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to become the object either of contempt or of hatred. How often, for instance, have the greatest abilities which once drew esteem and admiration, sunk, in a short time, into the most humiliating degradation, merely through the ascendant which corrupted inclinations and low habits had acquired over their possessor? How often have the rising honours of the young been blasted, by their forsaking the path of honour on which they had once entered, for the blind and crooked tracks of depravity and folly ? Such spectacles of the infamy of vice, such memorials of the disgrace attending it, are permitted by Providence for general instruction ; and assuredly are edifying to the world. 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 neighbour.
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 succcess and real happiness. The condition of worthless men, whatever splendor riches may throw around them, is easily discerned to be a restless and miserable one; and the misery which they suffer, to be derived from their vices. In that great corrupted crowd which surrounds us, what incessant 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 the times of innocence, before criminal desires and guilty passions had takon possession of their breasts. Such practical demonstrations as these, of the infelicity of sin, are yielded by the examples of evil doers whom we see around us. By attending to their situation, the misery, as well as infamy of guilt, is realised, and rendered sensible to our apprehension.
Thus, upon a fair enquiry, you behold how the ways of God may, in this remarkable case, be justified to man. 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 society serves to exercise the suffering graces and virtues of the good; by the diversity of characters among those with whom they have intercouse, 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 which they are to guard, to reveal to them all the deformity of vice, and to make its miseries pass conspicuously before their eyes. When we consider them as actors on the theatre of 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 im
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 by that permission, how cautious should we be in advancing any of our rash speculations against his government and conduct! To our confined and humble station it belongs not to censure, but to submit, trust, and adore; satisfied that the farther we enquire, 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 feld ; contemptible in the sight of God, tolerated by his providence for a while on account of the righteous, to whose improvement they are rendered subservient. The parable informs us that, in the end, they are to be gathered together and burnt. In this life only they have their good things. But their prosperity is transitory. They are brought into desolation in a moment, and utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh, so, Oh God, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their
image." - When we consider their unhappy state, it becomes us to behold them with the eye of pity. Let us remember that, in the midst of their errors, they are by nature still our brethren Let us not behave to them in the spirit of bitterness. Insult not their tollies. Pride not yourselves on superior virtue. Remember that, as bad men are mixed with the good, so, in the best men, vices are not at present mixed with virtues. Your own character, good as you may esteem it, is not free from every evil taint; and in the characters of those whom you reprobate as vicious, there are alway's some good qualities mixed with the bad ones. Study, as far as you can, to reclaim and amend them; and if, in any degree, you have been protited by their failings, endeavour in return, to protit them by good counsel and advice ; by advice not administered with otticious zeal, or self-conceited superiority, but with the tenderness of compassion and real friendship.
Is the third place, in whatever proportion the admixture of vice may seem to take place in the world, let us never despair of the prevalence of virtue on the whole. Let us not exaggerate, beyond measure, the quantity of vice that is found in the mixture. It is proper to observe, that in the parable now before us, after the owner of the field had sown his good seed, no reason is given us to think, that the good seed was entirely choked up by tares. On the contrary, we are told that the blade sprung up, and brought forth fruil; and, though the tares also arose, yet, in the end, there was a harvest, when the wheat was reaped and gathered into the burn. In the most corrupted times, God never leaves himsell without many witness on earth. He is always attentive to the cause of goodness; and frequently supports and advances it by means which we are unable to trace. He nourishes much piety and virtue in hearts that are unknown to us ; and beholds repentance ready to spring up among many whom we consider as reprobates. I know that it has always been common for persons to represent the age in which they live as the worst that ever appeared; and religion and virtue as just on the point of vanishing from among men. This is the language sometimes of the serious ; often of the hypocritical, or of the narrow-minded. But true religion gives no sanction to such severe censures, or such gloomy views. Though the tares must be at all times springing up, there is no reason for believing that they shall ever overspread the whole field. The nature of the weeds that spring up may vary, according to the nature of the soil.--Different modes of iniquity may distinguish different ages of the world ; while the sum of corruption is nearly the same. Let not our judgments of men, and of the times in which we live, be hasty and presumptuous. Let us trust in the grace of God, and hope the best of mankind.
• Psalm lxxiii. 19, 20.
In the fourth and last place, let us keep our eyes ever fixed on that important period, which is alluded to in the text, as the conclusion of all. Let both grow together until the harvest. The great spiritual year is to be closed by a harvest, when the householder is to gather the wheat into his barn ; when, at the end of the world, the final distinction of men and characters is to take place. The confused mixture of good and evil, which now prevails, is only a temporary dispensation of Providence, accommodated to man's fallen and imperfect state. Let it not tempt us for a moment to distrust the reality of the Divine government; or to entertain the remotest suspicion that moral good and evil are to be on the same terms for ever. The frailties of our nature fitted us for no more at present than the enjoyment of a very mixed and imperfect society. But when our nature, purified and refined, shall become ripe for higher advancement, then shall the spirits of the just, disengaged from any polluted mixture, undisturbed by sin or by sinners, be united in one Divine assembly, and rejoice for ever in the presence of Him who made them. Looking forward to this glorious issue with stedfast faith, let no cross appearances ever discomfit our hopes, or lead us to suspect that we have been serving God in vain. If we continue faithful to the death, we may rest assured, that in due time we shall receive the crown of life.
ON TAE RELIEF WHICH THE GOSPEL AFFORDS TO THE
Preached at the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.]
Oome unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest.-MATTH. xi. 28.
THE life of man on earth is doomed to be clouded with various evils. Throughout all ranks the afflicted form a considerable portion of the human race; and even they who have a title to be called prosperous, are always in some periods of their life, obliged to drink from the cup of bitterness. The Christian religion is particularly entitled to our regard, by accommodating itself with great tenderness to this distressed condition of mankind. It is not to be considered as merely an authoritative system of precepts. Important precepts it indeed delivers for the wise and proper regulation of life. But the same voice which enjoins our duty, utter the words of consolation. The Gospel deserves to be held a dispensation of relief to mankind under both the temporal and spiritual distresses of their state.
This amiable and compassionate spirit of our religion conspicuously appears in the character of its great Author. It shone in all his actions while he lived on earth. It breathed in all his discourses; and, in the words of the text, is expressed with much energy. In the preceding verse he had given a high account of his own person and dignity. All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father ; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. But, lest any of his hearers should be discouraged by this mysterious representation of his greatness, he instantly tempers it with the most gracious