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of Happiness, in Indolence or an insensible State, which is a necessary Consequence of such a Destruction. And then, since good Men are not reprieved from an immature Death, being no less subject to Sickness, Dangers, and Violence ; what an horrible Confusion of Justice would it be, that both Good and Bad should undergo the same Punishment, and not be distinguished in their End? Or if the Punishment of the Wicked should be placed in insupportable Torments, continual Crosses, and dreadful Pains; what a slight Matter. would this be to an infinite Guilt, which deservedly calls for eternal Torments ?
Tlie greatest Aggravation of the Pains in Hell will be, that the Wicked will be assured they shall have no End, and will be thereby cast into the most extreme Despair : Whereas in this case the Sinners would comfort themselves with the hopes of approaching Death, which may end their Torments and their Life together. Nay, they will be able to rescue themselves from Punishment, and escape the Divine Anger, by laying violent hands upon themselves; which they will not fear to do, when not awed with the Terrour of any ensuing Punishment after Death. And after all, Punishments in this Life can only respect precedent Sins; how then thall a Sind ner satisfie for those more dreadful Sins, which will escape him in the midst of his Pains ; such as Blasphemy, Malice, and Un
repentance ? repentance ? Shall God suffer these to go unpunished, or not rather reserve them to Judgment in another World?
But if Judgment cannot worthily be executed upon Sinners in this World; much less can the Righteous receive the recompence
of their just Deeds therein. What Happiness can be bestowed upon Man in this mortal Life, worthy either the Supernatural Gift of God, or constant Endeavours of Men? Is it Riches or Prosperity, sensual Delights and temporal Conveniences? Alas! that God should conferr' no more noble Reward on his Servants and Followers : That for such Trifies only we should employ all the Faculties of our Soul and Body in a careful discharge of our Duty, and universal 0bedience to the Divine Laws: That after our Labour and Study to procure the Pertection of our Nature by Vertue, Holiness, and Obedience, we should attain no other Reward, tlian what even brute Beasts are capable of, the Satisfaction of our Senses and Ease of our Bodies. Or if any voluptuous Person Thould be found fo degenerous as to place his utmost Felicity in these carnal Enjoyments; he would fall infinitely short of his designed Satista&tion, although heaped with all the temporal Blessings of Heaven and Earth. The constant thoughts of his approaching End, which may be deferred, but cannot be removed, will imbitter all his Pleatures, create a continual disquiet, and
torment him with perpetual Fears. And then what an inconsiderable Happiness is that which an Ague or a Fever, a Mistake or a Casualty, may destroy?
So foolish is it for a pious Man to expect or desire the Completion of his Reward in this Life: And yet much more, if we consider that it would be as well impossible, as unreasonable to exercise the most noble, and pleasing Acts of Vertue and Religion in such a State. If Riches and Prosperity were entailed on Just Men only; there would be no room left for the exercise of Patience and Constancy under Amfiction; no occasion for Charity and Contentment; in a Word, all the Beatitudes of the Gospel would be destroyed. What greater Demonstration of Religion can there be, than to conquer all the Temptations of the Flesh, , and despise the Pleasures of the World? Yet this would then become not only indifferent, but even unlawful: Being in that Case a Renunciation of the Supream Happiness, and relinquishing the assigned Reward by God. What more certain Manifestation of an ardent Love of God, than to lay down our Lives for his fake, or at least to forego all worldly Potsessions when called to it? Yer this would be then no less foolish than impracticable; when God should suffer no Perfecutions to arise, and dispense no Rewards after Death. It would then in Wisdom concern every Man to continue his Life and VOL. I.
Possessions by all possible means, and overlook all Interests standing in Competition with them. Charity to miserable Persons would be unlawful; for to the Good, who should be free from all Calamity, it would be unuseful; and to shew it to the Bad, in whom Misery were a Punishment, would be to reverse and overthrow the Sentence of God.
Nay, to proceed yet farther, no Vertue or Vice, Obedience or Disobedience to God, would then take place. For no Vertue is acceptable, 10 Obedince deserveth any Reward from God, any otherwise than as it is a free A&t of our Soul, struggling with the Temptations of the World, the Fleshi, and the Devil, or its own corrupt Inclinations; as it includes somewhat of difficulty in it, fomewhat which evidenceth mature Choice of right Reason prevailing over the opposition of Lusts and Passions. Whereas if Rewards and Punishments be executed in this Life, nothing will be left wherein Free-will may interpose, all will indifferently strive to be Good; and it will be no less difficult then to be Wicked, than it is now to be Pious; when the Commands of God, and the Temptations of the World and the Flesh shall draw the same way; and the means to gratify our carnal Defires, will be to yield our felves up to the Obedience of God. What wonder will it be if Men then serve God, when it is even their
Temporal Interest; and believe him to be a Righteous Judge, when their own Senses permit them not to disbelieve it? So that while the Nature of things remain, while the Notions of Good and Evil continue, while a real difference between Vertue and Vice is maintained, and room left for the laudable exercise of Free-will; we cannot judge it possible or expedient, that the Fi. nal Sentence of God upon all Men should be executed in this Life.
I will add but one Consideration more, which is, that Punishments cannot be inflicted on Wicked Men in this Life, without making Good Men at the same time miserable. It would be highly unreasonable to expect from God the benefit of a conftant Miracle in favour of Good Men, which may rescue them from the common Calamities of Pestilence, Sword or Famine. Or if fo great a discrimination could be allowed, Good Men would necessarily be involved in the fame Sufferings by their Compassion, by the Loss and Torments of their dearest Friends and nearest Relations, who being tormented for their Sins in this Life, would interrupt all tilie Pleasures of Pious and Compassionate Men by their Shrieks and Cla
It is impossible to conceive what a Scene of Horror the Earth would then be, if God should choose to execute his Vengeance upon sinners in this world.
What a Face of Cruelty and Desolation would then