Imprimatur,

Guil. Sill, Revdo Episc. Lond. a Sacris Do­mest.

A DISCOURSE Concerning the PERIOD OF Humane Life: Whether Mutable or Immutable.

By the Author of The Duty of Man laid down in Express Words of Scripture.

LONDON, Printed by H. C. for Enoch Wyer, at the White Hart in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1677.

To the Honourable Colledge of Physitians at London.

Generous Gentlemen,

THat I presume to prefix your great Name to so mean a Book, proceeds not from any confidence I have of its value; but from the nature of the Discourse, which your excellent Pro­fession [Page] is so much concern­ed in. For I must say, that since I could under­stand the Debate, I have thought their opinion, who maintain the Period of every mans Life to be unalterably fixed by an absolute Decree, does endanger your Profession so much, that the truth is, if it be true, you may seek out some new world for your practice; for here you should be only like the Idol-Gods, [Page] who could neither do good nor evil.

This the excellent Jo. Beverovicius did prudently foresee, and partly endeavoured to sa­tisfie both himself and o­thers, by asking the ad­vice of the Learned men of his age.

But that the Period of Humane Life may be both extended and shortned, common expe­rience does sufficiently at­test. How many have [Page] [...] [Page] [...] [Page] been hurried to their Graves by the unskil­fulness of Empericks; and are there not multi­tudes also that can wit­ness, you have been (un­der God) the cause their Lives have been prolong­ed.

Gentlemen, I know you can expect no Pana­gyrick from such an unfit person as I acknow­ledg my self to be. And methinks I also hear all men say, that that is a [Page] business only for a Ho­mer to perform. If [...] meanness of this Present be censured by some, yet I know you are more ge­nerous than to do so; espe­cially since the bestowing of a more valuable and signal evidence of respect, is only impeded by the in­ability of,

Honoured Gentlemen, Your most devoted Servant, R. E.

The Preface.

Reader,

THE following Discourse is of so small bulk, that a Pre­face may seem as needless and ridiculous as an Index. In some few hours it may be perused, and then both the design of the Au­thor and of the Book may be known. It may be thou desirest to know, what was the occasion of the following Discourse. But I know not if I be obliged to an­swer this and such like idle questi­ons; yet to satisfie thy curiosity, know, that the Author was un­happily engaged to converse with a society of men, who frequently [Page] debated this and such like queries; and mostly he was opposed by the greater part, as maintaining an unreasonable position. Whether their charge be true or false, is a thing better determined by others unconcerned, than either by them or me. I know very well their clamorous calumnies and re­proaches, which since I cannot shun, I shall endeavour to slight, as indeed unworthy to be regard­ed.

If men of good consideration dis­like any thing in the discourse, I promise them, upon Information I shall either endeavour to satisfie them, or to rest satisfied with what they say. Nay further, if there be any Line in it inconsistent with Piety and Religion, freely reject it; for I perswade thee (if the Author knew any such) he would burn the Book for its sake.

But I hope upon trial there shall [Page] be found no harsh notion in it to offend the most squeamish consci­ence. For the opinion I have re­jected is, in my judgment incon­sistent with the Divine Goodness and Holiness, repugnant to the freedom of Humane Nature, and destructive of all lawful means for the preservation of a mans life. While as that sentiment I embrace, begets in mens minds, noble and generous conceptions to promote real Piety and Religion, and to shun all manner of wickedness and intemperance; upon the account that Piety is the means to prolong our lives, and wickedness the cause of our short lives. And that this is no cheat or delusion, the wisest of men has left upon record, Prov. 11. 19. As righteousness tendeth to life so he that pursueth evil, pursueth it to his own death. This brings to my memory the Psalmists advice, with which I shall conclude; What [Page] man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it. But the wicked and deceitful man shall not live out half his days.

OF THE PERIOD OF Humane Life.

Job xiiij. 5, 6.

Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, that he cannot pass.

Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish as an hireling his days.

THis excellent Book of Job represents to us a plain and unquestion­able instance of the various successes all humane acti­ons [Page 2] are liable to, and of the pro­miscuous administration of Di­vine Providence to particular per­sons. Here we may read of Job's happy and flourishing condition, that he was the greatest of all the men of the East. And of his low and afflicted state, poor even to a Proverb, and in a condition that only pleaded pity and com­passion; and how again the Lord blessed the latter end of Iob more than his beginning.

From this various administra­tion of Providence, men have ta­ken occasion to make divers in­ferences. The scoffing Atheist hath from thence wickedly concluded, that God hath no care of humane affairs. If God (say these scof­fers) had any care of this world, he would never suffer those men who have corrupted their ways by treachery and deceit, to pros­per and enjoy an affluence of all [Page 3] worldly delights; whereas the vertuous and godly man, who takes heed to his ways, lest he sin, and who throughout the whole course of his life has carefully studied to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and man, is notwithstanding a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief; as plagued all the day long, and chastened every morning, and hath waters of a full Cup wrung out to him. If God (say they) con­cerned himself with humane af­fairs, he would never suffer the Tabernacles of Robbers to prosper, and the house of the upright to be ruined and destroyed.

This is without all contradicti­on a great stumbling-block and offence to the blind Atheist; and hath even been a sad trial to the best of Gods people. Wherefore does the way of the wicked [Page 4] prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherous­ly? was a question Jeremy could hardly at first resolve. And we find Job and the Prophet Habbak­kuk very much puzled with it; and the Psalmist plainly conses­seth, that his feet were almost gone, and that his steps had well nigh slipt, when he saw the pros­perity of the wicked, Psal. 73.

To see bad men prospering in their wicked purposes and under­takings, and good men unsuccess­ful and frustrated in their just at­tempts, has been none of the least Topics the Epicurean Atheists have made use of, in their exempt­ing this world from the Divine Rule and Dominion. It was this single consideration that made Cato. (who was once a Preacher of Providence; how orthodox, I enquire not) accuse the Dominion [Page 5] and Government of the Gods, of instability and unjustness, that Cae­sar who tyrannically invaded the Rights of the Commonwealth of Rome, should be successful in so unjust attempts; and Pompey put to the worst, and overthrown in the lawful defence of his Coun­try: this stumbled him exceed­ingly. 'Tis true, some few of the learned and sober Heathens did not thus rashly fall foul upon Pro­vidence; but very wisely inferred the being of a future state, where the vertuous shall be rewarded, and the vitious punished. And those holy men in Scripture, who did fret because of the prosperity of the wicked, quickly perceived their folly and error, and that the wick­ed were only fed like sheep for the slaughter; and as the Poet excellently expresseth it, tollun­tur in altum ut lapsu graviore ruant.

[Page 6] Job's Friends, though they did not directly fall foul upon the Divine Providence, yet it is evi­dent they were of opinion, that God would never have afflicted Job with such sad calamities, if he had been upright and sincere. Remember (saith Eliphaz) who ever perished being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off? ch. 4. 7. Bildad tells Job, If thou wert pure and upright, surely now he would awake for thee, ch. 8. 6. To both these Zophar succeeds, with a charge as grievous and bit­ter, For thou hast said, my Doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes: But O that God would speak, and open his lips against thee, ch. 11. v. 4, 5.

These were the Cordials Job's Friends afforded him, while-as his afflicted condition pleaded pity from his friends. These accusa­tions [Page 7] were heavy; but he saw it was needless to tell them, that God might destroy the perfect as well as the wicked; and altho he would not plead not guilty, for then he confesseth his own lips should prove him perverse; yet he humbly conceived, that it was a dangerous principle to con­clude love or hatred from any such outward dispensations.

Therefore finding all his in­treaties rejected, and his plea's for his own defence slighted; he is at length forced to beg their silence, desiring far rather to plead his cause with his Maker, who could discern his sincerity; and therefore having ordered his cause, ch. 13. 18. and taken an exact and accurate examination of his for­mer ways, he begins his plead­ings for a mitigation of his pre­sent calamity, from v. 23, which [Page 8] he continues till interrupted by Eliphas, ch. 15. and amongst the many arguments he urgeth, that taken from the determined days, and unpassable bounds prefixed to men is not the smallest: Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee; thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. Turn from him that he may rest, till he shall accomplish as an hireling his day.

These words being the ground of the following Discourse, it is but reasonable I should spend a little time in their explanation.

Seeing his days are determi­ned, &c. The word which our Translators render seeing, is in the Original [...] if, which some Ex­positors think is used by way of query, thus, If his days be deter­mined? But the Context seems to warrant our Vulgar Transla­tion, [Page 9] and there is no doubt, but it is very emphatick; for it con­tains an implicit affirmation, a phrase very ordinary, when the thing for its certainty is confessed and acknowledged. But let us suppose, that the words should be rendered by way of query, yet there are two doubts that must be removed, else their quarrelling with our Translation is vain and impertinent. 1. It seems to be very evident, that it has then been a received opinion, that the days of men are determined; else Job had never made use of this argu­ment, in his pleadings for a cessa­tion from trouble. 2. If Job had indeed doubted, that mans days were determined, it was no wise nor rational plea, especially since he was pleading with God, who knew whether it were so or not; and since he might have made use [Page 10] of indubitable Topicks. But I pass by this debate as trivial.

His days, &c. It is debated by some, why Job makes use of the third person, and not of the first. The reason some give is this, be­cause the third person used for the first, denotes contempt and modesty; and therefore Job in his low state is pleased thus to abase himself, especially since plea­ding with his Maker. But this conjecture is not fully satisfacto­ry, for Job in several of his other pleas, makes use of the first person; which methinks he would not have done, if he had made use of the third person upon the ac­count of the former considerati­on; therefore from the promiscu­ous usurpation of the persons, we may easily conjecture, that when the argument he brings does in a more peculiar manner reach his [Page 11] own private condition, then he makes use of the first person: an instance of this we have ch. 13. 23, 24, &c. But now this argu­ment taken from the determined days, and unpassable bounds set to men, is a general one, which all men as well as he might plead; therefore he speaketh in the third person, yet always eying his own condition. The like instance we find in the beginning of this Chap­ter, Man that is born of a woman, is of few days, and full of trou­ble. Here he speaks in the third person, and not in the first; for to be of few days, and full of trou­ble, is the character of every man. Few and evil (says Jacob to Pha­raoh) have the days of the years of my life been, Gen. 47. 9.

Are determined, &c. This word in the Original properly signifieth to dig, or cut thorow; here it is [Page 12] to be understood metaphorically; because God doth as exactly know the number of mens days, as if the most accurate search were made. 'Tis true, in all humane determina­tions, it is reasonable that consulta­tion preceed. Some space must in­tervene betwixt their knowing of a thing and their determinations about it. I confess, it is disputed, whether the Humane Will be of it self a knowing faculty? or if it must follow in its choice the dic­tates of the intellect? I will not dispute this now; but there is truth in that general Maxim, ignoti nulla cupido. But to fancy that there is any such priority between the Di­vine knowledge and volition, is a gross mistake, irreconcilable with the Infinite and Eternal perfections of God: who uno actu & ictu, (as they speak) comprehendeth and willeth all future Events.

[Page 13] The number of his Months are with thee, &c. This Phrase holds out these two things: First, the Exactness and Infiniteness of the Divine knowledg; and Secondly the Divine rule and dominion. First, it holds out the Divine knowledg to be Infinite and Exact, The number of his months are with thee. That is, thou art a God whose knowledg reacheth the smallest portion of our time, even to months and days; thou alone knowest all those circumstances; and to know the particular portion of days allowed to every man, does certainly require an infinite and exact knowledg. I will not curiously enquire, what truth there is in the pretended diabolical pre­dictions of future Events; and whether Star-gazers from the Con­junctions, and contrary Aspects of Celestial Bodies, can foretell [Page 14] the future number of the days and months of terrestial and in­feriour Sublunary beings: a pass­ing view of this I will have occa­sion to take afterwards; at pre­sent we rest satisfied with this; that an exact and comprehensive knowledg of our days and months; is only the prerogative of him who holds our lives in being; the pretended knowledg any Creature boasteth of, is conjectural and uncertain, if not (as frequently it is) fictitious, unless when the Divine wisdom for some secret, and to us unknown ends, reveals to his creatures such future Events. But Secondly, the Phrase holds out the Divine Rule and Dominion, The number of his months are with thee: that is, they are in thy power, thou may'st either prolong or shorten the days of Men: and I think the meaning of this whole [Page 15] verse is comprehended under these two heads, which I shall after­wards discourse of at more length.

