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First, As they regard the particular Case in View, and account for the Justice of God in suspending his Judgments. To see the full Force of the Reason in this respect, it is necessary to understand what sort of Sinners are spoken of : For this Reason is not applicable to all Cases, many Sinners are spared upon
other Accounts than this which is given us in the Text. The Sinners intended in the Text are spared merely on Account of the Righteous, that they may not be involved in the Punishment due to the Sins of others : But some Sinners are spared out of a Mercy which regards themselves, in hopes of their Amendment. Thus St. Paul has taught us, that the Riches of God's Goodness, and Forbear: ance, and Long-suffering, lead to Repentance: The Sinners, who are represented by the Tares in the Text, are such of whose Repentance and Amendment there is no Hope; for Tares, let them grow ever so long, will still be Tares, they can never turn to Wheat: And our Saviour has told us in the Close of the Parable, that these Sinners shall certainly be punished at the last; which cannot certainly be said of any but incorrigible Sinners, for he that repenteth, and forsaketh the Evil of his Way, shall save his Soul alive.
The Sinners therefore being considered as incorrigible, there was no room to justify the Delay of Punishment from any Circumstances arising out of their own Case. Even the Mercy of God was excluded in this Circumstance; for if the incorrigible Sinner be the Object of Mercy, no Sinner need fear Punishment. Our Saviour therefore gives them
up entirely, and justifies the Wisdom and Goodness of God in fparing them from other Motives. The Interests of good and bad Men are so united in this World, there is such a Connection between them in many Respects, that no signal Calamity can befal the Wicked, but the Righteous must have his Share in it. It is out of Mercy therefore to the Righteous that God spares the Wicked, left, whilst he gathers up the Tares, he should root out the Wheat also. This was Abraham's Plea when he interceded with the Lord for the Men of Sodom, Wilt thou also destroy the Righteous with the Wicked? The Reason of which Plea was so strong, that had there been ten righteous Persons in the City, the whole had been preserved from Ruin. In public Calamities it is evident that all must be Sufferers without Distinction : Fire and Sword, Famine and Pestilence, rage indifferently in the
Borders of the Righteous and the Sinner, and sweep away one as well as the other. Thus far then the Reason of the Text most certainly extends, and shews us the great Mercy of God in forbearing to appear against Sinners in such visible and exemplary Punishments, which would destroy whole Countries, and bring even upon the best of Men the Punishments due only to the worst.
But are there not, you will say, many „Ways of punishing Men without including others in the Calamity? Do not Fevers, and many other Distempers, carry off single Perfons without spreading farther? And would not these be proper Messengers of Providence to single out desperate Sinners, in which Case there would be no Danger of involving the Righteous in the Punishment of the Wicked ? And if the Wicked are spared only for the sake of the Righteous, why are they exempted from these Punishments, in which the Righteous have no Concern or Connection with them?
In Answer to which several Things may be faid : And, First, to him that asks the Question, an Answer may be returned by a like Question ; How do you know but that the Wicked are often and commonly thus
punished and that the Thing is done every Day, which you complain of as never done? Wicked Men die every Day, and die in the Way you speak of, some by Fevers, some by other Distempers or Accidents. Can you distinguish which of them fall in the common Way of Nature, and which are taken away by the secret Judgments of God? Can you tell by the Pulse when a Fever is to be reckoned among the common Accidents of Life, and when to be ascribed to the Vengeance of God? If not, how can you tell but that
may produce such In-, stances, as you complain are very rare and scarce to be found, and the Want of which you think so great an Objection against an overruling Providence? As to outward Appearance, the same Casualties attend both the Good and the Bad; but he has thought very little, who cannot see that the outward Appearance is no Rule to judge by in this Cafe. Lazarus died, and the rich Man died also: Thus far there was no Distinction in their Fate ; the Lookers on could not say which was taken away in Mercy, and which in Judgment: But the very next Scene cleared up
all the Doubt, and shewed how terrible a Judgment Death was to the rich Man,
Borders of the Righteou sweep away one as wel far then the Reason of tainly extends, and she of God in forbearing t ners in such visible an ments, which would tries, and bring even u the Punishments due o
But are there not, „Ways of punishing M others in the Calamity many other Distempers, fons without spreading not these be proper Mei to single out desperate Case there would be no the Righteous in the Wicked? And if the only for the sake of the they exempted from th which the Righteous Connertion with them