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What hath been hitherto offered, relateth chiefly to civil Communities. Many Observations might likewise be made concerning God's providential Dealings towards Churches, or religious facred Societies. I shall content myself with a few general Hints on this Subject.

It was a most signal Act of Divine Providence, and which I had Occasion to take some Notice of before, that when the primitive patriarchal Religion, or the true Worship of God which had been derived from the Beginning, was in Danger of being loft among Men, and the World became generally involved in the groffest Superftition and Idolatry, it pleased him to single out a whole Nation from the reft of Mankind, and to erect them into a facred Polity, fet apart by their fundamental Constitution for the Profeffion and Worship, the Faith and Obedience of the one true God, and him only, in Opposition both to the worshipping Idols or false Deities, and to the worshipping the true God by Images, or in an idolatrous Way. The more effectually to awaken the Attention of Mankind, and to give the more illustrious Confirmation to that Church-constitution, it was wisely ordered, that in the founding and establishing of it there were many signal and amazing Exertions of the divine Power. And the whole of that Dif

pensation pensation was admirably fo contrived, as to prepare the way for a more spiritual and perfect State of the Church, which was tosucceed it, and was to be more universally diffused; in the founding of which, Providence interpofed in a yet more remarkable Manner, by a Series of the most marvellous and extraordinary Events that ever the World faw.

And not only in the first Erection and Establishment of the Jewish and Christian Church, but in God's subsequent Dealings towards them, a considerate Mind

may obferve and trace the remarkable Footsteps of a moft wise Providence.

The Providence of God hath been often manifefted in engaging the Powers of this World, and even those who seemed to be in a great Measure Strangers to true Religion, to befriend his Church. Instances of which we have in what was done by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, towards re-establishing the Jewiss Worship and Polity. But especially it hath eminently appeared in the Deliverances vouchsafed to his Church and People, even when their Cafe seemed to be desperate, and there scarce remained any Hope of Deliverance: As in the bringing back the Jews from the Babylonijh Captivity, and in the wonderful Restoration of that Church, when it feemed to be utterly fubverted by Antiochus

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Epiphanes. Through the over-ruling Influence of a wife Providence, Events that were designed for the Destruction of the Church have been made subfervient to its better Establishment. Thus Haman's Plot, which threatened the utter Ruin of the Jewish Nation and Religion, was wonderfully over-ruled to contribute to the Confirmation of it, Divine Providence hath been also remarkable in raising up faithful Witnesses for the Truth, and preserving a pious Remnant in Times of a general Defection from the Purity of Faith and Practice, and sometimes in bringing about a Reformation of long established Errors and Corruptions, by very unlikely Instruments, and even over-ruling the Lusts and Passions of Men for contributing to the abolishing of the false Religion, and establishing the true,

Finally, What was observed with regard to the divine Judgments towards Nations that have fallen into a very corrupt and degenerate

be also applied in a great Measure to degenerate backsliding Churches. God declared to the Jews by the Prophet Amos, You only have I known of all the Families of the Earth, therefore I will punish you for all your Iniquities. Amos iii. 2.

He had di-
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and erecting his visible Church among them, and therefore he punished them in a remarkable Manner for their Revolts and Backsliding. His Dealings towards them might seem to be sometimes severe, but were always unexceptionably just and righteous; and have left this great and useful Lesson to all Ages, that no external Profession of Religion, or visible special Relation to God as their God in Covenant, will intitle any Church or People to the divine Favour, or secure them from his awful Judgments, if they be destitute of real Virtue and Godliness, and become generally abandoned to Vice and Wickedness : On the contrary, as their Privileges and Advantages aggravate their Crime, so they will be exposed to a more grievous Punishment.

The same holdeth good with respect to Churches professing Christianity. Some Churches which seemed once to be in a flourishing Condition, now lie desolate ; their Candlestick is removed, and the Light that shone in them seems to be extinguished. Others which are not utterly deprived of their Privileges yet have been exposed to fore Persecutions. And nothing can be more just than that God should in his holy Providence manifest his righteous Displeasure against backliding

Churches, Churches, that have fallen from the Purity and Power of Religion into a State of great Corruption and Degeneracy. The Persecutions they have been exercised with, however grievous they may appear, often answer very valuable Ends.

valuable Ends. The Church is not always really in the best Estate when it seemeth to be outwardly most flourishing, nor in the worst Estate when it is outwardly oppressed and persecuted. In Times of long external Peace and Profperity, there are often great Corruptions in Doctrine, Worship, and Practice. The Spirit of this World prevaileth, and Religion degenerateth into Form and Shew, so that though the Church may appear to be outwardly in prosperous Circumstances, yet

it hath little more than a Name to live, and is really ready to die. And on the other Hand, it frequently happeneth that in Times of Persecution, though the Church hath fewer Professors, it hath better Members. The Faith and Patience of the Saints is more exercised and displayed, their Zeal and Piety is more eminent, and the divine Power of Religion doth more gloriously appear. And then in due Time he raiseth his Church, when fitted for it, from their afflicted State, and executeth just Vengeance upon their Adversaries and Persecutors. Thus Babylon of old was pu

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