countenance, when thou comest to " be glorified in thy saints, and admired in all them that believe. “From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them."

“ All these things shall be dissolved. The heavens shall pass away with great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up." “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same." Godspake and it was done; he gave commandment and it stood fast.” “ At his word earth and heaven rose out of chaos," and lo, he looks them into nothing again ; they shrink from his presence, they vanish at his nod, they cannot abide the brightness of his coming. They have fulfilled their day, they have accomplished the purpose of him who made them, they have contributed their aid toward the rearing of a more glorious fabric, and having become unnecessary, that moment disappear.

The local and transient effects of an earthquake, a hurricane, an inundadation, are striking, impressive and permanent: proud cities levelled to the earth, or swallowed up of it: fertile plains overwhelmed with a briny or a fiery tide ; the glory of man sought, but not to be found. But what is this to the dissolution of a globe ? Surely the balance must be destroyed, a blank in nature take place, and wild uproar ensue. No, the vision represents a whole system passing away; that sun and all the surrounding planets, and innumerable other “planets circling other suns," lost, yet not missed; fled, " as the baseless fabric of a vision,” and not a wreck left behind ; and yet no schism, no deficiency in the body; for the promise of the Eternal immediately repairs the loss; he makes “ all things new;" “ new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."

With the heavens and the earth, the little, fading interests and distinctions of the world vanish also. Before his face all is reduced to one level, all is composed and tranquillized ; every one reads his doom in the face of the sovereign Judge. The heavens and earth have fled away, but the rational beings which peopled them remain ; they are of a more enduring substance, they partake of the nature of God himself, they are immortal, eternal like him. “ I saw,” says John, “ the dead small and great stand before God.”

When time was, these were distinctive characters. There was the infant of days, and the hoary head, the inhabitant of the palace, and of the cottage, the learned and the illiterate, the slave and his master. But these marks of difference are forever abolished. Indeed they were long before abolished.. Before that great and potable day of the Lord came, before the judgement was set or the books were opened, disease and death and the grave had levelled all the distinctions of this world ; had reduced the sceptred monarch to the condition of the peasant, annulled the difference between the slave and his master. The decisive hour is now come which is forever to determine who is henceforth to be accounted small, and who great ; the hour that shall bring to light hidden worth, and thrust presumptuous pride into outer darkness; that shall exalt the good to the throne of God, and plunge the wicked into the depths of hell.

The dead small and great. Even the awful distinction between the dead and the living shall then be done away. They were dead, but are alive again ; " for all live to him.” Behold the mouldering earth, before it be forever dissolved, restoring to existence every particle of itself which once entered into the composition of a human being, which was once animated with the breath of life. Behold the spacious sea, before it be forever dried up, surrendering its hidden treasure, not the silver, and gold, and jewels which its fast womb contains, but the innumerable myriads of men and women is Vol. v.


[ocr errors]

had been insatiately devouring during so many ages, and whom it can no longer cover or conceal. The sound of the last trumpet has dispelled their long slumber. See, they emerge from their watery bed, they spring up into newness of life, their eyes again behold the light, the light of an eternal day, they swim through regions of transparent air, they 'can die no more, they hasten to appear before their Judge. Behold the grim king of terrors, faithful to his trust, giving in the exact register of bis wide domain, resigning his awful empire, restoring his captives to life and liberty, and their rightful Lord; 'not one lost, not one detained : and the great destroyer is at length himself destroyed.

And for what purpose this mighty preparation, this second birth of nature, this new creation of God ? Behold an assembled world, from the father of the human race down to the youngest of his sons, stand before God. They stand as subjects in the presence of their Sovereign, as expectants before the eternal Arbiter of their destiny. In his eyes, in their own consciences they read their doom ; they stand to hear the irreversible decree; their posture speaks acknowledgement of the right of judging, subinission to authority, acquiescence in the wisdom and justice of the Judge. But that erect attitude must quickly change into the prostration of dutiful and grateful children, or of foes subdued, of wretches condemned: for lo,

The books are opened, and judgement begins. It is spoken after the manner of men. Earthly judges refer to statutes as the rule of their decisions; men are tried by the laws of their country, and because human faculties are limited and imperfect, the memory unretentive, the understanding liable to error, the heart warped by partial affections, facts must be preserved in written documents, to prevent alteration or mistake, the law expressed in clear and distinct terms, and the cause, not the person of the party, held up as the object of judgement. But what need of books or of records to assist the memory of Him who is omniscience, to whom are known all his own works, and all the ways of men from the foundation of the world ; whose will is the law; and who knows no distinction but that between truth and falsehood, right and wrong? What need of external evidence, of the testimony of others, when every man carries the evidence in his own bosom, and is acquitted or condemned of his own conscience? What, О man, are the contents of these awful books! The words thou art now speaking, the pursuits in which thou art now engaged, the spirit by which thou art now actuated. Thou art every day filling up the record, with thy hand enrolling thine own honour or shame; and the unfolding of that day shall reveal that only which thou thyself hast written. On thyself it rests whether the last solemn discovery is to cover thee with everlasting contempt, or lo crown thee with joy unspeakable, and full of glory : whether the opening of the book of life is to display thy name in golden characters 10 angels and men, or the register of condemnation consign thee to everlasting punishment. The book that shall be opened is none other than the book of scripture, the infallible rule of faith and manners, and according as thou art conformed unto, fallest short of, or exceedest that standard, so shall thy doom be.

