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will be recited before men and angels; whatsoever they had done either in word or deed, in the name, or for the sake of the Lord Jesus. All their good desires, intentions, thoughts, all their holy dispositions, will also be then remembered; and it will appear that though they were unknown or forgotten among man, yet God noted them in his book. All their sufferings likewise for the name of Jesus, and for the testimony of a good conscience, will be displayed, unto their praise from the righteous Judge, their honour before saints and angels, and the increase of that “ far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
9. But will their evil deeds too, (since, if we take in his whole life, there is not a man on earth that liveth and sinneth not,) will these be remembered in that day, and mentioned in the great congregation ? Many believe they will not; and ask, “Would not this imply, that their sufferings were not at an end, even when life ended ?-seeing they would still have sorrow, and shame, and confusion of face to endure.” They ask farther, “How can this be reconciled with God's declaration by the prophet, ' If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right; all his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be once mentioned unto him,' Ezek. xviii, 21, 22. How is it consistent with the promise which God has made to all who accept of the gospel covenant, ‘I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sin no more ? Jer. xxxi, 34. Or, as the apostle expresses it, ' I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more ? * Heb. viii, 12.
. 10. It may be answered, it is apparently and absolutely necessary, for the full display of the glory of God; for the clear and perfect manifestation of his wisdom, justice, power, and mercy, towards the heirs of salvation; that all the circumstances of their life should be placed in open view, together with all their tempers, and all the desires, thoughts, and intents of their hearts : otherwise, how would it appear out of what a depth of sin and misery the grace of God had delivered them? And, indeed, if the whole lives of all the children of men were not manifestly discovered, the whole amazing contexture of divine providence could not be manifested; nor should we yet be able, in a thousand instances, “ to justify the ways of God to man.” Unless our Lord's words were fulfilled in their utmost sense, without any restriction or limitation, “ There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, or hid that shall not be known;" Matt. x, 26; abundance of God's dispensations under the sun would still appear without their reasons. And then only when God hath brought to light all the hidden things of darkness, whosoever were the actors therein, will it be seen that wise and good were all his ways'; that he saw through the thick cloud, and governed all things by the wise counsel of his own will ; that nothing was left to chance or the caprice of men, but God disposed all strongly and sweetly, and wrought all into one connected chain of justice, mercy, and truth.
11. And in the discovery of the divine perfections, the righteous will rejoice with joy unspeakable; far from feeling any painful sorrow or shame, for any of those past transgressions which were long since blotted out as a cloud, and washed away by the blood of the Lamb. It will be abundantly sufficient for them, that all the transgressions which they had committed, shall not be once mentioned unto them to their disadvantage; that their sins, and transgressions, and iniquities, shall be remembered no more, to their condemnation. This is the plain meaning of the promise ; and this all the children of God shall find true, to their everlasting comfort.
12. After the righteous are judged, the King will turn to them upon his left hand, and they shall also be judged, every man according to his works. But not only their outward works will be brought into the account, but all the evil words which they have ever spoken; yea, all the evil desires, affections, tempers, which have, or have had, a place in their souls; and all the evil thoughts or designs which were ever cherished in their hearts. The joyful sentence of acquittal will then be pronounced upon those upon the right hand; the dreadful sentence of condemnation upon those on the left; both of which must remain fixed and unmoveable as the throne of God.
III. l. We may, in the third place, consider a few of the circumstances which will follow the general judgment. And the first is the execution of the sentence pronounced on the evil and on the good : “ These shall go away into eternal punishment, and the righteous into life eternal.” It should be observed, it is the very same word which is used, both in the former and in the latter clause: it follows, that either the punishment lasts for ever, or the reward too will come to an end :—No, never, unless God could come to an end, or his mercy and truth could fail. " Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father," " and shall drink of those rivers of pleasure which are at God's right hand for evermore.” But here all description falls short: all human language fails ! Only one who is caught up into the third heaven can have a just conception of it. But even such a one cannot express what he hath seen: these things it is not possible for man to utter.
