A SERMON AGAINST THE Dangerous and sinful Practice OF Inoculation.
Preach'd at St. Andrew's Holborn, On Sunday, July the 8th, 1722.
By EDMUND MASSEY, M. A. Lecturer of St. Alban Woodstreet.
From The Third Edition.
LONDON, Printed. Re-printed at BOSTON, for Benjamin Indicott, at his Shop No. 10 on the Town Dock. 1730.
A SERMON AGAINST THE Dangerous and sinful Practice OF INOCULATION, &c.
Job II. vii.
So went Satan forth from the Presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore Boils, from the sole of his Foot unto his Crown.
WHEN the Enemy of Mankind was first permitted to tempt the Faith and Patience of holy Job, his Estate and Family only were made liable to his Power, with an express Command not to touch his Person.
Page 4This I look upon to have been almost as great a Temptation as the spoiling of his Sub|stance, or the slaughter of his Children, for|asmuch as the common Opinion of Man|kind hath usually esteemed the survival of a|ny great Misfortune, to be the greater Un|happiness of the two.
Under such Afflictions 'tis very hard for a Man to moderate his Passion; for Grief is natural, and the excess of it easily run into: But to restrain and curb it, and not suffer it to exceed its just Limits, to feel Sorrow as a Man, and to asswage it from proper Consi|derations as a wise Man, is a strain above Nature, and properly constitutes that passive Vertue, which we call Patience.
Thus our Hero, being plundered of his E|state, and bereaved of his Children, reduced from Affluence to Beggary, and in danger that his Name, in the present Generation fa|mous, should in the next be clean put out† af|ter shewing a just Resentment of these severe Dispensations, by rending his Clothes, and other his Country Tokens of Distress; look|ing up to the Hand that smote him, resolves all into the good Pleasure of that Providence, Page 5 which was about to resume what it had hi|therto lent; and dutifully resigns what he had thankfully received, and wisely used as a Steward only, without arrogating to himself the Right of a Proprietor. Naked, says he, came I out of my Mother's Womb, and naked shall I return thither: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the Name of the Lord*!
The suddain Fall of this great Man may serve to shew us, how unable all human Means are of themselves to support us, when it shall please God to withdraw the Blessing of his Protection: That we cannot be secure against the Changes and Chances of this Mortal Life, in any Acquisition of Power, or Riches, or Reputation, no not in keeping Innocency, and taking heed to the thing that is right, with|out the Concurrence of Divine Providence: That God many times may afflict without forsaking his Servants. And when it shall seem good to him to call us forth, into the rough Paths of Suffering; if He shall please to minish and bring us low†; the Example of our Text will teach us, not to behave unseem|ly, or charge God foolishly‖, but with Pa|tience and Meekness, and Resignation, and Page 6 Contentedness, take what He lays upon us, whose is the Kingdom and the Power, and to whom for that very Reason we should give, even in such Circumstances, Glory.
The first Attempt of the Devil being thus baffled, and the Sincerity of the Holy Man found to be established upon more solid Foun|dations, than what the Accuser had urged to his own, as well as Job his Disadvantage; he next insinuates that Job was a Man of so mean a Spirit, as to be glad of Life upon any Terms; and so prevailing was this Passion in him above all other, that it was the on|ly Consideration that kept him in his Duty to God; for fear of being cut off from the Land of the Living: Put forth now, says he, thine Hand, and touch his Bone, and his Flesh, and he will curse thee to thy Face*. That is, afflict him in his Body, let some painful, some acute Distemper make his Life burden|some, without any hope of Recovery, and his Hypocrisy will display it self, and you will find he will throw off all the Regard he pre|tends to have for God, and will openly arraign and blaspheme his Providence.
Page 7Upon this Insinuation, the Devil obtains Permission a second Time to try our Man of Fortitude, what Impression bodily Pain, and loss of Health would make upon him, whose Vertue under the Losses he had lately sus|tained, stood still fix'd and impregnable.
Indeed his Malice was limited, and the good Man's Life was to be secured, but that was more than Job knew: So that the Ad|versary had all the real Advantages against him, that he could possibly desire.
