Billeder på siden

in this particular brought faith and reason to a perfect agree


Secondly; the gospel has made known to us that Christ shall be judge of the world.

Our Saviour tells us that the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son: John v. 22.; and again, John v. 27. St. Peter also declares that the Apostles were commissioned to publish this doctrine to all the world : Acts x. 42. Accordingly St. Paul, in his discourse with the men of Athens, fully instructs them in this important point Acts xvii. 31.

It is material to observe that this authority is given to Christ, because he is the Son of Man, as he has himself assured us; and that the person ordained to be judge is a man, even the man whom God raised from the dead, as St. Paul asserts. And how happy is it for us to have such an one, of whom we may say, as the Apostle to the Hebrews says of our High Priest; we have not a judge which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but was in all things tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

It may be said perhaps, that this is drawing consequences on the ground of vulgar apprehensions; and that in reality there is no difference, whether God be judge himself, or commit judgment to the Son of Man: the objectors in this case answered; whilst it is shown that, on the ground of Scripture, we may certainly know what the justice, mercy, and goodness are, by which we must finally stand or fall.

Thus this great fundamental article of religion, involved as it was in the darkness of former ages, is made plain by the light of the gospel. That men were accountable was always known; that there would be a future judgment was generally believed: but how men were to appear to be judged, how rewarded or punished, was not known. That the right of judging men was.

in God was well known: but how he would exercise it, whether by himself or another, visibly or invisibly, was not known ; infinite were the speculations raised on this subject, instead of which the gospel has assured us, that at the final judgment we shall be, what we now are, real men: and that the man Christ Jesus, who appeared in the world to redeem us, shall judge us by that gospel, and those rules which he left to direct us. Thirdly; the consequences of this judgment, which all must undergo, considered.

If we consult either Scripture or reason, we shall find no evidence of any farther change to be made in our future state, after once judgment has passed on us. That we are accountable, and therefore shall be judged, reason says; but we can see nothing after judgment, except the reward or punishment consequent on it, and therefore the only conclusion we can draw is, that the condition of man will be finally determined as to happiness or misery, in which he must continue to abide.

As reason can show us nothing beyond judgment, but that state and condition which are the effect of it, so the holy Scripture has given us reason to think that nothing else there shall be, by describing the rewards and punishments of another life, as having perpetual duration. Life eternal is prepared for the righteous, and everlasting punishment for the wicked. Even the mildest interpretation that is given to the threats and denunciations of Scripture, supposes the punishment to last as long as the sinner: so that in this, the lowest view, our all depends on the judgment which shall finally be passed on us at the second coming of our Lord. The Apostle therefore is both just and charitable, when he adds, knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. If the Christian religion has cleared our doubts, by bringing life and immortality to light, it has also given us reason to be watchful and careful over ourselves; for it is a fearful thing to have to answer for ourselves before the searcher of all hearts; to answer to him that loved us, for despising his



love; to him that died for us, for having crucified him afresh ; and for having accounted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing. This will be the sad case of every wilful sinner; and the view of this misery moved the Apostle, and should ever move those who succeed him in his office, to warn men to flee from the wrath that is to come.



We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.

IT is the privilege and distinguishing character of a rational being to be able to look forward into futurity, and to consider his actions, not only with respect to the present advantage or disadvantage arising from them, but to view them in their consequences through all the parts of time in which himself may possibly exist. If therefore we value the privilege of being reasonable creatures, the only way to preserve it is to make use of it; and by extending our views into all the scenes of futurity, in which we ourselves must bear a part, to lay the foundation of solid and durable happiness.

By the exercise of this power of reason, the wisest among the heathens discovered that there was ground for men to have expectations beyond this life. They saw plainly that themselves, and all things that fell under their observation, were dependent beings on the will and power of him who formed them; and when they sought to find him, they were led by a necessary chain of reasoning to the acknowlegement of a supreme, independent, intelligent being. They saw in every part of the creation evident marks of his power, wisdom, and goodness: they discerned that all the inanimate parts of the world acted perpetually in submission to the law of their creation; the sun and all the host of heaven were constant to their courses; and in every other part, the powers of nature were duly and regularly exerted for the preservation of the

present system: among men only they found disorder and confusion. That they had reason was plain; that they were intended to live according to reason could not be doubted; and yet they saw virtue often distressed and abandoned to all the evils of life, vice triumphant, and the world every where subject to the violence of pride and ambition. How to account for this they knew not: this only they could observe, that man was endowed with a freedom in acting, which the other beings of the lower world wanted; and to this they rightly ascribed the disorders to be found in this part of the creation. But though this accounted for the growth of evil, yet it rendered no account of the justice or goodness of God in permitting vice oftentimes to reign here in glory, whilst virtue suffered in distress. On these considerations they concluded that there must be another state after this, in which all the present inequalities in the administration of providence should be set right, and every man receive according to his works.

This was, this is the ground of our natural expectation of a life after this. But on this ground of truth many fables and stories were raised, by fear and superstition, and by the power of imagination: so that the general belief, though right in its foundation, yet in almost all the particulars of it was rendered ridiculous and absurd. Hence it is, that among the writers of antiquity we sometimes find wise men ridiculing the follies and superstitions of the people, and bad men always arguing from these follies against the very notion itself, and calling in question the reality of any future state.

Under these circumstances of the world, our blessed Lord appeared to bring to light life and immortality through the gospel. Let us then consider how this fundamental article of religion now stands on the foot of the gospel revelation.

As to the principal point, there is no difference between the hopes conveyed to us in the gospel, and the expectation built on natural reason: fór, as the wisest men thought there must be, so the gospel assures us there will be, a day in which God will judge the world in righteousness, and render to every man according to his works.' Thus far then the doctrine of the gospel and the dictates of natural reason must stand or fall together. If this doctrine has had a larger and more extensive

« ForrigeFortsæt »