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goodness, and how they are connected with our duties, and our happiness.
With respect to the mixture of good and evil in this life, we shall perceive, I trust, when we come, by divine permission, in some future discourse, to examine the subject more distinctly, that it seems absolutely necessary to constitute a state of trial; and that, considering vices as tares, and virtues as wheat, growing together, we cannot wholly gather up the one, without destroying the other.
Allow me to conclude, for the present, by observing that disquisitions, like those on which we have just entered, however comparatively uninteresting, will not be without their use, if they enable us, in our Christian warfare, to resist gainsayers; or to shew that their doubts and difficulties amount to nothing;-if they establish us more strongly in the right faith ourselves; if they induce us "to hold fast the form of sound words;❞—and if, preparing us at all times "to sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, they make us ready to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear."
ON THE PARABLE OF THE TAREE AND THE
MATT. XIII. 28, 29. ·
The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
HAVING, in my last discourse on these words, explained some of the uses, to which the Parable from which they are taken may be applied; and having shewn, also, that the mixture of good and evil in the world, as an ordinance of Divine Providence, does not deprive man of his free-agency, nor release him from his responsibility, as an intelligent creature ;it remains for us to illustrate the subject farther, by suitable remarks derived from meditation or experience, and to consider other practical purposes, to which it is equally applicable.
When contemplating evil, in this life, as connected with good, it is natural, in taking retrospective views, to direct our attention to the peculiar state, and early transgression of our first parents, while in the enjoyment of Paradise. I need not dwell particularly on the calamitous nature of their fall, nor on the melancholy train of consequences that resulted from it. It is sufficient for the present occasion to observe, that the evil of man's first disobedience furnished a wide field for displaying the mercy and the wisdom of God, combined with his perfect justice.
The mystical, and, at that time, scarcely intelligible, prophecy respecting "the seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman," was gradually developed, as the great plan of divine wisdom went forward, till, in the fulness of time, man's redemption was accomplished, "life and immortality was brought to light through the Holy Gospel,” and a full and sufficient sacrifice for the past sins of the whole world was made, by the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross.
Such was the connection between evil and good, according to the decrees of Omniscience, and as marking the ways of God in the early dispensations of his providence.
Let us now descend to the consideration of human affairs. The many necessary and salutary laws, which have been framed from time to time, for the preservation of life, liberty, and property, were not, we know, the results of any prospective wisdom; but the natural consequences of errors, transgressions, and crimes. It was the actual experience of evil, in all its forms of danger, suffering, and calamity, that led men to guard, as well as they could, against its recurrence in future: and the excellent Constitution of this country, viewed as a whole, may be considered as a fair creation rising gradually, after the lapse of ages, out of a chaos of discordant elements. It was not formed, in its grand component parts, nor furnished with those mutual checks and counterpoises, which tend to preserve it, till our forefathers had endured the galling chain of feudal tyranny, and oppression; -till they had long felt the slavish degradation of despotic power; and till they had witnessed also the ceaseless anarchy, and confusion, of republican government.
The case is nearly the same with the practical experience of individuals. He has lived to no useful purpose, who does not feel his prudence enlarged, and his circumspection in
creased, by the errors into which he might have fallen in early life. And who does not guard more carefully in future against the excesses of passion, from the pangs which he has sometimes suffered, and the dangers to which he has been frequently exposed?
On a further view of the subject, as applicable to the vices and virtues of mankind, we shall perceive how intimately the tares are blended with the wheat; and admit, that they must necessarily "both grow together until the harvest."
Every one naturally, and commendably, feels a considerable degree of self-satisfaction in the exercise of those virtues, which are suitable to his character, and condition of life. This, indeed, ever was, and ever will be, the great practical duty of morality and religion. But let him consider what it is that furnishes him with a field for the display of these virtues; and what gives him an opportunity of shewing his sincerity in the sight of God and man. Has he courage? How is it to be made known in a state of undisturbed peace, happiness, and security? It cannot be; but if it lead him to rescue a fellow-creature from the waves, or the flames;-to arrest the arm of the assassin,