Thou hast appointed his bounds, &c. It is not Fate or Fortune, but the wise God who appoints to e­very Man his time; now the bounds set to Men may be consi­dered under a two fold notion. First, As it signifies that common and ordinary Period which the God of Nature has setled, which Men by the common course of Na­ture may fulfill, if no accidental circumstance hinder: and it seems the Psalmist only understands this common term of Humane Life, Psal. 90. 10. The days of our years are Threescore years and Ten, and if by reason of Strength they be fourescore; &c. or Second­ly, It may be understood in a more strict sense, as it is taken for the last moment of every individual [Page 16] and particular person; and of both these I shall more fully discourse afterwards and show, that the words seem to refer to the common term of Humane Life; or if they mean this particular term, in what sense they are to be understood determined, appointed, &c.

These and such like condescend­ing Phrases, have been most un­happily used, and sadly misunder­stood in the Schools. Some men no sooner read in Scripture of Gods determining or appointing, but they instantly conclude a physical previous necessitating act, which inevitably and irresistibly deter­mines Men: and this kind of de­termination they plead for in all cases: so that Men even in their vitious actions are irresistibly determined to do so. I know no opinion which has rendered the reformed Church more odious than [Page 17] this: would to God I could say the Censure is causeless, and that I were forced to apolo­gize, for saying our Divines have erred in this case. But alas the opinion is grown strong, and not long since it was not much less than Heresie to condemn it: and even to this day it is the study of some Teachers, to instill it into the hearts of their Hearers. For the correcting of this sowre opini­on, I shall have occasion to add some things in this following dis­course; now I shall desire it to be considered, that while we speak of the Divine determinations, ap­pointment, &c. we speak of things our knowledg cannot reach, the best conceptions we can frame to our selves of the Divine voli­tions, are dangerous and imper­fect; our capacities in this lapsed state are more narrow than we are [Page 18] aware of: and altho they were raised to a higher pitch, yet we can never comprehend his way of working, who in all his ways is unsearchable. 'Tis truly sad to see the contending World so seri­ous and restless in digging those deeps that are unfathomable; it were to be wished that Men did not found their pretended knowledg of the Divine volitions, on the basis of their own silly volitions and did not argue from what we find in our selves to be the same in God. 'Tis true the holy Spirit hath condescended to express things suitable to our Understand­ing & mean capacities, therefore we read in Scripture of the Divine determinations, appointments, &c. but yet to abuse such condescend­ing expressions, and to imagine that there were really such pur­poses, and volitions in God as these [Page 19] we perceive in our selves: this were a hainous crime, pray let us satisfy our selves with this, that God in an eminent and trans­cending manner doth these things, which we cannot do without will­ing, decreeing, &c.

That he cannot pass, or as others render it, and he shall not pass; which Phrase is not to be under­stood, as if the particular Period of every Mans life were so fatally fixed that he can neither shorten nor prolong it, for this is contra­ry to many clear Texts of Scrip­ture, as shall afterwards fully ap­pear: but by this Phrase, we are to understand the common term of Humane Life, which is not mutable as the particular term is, and yet is not so fixed, that it cannot be altered; for God has still reserved in his own power the shortening and [Page 20] prolonging of it. And further we must not apprehend that the par­ticular term of Humane Beings is so mutable, that God knows them not, and cannot foretel the pre­cise Period of every mans life, or that the Divine Counsel con­cerning things Future is mutable; no sure, God has declared the contrary, I am God, and there is none like mee, (saith the Al­mighty) declaring the End from the Beginning, and from ancient time the things that are not yet done; saying, my Cousenl must stand, and I will do all my pleasure, Isa. 46. 9. Two things there be which occasion men to change their pur­poses and resolutions. 1. Their want of Power to execute them. 2. their finite and shallow Know­ledg, which cannot foresee those future circumstances which render their Designs ineffectual. But [Page 21] now there is no difficulty that can pose the Almighty; with him all things are possible, it is the Prophets argument, the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, who shall disanull it? his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? Isa. 24. 17. And further there is no circumstance or condition that lyes in the dark, and unseen to him, whose know­ledg is infinite, and who equally comprehends things past, present and to come. Therefore is it that men cannot pass these bounds prefixed by the Divine foreknow­ledg: But of this afterwards.

Turn from him, &c. it is query­ed whether Job here petitioneth a withdrawing of Gods support­ing presence, and a cessation by death, or a cessation from the affliction and trouble he lay un­der. There be three things that plead for the former Interpreta­tion. [Page 22] 1. Because the word [...] placed absolutely, signifieth to cease by death, 1. Sam. 2. 5. and they that were hungry ceased, i. e. died. 2. Because the supporting hand of Providence being remo­ved, men return to the Dust. Thou hidest thy face they are troubled, thou takest away their Breath, they dye, and return to their dust, Psal. 104. 29. 3. It is not incon­sistent with Jobs former desires, Chap. 3. and 6. Why died I not from the Womb? why did I not give up the Ghost when I came out of the belly? for now should I have lien [still] and been [quiet;] I should have [sleept,] then had I been at [rest]: O that I might have my request, even that it would please God to destroy me!

That the phrase can never ad­mit the former gloss evidently appears from the words immedi­ately [Page 23] following, for if Job had been pleading for death, why is that reason added, that he might ac­complish his day? It is only then a cessation from his grievous affliction that he so earnestly in­treateth; as if he had said, Lord, thy afflicting hand is heavie, and what am I but weak dust, not able to bear thy heavy Chastisments? my Soul is overburdened with grief, and wilt thou set thy ter­rors before me to afright me? hath not poor man in this lapsed state, Troops of miseries attending him, from which he may expect no freedom till Mortality be swallowed up in Life? and are not his few days labour and sorrow, pain and affliction? and wilt thou to those inseparable evils, superadd a burthen of pain more grievous and insufferable? O do not mea­sure out so dismal a Condition to [Page 24] thy silly Creature! make me not the object of thy direful ven­geance, but in the midst of wrath remember mercy. Art thou not Goodness it self, and far more com­passionate than the most tender pa­rent? and shall it be said thou hast measured out so acute torments to vex thy poor Creatures? I con­fess Perfection is not the thing I plead; yet may not I say, it is not for my iniquity, nor for my sin, that thou hast afflicted me? and let this Consideration also prevail with thee, that my unten­der friends sadly mistake thy de­sign in afflicting me; they conclude it is for some secret heinous crime, that thy judgments are upon me: O that thou wouldst turn from thy wrath, that I may enjoy some rest, before I go whence I shall not return?

This phrase turn from him, is [Page 25] sometimes taken in a very bad sense. Thus we find the wicked sadly characterized, as a people who desire God to depart from them; but as it is uttered by the people of God under the pressure of afflictions, it implies no more but a serious desire that God would be pleased to remove that burden. Now in such innocent petitions there appeareth no crime, for it is certain, that afflictions simply considered, are grievous even to the best of Man­kind: there is no affliction (saith the Apostle) for the present that is joyous but grievous. 'Tis true impatience under affliction is an excess which no excuse whatso­ever can pardon: there are some persons of such hasty complexi­ons, that they rise in passion against God if they meet with the least affliction; just like that wretched [Page 26] man who said, this evil is of the Lord why should we wait any longer upon him? But those peti­tions of the Faithful in holy writ, altho at the first view they seem to be peremptory and absolute, yet they are truly qualified and submissive; and at the most, only express the harmless resentments of innocent nature, that cannot but express how contrary afflicti­ons are to it.

That he may rest; ut quiescat sc. paululum, that his affliction being removed he may yet enjoy a little space to solace himself, till he ac­complish his day. I will purpose­ly decline the answer of that querie, Whether it is lawful to wish death when our condition is charged with a surplusage of ca­lamity; for the brevity I design will not suffer me to survey the difficulties of that case, only in [Page 27] the general I shall add two things. 1. If the affliction be violent, fierce, and seemingly durable, rendering us uncapable of exercising any duty; I question not but common reason will suggest to every sober man, that in that case Death is more eligible than Life. Yet 2. since we are ignorant what God de­signs to us, by sending us such afflicti-ons, it is our part to submit to the Lords will, and say, Good is the will of the Lord. Thus altho we may comparatively and submissively wish Death upon the account of some acute trials, yet it is never lawful to be perempto­ry and absolute in such desires; for frequently the happy event makes men conclude that it was good for them they were afflicted.

Rest, &c. Methinks the very sound of this word is full of ra­vishing sweetness and pleasure, and [Page 28] yet to those who are stated in a condition of Woe and Misery, it is bitter and harsh; as the most ravishing and pleasant Musick is in the Ear of him who is sad: those who never tasted the honey­comb, know not its sweetness: the men who have been always drudges and slaves, have no di­scerning what Liberty is; and those who from their birth have been accustomed to pain, know not their misery so sensibly. But to have once enjoyed blessings, and on a sudden to be deprived of them, not only the unexpected change, but also their former happiness, adds to their misery, and makes their condition more unsufferable. If man had been created to toil and labour, his eating of bread in the sweat of his face, had been no curse: but to have been placed in a blessed and happy state, and [Page 29] by his folly to be hurled into a state of misery and pain, that com­pleats his calamity, and makes him sensible, how miserable a thing it is to have been happy.

This single consideration seems to add very much to Jobs misery, his condition was once more than ordinary happy; and the amission of the comforts he formerly en­joyed, makes him pathetically cry out, O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; but now (as he sadly complains) they that are younger than I, have me in deri­sion.

If Job in this state of woe had been perswaded of the certain change of his condition, and that his latter end should be more bless­ed than his beginning, the expect­ed hopes of this had served to allay and mitigate his sorrow, and [Page 30] to render his case more sufferable and easie. It is the hops of rest, that puts strength in the wearied traveller; it was the expected re­ward and assurance of a future blessedness and better resurrection, which made those Worthies Heb. 11. so cheerfully undergo suffer­ing. What the happiness of the Saints rest is, I am not able to re­present, it being so far above any thing we can in this imperfect state conceive or imagine. The ad­vantages that attend our present tranquillity and rest, are many and great, which to enumerate would be prolix and tedious: but if from that, we should frame to our selves an Idea of that Ce­lestial Rest, how imperfect would it be? any Rest we enjoy here, is uncertain: an unthought-of cau­sality may impair it, but the Rest that remains for the people of [Page 31] God is everlasting, there is no fear of losing it: Heaven is a place free from trouble, and there is nothing that can imbitter that pleasant state.

Philosophers have a saying, that the end of Motion is Rest; this is indeed true of all those motions and trials the servants of God meet with; the way to the Kingdom is spread over with thist­les; thorow many tribulations we must enter into the Kingdom of Heaven: but those Waves of affliction will quickly over; and when the day breaks, these shadows will flee away. This Winter will soon be past; and the singing of the Birds will come; and Christians, who by saith and patience continue in well-doing, shall ere be long be placed in those mansions of Rest, that are in Emanuels land.

[Page 32]Alas, how insensible do we re­main under the enjoyment of our outward comforts! when we are blessed with food, liberty and health, we are but sensibly stupid and ignorant, what is the value of those mercies: but if hunger and want begin to pinch us, if our former liberty be hedged in, if sickness and pain seize upon us, then we begin to gather some sense, and we accuse our selves for our ingratitude to God.

