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1. To make us afraid of lesser fins, as well as greater, because those also, as well as these, will come into judgment; and we should not esteem any thing little, which God shall think fit to take into conlideration, and to bring upon the stage at the great day.
2. The consideration of this should likewise deter us from secret fins. We are apt to think, that if we can but sin in secret, and hide what we do from the eyes of men, we are secure and safe enough : But alas! our great danger is not from men, but God; not now, but hereafter. We are now very solicitous to conceal our wickedness, that we may avoid shame, and escape pu. nishment from men: but God will one day produce all our secret fins, and bring them forth into the light, for all our studious concealment of them now. Now we are afraid of the eye of men, and therefore chuse se crecy, that we may commit our sins privately and un, seen. Vain man! the day is at hand, when all thy fe cret leudness and fraud will be brought upon the publick stage of the world, and be matter of publick infamy to thee, and an everlasting reproach that can never be wiped off ; and though thou now coverest thy transgref fion as Adam, and hidest thine iniquity in thy bofom; yet the time is coming, when all thy secret wickedness thall be exposed to the view of angels and men; and then, finner, what wilt thou do, when thou shalt ap; pear before this all-feeing Judge? none of thine arts of concealment will then stand thee in stead. Canst thou hide thy sins from his eye, so that he cannot search them out or thyself from his wrath? If thou canst not, what matters it to have any secret from others, when all is known to thy Judge ?
3. This should likewise dispose us to great sincerity in all our words and actions, and make us always to Speak as we think, to perform what we promise and profess, and in all things to be what we would seem to be, since there is a day coming when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, and every mask of hypocrisy and dissimulation shall be plucked off, and our molt close and cunning designs shall be brought into the open light. In that great day of revelation, nothing will be matter of comfort and rejoicing to us, but the teftimony of our consciences, that in all fimplicity, and godly sincerity, we have had our conversation in the world.
4. This should make us faithfully to improve all the talents and opportunities which God affords to us; because we are but stewards, and must give an account of them. We are apt to covet great wealth, and to aspire after great places and power; but do we consider what it is that we so eagerly desire and pursue ? All this will but bring upon us the burden of a greater and heavier account, if we do not improve these talents and advantages to the end for which they were given, to relieve the wants of the poor and miserable, and to serve the great ends of religion and virtue; and if we fail herein, a dreadful account will be exacted of us, and we shall with that we had been the poorest and meanest, the most ignorant and unlearned persons in the world.
5. This should restrain us from uncharitable censures of others. Thou art therefore inexcusable, o man, whoSoever thou art that judgest another : for thinkejt thou, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? as the Apostle reasons, Rom. ii. 1.
6. This may help to support us under the unjust censures and reproaches of men. If we be innocent, God will one day bring forth our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noon-day. With me, faith St. Paul, 1 Cor. iv. 3. it is a very small thing that I fhould be judged of you, or of man's judgment. He that judgeth me is the Lord. It is desirable to approve ourselves and our actions to men: but if we cannot, it is a great fatisfaction to approve them to our own consciences, and to God who is greater than our hearts, and knows all things.
Lastly, This will teach us not to measure our condition by the good opinion which others have of us; but by the law of God, which will be the standard and measure of our judgment. He will consider every thing exactly, and weigh all the circumstances of our case, and make all the allowances that equity requires. Men can but judge according to appearance : but the judgment of God will be according to truth; therefore we should above all labour to be accepted of him in that day.
S E R M O N CLXXXII.
Of the sentence to be passed at the day of
2 COR. v. 10. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Chris,
that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
The fifth sermon on this text.
Proceed to the fourth and last proposition contained in the text, viz. that at the day of judgment,
sentence shall be paft upon men according to the nature and quality of their actions done in this world, whether good or evil. The reward of happiness or misery, which men shall be sentenced to at that day, shall bear a proportion to the good or evil which they have done in this life.
In the prosecution of this argument, I shall enquire into these two things.
First, What proportion the rewards of the next world shall bear to the actions of men in this life.
Secondly, The grounds and reasons of it. And then make some application of this truth to the consciences of men.
First, What proportion the rewards of the next world Shall bear to the actions of men in this life. I mean, whether the rewards of the next life shall only be proportioned to the kind and quality of our actions confidered in general, as good or evil; that is, that good men shall be rewarded with everlasting glory and hap: piness; and wicked men with eternal punishment and torment: or whether the degrees of these rewards shall likewise bear a proportion to the degrees of the good or evil of our actions, so that a more eminent degree of piety and holiness shall have a proportionable share of glory and happiness; and greater and more hainous lins Thall be loaded with greater and heavier punishments.
1. It is clear, and out of all controversy, that men shall be rewarded according to the quality and kind of their actions; good shall be rewarded to the good, and evil to the evil. And this is the constant tenor of the Bible. Psal. i. 6. The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; that is, doth approve it, and will reward it; but the way of the ungodly fall peris); which is of the fame importance with the expression in the verse before, the wicked shall not stand in the judgment. Ifa. iii. 10. 11. Say ye to the righteous, it small be well with them, for they shall eat of the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked, for it shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands Mall be given him ; which, if it be meant of the rewards and punishments of this life, is much more constantly and universally true of the other. Mat. xvi." 27. The Son of Man fhall come in the glory of his Father,.. with his angels him, and shall reward every man according to his works. Rev. xxii. 12. Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to render to every man according as his work Mall be ; that is, whether good or evil. Rom. vi. 23. The wages of fin is death ; but the gift of God is eternal life: that is, to those who have their fruit unto holiness, as he had said immediately before. Hither likewise belong those innumerable texts, in which glory, and happiness, and eternal life, are promised to those who live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; and wickedness and disobedience are threatened with dreadful and eternal punishment. But I shall only take notice of two or three of the most remarkable of them. Mat. xiii. 40. 41. 42. The Son of Man Mall 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, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous fine forth as the fun in the kingdom of their Father. But this is most fully represented in that particular description, which our Lord himself makes of the process of that day, Mat. xxv. 34. where the sentence that shall be passed on the righteous is this, Come, VOL. VIII. L
ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world. And on the wicked, ver. 41. Depart from me, je cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And ver, 4o.
And these, speaking of the wicked, Mall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. John. v. 28. 29. The hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and Mall come forth, they, that have done good, unto the resurrection of life.; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of. damnation. Rom. ii. 6. 7. 8. 9. fpeaking of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who, fays the Apostle, Mall render to every man äccording to his works; to them, who by patient continuance.in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: but to them that are contentious, and obey not the truth, but obey, unrighteousness
, indignation, and, wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon
every foul of man that doth evil. 11. That the rewards and recompenees of the next world fall likewise bear a proportion to the degrees of good or evil which we have done in this life, though it, hath been controverted, seems also to be fufficiently clear from scripture. And to this purpose, I shall,
1, Produce such texts as will fully prove it. And, 2. Answer the grounds of the contrary opinion.
1. The scripture doth plainly assert that the rewards of the next life will bear a proportion, not only to the kind and quality of our actions, but to the degree of them; that good men shall receive a reward proportionable to the degree of their holiness and obedience, of their service and sufferings for God; and that the torments of the wicked shall be greater or less, according to the degree and aggravation of their fins.
(1.) As for good men; that the reward, that shall be bestowed upon them, shall bear a proportion to the degree of their service and sufferings for God. This seems to be intimated in those metaphorical expresions used by the prophet Daniel, Chap. xii. 3. They that be wife, shall Jhine as the brightness of the firmanent; and they that turn many ta righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever. Which is much the same with what St. Paul exprefly affirms, concerning the different glory of the