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V.

ment which was ready to fall upon sERM. them. For when God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way,

he repented of the evil that he had threatened, and he did it not k.

And as this disposition of Providence is thus designed in favour to the righteous, it is also contrived to operate in mercy to the wicked. By this forbearance of judgement they have time allowed them for repentance; and by, their intercourse with the righteous they are supplied with incitements to repent

Of all the means, which a gracious Providence employs for the reformation of the wicked, there is none more powerful than the society of the righteous. If there were none on every side but companions in wickedness, they might encourage one another in evil courses from the universal practice of' the world. But placed as they are in the present order of society, they behold in the righteous the most pointed reprehension of an irreligious life and the most persuasive inducement to a better conduct. Thus from the present intermixture of characters an oppor

ance.

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SERM, tunity is extended, to the righteous of v. conferring, and to the wicked of deriv

ing, the greatest possible good, namely the salvation of souls to all eternity.

HAVING stated the doctrine which the parable conveys, I have now, tò deduce the practical improvement. Now this may be considered in a double respect, as the instruction it conveys is either Absolute or Relative.

As the instruction it conveys is Absolute, we may draw from the parable this salutary caution, that we be upon our guard against the seductions and assaults of the Tempter. In the present state of trial, good and evil, life and death are set before us, and we are free to chuse. But notwithstanding that our choice is free, we are warned of a subtle and powerful Adversary, who is always ready to annoy us by every species of temptation. To counteract his wiles we are taught for our comfort, that we have a most powerful and benevolent Friend in the Holy Spirit, who is always ready to impart his grace to those that devoutly ask and diligently seek it,

It

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It imports us at all times, but espe- SERM. cially when we are beginning our religious course, to be strictly vigilant against the insidious intrusions of our spiritual Foe, to keep the ground of our hearts unincumbered with the tares of evil, to maintain an unremitting guard against the various temptations of the world, and to have a continual watch over our own passions and propensitics: for a man's, worst foes are often those of his own household': And as we have no power of ourselves to withstand this evil Spirit, or to make any progress in righteousness, it equally imports us that we supplicate with all humility the guardian care of the divine Spirit, to protect us in all dangers, to support us in all trials, to put into our hearts good dispositions and desires; and that we concur with this holy Visitant ourselves by an assiduous endeavour to cultivate and improve every grace and every aid conferred upon us. To

engage us in these exercises of roligion it would be an useful employ

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SERM. ment frequently to compare the different

consequences of yielding to the temptations of our spiritual Foe, and of complying with the motions of our spiritual Friend.

If in this our day of trial we neglect the means of grace and abuse the patience and long-suffering of God by continuing in our sins, he will cease to protect and support us with his holy Spirit, and will judicially leave us to the seductions and assaults of the Tempter. In consequence of which the power of this evil Spirit will prevail in our hearts, the seeds of good dispositions will be choked within us, and our vicious passions will obtain the mastery. Thus we shall be as plants, whose fruit withereth, and which at the time of harvest are gathered as bundles for the flames.

On the other hand, if we strive against our spiritual Adversary with all the powers which God has given us, if we avail ourselves of this

of this appointed hour for the work of our salvation, and accept those means of grace which God affords us for our nutriment in righteousness, if we labour to establish ourselves

on

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on the firm root of faith and to increase SERM. more and more in the fruit of good living; the dews of heavenly grace will give us nurture and promote our increase; the tares of unlawful affections will be suppressed in our hearts, and the good seeds of virtuous dispositions will predominate and abound. So shall we grow up as the choice plants of the Lord: and when the harvest of the world is ripe, and the final separation is appointed to be made, we shall be gathered by the Reapers of the spiritual Field, and stored for ever in the granary of heaven.

This parable urges an important truth, a truth which is indeed implied in all our Saviour spoke, that according as we establish our character in this life, we shall determine our destiny in the life to come. If we submit to the law, and conform to the disposition, of our spiritual King, we are the Children of the Kingdom, and shall have an inheritance in eternal happiness. But if we neglect this law, and yield ourselves to the dominion of Satan, we are the Children of the Wicked, and shall have our portion in eternal misery.

When

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