« AnteriorContinuar »
world is at present distressed; it is no longer fit to be silent under such imputations; lest our backwardness in defending our cause should be construed into a distrust of its goodness; and our contempt of false accusations should pass among some for a confession of their truth. Wherefore I answer, Demetrian, to you, and to the rest, whom you perhaps, by your injurious insinuations, have joined to your party, and made our enemies.
2. You place to our account those misfortunes and distresses under which the world at present labours; because, forsooth, we will not worship your gods. But, as to what may be objected, from the frequency and long continuance of wars amongst us; from the melancholy views which scarcity and famine give us ; from the waste of our health and spirits, by the increase of various distempers; and more particularly from that consuming illness which makes at present such a dreadful havock; to all these objections take this one answer; that they have, each of them, been foretold; and that we therefore expect, in the latter days, all sorts of evil to befal us; as well as that the wrath of God should more and more be kindled against mankind, and discover itself in various kinds and forms of punishment. These are mischiefs which do not befal the world, as you with great ignorance and falsehood complain they do, because your gods are not worshipped by us ; but because, indeed, the true and only God is
not worshipped by you. For since he is really the Lord and governor of the universe, and every thing in it proceeds by his appointment and direction, and nothing can come to pass without his agency, or at least his permission; whatsoever tokens appear of his anger, can never be occasioned by us who worship him; but should rather be considered as the punishment of your wickedness, who neither seek after, nor fear him, nor can by any means be prevailed with to leave your idolatrous and superstitious worship, and come in to the acknowledgment of the one true God, who is so justly entitled to all our adorations. Hear him therefore speaking with his own mouth, admonishing and instructing you to this purpose, and saying, “ Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.” And again : - Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” And again : “Go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands.” And hear one of his prophets, being full of the Holy Ghost, denounce his wrath in the following terms: “ Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from
her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.” Another prophet hath repeated these menaces, and said, “ And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest : and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” Here you may observe yourselves threatened with the wrath of God, for not returning to him; and yet, whilst you thus continue in your obstinate neglect of his authority, you pretend to complain and wonder at his judgments.
3. You have the confidence to complain, that fountains of water do not flow at this time to your mind and liking, nor the rain descend as you would have it; that the air is not quite so wholesome, the earth not altogether so fruitful; that the elements are not so perfectly obsequious to your advantage and pleasure as you would desire of them severally to be: meanwhile you forget putting the question to your own heart, whether you serve, as you ought, that God by whom, and through whom,
every thing else is made subservient to you? You expect from your servants all possible obedience; though both you and they came into the world, and shall go out of it again, upon equal terms; though your bodies are formed of the same materials, and your souls have one common extraction ; yet except every thing be done for you just as you would have it, you storm and rage, make large demands upon your dependants, and exact the most punctual compliance from them ; which if they fail in paying, they are sure to suffer for it; to be scourged, or starved, or choked ; to be laden with irons, and, it may be, to rot in a noisome dungeon, while all this time you consider not your profession, that God is your master, though you exercise upon a man, like yourself, such a savage tyranny. Wherefore be your sufferings from the hand of God never so severe, though he should pour upon you at present all the vials of his wrath, you have deserved the worst of them; and it concerns you farther to take notice, that if they have no effect, and do not with all their terrors turn you to God, he hath still a prison in reserve for you, from whence you shall never come out, a fire which never shall be quenched, and an everlasting punishment, which no cries will ever mitigate ; where God will not hear you, because you will not now hear him, who by the voice of his prophet hath called to you, and said, “ Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel ; for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. Therefore shall the Jand mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.” God, you may observe, doth here declare his displeasure, that there is no knowledge of him in the land, that his name is not confessed nor feared. He resents and arraigns these heavy crimes of lying, lusting, and cheating; he threatens the cruelty, the impiety, and madness of the age; yet no one is reformed by it. You see and feel the execution of his menaces, and yet your present evils have no such effect upon you as to put you upon any care of guarding against future. In the midst of those heavy pressures which lie so hard upon you, that you are almost stifled by them, you yet find leisure for a farther progress in wickedness, and, even in the height of your danger, for turning your censures and reflections upon others rather than yourselves. You think it hard that God should be displeased with you, as if your ill lives had really deserved his favour, or the measure of your sufferings had exceeded that of your provocations.