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Character of a Wife and Good, as well as a Juft and Holy God, to give his Creatures over to Destruction, before they have proved themselves abfolutely incurable; What ground can We find for Complaint, that He allows the very worft, and most profligate, fuch abundant Proofs of his Tendernefs; that, if they perifh at laft, it may appear to all the World, this comes to pafs, not because He wanted any Inclination to pity and to fpare them; but purely from the obftinate Abuse of repeated Means and Mercies, and because They could never be prevailed upon, to fpare and to pity themselves? And this illuftrates the Goodness of God.

2. The Second Reafon, which vindicates his Juftice, is, that God hath appointed a Seafon, in all refpects proper, and hath referved to himself the work, of feparating thefe Tares from the Wheat; Which therefore need not, muft not be anticipated. This is the purport of the Thirteenth Verfe, Let both grow together until the Harveft: and in the time of Harvest, I will fay to the Reapers, Gather ye together first the Tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the Wheat into my barn. The true Import of which Paffage, without all Controversy, is this, That God hath fixed a Day, in which he will judge the World: a Day, whofe Proceedings fhall make a Diftinction between the Righteous and the Wicked; a perfect Diftinction, and fuch as the Condition of this World cannot admit: That the Punishment of the Damned, intimated by binding and burning the Tares, will be irreversible, and extreme; fuch as can leave the Good no room for envying, or grudging, the now-boafted Profperity of the Ungodly: That the Diftribution of final Rewards and Punishments is therefore a Royalty peculiar to God, which he lets no other into; That the Time of that Diftribution is in a future State; That fuch a Time will, in the courfe of things, as


certainly come, as in Nature a Harvest follows a Seedtime; And that the Reason, why it is not yet come, is, because matters are not yet ripe for it. So that, upon the whole, So long as Forbearance can be any way of fervice, either to the Perfons on whom it is immediately exercised, or to any others by their Influence or Example; fo long it is continued. But, when these Ufes ceafe, and Mercy hath done its part; then Vengeance fhall fucceed. The good Corn fhall be parted from the Refuse, and Each affigned to a place worthy of it. The One laid up, as a valuable Treasure, in the Granary of this heavenly Houfholder; the Other caft out, as a Nuisance, no longer to be endured, and burnt in Indignation, as unquenchable, as the Fire into which it is caft. All which confidered; Men have reason to be contented with God's own Methods, and his own Time; and should not throw out rash Censures of Providence, nor defire to haften a Justice, that will take care to do it self right. And this fhall be done effectually, in its proper Season; to the entire Satisfaction of every good Man, and the Eternal Confufion of all obftinate and incorrigible Sinners.

I come now, in the Laft Place, to conclude with a few of those many Inferences, which the Subject in hand very naturally suggests to us.

1. And First, From what went before, concerning this mixture of Tares with the Wheat, it is exceeding evident, that the Viciousness of Mens Lives can be no fufficient ground, for feparating from their Communion. This then condemns that popular declaiming, which draws away weak Minds, and pretends to justify the breaking off from a found establish'd Church, because (fay They, who ought not to fay it) the Lives of them, who abide by its Worship and Discipline, are evil. Were it our purpofe to recriminate the Field is fpacious enough. But Truths of this kind are really of no weight. We are not,


nor ought any Man to be fo weak, as not to see, that, what our Saviour declares fhall never be prevented in this World, what he reprefents as the Cafe of the Chriftian Church in general, can never be a Juftification, for difavowing, and disturbing any National Church of Chriftians in particular. Let them, before they prefume to go away, prove, that our Doctrines give countenance to, that we do not declare against, lament, and condemn, any Practices, that reflect upon our Profeffion. Let them next, if they can, inftance in any Religious Perfuafion, in any Age, which the Lives of none of its Profeffors did ever caft a Blemish upon. But, till they can do fo, let them think a little, how unwarily They act, who prefume to lay the Ground of a Separation, in an Argument, which, if worth any thing, and pursued through all its Confequences, must as effectually difpose the Men that use it, to renounce the Chriftian, nay even that too which is commonly called Natural, Religion it felf.

