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the influence of worthless companions, than by .com an incurable and inveterate depravity of heart. He may see, that amidst a multitude of vile weeds, there are still some seeds of virtue remaining in their breasts, which if duly che- en rished and fostered, and cultivated with care and tenderness, may produce most valuable * fruits of righteousness. “ He is unwilling therefore to break the bruised reed, or to quench the smoking flax*.” He is unwilling to destroy what may still possibly be restored; he is unwilling to extinguish, by severity, the faintest sparks of latent goodness. He sees, in short, that if they have time for
reflection, if they have space for repentance, - they will repent, and he graciously gives them a respite for that purpose f.
. And * Matth. xii. 20.
of “ Those offenders whom the Deity knows to be absolutely incurable, he destroys ; but to those in whoin he discovers some good dispositions, and a probability of reformation, he gives time for amendinent. Thus by immediate punishment he corrects a few, but by sometimes delaying it he recovers and reforms many." Plut. v. 2. p. 551. C. D. - To this may be added another fine observation of the same author; “ that God is sometimes slow in punishing the wicked, in order to teach us mortals a lesson
And shall we repine or murmur at this forbearance, this indulgence of God towards sinners ? Are not we ourselves all of us sinners, miserable sinners: and do we think that. God treats us with too much indulgence ? Is there any one here present who would be content that God should immediately, and without mercy, inflict on him the utmost punishment which his sins justly deserve ?' What, alas ! would become of the very best of us, if this was the case; and who could abide these judgments of the Lord ? And how then can we refuse to others that mercy of which we stand so much in need ourselves ?
It is evident, and we see it every day, that men who once were profligate have in time become eminently virtuous : and what pity would it have been if extreme or untimely severity had either suddenly cut them off, or hardened them in their wickedness! Great of moderation; to repress that vehemence and precipitation with evhich we are sometimes impelled to avenge ourselves on those that offend us in the first heat of our passion immediately and immoderately ? and to induce us to imitate that mildness, patience, and forbearance, which He is often so merciful as to exercise towards those that have incurred his displeasure." P. 550. F. Vol. I.
minds minds' are sometimes apt to fly out into excesses at their first outset, but afterwards, upon reflection, and with proper culture, rise up to the practice of the noblest virtues. And it is mercy worthy of God to exercise, and which men instead of censuring ought to admire and adore, if he chooses the milder, though slower methods, with those who are capable of being reformed by them. These sentiments cannot be better illustrated than by the example of St. Paul. That illustrious apostle was we know once, as he himself confesses, the chief of sinners, he was a fiery zealot, and a furious persecutor of the first Christians, breathing out continually threatening and slaughter against them, making havoc of the Church, entering into every house, and haling men and women to prison ; and being, as he expresses it, exceedingly mad against them, he persecuted them unto strange cities, and when they were put to death, he gave bis voice against them. In the eye of the Christian world then at that time, he must have been considered as one of the fittest objects of divine vengeance, as a persecutor and a murderer, who ought to be cut off in an instant from the face of the earth.
But the great Discerner of Hearts thought otherwise. He saw that all.his cruelty, great as it undoubtedly was, arose, not from a disposition naturally savage and ferocious, but from ignorance, from early religious prejudices, from misguided zeal, from a firm persuasion that by these acts of severity against the first Christians he was doing God service. He saw that this same ferrour of mind, this excess of zeal, properly informed and properly directed, would make him a most active and able advocate of that very cause which he had so violently opposed. Instead therefore of an extraordinary act of power to destroy him, he visibly interposed to save him. He was in a miraculous manner converted to the Christian faith, and became the principal instrument of diffusing it through the world. We see then what báneful effects would sometimes arise from the immediate punishment even of notorious delinquents. It would in this case have deprived the Christian world of the abilities, the eloquence, the indefatigable and successful exertions of this learned and intrepid apostle, whose conversion gave a strong additional evidence to the truth of the GosA A 2
pél, and who laid down his life for the religion he had embraced.
Yet notwithstanding all the reasons for sometimes delaying the punishment of guilt in the present world, it cannot be denied that there are some instances of prosperous wickedness, which cannot well be accounted for by any of them; and therefore, for a complete vindication of the moral government of God, we must have recourse to the concluding part of the parable, which will give us the fullest satisfaction on this interesting subject. To the question of the servants, whether they should gather up the tares from the midst of the wheat, the householderanswers, “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up the wheat also. Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the time of harvest I will say 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 harvest, our Lord tells us in his explanation, is the end of the world, at which awful period the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall“ gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do ini