Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

66

lasting sentence to happiness or misery. For thus both he and his apostle St. Paul express what will be seen and heard, Matt. xxiv. 30, 31. 1 Thess. iv. 16. 2 Thess. i. 7. when that hour, John v. 28. “ is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.” The bodies of all men not then alive, must be raised out of their graves, and united again to their souls; that they may become perfect men again, as they were in this world: that thus

every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Cor. v. 10.

* LORD! with what horror and reluctancy will bad souls enter into their bodies again, not to enjoy their old beloved sensualities, but to be judged for them! when the very sight of their bodies will call to mind all the villanies they acted in them! when they must appear before their Judge, with all their instruments of wickedness about them; with those very bodies, whose members they had made members of uncleanness, and of iniquity unto iniquity; with eyes full of adultery;" with hands stained with blood, , or full of bribes or rapine! with a blaspheming, lying, reviling, and perjured tongue ! to unite a soul to such a body again, is like tying a man to his murdered friend, which will both scare his conscience, and poison him with a noisome stench!

• On the contrary, holy souls will give a better welcome to their bodies; bodies which were preserved pure and clean from all sensual lusts; which were the instruments of righteousness and virtue ; which were offered up living, holy, and acceptable sacrifices to God; or which suffered loss, and want, and torment, and death, for the sake of Christ. In such bodies as these, good men would desire to be judged, seeing they are visible testimonies of their

6

faith and patience, mortification and self-denial, members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost.'

When all things are in this readiness, then shall appear Christ sitting on the magnificent throne of his glory, the bright and glorious cloud in the air, whereon he descended from heaven, surrounded with angels, as the ministers of his justice; who," when they have gathered all nations before him, shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats.” Matt. xxv. 32. “ For the angels, we are told, are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation;" Heb. i. 14. and therefore they know how to distinguish between good and bad men, and to separate them from each other.

When this is done, when all mankind are thus placed before their Judge, to give an account of all their actions, and to receive their final sentence; then immediately shall all the books be opened, as another circumstance of this great transaction; the books out of which all the persons there presented before the throne of CHRIST are to be judged. Thus it is described, Rev. xx. 12. - And I saw the dead, 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.' The like we have, Daniel vii. 10.

Now as to the books, which are then to be opened, we must not think that God keeps books of record, in a literal sense, as men do; but this is only an allusion to the forms of process in human judicatures, where the things that are transacted are written down in books, ready to be looked into, and of the same evidence with living witnesses. So here God, we are sure, exactly observes all our actions, and keeps as faithful a record of them, as if they were all written in a book of remembrance;

and though we may have forgotten them ourselves, and then think they are gone and past, as if we had nothing more to do with them; yet God perfectly remembers them all, and will at the day of Judgment bring them again fresh into our minds and consciences, and make them as visible to ourselves, and as legible to others, as if they were graven in our foreheads, or printed in a book, or attested by a thousand witnesses.

And how will it then amaze and confound wicked men, to have all the sins of their lives called to their remembrance! to see such a black catalogue of all their impieties and blasphemies, their injustice and oppression, their uncleanness and impurities! to see an exact counterpart of a wicked and ungodly life truly represented before them ! for nothing can blot our sins out of God's book, but a sincere repentance and reformation of our lives. In that case, indeed, God has promised to “ blot out all our iniquities," and there shall then be no mention made of them at the day of judgment. For thus saith God,' Exek. xxxiii. 14. 16. • If the wicked man turn from his sin, and doth that which is lawful and right, none of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him ; he hath done that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live.”

The best of men have had many failings, weaknesses, and miscarriages; and some very good men have been guilty of very great wickednesses; but then here is their comfort, if they have sincerely and heartily repented of them, there is another book, as St. John tells us, which shall be opened at the day of Judgment called the book of life, out of which good men shall be judged. In this are recorded their faith, and patience, and charity, and all the good deeds they have done; but none of their sins; which, for the sake of what their Saviour Jesus Christ has done and suffered for them, God has blotted out of his book of remembrance, upon their

true repentance, never to be mentioned any more to them.

One thing more is to be observed in this Judgment of all men, which is this; the good shall first be judged, and then the wicked. This our Saviour himself has acquainted us with, in his account of the last Judgment, St. Matt. xxv. where he tells us, that he will first call good men, those on his right hand, to Judgment, and pronounce them blessed, ver. 34, before he pronounces that terrible sentence upon the wicked, “Go ye cursed into everlasting fire;" which will give the highest demonstration to all the world, that God takes more pleasure to save than to destroy. But most miserable will this be to all wicked men, and a double addition to their punishment, that they must stand by to be witnesses of the happiness they have lost, in the glorious reward of the righteous: and then be doomed to experience their own inexpressible misery in the eternal torments of hell. O dreadful end of a wicked life! I pray God that none who shall read this, may ever know what it is to lose the joys of heaven, and to suffer the torments of hell.

I cannot but mention one thing more, which has been usually taken notice of as a most terrible attendant on the last Judgment: and that is, the dismal change which will then happen to the world by the conflagration of it; of which St. Peter speaks expressly in these words, 2 Peter iii. 7. 10. "The heavens and the earth, which are now, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of Judgment;" and ver. 10. “ The day of the LORD shall come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with a fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up." what a dreadful addition will this be to all they have seen before ! how confounding as well as surprising a sight will it be to see all the whole world in flames;

Now

the hills melting like wax; the sea roaring with most hideous noises; the earth trembling, and all over in convulsions; loud vollies of thunder, and dreadful flashes of lightning, rending the rocks and mountains asunder, the powers of the heavens shaken, the sun turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, and the stars all jumbled together in terrible disorder ; and in short, all things in tumult and confusion, and no place for the guilty to flee unto, even to hide themselves from the astonishing countenance of their angry Judge! Olet us therefore, who look for such things, be diligent, that we may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless; and have our fruit unto holiness now, that we may have our end everlasting life!

Who the Persons are that are to be judged. The fourth thing I am to shew is, who the persons are that are to be judged; and they are, all men that ever lived in the world. All the sons and daughters of Adam shall be summoned to this great assize. None are so great as to be excused, none so mean as to be overlooked. No proxies or representatives will be allowed, but every one must appear in his own person, high and low, rich and poor, one with another. Now this is very plain, both from reason and from Scripture.

First, From reason ; and this, whether we consider the nature of man or the nature of God.

1st. As we are men: we are all alike God's creatures, who have received all that we have from him, and who wholly depend upon him, and are entirely subject to him, to be governed by such laws as he has thought fit to prescribe to us, and must all at last be accountable to him for our observance or violation of them. And though we have very different talents committed to our trust, yet we have every

« AnteriorContinua »