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their sins before all; and the most secret shall be made evident, as if written in their foreheads in the most plain and legible characters.
And all the goodness of the saints shall then be revealed by the judge. Their * greatest excellencies are invisible to the eyes of men; the sanctity of their aims and affections which gives life and value to all the acts of obedience; their secret duties, wherein the sincerity and ardency of their souls is most expressed, are only known to God. And such is the excellent humility of the saints, that the more they are enriched, and abound with the gracious influences of the spirit, the less they discover to the world; as the celestial bodies, when in nearest conjunction with the sun, and most filled with his light, are least in appearance to the inhabitants of the earth. But there is a book of remembrance before him, for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon
And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spares his son that serves him; Mal. 3. 16. 17.
[3.] The conscience of every man shall then be opened, and give an accusing or excusing testimony of all things ; Rom. 2. 15. 16. For these acts of conscience, in the present life, have a final respect to God's tribunal : and though the accounts are so vast, there shall be an exact agreement between the books of God's omniscience and of conscience in the day of judgment. Now indeed the conscience of man, though never so inquisitive and diligent in examining and revising his ways, is unable to take a just account of his sins. As one that would tell the first appearing stars in the evening, before he can reckon them, others appear, and confound his memory with their number; so when conscience is seriously intent in reflecting upon itself, before it can reckon up the sins committed against one command, innumerable others appear. This made the Psalmist, upon the survey of his actions, break forth in amazement and perplexity; Mine iniquities are more than the hairs upon my head, therefore
heart fails me; Psal. 40. 12. But it will be one of the miracles of that day, to enlarge the view of conscience to all their sins. Now the records of conscience are often obliterated, and the sins written therein are forgotten; but then they shall appear in so clear an impression, that the wicked shall be inexcusable to themselves, and conscience subscribes their condemnation. And O the formidable spectacle, when conscience, enlightened by a beam from heaven, shall present to a sinner in one view the sins of his whole life! Now conscience is a notary in every man's bosom; and though it is not always vocal, yet
* O si nobis animam boni viri liceret inspicere, quam pulchram faciem, quam sanctam, quam ex magnifico, placidoque fulgentem videremusí Senec.
writes down their actions : The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with a point of a diamond it is graven upon the tables of the heart, Jer. 17. 1. But then it shall be compelled to give a full charge against the guilty : of this we have an infallible presage in this world, when conscience turns the point against the breast of a sinner, and enforces the tongue, by a secret instigation, to accuse the person. And this information of conscience at the last will make the sinner speechless: for the book of accounts with Divine justice, was always in his own keeping; and whatever is recorded there, was written with his own hand. And how will those hardened sinners, that now kick against the pricks of conscience, be able to repel its strong and quick accasations before that terrible tribunal ?
[4.] Other numerous witnesses will appear to finish the process of that day. Not as if God that knows all things, wants information, but for the public conviction of the wicked.
Satan will then bring in a bloody charge against them. Such is his malignity, that he is a complainer of God to man, and by calumniating the blessed Creator, seduced our first parents; and he is the accuser of men to God. He is styled the accuser of the brethren before God day and night, Rev. Sometimes falsely, as when he taxed Job, that his piety was mercenary; and often truly, to provoke the divine displeasure. But though his charge be just against them as sinners, yet as penitent sinners they are absolved by the judge upon the throne of grace. This we have represented to the prophet Zechary, Joshua the high priest, a type of the church, standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him, Zech. 3. 1, 2, 3. for that was the place of accusers. But Christ, the blessed Reconciler, interposed : "and the Lord said to Satan, The Lord rebuke ihee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee.” But he will principally act the part of an accuser at the last judgment. This is intimated in that fearful imprecation, Let Satan stand at his right hand : when he is judged, let him be condemned, Psal. 109. 6, 7. He is now an active watchful spirit, whose diligence is equal to his malice, and by glittering snares, or violent temptations, draws men to sin. But then he will be their most bitter accuser, not from zeal of justice, but pure malignity. Then he will aggravate their crimes by the most killing circumstances; though in accusing them he indicts himself, their sins being usually done by his solicitations.
And the wicked themselves will accuse one another. In this world fellow-sinners usually conceal one another's wickedness, restrained by their own obnoxiousness. But then all that have been jointly engaged in the commission of sin, will impeach each other. The voluptuous sinners that have excited one another to lust or luxury ; Come, let us take our fill of love till the morning, Prov. 7. 18. Come, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves
with strong drink; for to-morrow shall be as to day, and much more abundant, Isa. 56. 12. All the charming companions and associates will with fierceness charge one another. And the malicious cruel sinners that say, Come, let us lay wait for blood, let us swallow them up quick as the grave, Prov. 1. will then, like enraged suries, fly upon one another. In all sins of combination, the inferior instruments will accuse their directors for their
pernicious counsel, and the directors will accuse the instruments for their wicked compliance.
And all the holy servants of God, who by their instructions, counsels, admonitions, examples, have endeavored to make the world better; especially those who by their place and relation were more concerned, and more zealously and compassionately urged and persuaded those under their care to reform their lives, and save their souls, will give a heavy testimony against them. Indeed the very presence of the saints will upbraid the wicked, for their resisting all the warming, melting intreaties, all the grave and serious reproofs, all the tender earnest expostulations, that were ineffectual by the hardness of their hearts.
Briefly, the scripture attributes to the signs and circumstances of men's sins, a vocal evidence against them. Thus the prophet speaking of the house built by rapine and extortion, The stones of the wall cry, and the beams answer them, Hab. 2. 11. and with concurrent testimony accuse the unrighteous builder. And St. James declares, That the wages of the hireling, kept back by fraud, cry against the oppressor. And the rust of gold and silver treasured up, is a witness against the covetous, Jam. 5. 3, 4. And this by the recognition of conscience will be a memorial against them hereafter.