The wicked, meantime, shall be turned into hell, even all the people that forget God. They will be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” They will be “cast into the lake of fire burning with brimstone," originally “prepared for the devil and his angels ;" where they will gnaw their tongues for anguish and pain, they will curse God and look upwards. There the dogs of hell, pride, malice, revenge, rage, horror, despair, continually devour them. There “ They have no rest, day or night, but the smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever!” For “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
2. Then the heavens will be shrivelled up as a parchment scroll, and pass away with a great noise : they will “flee from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and there will be found no place for them," Rev. xx, 11. The very manner of their passing away is disclosed to us by the apostle Peter : “In the day of God, the heavens being on fire; shall be dissolved," 2 Peter iii, 12. The whole beautiful fabric will be over thrown by that raging element, the connection of all its parts destroyed, and every atom torn asunder from the others. By the same, " The earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up,” ver. 10. The enormous works of nature, the everlasting hills, mountains that have defied the rage of time, and stood unmoved so many thousand years, will sink down in fiery ruin. How much less will the works of art, though of the most durable kind, the utmost effort of human industry,-tombs, pillars, triumphal arches, castles, pyramids,-be able to withstand the flaming conqueror! All, all will die, perish, vanish away, like a dream when one awaketh!
3. It has indeed been imagined by some great and good men, that as it requires that same Almighty Power to annihilate things as to create; to speak into nothing or out of nothing ; so no part of, no atom in, the universe, will be totally or finally destroyed. Rather, they suppose, that, as the last operation of fire, which we have yet been able to observe, is to reduce into glass what, by a smaller force, it had reduced to ashes; so, in the day God hath ordained, the whole earth, if not the material heavens also, will undergo this change, after which the fire can have no farther power over them. And they believe this is intimated by that expression in the revelation made to St. John, “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like unto crystal," Rev. iv, 6. We cannot now either affirm or deny this; but we shall know hereafter.
4. If it be inquired by the scoffers, the minute philosophers, how can these things be? Whence should come such an immense quantity of fire as would consume the heavens and the whole terraqueous globe ? We would beg leave first to remind them, that this difficulty is not peculiar to the Christian system. The same opinion almost universally obtained among the unbigoted heathens. So one of those celebrated free thinkers speaks, according to the generally received sentiment:
“Esse quoque in fatis reminiscitur, affore tempus,
Quo mare, quo tellus, correptaque regia cæli
Ardeat, et mundi moles operosa laboret.” But, secondly, it is easy to answer, even from our slight and superficiai acquaintance with natural things, that there are abundant magazines of fire ready prepared, and treasured up against the day of the Lord. How soon may a comet, commissioned by him, travel down from the most distant parts of the universe! And were it to fix upon the earth, in its return from the sun, when it is some thousand times hotter than a red hot cannon ball ; who does not see what must be the immediate consequence ? But, not to ascend so high as the ethereal heavens, might not the same lightnings which “ give shine to the world,” if commanded by the Lord of nature, give ruin and utter destruction ? Or to go no farther than the globe itself; who knows what huge reservoirs of liquid fire are from age to age contained in the bowels of the earth? Ætna, Hecla, Vesuvius, and all the other volcanos that belch out flames and coals of fire, what are they, but so many proofs and mouths of those fiery furnaces; and at the same time so many evidences, that God hath in readiness wherewith to fulfil his word ? Yea, were we to observe no more than the surface of the earth, and the things that surround us on every side, it is most certain (as a thousand experiments prove, beyond all possibility of denial) that we, ourselves, our whole bodies, are full of fire, as well as every thing round about us. Is it not easy to make this ethereal fire visible even to the naked eye, and to produce thereby the very same effects on combustible matter, which are produced by culinary fire ? Needs there then any more than for God to unloose that secret chain, whereby this irresistible agent is now bound down, and lies quiescent in every particle of matter? And how soon would it tear the universal frame in pieces, and involve all in one common ruin!
5 There is one circumstance more which will follow the judgment
that deserves our serious consideration : “We look," says the apostle, “ according to his promise, for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," 2 Pet. iii, 13. The promise stands in the prophecy of Isaiah, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth : and the former shall not be remembered,” Isa. Ixv, 17:—so great shall the glory of the latter be! These St. John did behold in the visions of God. " I saw," saith he, "a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away," Rev. xxi, 1. And only righteousness dwelt therein : accordingly he adds, “ And I heard a great voice from (the third] heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people; and God himself shall be with them, and be their God !” chap. xxi, 3. Of necessity therefore they will all be happy : “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain," chap. xxi, 4. “There shall be no more curse, but they shall see his face," chap. xxii, 3, 4;shall have the nearest access to, and thence the highest resemblance of him. This is the strongest expression in the language of Scripture, to denote the most perfect happiness. “ And his name shall be on their foreheads;" they shall be openly acknowledged as God's own property, and his glorious nature shall most visibly shine forth in them. “ And there shall be no night there, and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light; and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
IV. It remains only to apply the preceding considerations to all who are here before God. ' And are we not directly led so to do, by the present solemnity, which so naturally points us to that day, when the Lord will judge the world in righteousness? This, therefore, by reminding us of that more awful season, may furnish many lessons of instruction. A few of these I may be permitted just to touch on. May God write them on all our hearts !
