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and in executing upon them the sentence which shall be pronounced ; for we read, Mat. xiii. 40, 41, 42.“ In the end of this world, the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire."
Angels and men being thus assembled before the judgment seat of Christ, let us for a moment contemplate this vast assembly. Truly vast, beyond our computation or conception ! one generation comprehends many millions. If but the inhabitants of one country were collected together, the sight would amaze us. But what are the inhabitants of one country, compared with all the inhabitants great and small. which live at once in all the numerous countries of our globe? And all this vast multitude compose but one generation. And what is one generation compared with the many generations, which have been in our world since the creation, and which shall yet rise into being down to the end of time? All these countless millions shall be present. To these add the unknown multitudes of fallen spirits, and of attending ministering holy angels, and an innumerable multitude of beings of other orders, and other worlds, which for ought we know, may, and probably will be present on this occasion, to behold the manifestation of the divine glory, and learn important lessons for the regulation of their conduct-how inconceivably vast this assembly! we are entirely lost in the contemplation! what an astonishing sight will this be ! This sight, brethren, you and I shall behold-we shall make a part of that great assembly, and mingle in that vast crowd. And we shall not stand unnoticed, and gaze as indifferent spectators. We shall not be overlooked or lost among the multitude. The eye of the all-seeing Judge will be fixed upon us, as well as every individual of all that vast assembly; and we too must undergo the solemn trial, for which this great multitude was collected.
Let us now proceed to attempt a description of the trial which awaits the anxious countless millions assembled before the judgment seat of Christ. The first act of the Judge as far as we know will be the division of this vast assembly into two parts. When first assembled, it appears that all, whatever their character, will be promiscuously blended together. But at the command of the
Judge, they shall separate to the right and left
. The righteous he will place on his right hand, and the wicked on his left. For he himself hath told us, Matt. xxv. 32, 33, " And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divi. deth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left."
This will be a solemn separation. We have seen affecting and solemn separations made in this world, when friends and relatives have parted from each other to dwell in distant countries; when the visible people of Christ have come out from the world, and collected around his table; and when friends have been parted by death. But these are not to be compared with the solemnity of the separation, which shall be made at the great day. In all these separations there was hope of meeting again; but here hope, the last refuge of the miserable, will die. The separation of the great day will be final and eternal.
And what strange discoveries will this separation make! Many will doubtless be compelled to take their stand among the trembling crowd on the left, who in this world belonged to the visible family of God, and called Christ Lord, Lord. To many such he will doubtless say in that day, I never knew you. Many will doubtless then be placed on the left, who now feel a confidence that all is well, and that then they will stand on the right; and even some, we have reason to fear, of whose piety others have now no doubt. And on the other hand, many who in this world walked in darkness and had scarcely any light; many who were humble, broken-hearted, trembling saints, and who scarcely dared to lay hold of the precious promises of God, and apply them to themselves for their comfort, but often looked forward with dread and sad forebodings to this day, and in prospect often placed themselves on the left; and many who were branded by the world as hypocrites, will in this division be placed on the right hand of the Judge.
And Oh! what affecting separations will in that day be made, among those who were here connected together by tender ties! We shall then see friend forever separated from friend; parents from children, and children from pa. rents; brothers and sisters from each other; and even husband and wife who were here as one flesh. VOL. II,
the character,---even the most secret actions, and every thought of each individual of all the vast multitude assembled before him; but the object will be to manifest the divine glory to the assembled universe; to show forth, especially the justice of God in the punishment of the wicked, that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world of impenitent sinners fully appear guilty before him, and justly deserving of that punishment which he will inflict upon them; also fully to exhibit the riches of his grace and mercy in the salvation of his people; and further, to vindicate the injured honour of the Saviour, and display_his mediatorial glory before the assembled universe. For these important purposes will men and angels, assembled before the judgment seat of Christ, be brought to a particular trial, for their conduct.
The manner in which the trial will be conducted in the great day, bears, according to the Scriptures, a resemblance to the manner of proceeding in human courts. The judge is seated on the bench or judgment seat; the persons to be tried are brought before him; an indictment is read, which supposes an existing and declared law, to be broken by the persons at the bar; witnesses are introduced to prove or disprove the charges; and upon the evidence given, the persons are acquitted or condemned. To this form of proceeding there appears to be an allusion in the account which the Scriptures give us, of the trial which will take place in the great day, before the judgment seat of Christ. For they teach us that Christ shall sit upon the throne of his glory, or his judgment seat; that all nations shall be gathered before him; that the books shall be opened, and the dead be judged out of those things written in the books according to their works; and they seem to intimate the introduction of witnesses to bear testimony.
The opening of the books in that day is spoken of both by Daniel, and by John in the Revelation. “The judgment was set (saith Daniel) and the books were opened." Dan. vii. 10. “I saw (saith John) 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.” Rev. xx. 12. The books which shall be opened may here refer, either
to the rule or law, by which men shall be judged; or to the evidence which shall be adduced relative to their cause, or to both.
The rule or law, which will be the standard of judg. ment, will be that portion of the will of God and their duty which the persons on trial knew or might have known. Where little has been given, little will be required; and where much has been given, much will be required. This is certainly an equitable principle. And that men will be judged according to this rule, the Scriptures clearly teach. Luk. xii. 47, 48. That servant, which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
The Heathen will in that day be judged by the rule of the law of nature. They will not have to give an account how they have obeyed or disobeyed God's revealed word, for this they had never made known unto them; but only how they have obeyed the law of nature, or those duties, which, the works of God, the relations which creatures sustain to each other, and reason and conscience teach. That the Heathen will be judged by the law of nature alone, and not by the written word of God, the Apostle teacheth when he saith, speaking of the Gentiles Rom. ii. 12. “ As many have sinned without law,” that is without the revealed law, “ shall also perish without law;" that is, without that aggravated punishment which awaits those, who perish from under the revealed word of God.
Those who have enjoyed the revealed word of God, will, in addition to the rule of the law of nature, be judged according to this rule. As we learn from Rom. ii. 12, “ As many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.” And the account of those who have lived under Revelation, will be the greater or less according as the portion of light, which they enjoyed from this source was the more or less full. The Jews who lived under the Old Testament dispensation, will have to give an account of their improvement of the light afforded under that dispensation; and they who have lived under the New Tes. tament dispensation, will have to give an account of their
improvement of all the additional light and motives afforded under this dispensation. And great indeed will be the account which those will have to render who live under the light of the Gospel. They will not only with the Heathen have to give an account of their improvement of the light of nature, which they enjoyed equally with them; and with the Jews, of their improvement of the Scriptures of the Old Testament which they enjoyed in common with them; but in addition to these, of their im. provement of the light of the Gospel and this light compared with both the former is like the bright effulgence of à meridian sun, compared with the glimmering of the stars, or the faint light of the first dawn of morning. And dreadful indeed will be the account of those who in the great day are found at the left hand of the Judge from under Gospel light.
This light brethren we enjoy. We live under the Gospel dispensation, and in a land where the Gospel is promulgated. If we are not acquainted with it, the fault is our own; for we have the means; and ignorance in our circumstances will form no excuse in the day of account. Peculiarly dreadful will be our situation, if in that day, we should be found at the left hand of the Judge. Let the wicked among us hear the declarations, of the infallible truth of God on this subject and tremble. Our Saviour speaking of the Jews who rejected him said, John xv. 22. “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” In this passage he plainly teaches, that sin under Gospel light, is so much greater than sin where this light is not enjoyed, that the latter is lost in comparison with the former. Again we hear him saying, Mat. xi. 21–24. “ Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works which have been
done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of