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A general and future Judgment proved.
2 Cor. v. 10. For we must all appear before the judgment feat of Chrift.
PRECIOUS was the experience, peace and comfort, which the apostle and many of the primitive chriftians enjoyed. They were favored with the fweet affurance of hope; they had heaven in their eye, and all their courfe tended thither. "We “know if that our earthly houfe of this tabernacle were diffolv"ed, we have abuilding of God, an houfe not made with hands "eternal in the heavens." For this and all other graces he gives glory to God, and afcribes every blefling to his opera tion. "He who hath wrought us for the felf fame thing is "God, who hath alfo given unto us the earneft of the fpirit." Thefe views, expectations and confolations, had a quickening influence upon them in the exercifes, duties, and all the parts of religion. The more chriftian affurance any perfon háth, the more he is engaged in the fervice of God, and fecking the Lappiness of his fellow men. Some are ready to think, if they had affiance of grace, they would trouble themfelves no more
about religion. This is a certain evidence that they are both deftitute of grace and of a proper understanding of the goffel. For the more godlinefs any perfon practifes, and the more religion any one hath, the more ardent are his defires after greater acquifitions. Hence fays our apoftle, "We labour that we "may be accepted of the Lord." And the reason why they are fo perfevering and abundant in their labours is given in "For we must all appear before the judgment seat " of Christ." These words express the certainty and the univerfality of a future and general judgment, as well as the defignation of the perfon who fhall execute this high office.
Wherefore in attending to this folemn and important fub ject, we shall endeavor to prove,
First, that there will be a future and general judgment.
Secondly, fhow the perfon who will be honored with the exalted character of being Judge-and,
Thirdly, confider the perfons, who fhall be judged.
Firft, we are to prove the folemn doctrine that there will be a future and general judgment. This is a truth as certain as that there is a providence, or that God has created and governs. the world. Every intelligent creature, who is a fubject of moral government, affords an argument in fupport of this doctrine. For if we were created by God, and he hath given us laws for the regulation of our conduct, is it not reasonable we fhould be accountable, in refpect to our obedience or viola tion of the fame. And is it not proper that God should marsh all our behaviour, and fee whether we have obeyed or rebelled against him? This is manifeft from the intereft the glory of his own attributes has herein, and the promises and threatenings
annexed to his laws. God is omnifcient and intimately acquainted with all our actions, there is not a hair of our heads. which is not numbered, and it would be inconfiftent with his infinite juftice, not to reward obedience and righteousness, and punish fin and iniquity. Therefore there will be a time in which he will difplay his glory in judging the world, and rewarding every man according to his works. "For God * fhall bring every work into judgment."
There are indeed many difplays of God's judicial hand in the prefent difpenfations of his providence; hence he is faid To be known by the judgments he executeth." The visible tokens of his distinguishing regard to his faints in this world, as well as the public and dreadful difplays of his vengeance towards his enemies, proclaim his glory as judge of all. What flaughter of men and revolutions of the kingdoms of the earth does he make by war? He scatters nations and buildeth them up again. How have his judgments buried whole cities in ruins by horrid fhocks of the earth? How many nations whofe faces have waxed pale with diftreffing famine? What noxious and peftilential difeafes are often fent abroad for the punishment of tranfgreffion? But all thefe dreadful calamities, were they rightly viewed, confidered and improved, might become difpenfations of mercy rather than judgment. For they are folemn warnings to us and feasonable admonitions, that we fhould prepare for the great and decifive day. But inafmuch as fin demerits a much greater punishment than any inflicted here, and fince the divine dealings with the children. of men in respect to outward and visible things cannot be fatiffactorily accounted for, while we behold the righteous oppreffed and the wicked enjoying more than heart can wish, these things plainly indicate that there is a feafon to come in which all thefe matters will be perfectly adjusted. Then in the language of the Pfalmift, "A man fhall fay verily there is a reward for "the righteous, verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth."
This doctrine is not only revealed in fcripture, but we find Arong evidences of its being believed among the heathen nations. Where the immortality of the foul is received, which is the cafe in most of the pagan tribes, there we find alfo accountability and a judgment after this life; we find pleasures and happiness for the fuppofed virtuous and good, and a variety of miferies and punishments for the fuppofed wicked. Whether this is a doctrine taught by the feeble light of nature, or whether it is the corrupted remains among them of a divine revelation, handed down from the first ages of the world, is not eafy to determine. However this may be, they furely have fome dark conceptions of it. Hence we read abundantly in the heathen authors of Eacus, Minon and Radamanthus, who país judgment on every one after death. What ftrange punishments do they inform us of the wicked's fuffering in hell; Sifyphus is condemned to roll a ftone up a fteep hill, which conftantly returns upon him; Prometheus is bound to a rock on whofe ever growing liver a vulture continually preys, and the furies are appointed tormentors for all kinds of wickedness, On the other hand, in what lively colours do they paint their Elyfian fields, their imaginary heaven, and fet forth the peace fal tranquillity, rapturous enjoyments and pleafures of thofe who had received the approbation of their judges for well doing; and a thoufand fables of this kind, all which ferve to fhow they had fome notion of future retributions or of a judg ment in another ftate of existence.
Moreover this doctrine appears to be impreffed upon the onfciences of men, and they cannot extinguish their dreadful apprehenfions thereof. That fecret remorfe which finners feel in their own breafts, which make them very refilefs and uneasy,. efpecially, when they conceive themfelves drawing near to the confines of another world. The diftrefs and anguifh of mind which they exhibit, becaufe they have poftponed the concerns of eternity to fo late an hour, all which are undeniable argu
ments of a future judgment. What was it made Felix the heathen governor tremble, when Paul reasoned with him of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come. And when the fame apoftle difputed with the learned Athenians, tho' they mocked and treated what he had to fay about the refurre&ion with ridicule, yet none of them objected to this doctrine, "That God would judge the world in righteouf pefs."
With regard to the time when, and the length of its continuance, or the place where this judgment fhall be, infinite wifdom has feen fit to conceal these things from us, and it could not promote your edification to retail the numerous and wild conjectures upon thefe matters, for it is furely beft not to pretend to be wife above what is written. It is enough for us to have full evidence that this is a do&rine clearly revealed in the divine oracles. Of the texts on which it is founded I can now only felet a few. "It is appointed unto all men once to die, but after this the judgment. God is judge; the judge of "the whole earth. He cometh to judge the earth. He fhall "judge the world with righteoufnefs, and the people with his
truth. He hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the "world in righteoufiefs. God will bring every work into "judgment with every fecret thing, whether it be good or "whether it be evil. Every idle word that men shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. I faw "a great white throne and him that fat on it, from whofe face "the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no "place for them. And I faw the dead finall 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 thofe things which were written in the books. "according to their works." But there would be no end in producing the authorities for the establishment of this truth that there will furely be a future and a general judgment. What claims our attention in the