QUESTION XXVIII. What are the punishments of sin in this world?
ANSWER. The punishments of sin in this world, are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments, together with death itself.
QUESTION XXIX. What are the punishments of sin in the world to come?
ANSWER. The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most-grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell-fire for ever.
The Punishments of Sin in the Present Life
IN the former of these Answers, we have an account of those punishments to which sin exposes men in this world. These are distinguished as either inward or outward, personal or relative. Those which are styled outward, respect more especially our condition in the world, as we are liable to many adverse dispensations of providence; and are generally reckoned by sinners the greatest, as they are the most sensible, subjecting them to the many evils and miseries which befall them in their bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments, and as they end in death, the most formidable of all evils. In reality, however, the punishments of sin which are styled inward, such as blindness of men, hardness of heart, &c., how little soever they are regarded by those who fall under them, by reason of that stupidity which is the natural consequence of them, are by far the greatest, and most dreaded by all who truly fear God, and see things in a just light, being duly affected with that which would render them most miserable in the end.
I. We shall consider, first, the punishments which are called inward. These respect either the understanding, will, conscience, or affections.
1. We are said to be exposed to blindness of mind. This the apostle describes, in a most moving way, when he speaks of the Gentiles, as ‘walking in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.’ Ignorance and error are defects of the understanding, in consequence of which it is not able to find out, or desirous to inquire after, the way of truth and peace. Accordingly the apostle says, ‘The way of peace have they not known.’z By reason of this, we are naturally inclined to deny those doctrines which are of the greatest importance, namely, such as more immediately concern the glory of God, and our own salvation. This ignorance is certainly most dangerous, and cannot be exempted from the charge of sin; much more, when we are judicially left to it, as a punishment for other sins committed by us.
2. Another punishment of sin, mentioned in this Answer, is, strong delusion. This is the consequence of the former. That it is a punishment of sin, is inferred from the apostle’s words. ‘For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.’ The meaning is, that God suffers those who receive not the love of the truth, but take pleasure in unrighteousness, to be deluded, by denying them that spiritual and saving illumination, which would effectually prevent their delusion. Now, that we may consider what the apostle means by ‘strong delusion,’ we may observe, that every error or mistake in lesser matters of religion, is not intended; for then few or none would be exempted from this judgment. But it includes a person’s entertaining the most abominable absurdities in matters of religion, which are contrary to the divine perfections, and the whole tenor of scripture, and subversive of those truths which are of the greatest importance; or pretension to revelations, or a turning away from the truth, by giving credit to the amusements of signs and lying wonders. Antichrist is said to come with such signs and lying wonders, ‘after the working of Satan;’ and the consequence is, that his followers ‘believe a lie,’ which they suppose to be confirmed by them.
Errors, in matters of religion, are sometimes invincible and unavoidable, for want of objective light or scripture-revelation; as in heathens, Mahommedans, and others, who, through the disadvantages and prejudices of education, are estranged from the truth. But even the ignorance of these, in some respects, may be said to be judicial; for though they do not sin against gospel-light, yet they are guilty of other sins, which justly provoke God to leave them in this state of darkness and ignorance. But the punishment of sin, when God gives men up to this judgment, is more visible in those who have had advantages of education above others, and have had early instructions in the doctrines of the gospel, and who by degrees have turned aside from them, and denied them, and so ‘forsaken the guide of their youth.’ These sometimes call those sentiments about religious matters which once they received, implicit faith, and please themselves with their new schemes of doctrine, looking, as they say, with pity, or, I might rather say, disdain, on others who are not disentangled from their fetters, or have not shaken off the prejudices of education, or arrived at so free and generous a way of thinking as these pretend to have done. But how much soever they may glory in it, it is a sad instance of God’s giving them up, in a judicial way, to the vanity and delusion of their minds. Accordingly they believe that to be a truth which others can prove to be a lie, and which they themselves once thought so. Now, that this is a punishment of sin, appears from the fact that the gospel, which once they professed to believe, had not its due effect or tendency to subdue their lusts and corruptions. They rebelled against the light, and were under the power of presumptuous sins. Their understanding and talents of reasoning have been enlarged; and, at the same time, the pride and vanity of their minds have not been subdued and mortified, by the grace of God. Hence, they have been given up first to question, then to deny, and afterwards to oppose, and, in the most profane and invidious manner, to ridicule those sacred and important truths which they once received. This is a sad instance of the punishment of sin; and I would make some use of it, in a few practical inferences.