2. Secondly, It follows likewife from hence, that the Best Men are not to expect fo difcriminating a Providence, as, when the Wicked fuffer, fhould always fkreen Them from fuffering too. For God hath put this World into a regular Course of Causes and Effects. He hath knit Men together in great and lefs Societies. The Cement of this Union is fecured by mutual Alliances, promifcuous Dealings, and united Interefts. All this, no doubt, is for their mighty Benefit. But then they must take the Bad with the Good. For, the fame Reasons will cause the Inconveniences, as well as the Advantages, of People thus combined, to be of vast Extent, and speedy Communication. They must be fo, except we fuppofe the ftated Order of Nature to be broken in upon, at every turn; which it cannot become a Wife Governor to do. Nor is there any occafion he should do it,

in favour of every Good man. It is enough, that this be done fometimes, upon very extraordinary Emergencies; And that, when This is not done, God makes fuch Men amends, for what they fuffer, by being in ill Company. The Former hath been often, the Latter moft certainly will be, done. But one great Work of the laft Day of Account would be fuperfeded, if Holy Perfons fhould endure nothing here, for which they are to expect a Recompence hereafter.

3. Thirdly, As the Juftice of Providence is not obliged to prevent the Evil of Suffering in Good Men, fo neither is the Holiness of Providence obliged to prevent the Evil of Sin in Bad men. It is enough that (as the Son of Sirach expreffes it) God Eccluf. xv. 14. hath left Man in the hand of his own Counfel; that he does not compel any one to do ill, nay, that he is ready to affift them in doing well. And that, when they will do what they ought not, in defpight of the Checks of natural Confcience, the Light of Reason and Religion, and the importunate Sollicitations of the Holy Spirit; he then gets himself Glory of their Difobedience, defeats the Malice of their Purposes, and brings that Good out of Evil, which the Actors never intended. And This he hath been fhewn to do, by making Vice it felf fubfervient to Virtue, and by rendring the most unjust and barbarous Perfecutions, fruitful in Patterns of Heroick Piety, and the brighteft Crowns of Righteousness.

4. Fourthly, As little can it be inferr'd from hence, that this Prohibition to gather out the Tares, makes it unlawful for the Chriftian Magiftrate to punish heinous Malefactors with Death. For they are not punished thus, as Offenders, purely against God and Religion, but against the State, and the Laws of the Country, to which they belong. Now this is a Privilege and a Right common to all Civil Societies, to give fresh Sanction to the Laws of God, to preferve


serve their own Properties and Conftitutions, and to inflict what Penalties are neceffary, upon fuch as boldly invade them. And therefore He, who fuffers capitally in fuch Cafes, remains as liable to the Judgment of God, for the Tranfgreffion of the Divine Law; as if the Laws of Men had never taken cognisance of him at all.

5. Lastly, Hence it will be no hard matter to dif cern, what is our own Duty in the Cafe before us. Namely, that, in regard the Tares are fown, will come up, and must stand; Our Business should be, to keep from being corrupted, by a mixture, which we cannot altogether avoid. It is Our part to provide and execute wholfome Laws, which may put fome convenient Check at least to this pernicious Growth: To endeavour the infufing into these Weeds a more generous Nature, and the bringing Men off from their evil Courfes, by good Advice, and pious Examples. Particularly, we fhall do well to imitate the kind Compaffion of this heavenly Houfholder, and, by all foft and gentle Means, all courteous and engaging Behaviour, to win fuch over to a better Sense. Above all, Let us not fret at his Forbearance, or be envious at Evil-doers, but wait his good Pleasure for unravelling the Secrets of his own mysterious Providence: In full Affurance, that a Day is coming, when all Mankind shall see abundant reafon to join in that Celestial Song of Mofes and the Lamb: Great and marvellous are thy Works, O Lord God Almighty; Just and true are thy Ways, O King of Saints.

Rev. xv. 3.

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