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4. The Judge at that time will not mix mercy with justice. The time for mercy to be shown to sinners will then be past. Christ will then appear in another character than that of the merciful Saviour. Having laid aside the inviting attributes of grace
and mercy, he will clothe himself with justice and vengeance. He will not only, in general, exact of sinners the demands of the law, but he will exact the whole, without any abatement: he will exact the very uttermost farthing, Matt. v. 26. Then Christ will come to fulfil that in Rev. xiv. 10. The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation."
The punishment threatened to ungodly men is without any pity: see Ezek. v. 11.“ Neither shall mine eye spare; neither will i have any pity." Here all judgments have a mixture of mercy; but the wrath of God will be poured out upon the wicked without mixture, and vengeance will have its full weight.
III. I shall apply myself thirdly, to several different characters of men.
1. To those who live in secret wickedness. Let such consider, that for all these things God will bring them into judgment. Secrecy is your temptation. Promising yourselves this, you practise many things, you indulge many lusts, under the covert of darkness, and in secret corners, which you would be ashamed to do in the light of the sun, and before ihe world. But this temptation is entirely groundless. All your secret abominations are even now perfectly known to God, and will also hereafter be made known both to angels and men. Luke xii. 2, 3. “ For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in the light: and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops."
Before human judges are brought only those things which are known ; but before this judge shall be brought the most hidden things of darkness, and even the counsels of the heart, 1 Cor. iv. 5. AU your secret uncleanness, all
your secret fraud and injustice, all your lascivious desires, wishes, and designs, all your inward covetousness, which is idolatry, all your malicious, envious, and revengeful thoughts and purposes, whether brought forth into practice or not, shall then be made manifest, and you shall be judged according to them. Of these things, however secret, there will be need of no other evidence than the testimony of God and of your own consciences.
2. To such as are not just and upright in their dealings with their fellow men. Consider that all your dealings with men must be tried, must be brought forth into judgment, and there compared with the rules of the word of God. All your actions must be judged according to those things which are
found written in the book of the word of God. If your ways of dealing with men shall not agree with those rules of righteousness, they will be condemned. Now, the word of God directs us to practise entire justice; That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, Deut. xvi. 20. and to do to others as we would they should do to us. But how many are there, whose dealings with their fellow-men, if strictly tried by these rules, would not stand the test?
God hath in his word, forbidden all deceit and fraud in our dealings one with another, Lev. xi. 13. He hath forbidden us to oppress one another, Lev. xxv. 14. But how frequent are practices contrary to those rules, and which will not bear to be tried by them? How common are fraud and trickishness in trade? How will men endeavour to lead on those with whom they trade in the dark, that so they may make their advantage ? Yea, lying in trading is too common a thing among us.
How common are such things as that mentioned, Prov. xx. 14. Il is nought, it is nought, saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way; then he boasteth.
Many men will take the advantage of another's ignorance to advance their own gain, to his wrong; yea, they seem not to scruple such practices. Beside downright lying, men have many ways of blinding and deceiving one another in trade, which are by no means right in the sight of God, and will appear to be very unjust, when they shall be tried by the rule of God's word at the day of judgment. And how common a thing is oppression or extortion, in taking any advantage that men can by any means obtain, to get the utmost possible of their neighbour' for what they have to dispose of, and their neighbour needs!
Let such consider, that there is a God in heaven, who beholds them, and sees how they conduct themselves in their daily traffic with one another; and that he will try their works another day. Justice shall assuredly take place at last. The righteous Governor of the world will not suffer injustice without control; he will control and rectify it, by returning the injury upon the head of the injurer: Matt. vii. 2. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3. To those who plead for the lawfulness of practices generally condemned by God's people. You who do this, consider that your practices must be tried at the day of judgment. Consider, whether or no they are likely to be approved by the most holy judge at that day: Prov. v. 21. The ways of mari are before the eyes of the Lord; and he pondereth all his goings. However, by your carnal reasonings, you may deceive your own hearts, yet you will not be able to deceive the Judge, he will not hearken to your excuses, but will try your ways by the rule ; he will know whether they be straight or crooked. VOL. VI.
When you plead for these and those liberties which you take, let it be considered, whether they be likely to be allowed of by the Judge at the last great day. Will they bear to be tried by his eyes, which are purer than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity ?
4. To those who are wont to excuse their wickedness.Will the excuses which you make for yourselves be accepted at the day of judgment? If you excuse yourselves to your own consciences, by saying, that you were under such and such temptations which you could not withstand ; that corrupt nature prevailed, and you could not overcome it; that it would have been so and so to your damage, if you had done otherwise ; that if you had done such a duty, you would have brought yourselves into difficulty, would have incurred the displeasure of such and such friends, or would have been despised and laughed at; or, if you say, you did no more than it was the common custom to do, no more than many godly men have done, no more than certain persons of good reputation now practice; that if you had done otherwise, you would have been singular; if these be your excuses for the sins which you commit, or for the duties which you neglect, let me ask you, will they appear sufficient when they shall be examined at the day of judgment ?