We ought not to be content with a mere speculative knowledge of divine truths, but should endeavour to improve them, to promote practical godliness, as they have a tendency to do in all those who, as the apostle says, ‘have so learned Christ,’ that they have been ‘taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.’ Nor ought we to content ourselves with an implicit faith, or to believe the doctrines of the gospel, merely because they have been received by wise and good men in former or later ages; but should be able to render a reason of the faith and hope that is in us, as built upon clear scripture-evidence. On the other hand, we must take heed that we do not despise the many testimonies which God’s people have given to the truth, or forsake the footsteps of the flock; as though God had left his servants to delusions or groundless doctrines, and as though there were no light in the world or the church, till those who have studiously endeavoured to overthrow the faith delivered to and maintained by the saints, brought in that which they, with vain boasting, call new light. Further, let us strive against the pride of our understanding, which oftentimes tempts us to disbelieve any doctrine which we cannot fully account for by our shallow methods of reasoning; as though we were the only men who knew any thing, and as though, as Job says, ‘Wisdom must die with us.’d Again, if we are in doubt concerning any important truth, let us apply ourselves, by faith and prayer, to Christ, the great Prophet of his church, who has promised his Spirit ‘to lead’ his people ‘into all’ necessary ‘truth,’ to establish them in it, and to keep them from being turned aside from it ‘by every wind of doctrine,’ through the management and sophistry of those who ‘lie in wait to deceive.’ We ought also to bless God for, and to make a right use of, the labours of others, who have not only been led into the knowledge of the gospel themselves, but have taken much pains, and that with good success, to establish the faith of others therein. Finally, if we have attained to a settled knowledge of the truth, more especially if we have been blessed with a spiritual and practical discerning of it, let us bless God for it, and endeavour to improve it to the best purposes. Our doing this will be a preservative against the sore judgment of being given up to the blindness of our minds, or strong delusions, and thereby to forsake our first faith.
3. Another punishment of sin is hardness of heart, and a reprobate sense. This more especially respects the will; and is inflicted when men are given up to the perverseness and obstinacy of their natures, so that they are fixedly resolved to continue in sin, whatever be the consequence, and cannot bear reproof for it, and refuse to be reclaimed from it, whatever methods are used for recovering them. Thus, though the prophet describes a people as having had forewarnings by sore judgments, and as being at the time under sad rebukes of providence; yet God says concerning them, ‘They will not hearken unto me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hard-hearted.’ The apostle also speaks of some who ‘have their consciences seared with a hot iron;’f and of others as ‘sinning wilfully,’ that is, resolutely, being headstrong, and determined to persist in their iniquity, like the man described in Job, ‘who stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty; he runneth upon him, even upon his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers.’ In this manner, corrupt nature expresses its enmity and opposition to God; and when sinners are suffered to go on in this way, it may well be reckoned a punishment of sin, or an instance of God’s judicial hand against them for it. This hardness of heart is sometimes compared to ‘a stone,’ or ‘a rock,’k or ‘an adamant,’ which is hardly broken with an hammer, or ‘an iron sinew.’ Sometimes, also, their ‘brow’ is said to be ‘as brass;’m and at other times they are compared to ‘a swift dromedary, traversing her ways;’ to ‘the wild ass, used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure;’ to ‘the bullock, unaccustomed to the yoke;’o or to ‘the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears, that will not hearken to the voice of the charmers, charming never so wisely.’ This stupidity of the heart of man is so great, that it inclines him to go on in a course of rebellion against God, and at the same time to conclude all things to be well. This is the most dangerous symptom, and a visible instance of God’s judicial hand, as a punishment of sin in this life.
