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OF JUDGMENT TO COME.
ACTS XVII. 30, 31. GOD COMMANDETH ALL MEN EVERY WHERE TO
REPENT : BECAUSE HE HATH APPOINTED A DAY, IN THE WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
RESOLUTION OF DOUBTS AND DIFFICULTIES CONCERNING
THE GENERAL JUDGMENT.
The Almighty Governor of heaven and earth, having such claims upon the human race and such a regard for their well-being, as we set forth in the first head of this argument, did accord to the wants and welfare of human nature that constitution of laws whereof we have unfolded the principles, and the excellent adaptation both to the individual and the social state of man. Having done so much, he might have left it to make way upon the strength of its own merits, without any further recommendation than its present fitness and advantage: in which case he would have stood to us in the relation of a counsellor who points out the good and evil of conduct, and the way to tranquillity and happiness; or of a father, who, before he departs, bequeathes to his children the legacy of his wisdom and affection. Having made an appeal to every good and noble principle of nature, having introduced it with a moral grandeur which made the host of heaven to admire, at a sacrifice which none but himself doth know,
and having sustained it with every advantage present and to come; he might have stood to a side and waited the determination of man.
From earliest youth to latest age we are solicited to accept his overtures; our former delinquencies are offered to be cast into the shade, and our late obedience to be accepted, as if it had been yielded from the very beginning of life. It argues in the heart, by which such easy and advantageous offers are rejected, a callousness and deadness to the voice of God-in lieu of which, it is not to be expected that any attainments in knowledge, reputation, or morals will compensate. Our Creator is not served with the powers which he gave, nor is our Preserver acknowledged for the blessings which he sent, nor our Father loved in return for that love wherewith he hath loved us--our King is held at nought, our Re-. deemer trampled under foot-heaven is not sought.
hell eschewed : meanwhile the world is courted, the approbation of our fellow men is hunted after, every fleeting pleasure is grasped at, and every phantom of hope pursued; and, though life be unstable as the morning cloud, it is doated on and preferred to all which God is able to bestow. In sum, God, in his most gainly attributes arrayed, is rejected for the sake of this world, clothed though she be with sickness and sorrow and change, and every symptom of speedy dissolution.
Perceiving in us such contumacious neglect of himself and of all that he could do for our sakes,
and such base preference of the sensual and temporary over the spiritual and eternal, he hath appointed a day in which he will call an account of the good and the evil, and make a grand and notable decision between those who regarded him and those who regarded him not. For he hath too tender an interest in that which is good, not to sustain it by every means; while for that which is evil he hath too great an abhorrence to keep its direful consequences secret : therefore, it hath pleased him to lift up the veil of death and the grave, and show the spectacle of eternal judgment, and the separate issues of obeying and disobeying his revealed law. Frequent descriptions are given of this judgment in the Scriptures, and allusions to it are ever recurring throughout the preaching of Christ and of the Apostles. It is used to arrest the fears of the wicked, and to rejoice the patience of the righteous. To escape the wrath to come, is the ground upon which all men are commanded to repent and believe in Christ, who came into the world that men might not perish, but have everlasting life.
By this institution of judgment, God hath superinduced, upon the affectionateness of the father and the kindness of the counsellor, the authority of the lawgiver and governor; and his revelations, from being admonitions and exhortations, pass into the severe character of laws which it is perilous to disobey. All that hath been hitherto propounded of their good consequences must therefore be regarded, not as acts of judgment so much
as natural effects flowing from obedience. We come now to the awful exercise of Almighty judgment, having hitherto treated only of his exquisite wisdom, his long-suffering, mercy, and his most abundant kindness.
Now, though this be a subject of tion, it is one which may be handled with great. deference to human reason and to our natural sentiments of justice; and therefore we solicit, as formerly, from our reader, a lively exercise of all his faculties, and a ready proposal of all his doubts; our object being not to overawe him with terrific descriptions of things unseen, in which imagination may at liberty disport, but to convince him how consonant things revealed are to the best sentiments and interests of mankind. We have seen how exquisitely God hath accorded his law to the honour and advantage of man, and he may therefore be expected to accord the judgment thereof no less exquisitely to our sentiments of justice and equity; for we take it to be a first. principle of every communication from a wise and good God, that it should have something in it for the advantage of the creature to whom it is made : and, accordingly, we hope to make it appear that God doth not secure his dignity at the expense of his justice, or wield his authority at: the expense of his mercy, but consulteth for all his noble attributes equally and alike; in every action making their combined lustre to appear.
And in order to carry the reason of men along with us into this solemn subject of Judgment to
Come, we shall devote a preliminary discourse to the doubts and difficulties which the mind hath in meditating the transactions of the great day, and endeavour to render the best resolution of them in our power, before entering upon the very article of the judgment and the principles upon which it proceeds.
These preliminary doubts and hesitations are of two classes; the one arising from the difficulties of conception, the other arising from our regard for justice, and apprehension lest it should be sacrificed.
The first class of difficulties to which we shall give immediate attention, springs from ruminating upon the magnitude of the work to be performed, and the incredible multitude to be judged. When we would grapple with the subject, conception is stunned and calculation confounded, and a most unpleasant incertitude induced upon the mind. Our slow-moving faculties cannot reckon the countless multitude, our subdivisions of time cannot find moments for the execution of the mighty work. The details of each case reaching to the inmost thought, the discrimination of their various merit and demerit, with the proportionate award of justice to each, seem a weary work, for which infinite time as well as Almighty faculties are required. Taking advantage of this confusion of the faculties of conception, many evil suggestions enter into the mind, and destroy the great effect, which the revelation of Judgment to Come is designed to produce. One thinks he will pass muster in such a crowd, and that he need not take