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he will be found a God of vengeance only, and will shew his goodness to the rest of his creatures in making dreadful examples of such desperate criminals.
God, you perceive by his own express declaration, 'hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised him up from the dead.' The grave will be no sanctuary to the wicked, nor prison to the righteous; for Christ will reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet,' and death as the last. Justice requires'a future judgment; God's sacred promise is plighted for the preparatory resurrection. Accordingly at God's appointed time, a trumpet shall be blown by his angel, the sound whereof shall be heard in the grave, and rouse the dead to new life. What music shall that sound bear with it to the ears of the good! What horrors to those of the wicked !
The first object presented to our opening eyes, on that prodigious occasion, will be the throne of God, raised high in the air, adorned with infinite magnificence and lustre, and beaming light, to which that of the sun is darkness. The host of celestial powers, extending in shining ranks, will surround it on both sides, and fill the whole prospect of heaven. The great book, wherein the lives of all men are recorded, will be laid open; and the judge in whose face and person will appear a majesty infinitely surpassing all the glory of this preparation, seating himself on the throne, will order the whole race of mankind to stand before him; and, having thus arraigned the species, will proceed to the grand and final trial. The angels of light will be ready to conduct the blessed to that heaven of happiness and glory, which will present itself to our eyes from above, while those of darkness will wait to hurry the souls of the wicked to the horrible pit of fire, which will open its dreadful mouth from beneath. Then shall the heart of man beat with such a force as his present mortal frame could not possibly support. How shall even the best of men bear the thoughts of any uncertainty, when so much is at stake, when God judges, when the whole creation is looking on, and when heaven or hell is to follow the decision? How shall men less virtuous bear the rack of doubts suspended between hope of heaven
and dread of hell to all eternity? But, above all, how shall they, whose guilty consciences afford them no glimpse of hope, behold that king of heaven and judge of men, whom they have offended; that glorious kingdom, out of which they are immediately to be excluded for ever; and that shocking lake of fire and darkness, wherein they are forthwith to be plunged under an impossibility of redemption to all eternity ?
Represent now to yourselves this trial, with all its important circumstances, of a judge so wise, so just, so powerful ; of a reward so inestimable, and punishments so dreadful. Try if you can possess your reason with a firm belief of it, and your hearts with a deep and lively sense of it; and then tell us, whether you can at the same time entertain a train of sinful thoughts, and form wicked resolutions. If you find you cannot, consider with yourselves, how infinitely you are concerned, to make that impression deep and lasting. As God's servants and subjects, we are accountable for
, every thing to him, and therefore should never forget that we are to account. Howsoever pleasingly the things of this life may amuse us, and stifle the expectation of being hereafter judged by almighty God for what we do, yet they will not always be able to shut our eyes against so awful a prospect, nor will momentary pleasures make us amends for the loss of endless happiness. Whether therefore we regard ourselves as accountable to God, or our own souls, for our lives, no scheme of life can become us as rational creatures, but that which proposes justification before the throne of God, as its chief end and aim. By this point we ought to steer; and whenever we lose sight of it, we have nothing to guide us through a troubled ocean of temptations and dangers.
This world passes fast away, and in a little time shall be no more.
Blessed is he who runs his course through it, like a passenger, and stays not to amuse himself with things of little moment on the way, but hastens towards a more lasting and happy place of abode; who knowing that the eyes of his judge are always on him, always fixes his eyes on his judge; who watching carefully over all his thoughts, and every part of his behaviour, mortifies the deeds of his Aesh, and dies to a vain and vexatious world. Blessed is he,
who, by often supposing himself in the agonies of death, learns 'to die daily, and to look on his dissolution as a thing familiar and welcome, when it actually arrives. Blessed is he, who, by often supposing himself just newly arisen from the dead, and brought to trial before the judgment-seat of God, learns to rise, above the corruptions of his sinful nature, to a thorough newness of life; learns to rise from dead works, to serve the living Lord ;' learns, by perpetually settling accounts with his conscience, to prepare his audit for the great day of account.