They were judged every man according to their works. In this mixed and imperfect state, it frequently happens that the guilty escape, and the innocent suffer. “ The fathers eat sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge.” Princes play the madman, and quarrel, and fight, and myriads of unoffending wretches pay the forfeit of that folly. But before yonder tribunal every one appears to answer for himself; every one comes to reap the fruit of his own doings. “ Enter not into judgement with thy servant, O God, for in thy sight shall no flesh living be justified." "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ?"." Have mercy upon me, O God, ac

cording to thy loving-kindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." Behold, O God, our Shield, and look spon the face of thine Anointed.”

In meditating on this subject, let us learn to forbear from exercising this dread prerogative of the Eternal, let us refrain from judging. God has challenged this right with emphatic solemnity as his own : "Judgement is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” “ All judgement is committed unto the Son." “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever, thou art that judgest : for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgement of God is according to truth, against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest tho same, that thou shalt escape the judgement of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgement of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality ; eternal life : but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; indignation and wrath : tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. "But glory, honour and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God."*

But while by every serious consideration thou art restrained, ignorant fallible creature, from judging another,-by every serious consideration thou art encouraged, constrained to examine and to judge thyself. It may be the means of preventing, of averting the righteous judgement of God. It will lead thee to the discovery of thy own weakness, and thereby become a source of wisdom and strength. It will unfold the deceitfulness of sin, and the treachery of thine own heart, and lead thee in trembling hope to the blood of sprinkling, which taketh away the sin of the world. It will render thee com. passionate and gentle to the infirmities of others, because that thou also hast sinned. It will produce “ godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto salration, not to be repented of.” It will render the promises of “mercy to pardon, and of grace to help in every time of need,” precious to thy soul. It will help to regulate thy path through life, and diminish the terrors of death.

Finally, habitual and rooted impressions of a judgement to come, will serve as a support under the rash censures and the unjust decisions of men. From the strife of tongues, from the hatred of a merciless world, you can retire to the silent feast of a conscience void of offence; and with confidence appeal from the angry tribunal of a creature like thyself, to Him who knoweth thy heart, who seeth in secret, and will reward thee openly. " Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad : for great is your reward in heaven.” “ Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth : who is he that condemneth ?” Behold that “great multitude which no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, and crying with a loud voice, saying, Salvation unto our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." “What are these which are arrayed in white robes ? And whence came they ?" “ These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall bunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters ; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."*

* Rom. ii. 1-11,

*Rev. vii. 9-17



NUMBERS XXI. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

And they journeyed from Mount Hor, by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom :

and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt, to die in the wil. derness ? for there is no bread, neither is there any water, and our soul loaiheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people ; and they bit the people, and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee ; pray unto the Lord that he take away the serpents from us: and Moses prayed for the people. And ihe Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon à pole: and it shall come to pass that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, thai if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

The restlessness, peevishness and discontent which men are continually expressing, prove at once the degeneracy and corruption of human nature, and furnish a strong presumption of the immortality of the soul. To behold one generation after another, of moping, melancholy, sullen, surly beings, in the midst of an overflowing profusion of blessings, charging God foolishly, tormenting themselves unnecessarily, and disturbing others maliciously, clearly demonstrates, that man is alienated from his Maker, at variance with himself, and unkindly disposed towards his brother : in other words, that he is a fallen, corrupted creature. To behold men, whatever they have attained, whatever they possess, forgetting the things which are behind, and eagerly reaching forward to those which are before, the eye never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, is a presumption at least, if not a proof, that we are designed of our Creator for something this world has not to bestow; that some principle in our nature is superiour to the gross and grovelling pursuits in which we are warmly engaged, but in which we find and we take no rest : and thus the very misery we feel is a presentiment of the felicity which we were created to enjoy. But alas ! our dissatisfaction with sublunary good things,” the things which are seen and temporal," is not the result of experience, nor the resignation of a mind humbled to the will of God. No, it is the miserable effect and expression of insatiable desire, of unmortified pride, of disappointed ambition. If we arrive at our object with ease, its value is diminished by the facility of acquisition ; if obstacles lie in the way, and, possession be removed by distance of time and space, we are quickly discouraged, and tiinidly give up the pursuit. When empty, there is no end of our complaints ; when full, we loathe and reject the best things : if we succeed, our prosperity

« ElőzőTovább »