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Concerning the words of the text, we may observe,
That in them the apostle speaks of the general judgment: He will judge the World.--The time when this shall be, on the appointed day: He hath appointed a day.--How the world is to be judged: In righteousness. The man by whom it is to be judged: Christ Jesus whom God raised from the dead. DOCTRINE. There is a day coming, in which there will be
a general righteous judgment of the whole world, by Jesus Christ.
In speaking upon this subject, I shall show, That God is the supreme judge of the world. That there is a time coming, when God will, in the most public and solemn manner, judge ibe whole world. That the person by whom he will judge it is Jesus Christ. That the transactions of that day will be greatly interesting and truly awful. That all shall be done in righteousness. And finally, I shall take notice of those things which shall be immediately consequent upon the judgment.
God is the supreme Judge of the World.
1. God is so by right. He is by right the supreme and absolute ruler and disposer of all things, both in the natural and moral world. The rational understanding part of the creation is indeed subject to a different sort of government from that to which irrational creatures are subject. God governs the sun, moon, and stars; he governs even the motes of dust which fly in the air. Not an hair of our heads falleth to the ground without our heavenly Father. God also governs the brute creatures; by his providence, he orders, according to his own decrees, all events concerning those creatures. And rational creatures are subject to the same sort of government; all their actions *, and all events relating to them, being ordered by superior providence, according to absolute decrees; so that no event that relates to them ever happens without the disposal of God, according to his own. decrees. The rule of this government is God's wise decree, and nothing else.
* Except as they are sinful; for the sinfulness of actions is not included in the decrees of God, w bo is pure act from eternity to eteroity.
But rational creatures, because they are intelligent and yoluntary agents, are the subjects of another kind of government. They are so only with respect to those of their actions, in wbich they are causes by counsel, or with respect to their voluntary actions. The governinent of which I know speak is called moral government, and consists in two things, in giving laws, and in judging.
God is, with respect to this sort of government, by right the sovereign ruler of the world. He is possessed of this right by reason of his infinite greatness and excellency, by which he merits, and is perfectly and solely fit for, the office of supreme ruler. He that is so excellent as to be infinitely worthy of the highest respect of the creature, hath thereby a right to that respect; he deserves it by a merit of condignity ; so that it is injustice to deny it to him. And he that is perfectly wise and true, and is only so, regarded, hath a right in every thing to be regarded, and to have bis deterıninations attended to and obeyed.
God hath also a right to the character of supreme ruler, by reason of the absolute dependence of every creature on him. All creatures, and rational creatures no less than others, are wholly derived from him, and every moment are wbolly dependent upon him for being, and for all good: so that they are properly his possession. And as, by virtue of this, he bath a right to give his creatures whatever rules of conduct be pleases or whatever rules are agreeable to his own wisdom; so the mind and will of the creature ought to be entirely conformed to the nature and will of the Creator, and to the rules he gives, that are expressive of it.
For the same reason, he hath a right to judge their actions and conduct, and to fulfil the sanction of his law. He who hath an absolute and independent right to give laws, bath evermore the same right to judge those to whom the laws are given. It is absolutely necessary that there should be a judge of reasonable creatures ; and sanctions, or rewards and punishments, annexed to rules of conduct, are necessary to the being of laws. A person may instruct another without sanctions, but not give laws. However, these sanctions themselves are vain, are as good as none, without a judge to determine the execution of them. As God hath a right to be judge, so hath he a right to be the supreme judge; and none hath a right to reverse his judgments, to receive appeals from him, or to say to him, Why judgest thou thus ?
* 2. God is in fact the supreme judge of the world. He hath power sufficient to vindicate his own right. As he hath a right which cannot be disputed, so he hath power which cannot be controled. He is possessed of omnipotence, wherewith to maintain his dominion over the world ; and he doth maintain his dominion in the moral as well as the natural world. Men may refuse subjection to God as á lawgiver; they may shake off the yoke of his laws by rebellion; yet they cannot withdraw themselves from his judginent. Although they will not have God for their lawgiver, yet they shall bave him for their judge. The strongest of creatures can do nothing to control God, or to avoid him while acting in his judicial capacity. He is able to bring them to his judgment-seat, and is also able to execute the sentence which he shall pronounce.
There as once a notable attempt made by opposition of power entirely to shake off the yoke of the moral government of God, both as lawgiver, and as judge. This attempt was made by the angels, the most mighty of creatures; but they miserably failed in it: God notwithstanding acted as their judge in casting those proud spirits out of heaven, and binding them in chains of darkness unto a further judgment, and a further
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength ; who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered ? Job ix. 4. Wherein the enemies of God deal proudly, he is above them. He ever hath acted as judge in bestowing what rewards, and inflicting what punishments he pleased on the children of men And so he doth still; he is daily fulfilling the promises and threatenings of the law, in disposing of the souls of the children of men, and so he evermore will act.
