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be inhabited. It is hard to conceive, how it could properly be reckoned inhabited, if no creatures resid ed in it but pure spirits. Surely it is no reflection on the Creator, that he has made such a world as this lower world is, or that having made it so beautiful and glorious as it is, that he has not left it to be a desolate wilderness; and then it is easy to conceive, that according to the best order of nature, and the best contrived laws to govern it, such inhabitants, consisting of body as well as spirit, could not subsist, without being constantly recruited with the means of life and nourishment. If it were not for that, the vi sible world would be comparatively useless; if it were no way subservient to the preservation and subsistence of its inhabitants, there would not be that beautiful connection that is now between the visible and invisible world, making things void of life and reason useful to creatures endowed with both.
To this we may add, that our natural necessities, when duly considered, are arguments of God's goodness, because, in their proper tendency, they are an tidotes against sin, and helps to duty. Their proper tendency is to give us an impression of our own natural emptiness, God's all-sufficiency, and our dependency upon him, from whom we need so many things, with which he furnisheth us so bountifully; by this means, not leaving himself without witness, as Paul reasoned with the people of Lystra in the forecited place, Acts xiv. 17. Besides it is useful to reflect here on what was hinted before, that human necessities are an excellent cement of human societies, and the many useful and beautiful relations comprehended in them; they lay also a foundation for the exercise of innumerable virtues and graces, which otherwise could not be exercised in so remarkable a manner, for making men's graces and good works shine before the world, to the glory of God, Mat. v. 16. And since the image of God drawn on the soul of a creature, is the noblest workmanship in the creation, it should not be thought improper that it have occa
sions of shining in all its splendour, for the honour of its Author. Were it not for men's natural necessities, they would not have these excellent opportunities that now they enjoy of shewing either their love to God, by sacrificing interest to duty, when they happen to interfere; or their love to their neighbours, by acts of charity, pity and compassion, bounty, generosity, and the like; or temperance, sobriety, and other duties that relate more immediately to the management of themselves. These necessities are also the foundation of all that beautiful variety of stations and employments, which, together with other excellent uses, serve to keep men from idleness and inactivity, than which, experience shews nothing is more hurtful. Men pretend indeed oft-times, that their labours are hinderances of their duties; but experience shews that generally those who have most time, are not the persons who make the best use of it. So that man's eating his bread with the sweat of his brow, is such a punishment of sin, as is at the same time an excellent restraint upon it.
From all which it appears, that by the desires God hath implanted in us, and the objects he has made necessary to us, he does not tempt us to sin, but excite us to duty; and that these things which are made occasions of evil, are really necessary means of good; and that though they are unnaturally perverted by bad men, yet their natural tendency is the exercise and triumph of many graces and virtues. God's goodness in this matter is the more evident, the more it is inquired into; he has implanted in us desires after things useful and necessary, but none after those things that are useless or hurtful, as was hinted before. No superfluous desires are natural, these are acquired by men themselves, and oftentimes improven to the prejudice of those desires that are just and natural: And, upon the whole, the use we should make of these reflections is certainly an humble acknowledgment of our own emptiness, and of God's all-sufficient goodness.
After what is said about our natural desires, it is easy to answer the objections about God's making laws against them; it is only against excess in them, and that excess is graciously forbidden by God, since it is so hurtful to us. It would be so, whether hé had forbid it, or not. Excessive love of earthly objects was shown before to be the chief source of earthly trouble it is in its nature hurtful to our souls and bodies, and makes us hurtful to others; to our souls, by alienating them from our chief good and only hap piness; to our bodies, by the natural fruit of intemperance, anxiety and excessive toil; and to our neigh bours, by tempting us to injustice, oppression and strife, and by hindering from charity and beneficence.
It is the very nature of wisdom, not to love any object above its real worth. This is what God's law requires of us; and surely nothing can be more necessary, or more reasonable: it is the way to that true enjoyment of the creatures, which is both most for the honour of God, and our good. And the allowances which it was shown his law makes for cases of absolute necessity, prove that there is a perfect harmony betwixt his precepts, as he is the Lawgiver of the world, and his works, as he is the Author of nature.
As to the next objection, viz. that earthly objects continue pleasant, even when abused by sin; it is plain it could not be otherwise, unless God would destroy the nature of his own creatures at every time when men abuse them. It is easy to conceive, that God may have infinitely wise reasons for not taking such measures; for not overturning these laws of his which govern nature, at every time when men violate these laws which should govern their actions; for not breaking the perfect order of his own works, whenever men are guilty of any disorder in theirs. No doubt, if we consider God's absolute power, he could (for example) turn the most wholesome food into poison, when it is sinfully procured or enjoyed. But besides the reasons God has for not changing the established order of nature; it is evident that such
outward miracles would not prevent inward disorderly inclination, in which sin and corruption chiefly consists; they would not hinder that immoderate love of the creatures, which is not restrained by other motives, but they would hinder indeed the trial and exercise of graces and virtues by which the moderate love of these objects promote the glory of God, and the good of men. It is plain there would not be so much virtue in justice, if there be no advantage by injustice; that is to say, present advantage: for the rest, taking in all considerations, it was shown already, that God has ordered matters so, that the motives of true profits and pleasure are on the side of holiness and righteousness, both as to this life and the next. And, in a word, not to insist longer on this objection, it is plain it cannot be urged without blaming providence for not working miracles constantly to prevent sin; whereas the design of this discourse is not to shew the reasons why God does not infallibly hinder men from all sin, but to shew that he does not tempt them to any.
As to the last objection, viz. That we are placed in such circumstances, that we are surrounded with these tempting objects on all hands, and that they make continual impression on our senses. It is true, God has placed us in such circumstances; he has surrounded us with these objects, but he has made these objects all very good: it is we ourselves that make them temptations to evil. Any truth that is in the objection amounts only to this, and it is thus it should be expressed: God has surrounded us with necessary and useful objects, displaying his glory, and contributing to our subsistence. He has surrounded us on all hands with the fruits of his bounty, and effects of his power; he has endowed us with senses suitable to these objects, to see his glory in them all, and to apply several of them to various good uses, which are motives to love him, and materials for contemplating and adoring him. There is nothing in all this, but what is really ground of praise, and not
of censure; it would be the wildest extravagance for men to complain, either that these useful objects are not wholly removed, or that they themselves are not deprived of the senses by which they perceive them, and make use of them. If this objection had any force, it would be against peopling of this world at all; which was considered already. No doubt indeed heaven is an incomparably better place; but that cannot reflect on God, for not making all the rest of the creation a wilderness; if we embraced the terms on which heaven is offered, surely our absence from it is not so long, that we have very much reason to repine at it. The time of our life of faith, and state of trial, is not so very tedious. On other occasions men are more ready to complain, their time among the sensible objects of this lower world is rather too short. They who are of a different disposition, and with submission to God, long to be among higher objects, and are weary of earthly things, are the persons who are in least danger of neglecting the former, or abusing the latter; as all are obliged to consider that the true use and tendency of the one, is to lead us up to the other. And since the invisible things of God may be clearly seen in all the visible creatures, these things sink the deeper into our hearts for this very reason, because the manifestation of them makes continual impression on our
Thus we have considered several arguments, which serve both to confirm the doctrine, and to answer objections against it; and though this doctrine be plainly revealed in Scripture, especially in the text, and divine revelation obliges us to believe it, yet these considerations are useful, because, as was shown before, many who profess to believe the Scriptures in general, are troubled with hurtful suggestions against this doctrine in particular; and it is good for them if they be troubled for them, and struggle against them."
* Rom, i. 20.