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that are gone ; others, that they have been too negligent of them; their loss is felt : their good qualities now stand in no man's way, their good deeds may be told without suspicion of flattery; over their imperfections and singularities a veil is thrown, partly by time, partly by common humanity, which is acknowledged peculiarly due to the ashes of the dead; we are surprised, that we could fail of discerning their worth sooner; and we pay them a double honour in their graves, by way of amends for what we defrauded them of before : not to say, that now and then we raise them a little higher, in hopes of depressing some that survive.

By these means it comes to pass, that though sometimes there is no remembrance of the wise man more than of the fool: (which appeared to Solomon, whenever it happened, so great an evil, that he hated life on account of it * :) yet generally speaking they who deserve well have at length due acknowledgments paid to their memory. More extensive merit will, as it ought, have more extensive commendation. But such, as move in a narrower sphere, obtain, perhaps full as constantly, all they wished for, and aimed at, in this respect: an honest repute, and friendly regret amongst their acquaintance. And those who are the least known; who may seem, as the son of Sirach expresses it, to have no memorial; but to perish, as though they had never been: if yet, as it follows in him, they were merciful men, it will be found that their righteousness hath not been forgotten f. They will almost always have some witnesses, to preserve the knowledge of their good desert, often such as are little thought of: and though very small notice

may seem to be taken of them at present, yet * Eccl. ii. 16, 17. See also ix, 15. + Ecclus. xliv. 9, 10.

sooner or later they will be remembered ; and missed perhaps a great deal more than, if they knew it, they would wish. Nay, even such as the world hates and persecutes, because it is not worthy of them * ; against whom it conspires, as the Jews did against the prophet, saying ; Let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered t: if they have not immediately on their deaths the testimony borne them, which our Saviour in the same case had on his, Certainly this was a righteous man $; yet in process of time they obtain as the Apostle speaks, a good report through faith g. Or how long soever the piety and virtue of any persons may be hid and overwhelmed, yet, as He who seeth what is done in secret, will reward them openly|l; let them ever comfort themselves, with being well assured, that if the world overlooks, or even oppresses them for a while, it will not always do so: for the day is coming, of which Christ himself hath said, Whosoever shall confess me before men, (as every one doth,' that from a principle of conscience adheres to his duty) him shall the Son of man confess before the angels of God f. And then at least shall the righteous, in whatever obscurity involved before, and by whatever calumnies blackened, shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father **; and stand in great boldness before the face of such as afflicted them, and made no account of their labours; who esteemed their life to be madness, and their end without honour tt.

But as for the ungodly it is not so with them ff: the undeserved regard, which is too frequently paid

* Heb. xi. 38. + Jer. xi. 19. | Luke xxiii. 47,
§ Heb. ii. 39. || Matth. vi. 4.
** Matth. xiii. 43. tt Wisd. v. 1. 4. If Psalm i. 5.

Luke xii. 8.

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them in their lives; as, generally speaking, it must be insincere, so it seldom outlasts them any considerable time: their prosperity, that dazzled the eyes of man, vanishes: the fear or the favour for which they were courted, influences no longer : their power of concealing and disguising their ill deeds perishes with them; things, which they hoped were for ever buried in darkness, rise up against them ; the superficial agreeableness of slighter good qualities, that gilded over their more important bad ones, coming now to be less tenderly handled, soon wears off, and leaves them visible in their full deformity: all who have been injured by them, and all who have been deceived in them, give vent to their indignation without restraint: their very partners in wickedness, instead of defending or excusing them, often designedly press down their memories under an aggravated load of imputations, to escape the more easily themselves; and even the candid and goodnatured, however averse their inclination is to it, yet from principle give them up to the justice of public hate and infamy. Thus then doth the name of the wicked rot: becomes offensive to mankind, during all the while it lasts; and sometimes it lasts long, to be as the Scripture calls it, a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse * : then moulders away, and falls gradually into oblivion ; till the hour comes, that they who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake ; some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt t.

You see therefore that God has not only declared in his holy word, that he will reward the good, and punish the bad in the next world; but has also even in this so established the tendencies of things that * Jer. xxiv. 9.

+ Dan. xii. 2.

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(supposing them to proceed at all in their natural course) virtue must at last be held in esteem, and vice in abhorrence. Nor will it be in the power of unwise or wicked men, though they do their worst, to prevent this in the main. Yet still, in many particular instances, we may if we will both by design and negligence disappoint the purposes of heaven for the good of mankind. But if we apprehend it, as surely we must, to be our duty and our interest, rather to become labourers together with God *, and forward the execution of his all-wise counsels; we shall be disposed to consider,

III. In what manner we may best contribute to the due payment of those very different regards, which belong to the memory of the bad and the good. For I beg leave under this head to invert the order of the text, and dispatch the disagreeable part of the subject first.

Now here, a principal thing to be observed is, that vehemence and bitterness are so unsuitable to the temper of religion, and yet we are so very prone to them, that whoever goes about to fix infamy on any one whom he dislikes, whether living or dead, should faithfully examine his own heart in the first place, and see what spirit he is of t. We cannot easily be too careful, (and it is very uncommon to be careful enough) that neither the selfish passions of interest, envy, resentment, nor the excess of any more generous principle, concern for public good, for virtue, for religion itself, ever move us to do injustice to any man's character: that we judge as mildly, as with reason we possibly can; and speak yet more mildly, than we judge. For there are multitudes of things, that may lead us into mistakes, by * 1 Cor. iii, 9.

+ Luke ix. 55.

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which we may be guilty of grievous and cruel outrages against the reputation of persons, who have done nothing amiss, whilst we mean perhaps only to be zealous in a good cause. Nay indeed, were there no danger of mistakes at all, severity of justice ill becomes creatures so liable to faults as men are. And severity against the memories of those, who are gone to answer for what they have done, hath-so peculiar an appearance of inhumanity, that we should avoid it with double caution; whether they have lived in or near our own times, or in others ever so remote : though in the former case there is an additional consideration to restrain us, that unnecessary harsh treatment of worthless persons deceased, causes grief, that might well be spared, to their worthy relations and friends that survive.

But still, we are by no means forbidden, after all, to express a moderate and prudent disapprobation of bad people, either during their lives or after their deaths. On the contrary, due distinctions ought to be made: and shewing the characters of such in their true light may be extremely requisite; sometimes for the justification of innocent men, and often for a warning to inconsiderate ones : that they may see by the example of others, before it is too late, what sort of fame they must expect to leave behind them, if they will act contrary to their duty : that they may not confound with real substantial honour, those empty distinctions of names and titles, which the worst of men too frequently transmit to their posterity; nor flatter themselves that even in this undiscerning world there is any likelihood of one event to the righteous and the wicked *, in point of reputation, whatever may happen in other respects

Eccl, ix. 2.

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