5. To those who live in impenitence and unbelief. There are some persons who live in no open vice, and, perhaps, conscientiously avoid secret immorality, who yet live in impenitence and unbelief. They are, indeed, called upon to repent and believe the gospel, to forsake their evil ways and thoughts, and to return to God, that he may have mercy on them; to come unto Christ, labouring, and heavy-laden with sin, that they may obtain rest of him; and are assured, that if they believe, they shall be saved; and that if they believe not, they shall be damned ; and all the most powerful motives are set before them, to induce them to comply with these exhortations, especially those drawn from the eternal world ; yet they persist in sin, they remain impenitent and unhumbled; they will not come unto Christ, that they may have life.
Now, such men shall be brought into judgment for their conduct, as well as more gross sinners. Nor will they be any more able to stand in the judgment than the other. They resist the most powerful means of grace; go on in sin against the clear light of the gospel ; refuse to hearken to the kindest calls and invitations ; reject the most amiable Saviour, the Judge himself; and despise the free offers of eternal life, glory, and felicity. And how will they be able to answer for these things at the tribunal of Christ?
IV. If there be a day of judgment appointed, then let all be very strict in trying their own sincerity: God, on that day,
. will discover the secrets of all hearts. The judgment of that
day will be like the fire, which burns up whatsoever is not true gold; wood, hay, stubble, and dross, shall be all consumed by the scorching fire of that day. The judge will be like a reti ner's fire, and fuller's soap, which will cleanse away all filthiness, however it may be coloured over : Mal. iii. 2. " Who may abide the day of his coming ? and who shall stand when
appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap;" and chap. iv. 1-"For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts."
There are multitudes of men, that wear the guise of saints, appear like saints, and their state, both in their own eyes, and in the eyes of their neighbours, is good. They have sheep's clothing. But no disguise can hide them from the cyes of the Judge of the world. His
eyes are as a flame of fire: they search the hearts, and try the reins of the children of men. He will see whether they be sound at heart; he will see from what principles they have acted. A fair show will, in no degree, deceive him, as it doth men in the present state. It will signify nothing to say, “ Lord, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence; and in thy name have we cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works.” It will signify nothing to pretend to a great deal of comfort and joy, and to the experience of great religious affections, and to your having done many things in religion and morality, unless you have some greater evidences of sincerity.
Wherefore, let every one take heed that he be not deceived concerning himself; and that he depend not on that which will not bear examination at the day of judgment.
Be not contented with this, that you have the judgment of men, the judgment of godly men, or that of ministers, in your favour. Consider, that they are not to be your judges at last. Take occasion, frequently, to compare your hearts with the word of God; that is the rule by which you are to be finally tried and judged. And try yourselves by your works, by which, also, you must be tried at last. Inquire whether you lead holy Christian
. lives, whether you perforin universal and unconditional obedi. ence to all God's commands, and whether you do it from a truly gracious respect to God.
Also frequently beg of God, the judge, that he would search you, try you now, and discover you to yourselves, that you may see if you be insincere in religion ; and that he would lead you in the way everlasting. Beg of God, that if you be not upon a good foundation, he would unsettle you, and fix you upon the sure foundation. The example of the Psalmist in this is worthy of imitation : Psal. xxvi. 1, 2. "Judge me, O Lord, examine me, and prove me; try my reins and mine heart;” and Psal. cxxxix. 23, 24. “Search me, O God, and know my heart : try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." God will search us hereafter, and discover what we are, both to ourselves and to all the world ; let us pray that he would search us, and discover our hearts to us now. We have need of divine help in this matter; for the heart is deceitful above all things.
V. If God hath appointed a day to judge the world, let us judge and condemn ourselves for our sins. This we must do, if we would not be judged and condemned for them on that day. If we would escape condemnation, we must see that we justly may be condemned ; we must be so sensible of our vileness and guilt, as to see that we deserve all that condemnation and punishment which are threatened ; and that we are in the hands of God, who is the sovereign disposer of us, and will do with us as seemeth to himself good. Let us therefore often reflect on our sins, confess them before God, condemn and abhor ourselves, be truly humbled, and repent in dust and ashes.
VI. If these things be so, let us by no means be forward to judge others. Some are forward to judge others, to judge their hearts both in general and upon particular occasions, to determine as to the principles, motives and ends of their actions. But this is to assume the province of God, and to set up ourselves as lords and judges. Rom. xiv. 4. “Who art thou, that thou judgest another man's servant ?" James iv. 11. “Speak not evil one of another, brethren." He that speaketh evil of his brother and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law.". To be thus disposed to judge and act censoriously towards others, is the way to be judged and condemned ourselves. Matt. vii. 1, 2. “ Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged : and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you
VII. This doctrine affords matter of great consolation to the godly. This day of judgment, which is so terrible to ungodly men, affords no ground of terror to you, but abundant ground of joy and satisfaction. For though you now meet with more afAiction and trouble than most wicked men, yet on that day you shall be delivered from all afflictions, and from all trouble. If you be unjustly treated by wicked men, and abused by them, what a comfort is it to the injured, that they may appeal to God, who judgeth righteously. The Psalmist used often to comfort himself with this.
Upon these accounts the saints have reason to love the appearing of Jesus Christ. 2 Tim. iv. 8. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but to all those that love his appearing." This is to the saints