Till he shall accomplish as an Hireling his day: for the better understanding of this similitude, I shall in four particulars compare the days of man with the days of an Hierling, and in each of them make application to Jobs case. 1. The days of an Hierling, denotes a time, set, prefixed and limited for the performance of some particular piece of service; [Page 33] and are not the days of man also allotted him for to do his masters business? We were not born to be idle and negligent, sure God had some greater design in the Creation of man than this: now this particular quadrates very well with Jobs case, and seems to make the meaning of Jobs words to run thus; Lord, thou hast gi­ven me a being, and appointed me a work to accomplish: but alas while I am thus excruciated with horror and pain, I am unfitted for thy service, the surplusage of misery measured out to me, dis­inables me to go about thy work, be entreated therefore O mercifull father to turn from thy displeasure, remove the present heavy calami­ty I am overburdened with; that I may yet accomplish the re­mainder of my time in thy work and service. 2. This set and fixed [Page 34] day of the Hireling is full of pain, labour and toil; he is (poor wretch) both late and early at work, and seldom has he any in­terwals of rest, unless his master be more than ordinary gentle and benign; and when he is thus in­dulged a little ease, he must not with the sluggard say, O si hoc esset laborare, he must to his work again, for upon this depends his payment; no wages is the result of not working; and in some cases stripes and whipping is the fruit of negligence. And what is mans life? at the best state it is but sorrow and trouble, till mor­tality be swallowed up in life. Our pleasures (upon which we put the highest value) are either pur­chased, or accompanied with pain and labour. If we be in a prospe­rous state, our minds are either distracted with care to make it [Page 35] more prosperous; or with fears puzled and perplexed, lest it be overcleuded, and if we be in a low and adverse state, we grieve and repine; nay knowledg, the most excellent of earthly pleasures, is yet in the judgment of the wisest of men, but vexation of spirit; for in much Wisdom there is much grief, and he that encreaseth Knowledg encreaseth Sorrow. The life of man is not unfitly compa­red to Ezekiels Roll, which was full of woes. If one misery or woe passeth, behold another com­eth, as one wave succeeds ano­ther. And by all these calamities we may learn what an evil Sin is, the fruit of which are all those calamities we meet with; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread till thou return unto the ground. And upon this account Job may be supposed to plead with God thus; Lord, is not my [Page 37] time at best but lamentable and miserable? and wilt thou superadd to this inevitable misery, a surplu­sage of pain and affliction? O deal kindly with thy servant who is de­voted to thy fear, turn from me that I may rest till I shall accom­plish as an Hireling my day. Thirdly, True it is that the Hire­lings day is but Labour and Pain; yet the brevity and shortness thereof makes him regard it the less. It is but a day, and that will quickly be over and gone; and what is the life of man? it is but as a hand-bredth of a small ex­tension; or like to a passing sha­dow, which we scarce sooner per­ceive than it vanisheth. Man that is born of a Woman is of few days, he cometh forth like a Flow­er and is cut down: his decaying is within some few minuts of his budding; as the Poet speaketh of Roses, & dum nascuntur consenuisse [Page 36] Rosas. Now from this reason Job may be supposed to argue thus; Lord, thou knowest how frail and brittle I am, and if thou contend thus with me, how quickly shall I return to the dust. I beseech thee consider that my time is however but short, and let thy Goodness appear in removing thy stroke away from me, for I am consu­med by the blow of thine hand; O spare me that I may recover strength, before I go hence and be no more. Fourthly, Therest and wages the Hireling expecteth, makes the accomplishing of his day more easie and tolerable. The word rendred accomplish, signifi­eth to will and delight in a thing earnestly; donec optata veniat dies. 'Tis a day wished and longed for, and much delighted in when it comes. And indeed the strength of the comparison seems to ly in this, which makes the mean­ing [Page 38] of Jobs words to be this; Lord, now my trouble and pain excru­ciats and torments me, and my life is more wearisome to me than the Hirelings day can be to him; therefore turn away thy wrath from me, that in the finishing of my course I may be as jovial and cheerful, as the Hiereling is when his day is accomplished: and thus I have done with the Explanation of these words.

The next thing I designed in this undertaking, is to enquire how the days of every mans life may be said to be determined; and whether the Period of every mans life were so fixed and bounded, that by his care, good managery, and use of the means, it cannot be extended; nor shortned by his negligence, intemperance, or ex­posing of himself to Famine, Sword, or Plague, it is very certain from this plain text of [Page 39] Scripture, that the days of every mans life are determined; but the manner how, is left unexplained: and this we do not learn from Scripture. And it were to be wished that our curiosity would forbear any enquiry into things that are hid: but alas our inclinations are so wicked and perverse, that niti­mur in vetitum, we are always bent and eager in our enquiries after things of a mysterious alloy; and God knows how miserably some men have mistaken in their enquiries after a solution of the present doubt: and if I could pro­mise to my self to rectify those huge mistakes some men have fall­en into, this would be a sufficient justification of my present under­taking.

But in order to the unfolding of this doubt, I shall premise four things which will contribute to the better understanding of it.

[Page 40] First, There is no doubt that every mans life hath a Period. It is appointed for all men once to dye; this is a warfare from which there is no discharge: what man is he that liveth and shall not see death? as to this, the Prince and Peasant stand upon even terms, and as the wise-man tells us, the rich & poor meet together: there is no justling in the Grave for preceden­cy. I confess it were not worth the pains to consider the trivial instances, taken from the transla­tion of Euoch and Elias, to in­fringe this position. For first, we are not to debate what God may do, he has a Soveraignty over his Creatures, and must not be called to give a reason of his acti­ons; all whose ways are tracts of wisdom and goodness. Secondly, We know nothing of the manner of their translation: he who will positively say, that they did not [Page 41] undergo that which is equivalent to death, will say more than he can prove. I am apt to believe that no sober man will say, that they entred their Heavenly habi­tation with their unrefined bodies; no more than those who rise at the sound of the last Trumpet, in the twinkling of an eye, are carried into Heaven without any change.

Secondly, It is also unquestio­nable, that Sin introduced this Period to every mans life; the pri­mitive threatning runs thus, in the day thou eats thou shalt dye. And the Apostle hath as plainly ex­prest it as it can be, wherefore as by one man sin entred into the World, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned, Rom. 5. 12. where it is plain, that Death is a punish­ment inflicted for Sin, so that if man had never sinned, we have no reason to think he should have [Page 42] died. I confess without Revela­tion, we could never have guessed this to be the cause of Death. The Heathen Philosophers were ex­ceedingly confused in their notions concerning the origine of Sin, and the cause of Death: many of them thought that Death was a natural accident, originally appurtenant to Humane Nature. And indeed if Revelation had not declared the contrary, I had been fully sa­tisfied, that Death had been no o­ther thing but such a natural ac­cident; but it is strange that any man that has conversed with sa­cred writ, should be of this opi­nion. And yet we find, the Pe­lagians of old were great stick­lers for it: hence is it that the an­cient Fathers and Councils have condemned it with a Curse. In the Milevitan Council Can. 2. we read thus Placuit, ut quicunque dicit, Adam primum hominem mor­talem [Page 43] sactum, ita ut sive peccaret, sive non peccaret, moreretur in corpore, hoc est, de corpore exiret, non peccati meri [...]o sed necessitate naturae, anathema sit. In after-ages the Scotists (the most subtil of all Scholastick writers) inclined much to this opinion, against whom the Thomists (their irreconcilable Ene­mies) took up the cudgels: amongst modern writers the seemingly rational Socinians, have owned this groundless conceit. But I cannot stay to debate this at length, only in brief, if Death had been natu­ral to man in the state of Inno­cency, it behoved to have been be­cause of these following reasons.

1. Because Adams natural con­stitution implied mortality; the Materials of his constitution were not so amicable as to entertain a lasting amity and friendship. 2. It was the primitive precept, be fruitfull and multiply; now it is [Page 44] plain that procreation includes mortality in its notion; and far­ther it seems to be unconceivable how this little Map of Earth should have contained a numerous mul­tiplying and never-dying off­spring. 3. Humane Nature in the state of Innocency did stand in need of Meat and Drink, as is plain from Gen. 1. 19. now the end of eating and drinking is not only to hold up, but to repair the decays of our Bodies, which would sudenly return to dust, if they were not this renewed & strengthened. 4. If Death were only the effect of Sin, and the Devil were called a Mur­derer from the beginning, because of his tempting our first parents to eat of the forbidden Fruit, it will follow, that since Christ came to take away the sins of the World, and to destroy the works of the Devil, that he also took away the wages of sin, which is Death; than [Page 45] which nothing is more contrary to daily experience. 5. Immortality seems to be entailed only to the state of future Glory, where Corrup­tion shall put on Incorruption, and Mortality shall be swallowed up in life: and then there shall be no more death, Rev. 21. 4. These are the most material reasons I can find for the proof of this opinion, in answer to which I shall desire the Five following considerations may be weighed.

Consid. 1. It is not to be doubted that the Eternal wisdom, furnish­ed our first parents with all these accomplishments their specifick nature could suffer: the signatures of Wisdom and Goodness were legible in the lowest & least regar­ded piece of the creation; but in Man in a more eminent manner conspicuous. It is almost impossi­ble for us in this fallen state, to conceive what those endowments [...] [Page 48] is taken Conditionally: and so under various considerations it may be attributed either, First, To perfected Saints who are sta­ted in Glory, where the primitive Image lost by mans fall, is renew­ed and perfected; and of those our Saviour in the Gospel of Luke tells us, that they can dye no more, Luke 20. 36. or Secondly, to our first parents in the State of Inno­cency. For so long as they re­mained obedient to the Laws of Heaven, Immortality was entailed upon their nature: for the tenor of the primitive threatning is, in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt dye: where temporal Death seems to be threatned, which had been idle and vain if men had died al­tho they had never eaten the for­bidden Fruit. I know some men think that Sin only laid a necessary obligation upon men to dye; and provoked God to remove that Su­pernatural [Page 49] and Superadded qua­lity and gift, which preserved them from Death. With such sort of men I have no great quarrel, altho I think that God could as easily have made mans constituti­on so lasting, and the constituent parts of his fabrick so harmoni­ous, that he should have never dyed if he had not sinned, as to create a superadded being to pre­serve him safe. For reason would plead, that that superadded gift re­quired another, and so in infini­tum.

But farther, 'tis very unreaso­nable to infer mans corruption from that precept, be fruitful and multiply; for altho in some sense generatio unius est alterius corrup­tio, yet the state of being, even since the fall, (to which that axiom has only respect) is not so brittle, as that the production of the Child infers the destruction of the Parent.

[Page 50]Neither doth that curious query concerning the place for that sup­posed numerous off-spring, carry with it more reason; for First, It is not to be doubted, but the Wise Creator who gave being to man, knew well enough how to provide an habitation for his off-spring. Secondly, the precept be Fruitfull and Multiply, carries with it a Limitation, and replenish the Earth; so that we can never well conclude from it, that Genera­tion should have continued after the replenishing of the Earth. But Thirdly, What suppose this little Map of Earth had not been able to contain so numerous an off-spring could not God have translated man after he had lived some space upon the Earth to some better habita­tion, as he did with Enoch and Elijah?

Consid. 3. Though man in the state of Innocency stood in need [Page 51] of Meat and Drink, yet his nutri­ment was not noxious and hurt­full to him, as now it is. It was for mans disobedience that a Curse was upon the ground, before which there was no fear of hurt from the Fruit of the Trees, and the Herbs of the Field: (which were the only things granted to men for food in that state.) And indeed if we but consider that even in this fallen state, there is a huge difference between the lives of those who live upon wholsome food, and observe a moderate diet; and of those who are careless in their diet, and feed upon husks; we cannot but think the former consideration reasonable, especial­ly since that blessed state excluded all manner of excess.

Consid. 4. Great and Manifold are the blessed benefits that are conferred upon Mankind, upon [Page 52] the account of his Redeemer: now Man▪ who was at odds with his Maker upon the account of his Rebellion, is again taken into favour; and the disobedient World is reconciled unto God. And altho the being of sin is not quite abo­lished, yet the Curse is removed; and Death is not properly now a punishment.