According to his usual Way, after being once defeated, he returns to the Assault, with fresh Vigour and additional Strength. Temptations like Waves break in upon us, one upon the neck of another, and commonly the last is the biggest, and goes the farthest. 'Twas hard up|on Job to be deprived of his worldly Goods, harder to be bereaved of his Children, hard|est of all when these were gone, to be yet worse handled, buried as it were alive, turn|ed into Corruption before his Time, by the In|fliction of a sore noisome Distemper, which excluded him the Society of Mankind, and even then his Reputation, the only uninfected thing left, as inhumanly treated as his Body. Page 8 And so we are come to the Words of our Text, So went Satan forth from the Presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore Boils, from the sole of his Foot unto his Crown.
The Silence of Scripture hath given Inter|preters Occasion of guessing at the Distem|per which the Devil here inflicted upon Job: But among them all, it appears not certain|ly what it was. I will therefore desire to give an Opinion, equally I think true, with any that hath yet been taken Notice of: It is this, That the Devil by some venemous Infusion into the Body of Job, might raise his Blood to such a Ferment, as threw out a Con|fluence of inflammatory Pustules all over him from Head to Foot: That is, his Distemper might be what is now incident to most Men, and perhaps conveyed to him by some such Way as that of Inoculation.
I do not at present see what can be ad|vanced to invalidate this Supposition, which I look upon to be as tenable as any that is extant about this Matter: Having this addi|tional Advantage, that the Scene of Action lies in those parts of the World, whence this Practice is confessedly derived.
Page 9The Tempter's Aim was still the same as before; to make his Patient let go his Inte|grity, throw off his Dependance upon Al|mighty God, and renounce that Allegiance which is justly due to him, as Creator and Governour of the World: To persuade him, that if any thing, he was the worse for his constant Obedience to God, who made him so severe Returns for his faithful Services; and so by Consequence, comparing his past Deserts and present Treatment together, to infer, that God was a hard Master, or that he neglected to superintend human Affairs; on rather to ask Pharaoh's Question, Who is the Lord? and so, lay in his Misfortune a Foun|dation for Infidelity.
How in all these Designs the Devil was disappointed, it may be well worth our Pains to enquire: In order to do this, it is not at all improbable to suppose that the holy Man might duly consider these two Points.
First, For what Causes Diseases are sent amongst Mankind.
Secondly, Who it is that has the Power of inflicting them.
Page 10Let us then accompany him in the first Place, in finding out the Causes why Dis|eases are sent amongst Mankind.
I take them to be principally two: Either for the Trial of our Faith, or for the Punish|ment of our Sins.
There is nothing, generally speaking, that a Man is 〈◊〉 ignorant of as himself, nor so apt to be deceived in: His Love and Aver|sion are chiefly complexional, and not so of|ten as they shou'd be grounded upon ratio|nal Motives: I believe I may venture to af|firm, that the Religion of the greatest part of Mankind is perfectly accidental, accor|ding to the Country they happen to be born in: Men carry their religious Profession as the Children of Ephraim did Bows and Arrows*, which they knew not how to use in the Day of Battle. The Day of Battle, in a re|ligious Sense, is, when any Afflictions over|take us, which in the most ordinary Way come upon us in diverse Diseases and sundry kinds of Death. When God thus pleases to vi|vit a sincere Professor, he marks him out for an Example for the rest of Mankind to imi|tate; He sets him like a lighted Beacon on a Page 11 Hill, to alarm, to let his Light so shine before Men, that they may see his good Works, and glo|rify their Father which is in Heaven* for him. Besides, since the Heart, as the Scripture says, is deceitful above all Things†; it follows, that the best Men cannot be sure of themselves until they have been proved; many Corrup|tions may remain unpurged, many Vices may lie co•e•ealed in them, as well as many rewardable Vertues unpractised: For these and the like Reasons, the Apostle bids us count it all Joy, when we fall into divers Temp|tations‖, as having so many Opportunities put into our Hands of mortifying all our evil and corrupt Affections, and daily proceding in all Vertue and Godliness of living**. To see a good Man acting upon Principle under all Disadvantages, to see him with Joseph esteem a Jayl no Evil, in comparison of committing a Sin against God ††; or with Daniel, ac|count being devoured alive no Evil, in com|parison of living without God in the World for thirty Days ‖‖; or with Job, holding a dreadful Disease no Evil, in comparison of letting go his Integrity, are noble Trials and Instances of that saving, that justifying Faith, which worketh by Love, and are recorded to Page 12 shew how greatly our Nature is capable of being exalted in this Life, although common Humanity reaches not so high.
