Page images


BOOK papas Barinelas tràokaúrns, What a wretch was I (saith

he) to lose such a kingdom for so short a pleasure ! And though wicked men be not sensible of the loss of a far more glorious kingdom than this of Lysimachus, viz. that of heaven, yet they cannot but be sensible how much they have lost that kingdom which every good man hath in the tranquillity of his spirit, and the command of his passions.

6. The time that God spares wicked men, is not so long as we think for. It is all one, as Plutarch saith, as if we should complain, that the malefactor was punished in the evening, and not in the morning; God's forbearance is but for a very little time, compared with his own duration. We measure God by the short hour-glass of our time, when we are so ready to confine him to our measures. The time seems long to us, but it is as nothing in itself: επεί τούς τε θεούς πάν άνθρωπίνου βίου διάστημα, το μηδέν έστι, The whole life of man, compared with eternity, is nothing. Besides, all this time God suffers wicked men to live here, he hath them under safe custody; he doth but let them take the air within the prison-wall; or it may be they may play and sport themselves there, but there is no possibility of escaping out of the hands of Divine justice.

7. God forbears wicked men here, because the time is to come wherein God intends to punish them. This is the highest vindication of Divine Providence, as to the present impunity of wicked men in the world, because this is not the proper season for the open execution of justice. There are but few in comparison, whom justice causeth to be executed in the prison, of what are reserved for the general assizes; God reserves them for a fair and open trial, for the greater vindication of his honour, and manifestation of his justice to the world. And although God's judgments,


ed. Oxop.

even in this world, be sometimes so remarkable that CHAP. we cannot but see a hand of Providence in them, yet they are but few whom God doth so remarkably punish here, to make us more firmly believe a day of judgment to come. Which, though it be most clearly and fully revealed in Scripture, yet the heathens themselves, from mere reason, have had such a persuasion of it, that they have given this as another great reason why God did forbear to punish wicked men here, because he did reserve them for future punishment. For, as the same moralist speaks in the same discourse concerning the soul, 'Αγωνίζεται γαρ ώσπερ αθλητής κατά τον Ρlutarch. βίον, όταν δε διαγωνίσηται τότε τυγχάνει των προσηκόντων. This &c. xvii. present life is the place of the soul's combat, which when it hath finished, it then receives according to its performance of it. And as he before speaks, Els éoTI λόγος και του Θεού την πρόνοιαν άμα και διαμονής της ανθρωπίνης ψυχής βεβαιών, και θάτερον ουκ έστιν απολιπείν, αναιρούντα θάτερον. .

The same reason which confirms Providence, doth likewise confirm the immortality of the soul ; and if one be taken away, the other follows. Olon ψυχή κατά την τελευτην, μάλλον είκός έστι και τιμάς αποδί@cobar kai tipwpías. And if the soul doth subsist after death, it stands to the greatest reason that it should there receive either reward or punishment. Thus we see how far natural light and moral reason will carry men in the vindicating of Divine Providence, as to the present impunity of wicked men.

The other part, which concerns the sufferings of XXII. good men, is not of so great difficulty, because there are none so good as not to have a mixture of evil in them; and as they have a mixture of evil, so they have but a mixture of punishment; none lying under so great miseries here, but withal they have some

K 2

Senec. de

BOOK share in the comforts of this life. And therefore it is III.

less wonder that this part of Divine Providence which concerns the sufferings of men, hath not wanted some among the heathen moralists, who have made it their design to vindicate it; which, setting aside what Simplicius on Epictetus and many others have done, is fully performed by Seneca, in his tract on this subject, Cur bonis male sit, cum sit Providentia, (as Muretus restores the title of that book;) wherein these following accounts are given of it.

1. God brings them up as his children, under sharp Provid.c. 1.

discipline, for their future benefit. A good man, in Seneca's language, is, Discipulus Dei, æmulatorque, et vera progenies; which in the language of the Scripture is, one taught of God, and a follower of God, and one born of him. Now, saith he, Parens ille magnificus, virtutum non lenis exactor, sicut severi patres, durius educat. God, who is the great Father of good men, keeps them under discipline while under age, and by hardship fits them for the practice of virtue. Thence he bids us take notice of the different indulgence of fathers and mothers to their children: the father he hastens them to school, suffers them not to be idle on their play-days, makes them toil, and sometimes cry; the mother she is all for holding them in her lap, keeping them out of the sun, and from

catching cold, would not willingly have them either Ibid. c. 2. cry or take pains. Patrium habet Deus adversus bo

nos animum, et illos fortiter amat. God bears the indulgence of a father towards his children, and loves them with greater severity.

2. Good men receive benefit by their sufferings ; Quicquid evenit in suum colorem trahit, saith Seneca of a good man; which in the language of the apostle


is, Every thing works together for his good. The CHAP. sea loseth nothing, saith he, of its saltness, by the rivers running into it; neither doth a good man by the current of his sufferings. And of all benefits which he receives, that of the exercise and trial of his virtue and patience is most discernible. Marcet sine adversario virtus ; as soon as Carthage was destroyed, Rome fell to luxury. True wrestlers desire to have some to try their strength upon them; Cui non industrio otium poena est? An active spirit hates idleness and cowardice; for, etiamsi ceciderit, de genu pugnat, though his legs be cut off, he will fight on his knees.

3. It redounds to God's honour, when good men bear up under sufferings. Ecce par Deo dignum, virtus fortis cum mala fortuna compositus. It is a spectacle God delights to see, a good man combat with calamities. God doth, in Seneca's phrase, quosdam fastidio transire, pass them by in a slight. An old wrestler scorns to contend with a coward, one who is vinci paratus, ready to yield up presently. Calamitates sub jugum mittere proprium magni viri est. It argues a noble spirit to be able to subdue miseries.

4. It tends to the trial and increase of their strength. Seneca highly extols that speech of the philosopher Demetrius, Nihil infeliciús eo cui nihil unquam evenit adversi ; non licuit enim illi se experiri. He is the most unhappy man who never knew what misery meant; for he could never know what he was able to bear. And, as he saith, to pass one's life away sine morsu animi, without any trouble, it is ignorare rerum naturæ alteram partem, not to know what is

upon the reverse of nature. Idem licet fecerint qui integri revertuntur ex acie, magis spectatur qui sau



BOOK cius redit. Though he that comes home sound, might

fight as well as he that is wounded; yet the wounded person hath the more pity, and is most cried up for his valour. The pilot is seen in a tempest, a soldier in the battle, and a good man in sufferings. God doth by such as masters do by scholars, qui plus laboris ab his exigunt, quibus certior spes est; who set the best wits the hardest tasks.

5. God exerciseth good men with sufferings, to discover the indifferency of those things which men value so much in the world, when he denies them to good

Blindness would be hateful, if none were blind but such whose eyes were put out; and therefore Appius and Metellus were blind. Riches are no good things, therefore the worst as well as the best have them. Nullo modo magis potest Deus concupita traducere, quam si illa ad turpissimos defert, ab optimis abigit. God could not traduce or defame those things more which men desire so much, than by taking them away from the best of men, and giving them to the worst,

6. That they might be examples to others of patience and constancy : for, as Seneca concludes, Nati sunt in exemplar, they are born to be patterns to others. If to these things we add what the word of God discovers concerning the nature, grounds, and ends of afflictions, and that glory which shall be revealed, in comparison with which exceeding weight of glory, these light and momentary afflictions are not at all to be valued ; then we have a clear and full vindication of Divine Providence as to the sufferings of good men, as well as to the impunity of such as are wicked. But however, from hence we see how far the mere light of reason hath carried men in resolving these difficulties

« PreviousContinue »