Images de page

the possibility of a pretended resurrection. When he actually arose again, and gave full proof that he was alive, his witnesses every where preached his resurrection as the highest proof of his gospel, and as a pledge from God of our rising again to the future judgment. For doing this, they were persecuted both by Jews and Gentiles, with the utmost cruelty ; but death itself, in its most dreadful circumstances, was not able to frighten them from the duty of preaching Christ risen; for they were fully convinced, that they themselves should rise again in like manner, and rise to an eternity of happiness and glory for thus faithfully attesting the resurrection of their Master. Here now is satisfactory evidence, both from reason and revelation, of a judgment to come, and of a just retribution, to be dispensed in the sight of the whole intelligent creation, for all the thoughts, words, and actions of all mankind.

On this footing only can the government of God's kingdom be supported against the rebellious passions of mankind with sufficient strength and majesty. Take away these sanctions, and his laws lose all their force; for such is the nature of his subjects, that they never consider right as good, till they are convinced it is profitable; nor wrong as evil, till they are satisfied it is hurtful. Nay, and as pleasure often lies against right, right must be made exceeding profitable, or it will not be chosen; as sensual pleasure and worldly gain are often on the side of wrong, it will not be avoided, if it is not made exceedingly hurtful. God knowing this hath annexed rewards of the highest value to good, and punishments of the greatest severity to bad actions. Thus our Maker, Governor, and Judge, deals with us according to our nature.

Now we must take care to deal with him according to his; and what his nature and will are, so far as the performance of our duty depends on the knowledge of them, he hath sufficiently informed us by his word. Let us then attentively consider, what a ruler and judge we have to deal with.

In the first place, we should consider, that there is no such thing as absolute secrecy in the universe, for God is present every where and knows all things. He is not like our earthly judges, at a distance from us. He is within us and about us In him we live, and move, and have our being. If we climb up into heaven, he is there; if we go down into hell, he is there also; if we take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there also shall his hand lead us, and his right hand shall hold us.' In all transactions, he is ever on the spot, and needs no witness, as the judges of this world do, to prove us innocentor guilty. No darkness can screen us from his sight. The darkness and light, to him are both alike. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. The word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him,' with whom we have to do.

• Whither then shall we go from the presence of him,' who is present every where? Or where shall we hide from that piercing eye, to which the darkness is no darkness, to which the night is as clear as the day; to which a veil, a lock, or a wall, is neither bar nor hindrance; to which the hills, the mountains, and the whole globe of the earth are perfectly transparent.

As he knows, so he for ever remembers, all that hath passed. Not a single thought is ever lost. Time, like space, is all present with him. His 'records therefore are sure,' so that * there is nothing hid, that shall not be revealed,' nothing hid at present from the world, that shall not be revealed or laid open before the eyes of angels and men. This should be well considered by him who would not plot against his prince, or contemptuously trample on his decrees, if he knew that prince was listening to him, and looking at him from behind a curtain.

In the second place, the subjects of God's kingdom are to consider, that their judge is not to be blinded by bribes, or biassed by interest, as the judges of this world are too often found to be, but 'righteous in all his ways. 'His righteousness, like the strong mountaivs,' is never to be shaken; ‘his judgments,' like the great deep,' are never to be exhausted. Doth the Almighty pervert justice ? Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?' Yes, the works of his hands are verity and judgment. He shall judge the



world in righteousness. The work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways; Yea, surely God will not do wickedly; he regardeth not persons, nor taketh rewards.'

Let his subjects lay this to heart, and act accordingly. There is no defence against the justice of God, but the merits of Christ, and the Christian covenant. But how can that covenant protect those who have lived and died in the transgression of it? Or what hopes can he found on the merits of Christ, who despised the offers of mercy and peace, through Christ, while Christ was in his mediatorial office ? This office will cease at the day of judgment; and Christ, the state of trial being over, will seat himself on the throne of justice, and assume the awful character of judge, of a judge from whom no secrets can be hid, and from whose sentence justice only can be expected.

