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ACTS xvii. 31.

He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.

THE diftinction between good and evil hath been From the beginning the great end of the law of heaven, at sundry times and in divers manners promul gated to the fons of men. From this celestial fountain particular systems of human laws have been drawn forth, and adapted to the exigencies of different ages and countries, by wife and good men ; ́they have been enacted by the authority of kings with the advice of fenates, and carried into execution by faithful and diligent magiftrates, " to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of true religion and virtue." The advantages of these institutions, and the praise and honour which are due from all mankind to those who employ the treafures of learning, and exert the powers of eloquence, for the public good, must be evident to every one, who thinks but a moment. upon the fubject. The excellent Hooker clofes a furvey of Law, in all its different departments, with the following encomium, conceived and expreffed in a manner peculiar to himself." Of law there can be no lefs acknowledged, than that her



feat is the bofom of God, her voice the harmony of the world. All things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempt from her power. Both angels, and men, and creatures of what condition foever, though each in different fort and manner, yet all with uniform confent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy."

But true and just altogether as this character of law in general most certainly is, yet it must be confeffed, that the penal fanctions of human laws will not always come up to the neceflity of the cafe, nor will the medicine reach the diforder, in a multitude of inftances. It is in the power of the civil magiftrate to chastise many public enormities, to regulate in fome measure the external deportment of men, and to preserve the frame of fociety from fuffering those convulfions which muft otherwise bring on a speedy diffolution. But when prudence hath enacted all her statutes; and intrusted vigilance with the execution of them, men will still continue to “ put evil for good, and good for evil." Monsters of iniquity will creep from their dens to infeft and annoy the public, although they cannot be dragged from thence, to fuffer as they deserve. Much wickedness must remain unpunished, and great mifery must go unrelieved. Avarice and ambition will conceive and bring forth crimes, of which no earthly tribunal can take cognizance. Some fins will be too common, and some finners too power-' ful, to be animadverted upon in this world. The profperous villain will often die unmolested in his bed, and bequeath the fruits of his oppreflion to his heir; while injured innocence fhall defcend before him with forrow to the grave, and quickly pass away out of remembrance. The cries of orVOL. II.



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phans will still afcend to heaven; the tears will still run down the widow's cheek; and the poor man will frequently find no helper upon earth. This the royal preacher and judge of Ifrael faw, who was fo renowned through all the world for his wisdom and juftice; he faw and mourned the impoffibility of preventing it. "I confidered, fays he, all the oppreffions that are done under the fun; and beheld the tears of fuch as were oppreffed, and they had no comforter; and on the fide of their oppreffors there was power, but they had no comforter."* The conclufion which king Solomon drew from what he faw of this kind under the fun, must be adopted by us likewife. "I faid in mine heart, God fhall judge the righteous and the wicked."

The interefts of virtue and justice require that many caufes fhould be heard, which cannot be brought to a trial here below; and therefore the day will furely come, when God fhall erect a tribunal univerfal and fcrutinizing as the light of heaven; where all thofe offences, which the beft of magif trates taken from among men are neceffitated to fuffer and overlook, shall be enquired into by himself. And when we behold this auguft affembly, our thoughts are naturally carried on to that great and awful procefs, the confideration of which will furnish the best rules for the conduct of all who are concerned in these earthly judicatories; from whence there lieth an appeal to the judgement-feat of Christ. There every caufe must be re-heard, and finally determined, until virtue and vice fhall be distinguished by the voice of God adjudging them to separate habitations for evermore. "He hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained."


Ecclef. iv. 1.

+ Ecclef. iii. 17.

The words direct us to employ our meditations on the appointment of a day for judgment; the person and appearance of the judge; and the judgment itself.

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Man may abufe his liberty, and tranfgrefs the law of the great King; but the punishment will follow and overtake the offence, though not immediately; nor can we deduce any inference from its being deferred, but that God is merciful, and that the finner fhould repent. The day of vengeance was fixed from the foundation of the world; but it was likewife then determined, that another day fhould precede it, commensurate to the duration of this prefent fyftem, which may be called the day of man, when the earth is given into his hands, and he executes his will upon it. Now he may "rejoice, and let his heart chear him;" he may "walk in the ways of his heart, and in the fight of his eyes;" he may devote his youth to pleasure, facrifice his manhood to ambition, and wear out his old age in avarice. He may corrupt the innocent for the indulgence of the firft, depopulate kingdoms for the gratification of the fecond, and impoverish thousands to fatisfy the cravings of the laft. But let him know, that " for all these things God will bring him into judgment," in that day, which the Scriptures therefore ftile his day, "the day of God," or "the day of the Lord." Then God fhall fpeak, and man must hear; then the viol and the harp fhall no longer lull the effeminate in fenfuality, nor the trumpet any more rouse the warrior to the battle; and then, the thousands of gold and filver fhall have loft all their charms in the eyes of the mifer. In that day, the merry hearted fhall figh, thame fhall be the portion of pride, and covetoufnefs fhall inherit eternal pover

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ty. Of these two days, the day of man, and the day of God, which give fo very different an aspect to the world and all that is therein, the facred hiftory holdeth forth to us many fignificant and inAtructive representations in the divine proceedings with regard to particular perfons, cities, and kingdoms. These answer the fame end with the folemn scene now before our eyes, being intended as preludes, or (if I may so speak) as rehearsals of the judgment to be finally executed upon the world of the ungodly. Thus, when the divine long-fuffering waited in the time of Noah; when the wicked vexed the foul of righteous Lot in Sodom; when Pharaoh oppreffed the church in Egypt; when the ten tribes, revolting from the fervice of God, and the house of David, became and continued fchif-· matics, rebels, and idolaters; when Zedekiah threw the prophet Jeremiah into the dungeon, for declaring the will of heaven; and when the Jews crucified Chrift, and perfecuted his apoftles, for the fame reafon; then was it, refpectively in each case, the day of man. But it was the day of God, when the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the antediluvian generations fwept away from the face.of the earth; when the windows of heaven were opened, to rain fire and brimftone upon the cities of the plain; when Ifrael faw the Egyptians dead upon the fea fhore; when Salmanazar led Ephraim away into Affyria; when Nebuchadnezzar carried Judah captive to Babylon; and when the Roman armies overthrew Jerufalem, and set fire to the gates of Zion. But the united terrors of all these partial vifitations will enable us to form only a faint idea of that great and terrible day, when God " shall judge the world in rightcoufnefs, by that man whom he hath ordained."


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