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do we become! Destined to survive this whole material system, sent forth to run the race of immortality and glory, shall we thus abuse our Maker's goodness, degrade our original honour, and sink ourselves into deserved misery ?-It remains that,
IV. We contemplate the dissolution of the world, as the introduction to a greater and nobler system in the government of God. We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.' [2 Pet.iii. 13.] Temporal things are now to give place to things eternal. To this earthly habitation is to succeed the city of the living God. The earth had completed the purpose for which it was created. It had been employed as a theatre on which the human gene. rations were successively to come forth, and to fulfil their term of trial. As long as the period of trial continued, much obscurity was, of course, to cover the counsels of Providence. It was appointed that all things' should appear as coming alike to all;' that the righteous should seem often neglected by Heaven, and the wicked be allowed externally to prosper, in order that virtue and piety might undergo a proper test; that it might be shown who were sincere adherents to conscience, and who were mere followers of fortune. The day which terminates the duration of the world, terminates all those seeming disorders. The time of trial is concluded. The final discrimination of characters is made. When the righteous go into everlasting happiness, and the wicked are dismissed into the regions of punishment, the whole misery of human affairs is unravelled, and the conduct of Providence is justified to man.
Suited to a condition of trial is the state and form of the world which we now inhabit. It was not designed to be a mansion for innocent and happy spirits, but a dwelling for creatures of fallen nature and of mixed characters. Hence, those mixtures of pleasure and pain, of disorder and beauty, with which it abounds. Hence, some regions of the earth, presenting gay and pleasing scenes; others, exhibiting nothing but ruggedness and deformity; the face of nature sometimes brightened by a serene atmosphere and a splendid sun: sometimes disfigured by jarring elements, and overcast with troubled skies. But far unlike shall be the everlasting habitations of the just. Though how they are formed, or what objects they contain, is not given us now to conceive, nor, in all probability,
would our faculties be equal to the conception; the emblematical descriptions of them in Scripture are calculated to excite high ideas of magnificence and glory. This one particular we know with certainty, that therein dwelleth righteousness,” that is, complete virtue and eternal order; and wherever these are found, the most perfect sources are opened of joy and bliss. This earth was never intended for more than the outer court, the porch through which the righteous were to pass into the temple and sanctuary of the Divinity. • When that which is
perfect, is come, that which is in part, shall be done away.' The inference which follows from what has been said on this subject, cannot be so well expressed as in the words of the Apostle, in the verse immediately following the text: Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness!' Ought not the important discoveries which have been made to us of the designs of the Almighty, and of the destiny of man, to exalt our sentiments, and to purify our life from what is vicious or vain? While we pursue the business and cares of our present station, and partake of the innocent pleasures which the world affords, let us maintain that dignity of character, which becomes immortal beings; let us act with that circumspection which becomes those who know they are soon to stand before the judgement-seat of the Son of God; in a word, let us study to be what we would wish to be found, if to us the day of the Lord should come.
I know it will occur, that the prospect of that day cannot be expected to have much influence on the present age. The events of which I have treated must needs, it will be said, belong to some future race of men. Many prophecies yet remain to be fulfilled. Many preparatory events must take place, before the world is ripe for final judgement. Whether this be the case or not, none of us with certainty know. But allow me to remind you, that to each of us an event is approaching, and not far distant, which shall prove of the same effect with the coming of the day of the Lord. The day of death is, to every individual, the same as the day of the dissolution of the world. The sun may continue to shine; but to them who are laid in the grave his light is finally extinguished. The world may remain active, busy, and noisy; but to them all is silence. The voice which gives the mandate, ‘Return
again to your dust,' is the same with the sound of the last trumpet. Death fixes the doom of every one, finally and irrevocably. This surely is an event which none of us can remove in our thoughts to a remote age. To-morrow, to-day, the fatal mandate may be issued. Watch, therefore; be sober, be vigilant; ye know not at what hour the Son of Man cometh.'
[DR. H. BLAIR.]
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
1 Cor. iv. 3-5.-But with me it is a very small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgement: yea, I judge not mine ownself. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me, is the Lord. Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manitest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.]
