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“godly in this present world ; looking for that “ blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the
great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who
gave himself for us, that he might redeem us “ from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a “peculiar people, zealous of good works.”l
One most solemn and affecting passage still remains to be considered : “ The Lord Jesus shall “ be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking
vengeance on them that know not God, and “ that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus “ Christ ; who shall be punished with everlasting “ destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and “ from the glory of his power, when he shall come
to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in “all them that believe." We are here expressly informed, that at the day of judgment all will be condemned, who have not known God, and obeyed the gospel : but how many persons of moral character and external respectability will be found in that company! No exceptions, however, are intimated : the saints, even those that believe, will alone stand accepted by the Judge: and all else will be " punished with everlasting destruction “ from his presence.”
I shall conclude this part of the subject with the words which Christ spake to his servant John: “ Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with “ me, to give every man according as his work « shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the begin“ ning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed
are they that do his commandments, that they
Tit. ii. 11-14.
? 2 Thess. i. 5-12.
“ may have right to the tree of life, and may “ enter in though the gates into the city." But to whom does the title and privilege of the tree of life belong? Surely to the true believer, who loves Christ, and keeps his commandments. “Ye “ are my friends,” says he, “if ye do whatsoever I “ command you."
This view of the subject harmonizes the whole scripture, and reconciles those parts which seem to be contrary to each other : but, when this centre of union is overlooked, men either“ “ to establish their own righteousness,” or run into antinomianism. These two extremes are the Scylla and Charibdis, the fatal rock or dreadful whirlpool, of our perilous voyage. I have therefore endeavoured to mark out the safe passage between them ; and may the Holy Spirit guide us at a distance from these, and all other dangers, on the right hand and on the left !-We proceed then,
III. To state more explicitly, and shew more precisely, the rules of judgment, as delivered in the sacred oracles.
It is most evident, that the scripture was intended principally for those who bestow pains to understand it: and this obvious reflection illustrates the propriety of the descriptions there given of the great decisive day; for they certainly relate almost exclusively to those who profess the religion of the Bible. We cannot therefore infer any thing from these descriptions concerning those who have not been favoured with revelation, or have rejected it : though other scriptures give some
Rev. xxi. 12-14.
light on the subject. The holy law is the unalterable rule of right and wrong, in respect of all men however distinguished : nor is it possible, that God should judge of characters and actions by any
other rule ; for the law is the exact reflection of his infinite holiness, and he “ cannot deny him“self.” He can, however, pardon the guilty, and make allowance for unavoidable disadvantages.
They who know not the will of God and do it “ not shall be beaten with few stripes : but they “ who know and refuse to do 'his will shall be “beaten with many stripes."! It will be
It will be “more “tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and “ Gomorrah,” than for those who heard the doctrines and saw the miracles of Christ, and did not repent and believe the gospel.
The apostle therefore adds a few verses after the text, “ As many as have sinned without law “shall also perish without law.” They have indeed violated the perfect rule of duty : but, as they had not the advantage of the written word, they will not be liable to so heavy a condemnation, as wicked Jews and Christians : yet, as they acted against the dictates of their own reason and conscience, those remains of the law originally “written in the heart,” they “ will perish without “ law.” For, “being a law to themselves,” their consciences may indeed excuse some parts of their conduct, but they must condemn others; especially “ in the day when God shall judge the secrets of
men by Jesus Christ :” so that “ “ will be stopped, and all the world become guilty
“ before God." All, except idiots, (who scarcely can be thought accountable creatures,) know far better than they practise, and might know much more, were not their hearts set against the truth through love of sin. All men must therefore be condemned according to this rule ; and the number, and aggravation of their crimes, compared with the measure of their advantages, is the standard by which their punishment will be ascertained, by the infinitely righteous Judge.
What the Lord may do in mercy to any of his sinful creatures, it does not become us to inquire beyond what he hath seen good to reveal: but we have no ground to suppose that any who die without spiritual religion can be happy in another world : and neither scripture nor history countenance the opinion, that the Lord gives his sanctifying Spirit where he has not sent some measure of the light of revelation. We are sure however, that the state of the pagans will be far better than that of wicked Christians, so called. While we therefore rejoice in our privileges, we may tremble lest they should increase our condemnation : and the state of the nations, who still sit in darkness “ and the shadow of death,” should animate our endeavours, and excite our prayers for their conversion.
The apostle adds, “ as many as have sinned un“ der the law, shall be judged by the law.” The Jews rejected the gospel, and sought justification by the works of the law.” Deists discard revelation, and rely on their own moral conduct to recommend
Rom. iii. 19.
them to God; and various descriptions of professed Christians form a complex law of works, out of the religion of the New Testament. But, whatever system men favoured with revelation may adopt, if they put the event of the great decisive day on their own works, as the ground of their confidence; they will be judged according to the holy law of God, and fall under its awful curse. “ Christ is become of none effect to them: they
are fallen from grace, and become debtors to do “ the whole law."! The advantages which such men enjoy, the crimes which they commit, their proud aversion to the humbling salvation of the gospel, and the degree of their enmity and opposition to the truth, will determine the measure of their guilt and punishment, according to the decision of unerring wisdom and infinite justice.
Some observations have already been made on the case of those who allow the doctrines of Christianity, renounce dependence on their own works, and profess to expect pardon, righteousness, and eternal life, “ as the gift of God through Jesus “ Christ our Lord.” Such
Such persons, when the Lord shall come, will be judged according to this profession; and, if their faith be shewn to have been living and genuine, by its holy fruits, according to the discoveries which have been mentioned, they will, as justified believers, receive the reward of righteousness; and their future glory and felicity will be proportioned to the degree of their grace and obedience of faith. But, if their conduct and dispositions have proved that they were not true
Gal. v. 1--6.