order out of confusion, will rectify this disorder by appointing a future state.

§ 19. It is an argument that the Old Testament affords for the proof of a future life and immortality, that we are there taught, that mortality is brought in by sin, and comes as a punishment of sin. Therefore, it is natural to suppose, that when complete forgiveness is promised, and perfect restoration to favour, and deliverance from death, and the bestowment of life, as thy fruit of this favour, eternal life and immortality is intended. The better men are, the more terrible would it make death, if there were no future state. For the better they are, the more they love God. Good men have found the fountain of good. Those men who have a high degree of love to God, greatly delight in God. They have experience of a much better happiness in life than others; and therefore it must be more dreadful for them to have their beings eternally extinct by death. Hence we may strongly argue a future state: for it is not to be supposed, that God would make man such a creature as to be capable of looking forward beyond death, and capable of knowing and loving him, and delighting in him as the fountain of all good, which will necessarily increase in him a dread of annihilation, and an eager desire of immortality; and yet so order it, that such desire should be disappointed; so that his loving his Creator, should in some sense make him the more miserable.

§ 20. Nothing is more manifest, than that it is absolutely necessary, in order to a man’s being thoroughly, universally, and stedfastly virtuous, that his mind and heart should be thoroughly weaned from this world; which is a great evidence, that God intends another world for virtuous men. He surely would not require them, in their thoughts, affections, and expectations, wholly to relinquish this world, if it were all the world they were to expect: if he had made them for this world wholly and only, and had created the world for them, to be their only country and home, all the resting-place ever designed for them. If all the creatures God has made are to come to an end, and the world itself is to come to an end, and so to be as though it had never been, then it will be with all God’s glorious and magnificent works, agreeably to what is said of the temporal prosperity of the wicked. Job xx. 6, 7, 8. “Though its excellency be never so great, yet it shall perish for ever; it shall all fly away as a dream; it shall be chased away as a vision of the night.” It shall vanish totally, and absolutely be as though it had not been.

« Prev CHAPTER I. Of God's Moral Government Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection