Saturday, August 28, 2010

MHCC 37: National Providences

Matthew Henry, Preface to his Commentary, Vol. 2:

That great man archbishop Tillotson (Vol. 1. Serm. 3. on Prov. xiv. 34) suggests that though, as to particular persons, the providences of God are promiscuously administered in this world, because there is another world of rewards and punishments for them, yet it is not so with nations as such, but national virtues are ordinarily rewarded with temporal blessings and national sins punished with temporal judgments, because, as he says, public bodies and communities of men, as such, can be rewarded and punished only in this world, for in the next they will all be dissolved.

John Tillotson, The Works of the Most Reverend John Tillotson, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Vol. 1 (Sermon 3 on Prov. 14.34), pp. 96-97:

Indeed as to particular persons, the providences of God are many times promiscuously administered in this world; so that no man can certainly conclude God's love or hatred to any person, by any thing that befals him in this life. But God does not deal thus with nations. Because publick bodies and communities of men, as such, can only be rewarded and punished in this world. For in the next, all those publick societies and combinations wherein men are now linked together under several governments, shall be dissolved. God will not then reward or punish nations, as nations; but every man shall then give an account of himself to God, and receive his own reward, and bear his own burthen. For although God account it no disparagement to his justice to let particular good men suffer in this world, and pass "through many tribulations into the kingdom of God," because there is another day coming which will be a more proper season of reward; yet in the usual course of his providence he recompenseth religious and virtuous nations with temporal blessings and prosperity. For which reason St. Austin tells us, that the mighty success and long prosperity of the Romans was a reward given them by God for their eminent justice and temperance, and other virtues. And on the other hand, God many times suffers the most grievous sins of particular persons to go unpunished in this world, because he knows that his justice will have another and better opportunity to meet and reckon with them. But the general and crying sins of a nation cannot hope to escape publick judgments, unless they be prevented by a general repentance. God may defer his judgments for a time, and give a people a longer space of repentance, he may stay till the iniquities of a nation be full, but sooner or later they have reason to expect his vengeance. And usually the longer punishment is delayed it is the heavier when it comes.

Now all this is very reasonable, because this world is the only season for national punishments. And indeed they are in a great degree necessary for the present vindication of the honour and majesty of the divine laws, and to give some check to the overflowing of wickendess. Publick judgments are the banks and shores upon which God breaks the insolency of sinners, and stays their proud waves. And though among men the multitude of offenders be many times a cause of impunity, because of the weakness of human governments, which are glad to spare where they are not strong enough to punish, yet in the government of God, things are quite otherwise. No combination of sinners is too hard for him, and the greater and more numerous the offenders are, the more his justice is concern'd to vindicate the affront. However God may pass by single sinners in this world, yet when a nation combines against him, "when hand joins in hand the wicked shall not go unpunished."

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