There are several instances, in which this hardness of heart discovers itself. One instance is when men are not afraid of God’s judgments threatened, and do not regard the warnings given of them beforehand; or when they refuse to humble themselves under them, as God says to Pharaoh, ‘How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?’ Another instance is, when they stifle and do not regard those convictions of conscience which they sometimes have; or when, though they know that what they do is sinful and displeasing to God, they break through all the restraints which should have prevented their committing it. ‘Who knowing the judgment of God,’ says the apostle, ‘that they who commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.’r Again, men may be said to be hardened in sin, when they do not mourn for it or repent of it, after they have committed it; but, on the other hand, endeavour to conceal, extenuate, and plead for it, rather than forsake it.
Here we may inquire what those sins are which more especially lead to this judgment of hardness of heart. One is a neglect of ordinances, such as the word preached, as though we counted it an indifferent matter whether we wait at wisdom’s gate or not, or whether we make a visible profession of subjection to Christ, and desire of communion with him; and particularly when we live in the constant neglect of secret prayer. Accordingly the hardened sinner is thus described, ‘Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.’—Another sin leading to it, is a person’s delighting in or associating himself with such companions as are empty and vain, express an enmity to the power of godliness, and frequently make things sacred the subject of their wit and ridicule; choosing such for his bosom-friends, who cannot bear to converse about divine things, but rather depreciate or cast contempt on them. Such an one is called, ‘a companion of fools,’ and is contrasted to those that ‘walk with wise men, who shall be wise.’t There is no method which will have a more direct tendency to harden the heart, or root out any of the remains of serious religion, than this.—A third sin tending to hardness of heart, is a shunning of faithful reproof, or concluding those to be our enemies who, because they administer to us faithful reproof, are our best friends. He who cannot bear to be told of his crimes by others, will in a little while cease to be a reprover to himself, and in consequence will be exposed to the judgment of hardness of heart.—A fourth sin leading to this judgment, is our venturing on occasions of sin, or committing it presumptuously, without considering its heinous aggravations, or the danger which will follow. These things will certainly bring on us a very great degree of hardness of heart.
But as there are some who are afraid of falling under this judgment, and are ready to complain that the hardness which they find in their own hearts is of a judicial nature, we shall inquire what the difference is between that hardness of heart which believers often complain of, and the judicial hardness which is considered in this Answer as a punishment of sin. There is nothing that a believer more complains of, than the hardness and impenitency of his heart, its lukewarmness and stupidity under the ordinances; and there is nothing that he more desires, than to have this redressed. He is sometimes, also, not without a degree of fear, lest he should be given up to judicial hardness. Now, to prevent discouragements of this nature, let it be considered, that judicial hardness is very seldom perceived, and never lamented. A broken and a contrite heart is the thing which the judicially hardened least desire. But it is otherwise with believers. As it is said of Hezekiah, that ‘he was humbled for the pride of his heart;’ so all they who have the truth of grace, and none but such, are exceedingly grieved for the hardness of their heart. This is an evidence that it is not judicial, how much soever it be, in common with every sin, the result of the corruption of nature, and the imperfection of the present state.—Again, judicial hardness is perpetual. Or, if ever there be any remorse or relenting, or the soul is distressed by reason of its guilt or the prevalency of sin, it is only at such times when he is under some outward afflictions, or filled with a dread of the wrath of God; and, as this wears off, or abates, his stupidity returns as much, or more, than ever. Thus it was with Pharaoh. When he was affrighted with the mighty thundering and hail with which he was plagued, ‘He sent for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.’ But, when the plague was removed, it is said, that ‘he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart.’ It is otherwise, however, with a believer. Sometimes, when no adverse dispensations, with respect to his outward circumstances in the world, trouble him, he is full of complaints, and greatly afflicted, that his heart is no more affected in holy duties, or inflamed with love to God, or zeal for his glory, or that he cannot delight in him as he would, or obtain a complete victory over indwelling sin, which is his constant burthen. And whenever he has a degree of tenderness or brokenness of heart, under a sense of sin, it is not merely fear of the wrath of God as a sin-revenging Judge, or of the dreadful consequences of sin committed, which occasions it, but a due sense of that ingratitude and disingenuity, which there is in every act of rebellion against him who has laid him under such inexpressible obligations to obedience.—Further, judicial hardness is attended with a total neglect of all holy duties, more especially those which are secret. But that hardness of heart which a believer complains of, though it occasion his going on very uncomfortably in duty, yet rather incites him to it, than drives him from it.—Moreover, when a person is judicially hardened, he makes use of indirect and unwarrantable methods to maintain that false peace which he thinks himself happy in the enjoyment of. That which he betakes himself to, deserves no better a character than a refuge of lies; and the peace he rejoices in, deserves no better a name than stupidity. But a believer, when complaining of the hardness of his heart, cannot take up with any thing short of Christ and his righteousness. It is his presence which gives him peace; and he always desires that faith may accompany his repentance, that so, whenever he mourns for sin, the comfortable sense of his interest in him may afford him a solid and lasting peace. This is vastly different from that stupidity and hardness of heart which is a punishment of sin.
