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2. We have here the Danger of the Judge's paffing Sentence against us, and committing it to the Officer of the Court to be executed. As to the Judge's paffing Sentence; it is here brought in as another Hazard the Client runs, by not agreeing quickly with his Adverfary. The first Hazard is, that the Adverfary's Mind being exafperated by Delays, he will at fome Time or other fue us at Law; and if he does, all these other things I juft now mentioned of Lawyers, Witneffes, Juries, Lofs of Time, Diftraction of Mind, Neglect of our other Affairs, and a great Expence of Money, are not cafual, but in a manner neceffary Confequences of putting the Controversie out of the Method of private Agreement and Accommodation, into that of a Suit at Law. And this alone, tho' he fhould not be caft, has proved fo grievous and burthenfome, that many a Man has failed under it, as not being able to go through with the Charge and Delays of the Suit. But now, fuppofing all this to be got over, my Text leads me to the Confideration of another Hazard by the Delay of Agreement, namely the Hazard of being caft by the Judge, and being committed to the Sheriff, or whatsoever other Officer of the Court, to be kept in his Cuftody till Satisfaction be made to the Sentence that he has pronounced: Left the Judge deliver thee to the Officer. Some perhaps may wonder, that the Sentence of the Judge, which ought to be directed by the certain Rules of Law and Equity, fhould be reckoned here among the Cafualties. But there is nothing in this Doubt it is only fuppofed that the Perfon, who would not agree quickly; may perhaps be impleaded and caft; he may indeed in the Beginning, and whole
Course of the Controverfie, think himself in the right, till his Adverfary discovering the Defects of his Caufe, the Judge is of an Opinion different from his, and gives the Cause against him, But to give all the Advantage that may be to this Perfon, who is stiff, and averfe from Agreement, let us fuppofe he has a very good Colour of Law or Equity for his Caufe; yet taking human Judicatures as commonly they are, that is, weak and imperfect, and not fkilful enough to search out the Depths of Caufes, and to extricate all the Difficulties and Meanders of Errors; to fay nothing now of Partial, Byaffed, and Corrupt Judges, either through Bribery, or an Impetuofity of Paffion; upon all thefe Accounts, and efpecially confidering that all Men are fallible; it must be confeffed that there is a great deal of Hazard that even a righteous Caufe undergoes, by being fubmitted to the Sentence of the Judge or Judges of any Court. For often the Laws are fo intricate or defective, that it is no eafy Matter for every well-meaning Judge to find out their true Senfe, or to adapt them to the Cafe in Hand; then for want of Proof, it may often happen that a juft Caufe may fuffer; either there are no Witneffes to the Facts, or they may be dead, or not to be found; or Writings and Papers may be loft; or if they be Facts of Old Standing, perhaps the Witneffes cannot recollect and call them to Memory; befides, if a good Caufe fhould happen to be ill pleaded; or if the Judges or Juries, through their own Unfkilfulness, or Mifapprehenfion, should mistake the Matter; all which Cafes do frequently happen; then it is very poffible, even for a
righteous Cause to run the Hazard of a Lottery, and to meet with a wrong Decifion.
3. Here is another Hazard, which may likewife frequently happen; namely, That when the Perfon is caft, he has not Estate enough to pay the Debt, nor can find Bail, and fo must go to Prison, and remain there till he has made Satisfaction to the utmoft. Verily I jay unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou haft paid the uttermoft Farthing. This last Expreffion, is a Defcription of the miserable Cafe of those Perfons, upon whofe Bodies Execution is ferved, (having no Estate to answer) after they have tired out the Adverfe Party with all the Trouble and Charge of a Law-Suit. They are commonly kept in Prifon till they have not only fatisfied the principal Debt, but all the Charges and Fees both of the Court and Goal. So much for the First Sort of evil Confequences here mentioned, of letting Differences run on fo far as to come to the Extremity of the Law,
II. Now to go on to what I propofed to confider in the Second Place; the other evil Confequences of Quarrels befides Law-Suits, which, by a Parity of Reason, fall under the Confideration of this Text. For the Confideration of Them, is a good Motive to induce us to agree with our Adverfary quickly. It is not only Law-Suits then which are attended with evil Confequences: All other Contentions are subject in that refpect to very great Inconveniencies; all other Contentions, I fay, whether they be fecret Murmurings and Backbitings, or Open Scolding and Railing, or the Pen and Ink Wars, either between Parties or particular Perfons; or
open bloody Wars, either of the Inhabitants of one Country among themfelves, fuch as we call Civil Wars; or of Prince against Prince, and Nation against Nation. Could we have a lively Apprehenfion of the pernicious Confe quences of all thefe, we fhould readily be induced to use our utmoft Endeavours after Peace in Time, before Matters come to Extremity. For were they subject to no other Inconveniency but the Lols of Peace and good Neighbourhood, who can enumerate all the Mifchiefs which attend the Want of thofe ? For to begin at the Lowest: When Malice is once fet to work, and evil Tongues begin to kindle the Fire of Contention, it does almost as much Mischief, and is as hard to be put out, as material Fire when it catches in our Houfes. It is St James's Comparison, Chap. iii. 5, 6. Behold, fays he, how great a Matter a little Fire kindleth: and the Tongue is a Fire, a World of Iniquity: fo is the Tongue amongst our Members, that it defileth the whole Body, and fetteth on fire the Courfe of Nature, and it is fet on fire of Hell. How could the evil Confequences of Contentions be more lively defcribed? And if they are fo bad when they are only Tongue Wars, which perhaps keep within fome Bounds of Decency and Modefty, what must they be, when they break out into open Ruptures of Sword and Pen? They are then like great Land Floods, which break over all their Banks, and deftroy Corn, Houfes, Cattle, and every Thing that comes in their Way. And therefore there can be no better Advice than that of Solomen, Prov. xvii. 14. The beginning of Strife is as when one letteth out War
ter; therefore leave off Contention before is be meddled with.
III. And fo I am come now in the laft Place, to the Third Thing I mentioned from the Words; namely, The evil Confequences in the great Day of Judgment, of neglecting or delaying to make our Peace with our Adverfaries. This is a Doctrine of extraordinary Ufe and Importance; and may put us in Mind of fome Truths very neceffary to be timely confidered. Namely, The Certainty of a future more exact Judgment, in which Right fhall be done to every one: And the Terror of the Punishments of Delinquents, in Confequence of that Judgment defcribed here, by their being thrown into the Infernal Prifon for no Surety will then be accepted; and by the Security and Perpetuity of that Prifon, for there is no breaking it; nor no Removal out of it by habeas Corpus; and no Compounding the Debt; which by that Time is rifen to fuch an immenfe Sum, that there is no hope we can ever pay it. It is highly probable our Saviour had an Eye to thefe Things in the Text; for he defcribes here a Judge exactly doing right; and to what Judge can this be fo applicable, as to the Righteous Judge of all the Earth? The Bufinefs of the Officer or Goaler too,here described,is a very proper Account of the Service which God will require of the Devils, the Keepers of the Infernal Prifon. It is a greatMiftake to think, that that Place of Torments fhall be entirely given up to Them, to punish Malefactors at their Pleasure; it is a much more rational Account of the Matter which is given here in the Text, that as Officers and Goal-keepers do nothing in the Confinement or Punishments of De