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kedly, when we know the terrors of the Lord, and that: we must one day answer all our bold violations of his law, and contempts of his authority, with the loss of our immortal fouls, and by suffering the vengeance of eternal fire?
What is it then that can give men the heart and courage (but I recal that word, because it is not true courage, but fool-hardiness) thus to out-brave the judgment of God, and to set at nought the horrible and amazing consideration of a miserable eternity ? How is it possible that men that are awake, and in their wits, should have any ease in their minds, or enjoy so much as one quiet hour, whilst so great a danger hangs over their heads, and they have taken no tolerable care to prevent it? If we have any true and just sense of this danger, we cannot fail to shew that we have it, by making haite to escape it, and by taking that care of our souls, which is due to immortal spirits that are made to be happy or miserable to all eternity.
Let us not therefore estimate or measure things as they appear now to our sensual, and deluded, and depraved judgments ; but let us open our eyes, and look to the last issue and consequence of them: let us often think of these things, and consider well with ourselves, what apprehensions will then probably fill and possess our minds, when we shall stand trembling before our judge, in a fearful expectation of that terrible sentence which is just ready to be pronounced, and, as soon as ever it is pronounced, to be executed upon us; when we shall have a full and clear sight of the unspeakable hapa piness, and of the horrible and astonishing miseries of another world; when there shall be no longer any veil of flesh and sense to interpose between them and us, and to hide these things from our eyes; and, in a word, when heaven, with all the glories of it, shall be open to our view; and, as the expression is in Job, Hell shall be naked before ús, and destruction shall have no covering.
How shall we then be confounded, to find the truth and reality of those things which we will not now be persuaded to believe? and how shall we then wish, that we had believed the terrors of the Lord; and instead of quarrelling with the principles of religion, and calling B b 2
them into question, we had lived under the constant sense and awe of them?
Blessed be God, that there is yet hope concerning us, and that we may yet fiee from the wrath to come; and that the miseries of eternity may yet be prevented in time : and that for this very end and purpose, our most gracious and merciful God hath fo clearly revealed thefe things to us, not with a desire to bring them upon us, but that we, being warned by his threatenings, might not bring them upon ourselves.
I will conclude all with the counsel of the wise man, Wisdom of Solomon, chap. i. 12. 13. 16. Seek not death in the error of your life: and pull not apon yourselves destruction, with the works of your own bands. For God made not death : neither hath he pleasure in the destructie on of the living. But ungodly men with their works and words have called it down upon themselves. Which that none of us may do, God of his infinite goodness grant, for his mercics sake in Jesus Christ. To whom, with thee, O Father, and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, dominion and power, thanksgiving and praise, both now and for ever. Amen,
S E R M
Success not always answerable to the proba
bility of second causes.
Being a fast-fermon preached before the house of Com-
mons, on Wednesday, April 16. 1690.
ECCL. ix. Il.
the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor yet bread to-
Ext to the acknowledgment of God's being, no-
thing is more essential to religion, than the be-
lief of his providence, and a constant depende ence upon him, as the great governor of the world, and the wise disposer of all the affairs and concernments of the children of men: and nothing can be a greater argument of providence, than that there is such an order of causes laid in nature, that in ordinary course every thing does usually attain its end; and yet that there is. such a mixture of contingency, as that now and then, we cannot tell how nor why, the most likely causes do deceive us, and fail of producing their usual effects.
For if there be a God and a providence, it is reasonable that things should be thus: because a providence does suppose all things to have been at first wifely framed, and with a fitness to attain their end : but yet it does also suppose, that God hath reserved to himfelf a power and liberty to interpose, and to cross, as he pleases, the usual course of things; to awaken men to the consideration of him, and a continual dependence upon him; and to teach us to ascribe those things to his
wise disposal, which, if we never saw any change, we should be apt to impute to blind necessity. And therefore the wise man, to bring us to an acknowledgment of the divine providence, tells us, that thus he had observed things to be in this world ; that though they generally happen according to the probability of second causes, yet sometimes they fall out quite otherwise: I returned, ani Juw uni er the sun, that ihe race is not to the swifi, nor the battle to the Itrong, &c.
The connexion of which words with the foregoing discourse, is briefly this. Among many other obfervations which the wife preacher makes in this sermon, of the vanity and uncertainty of all things in this world, and of the mistakes of men about them, he takes notice here in the text, and in the verse before it, of two extremes in human life: Some, because of the uncertainty of all worldly things, cast off all care and diligence, and neglect the use of proper and probable means, having found by experience, that, when men have done all they can, they many times fail of their end, and are disappointed they know not how: Others, on the contrary, rely so much upon their own skill and industry, as to promise success to themselves in all their undertakings; and presume so much upon fecond caufes, as if no consideration at all were to be had of the first.
The wise preacher reproves both these extremes, and shews the folly and vanity of them. On the one hand, of those who sit still, and will use no care and endeavour, because it may all happen to be disappointed, and to fail of success : not considering, that though prudent care and diligence will not always do the business, yet there is nothing to be done without them, in the ordinary course of things ; and that, in the order of second causes, these are the most likely and effectual means to any en:!: and therefore, rejecting this lazy principle, he counsels men, whatever the propose to themselves, to be very diligent and vigorous in the use of proper means for the attainment of it, in the verse immediately before the text, Whatever thy hand finleth to do, do it with thy might.
But then he observes allo as great a folly and vanity on the other hand, that they who manage their af
fairs with great wisdom and industry, are apt to presume and reckon upon the certain success of them, without taking into consideration that which, in all human affairs, is most considerable, the favour and blefsing of that almighty and wise providence which rules the world: I returned, (says he), and raw under the fun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,
I returned, and faw; that is, having considered on the one hand, the folly of sloth and carelessness, I turned mine eyes the other way, and faw as great an error on the other hand; in mens presuming too much upon their own diligence and conduct, without taking notice of the providence of God. For 1 have found, says Solomon, by manifold observations, that the success of things does not always answer the probability of second causes and means. So that the sum of the preacher's advice is this: When thou propoundest any end to thyfelf, be diligent and vigorous in the use of means; and when thou hast done all, look above and beyond these to a superior cause, which over-rules, and steers, and stops, as he pleases, all the motions and activity of second causes. And be not confident that all things are ever fo wisely and firmly laid, that they cannot fail of fuccess: for the providence of God doth many times step in, to divert the most probable event of things, and to turn it quite another way; and whenever he pleafeth to do so, the most strong and likely means do fall lame, or Itumble, or, by some accident or other, come short of their end.
I returned, and saw under the fun; that is, here below, in this inferior world.
That the race is not to the swift. This the Chaldee paraphrast does understand with relation to warlike affairs. I beheld, (says he), and saw, that they who are swift as eagles, do not always escape in the day of battle. But I chuse rather to understand the words in their more obvious sense, that, in a race, many things may happen to hinder him that is swiftest from winning it. · Nor the battle to the strong; that is, victory and success in war do not always attend the greatest force and