Secondly, Diseases are sent, if not for the Trial of our Faith, for the Punishment of our Sins.
Bad as the World is, it would still be worse, if the Wickedness of Mankind •hould be so successful as to meet with no more Rebuke than it would willingly suffer. But Sin, as it is always the deserving, so it is often the procuring Cause of Afflictions in this Life, as appears from our Saviour's Admonition to the Man in St. John, whom he had lately healed; Sin no more (says he) lest a worse Thing come unto thee*: And he had already been punished with a bodily Infirmity thir|ty eight Years together. St. Paul also gives the profane Behaviour of his Corinthians as a Reason why many of them were weak and sickly†. After these Patterns our Chnrch ad|vises those who languish upon the Bed of Sickness, to examine themselves for what Cause this Evil is come upon them; whether (as be|fore has been urged) it be to try their Pati|ence, and that their Faith may be found in the Page 13 Day of the Lord, laudable, glorious and honou|rable, to the increase of Glory and endless Feli|city: Or whether it be sent to them to correct and amend whatsoever doth offend the Eyes of their Heavenly Father*. For, if as the Scrip|ture asserts, God doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the Children of Men†; that is, afflict Men merely for the sake of correcting them, nor take Pleasure in their Sufferings as such; it will follow, that to one of our aforemen|tioned Reasons, viz. either the Trial of our Faith, or Punishment of our Sins, all his Vi|sitations are to be attributed.
Some Sins it pleases God to strike immedi|ately in a more remarkable Manner, as he did Herod‖; while others do naturally and by degrees, advance to the Punishment they de|serve: Thus habitual Drunkenness and Adul|tery, will ruin Health, and impair Estates, and induce a distempered old Age as the na|tural Consequence of a riotous youthful one. This also gives us to consider, that Diseases are not only judicially inflicted for past Of|fences, but graciously also designed to pre|vent future: And a little Recollection will tell a Man, whether he has not often been kept Page 14 Virtuous through fear of the Consequences, even when Inclination has gotten the better of his Duty. Hence some are made Honest for fear of a Prison; others continue Chaste for fear of Infection; a great many are Just for fear of losing their Character; and no doubt se|veral are Religious more out of fear of going to Hell, than any thing else. So that we see the worst of evils have their Use, and in this Sense, and by proper Reflections, we may make a Moral of the Devil himself.
Should all Restraints of this Sort be taken away, were there no fear of Punishment in this Life, nor belief of any in the next; should Iniquity and Reputation be join'd together, and Health be Handmaid to Uncleanness; we may conjecture from present Disorders, how mightily they would encrease, and irre|moveably be established; so that we have good Reason to bless and praise Almighty God for the wholesome Severities ordained for Offenders, without which, the World would be a much more uncomfortable Place to live in, than it is at present. And this brings me to the second Consideration, which is,
Secondly, Who it is that hath the Power of inflicting Diseases upon us.
Page 15Our Text indeed ascribes Job's Distemper to the Power of the Devil; but the foregoing Verse shews that Power to have been deliga|ted to him, and limited by Almighty God, who alone being Omnipotent, the Powers that be, whether Natural or Political), must all be derived from him. 'Tis true, he has com|municated several Parts of his Sovereignty to the Sons of Men, but still the Exercise of it will ultimately be resolved into his Permis|sion. And it is as true, that there are seve|ral Branches of Authority, which he has re|served to himself, in displaying of which, he acts upon Prerogative, and without human Intervention. I chuse to Instance in the In|fliction of Diseases, which I will attempt to prove are utterly unlawful to be inflicted by any who profess themselves Christians. In|deed where the Doctrines of Salvation are not known, and a regular Dependance upon Pro|vidence is postponed to the absurd belief of a Fatality; there it is no wonder to see Men give into impious or unreasonable Practices: But in a Country where better Principles are established, where God's Government of the World is for the most Part undisputed, and slavish implicit Belief happily superseded by rational Enquiries; in such a Place, methinks, Page 16 Men cannot easily be reconciled to a Practice, which abuses their Understanding, as well as insults their Religion; and if the received Notions of God's Providence be just, has its Foundation in Ignorance, and must be main|tained (if at all) by Presumption.