Consid. 5. Immortality conjoyned with a state of perfect felicity, is reserved for Heavens favourites: in the state of Innocency our first parents were liable to Death if they rebelled, but the Saints above are confirmed in their blessed state: and as our Lord Christ tells us, they can dye no more. But this much may suffice for the removing the former doubts.

The Third thing I premise is, that 'tis very usual in Scripture, as it is in all Languages, to put the Whole sometimes for the Part: [Page 53] thus Man is said to dye, to cease, to be mortal, because the Bo­dy is liable to Corruption, and not that the whole Man, or all the Essential constituent parts cease. And thus when we dispute concerning the Period of every Mans life, we must not foolishly fancy that a Period is put to the being of the Soul, but only that its union with the body is dissol­ved: otherwise a dismal stroke would be given to our Religion, and what would become of the vertuous? I confess it is very hard and difficult to demonstrate the immortality of our Souls by na­tural reason: 'tis true, by reason I may prove that our Natures are spiritual, and that we elicite acts which are beyond the power of matter; but yet we could never be fully ascertained that there is a Life after this; if Re­velation had not plainly discove­red [Page 54] it. The Heathen Philoso­phers very wisely entertained some hopes of a life after this; upon moral arguments taken from the goodness of God, and his justice in distributing Rewards and Pu­nishments: but alas how doubt­full were their hopes, and with how much hesitation did they dis­course of it! But by the help of Revelation, these doubts are fully removed, and we now know that there is a Resurrection from the dead, and that the Souls of Be­lievers at death go immediatly in­to glory.

Fourthly, Because the explica­tion of terms is very necessary for the unfolding of doubts; I shall consider the twofold notion and acception, the Period of Hu­mane Life is lyable to. 1. Some­times it is taken in a large sense, for that common and ordinary Pe­riod which the Author of our na­tures [Page 55] hath settled, which Men by the common course of nature arrive at: now many learned men upon good grounds think that this is the determined bounds mentioned in Scripture. 2. Some­times it is taken for the last mo­ment of every mans life at what­ever time it happeneth; whether 1. in the beginning of mans days; or 2. in the midst of his days; thus the Psalmist prays, that God would not cut him off in the midst of his days. or 3. When men come to be of a good old age and full of years, as it is said of A­braham, he died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, Gen. 25. 8.

That there is such a common Period of Humane life seems to be certain and indubitable: we evidently enough perceive that men in the age and place wherein we live, exceed not (unless rarely) [Page 56] the bounds fixed upon Psal. 90. 10. The days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of more strength they be fourscore years, &c. and if we shall descend to the consideration of other Animals and Vegetables, we will find it true enough that the individuals of every specifick nature, have a common Period which doth not sensibly alter; but where there is a manifest diffe­rence of the climate, temperature, and soil. Again it is very un­questionable that this common Pe­riod hath not been equally exten­ded in all ages and places. 'Tis true for many hundred years by-past it hath suffered very little altera­tion, but sure from the beginning it was not so, nor can we upon any good ground be ascertained that it will continue the same that it is now, till the end of all flesh come. Tho I will not positive [Page 57] affirm that mens lives will be in­sensibly shortened, till they become uncapable for procreation.

But to determine what hath been the common Period of Hu­mane Life in by past-ages of the World, is a Theme very difficult and hard: for 1. Altho from Abra­hams time till this present age it hath altered but little or nothing, as we may collect from Gen. 15. 13, and 16. where a generation is equalled to an Hundred years (as the verses collated make it evi­dent); yet before the Flood and in some few ages following it, this common Term was not concluded within the short bounds it is now; although then it was indeed ex­ceedingly mutable. Before the fa­tal Flood we read not of any who lived not above seven hundred years, (unless Abel who was mur­dered, and Enoch whom God took to himself): nor of any who ex­ceeded [Page 58] nine Hundred sixty and nine years. Now the common Pe­riod not being so denominated from some few particular instan­ces, but from what happens to the most of Mankind in every age who dye a natural death, we may suppose that Eight Hundred years was the common Period before the Flood. But then after the Flood, the mutability of this com­mon Period is conspicuous; for in the next age after the Flood, it was cut short two hundred years; and in the next three succeeding generations it was abridged to four hundred years; and in the three succeeding ages to the for­mer it was reduced to two hun­dred years; and in Abrahams time it seems not to have been ex­tended to an hundred years.

In reducing the Life of Man­kind into shorter bounds now than it was in the infancy of the World, [Page 59] the Divine wisdom and goodness do very plainly appear: for 1. Al­tho it is true that Sin was the cause of Misery, yet it is manifest that as Men began to multiply, so they became more corrupted; and as the Earth was replenished with Men, so with multiplyed Miseries; and those not only particular but common. War and bloodshed, slave­ry and toil, pains and deseases, were in the first ages of the World very rare and singular; now these are ordinary and common: and is it not then a great mercy that the days of our life are few, since so full of evils? But 2. If Men li­ved as long now as in the first ages of the World, a Land would not be able to contain its inhabitants: and this is a far greater inconve­nience and disadvantage, than the shortening the lease of our beings can be supposed to be. In the first ages of the World, the lives of [Page 60] Men were extended, that the earth might be replenished; and it is very plain, that this common Pe­riod was shortened according as Man miultplyed. I confess God threatens to destroy the inhabi­tants of a Land for their trans­gressions; it was because Men had corrupted themselves, that God brought a Flood of waters upon the World: and yet the Divine Justice was accompanied with astonishing goodness; for he did not (as justly he might have) in­stantly cut off that perverse gene­ration, but he gave them the space of an Hundred and Twenty years to repent. Yet (saith God) his days shall be an Hundred and Twenty years, Gen. 6. 3. That is, altough this be a perverse and corrupt geueration, yet because Man is but flesh, I will give him this time to repent of his wicked­ness; and if notwithstanding he [Page 61] will not after such warning mend his manners, I will destroy him. I know many learned Men think that God here only threatens to shorten the common Period of Mens lives, and that it should be contracted within the bounds of an Hundred and twenty years: but this exposition is not agreeable to the experiences of some ages next following the Flood, in which Men lived much longer than an Hun­dred and Twenty years.

But they say, God uses not toan­ticipate his time in bringing judg­ments upon a nation or people: to which I answer, it is very true; but methinks men have no ground to think, that in the present case God anticipates the time in bring­ing judgments upon them; for we cannot think that Noah was com­pleat five Hundred years old, when God threatned to destroy the World. And indeed any Man who [Page 62] is but a little acquainted with the Jewish custom of reckoning of years, knows how usual it is with them, to name the greater part of any thing for the whole. St. Austin is so clear in this, I'le rather set it down in his words than my own: Intelligendum est hoc Deum dixisse, cum circa finem quing entorum annorum esset Noah. i. e. quadragintos octoginta vitae annos agere [...], quos more suo Scrip­tura quingentos vocat; nomine to­tius maximam partem plerum (que) significans. Aug. de Civ. Dei, lib. 15. c. 24.

Thus much I have spoken of the common Period of Humane Life, in respect of the ages of the World. I shall now add a little concerning its changeableness, in respect of places: and I confess in this case it is so variable, that it is a hard matter to pitch upon particulars; only in the general [Page 63] it is certain, that this common Period is not the same in all pla­ces: in a temperat climate this common term is extended; but where there is an excess of heat, or an unconstancy of the weather, in those places this common Pe­riod is shortned.

But passing this I come now to consider the particular Period of every mans life: there be two ways it is commonly taken. 1. As it implies the disunion of the parts, by reason of the excess of some one quality or other: or 2. as it implies the Period of Hu­mane Life whatever way it is oc­casioned, without any relation ei­ther to the defect, or excess of any quality: and thus the learned Episcopius states the case in his first Epistle to Jo. Beverovicius. But to make this yet more plain, I shall consider that text, 1. Sam. 26. 10. As the Lord liveth the [Page 64] Lord shall smite him, or his day shall come to dye, or he shall descend into battel and perish. Tho David was anointed King, yet he durst not stretch forth his hand against the Lords anointed; neither would he permit Abishai, (who inconsi­deratly offered) to do it; know­ing, none could do so and be guilt­less. Therefore he comforts and solaces himself with this conside­ration, that God should rid him of Saul one of these three ways: 1. By smiteing him with some di­sease; and now to what a number­less number of diseases are our frail natures incident? variety of maladies prey upon frail man, and millions of miseries attend him; the Pestilence walketh at noon-day, and the Air which he breaths may blow out the spark of his life. 2. Or his day will come; that is, or he will dye a natural Death: now Saul was well-stricken in years, [Page 65] and he knew that by the course of nature he could not live long. 3, Or he shall descend into battel and perish: That is, if some disease cut him not off, or if his day come not, yet he shall be exposed to a violent Death, or he shall descend into battel. Sometimes a violent Death is purely casual; thus it was with those eighteen upon whom the Tower in Siloam fell, Luke 13. 4. Sometimes it is only improperly casual, as when one of two equally exposed to danger is only killed: and sometimes it is only and pro­perly violent, such was Sauls death, such was Achitophels and Ha­mans.

The way to this discourse in hand being thus far cleared, I shall now prosecute the design of it in this method. 1. I shall set down those erroneous opinions into which some men have unhappily fallen in their enquiry for satis­faction [Page 66] in the present case. 2. I shall lay down the two common opinions that offer fairest for sol­ving this doubt. 3. I shall attempt a full and satisfactory answer: and lastly I shall conclude with some reflections upon the whole discourse.

I begin with the first to give an account of those erroneous senti­ments some men have unhappily embraced in their inquiry for satis­faction in this matter. And that I may shun tediousness, I shall re­duce them to the two following heads. 1. Some have foolishly imagined that the Period of Hu­mane Life is fatal and necessary. 2. Others upon the contrary ex­tream, have as groundlesly thought, that it is altogether for­tuitous and casual.

Amongst those who ascribe eve­ry thing to the dispensation of a sure and inevitable destiny, the [Page 67] Stoicks have been been always reckoned the chiefest combatants. It is well known that those stupid and senseless Philosophers did teach, that all effects were ne­cessarily produced by the natural order and series of causes, which were from the outgoings of Eter­nity inseperably chained together; so that neither Humane industry, nor the Divine power could alter what such a conjunction of causes was to produce.

That humane Industry, care, and good menagery, cannot alter the decree of Fate, the Stoick moralist Seneca very fairly con­fesseth.

Fatis agimur, cedite fatis:
Non solicitae possunt curae
Mutare rati stamina fusi.
Seneca in Oedip.

The same Seneca also affirms [Page 68] that the supreme being is so strict­ly tyeh to the Sempeternal series and order of Causes, that he must follow, but cannot gain-say what is thus established. Quicquid est quod nos sic vivere jussit, sic mori, eadem necessitate Deos alligat, irrevoca­bilis humana ac Divina pariter cursus vehit. Sen. lib. de provid. 5.

There are two very dangerous Authors of great name and fame, who amongst many other bad opi­nions, have recalled this Stoical dream, which was long since re­jected; the one is the famous Mr. Hobs; the other the subtil au­thor of that Book, entituled Trac­tatus Theologico policitus: Both which I may perhaps have occasi­on to examine more particularly.

But if all things were thus esta­blished by a fatal necessity, sound reason would suggest to sober Men, that it were a needless thing for the sick to call for the Physitians [Page 69] aid. And indeed Cicero very in­geniously confesseth this: Si fa­tum tibi est ex hoc morbo con­valescere, sive tu medicum adhi­bueris, sive non adhibueris, conva­lesces.—Si fatum tibi est non con­valescere, sive medicum adhibueris, sive non non convalesces, & alter­utrum fatum est, medicum ergo ad hibere nihil valet. Cic. lib. de fa­to. And altho Seneca thinks he has fallen upon a very good answer, yet it is truly never a whit better. Cum sanitas (inquit) videatur de fato debetur et medico, quia ad nos be­neficium fati per hujus manus ve­nit, lib. 2. nat. cap. 35. By which means the Physitian is as fatally determined to prescribe the cure, as the sick mans recovery is desti­nated.

