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conclusion the plea set up by some men in behalf of ignorance would lead us, but it receives no countenance from Scripture, which speaks of the conduct of those Gentiles in the strongest terms of reprobation. Ignorance may procure an alleviation of punishment, but unless absolutely invincible will not entitle any man to exemption from it. I have no doubt, however, that if we should fix the standard for the Gentiles by what they actually knew, not one of them would escape condemnation; not even their most celebrated teachers of morality, who were accused in their own time of indulging the vices against which they loudly declaimed. “As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law."'*
Secondly, The Jews will be judged by the law of Moses and the prophets, which placed them in much more favourable circumstances than the Gentiles, for the knowledge of their duty ; and vain will be their boast of the law, if they are at last found to be transgressors. “ As many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.”+ They are the servants who knew their master's will; and if they neglected to do it, they “shall be beaten with many
Thirdly, Christians in general will be judged by the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and will be subjected to a heavier doom than either Heathens or Jews, in consequence of their superior privileges. The ignorance of individuals will not exeuse them, because they might have known their duty in all its details; and equally unavailing will be the usual pleas of the infirmity of human nature, and the strength of temptation. In revelation there is every enforcement of duty which is fitted to operate upon the reason and conscience of intelligent beings; and the means are provided by which the guilty may obtain the favour of God, and the weak may be enabled to perform acceptable service. - This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." I
Lastly, The saints will be judged out of the book of life, which some understand to be the decree of God appointing them to salvation ; but it seems rather to be the gospel, or the law of faith, which says, “ He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned."'S On comparing their exercise and conduct with this law, it will be found that they are believers, and consequently that they have a claim to the glorious recompense promised to faith. Their title will be made manifest by their works, for according to their works all the dead will be judged. They will be produced as evidences of the genuineness of their faith ; and it is on this ground that our Lord represents himself as saying to them, “I was hungry, and ye gave me meat.” “I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink.” I shall afterwards have an opportunity to consider more fully the judgment as it respects the righteous, and shall therefore pass over at present some important particulars.
The declaration of the Judge concerning those on his right hand that they are righteous, and concerning those on his left hand that they are wicked, will be sufficient to convince all in the immense assembly, that the sentence pronounced upon each individual is just. There will be no need of witnesses as in human courts, because the Judge is omniscient and unerring in his decisions. There will be a testimony to their rectitude, as it respects himself, in the bosom of every man.
All his past actions will be recalled, and with all their circumstances will pass before his mind in rapid succession ; his conscience will then be faithful, and it will re-echo the voice of the Judge, and draw from every tongue an acknowledgment that he is “a God of knowledge, by whom actions are weighed.”
When the investigation is finished, and every man is prepared to hear his doom, the Judge will say to those on his right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world :” And to those on his left, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."* The execution of these sentences will take place in an inverse order, if we are to understand the following words, as stating the succession of events :
6. These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”+ The wicked will be driven from the place of judgment, by the power of the Judge and the ministry of angels; while the saints will witness this awful display of justice and wrath, and then, in the train of the Redeemer, enter into the mansions of glory. As I shall have another opportunity to direct your attention to the state of the righteous in the world to come, I shall reserve till then the remarks which may be made upon this interesting subject.
The punishment of the wicked will consist, in the first place, in being driven from the presence of Christ, which will be a far heavier doom than to be excluded for ever from the light of the sun. It is to be deprived of happiness and of hope. Whatever connexion may have subsisted between him and them in this world, where many of them were members of his church, he will hold no more intercourse with them : “I know you not, ye workers of iniquity." It is represented, in the second place, as punishment by fire; but it is doubtful whether this ought to be literally understood. It is certain that another description of their doom admits of a figurative explanation,—when it is said that their worm shall never die; and as the worm and the fire are coupled together, the same mode of interpretation may be applied to both. The design probably is, by this terrible image, to give us an idea of the excruciating nature of the sufferings which they will endure in body and soul. It is a punishment in which they will be associated with the devil and his angels. The place was prepared for those apostate spirits, and will be the common receptacle of them and of wicked men, who joined the standard of revolt which they raised against the government of God. Throughout the whole extent of his mighty empire, purity and bliss will prevail, except one dark and remote region, the prison of the universe, the accursed spot to which rebels and outcasts are exiled. In a word, it will be everlasting punishment. By some, its eternity is denied ; and their hypothesis is maintained by a train of reasoning founded on ignorance and presumption, and by violent perversion of Scripture. To every man who reads his Bible with attention and submis
ion of mind, their arguing proves nothing but the earnestness of their wishes to obscure the evidence of truth. They would have it that future punishment is temporary, and therefore it must be so. The same word is used by our Lord to express the duration of the life of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked; and if the one is eternal, so must be the other.
