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ON THE JUDGMENT.
2 Cor. v. 10. We must all appear before the judgment-seat of
Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his
body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. We have seen, from the foregoing chapter, that the Resurrection is a doctrine authoritatively taught by the Oracles of Heaven ;--that it appears highly probable in itself; and is supported by changes annually and daily taking place in the ordinary course of nature, which materially illustrate and confirm it.
Let the Resurrection be once credited, and there can be no good reason for withholding our belief in a day of retribution; which seems to follow it by a necessary consequence.
But we are not left to conjecture or speculation in so weighty a matter; since the word of the Lord affirmatively declares, that he intends, at a future period, to judge his accountable creatures. We shall therefore do well to advert to its testimony, and, at the same time, to weigh the force of those arguments which reason supplies, in vindication of the doctrine.
1. That there will be a day of judgment hereafter, is manifest from the solemn notices which the inspired writers give us respecting that event. « The Lord shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment, and he shall judge the world in righteousness: he shall minister judgment to the people, in uprightness"." Solomon announces the fact in decisive terms: “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evilo.”
* Psalm ix. 7,8.
That tremendous day of the Lord is thus majestically
, represented by Christ himself, who is constituted Judge of quick and dead:-"When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right-liand, but the goats on his lefto.”.
St. Paul confirms this declaration, by the following statement: "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent; because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised Him from the deadd.” This truth, then, is as certain as the indubitable testimony of God can make it.
2. The universality of the future judgment is repeatedly insisted on, with a view to induce all men to hold themselves in readiness for an event in which they have an equal concern.
At this great assize, none of the human race will be wanting. Every one must be present, to take his trial, and to receive his final doom. Before the tribunal of Christ will be collected, in a promiscuous throng, kings and their subjects, the wise and ignorant, the honourable and mean, the rich and
the good and bad, the aged and young, the hoary sire and the infant of days ; in a word, men of all nations under heaven. “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the 1. Eccl. xii. 14. • Mat, xxv. 31-34. Acts xvii. 30, 31.
things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bado.
The untimely deaths of those persons who have been drowned in the mighty ocean, or of those whose bodies have been destroyed by fire or other accidents, will not prevent their assembling with the rest of mankind on this august occasion. St. John beheld in vision the whole human race congregated at the bar of Christ :-“And I saw the dead, both small 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 those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every man, according to their works!”
Let no one, then, persuade himself that his general conduct and actions will be passed over in silence, on the day of reckoning; or that he shall escape the observation of the Judge,“ to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets
are hid ff.”
To avoid making our appearance before him, will be as impracticable as it will be to reverse the sentence which he pronounces, or to obstruct its execution; for being possessed of “all power in heaven and earth,” it will be impossible to withstand his sovereign determination.
3. The reasonableness and necessity of a future judgment may be inferred from the inperfection of the present state. In this life, it is not always possible to detect and punish crimes. For want of evidence to e 2 Cor. v. 10.
" Rev. xx. 12, 13. ff Collect for Communion Service.
convict them, flagrant offenders often lie concealed, and escape condign vengeance.
There are sins, too, which are highly injurious to society, and affronting to God, for which human laws provide no punishment; and others, which they do not visit so heavily as their enormity de
A general scrutiny, therefore, into the deeds of mankind is absolutely necessary; that offences, which have been secretly committed, and which have lain hid for ages, may be brought to light, and that no evil actions may pass unnoticed. Now, it is the principal design of the judgment-day, bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and to make manifest the counsels of the hearts .
The justice of God requires such an examination, in order that he may reward those who have acted in obedience to his commands, and punish the unbelieving, the impenitent, and the rebellious, which he will certainly do, in the world to come; unless, as it is absurd to suppose, he should tamely renounce his authority over his creatures, and suffer any insults offered to his moral government to pass by with impunity. We can never think so meanly of Him, who solemnly avers, “ Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished h."
Besides, in this life, virtue and vice, good and evil, are too often confounded with each other. Wickedness is too generally palliated and caressed; and true piety is laughed out of countenance, and despised by a thoughtless world, insomuch that every one who
departeth from evil maketh himself a prey:
The judgment will rectify these errors, and exhibit things in their true colours. Then darkness will not, as it is too often now, be put for light, nor false1 Cor. iv. 5.
Prov. xi. 21. i Isa. lix. 15.
hood for truth, nor vice for virtue ; but a perfect distinction will be for ever established betwixt the extremes of righteousness and wickedness; and, whilst the former will be applauded, the latter will be marked with infamy, and held in everlasting disgrace".
4. Again; the striking inequalities discoverable in the condition of saints and sinners in this life lead the mind forward to a better state, in which a discrimination will be made in favour of those who, under all the sorrows and temptations of their earthly pilgrimage, have “cleaved unto God with full purpose of heart." Here we not uncommonly see the enemies of the Lord “flourishing like a green bay-tree,” abounding with riches, signalized by honours and dignities, and possessed of almost every enjoyment which their carnal hearts can desire : swollen with pride, they not only tread the righteous under their unhallowed feet, but venture to defy even God himself'.
Besides the persecutions to which the piety of a good man necessarily exposes him, his lot is often greatly embittered with poverty, and rendered grievous by inward conflicts and sufferings, arising from the Christian warfare which he has to maintain, but to which the rest of the world are total strangers. David, “ the man after God's own heart," was so inuch perplexed and discouraged", by a view of the marked disparity which he saw betwixt the state of good and bad men in this life, that he was ready, on one occasion, to arraign the equity of Jehovah's dealings, and to renounce his faith and hope, as if they were misplaced, or likely to be disappointed for
Mal. iii. 17, 18. ! Job xxi. 14, 15. Ps.xciv. 7-11. m Ps. lxxiii, 1-23.