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The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.
I shall now more particularly consider the several instances before mentioned. I. The punishment inflicted on mankind for the first transgression containeth in it much of depth and mystery, surpassing perhaps all capacity of man to reach; its full comprehension being by divine wisdom, I conceive, purposely concealed from us; so that I cannot pretend thoroughly to explain it; and shall not therefore speak much about it. This indeed is clear, that God did in his proceedings, occasioned thereby, intend remarkably to evidence his grievous resentment and indignation against wilful disobedience; yet in the management thereof we may observe, that, 1. After that provocation (in itself so high, and liable to so great aggravations) God did express his resentment in so calm and gentle a manner, that Adam, though abashed on the conscience of his fault, was not yet by the vehemency of the reproof utterly dismayed or dejected." 2. God used great moderation in the infliction of this punishment; mitigating the extremity of the sentence justly decreed and plainly declared to Adam, (that, in case of his offending
against the law prescribed him, he should immediately die,) for notwithstanding his forfeiture that very day of life, God reprieved him, and allowed him a long life, almost of a thousan years, after. 3. God did not quite reject man thereon, nor did withdraw his fatherly care and providence from him, but openly continued them; insomuch that immediately after the curse pronounced on our first parents, the next passage we meet with is, that unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make coats, and clothed them. 4. Although indeed man was by his fault a great loser, and became deprived of high advantages; yet the mercy of God did leave him in no very deplorable estate, simply considered, as to his life here; the relics of his first estate, and the benefits continued to him, being very considerable; so that we the inheritors of that great disaster do commonly find the enjoyment of life, with the conveniences attending it, to be sweet and desirable. 5. The event manifests that while God in appearance so severely punished mankind, he did in his mind reserve thoughts of highest kindness toward us; even then designing not only to restore us to our former degree, but to raise us to a capacity of obtaining a far more high pitch of happiness. While he excluded us from a terrestrial paradise here, he provided a far better celestial one, into which, if we please, by obedience to his holy laws, we may certainly enter. So that in this of all most heavy instance of vengeance, God's exceeding goodness and clemency do on several considerations most clearly shine. II. The calamity, which by the general deluge did overflow the world, was not (we may consider) brought on men but in regard to the most enormous offences long continued in, and after amendment was become desperate: not till after much forbearance, and till men were grown to a superlative pitch of wickedness, by no fit means (by no friendly warning, no sharp reprehension, no moderate chastisement) corrigible; not until the earth was become (especially for persons of any innocence or integrity) no tolerable habitation, but a theatre of lamentable tragedies, a seat of horrid iniquity, a sink of loathsome impurity. So that in reason it was to be esteemed rather a favor to
mankind, to rescue it from so unhappy a state, than to suffer it to persist therein. To snatch men away out of so uncomfortable a place, from so wretched a condition, was a mercy; it had been a judgment to have left them annoying, rifling, and harassing; biting, tearing, and devouring; yea, defiling and debauching each other; and so heaping on themselves loads of guilt, and deeper obligations to vengeance. ‘The earth,’ saith the text, “was corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth;’ which universal and extreme corruption had not in probability sprung up in a small time; for,
Nemo repente fuit turpissimus,
is true not only of single men, but of communities; no people, no age doth suddenly degenerate into extreme degrees of wickedness; so that the divine patience had long endured and attended on men, before the resolution of thus punishing them was taken up; the which also was not at first peremptory and irreversible, but in God's design and desire it was revocable; for the world had a long reprieve after the sentence passed; execution was deferred till Noah's long preaching of righteousness, and denouncing of judgment in a manner so notorious and signal, (not by verbal declarations only, but by the visible structure of the ark,) could prevail nothing toward their amendment, but was either distrusted or disregarded, and perhaps derided by them. For, as St. Peter tells us, “they were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing ;’ that is, (as is collected by several interpreters from the text of the story,) during no less than one hundred and twenty years; a competent time for their recollecting themselves, and endeavoring by amendment of life to prevent the ruin threatened to come on them. Yet notwithstanding that this obstinate and incorrigible disobedience did so much displease God, as that in consideration thereof God is said to have “repented that he made man on the earth,’ and to have been thereby grieved at the heart: yet did he so temper his anger as not utterly to destroy mankind, but provided against its total ruin, by preserving one family as a seminary thereof; preserving the father thereof (questionless by a special grace) from the spreading contagion, inspiring him with faith, and qualifying him for the favor, which by him he designed to communicate unto the world; the reparation thereof, and restoring the generations of men. So that also through this passage of providence, how dismal and dreadful soever at first sight, much goodness will be transparent to him that looks on it attentively. III. In the next place, as to that extermination and excision of the Canaanites, which carries so horrible an appearance of severity, we may find it qualifiable, if we consider that for the nature of the trespasses which procured it, they were insufferably heinous and abominable: most sottish, barbarous, and base superstitions, (cruelty and impurity being essential ingredients into their performances of religion, and it being piety with them to be exceedingly wicked,) and in their other practice most beastly lasciviousnesses, most bloody violences, oppressions, and rapines generally abounding. So that for those men themselves, who were by turns, as it happened, the authors and the objects of these dealings, it could not be desirable to continue in a state of living so wretched and uncomfortable. Impunity had been no mercy to such people, but rather a cruelty; cutting them off must needs be the greatest favor they were capable of, it being only removing them from a hell here, and preventing their deserving many worse hells hereafter. Even to themselves it was a favor, and a greater one to their posterity, whom they might have brought forth to succeed into their courses, and to the consequences of them; whom they would have engaged into their wicked customs and their woful mischiefs. They were not so destroyed from the land, until it grew uninhabitable in any tolerable manner, and itself could not, as it were, endure them any longer, but (as the text doth most significantly express it) “did spue them out;’ being like a stomach surcharged with foul or poisonous matter, which it loathes, and is pained with, and therefore naturally labors to expel. Neither was this sad doom executed on them till after four hundred years of forbearance; for even in Abraham's time God took notice of their iniquity, then born and growing; and gave account of his suspending their punishment; ‘because,” said he, “the iniquity of the Amorites' was not yet full, (that is, was not yet arrived to a pitch of desperate obstinacy and incorrigibility:) while there was the least glimpse of hope, the least relics of any reason, any regret, any shame in them, the least possibility of recovery, God stopped his avenging hand: but when all ground of hope was removed, the whole stock of natural light and strength was embezzled, all fear, all remorse, all modesty were quite banished away, all means of cure had proved ineffectual, the gangrene of vice had seized on every part, iniquity was grown mature and mellow ; then was the stroke of justice indeed not more seasonable than necessary; then was the fatal sword the only proper remedy; then so with one stroke to cut off them, and their sins, and their mischiefs, and their miseries together, was an argument no less strong and clear of God's merciful goodness, than of his just anger toward them. IV. The like account we may render of God's judgments on the people of Israel. If we consult the prophets, who declare the state of things, the facts, the dispositions, the guilts, that brought them down from heaven, we shall see that they came on account of an universal apostacy from both the faith and practice of true religion; a deep corruption (‘like that in the days of Gibeah,” as the prophet Hosea speaketh) in mind and manners; an utter perverting of all truth and right; an obstinate compliance with, or emulation of, the most abominable practices of the heathen nations about them; an universal apostacy, I say, from God and all goodness; a thorough prevalence of all iniquity. Hear the prophets expressing it, and describing them. Jeremiah; ‘Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.” Isaiah ; “The earth is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant: Ah, sinful nation 1 a people laden with iniquities, a seed of evil doers; children that are corrupters | They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger; they are gone away backward,’ &c. Thus do these and other prophets in a