God acteth as judge towards the children of men more especially.
(1.) In man's particular judgment at death. Then the sentence is executed, and the reward bestowed in part; which is not done without a judginent. The soul, when it departs from the body, appears before God to be disposed of by him, according to his law. But by this appearing before God, to be julged at death, we ned understand no more than this, that the soul is made immediately sensible of the presence of God, God manifesting himself immediately to the soul, with the glory and majesty of a judge ; that the sins of the wicked, and the righteousness of the saints, are brought by God to the view of their consciences, so that they know the reason of the sentence given, and their consciences are made to testify to the justice of it; and that thus the will of God for the fulfilment of
the law, in their reward or punishment, is made known to them and executed. This is undoubtedly done at every man's death.
(2) In the great and general judgment, when all men shall together appear before the judgment-seat to be judged: which judgment will be much more solemn, and the sanctions of the law will to a further degree be fulfilled.But this brings me to another branch of the subject.
That there is a tiine coming when God will, in the most public
and soleinn manner, judge the whole world of mankind.
The doctrine of a general judgment is not sufficiently discoverable by the light of nature. Indeed some of the heathens had some obscure notions concerning a future judgment. But the light of nature, or mere unassisted reason, was not sufficient to instruct the world of fallen men in this doctrine. It is one of the peculiar doctrines of revelation, a doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There were indeed some hints of it in the Old Testament, as in Psal. xcvi. 13. The Lord cometh to judge the world with righteousness, and his people with his truth. And Eccl. xii. 14. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. And in some other such like passages. But this doctrine is with abundantly the greatest clearness revealed in the New Testament : there we have it frequently and particularly declared and described with its circumstances.
However, although it be a doctrine of revelation, and be brought to light by the gospel, the brightest and most glorious revelation that God hath given to the world; yet it is a doctrive which is entirely agreeable to reason, and of which reason gives great confirmation. That there will be a time before the dissoJution of the world, when the inliabitants of it shall stand before God, and give an account of their conduct; and that God will in a public manner, by a general and just judgment, set all things to rights respecting their moral behaviour, is a doctrine entirely agreeable to reason ; which I shall now endeavour to make appear. But I would premise, that what we would inquire into, is not whether all mankind shall be judged by God; for that is a thing that the light of nature clearly teaches, and we have already spoken something of it: but whether it be rational to think that there will be a public judgment of all mankind together. This I think will appear very rational from the following considerations.
1. Such a judgment will be a more glorious display of God's majesty and dominion: it will be more glorious, because it will be more open, public, and solemn. Although God now actually exercises the most sovereign dominion ove ribe earth; although he reigns and doth all things according to his own will, ordering all events as seemeth to himself good; and although he is actually judge in the earth, continually disposing of men's souls according to their works; yet he rules after a more hidden and secret manner, insomuch that it is common among the proud sons of men to refuse acknowledging his dominion. Wicked men question the very existence of a God, who taketh care of the world, who ordereth the affairs of it, and judgeth in it; and therefore they cast off the fear of him. Many of the kings and great men of the earth do not suitably acknowledge the God who is above them, but seem to look upon themselves as supreme, and therefore tyrannize over mankind, as if they were in no wise accountable for their conduct. There have been, and now are, many atheistical persons, who acknowledge not God's moral dominion over mankind; and therefore they throw off the yoke of his laws and government. And how great a part of the world is there now, and has there always been, that has not acknowledged that the government of the world belongs to the God of Israel, or to the God of Christians; but has paid homage to other imaginary deities, as though they were their sovereign lords and supreme judges. Over how great a part of the world hath Satan usurped the dominion, and set up himself of God, in opposition to the true God?
Now, how agreeable to reason is it, that God, in the winding up of things, when the present state of mankind shall coine to a conclusion, should in the most open and public manner, manifest his dominion over the inhabitants of the earth, by bringing them all, bigh and low, rich and poor, kings and subs jects, together before him to be judged with respect to all that they ever did in the world: that he should thus openly discover bis dominion in this world, where his authority bath been so much questioned, denied, and proudly opposed? That those very persons, who have thus denied and opposed the authority of God, should be themselves, with the rest of the world, brought before the tribunal of God? That however God be not now visibly present upon earth, disposing and judging in that visible manner that earthly kings do; yet at the conclusion of the world he should make his dominion visible to all, and with respect to all mankind, so that every eye shall see him,