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countries -80 abound with bad men, that no laws sufficiently strict, nor punishments sufficiently severe, have ever yet been invented to guard against crimes the most abominable and shocking ? In the writings of a libertine, men are fine creatures, lovers of virtue, and haters of vice. But if a writer of this stamp happens to make one in that body from which we have our laws, he is as ready as others to punish robbery and murder with death. How good we are in his book! how wicked in his statute! how much at variance is the one with the other ! As a libertine writer, he thinks it sufficient to give us our consciences for legislators; but as a framer of laws, he turns us over to be rewarded or punished by others in consequence of our actions, that is, to future rewards and punishments, as if we were quite another sort of people. On his principles, God is not allowed the same privilege this man claims to himself, of promising rewards to good actions, and threatening bad ones with punishments. Yet men are certainly the same in regard both to the laws of God and man. If, however, Christianity is to be run down, then its sanctions are to be struck off as useless or slavish, and the moral sense or conscience can do every thing; but if the purse is to be secured, or the throat defended, then the gallows and the gibbet are not too great an addition.
Thus necessity, which some say hath no law, compels even the adversaries of every law, but that of nature, to become lawgivers themselves. The truth is, these measures arise out of our very nature, which cannot direct or support herself without foreign and additional aids.
Should any community frame a system of laws, but assign neither rewards to obedience, nor punishments to rebellion, who would not laugh at the absurdity, although the matter of those laws should, in other respects, be never so wisely considered ?
If in God's kingdom the subjects should be encouraged to esteem themselves wholly unaccountable, should have no reason to hope for any reward, but such as they could confer, nor to fear any punishment, but such as they would inflict on themselves; what would become of either his authority, or our obedience? What would become of our virtue and happiness ? Surely he who made us, could never propose to govern us by methods wholly unsuitable to our nature, and by ties that have little or no hold of us.
True, indeed, he never could, he never did. He deals with us as with men, according to the nature he hath given us. He sets good and evil before us, because he hath made us rational and free. He sets heaven before those hopes, and hell before those fears, which he himself hath impressed on our nature. If we choose the good, there is glory and eternal life proposed as a reward equal to the importance of virtue. If we choose the evil, disgrace and misery for ever are prepared for us, as a punishment due in justice to our wickedness. The one will be inflicted, or the other conferred, as the grand expedients to keep the moral world in order for ever. To determine this in regard to every man, God, who knows every thing, and can forget nothing, hath appointed a time for judgment, in which, at the destruction of this world, the whole race of mankind are to be summoned before his throne, and there to stand issue in the sight of infinite knowledge, justice, and power.
These arguments for a future judgment, drawn from the attributes of God, and the nature of man, ought to have their weight with reason, were there nothing farther to prove the point. But God hath thought fit, in a matter of this infinite consequence, to furnish us with another, which leaves no room for doubting wherever it is known. This is the resurrection of our blessed Saviour, who, on that account, is set forth to us 'as the first-fruits of them that sleep,' and are to be raised to new life; so that his rising again from the dead is proposed to us, not only as a sufficient proof that God can raise the dead, but also as an assurance, that he will actually raise the whole race of mankind, in order to a final judgment. No ordinary event, no assurances in mere words, could have satisfied the world, that all men shall live again, and be judged for their past lives. Nor would even the miracle of our Saviour's resurrection have done it, without having been more amply attested than any other fact. This amazing fact was foretold long before Christ was born, was repeatedly promised by himself, and fixed for the third day after his death. His adversaries, apprized of it, took effectual care to prevent
the possibility of a pretended resurrection. When he actually arose again, and gave full proof that he was alive, his witnesses every where preached his resurrection as the highest proof of his gospel, and as a pledge from God of our rising again to the future judgment. For doing this, they were persecuted both by Jews and Gentiles, with the utmost cruelty ; but death itself, in its most dreadful circumstances, was not able to frighten them from the duty of preaching Christ risen; for they were fully convinced, that they themselves should rise again in like manner,
and rise to an eternity of happiness and glory for thus faithfully attesting the resurrection of their Master. Here now is satisfactory evidence, both from reason and revelation, of a judgment to come, and of a just retribution, to be dispensed in the sight of the whole intelligent creation, for all the thoughts, words, and actions of all mankind.