To what the scripture speaks of this kind of evidence of men's sins, I shall add a useful representation framed by a heathen to signify that wickedness, how secretly soever committed, shall be brought to light in judgment. He tells us, " That the soul of a very guilty wretch was, after death, arraigned before one of the severe judges below. And at his trial, because his atrocious crimes were done in secret, he stood upon his defence, denying all. The judge cominanding his lamp to be produced, that was an eye-witness of his wickedness, the lamp appeared, and being demanded what it knew of him? answered with a sigh, would I had been conscious of nothing, for even now the remembrance of his villanies makes me to tremble : I wish my light had been extinguished, that the oil that maintained it had quenched it. But I burnt with disdain, and cast about some sparks to fire his impure bed; and was grieved that my little flame was so weak as not to consume it. I said within myself, if the sun saw these villanies, it would be eclipsed, and leave the world in darkness. But I now perceive why I was constrained to give light to him, that being a secret spy of his uncleanness, his thests and cruel
ties, I might reveal them.” But we that are enlightened by faith, and know that God is omnipresent, and that whatever sin is done, though in the deepest and darkest recess, is manisest to him,* have no need of Lucian's lamp to make our judge to be feared by us.
[5.] The impartiality of the sentence will make the justice of God conspicuous before the whole world. This consists in two things.
1. There will be no distinction of persons.
2. There will be a distinction of causes in that judgment; and according to their nature, the sentence will pass upon all.
(1.) There will be no distinction of persons. In human courts the judges sometimes extend and amplify, sometimes contract or smother the evidence, and are more rigorous or favorable in their sentence, as they are biased towards the persons before them. But the righteous judge of the world is uncapable of being inclined to favor or severity upon such base motives. This is frequently declared in scripture, to possess us with his fear. If ye call upon the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear, 1 Pet. 1. 17. No spiritual privileges upon which men are so apt to presunie, viz. that they are members of the reformed church, that they are enriched with excellent gifts, that they enjoy the ordinances in their purest administration, will avail them without real holiness in their hearts and lives. The being united to societies of the most glorious profession, of strictest purity, and sublime devotion, does no more prove one to be a real saint, than the being of an eminent company of merchants proves one to be a rich citizen. Those that bow the knee and not the heart in faithful reverence, that give the empty title of Lord to Christ, without the tribute of obedience, will be rejected by him. Many shall say at the day of judgment, Lord, Lord, we have prophesied in thy name, and done many wondrous works, Matth. 7. 22. Then will the judge say, I know you not; depart from me ye workers of iniquity. No degrees of civil greatness will be of any moment and advantage in that day. St. John testifies, “I saw the dead, small and great stand before God,” in an equal line, to receive their trial. Kings shall then be divested of their imperial titles, of their crowns and sceptres, and their robes of state, and only be accompanied with their works. of this we have an undoubted proof, in that they are no more exempted from the common law of dying than the meanest slave. Death, that rugged officer, arrests them without ceremony, and summons them to appear before that tribunal.
* Ipse timendus est in publico, ipse in secreto. Lucerna ardet? videt te Lucerna extincta est ? videt te. In cubile intras ? videt te. In corde versaris ? videt te. Ipsum time.
The royal purple could not protect Herod from being devoured by worms. The Apostle speaks indefinitely in the fore-cited place; he that does wrong, shall receive for the wrong he has done; and there is no respect of persons, Col. 3. ult. No circumstantial accidents can derive pure worth, or truly debase persons, but inherent qualities, and the actions that fow from them: and accordingly, the high and holy God will accept or disapprove them. What St. Paul observes of the saving grace of the gospel being indifferently offered to all, is applicable in this case.
He tells us, There is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free, Col. 3. 11. that are preferred or excluded upon a carnal account, but all may equally partake of spiritual blessings. Thus the difference of nations will be no privilege or prejudice to any in the day of judgment. The most rude and contemptible shall have as fair and equal a trial, as the most polite and civilized: the ignorant Barbarians as the learned Grecians, that so much boasted of their vain excellencies above them : the Negroes in Africa as the people of Europe; for they have the same relation to God their maker, and as truly bear the impression of God stamped upon the human nature in the creation, and therefore common to the whole species of mankind. An image may be fashioned in ebony as well as in ivory. Briefly, all men are equally subject to his laws, and shall be equally accountable for their actions. 6. The rich and the poor shall then meet together, without distinction, before God the maker and judge of them all.”
(2.) There shall be a distinction of causes, and every man be judged “ according to his works,” the tenor of good works, and the desert of bad. The Apostle assures us, That whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting, Gal. 6. 7. 8. The barvest shall be according to the seed both in kind and measure.
1. Those who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, shall obtain eternal life, Rom. 2.7. Indeed, eternal life is the gift of infinite bounty, Rom. 6. ult. nay of pure mercy, Jude 21. and mercy excludes merit. It is said of the blessed martyrs, who contended for the truth and purity of the gospel to the death, that their robes were washed white in the blood of the Lamb, Rev. 7. 14. not in their own blood. Their right to heaven was from the application of his merits to them. But the reward is dispensed from God according to the evangelical law; not only as a magnificent prince, but as a righteous judge. All those to whom the gospel promises eternal life, shall infallibly obtain it, and none that the gospel excludes. Those who are sensible of their sins, and cordially forsaking them, did humbly and entirely depend upon the grace of God, through the blessed Reconciler and Saviour, shall