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condemned themselves more severely than others could condemn them: that they prayed without ceasing not to be left to repeat their sin and folly; and that they vigilantly used every means of crucifying their evil propensities, and bridling their appetites and passions.
The discoveries of that solemn day will likewise relate to men's words. "Every idle word that men shall speak shall be given an account of at "the day of judgment: for by thy words thou "shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt "be condemned." Our words must indeed be known in some measure to others: but men are commonly very careful to whom they declare their unreserved sentiments; and would often be extremely disconcerted, if their discourse in private circles, among the select companions of their vices, should be disclosed to those with whom they desire to maintain another kind of character. But the profane, blasphemous, atheistical, infidel, and abominable speeches, which men vent in their secret cabals; with all the falsehoods, slanders, boastings, bitterness, imprecations, and horrid language, which on some occasions they utter, during the whole course of their lives, will be produced against them before the assembled world. "the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; it is an "unruly evil, full of deadly poison; it sets on fire "the whole course of nature, and is set on fire of "hell."2 The secret influence of evil conversation corrupts men's principles and morals, and wounds their reputations: it ruins domestic and relative
1 Matt. xii. 36, 37.
• Jam. iii,
comfort, and disseminates impiety, infidelity, heresy, profligacy, enmity, discord, and confusion, through neighbourhoods, cities, and nations. Yet no discovery can be made of such private mischiefs, except by the omnipresent and omniscient judge. It would be tedious to insist particularly on the flatteries, deceptions, false colourings, seductions, and other artifices, by which wicked men carry on their base designs. These, however, are "hid"den things of darkness," which will be brought to light when the Lord shall come. If then all our words, without exception, whether spoken openly, or among our select companions, shall be thus made known at the great decisive day; could nothing else be produced against us, we must surely feel that this alone would overwhelm us with confusion. The story is well known, of the person, who invited a company of his friends, that were accustomed to take the Lord's name in vain; and contrived to have all their discourse taken down and read to them. Now if they could not endure to hear the words repeated, which they had spoken during a few hours; how shall we bear to have all that we have uttered, through a long course of years, brought forth as evidence against us at the tribunal of God? But the hour is coming when this will actually be the case: when not a single irreverent mention of the Creator's sacred name; not one objection to his law, government, or gospel; not one sarcasm or jest upon his cause or worshippers; shall be overlooked! when every word "spoken in the ear in closets shall be pro"claimed on the house tops!" Where then will the wicked and ungodly appear?
of us endure that scrutiny: unless we have fled for refuge to the hope of the gospel, and all our sins have been buried in the depths of the sea?
But words of another kind shall be made known when the Lord shall come. The servants of God love to associate together, and many censure them for it but what saith the scripture?" They that "feared the Lord spake often one to another; "and the Lord hearkened and heard it: and a "book of remembrance was written before him "for them that feared the Lord, and thought 66 upon his name; and they shall be mine, saith "the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man
spareth his own son that serveth him. Then "shall ye return, and discern between the righ"teous and the wicked; between him that serveth "God, and him that serveth him not."1 When the "books shall be opened," the social piety, gratitude, and charity of true Christians will be brought to light. Their discourse about the perfections, ways, and works of God; the best methods of promoting his glory, the peace of the church, and the benefit of mankind; their mutual warnings, exhortations, counsels, and encouragements; their spiritual, affectionate, and animating conversation; and all the words which the Lord delighted to hear, will be made known before men and angels. And, when these shall be contrasted with the filthy, impious, and frivolous speeches of the wicked, it may easily be conceived, how men's real characters will be discri
minated, and in what sense," by their words they "will be justified or condemned."
The thoughts also of every heart shall be disclosed. Men generally imagine, that these at least are free and subject to no control; so that they allow their memory and imagination to excite and feed corrupt affections: representing to themselves, with all the ingenuity of invention, scenes that accord to their predominant propensities and by these speculative indulgences they try to make themselves amends for the restrictions, which regard to reputation, interest, or health may impose. But God especially requires purity of heart, and “truth in the inward parts," by which real religion is distinguished from hypocrisy. "Ye fools," says our Lord, to some of these "whited sepulchres," "did not he that made "that which is without make that which is within "also? Thou blind Pharisee, first cleanse that " which is within the cup and platter, that the out"side may be clean also."1 How would it astonish us, if we could see all that passes in the thoughts of many very virtuous persons, during a single day! and, as to the imaginations of the profligate, they are the very residence of evil spirits, in which they forge all manner of abominable crimes, previously to the actual commission of them. Instead therefore of men's hearts being better than their lives, as self-flattery often suggests, they are uniformly far worse: for every sinful word and action was at first an evil thought and desire; but ten thousand evil thoughts and desires,
1 Matt. xxiii. 25-28. Luke xi. 39, 40.
conceived and cherished in the heart, proceed no further; because men have not opportunity, courage, or ability to realize them in practice.
Every man, however, must judge for himself in this matter: but let us ask ourselves, whether we should feel comfortable, at the idea of all our secret thoughts being disclosed, I do not say to the whole world, but to our intimate friends and acquaintance? Yet they must all be disclosed to men and angels, at the great day of righteous retribution! "Let then the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts:" for, unless evil thoughts are excluded or opposed, every apparent reformation must be hypocritical. "O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness, "how long shall vain thoughts lodge within "thee?" Peter seems even to intimate a doubt whether the thought of Simon Magus's heart did not constitute the unpardonable sin: "Pray God, "if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be "forgiven thee."2 This is therefore a matter of the greatest importance: and the discovery of those secret thoughts which no human eye could reach, and which were scarcely ever suspected, will exceedingly help to discriminate characters at the great day. Nay, the countless multitude of vile imaginations and desires, which are the spontaneous production of our depraved nature, will greatly illustrate the truth and justice of God, in all his declarations and decisions concerning the workers of iniquity.
On the other hand, the thoughts of believers
'Jer. iv. 14.
2 Acts viii. 20-24.