I am not one of those who look upon everything that happens in this world as being a judgment from God. If a boat goes down to the bottom of the sea on a Sunday, I do not look upon that as a judgment on those who are in it, any more than if it had gone to the bottom on a Monday; and though many good people get frightened when they hear one affirm this doctrine, yet I cannot help their frights, but like my Master I must tell them that they who perish so are not sinners above all the sinners that be in Jerusalem. I looked the other day at Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and I saw there an illustration of that deeply-rooted mistake of Christian people, concerning God’s always punishing men’s sins in this life. Foxe draws a picture of a Popish priest who is insulting the faith, speaking lightly of the blood of Jesus, and exalting Mary, and he drops down dead in the pulpit; and Foxe holds him up as a picture of a great sinner who dropped down dead for speaking lightly of Jesus, and the good man affirms the wicked priest’s death to be a judgment from heaven. Well, perhaps Foxe is correct, but still I do not see the connection between his dropping down dead and the language he employed, for many a preacher who has been exalting Christ has fallen down dead in the pulpit; and happy was it for such a man that he was engaged in minding his charge at the time. The fact is, providence smites good men and bad men too; and when the storm rages, and the hurricane howls through the forest, not only are the brambles and briars shaken and uprooted, but goodly oaks crack and break too. We are not to look for God’s judgments, except in special cases, in this life. This judgment is in the world to come.
For meditation: Beware of jumping to false conclusions. The apostle Paul was the frequent victim not only of persecution (2 Corinthians 11:23–25), but also of natural accidents (2 Corinthians 11:25–27). The latter were not inconsistent with him being in the centre of God’s will (Acts 27:21–26).