Time having run its course, eternity will commence. The earth, on which men were appointed to act the preparatory part, will pass away, or be changed, for the precise import of the passages which relate to this subject is doubtful. This chosen theatre of the moral administration of God towards the human race, seems to be no longer wanted, when all his designs are accomplished. The event is announced in terms suitable to its grandeur, which awaken in the mind an indistinct but awful idea of a tremendous display of almighty power. “ The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.”! The impression which the breaking up of the present system should
• Matt. xxv. 34, 41.
† Ib. 46.
# 2 Pet. iii. 10.
make upon us, is at the same time pointed out, and a prospect is opened to us of a new order of things, of a regenerated system, of an earth which will never be polluted by sin, and of heavens whose brightness no clouds will ob scure, and whose serenity no storms will disturb. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
" The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day."! I have said nothing respecting them, because the Scripture has furnished us with no details. They will then be deprived of their present liberty, and shut up for ever in Tartarus. Their punishment will be augmented, and the end of the world is the time of torment, to which they now look forward with dread. “ Art thou come to torment us before the time ?''I
THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
The Kingdom conferred on the Mediator-Distinguished from Christ's natural Kingdom-In
what Nature he administers its Affairs—Its Universality- View of it in Reference to the Church–Inquiry into the Duration of the mediatorial Kingdom and Office.
Having seen that our Lord, after his resurrection, ascended to heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God, let us inquire into the nature of the kingdom which was conferred upon him. Before he left the world, he said to his disciples, “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” David thus addressed him, by the spirit of prophecy, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."'ll His kingdom is expressly mentioned in this passage ; and it is described by the usual ensigns of royalty-a throne, on which the Monarch sits, and a sceptre, which he holds in his hand as an emblem of authority. The design of the sacred writer in using these figures—for in the present case the words cannot be literally understood—is to lead our thoughts to the thing signified by them, the Sovereign dominion of Christ.
It is his mediatorial kingdom of which I am at present speaking, or the kingdom which belongs to him, considered not simply as the Son of God, but as mediator. Upon due attention to the words already quoted, and others of a similar import, it appears to be a kingdom given to him, a kingdom to which he was anointed, a kingdom held by gift and delegation from God his God, or the Father, who engaged in the eternal covenant to reward his obedience with the empire of the Universe. As the Son of God, he does not reign by gift or delegation, but by original right; for, being the Creator of all things, he is by necessary consequence their Governor, possessing absolute authority over his
• 2 Pet. iii. 11-13.
$ Matt. xxviii, 1.
† Jude 6. * Matt. viii. 29.
| Ps. xlv. 6, 7.
own works, a power to continue, to change, to annihilate them according to his pleasure, and for the manifestation of his glory. Creatures are essentially dependent upon him who made them, for the act of creation gave them being, but did not render them self-existent; and this truth will be evident whether we consider them as inanimate, or as endowed with life and activity. As matter is known from experience to be inert, incapable of changing its state, the movements and arrangements which we observe in the material system, must be attributed to an external cause, namely, the power of its Author. Living beings, and particularly men, who are possessed of understanding and will, often act capriciously and perversely, so that no steady plan could be pursued, no design worthy of his Maker could be accomplished, if he did not constantly interpose to restrain them within certain bounds, and to overrule their actions to an end very different from that which they contemplate. “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth."*
“ He maketh the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of it he restraineth.”+ Such is the natural government of the Son of God over the works of his hands, visible and invisible, on earth and in heaven.
