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perverted both to the most cruel oppression; and how, during the reign of papal tyranny and superstition, it kindled the flames of persecution in our own land.
Frail and ignorant, and at the same time addicted to the violence of sinful passions, we cannot, in common cases, learn the divine lesson of being" merciful, even as our Father in heaven is merciful;" nor practise much of that forbearing love, on which we must ourselves rely for the daily continuance of every comfort in this present life, and for the blessings of a glorious immortality, through the merits and intercession of our Saviour Christ, in that which is to come.
To failings and transgressions that are our own, indeed, we are too lenient, and often entirely blind; but those which mark the character and conduct of our neighbour, we are both quick to discern, and ready to punish, with all the alacrity of the householder's servants in the Parable.
Now, we should do well to remember, that the divine economy, in its dealings with man, is in direct opposition to this. Even under the old dispensation, the sinner was not consigned to utter despair; but encouraged to repentance
and amendment of life. "Seek ye the Lord," says the inspired Isaiah, "while he may be found; call ye upon Him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." tut
It is scarcely necessary to remind you how thoroughly this principle of divine love pervades the New Testament, and to what perfection it was carried by our holy Redeemer; of whom it was said, to express his encouragement to frail, despondent mortals, and to shew his compassion for our manifold infirmities, "that he would not break a bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax."
Such being the merciful forbearance of the Almighty, with respect to his intelligent creatures, as they exist in this mixed state of good and evil in the world, we may meditate on some of the beneficial effects, which result from this wise and gracious ordination of his providence, with the greatest advantage.
It may be be proper, however, to premise, that desperate offenders, who violate the established laws of their country-laws that have the second Table of the sacred decalogue for their
basis;-that guard our property and lives, and without which, civilised society could not exist, do not come within the scope of the Parable under consideration. The appointment of magistrates, and judges, is coeval with the earliest history of mankind; and, in the Mosaic institutes, it forms an essential part of the ordinances of God. Their authority is fully recognised under the Christian dispensation; and our blessed Lord not only sanctioned it in all criminal cases, but evidently extended it even to the duty of paying tribute by those who were subject to a foreign power; for he said to the insidious Pharisees, who wanted to ensnare him, "Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's; and unto God the things which are God's."
But we all know that a man may be a bad husband, and a bad father, a worthless subject, and a treacherous, or ungrateful friend, without rendering himself amenable to the laws of his country; particularly, if those laws depend not on the arbitrary will of an individual, but form the conventional justice of the people, as well as the sovereign, and have had infused into them, from time to time, a large portion of that spirit of mercy and forbearance, which distinguishes
the Gospel of Christ. These, then, are the persons, (and numerous it must be confessed they are,) who may be considered as tares among wheat, which, however painful to contemplate, cannot be gathered up, without danger of rooting up the latter with them; and, therefore, they must "both grow together until the harvest."
The first and most obvious case, that seems to justify the gracious dispensation of providence, which this Parable illustrates, is, the almost entire dependence of many helpless, innocent beings on the foolish and improvident, or on the vicious, the idle, and the wicked. A worthless and unnatural parent, for instance, cannot, in most cases, be punished as he deserves, without a whole family suffering with him; and a profligate undutiful son is not fully permitted to feel the misery, and destitution, which his own vices would inflict, because this would, perhaps, bring down a father's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave."
If we would view this principle operating, as cause and effect, on a larger scale, let us contemplate those civil commotions, which are often excited by the most worthless men; but which, in their progress, frequently involve the vicious
and the virtuous, the innocent and the guilty, in one common fate of bloodshed and rapine, misery and ruin. The forbearing mercy of God, which often arrests the arm of his justice, when the sins of nations call aloud for punishment, is strikingly illustrated in giving the antediluvians the long space of a hundred and twenty years for repentance; and in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, as stated by the holy patriarch Abraham; who, when the destruction of those devoted cities was impending, thus ventured to intercede with the Almighty-"Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?-That be far from thee, to slay the righteous with the wicked: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Accordingly, we find that the execu tion of God's awful judgment was deferred for a time, in consideration even of "ten righteous persons, that might have been found there." And, to descend to the administration of human affairs, who does not know, that many a man is still permitted to hold up his hand for emoluments, which he does not deserve, to receive credit, which he has repeatedly abused, and to enjoy that personal liberty, of which he is unworthy, because if he suffers, it is well known,