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Than to destroy did I say? Far be it from the great lover of souls, that he should have any inclination to destroy. This is altogether foreign to his design; this is utterly against his will. And, therefore, we may be sure that he will condemn none whom, according to the most favourable construction of the terms of the Gospel, he can save. And if then we must be judged at all, what could we have desired more, nay, what could GoD have done more for us, than to appoint the man CHRIST JESUS, who is our Saviour, to be our Judge.
Thirdly, another thing which made it very fitting for the Son of man to be appointed the Judge of the world, is this, that he might be a visible Judge; that all the whole world might see the person by whom they are judged. Herein is manifested the great wisdom of GOD, in that, intending to make a general Judgment of all men, whose bodies are to be raised and united again to their souls, in order to their visible appearance at this Judgment, he hath ordained a visible Judge, whom all might see that are to be judged, even the " man CHRIST JESUS," 1 Tim. ii. 5. who although he be invisible, in respect of his divine nature, "for no man hath seen GOD at any time, nor can see," 1 Tim. vi. 16. yet is visible in respect of his human nature; and, as such, can as visibly judge the world, as any earthly prince or judge, when he ascends the judgment-seat.
And this might be one reason why the Scriptures, when they speak of CHRIST as Judge of the world, do almost constantly call him man, and the Son of man. Thus St. Matt. xiii. 41. "The Son of man shall send forth his angels;" and xvi. 27." The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with all his holy angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his work." Acts xvii. 31. "He hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained:" and in many other places.
Now GOD judges the world in so public a manner, to convince the world of his power, and justice, and goodness, in the final destruction of all bad men, and the final rewards of all good men. And therefore this must be a visible judgment, and there must be a visible judgment-seat, and a visible Judge. It is fit that good men should behold the person that acquits them, and that bad men should know for what they are judged, and see the hand that executes geance upon them: Whereas, were the last Judgment to be executed in any other way than a visible manner, or by a visible Judge, it might possibly be thought the effect of chance and accident, or fate; and not the result of the divine wisdom or counsel. If good men were not to appear before all the world, and there receive the commendations of their most upright Judge for all the good actions they have done, and for all their faithful services to their GOD; and there be openly rewarded by him for all the hardships and miseries they have endured in this life; and if wicked men were not to acknowledge, in as public a manner, their own guilt and deserts of all their ungodly deeds, and accuse themselves as the authors of their own misery and destruction, and receive a public sentence of punishment suitable to it; GOD would lose the glory of his justice, and of his exact righteousness, in the dispensations of his providence of this world; of which this visible Judgment was intended as the highest vindication, before all the glorious assembly of angels and saints.
Now as this, therefore, will be a matter of the greatest comfort and joy, and triumph to the righteous, to behold the Lord and Saviour coming in the clouds of heaven, clothed with a human body, but bright and glorious as the sun; a body, which still retains the marks of his sufferings for their sakes, and the tokens of his love: to see him with crowns of glory in his hand, and in him to see the certainty of their faith, the completion of all their hopes, the
reward of their patience and sufferings, and their final conquest over death and hell, so on the other side, how terrible and confounding will it be to all bad men, who lived in ungodliness and worldly lusts, who trampled under foot the son of GOD, and declared, that they "would not have this man to rule over them;" who laughed at the fable of a crucified JESUS, as they blasphemously called the history of his death and passion; who despised all his threatenings, and mocked at a future Judgment: What dreadful horror, I say, must then needs seize their wretched souls, when they shall behold the visible appearance of the Son of man coming, attended with millions of angels to his throne of glory in the heavens, and all mankind standing before his awful tribunal, expecting their final doom from his mouth ? When they shall see him in earnest coming to Judge the world with the utmost terror in his looks?
And is he come then indeed, will every such sinner say; and must I be judged at last, who thought myself so secure of never coming to Judgment? And must it be by him too, who came down from heaven, and with infinite tenderness and compassion did shed his most precious blood to save me; but I despised and made light of it: Behold I see him; it is he himself; and I can be an infidel no longer. But how I can appear before him as my Judge, whom I did not regard how greatly I offended every day of my life, by my profane oaths, curses, and blasphemies? How can I expect any favour from him, whom I have continually reviled by my "hard speeches which I have spoken against him," Jude 15. and would not have him for my Saviour? What account can I give of my actions, who never expected to be called to an account for them? What plea can I make for myself, who would never believe nor be persuaded that it would one day be thus as I now find
it is? How can I bear his presence, which is intolerable; and yet not to appear before it is impossible? For whither can I fly from him, or where can I think to conceal myself? When he condemns me, to whom can I appeal from the Judge of the world? O wretched man that I am, who would never think of this day, except it were perhaps to laugh at it and despise it; and now woe is me! To my utter confusion, I am sadly convinced that it is too true, and I must be condemned, irreversibly condemned, without redemption, to eternal misery, by the Saviour of the world!'
Of the Solemnity of Christ's appearing to be the Judge of the World.
HAVING considered some of the reasons, as far as they appear to us, for which GOD was pleased to appoint the man CHRIST JESUS to be the Judge of the world; I shall now consider, what will be the solemnity of his appearing to that end, as it is declared to us in the Holy Scriptures.
Now there we find such descriptions as these of this great solemnity. Our Saviour tells us, Matt. xvi. 27. "That the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels." St. Luke ix. 36."That the Son of man shall come in his own glory, and his Father's, and of the holy angels." 2 Thess. i. 7, 8. It is said, "That the LORD JESUS shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not GOD, and that obey not the gospel of our LORD JESUS CHRIST;" and 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17. "That the LORD himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of GoD, which shall awaken the dead, and raise them out of their graves; but the dead in CHRIST shall rise
St. Matt. xxv. 31–33. That" when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." And again, Rev. xx. 11, 12, And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heavens fled away, and there was no place found for them. 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 descriptions here given are, in every view and circumstance, so affecting, that I scarce believe it in the power of words to represent in livelier images, taken, as they must be, from sensible objects, what will be the real appearance of things upon that great and terrible day of our Lord. It must indeed be beyond the reach of human imagination to conceive by the present faculties of our souls, what will be the majesty, the splendour, or the terror of the Son of man, when he comes (though in the form and fashion of a man) arrayed in the highest sensible displays of divine glory, that can be revealed from heaven. When he comes with a commission of almighty authority and power from GOD the Father, as Governor and Judge of the universe, and with myriads of angels as his attendants, whose archangels' voice shall be the trump of GOD; and its sound shall be so loud as to reach unto the ends of the world; and thus summon all mankind together, alive or dead, high or low, rich or poor, one with another, without respect of persons, to appear, bow, fall, and tremble before the tribunal of CHRIST; and to receive from his mouth their final and ever