THE judgement for which St. Paul here professes his indifference, is not any legal sentence which persons, duly authorized, pronounce upon notorious offences: but it is a judgement of private persons, supported by no authority; a judgement of partiality and affection, which meddles where it hath nothing to do, and tends unduly to exalt or depress teachers, in the opinion of the world. In bar to this, he offers two unanswer able arguments: The one implied in their being ministers of Christ,' accountable to none but their own Master, who will judge all their actions one day immediately by himself; and who, in the mean while, judges such as are of human cognizance, by those who are deputed to act under him in an authoritative way: consequently, when private persons take upon them to censure and condemn such, they incur the guilt of judging another man's servant;' which no body hath any just warrant to do. The other consists in this, that
these men have not sufficient proof to form a right judgement, because they cannot see into their teacher's conscience; and not being able to take a distinct view of his principles, must needs be liable to great injustice and many mistakes, as oft as they shall presume to pass a verdict upon what they see. But it is not designed, that matters should for ever lie thus in the dark for He, whose proper business it is to judge, will take a time to lay all open, and bring the most secret things and intentions to light. This declaration, that such a discovery shall certainly be made, was probably one great motive, which induced our Church to make this Scripture a part of the ADVENT-SERVICE. Let us therefore, in compliance with the design of this solemn season, endeavour to draw some practical inferences from the important doctrine, that the general judgement shall extend not only to men's open actions, but even to their most secret acts and intentions.
I. This doctrine should make us very sparing and tender in our censures of other men's behaviour: because, in such cases, we often pass sentence, without so much as the possibility of sufficient proof. What they do, we may know; but whence, and why they do it, we shall never know perfectly, till the 'secrets of all hearts shall be revealed.' The same act in appearance, when proceeding upon different prospects, and springing from different principles, as to its moral consideration, is by no means the same. Thus one man may give alms out of charity, and another may give out of ostentation; one may pray from real devotion to God, and another may do it to be seen of men; one may fast for mortification, and another may fast to acquire the character of an extraordinary abstemious and sanctified person. Both give, and fast, and pray; but because not both upon the same motive, therefore not both with the same acceptance and success. He who does any of these upon a worldly principle, hath, our Lord tells us, his reward already. He did it to be seen, and seen he is. This is the coin in which he desired to be paid, and therefore he bath no claim to any wages besides. But they, who do these things out of pure conscience, and to approve their love and obedience to God, have an ample compensation in reserve, and shall not be losers at last, though no present profit be paid. If we will be clean from injustice, our judgement must be suspended, till secret motives are brought into open view. In the
mean while, charity obliges us to allow to every thing the most favourable construction; to abate for involuntary igno rance, for inadvertencies and indiscretions, for want of opportunity to do better, for the many unavoidable hindrances and unforeseen accidents, which may defeat the best intention. For, as St. James observes, To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin:' to one (that is) who can, but will not do it. And it happens very commonly, that those proceedings are severally condemned in our brethren, which yet would be our own, were their circumstances and difficulties ours. So that to suspend our definite sentence, or forbearing to fix odious characters upon men, is no more than the constant rule of equity directs in all cases. Not to pass judgement, I mean, beyond what the matter in evidence will bear us out in.
II. But secondly, If this consideration will not check the licentious tongues and wicked thoughts of censorious men, yet it may at least be serviceable to the support of those Christians who are assailed by their slanders; for this gives to all such a certain prospect, that their integrity will be cleared; and those virtues, which are so much envied and traduced, proclaimed to all the world. Not one good action, how vilely soever misrepresented in the mean while, shall then lose its just commendation or reward; and those false tongues, so industrious to lessen or blacken them, shall be covered with their own confusion, and found liars before God and all mankind. So bright, so triumphant, shall innocence shine at that day; so much more public shall its praise be then, than all the aspersions, which the most laborious ill-nature can cast upon it here. But especially so much more valuable is that praise, because bestowed by Him, who cannot err in judgement, and whose acceptance it is our duty to prefer, before the applauses of the whole world. This made it, in St. Paul's account, so very small a thing to be judged of men, because men's judgement is not the issue, by which we must stand or fall; and therefore every one, who makes it his business to discharge a good conscience, ought to bear up against any misconstructions, as remembering that he seeks not to please men, but God. For though the esteem of men be valued in due place, yet if men will not be satisfied with that which is just and right, well done or well intended, God will receive it kindly, reward it