HITHERTO we have seen, in all the evils that we endure, naught but the goodness of God, which is so great and so near that of all the countless, evils with which we are surrounded in this life, and in which we are shut up as in a prison, but a very few are permitted to approach us, and these never for long together. So that, when we are oppressed by any present evil, it is only to remind us of some great gain with which God is honoring us, in that He does not suffer us to be overwhelmed by the multitude of evils with which we are surrounded. For what wonder that a man, at whom an infinite number of blows is aimed, should be touched by one now and then! Nay, it is a mercy not to be struck by all; it is a miracle to be struck by but a few.
The first, then, of the evils beneath us is death, and the other is hell.
For, it may not be denied, the justice of God is the same in the case of every sin, whatever it may be, and hates and punishes all sin alike, it matters not in whom it is found. Do we not then see here the inestimable mercy of God, Who hath not condemned us, though we have so many times deserved condemnation? Pray, what are all the sufferings life can bring, compared to eternalpunishment, which they indeed justly endure on account of one sin, while we go free and unpunished for our many sins, which God hath covered! ( Psalm 32:1) That we take no thought of these benefits of God, or but lightly esteem them, that is ingratitude, and the hardening of our unbelieving heart.
Moreover, we must include here the many infidels, Gentiles, Jews, and infants, who, if to them had been granted the advantages that we enjoy, would not now be in hell, but rather in heaven, and who would have sinnedfar less than we. For this mirror also does Christ set before us, when He says in Matthew 11:21 “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” We see, therefore, what praise and love we owe to our good Lord, in any evil whatsoever of this life; for it is but a tiny drop of the evils which we have deserved, and which Job compares to the sea, and to the sand by the seashore. ( Job 6:3)