The ages in which these Men lived being dark and blind, we ought as much to pity their case, as correct and reprehend [Page 70] them. It is our happiness that we are not left to the conduct of natural reason; and would God our thankful acknowledgments were answerable to the greatness of this blessing. I shall not need to stand in rejecting this Dream, I think the hazards this speculation hath exposed some of its favo­rites to, will be forcible enough to afright others from embracing it. I remember I have read of some whom this conceit had so far distracted, that they did cast away their Swords and other wea­pons when their Enemies ap­proached: saying, If it be our Fate to dye to keep our weapons will never preserve us from Death. 'Tis also reported of the deluded Ma­humetans, that in battel they take courage from this, that they are no sooner born than fate seals up­on their foreheads, how long they shall live, and what death they [Page 71] shall dye. Alas who would not pitty Men thus infatuated and be­witched! surely, as St. Augustin excellently speaks Si cor tuum non esset fatuum, non crederes fatum, Tract. 37. in Joh.

Next the Stoick stand the Star­gazers and Astrologers, who attri­bute the shortness or extension of our lives to the bad or benign As­pect and Conjunction of the Stars in the time of our Nativity. Now although I deny not that the Hea­vens have an influence upon inferi­or things, yet surely this secret and occult dominion Star-gazers plead for, is so manifestly cross to reason and dayly experiences, that no man in his wit will affirm it. The Pro­phet hath long since advised us, not to be dismayed at the signs of Heaven; adding, the Heathen they are dismayed at them, Ier. 10. 2. As if it had been only peculiar to the Heathen part of the World, [Page 72] who were ignorant of Gods Pro­vidence, to believe the vain pre­dictions of Astrologers. Babylon was upbraided for her trusting A­strologers, Star-gazers, and month­ly prognosticators. Isa. 47. 13. These men confidently presumed to foretell the time of Mens Death, and the easlly deceived multitude gave a ready assent to whatever they speke: so easie a matter it is to impose any thing upon the be­lief of the vulgar. The Palmaster as foolishly pretendeth, that God hath sealed upon every mans hand how long he shall live, and that observing men (as they would have us believe they are) can un­derstand this by the lines and draughts in the palme of the hand. And or proof of this they aledg. Job 37. 7. where it is said, he sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work. But from this [Page 73] place no such thing can be col­lected: for Elihu is there taken up in expressing the greatness of Gods works, and the Divine pow­er in commanding the Snow and the Rain, small and great, to be on the Earth; and he addeth, he seal­eth up the hand of every man. That is, when Snow and Rain are upon the Earth, men cannot labour and toil; their hand is sealed up, they cannot work.

Epicurus and his followers could never be reconciled to this opinion, but yet the account they give of this matter is every whit as extravagant and irrational: they being equally unhappy in the account they give of the be­gining and Period of beings.

The account these men give of the original of beings is so incredi­ble, that no rational man can have any temptation to believe it; but this belongs not to the present dis­course. [Page 74] I shall therefore only con­sider what they say of the Period of beings; and briefly their opi­nion is, that it is no more but the casual and fortuitous separation of those particles of Matter that were united by a happy chance and hit.

This error is of an old date, and had long ere now past pre­scription, if it had not been so suitable to the humours of bad men. The Saducees, whose Religi­gion it was to contradict the Pha­risees, were very great sticklers for this dream: some men have con­fined the Divine providence to the Stars, and plucked our sublu­nary beings from his immediate Rule and Dominion. Cicero could not be perswaded that God had any knowledg of things contin­gently future. Some to mend the matter, confess God may know the general kinds of things, but they [Page 75] will not allow that he knows eve­ry particular. For this they think is inconsistent with the immutabi­lity of the Deity: But others have been more illiberal in their concessions, thinking it enough if they grant that God hath a care of Mankind, altho he never re­gard lesser matters: and that,

Curat magna Deus, fortunae par­va relinquit.

By means of these wild conceits this Error has proceeded from bad to worse, yet very few of the old Philosophers, or any other rank of men; (Atheists those Anomalus births excepted) had ever that confidence in impiety, to say with the Epicureans, that the World is perfectly left to its own for­tuitous and casual resolutions, or that I may express it in their Poets own phrase.

[Page 76]
Sive nihil positum est, sed sors in­certa vagatur,
Fert (que) refert (que) vices, & habent mortalia casum.

That the Period of every mans life is not so casual and fortuitous as these men imagine, may be made evident by clear testimonies from Scripture concerning the par­ticular Providence whereby God takes care of every particular thing in the World. But because I will have occasion to consider this afterwards, I shall now add only an instance or two from Scripture, whereby it may appear that the most seemingly casual Pe­riods of men are ordered by an infinite Wisdom, and fall under the Divine Rule and Dominion. And first the man-slayer, who kill­eth his Neighbour unawars, seems to be as casual a business as can be: and yet we may read how far [Page 77] the Divine providence is concer­ned in this particular, Exod. 21. 13. But farther, one of Epicurus Discples would readily conclude that Ahabs death was a piece of chance, and governed by no Su­preme power. It was but an Ar­cher's drawing his Bow at a ven­ture, which by chance killed Ahab. But the word of truth informs us, that by this means the prophecy 1 Kings, 21. 19. was fulfilled: and that it came not to pass without the Divine providence, who rules among the children of Men.

And now I have done with the two erroneous extreams which some men have inconsideratly run to for shelter: the next thing I premised was to lay down the two common opinions that offer fair for removing the difficulty; but I must say (for the thing is palpa­ble,) that I am now only to give the two former rejected opinions [Page 78] of the Stoicks and Epicureans dressed up in better apparel, and much refined from the impure dregs of Heathenism: as,

  • 1. Some run to the absolute and inconditionate Decrees of God, and tell us, that from the outgoings of Eternity, previous to the Di­vine consideration of circumstan­ces in which men are to be placed, God has so absolutely determined the Period of every mans life, that it can neither be lengthned nor extended by care and dili­gence; nor shortened by intempe­rance, Sword or Plague.
  • 2. Others who see the incon­veniencies and absurdities that follow upon the granting that opi­nion to be true, are induced to be­lieve that the Period of every mans life is ordinarily mutable; and may be both extended & shortned: yet still they grant that God may, as it seems good to him, either ex­tend or shorten it.

[Page 79]There are four very considera­ble particulars that seem to strengthen the first opinion. First, There are many plain places of Scripture that conclude the days of every man to be bounded by the Divine determination. Second­ly, There are many examples in Scripture which shew that the Pe­riod of every Mans Life is from the out-goings of Eternity, set and bounded in by the Divine will. Thirdly, It is a common opinion that the futurition of all things depends upon the Divine will, an­tecedently to which, things are only possible: and therefore, Fourthly, we can never give a ra­tional and satisfying account, how the Divine knowledg concerning the Period of Humane Life is in­fallible and certain, if it be not founded upon the Basis of the sure absolute Decree.

Upon the other hand those who [Page 80] plead for the mutability of the Period of every Mans Life, endea­vour to remove the fore-named doubt, and to shew the great in­conveniences it is lyable to: That it quite evacuates the use of the means, and encourages men to expose themselves to any danger; &c. as I shall endeavour to make appear afterwards.

And now I come to the chief thing I aimed at in this undertak­ing. viz. To attempt a satisfying answer of the present doubt, in the prosecution of which intendment I shall observe this Method. First, I shall endeavour to shew how the Period of every Mans Life may be said to be determined. Second­ly, I shall shew in what sense it is not determined: and Thirdly, how it is mutable and may be extended or shortned. I begin with the first, how the Period of every Mans Life may be said to be determi­ned: [Page 81] and I shall endeavour to do this in the two following particu­lars.

1. The Period of every mans Life is so far determined that it is not without a Period. To deter­mine, signifieth properly to set bounds or limits to any thing. Now since it is appointed for all men once to dye, every mans life is enclosed and bounded within a certain number of years. And I must add, that if I be not very much mistaken, this is the genu­in sense of the most, if not of all, those places of Scripture that ex­press the determination of Mans days: and indeed Jobs words seeing his days are determined, &c. seem to mean no other thing but this; and in this sense it is unquestiona­ble that God has appointed our bounds which we cannot pass.

But 2. the Period of every par­ticular Mans Life is determined [Page 82] in respect of the Divine prescience. Now because this is a very consi­derable particular, and, as I told in the explaining of the text, that which was intended by Job when he says, the number of his months is with thee; I shall there­fore endeavour to make out this truth by the plainest and most convincing evidence that can be.

In order to this I shall shew that God hath a perfect compre­hension of all things, past, present, or to come; and by consequence fore-knows the Period of every Mans Life. Secondly, I shall prove this by plain evidence from Scrip­tural Examples. Thirdly, I shall make it appear, that it is solely the prerogative of our Maker to know the Period of every Mans Life. And lastly, I shall answer the most Material objections and doubts that are brought agaist it. [Page 83] First, that God hath a perfect comprehension of all things past, present, and to come, is so reaso­nable a principle of natural Reli­gion, that it hath been generally owned by the wisest and most learned Heathen. And those im­pious wretches who at every turn take the name of God in vain, in attesting him in the truth of what sometimes themselves know is false, sufficiently implie that they believe Gods Infinite knowledg. Besides the truth of this is plainly held out in Scripture; it was to this city of refuge Peter did flee when his love was seemingly call­ed in question; Lord (says he) Thou knowest all things, Iohn. 21. 17. And the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews makes use of this Topick to induce us to circum­spection, all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Heb. 4. 13. And [Page 84] God himself appeals to the infini­ty of his knowledg in the demon­stration of his Deity, and challeng­eth the Idol-Gods to produce their cause; and shew what shall hap­pen that the latter end of things may be known, Isa. 41. 21, 22. The Psalmist upbraids the Idol Gods, in that they have eyes and see not: but he always comforts himself with this consideration, that the God in whom he trusts does behold his condition; all which instances make it undoubta­ble that God hath an infinite cog­nizance, and that nothing can be hid from his eyes, who equally beholds things past, present, and to come.

Now if it be so plain and evi­dent that God hath such an Infi­nite knowledg, no man can reaso­nably doubt that God knows the Period of every Mans Life; but if any shall ask how is it that God [Page 85] knows certainly the Period of Hu­mane Life, I answer, that it is a very bold and fruitless enquiry, which concerns not us to know; his understanding is infinite, and shall silly Man think to compre­hend and measure it by his finite knowledg? The Psalmist modest­ly acknowledgeth that such know­ledg is too wonderfull for him, it is high (says he) I cannot attain unto it, Psal. 139. 6. and elsewhere he tells us, it is only bold Atheists who ask, How doth God know, and is there knowledg in the most high?

I confess the Schoolmen (as they are called) weary themselves with such vain Disputes, and they are as peremptory in determining the the manner of Gods knowledg of future things, as if they had pro­ved their assertions with Mathe­matical demonstrations. Some of them tell us, that things future [Page 86] are really present with God in E­ternity; which methinks is a very noble Paradox. Others run to the Divine decree, and make it the Ba­sis of the Divine knowledg. Others tell us that God in contemplating his own essence sees all the repre­sentations and Ideas of future things; and therefore knows them certainly. We might add many o­ther conjectures, but these may let us know how vainly curious such wits are: but that which may sa­tisfy any sober enquirer is this, that God is Infinite in knowledg, and therefore knows certainly the Period of every Mans Life, it be­ing truly future.

The Second thing I premised was to prove that God knows the Period of Humane Life by exam­ples from Scripture. Now I think this will need but little proof, since the predictions concerning the Pe­riod of persons are so many and [Page 87] plain; so many Hundred years foretold, and so punctually full­filled without a failure in a tittle. The death of Eli's two Sons, Hophni and Phineas was foretold, 1 Sam, 2. 24. and punctually ful­filled, as we may read, chap. 4. 11. both the mannet and place of Je­zebels death was foretold, and the Dogs shall eat Iezebel in the Portion of Iezreel, and there shall be none to bury her, 2 King. 9. 10. which prediction was fulfilled without a failure in any circum­stances, as we read in the close of that Chapter. But the most re­markable instances are those mani­fold predictions concerning the death of Holy Jesus. All the Pro­phets (as the Apostle observeth Act. 3) have foretold that Christ should suffer; they have conde­scended upon the manner of his suffering, upon the time, and up­on the circumstances relating to it. [Page 88] The Psalmist in a figurative speech, (a very usual way of expressing things amongst the Prophets) speaks of his being pierced: so doth the Prophet Zechariah, and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, Zech. 12. 10. Da­niel did punctually speak of the time. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself, Dan 9. 26.