The Holy Scriptures give us frequent In|stances of God's giving Power unto Men to heal Diseases; and by his Blessing a Power is still continued: But that one was ever grant|ed to inflict Diseases, will I think hardly ap|pear; unless in the Case of Moses with the Egyptians*, and Elisha with his Servant Ge|hazi‖ But both these Cases were miracu|lous, and of God's own immediate Appoint|ment, to vindicate the Honour of his Ser|vants the Prophets, and for the Punishment of Sacrilege and Idolatry, and cannot be drawn into Precedent by any not invested with the same Character and Authority. Men may, and have invented Wracks and Tortures for each other, but no Man, let his Crimes be what they will, was ever yet condemned to an immediate Sickness, or sentenced to lie languishing in a Fever, for want of a suffici|ent Authority, which no body but a present Page 17 Set of adventurous Practitioners have of late pretended to assume.
It will easily be granted, therefore, that such a Procedure, for want of a competent Au|thority, is unlawful: That if Diseases, as be|forementioned, are sent unto us for the Trial of our Faith, or the Punishment of our Sins; He alone to whom our Faith must approve it self, and our Sins are manifest, has properly the Power of inflicting them.
Remembring then our Text, I shall not scruple to call that a Diabolical Operation, which usurps an Authority founded neither in the Laws of Nature or Religion, which tends in this Case to anticipate and banish Providence out of the World, and promotes the encrease of Vice and Immorality.
That a modern Practice has a direct ten|dency to all this, I offer the following Consi|derations to evince.
1. A Natural or Physical Power does not always infer a Moral one: That is to say, a Man cannot lawfully do every Thing that is in his Power to do. Thus we abstain from Acts of Injustice and Oppression, although Page 18 they may be gainful to our selves, out of re|gard to Morals, notwithstanding they lie with|in the Compass of our Abilities. Thus the Apostle adviseth us, Not to let our Good be e|vil spoken of*; that is, not to do any unwar|rantable Action, for the sake of any subse|quent Benefit: Because the end, however good intentionally, can never justify in Law, nor sanctify in Religion, the use of Means that are bad, to come at it: But on the contrary, the use of bad Means designedly, corrupts the Morality of the intended Good: For to make an Action Good, 'tis necessary that all its Parts, be Lawful, Innocent, and Good also; whereas the Depravity of any One, is suffi|cient to denominate that whole Action, Evil: Now the Apostle forbids us to do Evil, tho' Good should come of it†, upon Pain of Damna|tion, which absolutely prohibits all unjustifia|ble Arts and Practices, be the Event never so beneficial and desirable; so that although we have a Power to give a Man a Disease, that is, tho' we know the Way how it may be done; since a bare Power or Knowledge, does not in|fer the Morality of so doing; 'till that is as|certained, we ought to forbear all Experi|ments of that sort: For even Uncertainty and Page 19 Doubting in moral or religious Cases, lays a positive, or at least a prudent Restraint upon Practice, because, as the Apostle says, What|soever is not of Faith, is Sin*. The Patient of our Text, at the Verse but one following, re|fuses to procure a Good to himself at the price of a Sin. Had he followed the Advice there given him, it might perhaps have eased him of his present Pain, and freed him from fu|ture Apprehensions, but still the Remedy would have been worse than the Disease, and what the foolish Prescriber would have given for good Physick, the unhappy Patient would have found miserable Divinity.
