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them. GOD has made man a reasonable creature; not like the brute beasts, who are governed by instinct, and know not what they do, and as such therefore are not accountable for their actions. But the reason of man is given him to direct him in all his actions, and to make him capable of judging of them, whether they are well or ill done; and for this reason he is accountable for them when they are done.
And moreover, man has a rule to live by, which is either the law of nature within his own mind, or the revealed will of GOD, to inform him what is good and what is evil: and likewise a liberty of will to choose the good and refuse the evil and he thereby becomes capable of praise or blame, of reward or punishment, for the good or evil which he does.
Then again, as man is the creature of GOD, and so subject to him, and accountable to him for all his actions; so there is all the reason in the world to believe that he will require from him an account of them and if he has behaved himself obediently and dutifully to the laws of his Creator and sovereign LORD, he will then reward him for it; now, since this is not always done in this world, we may conclude, it will certainly be done some time hereafter in another world. But if man has carried himself perversely towards his Creator, by offending him, and rebelling against his just and righteous laws, he will not always let him go unpunished for his wickedness, and hold his peace, as if he took no notice of it; but he will call him to a severe account at some other time for all his disobedience and ingratitude, and then make him feel a Judgment for it worthy of GOD.
Further yet, to assure all men of this, that they should be accountable for all their actions, God has made the conscience of man of such a frame, that it secretly hints this to him, at all times, whenever he
does well or ill. We are all sensible that there is such a principle implanted in every one of us, which not only directs and informs us what we ought to do, and what to avoid; but moreover encourages or rebukes us, according as what we have done is good or evil. Now upon this sentence, which our consciences do never fail to pass on all our actions, if we have done well, we find a secret pleasure and satisfaction in our minds, approving and commending us for what we have done; but if ill, we find a secret fear and distrust arise in our minds, which, do what we can, fills us with great uneasiness upon every reflection on it afterwards, and forebodes our suffering some evil or punishment for it, at some time or other; though perhaps we did it so secretly, that nobody but GOD and our own consciences were privy to our acting of it; and accuses and condemns us no less, according to the demerit of it, than if we had done it in the face of the whole world. And especially, the nearer we approach to our latter end, the more powerful and vigorous usually are these impressions of our consciences upon our souls. Now there is hardly any reason can be given why great sinners should then be fullest of dreadful fears on account of their wicked actions, when they are just going to leave this world, so that as they cannot be called to any further account for them in it: and that the good and righteous should at that time feel the greatest joy and satisfaction, at the remembrance of their good deeds; except it be this, that God has wrought into the minds of all men a suggestion and presage of what he will do hereafter: how he will bring the actions of all men into a most exact Judgment, when he will reward every man according to his works. To the evil shall be allotted some dreadful punishment suitable to their ungodly deeds; and to the good shall be given some ample reward for their righteous deeds, far beyond what they could ever have expected in this life.
Even the heathens themselves, who wanted an external revelation to confirm to them the truth and cer
tainty of a future Judgment, were strongly possessed with some notion of it. They had a serious apprehension both of the power of the conscience of man, and of the exactness of the justice of GOD, and from thence concluded that there is a Judgment to come. Insomuch that St. Paul's discourse, of righteousness and temperance, and a Judgment to come, had such an effect upon Felix the Roman governor, a very wicked man, that he could not forbear being struck with horror in his soul, and trembling in his limbs, at the mention thereof by the holy apostle. Acts xxiv. 25.
Once more, for a still more ample and more irresistible proof of this great truth, a Judgment to come, let us awhile reflect upon the providence of GOD in his government of this world. For that the world is governed not by chance, but by his all-wise and unerring providence, is as certain as that it was at first made by his almighty power. Now let us consider likewise, that justice is an essential attribute of GOD. He can no more be unjust, than he can be unholy or unmerciful. Now joining both these together, and considering withal, how strange and unaccountable some of the dispensations of his providence now are, I mean with regard to the crosses and afflictions of some good men, and the prosperity and flourishing estate of some bad men in this world, it will be exceeding hard, if not impossible, for us to vindicate the justice of GOD'S dealings with mankind, without acknowledging the certainty of a future Judgment; when all the irregularities which we now behold in the state and condition of good and bad men, and we seem to have reason to complain of, shall be entirely set to rights, by a most exact dispensation of rewards and punishments to every one at the last, according as they shall have deserved in this life. This will then let us see, that though, for very good reasons, which we cannot at present comprehend, Providence does now sometimes suffer virtue and vice to be unsuitably treated here;
and that though GOD may connive at the wicked for a while, either for their repentance, or in order to punish them more severely afterwards; though he may at present try the faith and constancy of his good and faithful servants by afflictions, as he did in the case of his servant Job; yet that the marks of his divine favour and displeasure will not be always thus clouded and concealed, but that all these clouds and darkness shall clear up in a most righteous Judgment at last, to the amazement and conviction of the whole world; and the tongues of angels and men shall then confess, that the LORD was "righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works," when at the Judgment of the great day they shall see a visible distinction made between the righteous and the wicked; when the former shall be everlastingly rewarded for their short and momentary troubles in this life, and the latter condemned to everlasting misery for the little short-lived pleasures of sin they enjoyed here.
From these considerations, therefore, we may be assured, that God does hereby intend to teach us that the forebodings of these things which he has put into our minds are true; for seeing that a just and exact distribution of them is not made in this world, it is only referred to another: and that then, as sure as GOD is just, and his word infallible, so certainly there will be a future Judgment; when all the now seeming irregularities of his providence, so much complained of, shall be abundantly accounted for, to the entire satisfaction of every one.
Of the Time when this Judgment shall be.
THE second thing which I propose to consider on this subject relates to the time when this Judgment
shall be: and that is intimated to us in the Scripture, to be "at the end of the world."
This account our Saviour himself gives us of it, in his explication to his disciples of the parable of the wheat and the tares, which grew in the same field, St. Matt. xiii. 37-42. "He that soweth the good seed, is the Son of Man: the field is the world: the good seed are the children of the kingdom but the tares are the children of the wicked one: the enemy that sowed them, is the devil: the harvest is the end of the world: and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burnt in the fire: so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." The like explication he gives them of the parable of the good and bad fish which were taken in the same net. "The good were gathered into vessels, but the bad were cast away," ver. 47, 48. So shall it be at the end of the world, the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire:" ver. 49, 50. So likewise chap. xx. it is in the evening of the world, that is, at the end of it, that the LORD will come to reckon with his servants, and to reward them who have laboured in his vineyard, ver. 8, &c. And besides, when the day of the LORD shall come, that is, when CHRIST our LORD shall come to Judgment, St. Peter tells us, 2 Pet. iii. 10. "The heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth also, and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up." And it is but highly reasonable to believe, that when God shall judge all mankind, he will put an end to this present state of things. For upon that Judgment all good men shall be received