But farther God doth not only know the actual, but also the possi­ble bounds of every Mans Life; that is, God doth know that a Pe­riod should have been put to the days of many Men, if they had not by their hearty repentance and devoute prayers prevented its lash. It was King Hezekia's prayer to God that extended his life fifteen years, for the message which God did send to Heze­kiah was this; Set thine house in order, for thou shalt dye and not [Page 89] live. But he having prayed to God gets this return; I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears, be­hold I will add unto thy days fifteen years. Isa. 38. 5. from which it is plain, that God knew that a Period should have been then put to his days, if his prayer had not prevented it. It was the peo­ple of Nineves repentance that prevented the threatned judg­ment that should have put a Period to their lives. Which Method if the old World had observed, they had prevented that Fatal Flood in which they were drown­ed.

Thirdly, That it is only the prerogative of God Almighty to know the Period of every Mans Life will be easily granted. For those who deny Gods universal cognizance, will never attribute it to any creature: and those who do acknowledg the infinity of the [Page 90] Divine knowledg, will never say it belongs to the creature. The only thing that we are to consider are these pretensions to a fore­knowledg of things which the Heathen world bragged of, but this Plea is easily removed. For 1. in those dark ages of the World it was an easy thing to impose up­on the faith of the vulgar, who in all ages have been very credulous and apt to be thus deceived. Se­condly, It is well known that there pretended predictions were very enigmatical and dubious. Aio te Aeacida Romanos vincere posse, was a Problem, rather than a Pro­phecy, which might have conclu­ded both ways. Thirdly, The most part of their pretended predicti­ons were only guesses and con­jectures, which for the most part were false and groundless; yet Fourthly▪ I do not deny but God may for ends known to himself re­veal [Page 91] the Period of particular per­sons, when, and to whom he thinks fit. It is therefore singly the pro­perty of God Almighty who grasps all times, and who can ne­ver be impeached for giving a wrong divination, to know the Period of every Mans Life.

In the last place I come to con­sider those Material doubts and objectione this principls may be urged with. As 1. It is hardly credible that God doth certainly know the Period of Humane Life, it being only contingently future: this objection Cicero could not answer, therefore being perswa­ded that some things were con­tingently future, he thought God could not know such things. But the difficulty is not so great as to make us deny God hath perfect knowledg of things contingently future. For 1. The light of na­ture may teach us that we must [Page 90] [...] [Page 91] [...] [Page 92] not reject what is plain, because we cannot comprehend what is obscure. That there is in man a rational Soul is beyond doubt; and yet how irreconcilable are the opinions of learned men about its original, whether it be by seminal production, or by immediate crea­tion. Again the union of Soul and Body is a very mysterious riddle, and the most ingenious hypothe­sis has been confessed to be unsatis­factory; and yet no man was ever so far infatuated as to deny that in man there is a Soul and Body. In like manner, what altho Humane Reason cannot reconcile the Divine knowledg with the con­tingency of actions? yet may it not rest satisfied with this, that God knows all contingencies because his understanding is infinite. And indeed the predictions in Scripture are so remarkable and plain evi­dences that God knows all things, [Page 93] that now it cannot be reasonably questioned. But suppose Revela­tion had taught us nothing of this, yet we might by natural princi­ples know that God is the most perfect being that can be imagi­ned, and therefore of Infinite com­prehension; that he is our Maker, and therefore must know all the intrigues of his creatures.

But Secondly, the Divine fore­knowledg is not the cause of things (for otherwise criminal acti­ons which do not escape his eye, should be caused by him who can­not tempt any man to sin) which is impossible: if God should reveal to me that Titius were cer­tainly to do such a thing the next day, my foreknowledg does not necessitate Titius to do that act: so that upon the one hand as the foreknowledg of it hath no influ­ence upon the manner of its pro­duction, nor crosseth the Humane [Page 94] liberty; for the Divine foreknow­ledg is not the cause why things exist, but it supposeth the existence of things: so upon the other hand the contingency of the Period of Humane Life does not inser, that it cannot be certainly known by an infinite understanding who grasps all things and seasons.

But the great difficulty is, how the Divine foreknowledg can be reconciled with the Divine pro­mises, commands, comminations and prohibitions: how it can consist with the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, to threaten men with shortness of life if they con­tinue wicked and rebellious; and to pramise longth of days if men will obey his commandments, while-as he well knows that the wicked man will continue in his wickedness, and be filthy still, and that the vertuous and good man will persevere in well doing.

[Page 95]I confess, this is a very great difficulty, and hath induced ma­ny learned men to doubt if God knows things contingently future, not that they would impeach any of the Divine perfections, or de­rogate from the infinity of his knowledg; but only they think that the nature of things con­tingently future, is such that they cannot be known; as it is no di­minution from Omnipotency, to say things impossible, or which imply a contradiction; fall not under its object.

But yet since Scripture hath so clearly revealed to us the Divine foreknowledg of future actions, methinks he is very rash and in­considerate that doubts it: it is a remarkable sentence of Tertul­lian's, Praescientia Dei tantos habet testes, quantos fecit pro­phetas. Hence the learned Epis­copius tells us, that his Religion [Page 96] and the reverence he had to the Divine Majesty would never suf­fer him to admit this argument, which reflected so much upon the truth of Divine Predictions.

But I answer more particularly, that Gods promises and threat­nings are serious, because altho God knows that some men who are threatned will continue in their wickedness; yet it being in their power to turn from their Sins, and the Divine threatning being an ar­gument which should prevail upon men; no man can doubt but God is serious with sinners in such ca­ses. If a parent did certainly know that his Son were to commit a criminal act, would any man think that that Parents threatning of his Son, if he did commit that act, were void of sincerity. But 2. As God knows that some wicked men, notwithstanding of the seve­rest threatning, will continue in [Page 97] their sins: yet 1. He knows that even such obdurate persons may do otherwise▪ and 2. He knows that many men would have continued in their sins, if they had not been threatned with punishments. We have no reason to think that the people of Ninevie would have turned unto God if they had ne­ver been threatned. Now though God knew that Ninevie when threatned would repent, yet since he also knew that if they had not been threatned they should have continued in their wickedness; therefore no man can question the seriousness of the Divine threat­nings.

And thus I have dispatched the first particular, how the Period of every Mans Life may be said to be determined. I come in the next place to enquire in what sense it is not determined. Now because I have already rejected the Stoical [Page 98] Fate all that I shall speak concern­ing this head may be comprehen­ded in this following particulars: viz.

The Period of every Mans Life is not fatally limited and bounded by any absolute or inconditionate decree of God Almighty. Now because many learned men violent­ly urge, that God hath from the outgoings of Eternity absolutly decreed the bounds of every Mans Life, without any consideration of those circumstances in which they are to be placed; so that men, do what they please, can neither ex­tend nor shorten the lease of their life: I shall therefore endeavour to make this assertion plain, and remove those objections that it may seem lyable to; and the ra­ther, because in such kind of asser­tions as are besides the common opinion, men will be ready to sus­pect some sinisturous design.

[Page 99]That the Period of every Mans Life is not Fatally determined by any secret inconditional decree, will appear from the arguments we shall make use of in proving the inobility of the Period of eve­ry Mans Life. Now I shall only consider those absurdities and in­conveniencies that follow upon the admission of the contrary opi­nion. As first, if the Period of Humane Life were Fatally deter­mined, then those wretched mis­creants who with their own hands put a Period to their Lives, may easily excuse themselves before their Judg: for since it is suppo­sed that they are physically pre­determined to do so, how can it be imagined that they could do o­therwise? is there any resisting of the Divine decree? alas, it was not in their power to help it, & how then can they be condemned for it. It is a known Maxim, Nemo [Page 100] peccatin eo quod vitare non po­test: the necessity they are plac'd in, seems to excuse their sin, but if not­withstanding we shall suppose that such brutish actions are really criminal, we run our selves upon another absurdity, and that is, we reflect upon the Divine holiness and goodness; for if God has truly determined those brutish actions by a previous, secret, and unalterable decree, if he hath be­fore irrevocably determined, and so intangled in such a train of cau­ses as should necessarily make them offer violence to themselves; how can we vindicate the Divine Sancty from the blot of being the author of sin? alas, daily experi­ence shews us, how apt men are to make use of this argument for their own vindication, when they do what is criminal; they tell us they were fatally determined by an external power in acting them. And with this considera­tion [Page 101] they solace themselves, as if they were as innocent as Fools or Mad-Men.

But let no man deceive himself in arguing so foolishly, the Apostle St. James, very forcibly rejects this opinion. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am temp­ted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither temp­teth he any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn a­way of his own lust, and enticed Jam. 2. 13, 14. The wiseman in his sense, after the certainty of things, concludes his 7th Chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes thus, Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright: but they have sought out many inventions. Pray then let us reject every opi­nion that teacheth God does ne­cessitate men to sin, for nothing can be more injurious to God▪ than this. To think to palliat the [Page 102] business by saying God is under no law, is but a lawless and unrea­sonable pretext; for the everlast­ing rectitude of his spotless nature, is more than any external Law: and pray, what can truth & justice do, but what holy is and just? The distinction between the act and the pravity of the act, the former of which God determins man to; but not to the latter, is as vain and frivolous. For the pravity of every wicked act is inseparable from it. And farther, the Divine commands particularly prohibit the act, and I think upon no other ground, but because the formality of Sin consists in the act it self. It is indeed strange to consider those Platonick and imaginary no­tions some men run to: but I think it needless to take a particular view of such dreams.

But as this Opinion sadly re­flects upon the Holiness of God, [Page 103] so it is highly inconsistent with the liberty of Man's Will in the choice of the means. That there is a free Principle in Man, is so plain, that he who denies this, must en­gage himself against Experience and Reason. There is no Man who does wickedly, but he per­ceives he may do otherwise: the sick man is not constrained to neglect the means for his recove­ry; neither is the Physitian for­ced to prescribe this and no other remedy: Men act not as Ma­chines, but they have a Free Prin­ciple, whereby they may chuse what they think is best and most convenient: It's true, the Will, since Adam's Fall, is corrupted, and mostly enclined to that which is evil; but yet the Fall did not destroy Man's Freedom, it made no Physical change, only the Fa­culties of the Soul are morally vi­tiated and corrupted.

[Page 104]But if the Will were Physically (as they speak) determined ad unum, it were unreasonable to think that the sick person, who neglects the means, could do other­wise. And alas! doth not Expe­rience convince us, that men of this Perswasion neglect the use of lawful means which God hath ap­pointed, only because they dream that if God has decreed that they shall die, then it is needless to use the means; and if God has de­termined that they shall live, whe­ther they use or neglect the means, they shall live.

But you'll say, God doth not only Decree the End, but also the Means. I answer, This Plea doth not a whit diminish or remove the difficulty, since they suppose that the Means are as absolutely de­creed as the End: which quite destroys the liberty of Man's Will, and leaveth no place for any choice.

[Page 105]Thirdly, This Opinion leaves no place for praise to the Learned Physitian, nor for dispraise to the unskilful Empyrick. First, The skilful Physitian can claim no praise; for altho it be granted that he hath wisely considered the condition of the sick, and the na­ture of the Disease; tho he hath pre­scribed apt Remedies, & in allthings behaved well, yet since he did no other thing but what he was determined to do by an external force, who can think he merits any praise, if he could have done otherwise but would not, then he might in reason claim it; but the case according to the present Hy­pothesis is quite opposite. But, Secondly, neither can we in reason blame the unskilful Quack-Do­ctor, who neither knows the na­ture of the Disease, nor of those Medicines he prescribeth. Alas! poor man does no more than what [Page 106] he was forced to do, and he could not do otherwise; why then should he be blamed for any failure or mistake he commits.

