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IX:

SERM. Mercy it is even to the Righteous that the

Wicked are spared and not immediately punished.

But if we will go on to pursue the Subject a little further, we shall find that such sparing them, is not only an Ease to the outward Circumstances and inward Pity and Passions of good Men ; and consequently that it not only conduces to their Welfare and quiet bere; but that it is also a Means of advancing the Righteous in their spiritual Affairs, and of helping them forward in their Attainment of Happiness and Bliss bereafter. 'It cannot indeed be said that Virtue receives any real or intrinfick Value from the Redundance of Vice, because Men are to walk not by Exaniple but Rule. And therefore how far soever the Generality of Mankind

may

depart from that Rule, we are never the less obliged to live up to it ourselves.

it must be owned that Virtue is beholden to Vice for its Lustre and Force, since the Cruelty and Malice of wicked Men awaken its Powers, render the Examples of it more illustrious, and so in the Event exalt and beautify, whilst their Intention is to darken and suppress it.

Were there not bad Men in the World to minister Occasions, good Men

would

But yet

IX.

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would have no Opportunity of exercising their S E R M.
most shining Virtues. Were there no Inju-
ries offered, there would be no need of For-
giveness : Nor could Love be returned for
Hatred, were there none to prosecute with
Malice and Revenge. The praying for our
Enemies, and blessing them that curse us, would
be only, nominal Duties and find no Room for
Practice. And

yet

it is the Exercise of these Virtues that distinguishes the Christian, and renders him most like to his heavenly Father: And therefore without Doubt it is the Benefit and Advantage of his Children that God designs by continuing a Mixture of good and bad Men together. It is the Tyranny of these in the World, that helps forward the Triumphs of the others in the next. Infomuch that the brightest Crowns, that shall then be worn, will in some Measure be owing to the worst of Men. The glorious Company of the Apostles, the goodly Fellowship of the Prophets, and the noble Army of Martyrs are almost all of them beholden to the Merciless and Cruel, for those glorious Stations they shall one Day enjoy in Heaven. They would doubtless shine in a far lower Orb, had not the Inhumanity and Blood-thirstiness of their Persecutors entituled them to much higher

Spheres.

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X 2

SER M. Spheres.

IX.

To
go

further still, the very Redemption of Mankind by our blessed Saviour, and that most perfect Pattern of all Goodness which he set us, is a Consequence of the Mixture we are now speaking of: Judas's Treachery, the false Witness of suborned Pharisees, Pilate's Cowardice, and the unrelenting Cruelty of an inflamed Rabble, all contributed to the great Work of our Salvation, and were instrumental in the procuring us that great Example of Meekness and Humility, of Patience and Submission, of Forgiveness of our Enemies, and praying for our Murderers, which otherwise our blessed Lord would have had no Opportunities of shewing.

But not only these great and heroick Examples of our Lord and his eminent Martyrs and Saints : But the Exercise of our Virtue in every Degree and Kind whatever must in some Measure take its Rise from wicked Men. So that without a Mixture of wicked Men amongst us, we should be so far from being able to compass the highest Degrees or Seats in Heaven that we should scarce have Opportunity of obtaining the lowest Forms or Mansions there. For Heaven is open to none but those, who first stand a Trial to Thew they are worthy of it: And to make this Trial, Temptations to

Wicked

;

1

IX.

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Wickedness, and to Apostacy from the Com-S ERM.
mands and Laws of God, are so absolutely
necessary to be thrown in our Way; that
when there was but one Couple in the World
and never another to try them; God saw it
fit to permit the Devil, i.e. the Devil him-
self in Person, to assault them. Since that
indeed the Devil has had no great Occasion to
attempt Mankind so immediately by himself :
He can do his work through Men them-
selves, who are Tempters sufficient to one
another. But though Tempters to Evil, it is
our own Fault, if they prove not in the E-
vent, Instruments of our Good. For the more
and greater Temptations they endeavour to
throw in our Way; the more and greater Op-
portunities they afford us (if we manage them
well) to fhew our Virtue and Manifest our
Faith. Thus the Chastity of Joseph (to give
one Instance only, where many might be
brought ; I say the Chastity of Joseph) had
never been known had not the Lewdness of
his Mistress given him Occasion to exert it.
But when the sollicits, and he resists, the
Patriarch is proved, the Trial is made, and
the Victory gained. To enter upon his Re-
ward he must pass through the Prison indeed,
the Emblem of the Grave: But even there

the

X 3

SER M. the Lord is with him to comfort and support IX.

him ; and as soon as the Time of his Deliverance is come, we find him advanced to the Right Hand of the King.

And this, I presume,' is sufficient to shew that as our desiring a hasty Removal of the Wicked would in some Measure be an Act of Injustice to themselves ; so would it also be disadvantageous to the Righteous : Over and above which I am to observe in the

We may

III. THIRD Place, that such a Desire would be also an Encroachment

upon

the Sovereignty of GOD. For he has promised that at the Time of Harvest the Tares and the Wheat shall be entirely separated : And therefore it does not become us to murmur, because they are not already severed. depend upon it, it will be done in convenient Time, and as soon as Matters shall be thoroughly ripe for it ; But to complain of Delays, and to call out for the Reapers when we think fit, is to invade the Privilege and Prerogative of the Housholder. The Field is his, and the Seed his ; and therefore his also is the fole Right to determine the Time of gathering. And when that comes, I am persuaded that neither the one will have any

Satisfaction

2

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