A posing question, put by the wise man, viz. Solomon, to the wisest men concerning making a judgment of the temporal conditions : wherein you have the ignorance of man (in knowing, what is good, or evil, for man in this life) discovered, together, with the mistakes that flow from it : and the great question resolved, viz. whether the knowledg of, what is good for a man in this life, be so hid from man, that no man can attain it
Baxter, Benjamin, Preacher of the Gospel., Baxter, Richard, 1615-1691.

3. Ground upon which men go, in making a Judgment of Conditions, is this: That must needs be good for a man in this life, that hath been good for others. If they were good for Abraham, &c. Why may they not be good for me? And here I shall shew you, how upon this ground many are wo∣fully mistaken about Conditions.

It follows not: I told you before, that the things of this life, are so to us, as we are to them. Those Godly Men that had those things, had hearts and spirits fitted for them. It doth not therefore follow, That we have. It is, as if a man should say, This Shoo fits such and such a mans foot, and therefore it will fit mine. We are not to look so much upon the condition, as the Graces that belong to the Condition. Had Abraham a prosperous condition? Consider withal, what Graces he, and others had, and see whether you have the same. There are Prosperity-Graces, and Adversity-Graces; with∣out which, neither Prosperity or Adversity is good for a man. The condition was not simply good for them, but as they were furnished with such graces as made them fit for their condition. In a word, Consider this, The things of this life, as of them∣selves, they never did any man hurt; So, let me tell you, Of themselves they never did any man good, I say of themselves. Their doing a man good, cometh from a higher Good; and that is, Grace to Improve them for the Glory of God, and our Page  68 own and others good. There was never any man made better, by his being Rich; but many that have been Rich, have been the better for their be∣ing Gracious, with their being Rich.

4. Ground that men go upon, is this: That must needs be good for a man in this life, that God bestows upon a man in this life. But Honour, and Riches, &c. are God's Gifts and Dispensations; therefore must needs be good for a man in this life.

We shall a little examine this Ground, and shew how men may be wofully mistaken, that from those premises make such a conclusion. Their mistake lieth in this, Their not considering, How God is said to bestow these things.

1. They distinguish not, between what God giveth ex Largitate out of his Bounty; and as He is good to all: and what He giveth ex Promisso, by Promise. And the not considering of this, is one great cause of mens being mistaken, in making a judgment of a prosperous condition. So that, as our Saviour told the Sadduces in another case, That they did erre, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the Power of God. So we may say of these, That they erre, not knowing the Scriptures, and the Intentions of God in the bestowing outward things. While a man hath the things of this life, bestowed on him by God, only out of Bounty, he cannot say, They are good for him, till he find, they come in by Covenant and Promise, as I shall shew you more largly afterwards. When Esau ask∣ed Jacob, Whose Children are these? He answered, These are the Children that God hath Graciously (or, in Mercy) given me. No man can say, These are the Riches, and this is the Prosperity that God hath Page  69 in mercy given me, till he finds they flow from ano∣ther Fountain, than that of general Bounty. Luther said of the Turkish Empire, That, how great soever it was, yet it was but a Crust, that the great House∣keeper had cast to a Dog. Remember, it is the Co∣venant that forms a Mercy.

2. They distinguish not, between things in the Dispensation, and in the Intention of God. Hence ariseth the Mistake. Many judg of the Intention, by the Dispensation; and if such things be dis∣pensed, that be in themselves good, they presently think they are intended for good to them. Where∣as, Solomon telleth such, Eccles. 9. 1. No man know∣eth love by any outward thing, &c. Not by Riches, nor Honour, nor by outward Prosperity. Gods Hand, and Gods, Heart doth not alwayes go to∣gether. His Hand may seem to make for men, when His Heart is against them; as on the contra∣ry, His Hand may seem to be against men, when his Heart is not. We read, Jer. 32. 41. When God said, He would do his People good, He would do them good with his whole Heart, and with his whole Soul. We find, Psal. 78. 29. God gave the Israelites their heart's desire, they had what they would; But see what followeth, While the meat was yet in their mouths, the Wrath of God came upon them. Re∣member this, The best good things of this life, may be bestowed in Anger, Hos. 13. 11. I gave them a King in mine anger.

3. They distinguish not, between Gods Giving Hand, and Gods Sanctifying Hand. Between the Things given, and Grace that fits for the Using of them. God sometimes gives the Things, when He gives not the Grace to make a Right use of Page  70 them. There are some, who, if they find but a Giving Hand, look no further, whether there be a Sanctifying Hand, or no. Know this, While you look upon a Giving Hand only, you can never make a right Judgement of a Prosperous condi∣tion, till you look upon the other Hand, viz. the Sanctifying Hand. Till you find, that with Pro∣sperity, you have also Prosperity-Graces given too.

4. They distinguish not, between what cometh in by a Permissive providence, and by an Appro∣ving providence. As there is Gods Permissive and Approving Will, so it is in respect of Provi∣dences, as relating to the good things of this life. Some men have them onely by a permissive provi∣dence. Some there are that God maketh Rich, as it is said, God made Abraham Rich; some God permits to be Rich, and hindreth them not. Thus, some by sinful, and unjust, and unlawful Means, get the things of this life, when God approves not of it, Hos. 8. 4. God saith, They sett up Kings, but not by Him; and Princes, but He knew it not. The meaning is, That He approved it not. There is a disposition in men, (what course soever they take to compass the things of this life) to draw God unto a liking, and approbation of what they do, (let it be never so unlawfully done) As those, Zach. 11. 5. Blessed be the Lord, for I am Rich. How much do men father upon God, as his Gifts and Blessings, which they have got by their own in∣justice and oppression?

Object. But some will say, Is it not the Blessing of the Lord that maketh Rich? And, if I am Rich, must I not say, It is by the blessing of the Lord?

Page  71Answ. It is true, and the place, is, Prov. 10. 22. The Blessing of the Lord, it maketh Rich, and addeth no sorrow with it. This is a truth. And yet it fol∣loweth not from hence, that, Those that have Riches, and outward things, have them as a Bles∣sing. This will appear, if you consider, what is meant by Rich in the Text; It is not the having the things, but comfort, and contentment, in the things, that speaks men Rich. So you find, the latter words in the Text are Exegetical, and expound the former, (viz.) He addeth no sorrow with it. There are three Vultures that commonly feed upon a Rich mans heart, (viz.) Care in getting, Fear in keep∣ing, and Grief in losing. But now the Blessing of the Lord, driveth away all these. So that it doth not follow, That the bare having of the things, is the Blessing, but the having the Riches of Con∣tentment with them. So that the meaning is this, That it is the blessing of the Lord, that gives Comfort and Contentment with the things; and this is that indeed, that speaks a man truly Rich. Many have Gold and Silver, and Possessions in a∣bundance, and cannot be said to be Rich, because they have not the comfortable use of them, and contentment with them. So that it is the Comfort and Contentment, that is that Blessing that ma∣keth Rich.