Fourthly, The natural and ge­nuine Consequence of this Do­ctrine, is, to make men like Fools or Mad-men, expose themselves to any danger: For instance, What need we be afraid to run upon any Precipice, if God hath determi­ned the period of every man's life, there is no fear to encounter with any seeming danger; men may safely enough leap into the fire, or cast themselves into the deep, for there is no fear that they shall be hurt or perish, unless▪ the Almigh­ty hath determined it; and if this be, they may perswade themselves they could not do otherwise, for the Decree is unalterable, and can­not be repealed.

Nor is this true only in Theory and Speculation, but it may ap­pear [Page 107] to have such bad effects, by the sad experience of poor delu­ded Creatures. Alas! do we not hear the Vulgar frequently com­fort any who are in trouble with this consideration, that God hath decreed it should be so, if these persons did only mean that God exerciseth a special Providence in the world, and ruleth among the Children of men, no body had ever blamed them: but this is not their meaning, for they plainly declare by such kind of speech, that all things come to pass faral­ly. I have heard some wretched Sinners, who had committed great and scandalous sins, excuse them­selves, by saying, they were de­creed to do so, and God's will must be accomplished,

It were very easie to multiply many Absurdities which flow from this Doctrine by a natural Conse­quence; but these few I have na­med. [Page 108] may abundantly satisfie eve­ry considering man, and shew him how pernicious and dangerous it is; but before I conclude, I shall consider, the four Arguments I mentioned before, which I said, seemed to strengthen and confirm this Opinion, as

First, There are many places of Scripture which seem to conclude, That the Period of every Man's Life is determined. I shall men­tion some of the most remarkable Texts of Scripture brought to de­fend this, as first, Psal. 31. 15. My times are in thy hand, deliver me from the hand of mine Enemies. From hence some draw this unex­pected Conclusion, That God hath absolutely decreed the Period of every Man's Life. Now I think no considering man should ever have guessed this to be the Psal­mist's meaning; for the Text on­ly holds out the Divine care and [Page 109] Providence, whereby he does su­perintend and continue every in­dividual thing in the world in their Beings, and therefore is it that David makes his application to God, that he would deliver him from the hand of his Enemy; which methinks had been a need­less Petition, if he had imagined that God had absolutely determi­ned the period of his life. Se­condly, Psal. 39. 5. Lord, make me to know mine end, and the mea­sure of my days what it is, that I may know how frail I am, This place is strangely brought to con­firm the former Opinion: For the Psalmist doth not desire the know­ledge of the Period of his life; he does not ask when he shall die, on­ly he begs the Divine aid and as­sistance, that he may wisely im­prove the short time he hath to live. I cannot stand to consider such Texts of Scripture as these, [Page 110] which are no ways acquainted with the Doctrine they are brought to defend. There is on­ly one Text that seems to favour this Opinion, viz. Job 14. 5▪ See­ing his Days are determined, the number of his Months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. But I have considered this all along in this Discourse. I confess, some in return to this say, that all Job's words are not approved of God, therefore it is hard to conclude any thing from them; but this is a very insufficient answer. That which satisfieth me is this, that Job here only says that our days are determined, but he speaks no­thing how they are determined; now in what sense the Period of every Man's life may be said to be determined, I have already consi­dered,

Secondly, There are many Ex­amples [Page 111] in Scripture, which shew that the Period of every Man's Life is bounded and limited by an absolute Decree. The most re­markable is, that Act. 4. 28, Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Is­rael were gathered together for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done: The Scribes and Pharisees frequently stirred up the multi­tude to lay hands upon Christ, but their endeavours were always to no purpose; and the account the Scripture gives for this, is, because his hour was not come. In return to this, I shall desire it may be considered, that when we say the Period of every Man's Life may be extended or shortned, the mea­ning is not, that it is impossible that it can be otherwise: we ne­ver doubted but the great Gover­nour of the World may make [Page 112] what reserved Cases he pleases from the ordinary course of things; and no wonder though the present Case, which is upon all accounts so extraordinary, be exempt from the general Rule; and for such exempt Cases, to which there ought to be allowance made, no reasonable man can think they do any prejudice to the thing I have been proving.

Thirdly, It is a common opinion, that the futurition of things de­pend only upon the Divine will; antecedently to which things are only possible. In answer to which, I easily grant, that there is nothing that comes to pass contrary to the Divine will; the most criminal actions are ordered by his Infinite Wisdom; and permitted to be. But yet we have no ground to think that he decrees every fu­ture action. Else it were hard to vindecate the holiness of God; [Page 113] upon which consideration many Learned Men have been induced to deny Gods immediate concurr­ing with the Creature in all its ope­rations; & yet we need not run our selves upon this Rock; for we may safely enough maintain that the Divine will is immediatly effica­tious; for God who created man with a freedom of will, designed that he should act without con­straint, and the reason why man acts freeiy, is because God wills men to act so; which plainly dis­covers, that the most contingent actions depend immediatly upon the Divine will.

Fourthly, We can never give a rational nor satisfying account how the Divine knowledg concer­ning the Period of Humane Life is infallible and certain, if it be not founded upon the sure Basis of an absolute decree. This objection I have partly removed already, while [Page 114] I shewed that God knows whatso ever is true, because his cognisance is Infinite; wherefore it is unrea­sonable to think that God could not have a perfect comprehension of things; if he had not decreed them absolutely. Now to make this yet more plain, I shall prove by instances from Scripture, that God hath a certain knowledg of those things which he never de­creed: as absolutly future. And First, It is a very remarkable in­stance which we have, 1. Sam. 23. 11, 12. where David hearing that Saul was to come to Keilah, he earnestly beseecheth God to tell him, if the men of Keilah will de­liver him and his men into the hand of Saul; and if Saul will come down. To both which he gets this answer, That Saul will come down; and that the Keilites will deliver him up. And yet tho Event shews that none of those [Page 115] came to pass, because the fulfilling of both did depend upon Davids staying in Keilah. And yet God certainly knew, that it David had not departed from Keilah, they should have delivered him into the hands of Saul. And farther it is very evident, that David was not inquiring what were the pre­sent propensions, and inclinations of the Keilites; but what should be the event of his staying, and accordingly he receives an answer from God. Another Instance we have 2 Kings, 13. 19. where E­lisha the Prophet is very wroth with Joash King of Israel, because he did not smite upon the ground five or six times; and the reason the Prophet adds, is, for then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it. Which makes it as e­vident as any thing can be▪ that God foreknew that Joash should have smitten Syria till he had con­sumed [Page 116] it, if he had smitten upon the ground five or six times. It were no difficult task to prove this by a multitude of instances from Scripture, but I think I need add no more for the satisfaction of considering Men; and for others, a Million of demonstrations will be urged to no purpose. And thus I have done with the Second thing I proposed, that God hath not by any absolute or inconditionate De­cree fatally determined the Period of every Mans Life.

I proceed to the Third thing pro­posed, namely, whether the Pe­riod of every Mans Life be muta­ble. And before I prove it to be so, I must premise two cautions. First, when we say the Period of every Mans Life is mutable, we mean no more but that it may be shortned by our intemperance, or neglect of the means; and be ex­tended by our good managery and [Page 117] religious manner of living. Second­ly, When I say the Period of eve­ry Mans Life is moveable, the meaning is not that it is ne­cessarily so, and that it cannot be otherwise; for this would not be consistent with our dependent con­dition; therefore there is allow­ance to be made to extraordinary cases. The acts of Divine provi­dence in the government of Hu­mane affairs, are sometimes extra­ordinary, and therefore it must be left to his Infinite Wisdom & Good­ness, to make what reserved cases he thinks fit from the general rule. Yet for ordinary the Period of Humane Life is mutable; and God doth not exclude the power of second causes in governing the World.

These things being premised, I doubt not but to offer such argu­ments for the proof of the muta­bility of the Period of every Mans [Page 118] Life, as shall be sufficient for the conviction of any man who is not blinded by prejudice, or pre­possessed with some contrary no­tion. And

First, Upon the observance of the Divine laws, there are many promises in Scripture assuring us of length of days; & on the other side, there are many threatnings of cut­ing short the days of the wicked. Thus God promises length of days to obedient Children. Exod. 20. 12. Honour thy Father and Mother, that thy days may be long upon the land, which the Lord thy God gi­veth thee. Deut. 4. 40. Thou shalt keep therefore his Statutes and his Commandements which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy Children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee. And particularly the Lord [Page 119] tells Solomon. 1 King. 3. 4. If thou wil▪ walk in my ways to keep my Statutes and my Commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy d [...]ys. The Psalmist encourageth men to con­sider the case of the poor upon this Motive. Psal 42. 1, 2. Bless­ed is he that considereth the Poor, the Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, &c. And upon this acount the Wise-Man also per­swadeth men to observe and keep Gods laws. Prov. 3. 1, 2. My Son forget not my law, but let thine heart keep my Commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace shall they add to thee.

How much the observance of the duties of Religion conduce to our health, is a thing daily experience attests; and therefore the Apostle very excellently exhorts Timothy, to exercise himself unto Godliness, for it is profitable unto all things, [Page 120] having promise of the Life that now is, and of that which is to come, 1 Tim. 4. 8. Religion is as a bridle to keep men within due bounds in their eating and drink­ing; it forbids all manner of ex­cess which impares our bodily health, and obliges men to make use of lawful means for their pre­servation and recovery. If we con­sult experience, we shall find these to be the men who for ordinary enjoy the longest lives: it is true some good men may be naturally of a brittle constitution, and others God may remove for secret ends known to himself; yet for ordina­ry, the Godly man, whose natural temper is strong, hath the advan­tage of the wicked man; and cer­tainly Religion in its due tendency prescribes the best rules for long life.

As Righteousness tendeth to life, so he that pursueth evil (as the [Page 121] Wise-Man tells us) pursueth it to his own death, Prov. 11. 19. We have a large Catalogue of the Pu­nishments inflicted for sin, Exod. 26. Where more particularly v. 16. the Lord threatens to appoint over those who obey not his Laws, terror, consumption, and the burning ague: & that Men may not foolishly think all these are but threatnings which God intends not to inflict upon poor Man, the Prophet Isaiah tells us, if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the Sword, for the Mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Isa. 1. 20. And the wise-man con­cluds it as certain, Prov. 10. 27. The years of the wicked shall be shortned: and to conclude, the Psal­mist also tells us, bloody and deceit­ful men shall not live out half their days. Psal. 55. 23. which the Poet very well expresseth,

[Page 122]
Ad Generum Cereris, sine caede ac sanguine pauci,
Descendunt Reges, et sicca morte Tyranni.

And the truth of this may be evident likewise from common Experience, by which it will ap­pear, that no men are so obnoxious to Diseases as the wicked, who spend their time in chambering and wantonness, in riot and ex­cesss. Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath wounds with­out cause? they that tarry long at the wine, Prov. 23. 29, 30. What the Wise-man says of one kind of Vice, may be said of all, They lead down to the Chambers of death, Prov. 7. 27. But these things are so obvious, that I need not to en­large upon them. I shall con­clude this Argument with this consideration, that since God Al­mighty [Page 123] promises to extend and lengthen out, or prolong their life, who walk piously and observe his Statutes, and threatens to shorten the days of the wicked, who re­fuse to obey his Laws, it cannot be rationally imagined that the Period of every Man's Life is ab­solutely determined.

