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Ser M. and assuredly are edifying to the world. ; IV. It was necessary, for moral improvement,
that the beauty and excellence of virtue, and the deformity of vice, should be strongly impressed on every intelligent mind. This could never be done with so great advantage as by the striking contrasts of both which are produced by the living examples of evil men intermixed with the good. It is in this mirror that we clearly contemplate how much the righteous is more excellent than his neigh bour.
The same purpose of important instruction is farther promoted by the instances of misery which the state of wicked men on earth affords. I admit that the worldly success, which sometimes attends them, may blind and seduce the unwary; but a little more reflection enables men to distinguish between apparent success and real happiness. The condition of worthless men, whatever fplendor riches may throw around them, is
easily discerned to be a restless, and mi-S ER M, serable one; and the misery which they suffer, to be derived from their vices. In that great corrupted crowd which surrounds us, what inceffant bustle and stir, what agitation and tumult take place? What envy and jealousy of one another? How much bitterness of resentment do we behold among them; mutually deceiving and deceived; supplanting and supplanted; ever pursuing, but never satisfied? These are not matters of rare observation, or which require nice scrutiny to discover them. We need only open our eyes to behold the wicked tormented by their passions, and far removed from that sanctuary of calmness and tranquillity which is the abode of real happiness. Nay, when we appeal to bad men themselves, after they have run the whole round of vicious pleasures, we will often find them obliged to confess, that the wretched result of their pursuits has been vanity and vexation of Spirit; and that the happiest days they have enjoyed were in
SER M. the times of innocence; before criminal
desires and guilty passions had taken possession of their breasts. Such practical demonstrations as these of the infelicity of fin are yielded by the examples of evil doers whom we see around us. By attending to their fituation, the misery, as well as infamy of guilt is realised, and rendered sensible to our apprehension.
Thus, upon a fair inquiry, you behold how the ways of God may, in this remarkable case, be justified toman. You behold what important ends are advanced, by permitting the tares at present to grow together with the wheat. The intermixture of evil men in human fociety ferves to exercise the suffering graces and virtues of the good; by the diversity of characters among those with whom they have intercourse, it serves to bring forth and improve their active powers and virtues, and to enlarge the circle of useful occupations; it serves to
instruct them in the temptations against SERM. which they are to guard, to reveal to them all the deformity of vice, and to make its miseries pafs conspicuously before their eyes. When we consider them as actors on the theatreof the world, they are thereby improved in the part they have to perform. When we consider them as spectators of what is passing on that theatre, their minds are thereby instructed; their views rectified and enlarged by the objects that are set before them.
FROM these important truths, several reflections no less important arise.
We are naturally taught, in the first place, never to be hasty in finding fault with any of the arrangements of Providence. The present permission of moral evil on the earth seemed, on the first view, to furnish a strong objection against either the wisdom or the goodness of the Author of nature. After beholding the useful purposes which are answered VOL. IV. F
SER M. by that permission, how cautious should
we be in advancing any of our rath speculations against his governmentandconduct! To our confined and humble station it belongs not to censure, but to submit, trust, and adore ; satisfied that the farther we inquire, the rectitude of his ways will appear the more; thankful for the discoveries of them which have been imparted to us; and persuaded that, where our discoveries fail, it is not because there is no more wisdom or goodness to be seen, but because our present condition allows us not to see more.
· In the second place, let us be taught with what eye we are to look upon those bad men whom we find around us in the world. Not surely with an eye of envy. Whatever prosperity they may seem to enjoy, they are still no more than tares, the weeds of the field; contemptible in the sight of God; tolerated by his providence fora whileon accountoftherighteous, to whose improvement they are