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Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to exe cute , judgment upon all ; and to convince all that are ungodly, of all their ungodly deeds, which they have unggdly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Solomon says, “God shall bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Paul declares that God has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained.” The Apostle John saw, in that great, glorious and solemn day, “the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” These passages, without any comment, literally speak the language of the text; and establish the doctrine of a judgment to come.
The next consideration suggested by the text is, that Jesus Christ will set as judge on this great and decisive day. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” He is constituted the Judge of the world. “ All judgment is committed unto the Son.” He is perfectly qualified for this great, and all-important business. Such is his character, as God and man, that there can be no objection to him in this capacity. As God, he perfectly knows the worth and excellency of the divine character, the rights of God, the malignity of sin, and the desert of the sinner. He knows how to proportion the punishments of sinners to their crimes
respectively. He knows the power of all moral agents, and is perfectly acquainted with the heart, and whole character of each individual. He knows how to ad just the punishment of the heathen, who have sinned against the light of nature only, to their guilt ; and likewise, what degree of punishment is due to those who have lived in rebellion against a written law. He knows what has been done to save sinners, and the ob ligations they are under for redeeming love, and therefore what a sore punishment they deserve, “ who have trodden under foot the blood of the Son of God.” He, being a man and having all the feelings of perfect humanity, knows how to pity the infirmities of human nature, and will not impute those things to men as their crime, which are their infirmity or calamity only. He knows also how to dispense rewards to the righteous, so as in the best manner to display the wisdom and grace of God. The general design of this great and notable day of the Lord,” is to dispense rewards and punishments, in the most open and publick manner; to close the scenes of providence and grace to the sons of Adam ; to fix the state of every person for eternity; to wipe away forever, every aspersion which has been thrown on the divine character by a sinful world. The reasons of many dispensations of providence lie now concealed; and the apparently unequal distribution of rewards and punishments in this life has led many to speak evil of the ways of God; but this day will clear up the whole, and unfold the present seemingly inexplicable windings of providence; so that God will, by the consciences of saints and sinners, “ be justified when he speaks, and clear when he judges.” The day of judgment is not designed, that God might explore what is secret, that he might know what is just ; but to manifest to all what is just. Hence it is called the day of the “ revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
But my view at present is, to attend to the particular design of the day of judgment suggested in the text; which is thus expressed, “ that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”. This was the
II. Thing proposed.
Here it is plain, that by “the deeds done in the body” is meant the character formed by our successive actions during the present life, which will fix our state for eternity. Every moral action contributes its portion to form the character, and so prepare the man for the decision of that day. The process of the day ofjudgment is, in many respects, made very plain. Christ himself has given us a very striking and particular description of this day in the twenty fifth chapter of Matthew ; and the same for substance we have in various other places. The trumpet shall sound, the graves shall be opened, the dead shall hear, awake and rise. Adam with all his posterity, whether they have been buried in the sea, swallowed by earthquakes, or devoured by wild beasts, shall be called forth to judgment. The judge shall appear in the clouds of heaven, attended by an innumerable company of angels, “and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate
them, one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats; then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world. Then shall he say unto them on his left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is the process of that day “ of decision and despair”' given by Christ himself; and all may therefore know assuredly, that these things will take place as if the day were now present.
From this representation, it appears, that there will then be found two classes of men, and but two; and that the retributions of these will be infinitely different. From which it appears, that there now is, and will then be found, an important and radical distinction in their moral characters. On this difference, will be founded the distinction and sentence of the Judge. This, in his account, will be rewarding them according to their works. By which we are not to understand their external actions simply, but their real character formed by the temper of the heart, expressed in outward conduct. There is no morality in mere action, without any design or intention of the heart. The state of the heart is always brought into view, when it can be, in forming our judgments of the desert of human actions. And there is the same reason, and propriety, that God should express his approbation and love of those holy exercises of the heart, and acts which flow from them, as that he should express his disapprobation of an unholy heart and its fruits. When works are spoken of in scripture, as good and bad, rewardable and punishable, the exercises of the heart, of which external actions are only the expression, are always intended ; as without them no external action can be either good or bad, in a religious view. Since mankind are to receive according to the deeds done in the body, it is manifest, that all their moral actions are noted down in the book of God's remembrance; so that not one of all our thoughts, words and deeds will then be forgot. ten ; but weighed in an impartial, unerring balance, and have their weight of influence in determining our character and proportioning our respective retribution. For if any of the moral actions of men were not brought into judgment, it could not be said of such persons, that they received according to the deeds done in the body. Moreover, there is the same reason, that men should give an account for every moral action, as for any one.
We may as well suppose, that none of the sinner's crimes will be brought into judgment against him, as that any of them shall be left out of the account; and that he will escape punishment entirely, as that any one sin will pass unpunished, which it would, if in his future account any sin should be omitted. Beside, such a supposition would defeat one great design of the day of judgment, which is to manifest the righteous judgment of God. But this could not be done, unless the real and whole character of the sinner were displayed, which can be done only by exhibiting all his sins. If God will cause “every one to receive according to his deeds,” which is asserted in the text, and in many other passages, then he will