Another Argument to confirm our Assertion, may be taken from the pious & devout prayers of the righ­teous, and their turning from their sins by an hearty repentance, both which conduce to the lengthening out of their days. I put Repen­tance and Prayer together, be­cause of their near affinity to one another. Now that both these may be the Moral Cause of ex­tending our Lives, may appear to be true from common Experience, besides the many Assertions and Promises in Scripture to this pur­pose. First, The truth of this [Page 124] may be evident from Experience, by which it will appear, that if Men had hearkned to Noah's Do­ctrine, if they had repented of their wickedness within the space allowed to them, they had not perished in the Deluge of Wa­ter. Of repenting Nineve we read▪ That God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way, and God repented of the evil he had said that he would do unto them, and he did it not, Jonah 3. 10. It was Hezekiah's Prayers and Tears that prolonged his life. Go (saith the Lord to his Prophet Isaiah) and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy Father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears, be­hold I will add unto thy days fif­teen years, Isa. 38. 5. And if Pray­er were of no force, to what pur­pose were men so earnest in their sickness, to beg the prayers of o­thers [Page 125] on their behalf. I confess if the Period of every Mans Life were fatally determined, our Pray­ers should be very needless. For can we be so sensless as to imagine, that our Prayers can move God to change his unalterable Statutes and Decrees.

But besides common experience, the truth of this is likewise attest­ed by plain evidences from Scrip­ture. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it: If that Nation against whom I have pro­nounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant. I shall speak concer­ning a kingdom to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then will I repent of the good wherewith I said I would be­nefit them, Ier. 18▪ 7, 8, 9, 10. [Page 126] Methinks this is so plain an evi­dence of the efficacy of repentance, that no reasonable man can have any doubt concerning it. But alas, if God had from the outgoings of Eternity fatally determined the destruction of Nations and King­doms by an absolute and incon­ditionate decree, Repentance could never alter the determination.

It is the Apostles advice Jam. 5. 14. Is any sick among you? let him call for the Elders of the Church, and let them pray over him. I know there are other means to be made use of in order to the procu­ring of health than repentance and prayer, and of these we shall speak anon: but yet this I think may be truly said, that sometimes, when all other remedies have been either ineffectual or not to be had, repentance and prayer have done the business, and compleated the cure. And surely these are [Page 127] duties profitable at all times.

I know the Church of Rome tell us many extravagant Stories of the wonders and miracles that have been performed by the prayers of Holy Men: those I shall not now mention, only I shall say, that al­tho it is not credible that the Pray­ers of Saints upon the Earth, do either mitigate and alleviate the pains of those that are in Hell; or free them from that miserable state, (as some men have confidently e­nough reported:) yet it is sufficient­ly credible that the effectual fer­vem prayer of the righteous avail­eth much, Jam. 5. 16.

A Third Argument to prove that our lives may be extended or short­ned, may be taken from the use of medicaments. Common reason will teach Men, that it is needless to prescribe any Medicine to those that are dead; and truly the case would be much alike, if the Period [Page 129] of every Mans Life were determi­ned by an inconditionate Decree. For altho men might then make use of medicaments, yet I think I may truly say that their operation should be very ineffectual. But that men may to good purpose em­ploy the Physitian when they are sick, and expect by the blessing of God, benefit by the use of Medi­caments applied by the art of Physick, no reasonable man can doubt.

That the lives of many have been lengthned and prolonged by the excellent remedies, applied by the expert and skilfull Physitian, is a truth so obvious to common experience, that I need not enlarge upon it. And on the other side, how many have died before their time, only by their imploying ig­norant Physitians! It is a famous instance that we have recorded of one Manes, the Father of the Ma­nichees, [Page 128] who having returned into Persia at that time when the Kings Son lay sick of a dangerous disease, he amongst many other Physitians was present: all the others plain­ly declared that the disease was dangerous; but Manes, who was only a pretended Physitian, con­fidently desired that they might be all removed, and he would take care of the Kings Son, & withall pro­mised to restore him to health in a short space: but the event was quite contrary, for within a short time the Kings Son died; which did so provoke the King of Persia, that he instantly caused Manes to be put to a miserable Death. What mischief has been done by unskil­full Physitians, too many sad ex­amples do daily attest; but yet if the Period of every Mans Life were determin'd by an, absolute and inconditionate decree, no man could blame the ignorant Physitian, nor [Page 130] needs any person be troubled if they neglect the means; for God had determined they should do so. Which indeed makes Marthas speech to our Lord Christ to be ridi­culous, if thou hadst been here my Brother had not died.

That Naaman the Syrian should wash himself in the River of Jor­dan seven, times and then be clean of his Leprosie, was indeed mira­culous: But yet it is plain, that if he had not done so, his Leprosie had remained.

Whether that custom in the pri­mitive Christian Church of anoint­ing the sick with Oyl was miracu­lous, or not, I shall not dispute; but this is certain, that it was then a mean used for the recovery of the Sick.

There is one objection which some men very impertinently urge against what I have been speaking, and that is, Asa his going to the [Page 131] Physicians, which the Scripture seems to disallow. To this I answer, that King Asa is not therefore re­prehended, because he asked advice of the Physitians, but because he trusted only in them, and sought not the Lord: as it is very plain from 2 Chron. 16. 12. And sure no reasonable man will have any doubt but this was a very culpable neglect in Asa.

Fourthly, Nothing is more evi­dent than that there are several things which have a Physical effi­cacy in the shortning of Mens lives; as all kinds of excess, namely im­moderate eating and drinking; all inordinate passions of mind, &c. as also the bad and unwholesome constitution of a Kingdom. And on the other side, there are many things which effectually conduce to the lengthning of our days; namely all kind of moderation and temperance; the wholsomness of [Page 132] the region wherein we live, and our good managery. What kind of persons are those who for ordi­nary live longest? are they not those who carefully moderate their sensual appetites, and who govern their passions, and who live in the wholesomest places? We common­ly say that Men who live in a Po­pulous City are shorter-lived than those who live in the Country. I have already shewed how some vi­ces in their proper tendency shor­ten Mens Lives, and that in some Nations and Kingdoms men live much longer than in others: all which methinks plainly tells us the Period of every Mans Life is not Fatal but Mutable, according as men are careful or negligent of themselves.

I shall only add another condesira­ble argument, and so draw this dis­course to a conclusion. And that is, don't we evidently perceive that [Page 133] many men had lived longer if they had notwretchedly▪ and unreasonably exposed themselves to danger; and is it not evident that many Millions who have di­ed in battle would have had their days prolonged if they had never descended into battle? That God hath from the outgoings of Eter­nity by an absolute and incon­ditionate decree determined both the time and manner of every mans death, this is more than we can learn from Revelation; and me thinks it is very inconsistent and irreconcilable with those many plain texts that shew it is lawful in time of eminent danger to flee for our safety, in time of Famine, and when any egregious con­tagion, such as the Pestilence, spread­eth in any place. How many Hun­dreds prolonged their lives by their flight from battle? If David and his Men had remained in Keilah it [Page 134] is certain they should have been delivered up into the hands of Saul; and what the Event▪ should have been we may easily conjecture, if God by a special providence had not interposed for their safety. But besides the many instances we might produce, we have a positive precept to flee from any eminent danger, Mat. 10. 23. When they persecute you in this City flee into another. Which plainly shews that this is a lawful means of prolong­ing our lives in such cases. It is a notable instance we have, Jer. 27. 18 Thus saith the Lord, behold I set before you the way of life, and the way of death: he that abideth in this City shall dye by the Sword, and by the Famine, and by the Pesti­lence: but he that goeth out and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey. Which place plainly shews, that God had [Page 135] not decreed the Period of their Lives by any inconditionate decree; for the means both of prolonging and of cutting short their Lives, are put in their choice. And this is all that I shall say to the Third thing I proposed to speak, concer­ning the mutability of the Pe­riod of every Mans Life for ordi­nary.

All that now remains is to con­clude with some practical reflecti­ons upon what hath been said. And first, whatever debates there may be concerning the Period of every Mans Life, yet there is no doubt but Mans Life hath a Period. It is appointed for all men once to dye, and from this warefare there is no discharge. Pray what is be­come of all those who lived in for­mer ages? have they not gone the way of all living? and shall we think to shun the approach of this last Enemy may not the multi­plied [Page 136] experiences we have of other Mens frailty & mortality, convince us that we are brittle, and must return to the dust? we are of the like constitution that they were of, and we cannot expect to be other­wise dealt with. What man is he that liveth and shall not see death? and yet many men live as uncon­cerned as if they had the perpetuity of their beings ensured to them, and had concluded an agreement with Death, and had secret in­telligence with the Grave.

It is truly a business worthy to be regrated that men who are liv­ing, as it were in the House of mourning, daily visited with pains and diseases, and have no promise, at least, for one moments security, yet live unconcerned and never mind those pleasures. It was in­deed a praise worthy and commen­dable custom amongst the Jews, to build their Sepulchers in their Gar­dens [Page 137] (as we may guess from Joh. 19. 4 [...].) that so in the midst of their pleasures, they might be­hold Monuments of their morta­lity.

Truly if we did frequently me­ditate upon our latter end, we should live more like Christians than we now do. The end hath hath a very great influence upon mens endeavours; hence is that general Maxim, Finis ultimus praescrib at regulas totius vitae. And it seems that the Psalmist upon this account prays, Lord make me know mine end, and the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. It is not to be doubted but we should order our conver­sation aright, if we had this con­sideration in our view. We should have but low and contemptible thoughts of the perishing pleasures which we now so much delight in. Then we should be argued out of [Page 138] our folly in spending our years as a tale that is told.

It is threatned as a sad Plague to the oppressour, that the number of his years are hidden from him, Job. 15. 20. He is a person that never considers that his appoint­ed time approacheth, and that God will bring him into the Grave, the place appointed for all living: and it is laid down as the cause why Jerusalem came down won­derfully, that she remembred not her last end. I am. 1. 9. And truly it may be also reckoned as the cause why Christians live so con­trary to the commendable rules of the Gospel they profess. If we did but entertain somewhat more familiar thoughts of our appoin­ted time, we could not but recti­fy those abuses we are guilty of. But alas, all the passages of our time are filled up with cares about things that perish: we can walk [Page 139] to the Grave with our friends, whom we once loved as intirely as our own lives, and reap as little advantage by their death as if we had never been acquainted with them, never remembring, that we must go to them but they cannot return to us.

But Secondly, although the Pe­riod of every Mans Life is fixed in respect of the Divine foreknow­ledg, yet to us it is uncertain; we know not when this Enemy may surprise us. Of this we may say what our Lord Christ saith of the day of judgment, but of that day and hour we know not. When we least suspect its approach it may call us to go hence and be no more. How many millions of strange and unexpected accidents attend us? the Pestilence walketh in dark­ness, and Destruction wasteth at noon-day, astonishing dispensations may allarm us by night, and the [Page 140] devouring Arrow fleeth by day, Psal. 91. 5. 6. When we go a­broad, we cannot promise to our selves a safe return, and at home when we put off our cloths, we cannot tell if we shall ever put them on again: the Grave is al­ways ready for us. What strange kind of unknown diseases doth our age produce, from which we cannot promise to our selves any exemption? We live amongst cru­el and mad Men, and do we know but those Beasts of prey may de­vour us? When we look for peace, destruction may come. This was the Rich Mans Fate, who while he was promising himself rest for many days, that same night his Soul was required of him. We are always apt to put the thoughts of this day fat from us; when we enjoy health we never think of any change, and that sickness may seir upon us and put a Pe­riod [Page 141] to our lives. We live indeed at a great deal of uncertainty; man also knoweth not his time, as the Fishes that are taken in an evil Net, and as the Birds that are caught in the snare: so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them, Eccl. 9. 12. We look upon Death as the unfaithful Servant did upon his Masters coming, we think Death doth delay its coming; but if we were not fools we should always realize the quickness of its approach. May be we are young and strong, how many such have been called away in the morning of their ago? Go too now (saith the Apostle James) ye that say to day or to morrow we will go into such a [...]y and continue there a year, and buy and sell and get gain; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow, Jam. 4. 13. 14. Alas [Page 142] our days at best are but labour and sorrow, for they are soon cut off, and we flee away. When a few years are gone, we must go the way of all flesh: and yet up­on the happy improvment of this depends our everlasting happiness or misery; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledg, nor wis­dom, in the Grave whither we are going, Eccl. 9. 10.

FINIS.

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