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fome Respect, is not reasonable ; and therefore, when the Reason of Justice is exactly pursued, you have the true Point, where Mercy and Justice meet together : And this is the Point in which all the Judgments of God do centre. I speak here of the Judgments of God properly so called; for those Acts of Goodness which he exercises in Right of his supreme Sovereignty and Dominion are not within our present View. And that this Account is true, you may partly collect from the Instance in which the Text is concerned : Our Saviour does not justify God for delaying the Punishment of the Wicked, by distinguishing between the Mercy and Justice of God, and shewing how Mercy triumphed over Justice in this Delay; but he appeals to the Reason of the Case, and shews that God did what was fit and becoming a wise Judge and Governor; and that the Thing complained of as a Defect of Justice, was, all its Circumstances considered, the Height of Justice and Equity: And this will plainly appear in the Application we are to make of what has been said to this particular Case.
The Parable, of which the Text is Part, is evidently intended as an Answer to the common Objection against Providence, drawn
from the Prosperity of Sinners, or rather, in the present Case, from the Impunity of Offenders. If
what Principles the Objection proceeds, and upon
what Principles the Answer, you will find that the Objection is founded upon one of the common and general Maxims of Justice, which, as I have already shewn, do often misguide our Judgments in particular Cases; and that our Saviour's Answer is drawn from the Reason of all Law and Equity, which can never fail. Ask the Man, who makes this Objection against God's Government, why he thinks it unbecoming the Wisdom of God to delay the Punishment of Sinners ? he will readily answer, because it is contrary to his Justice ; and, to support his Reason, he will farther add, that it is an undoubted Maxim of Justice, that all Sinners deserve Punishment. And here, I think, he must stop; for he cannot enter into particulaar Cafes, unless he knew more of Men than he does, or can know. In Answer to this, our Saviour owns the Truth of the general Maxim, as far as it relates to the Desert of Sinners; and therefore teaches us, that God has appointed a Day in which he will judge the World : But then he fhews, from superior Reasons of
Justice, that the Application of the Principle in the present Case is wrong ; for though it be just to punish all Sinners, yet to punish them immediately would destroy the very Reason, which makes it just to punish them. It is just to punish them, that there may be a Difference made between the Good and the Bad according to their Deserts, that their Punishment may be a Discouragement to Vice, an Encouragement to Virtue. Now our Lord shews in this Parable, that the immediate Punishment of the Wicked would quite destroy these Ends of Justice; for the Righteous and the Wicked, like the Wheat and Tares growing together in one Field, are so mixed and united in Interest in this World, that, as Things stand, the Wicked cannot be rooted out, but the Righteous must suffer with them : Consequently, the immediate Destruction of the Wicked, fince it must inevitably fall
upon the Righteous also, would make no proper Distinction between the Good and the Bad; could be no Encouragement to Virtue, for the Virtuous would suffer; could be no Discouragement to Vice, for Vice would fare as well as Virtue: And therefore it is not only reasonable to delay the Punishment of the Wicked, but even necel
fary to the obtaining the Ends of Justice, since they cannot be obtained in their immediate Destruction.
This then is a full Justification of God in his Dealings with Men; and thews his Juftice, as well as his Mercy, in not executing Wrath and Vengeance as soon as Sinners are ripe for them. But if this be the Height of Justice in God, how is it not the Height of Injustice in Men to deal with one another quite otherwise ? Temporal Punishments, even those which are capital, are executed immediately; though often it happens that many Innocents suffer in the Punishment of one injurious Person. The Law does not consider who shall maintain the Children, when it seizes the Father's Estate as forfeited; nor does Justice relent for fear she should make a miserable Widow, and many wretched Orphans, by the severe Blow which cuts off the guilty Husband and Father. Nay, farther; This very Method of Justice is ordained by God, and Magistrates are not at Liberty totally to suspend the Execution of Justice ; and how comes God to pursue onę Method of Justice himself, and to prescribe another to his Vicegerents ? The plain Answer is, because the Reason of these two
different. The Punishments of this World are not the final Punishments of Iniquity; but are Means ordained to secure Virtue and Morality, and to protect the Innocent from immediate Violence. Offences which disturb the Peace of Society, and the Security of private Persons, will not bear a Delay of Justice ; for the End of Justice, in this Case, is to secure Peace : But this End can never be served by permitting Thieves, and Murderers, and Rebels, to go unpunished; and though, whenever they suffer, many
suffer with them, yet many more would suffer in their Impunity; and this World would be scarcely habitable, were such Crimes as these to wait for their Punishment till another World succeeded this. Our Saviour's Reasoning, when applied to this Case, leads to another Conclusion; that the Righteous may not suffer, God delays the final Punishment of the Wicked; for the fame Reason, that the Righteous may not suffer, he has commanded the Magistrate to cut off all the Sons of Violence, all Disturbers of the public Peace and Quiet. And, in so doing, he has followed the same Reason in both Cases, namely, that the Righteous may be preserved