This man truly lives, lives with infinitely more satisfaction and comfort, than can possibly be tasted in all the wealth, pomp, and pleasure of an uncertain and perishable world. This man shall meet death with a joy, equal to the terrors of the wicked. This man shall behold the face of his judge with rapture, while others' call on the mountains to hide them' from that awful countenance. This man shall receive that happy sentence, Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.' This man shall be caught up into the clouds with Christ and his angels,
' at that time, when this world, once a scene of triumphant wickedness, but now all in flames, shall be perhaps turned into a place of punishment for those who loved it more than God, and insulted him with a gross abuse of all his inferior creatures, bountifully bestowed upon them.
Now to him who killeth and maketh alive again, who shall raise us up at the last day,' to the King of heaven, and Judge of all the earth, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.
BEWARE OF FALSE TEACHERS.
St. Matt. vii. 15, 16. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly
they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men
gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? The religion revealed to us by our blessed Saviour, and his Holy Spirit, could not have been discovered by observations made on ourselves, or the world we are placed in, as other sciences are; nor does it naturally spring up in our minds, like instinct or desire; but approves itself, as soon as it is known, to right reason, as a system of truths, necessary to a thorough reformation of our corruptions, and a perfect government of our passions. Hence appears the necessity of instruction, and consequently of teachers, in order to the knowledge of Christianity.
But if such a reformation and government, and of course the real happiness of individuals, depend so absolutely on the knowledge of our religion; the happiness of every community, must, unquestionably, rest on the same foundation. The community can be neither better, nor happier, than the several members, whereof it is composed.
And, whereas, howsoever pure and clear the necessary religion may spring from its original fountain, there is danger of its being considerably corrupted or obstructed, if the channels, through which it passes, are not sufficiently clean and open ; it must undoubtedly be the concern, indeed the most important concern, of all individuals, and of every community to see, that their religious teachers be men of wisdom and integrity, proportionable to the great ends of their office. Where religion is not imparted, the very soul of virtue, and the source of happiness, are wanting. Where it is perverted in the conveyance, an evil spirit, instead of a soul, is infused, and new enormities, whereat even the corruption of nature startles, are produced.
Now the danger, in both respects, is much greater than can be apprehended, before the idleness, the wrong-headedness, and what is still worse, the wrong-heartedness of mankind, among whom our teachers must be chosen, are well considered. The idle man will not labour in the office of teaching proportionably to the dulness or inattention of his hearers. The wrong-headed, especially if he is conceited (and a thousand to one he is highly so), will distort every thing he conveys; and like an uneven glass, present all awry to the understandings of his disciples. The wronghearted will add to, diminish, or change, whatsoever message he is charged with, according as the times, the occasions, the humours of his flock, or his own worldly interests, shall tempt him with views, detached, either from the original truth of religion, or the edification of mankind.
These causes of apprehension are not more plain to our experience, than it is, that numbers of men, thus, unhappily minded, crowd daily into the ministry, with views of gain and ease only to themselves, and often with principles directly contrary to those they solemnly declare for at the entrance. One half of these give themselves little or no trouble about the duty of instructing their people, and the best wish we can form of the other, is, that they were as idle. But strange as it may seem, it is, to the full, as true, that many are found more active in spreading such opinions, as they themselves have renounced, than others are in propagating those principles, on which they believe eternal salvation to depend, and which, for that reason alone, if we may credit their sincerity, they undertook the sacred office. By what equally preposterous and wicked turn of mind it is, that truth and idleness, deceit and diligence, are thus unnaturally linked together into these moral monsters, is as difficult to account for, as it is to develope the other mysteries of iniquity, contrived by the great deceiver.
Thus circumstanced, however, the men, who are at all concerned for the salvation of their souls, ought surely to be on their guard, ought to watch over their own hearts, and 'try the spirits' of their teachers, with the utmost circumspection. If there are many who trade in heresies, 'making merchandise of men's souls ;' if many grievous wolves are gone out into the church,' to worry at once its members and