2. The Good of Mankind, the seeking whereof is one of the Fundamental Laws of Nature, is, I know, pleaded in Defence of the Practice I contend against: But I must profess my self at a Loss, to find or under|stand, how that has been, or can be promo|ted hereby: For if by Good be meant the Preservation of Life, it is in the first Place a Question, Whether Life be a Good, or not? But if it be, the Preservation of it will be found as little beholden to this Practice, as any other Invention whatsoever. The confessed Page 20 Miscarriages in this new Method, are more than have happened in the ordinary Way: And if this be our Case now, how much worse must it needs prove, if God for our Presumption, and contemptuous distrust of his good Providence, should suffer this Delusion to gain Ground, and these Physicians of no Value, these forgers of Lies, (as Job expresses it*) to obtain and grow into Credit among us: Such I fear they may be accounted, who so confidently tell us, what is impossible for them to know; namely, that they who under|go their Experiment, are for ever thereby secured from any future Danger and Infection: This is a bold Assertion indeed, and if such Experi|ment were lawful, and consistent with the Rules of Christian Practice, I could wish to God it were true also: But if neither of these be the Case, if the two Requisites, Preventi|on, and Lawfulness be wanting; I believe I may venture to affirm, that the most learned and judicious among the Professors of Physick will never give into so destructive a Scheme. And I hope the Time is coming, that these Venefici, these Spreaders of Infection, will be distinguished from those of the Faculty, who deserve Honour, and not permitted to mingle Page 21 with them, as the Devil among the Sons of God †, lest like the Disease-Giving Practitio|ner, the Harlot whom Solomon describes, they entice us, till a Dart strike through our Liver, and we haste to their Snare, not knowing that it is for our Life*. Besides, I cannot apprehend how it conduces to the Preservation of Man|kind, to force a dangerous Distemper upon them, which possibly may never happen unto them, and if it should, may probably be at|tended with very little, if any Inconvenience; and as before has been hinted, is no Sucuri|ty against future Contagion. This is une|qually to stake a Substance against a Sha|dow, to make Men run into a real Danger, lest they should happen to fall into an acci|dental One, and contributes no more to the Preservation of Mankind, than it would re|dound to the Honour of a well provided Ci|ty, to invite the Enemy and surrender now, for fear lest sometime hence, they should possi|bly be surpris'd and taken. If we now Thirdly,
5. Will weigh this Matter in a religious Balance, it will certainly be found wanting, and deceitful upon the Weights. I look upon this Matter to be forbidden by the sixth Command|ment, Page 22 as lascivious Thoughts are by the Se|venth. For it is always to be supposed, that a Law which forbids a great Evil, forbids al|so every Thing that has a Tendency there|to. For which Reason, the very next Chap|ter forbids all voluntary and causeless Wound|ing, Mutilation*, &c. Because these Things go often farther than they are designed, even to the taking away of Life: When this happens, they are to be considered, as no o|ther than a Breach of the Commandment: And it is but reasonable to imagine, that when God forbad to take away Life, He for|bad also the Commission of any Violence, whereby Loss of Life might probably ensue. Tho' the Homicide be casual, yet if the Cause of it be criminal, surely it will be no Excuse for it, for it is observed, That although the Effect which follows (if mortal) is beside the Intention, yet the Cause of it being not so, is sufficient to make a Man guilty before God: Men being justly chargeable with those Effects, which are the natural Results of those inordinate Actions, from whence they proceed.
It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God†: This was our Saviour's Answer Page 23 to the Devil, when he would have perswa|ded him to the Commission of a presumptuous Action. There are Angels, says the Temp|ter, to take Care of you, so that you can|not possibly come to any Harm, then make the Experiment, and cast thy self down. Now there is no great Difference between this of the Devil and the Temptation which lies be|fore us; both intimate the Safety of the Pra|ctice, and both pretend the Blessing of God: Our Lord's Reproof then will serve them both: No, says he, we must not presume upon God's Protection, to expose our selves to any unnecessary Danger or Difficulty. If Trials overtake us, he to whom we pray not to lead us into Temptation, will make a Way for us to escape, that we may be able to bear them*: But if we overtake them, if we seek for a Disease, and so lead our selves into Temptation, we can have no rational Depen|dance upon God's Blessing: It is with Diffi|culty we can sanctify our Afflictions in the Course of Providence, in the Way of our Duty, and 'tis odds but we miscarry under them, when we bring them upon our selves: If God's Blessing be withdrawn, it must una|voidably be so; and such Circumstances Page 24 wherein we have no Reason to expect his Blessing, are, I think, by no means to be run into.
There is also a Tempting of the Lord our God, when Men rely too much upon them|selves, and put their Trust in one another, without calling upon God for his Assistance, or praying to him to guide and direct them: Under these two Temptations the Practice I condemn is fairly to be ranked. In the for|mer, we throw our selves off the Pinacle; in the latter, we lean upon a Broken Reed, which will go into our Hand and pierce it‖: And it is but just in Almighty God, when we pre|sume too far, to punish our Rashness, when ' we misplace our Confidence to visit for our Idolatry.
