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up into heaven, and all bad men be cast down into hell: and then there will be no more occasion for this world, as it now is, when all the persons for whose habitation it was designed, are disposed of another way.
As to the exact time, when the end of this world is to be, and when the day of Judgment shall come, this is a secret, which the Almighty Governor of the world, (who at first made it, and in whose power alone it is to fix the time of its ending) has thought fit, for wise and good reasons, to conceal from the knowledge of all men; That they may not (as one excellently speaks) be puffed up with pride and conceit, from their foresight of futurities: that frail minds may not intermeddle with divine secrets; that neither security and presumption (if the day were at a great distance) nor horror and distraction (if it were near) might invade men's minds but that looking upon every day as what may bring their great Judge from heaven, they may live in continual watchfulness, and preparation for his coming.' And this at least we are certain of, that at how great distance soever the day of Judgment may be, the day of death cannot be very far from every one of us; the day of death, or the day of Judgment, then will be the same thing to us, in reference to eternity: for since this life is the only time we have to prepare for Judgment, death, which puts an end to this life, does likewise put an end to the working for eternity. So that how long soever it be between death and Judgment, yet our account is the same; and therefore to be surprised by death before we are provided for it, is the same thing as to be surprised by Judgment; for there is no altering our account after death has once seized us. Let us not, therefore, at any time flatter ourselves, that judgment may be a great way off from us, when we know not how near death may be, which will finish our account as well as Judgment, and seal us up
as we then are to eternity, equally with Judgment itself.
Who is to be Judge of the World.
THE third thing which I propose to consider is, Who is to be the Judge, even JESUS CHRIST Our LORD and SAVIOUR: and what the solemnity of his appearing to that end shall be.
As to the first of these, that our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST is to be the Judge of all the world: This is so expressly declared in many places of the New Testament, that it will be sufficient to mention only some few of them. Thus St. John, v. 22. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son." Rom. xix. 10. "We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of CHRIST." Thus St. Peter assures Cornelius concerning CHRIST; "He commanded us to preach unto the people: and to testify, that it is he which was ordained of GOD to be the Judge of quick and dead," Acts x. 42. And again, xvii. 31. "GOD hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." By which text it plainly appears, that though the right of judging us belongs to GOD the Father, whose creatures, servants, and subjects we are; yet the execution of this justiciary power is particularly committed to God the Son, who is the second Person in the blessed Trinity, though he took our nature upon him.
Now there may be several reasons assigned, why GOD should appoint that very person who came into the world to be the Saviour of mankind, to be their Judge also. As,
First, It gives us a great demonstration of the
justice of GOD, in conferring that signal honour upon him. Our Saviour himself tells us, St. John v. 22, 23, that his Father had committed to him this power of judging the world, with design to honour him. "The Father," says he, "judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." The power of judging the world, is a most glorious power, as it contains in it not only an authority of giving eternal life and glory in heaven to as many as he pleaseth; that is, of distributing rewards to all such, as when they appear before him at the last day, shall be found to have been his faithful and obedient servants; but also an authority of executing vengeance on his obstinate and implacable enemies, that is, on all impenitent sinners: and of condemning them to eternal night and darkness, to " lakes of fire and brimstone, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth for evermore.'
Now to whom could this glorious power be more justly given than to him, who, though he was the only begotten Son of GOD, yet was content, in obedience to his Father's will, to humble and debase himself so far as to leave the glory which he had with his Father before the world was, to come into a world of sin and misery, to work out the redemption of mankind, and mediate a reconciliation between GOD and man, by his own most bitter sufferings and death?
What could be a more suitable reward or a more just return from GOD the Father to his beloved Son, for his great humiliation and sufferings, than that he who was so ready and content to appear in a low and mean state, when he came into the world to promote the glory of GoD, and the good of men, should afterwards be appointed, at his second appearing, "To come in the glory of his Father, with his holy Angels!" Than that he should have full power given him to absolve or condemn all men, who was,
by the powers of the world condemned to die, not for his own sins but for the sins of others; and died, that he might satisfy the justice of GOD for the sins of all the world, and make a full atonement for them? Than that all the sons of men should be obliged to bow before his throne, who, though he had no sin himself, yet did not disdain, for their sakes, to stand as a criminal before the tribunal of Pontius Pilate, and receive that unjust sentence from him, "Let him be crucified?"
What could be a more proper reward to the crucified JESUS, for the infamy and death which he underwent, than that he, who was himself judged and condemned by sinners, and with bitter insulting scorn nailed upon a cross between two thieves, should have full authority given him to summon all, both great and small, kings and judges of the earth, to appear at his bar, and receive their sentence at his mouth; than that his judge and accusers, and all the enemies and despisers of his cross, should stand trembling before him while he sits upon the throne of his glory; that so the ignominy of the cross should be removed and done away by the glory and triumph of the last Judgment?
Secondly, Another reason why GOD has been pleased to commit the administration of this Judgment to CHRIST, was this, that he might thereby declare to all the world, the righteousness and equity, and compassion of it; in that mankind will by this means be judged by one in their own nature, a man like themselves; and so GOD may be glorified in judging the world, when angels and men shall see and acknowledge the justice and equity of it. For what could mankind have desired more, if they had had the choice of their own judge, than to be judged by a man, one so nearly related to them, even their brother, one who is "bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh; one made in all things like unto them;" only without sin; one, who having himself been
tempted in all points, like as we are, can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that have been out of the way: for that he himself also had been compassed with infirmity." Heb. v. 2. One who having lived in the midst of a wicked world, and known the conversation of mankind, and is therefore sensible of the follies, temptations, and infirmities to which they are subject; who will not therefore judge us as if we were angels, but remembering that we are but men, poor sinful weak men; the race of apostate man; who have a miserable corrupt nature within, and a tempting world without, to struggle withal; will undoubtedly therefore shew great pity to the weaknesses and failings of mankind, and will make all favourable allowances to them?
Nay more than this, we have not only a man to be our judge, but one who is GOD as well as man: and this therefore does still more highly set forth to us the equity of GOD in appointing such an one to be our Judge. For when GOD is united to man, we can have no reason to fear that such a Judge will be too extreme in marking and punishing what is done amiss.
To all which may be added still this one thing further (and then I think nothing can more effectually declare the equity of this Judgment, and that it shall be administered in righteousness,) GOD's ordaining that very person to sit in Judgment upon us who came down from heaven on purpose to be the Saviour of mankind. For it is impossible, I think, for any one to imagine that he can be a severe and unequal Judge to mankind, whose mighty love to human nature brought him down from heaven, and clothed him with flesh and blood, and exposed him to all the sufferings and miseries of this life, and even to death itself, on purpose to fit him to be a Mediator between GOD and man, and to make reconciliation for us. It cannot be but that the Saviour of mankind, is more strongly inclined to "save than to destroy." Bp. Greene's Discourses.