There is another expression in this Answer, ‘a reprobate sense,’ or, as the apostle calls it, ‘a reprobate mind,’ which denotes little more than a greater degree of judicial hardness. This God is said to have given those up to, ‘who did not like to retain him in their knowledge.’ The meaning is, that persons, by a course of sin, render their hearts so hard, their wills so obstinate and depraved, as well as their understandings so dark and defiled, that they hardly retain those notices of good and evil which are enstamped on the nature of man, and which, at times, have a tendency to check and restrain from sin. These become entirely lost, and are extinguished by the prevalency of corrupt nature, and a continued course of presumptuous sins; and, as the result of this, they extenuate and excuse the greatest abominations. Thus Ephraim is represented as saying, ‘In all my labours, they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin;’ whereas God says, in a following verse, that ‘they provoked him to anger most bitterly.’a Persons who are given up to a reprobate mind eventually entertain favourable thoughts of the vilest actions. ‘They call evil good, and good evil; they put darkness for light, and light for darkness; they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.’
4. The next spiritual judgment, mentioned in this Answer, as a punishment of sin, is a person’s being given up to ‘vile affections.’ This God is said to have done to those whom the apostle describes, as ‘giving themselves over to the committing of those sins’ which are contrary to nature, such as all men abhor who do not abandon themselves to the most notorious crimes. This is a contracting of that guilt which is repugnant to those natural ideas of virtue and vice which even an unregenerated man, who has not arrived to this degree of impiety, cannot but abhor. These are such as are not to be named among Christians, or thought of without the utmost regret, and an afflictive sense of the degeneracy of human nature.
5. The last thing mentioned in this Answer, in which the inward punishment of sin, in this life, consists, is, ‘horror of conscience.’ Under the foregoing instances of spiritual judgments, conscience seemed to be asleep; but now it is awakened, and that by the immediate hand of God; and this is attended with a dread of his wrath. Horror and despair are the result. ‘The arrows of the Almighty are with in him, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirit; the terrors of God do set them selves in array against him.’ ‘Terrors take hold on him as waters; a tempest stealeth him away in the night. The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth, and, as a storm, hurleth him out of his place. For God shall cast upon him, and not spare; he would fain flee out of his hand.’e
This differs from those doubts and fears which are common to believers; in as much as it is attended with despair, and a dreadful view of God, as a God ‘to whom vengeance belongeth,’ and is attended, as the apostle says, ‘with a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.’ Before experiencing it, the sinner took a great deal of pains to stifle convictions of conscience; and now he would fain do it, but cannot. This is a sad instance of the wrath of God pouring forth gall and wormwood, according to the prophet’s words, ‘Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backsliding shall reprove thee.’g
But, now that we are speaking concerning horror of conscience, we must take heed lest we give occasion to doubting believers, who are under great distress of soul, through a sense of sin, to apply what has been said, to themselves, for their farther discouragement, and to conclude that this is a judicial act of God, and a certain evidence that they have not the truth of grace. There is a difference in three respects, between that horror of conscience which we have been describing, and that distress of soul to which believers are often liable. The unregenerated, under horror of conscience, flee from God as from an enemy, and desire only to be delivered from his wrath, and not from sin, the occasion of it. The believer, on the contrary, desires nothing so much as that his iniquity, which is the occasion of it, may be subdued and forgiven, and that he may have that communion with God, which he is destitute of. In order to this he constantly desires to draw nigh to him in ordinances, and, if he cannot enjoy him, he mourns after him. Thus the psalmist complaineth, as one in the utmost degree of distress, ‘Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.’ Yet he says, ‘Unto thee have I cried, O Lord, and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.’i Again, the one reproaches God, and entertains unworthy thoughts of him, as though he were severe, cruel, and unjust to him; while the other, with an humble and penitent frame of spirit, complains only of himself, acknowledges that there is no unrighteousness with God, and lays all the blame on his own iniquity. Further, horror of conscience, when it is judicial, seldom continues any longer than while a person is under some outward afflictive dispensation of providence. Under this his sin is increased; and the removal of it leaves him as stupid as he was before. But it is otherwise with a believer. The removal of God’s afflicting hand, as to outward troubles, will not afford him any remedy against his fears, unless sin be mortified, and God is pleased to lift up the light of his countenance upon him, and give him joy and peace in believing.