The Honour due to a Physician, which the Son of Syrach* advises us to pay him, arises from his being an Instrument in the Hand of Providenee, to restore Health, and to prolong Life: This he does by Virtue of a wonderful Insight into the Nature of the Mineral and Vegetable World, by which, 'tis probable, the Life of Man was spun out Page 25 to so great a Length before the Flood: It may be this was that Tree of Life which A|dam, our first Physician, as well as first Pa|rent, was dispossessed of for his Sin; the Want of which, together with the Destruc|tion of the Virtues of Plants wrought by the Deluge, may also be a Reason why Life is now so short and precarious. But we are still to remember, that how great or extensive soever his Knowledge be, 'tis all the Gift of God, and like all good Gifts, cometh from above*; and under this Reflection, he him|self ought always to make Use of, and apply it. There is a Time, says the same wise Man, when in his Hands there is good Success†: For, continues he, he shall pray unto the Lord that he would prosper that which he gives for Ease, and to prolong Life. The Time of Success was thought to be when the Physician should pray for a Blessing upon his Prescription. So that formerly, we find that the Patient was prayed for, before his Case was thought to be desperate. Now praying for a Blessing upon our Undertaking, must suppose the Use of lawful Means, otherwise it is better to let it alone. And although we live in an Age, wherein Forms of Grace are for the most part Page 26 set aside, and Usages of Piety run out of Coun|tenance, yet I will venture to recommend this old Practice, and affirm that the Lives of Mankind would be no less secure, if all the Guardians of Health should speak Peace to our Houses when they enter them, and pray for (I don't say with) all those committed to their Charge; and to this Course of private Devotion add a little more Attendance on the Publick. But this by the Way.
It remains now in the last Place, to speak of this modern Practice, as it tends to promote Vice and Immorality; I believe it will be rea|dily granted me, that there is no one Thing so universally dreaded, as the Disease, which this strange Method of Practice pretends to e|lude. But there is this of Good attending, that the Fear of it is an happy Restraint upon many People, who seem not so sensible of superiour Obligations, to keep themselves in Temperance and Sobriety, and want no other Encouragement to give a Loose to their In|clinations, than to be free from Apprehensi|ons of this uncertain Visitor. Most Mens Acquaintance, I am apt to think, will furnish them with Instances of Persons who would gladly give into the Extravagance of these licentious Cities, to the apparent hazard of Page 27 Reputation and Fortune; did not this pro|vidential Obstruction, like the Angel of the Lord to Balaam, stop them in the Way*, or keep them at a safe Distance, in Health, Wealth, and Innocence. However ugly Sin may be in it self, rightly considered, 'tis the fear of some such Consequence as this, that frequently hinders the Commission of it, in spight of all the prevailing Invitations of Fashion, Place and Opportunity. We ought then to look upon this, and all other Dis|couragements to Sin, with a thankful Eye, and bless that wise Providence which has mercifully set such Checks upon Iniquity, that we may not run smoothly on unadmo|nished to our Ruin. Could then these bold Practitioners lessen the Severity of this Dis|ease; could they entirely secure Men from Danger under it, could they say to the Dis|temper, as Almighty God does to the proud Waves of the Sea, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther‖; could they, I say, do all this, I do not see what Good Mankind would get in the main; they would, 'tis true, have one Danger less to fear, but that would be no real Kindness; forasmuch as it would be the Oc|casion of their running into a great many Page 28 more, and if they should happen to be more healthy, 'tis a great Chance but they would be less Righteous.