1. And, first, how beautiful are the feet of those who are sent by the wise and gracious providence of God, to execute justice on earth, to defend the injured, and punish the wrong doer! Are they not the ministers of God to us for good; the grand supporters of the public tranquillity; the patrons of innocence and virtue; the great security of all our temporal blessings ? And does not every one of these represent, not only an earthly prince, but the Judge of the earth ? Him, whose “ name is written upon his thigh, King of kings, and Lord of lords ?" Oh that all these sons of the right hand of the Most High, may be holy as he is holy! Wise with the wisdom that sitteth by his throne: like Him who is the eternal Wisdom of the Father! No respecters of persons, as He is none; but rendering to every man according to his works: like Him inflexibly, inexorably just, though pitiful and of tender mercy! So shall they be terrible indeed to them that do evil, as not bearing the sword in vain. So shall the laws of our land have their full use and due honour, and the throne of our King be still established in righteousness.
2. Ye truly honourable men, whom God and the king have commis: sioned, in a lower degree, to administer justice ;-may not ye be compared to those ministering spirits who will attend the Judge coming in the clouds ? May you, like them, burn with love to God and man! May you love righteousness and hate iniquity! May ye all minister in your several spheres (such honour hath God given you also!) to them that shall be heirs of salvation, and to the glory of your great Sovereign ! May ye remain the establishers of peace; the blessing and ornaments of your country; the protectors of a guilty land ; the guardian angels of all that are round about you !
3. You, whose office it is to execute what is given you in charge by him before whom you stand; how nearly are you concerned to resemble those that stand before the face of the Son of man, those servants of his that do his pleasure, and hearken to the voice of his words! Does it not highly import you, to be as uncorrupt as them ? To approve yourselves the servants of God? To do justly, and love mercy; to do to all as ye would they should do to you? So shall that great Judge, under whose eye you continually stand, say to you also, “ Well done, good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord !”
4. Suffer me to add a few words to all of you who are at this day present before the Lord. Should not you bear it in your minds all the day long, that a more awful day is coming ? A large assembly this! But what is it to that which every eye will then behold, the general assembly of all the children of men that ever lived on the face of the whole earth! A few will stand at the judgment seat this day, to be judged touching what shall be laid to their charge; and they are now reserved in prison, perhaps in chains, till they are brought forth to be tried and sentenced. But we shall all, I that speak, and you that hear, “stand at the judgment seat of Christ.” And we are now reserved on this earth, which is not our home, in this prison of flesh and blood, perhaps many of us in chains of darkness too, till we are ordered to be brought forth. Here a man is questioned concerning one or two facts, which he is supposed to have committed: there we are to give an account of all our works, from the cradle to the grave; of all our words; of all our desires and tempers, all the thoughts and intents of our hearts; of all the use we have made of our various talents, whether of mind, body, or fortune, till God said, “ Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward.”. In this court, it is possible, some who are guilty, may escape for want of evidence; but there is no want of evidence in that court. All men, with whom you had the most secret intercourse, who were privy to all your designs and actions, are ready before your face. So are all the spirits of darkness, who inspired evil designs, and assisted in the execution of them. So are all the angels of God, those eyes of the Lord, that run to and fro over all the earth, who watched over your soul, and labol:red for your good, so far as you would permit. So is your own conscience, a thousand witnesses in one, now no more capable of being either blinded or silenced, but constrained to know and to speak the naked truth, touching all your thoughts, and words, and actions. And is conscience as a thousand witnesses ?-yea, but God is as a thousand consciences! Oh, who can stand before the face of the great God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ !
See! see! He cometh! He maketh the clouds his chariot! He rideth upon the wings of the wind! A devouring fire goeth before him, and after him a flame burneth! See! He sitteth upon his throrie, clothed with light as with a garment, arrayed with majesty and honour! Behold his eyes are as a flame of fire, his voice as the sound of many waters !