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Job, xxi. 7.-Wherefore do the wicked live? The existence of sin, and the frequent prosperity of the wicked, have in every age presented ground for much speculation and great diversity of opinion. Job has not been the only one, who, on beholding these things taking place under the eye of the Omniscient and Holy One, has inquired with anxiety,wherefore do the wicked live?
An answer to this inquiry I shall attempt, by stating some of the most obvious reasons why the wicked may be suffered to live.
In morals, a safe standard of judging is to be found only in the Scriptures of truth :-there we find but one line of distinction laid down to determine the character of men ; all are either righteous or wicked,-friends or enemies to God: guided by this infallible rule, we find that not only the openly vicious, but every unbeliever, must be ranked with the wicked. The impenitent and unbelieving, however amiable as men and useful as citizens, must eventually sink under the frown of an offended God, as certainly as the openly abandoned, the unjust, the deceitful, and the profane. Why then are the wicked suffered to continue in life?
1. TO PROLONG THEIR OPPORTUNITY FOR BECOMING RECONCILED TO God.
Every sin, whether of action, word, or thought, is a violation of God's law, and exposes the transgressor to his curse. No man can plead guiltless : all are already under sentence of condemnation, as rebels against God. But by the mediation of Jesus Christ, men are brought into a new condition of trial : the terms are no longer do this and live; but to those actually under sentence of condemnation a reprieve is granted, while proposals, rich in grace, are held out, acceptance of which reverses the dreadful sentence, brings the transgressor into favor with God, and more than repairs the ruins of the fall : rejection of these proposals seals the curse irrevocable, and ensures aggravated condemnation. Now, “God,” who " is not desirous that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth”spreads these gracious terms before men, wherever the Gospel is preached, and "commands all men, every where, to repent.”
VOL. V.-No. 4
The wicked, although even now under condemnation for their sins, are yet suffered to live that they may enjoy the benefit of this provision. A full view of their guilt and their alarming progpects is spread before them in God's word, the entreaty to turn and live is perpetually sounded in their ears, and motives manifold and urgent, meet them on every hand, to flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life. They are on trial, and trial implies the power to neglect duty, if we choose so to do. At death, this trial terminates, and all possibility of restoration to the Divine favor, if not secured before, then ceases for ever.
The wicked have souls; for whose cleansing a Savior's blood will avail, if they but seek to have it applied to them ; souls endowed with vast capacities to suffer or to enjoy; souls, whose interests are enduring and indestructible as the throne of God; souls, whose condition for eternity is suspended on the issue of this lise, brief at best! No wonder, then, since their removal, while impenitent, would plunge them at once into remediless wo, that the wicked are suffered to continue many years, that their trial may be prolonged, and every possible advantage afforded them, to escape the doom they deserve, and take refuge near the throne of mercy! Let us, then, keep in view the vast capacities of the human soul, the nature of probation, and the unutterable interests involved in its issue, when with Job we inquire, wherefore do the wicked live?
But the wicked may be suffered to live, 2. FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS :
Some, who have contemptuously spurned the offer of mercy, and are already ripe for destruction, may, nevertheless, be suffered to live many years for the sake of their families, to provide for and educate their children, among whom there may be those whom God shall claim as his; and who, he discerns, could not be so well disciplined and prepared for the stations be designs them hereafter to fill, as they will be by having just such an education, and witnessing just such an example, as the continuance of the parent will furnish. Possibly the scoffs and blasphemies, the cold formality, or the worldly life of the parent, may excite the most salutary emotions in the minds of the children. The stoical indifference of one parent to all the solemn interests of the soul, contrasted with the uniform fervor, the trembling solicitude, the conscientious simplicity of the other, may be the instrument of awakening reflection in the minds of the children, unmasking the world to their view, and kindling within them effectual desires after a better portion.
Some among the wicked may be suffered to live at ease, till every thing is ready to render the circumstances of their death widely impressive upon their acquaintances. Others may be suffered to live and prosper, because of the influence they are exerting for the good of society, in promoting the education of the young, furnishing the pious poor with employment and sustenance, and indirectly preparing the way for the approach of those glorious times, predicted in the Bible, when all shall know the Lord. The dispensations of God's providence are conducted on a regular and an infinitely wise plan : and it may yet be seen, that all the writings of infidels, all the discoveries and the frequently blasphemous perversions of science, all the revolutions of empire produced by ambition, were only preparing the way for such a state of