If Security would make Men more dili|gent in their Callings, more just and honest in their Dealings; or if they would look up|on it as a Mercy, and be thankful to God for the Enjoyment of it; I could wish the Generations of the World were more healthy and strong; But the Negligence of Men in these Particulars, even with all their Infir|mities about them, makes it evident to De|monstration, that these good Effects would not follow: If Danger should be removed, we should be the less upon our Guard, and lie more open to other Assaults of the Temp|ter, and give more easily into the Commis|sion of many Sins, which then would also more easily beset us. In a confirmed State of Health, we are not so apt to consider our latter End: Or if we do, the Consideration does not so much affect, because of its sup|posed Distance: But when we find it by any Indisposition, or the fear of any, making nearer Approaches, when the Pleasures of Health are abated, and human Enjoyments have lost their Relish, when a Man's Spirits begin to sink, and his Body decay; this a|wakening Page 29 Call is much more persuasive than the Voice of Eloquence, or Force of Reason, to make a Man improve the Thoughts of his Dissolution to the best Advantage. I have before observed, that Life it self may not always be a Blessing: For that depends entirely on the good Use that is made of it: It had been better for them, if some Men had never been born; if others had died in their Infancy. No Doubt but Providence has a good and beneficial Design in all those Deaths, which we improperly call untimely; either the Good is taken to his Reward, or the Wicked hindred from increasing his Pu|nishment. What Reason then for this saving, this anti-providential Project, this pretended Art of Preserving, which thus tends in a great Measure to prevent that religious Watchfulness, which Christianity, as a War|fare, requires? Should we not rather, with the same Mind, endure our present Estate, whatsoever it be, as we pass through a hard Winter, or a Time of foul Weather, taking it for seasonable and fit, because the wise Author of Nature has so ordered and appoint|ed it?
And now upon the whole, what is all this Discourse, but a Persuasive to depend upon Page 30 the good Pleasure of an all-wise God, rather than throw our selves into the presumptuous Hands of foolish and unskilful Men; and with David to say, Let us now fall into the Hand of the Lord, for his Mercies are great, and let us not fall into the Hand of Man*. If we be|lieve that he who made the World does still guide and govern it, and sees and knows e|very Action of our Lives; if we believe with the Apostle, who says, God careth for us†; or our blessed Saviour, who assures us, that the very Hairs of our Head are all numbered‖; that is, the most minute Circumstances of Life happen not unto us, without God's Per|mission or Appointment: If we believe this, the Sense of living under such a kind and watchful Government, should give us a suit|able Awe of it, a reverential Regard for it, and a firm and steady Dependance upon it. Let me ask the Apostle's Question: Do we provoke the Lord to Jealousy? or are we stron|ger than he*? Shall we presume to rival him in any Instance of Providence, find Fault with his Administration, take the Work out of his Hands, and manage for our selves? A dan|gerous Experiment this! and not to be made with Impunity, unless as we thus pretend to Page 31 be wiser, we prove our selves mightier than he. But let us not be deceived with vain Expectations; he who perfectly knows our Frame, knows what is fittest for us to endure: He who knows our Vertues; knows the pro|perest Time to try them; and he who knows our Sin, knows also the best Manner how to punish us for it. Nothing becomes us like Submission, which if it be voluntary will be graciously accepted, and rewarded as a Vertue; if involuntary, it will become our Sin, and even at last we must submit.
Let the Atheist then, and the Scoffer, the Heathen and Unbeliever, disclaim a Depen|dance upon Providence, dispute the Wisdom of God's Government, and deny Obedience to his Laws: Let them Inoculate, and be Inoculated, whose Hope is only in, and for this Life! But let us, who are better in|structed, look higher for Security, and seek principally there for Succour, where we ac|knowledge Omnipotence: Let us not sinfully endeavour to alter the Course of Nature by any presumptuous Interposition: Let us bless God for the Afflictions which he sends upon us, and the Chastisements wherewith he in|tends to try or amend us; beseeching him to grant us Patience under them, and in his Page 32 good Time a happy Deliverance from them Let us remember, that with him alone are the Issues of Life and Death, Health and Sickness: Let the Ignorant and the Transgres|sor place their Confidence elsewhere, but let us evermore believe, and practise as if we believed, That the Salvation of the Righteous cometh of the Lord, who if also their Strength in the Time of Trouble: That the Lord shall stand by them and save them, that He shall de|liver them out of the Hand of the Ungodly (and Unskilful) and shall save them, because they put their Trust in him†.
Now to God the Father, &c.
THE Reader will observe, that I meddle not in this Matter otherwise than as it seems to me to be Ir|religious. If he would be satisfied of the Danger and Un|certainty of it in a Physical Way, let him consult Dr. Wagstaffe's admirable Letter to Dr. Friend, and I dare pro|mise him ample Satisfaction.