In the third place, as our judge is wisdom and justice itself, so is he almighty and irresistible. His will is no sooner issued, than executed throughout the universe. It is the Lord God omnipotent that reigneth over us. He is mighty in strength; who hath hardened himself against him, and prospered ? He removeth the mountains, and they know it not; he overturneth them in his anger. He shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble;' nay,

the pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. The thunder of his power who can understand? Behold, the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, the deep, and the earth, and all that therein is, shall be moved, when he shall visit; the mountains also, and the foundations of the earth shall be shaken with trembling when the Lord looketh upon them. He is a great God, a mighty and a terrible, from whose face the earth and the heaven flee away. He alone is to be feared, for he doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou?" If the whole world, the whole creation, is as nothing in the hands of our judge, what should every particular offender think of his condition, in case he should fall as such into those hands? It is true, the mercy of God is infinite, and extends over all his works. But to those who abuse it, or presume on it to the encouragement of themselves and others in wickedness,

he will be found a God of vengeance only, and will shew his goodness to the rest of his creatures in making dreadful examples of such desperate criminals.

God, you perceive by his own express declaration, 'hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised him up

from the dead. The grave will be no sanctuary to the wicked, nor prison to the righteous; for Christ will reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet,' and death as the last. Justice requires a future judgment; God's sacred promise is plighted for the preparatory resurrection. Accordingly at God's appointed time, a trumpet shall be blown by his angel, the sound whereof shall be heard in the grave, and rouse the dead to new life. What music shall that sound bear with it to the ears of the good! What horrors to those of the wicked !

The first object presented to our opening eyes, on that prodigious occasion, will be the throne of God, raised high in the air, adorned with infinite magnificence and lustre, and beaming light, to which that of the sun is darkness. The host of celestial powers, extending in sbining ranks, will surround it on both sides, and fill the whole prospect of heaven. The great book, wherein the lives of all men are recorded, will be laid open; and the judge in whose face and person will appear a majesty infinitely surpassing all the glory of this preparation, seating himself on the throne, will order the whole race of mankind to stand before him; and, having thus arraigned the species, will proceed to the grand and final trial. The angels of light will be ready to conduct the blessed to that heaven of happiness and glory, which will present itself to our eyes from above, while those of darkness will wait to hurry the souls of the wicked to the horrible pit of fire, which will open its dreadful mouth from beneath. Then shall the heart of man beat with such a force as his present mortal frame could not possibly support. How shall even the best of men bear the thoughts of

any uncertainty, when so much is at stake, when God judges, when the whole creation is looking on, and when heaven or hell is to follow the decision? How shall men less virtuous bear the rack of doubts suspended between hope of heaven

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

and dread of hell to all eternity? But, above all, how shall they, whose guilty consciences afford them no glimpse of hope, behold that king of heaven and judge of men, whom they have offended; that glorious kingdom, out of which they are immediately to be excluded for ever; and that shocking lake of fire and darkness, wherein they are forthwith to be plunged under an impossibility of redemption to all eternity?

Represent now to yourselves this trial, with all its important circumstances, of a judge so wise, so just, so powerful ; of a reward so inestimable, and punishments so dreadful. Try if you can possess your reason with a firm belief of it, and your hearts with a deep and lively sense of it; and then tell us, whether you can at the same time entertain a train of sinful thoughts, and form wicked resolutions. If you find you cannot, consider with yourselves, how infinitely you are concerned, to make that impression deep and lasting. As God's servants and subjects, we are accountable for every thing to him, and therefore should never forget that we are to account. Howsoever pleasingly the things of this life may amuse us, and stifle the expectation of being hereafter judged by almighty God for what we do, yet they will not always be able to shut our eyes against so awful a prospect, nor will momentary pleasures make us amends for the loss of endless happiness. Whether therefore we regard ourselves as accountable to God, or our own souls, for our lives, no scheme of life can become us as rational creatures, but that which proposes justification before the throne of God, as its chief end and aim. By this point we ought to steer; and whenever we lose sight of it, we have nothing to guide us through a troubled ocean of temptations and dangers.

This world passes fast away, and in a little time shall be no more. Blessed is he who runs his course through it, like a passenger, and stays not to amuse himself with things of little moment on the way, but hastens towards a more lasting and happy place of abode; who knowing that the eyes of his judge are always on him, always fixes his eyes on his judge; who watching carefully over all his thoughts, and every part of his behaviour, mortifies the deeds of his Aesh, and dies to a vain and vexatious world. Blessed is he,

« PrécédentContinuer »