II. Having considered the inward punishments of sin, in this life, we are now to say something concerning those which, in this Answer, are styled outward. Of these, some are the immediate consequence of the first entrance of sin into the world, and others are increased by the frequent commission of sin. The former include the curse of God upon the creature for our sakes, and our liability to death; the latter respect the various other evils that befall us, of which some are personal, and others relative. Many evils are said to befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments.
1. The curse of God was denounced against the creatures, immediately after man’s apostacy from him. This is, in part, contained in the threatening, ‘Cursed be the ground for thy sake; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the ground.’ It is very elegantly described by the apostle, who speaks of ‘the creature’ as ‘subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope;’ and of ‘the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together until now.’l The general scope and design of this passage seems to be, that the creature retains the visible marks of the curse of God, which followed upon man’s sin. I rather think this to be the sense of it, than to suppose, as some do, that ‘the creature’ spoken of is the Gentile world, and ‘the vanity’ which it was subject to, that idolatry to which they were universally addicted. That interpretation does not seem to agree with what the apostle says, when he supposes that their subjection to this vanity was ‘not willingly;’ nor can it well be called ‘the bondage of corruption.’ If, on the other hand, we understand it to mean that the part of the creation which was more immediately designed for the use of man, was abused, and so made subject to that vanity which is the consequence of his fall, this agrees very well with its being ‘not willingly.’ For the apostle is speaking here of creatures not endowed with understanding and will, yet abused by those that are; and therefore their subjection to men’s vanity is not so much from themselves, as from man’s sin. He then speaks of the liability of all these things to corruption, as the world is decaying, and growing towards a dissolution. [See Note 3 G, page 434.] How far this curse of God on the creature extended itself, whether only to this lower world, or to the heavenly bodies themselves, such as the sun, moon, and stars, I pretend not to determine. I desire not to extend my conjectures beyond the line of scripture, which speaks of ‘the earth,’ as ‘cursed for man’s sake;’ and how far the other parts of nature are liable to corruption, or inclined towards a dissolution, it is hard to say. All that I shall add on this subject, is, that when the curse on the creature is called a punishment consequent on man’s sin, it more especially respects man, who is the only subject of punishment in this world. Inanimate creatures are the matter in which he is punished; but he alone is the subject of punishment. But there are evils which befall us, in which we are more immediately concerned; and these are either personal or relative. Accordingly,
2. We are liable to bodily diseases, which are a continual weakness, or a decay of nature; and afterwards to death, which is the dissolution of the bodily frame. All the pains and disorders of nature whereby our health is impaired, and our passage through this world rendered uneasy, are the consequence of our sinful and fallen state, and, in that respect, are sometimes styled a punishment of sin. Thus, when our Saviour healed the man who was sick of the palsy, he intimates by the mode of expression used that his sickness was the consequence of sin: ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee.’ The psalmist also speaks of God’s ‘pardoning the iniquities of his people, and healing all their diseases,’n at the same time. In this respect, diseases are styled, in a more large sense, a punishment of sin. But, when they have a mixture of the wrath of God in them, and are not rendered subservient to our good, or included among those dispensations which are called fatherly chastisements, as is the case in those who are in an unjustified state, they are, in a more proper sense, punishments of sin. Thus the diseases which God brought on the Egyptians are reckoned among the plagues of Egypt, and so were a visible instance of the vindictive justice of God. The same thing may be said of death, which is the dissolution of the frame of nature. It is a consequence of sin, in all; and, in the most proper sense, it is a punishment of sin in those who are liable, not only to the stroke, but to the sting of death, and thereby are brought under the power of the second death.