His mediatorial kingdom is not different in respect, if I may speak so, of its territory and its subjects. When we say that he received a kingdom from the Father, we do not compare him to an earthly monarch, who, reigning over one country by original right, acquires dominion over another by inheritance or by conquest. A new kingdom in this sense was impossible ; for where should it have been found, since already every region of space acknowledged his sway? In order to prevent confusion of ideas, and to avoid perplexing ourselves with the inquiry, how Jesus Christ could receive a kingdom, if he was from the beginning Lord of all, we have only to consider his mediatorial kingdom as being his original kingdom, invested with a new form, wearing a new aspect, administered for a new end. The proper view of the subject is this: that our Saviour being, as-mediator, the servant of the Father, was authorised by him to conduct, in subservience to the design of his office, the affairs of the universe, which had always been under his direction. Strictly, his investiture with a kingdom was his investiture with a right to exert the power which he had always possessed, for a specific purpose, namely, the salvation of the church; and it may be imperfectly illustrated by supposing a son, who was conjoined with his father in the kingdom, to begin by his consent a new system of administration, with a view to the good of his subjects. In this case his power would not be augmented, but it would be exerted in a different series of operations. In consequence of his advancement to this kingdom, the mediator makes all things directly or indirectly, by a more remote or a nearer influence, work together for the establishment, the trial, the purification, the increase, the final triumph and perfection of that select society, which he redeemed with his blood, and which is placed under his immediate care. He is "head over all things to the church which is his body.”¥ Hence we perceive that they err, who confine his mediatorial kingdom to the church, not considering that, while it is the chief object of his attention, the whole system of things is so managed as to be subservient to its interests; in the same way as, by the constitution of nature, the earth, with its mountains and valleys, its springs and rivers, and various productions, was designed to minister to man. “ All things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. *
In consequence of this constitution, the course of events is changed, uot sensibly, but in respect of the influence which they exert, and the point in
• Dan. iv. 85.
+ Ps. Ixxvi. 10.
* Eph. i. 22, 23.
$1 Cor. iii. 21-23.
which they will terminate. While the providence of our exalted Redeemer extends its vigilance and care to every being and every occurrence, there is one design which is contemplated and pursued amidst the ever-varying scenes of the world. There is a plan within a plan; and that which is least considered, and by many is entirely overlooked, is first in his intention, and will be most glorious in its completion. When this plan is finished, the complicated machinery by which it was carried on will be demolished; the succession of generations will stop ; the frame of society will be dissolved; and the heavens and the earth which now are, will be annihilated or changed. Jesus Christ reigns as the King of his church; and that he may afford all the protection and advantage to his people which they need and expect, he is also King of the world. Empires rise and fall, individuals are born and die, the Gospel visits one country and retires from another, under his superintendence and agency. Angels descend from their bright abodes to minister to the heirs of salvation, and grace falls gently like the dew upon the souls of his people, to prepare them for a more perfect state. As a King, he distributes royal gifts : " Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear."* To his kingdom, aş it respects the church, your attention will be afterwards more particularly directed.
The mediatorial kingdom is administered by our incarnate Redeemer. This is a view of the subject, which demands particular attention. The kingdom is administered by Jesus Christ, considered not simply as a divine person, but as a divine person united to human nature, which shares in the dignity and glory of his state of exaltation. Human nature was the organ by which he manifested his love to our race. Having assumed it, he humbled himself, endured the contradiction of sinners and the evils of life, and submitted to the ignominious death of the cross. May we not conceive that our nature is the organ, by which he manifests the glory which the Father has conferred upon him, as the reward of his voluntary and meritorious sufferings ? Let me not be understood to insinuate, that it is now endowed with divine perfections. I know that, as it is a created nature, its powers must always be comparatively limited, although enlarged beyond calculation, so as to leave the loftiest angel at an inconceivable distance. It is in human nature that he is contemplated and acknowledged by angels and men in heaven, as the Lord of all worlds. In the symbolical descriptions of his exaltation, he appears as "
lamb that had been slain," that is, in his assumed nature, which alone was capable of suffering and dying, and is hailed by the voices of ten thousand times ten thousand around the throne, and by a chorus of praise from every part of the creation. According to the Psalmist, it is man whom God has crowned with glory and honour:" it is man whom he has " set over the works of his hands;" it is under the feet of man that he has put the “ fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.”+ From the commentary of an apostle, we learn, that these things are spoken of our Saviour. It is by man that the last and solemn act of the divine government will be performed, when the millions of mankind shall be assembled before the tribunal, and judged according to their works. “As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this ; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of
• Acts ii. 33.
| Ps. viii. 4.
* Heb. ii. 6.
$ John v, 26–29.