On this footing only can the government of God's kingdom be supported against the rebellious passions of mankind with sufficient strength and majesty. Take away these sanctions, and his laws lose all their force; for such is the nature of his subjects, that they never consider right as good, till they are convinced it is profitable ; nor wrong as evil, till they are satisfied it is hurtful. Nay, and as pleasure often lies against right, right must be made exceeding profitable, or it will not be chosen; as sensual pleasure and worldly gain are often on the side of wrong, it will not be avoided, if it is not made exceedingly hurtful. God knowing this hath annexed rewards of the highest value to good, and punishments of the greatest severity to bad actions. Thus our Maker, Governor, and Judge, deals with us according to our nature.
Now we must take care to deal with him according to his; and what his nature and will are, so far as the performance of our duty depends on the knowledge of them, he hath sufficiently informed us by his word. Let us then at
. tentively consider, what a ruler and judge we have to deal with.
In the first place, we should consider, that there is no such thing as absolute secrecy in the universe, for God is present every where and knows all things. He is not like our earthly judges, at a distance from us.
• He is within us
and about us. In him we live, and move, and have our being. If we climb up into heaven, he is there; if we go down into hell, he is there also; if we take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there also shall his hand lead us, and his right hand shall hold us.' In all transactions, he is ever on the spot, and needs no witness, as the judges of this world do, to prove us innocent or guilty. No darkness can screen us from his sight. “The darkness and light, to him are both alike. The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. The word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him,' with whom we have to do.
Whither then shall we go from the presence of him,' who is present every where? Or where shall we hide from that piercing eye, to which the darkness is no darkness, to which the night is as clear as the day; to which a veil, a lock, or a wall, is neither bar nor hindrance; to which the hills, the mountains, and the whole globe of the earth are perfectly transparent.
As he knows, so he for ever remembers, all that hath passed. Not a single thought is ever lost. Time, like space, is all present with him. His ‘records therefore are sure,' so that “there is nothing hid, that shall not be revealed,' nothing hid at present from the world, that shall not be revealed or laid open before the eyes of angels and men. This should be well considered by him who would not plot against his prince, or contemptuously trample on his decrees, if he knew that prince was listening to him, and looking at him from behind a curtain
In the second place, the subjects of God's kingdom are to consider, that their judge is not to be blinded by bribes, or biassed by interest, as the judges of this world are too often found to be, but righteous in all his ways.' 'His righteousness, like the strong mountains,' is never to be shaken; ‘his judgments,' like the great deep,' are never to be exhausted. Doth the Almighty pervert justice? Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Yes, “the works of his hands are verity and judgment. He shall judge the
world in righteousness. The work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways; Yea, surely God will not do wickedly; he regardeth not persons, nor taketh rewards.'
Let his subjects lay this to heart, and act accordingly. There is no defence against the justice of God, but the merits of Christ, and the Christian covenant. But how can that covenant protect those who have lived and died in the transgression of it? Or what hopes can he found on the merits of Christ, who despised the offers of mercy and peace, through Christ, while Christ was in his mediatorial office? This office will cease at the day of judgment; and Christ, the state of trial being over, will seat himself on the throne of justice, and assume the awful character of judge, of a judge from whom no secrets can be hid, and from whose sentence justice only can be expected.
In the third place, as our judge is wisdom and justice itself, so is he almighty and irresistible. His will is no sooner issued, than executed throughout the universe. It is the Lord God omnipotent that reigneth over us. He is mighty in strength; who hath hardened himself against him, and prospered ? He removeth the mountains, and they know it not; he overturneth them in his anger. He shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble;' nay,
the pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. The thunder of his power who can understand ? Behold, the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, the deep, and the earth, and all that therein is, shall be moved, when he shall visit; the mountains also, and the foundations of the earth shall be shaken with trembling when the Lord looketh upon them. He is a great God, a mighty and a terrible, from whose face the earth and the heaven flee away. He alone is to be feared, for he doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou?" If the whole world, the whole creation, is as nothing in the hands of our judge, what should every particular offender think of his condition, in case he should fall as such into those hands? It is true, the mercy of God is infinite, and extends over all his works. But to those who abuse it, or presume on it to the encouragement of themselves and others in wickedness,