« VorigeDoorgaan »
tirely to withdraw from them his holy spi- SERM.
XVII. rit, without which they will be altogether unequal to any good work. It is owing to God that they are alive at this moment; let them then take those measures which alone can determine whether, with respect to them, his long-suffering be a mercy : let them this instant make their peace with him, lest his patience be wearied out, and no farther opportunity be allowed them.
I shall mention only one more unhappy consequence which sinners draw from this delay of punishment, and that is, that though certain, it is yet distant, and so distant, that they cannot think of it with any great degree of concern. This is a strange, and yet, I fear, no very uncom. mon consolation.
If a future judgment must come, if we must one day give an account of all our thoughts, words, and actions, and (according as we have done well or ill) be reVOL. II.
SERM. warded with everlasting happiness, or XVII. doomed to everlasting misery,
- it diminishes very little the weight of this tremendous truth that this judgment and these punishments will not take place till some remote period ; they will be, and how long they will last, is the only important consideration; and when we hear that they will be in degree above our most alarming conceptions, and that to their duration there will be no end, we ought surely to count it nothing, even if a long time were certainly to elapse before they began.
But we may be mistaken, even in this point; judgment may be nearer to us than we imagine; we may be called to render up our accounts much sooner than we expect: and when we vainly flatter ourselves with many more years of ease and luxury, when everything appears to smile upon us, the decree may then be
sealed, and the commandment come forth SERM.
XVII. to summon us to our last audit. Death is constantly hanging over us — and, immediately on death, follows judgment ! for whether we are instantly brought to trial, at our departure from this world, or whether we lay insensible in the grave till the consummation of all things, makes no difference - the intervening time will appear but as a single moment. There is indeed a third opinion, which is that the soul will exist and retain all its faculties, apart from the body, from the decease of the man till the end of the world; but, if it be so, how dreadful must be the reflections and terrors with which the soul of the sinner will be oppressed, who foresees its own inevitable doom, and yet knows it to be impossible to do any thing to avert it! So that whether sentence on each particular person follows instantly on his death, or whether we lie insensible
SERM. in the grave till the general judgment, or XVII.
whether the soul live separate from the body, seems matter of little importance ; in the two former cases, it appears to me to be just the same; and, in the latter, I see not that it can afford any just grounds of consolation to the wicked.
From what has been said, I trust that the folly and ingratitude of being bold in our sins, because the punishment of them is not inflicted immediately, will be sufficiently evident: would to God that we may all, not only at this present moment, perceive it, but that it may sink deep into our hearts, and influence our future conduct !
Let us ever remember how insignificant this life is, in comparison with eternity! pass but a few short years, and all those, who now crowd the scene, will be mouldering in their graves !
very memory of them (save of some distinguished
few) shall be no more! — but their works SERM. will follow even the most obscure; their merits will one day be drawn from their dread abode, and proclaimed and recompensed in the face of the universe! then will God's perfect hatred of sin, and his veracity and justice, be conspicuous ! then will the sinner, who distrusted the execution of his threats, or made light of them because of their distance, be terribly convinced of his error; while the righteous man, who, by patient continuance in well doing, shewed his faith in his promises, shall receive rewards infinitely surpassing his most sanguine hopes and conceptions.