3. There are many evils which befall us in our names, when we meet with reproaches and injurious treatment, as to what concerns our character in the world, from those who act as though their tongues were their own, and they were not accountable to God for those slanders and revilings which they load us with. We are in this case very ready to complain of the injustice done us, by their endeavouring to deprive us of that which is equally valuable with our lives. But we ought to consider that sin is the cause of all this; and God’s suffering them thus to treat us, and thereby to hinder our usefulness in the world, must be reckoned a punishment of sin.
4. There are other evils which befall us in our secular concerns, that is, in our estates and employments in the world, which are entirely at the disposal of providence. These evils render us rich or poor, or they succeed or blast our lawful undertakings. God may send them to us out of his mere sovereignty, without giving an account of his matters to any one. Yet, when we meet with nothing but disappointments or want of success in business; when whatever diligence or industry we use, appears to be to no purpose; when adverse providences, like a torrent, sweep away all that we have in the world; and when poverty comes upon us like an armed man, our condition is to be reckoned no other than a punishment of sin.
5. There are other evils to which we are exposed in our relations. By these we understand the wickedness of those who are nearly related to us, or the steps they take to ruin themselves, and cast a blemish on the whole family to which they belong. The bonds of nature and of natural affection render these very afflictive. When, in particular, they who are related to us attempt anything against us to our prejudice, their doing so is a circumstance which sharpens the edge of the affliction. And, as it is a sin in them contrary to the dictates of nature; so sometimes we may reckon it a punishment to which we are liable, as the consequence of our sin in general. But, if we have occasion to reflect on our former conversation, as not having filled up every relation with those respective duties to which it engages us; if we have been undutiful to our parents, or unfaithful servants to our masters, or broken the bonds of civil society, by betraying or deserting our friends, and setting aside all those obligations which they have laid us under; our conduct often exposes us to afflictive evils of a similar nature, whereby the affliction we meet with in others appears to be a punishment of our own sin.
Having thus considered the punishment of sin in this life, we may make a few remarks for practical improvement. Whatever evils we are exposed to in this world, we ought to be very earnest with God that he would not give us up to spiritual judgments. The punishments of sin which are outward may be alleviated and sweetened with a sense of God’s love, and made subservient to our spiritual and eternal advantage. But blindness of mind, hardness of heart, and those other evils which tend to vitiate and defile the soul, which have in them the formal nature of punishment, are to be dreaded like hell. And, as we are to be importunate with God to prevent them, so we ought to watch against those sins that lead to them. Let us, therefore, take heed of being insensible or stupid under any afflictive evils, as neglecting to hear the voice of God who speaks by them, or refusing to receive instruction by correction.—Again, let us not be too much dejected or sink under those outward afflictive providences to which we are liable. For though they are the consequence of sin, yet, if we have ground to conclude by faith that our sins are forgiven, they are not to be reckoned the stroke of justice, demanding satisfaction, and resolving never to remove its hand from us till we are consumed by it. Believers often experience what the prophet prays for, that God ‘in wrath remembers mercy.’—Further, let us take heed that we do not ascribe afflictive providences to chance, or content ourselves with a mere reflection on them as the common lot of man in this world, who is ‘born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards;’ for this we may do, and not be humbled for that sin which, as they are to be reckoned a punishment for it, they are designed to bring to remembrance. Finally, let us not murmur or quarrel with God, as though he dealt hardly with us in sending afflictive evils; but rather let us bless him, how heavy soever they appear to be, that they are not extreme, but mitigated, and have in them a great mixture of mercy. Thus God says, concerning the evils which he had brought upon Israel, that ‘in measure he would debate with them, who stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind; and by this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged.’ By this means, God not only afflicts us less than our iniquities deserve, but brings good to us in the end. If the guilt of sin is taken away, we have ground to conclude that all these things ‘shall work together for good,’ as he has promised they shall to ‘those that love him.’
Ridgley, Thomas. (1855). A Body of Divinity (Vol. 1, pp. 425–433). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.