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the imperfect information which they have gathered, or the rash prejudices which they have formed. They are too apt to limit the character of virtue to those who agree with them in sentiment and belief and to exaggerate the failings of those against whom they have conceived dislike, into great and unpardonable crimes. Were it left to the indiscreet zeal of some to extirpate from the earth all those whom they consider as bad men, there is ground to apprehend that, instead of tares, the wheat would often be rooted out. — At the same time we readily admit the fact, as too manifest to be denied, that a multitude of gross and notorious sinners are now mixed with the followers of God and virtue. Let us proceed then to consider how far this is consistent with the justice and wisdom of the Governour of the world.

It is a principle in which all serious and reflecting persons have agreed, and which by many arguments is confirmed, that our present state on earth is designed to be a state of discipline and improvement, in order to fit human nature for a higher and better state which it is to attain hereafter. Now, this principle being once admitted, we say, that the mixture of virtue and vice which here prevails, is calculated to answer this purpose better than a more unmixed and perfect state of society would have done.

For, in the first place, the crimes of the wicked give occasion to the exercise of many excellent dispositions of heart among the righteous. They bring forth all the suffering virtues, which otherwise would

have had no field; and by the exercise of which the human character is tried, and requires some of its chief honours. Were there no bad men in the world to vex and distress the good, the good might appear in the light of harmless innocence ; but could have no opportunity of displaying fidelity, magnanimity, patience, and fortitude. One half of virtue, and not the least important half, would be lost to the world. In our present imperfect state, any virtue which is never exercised is in hazard of becoming extinct in the human breast. If goodness constantly proceeded in a smooth and flowery path; if, meeting with no adversary to oppose it, it were surrounded on every hand with acclamation and praise, is there no ground to dread that it might be corrupted by vanity, or might sink into indolence ? This dangerous calm must therefore be interrupted. The waters must be troubled, lest they should stagnate and putrefy. When you behold wicked men multiplying in number, and increasing in power, imagine not that Providence particularly favours them. No; they are suffered for a time to prosper, that they may fulfil the high designs of Heaven. They are employed as instruments in the hand of God for the improvement of his servants. They are the rods with which he chastens the virtuous, in order to rouse them from a dangerous slumber; to form them for the day of adversity, and to teach them how to suffer honourably.

In the next place, the mixture of the bad among the good serves not only to give exercise to the passive graces, but also to improve the active powers and virtues of man. It enures the righteous to vigi

lance and exertion. It obliges them to stand forth, and act their part with firmness and constancy in evil times. It gives occasion for their virtues to shine with conspicuous lustre; and makes them appear as the lights of the world amidst surrounding darkness. Were it not for the dangers that arise from abounding iniquity, there would be no opportunity for courage to act, for wisdom to admonish, for caution to watch, nor for faith to exert itself in overcoming the world. It is that mixture of dispositions which now takes place, that renders the theatre on which we act so busy and stirring, and so much fitted for giving employment to every part of man's intelligent and moral nature. It affords a complete field for the genuine display of characters; and gives every man the opportunity to come forth and show what he is. Were the tenour of human conduct altogether regular and uniform, interrupted by no follies and vices, no cross dispositions and irregular passions, many of our active powers would find no exercise. Perhaps even our life would lariguish, and become too still and insipid. Man is not yet ripe for a paradise of innocence, and for the enjoyment of a perfect and faultless society. As in the natural world, he is not made for perpetual spring and cloudless skies, but by the wintry storm must be called to exert his abilities for procuring shelter and defence; so in the moral world, the intermixture of bad men renders many an exertion necessary, which in a more perfect state of the world would find no place, but which in the present state of trial is proper and useful. The existence of vice in the world assuredly testifies our present corruption ; and, according to the degree of its

prevalence, is always, more or less, the source of misery. It is a standing proof of the fall and degeneracy of man. But as long as that fallen state continues, the wisdom of Providence eminently appears in making the errours and frailties of the wicked subservient to the improvement of the just. Tares are for that reason suffered at present to grow up among the wheat.

THESE observations on the wisdom of Providence in this dispensation will be farther illustrated by considering the useful instructions which we receive, or which at least every wise man may receive, from the follies and vices of those among whom we are obliged to live.

First, They furnish instruction concerning the snares and dangers against which we ought to be most on our guard. They put it thereby in our power to profit by the errours and misconduct of others. By observing from what small beginnings the greatest crimes have arisen ; observing how bad company has seduced this man from his original principles and habits; how a careless indulgence of pleasure has blinded and intoxicated that man; how the neglect of divine institutions has, in another, gradually paved the way for open profligacy; much salutary instruction is conveyed to the virtuous. Tracing the dangerous and slippery paths by which so many have been insensibly betrayed into ruin, their views of human nature are enlarged; the sense of their own imbecility is strongly impressed upon them; accompanied with the conviction of the necessity of a constant dependence on the grace and assistance of Heaven. All the crimes, which they behold dis

turbing society around them, serve as signals hung out to them, beacons planted in their view, to prevent their making shipwreck among those rocks on which others have split. It has been justly said, that not only from the advices of his friends, but from the reproaches of his enemies, a wise man may draw instruction. In the same manner, it is not only by the examples of good men, but likewise by those of the wicked, that an attentive mind may be confirmed in virtue.

Next, These examples of bad men, while they admonish the virtuous of the dangers against which they are to guard, are farther profitable by the views which they exhibit of the evil and the deformity of sin. Its odious nature never appears in so strong a light as when displayed in the crimes of the wicked. It is true that when vice is carried only to a certain degree, and disguised by plausible colours, it may pass unreproved, and even for a while seem popular in the world. But it is no less true that, when it becomes open and flagrant, and is deprived of the shadow of virtue, it never fails to incur general reproach, and 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

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