Page images

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 immor. tal, 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 for ever abolished, Indeed they were long before abolished. Before that great and notable day of the Lord came, before the judgment 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 for ever 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 distinc. tion 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 for ever dissolved, restoring to existence every particle of itself which once entered into the composition of a human being, which was once anima. ted with the breath of life. Behold the spacious sea, Gefore it be for ever dried up, surrendering its hidden treasure, not the silver and gold, and jewels which its vest womb.contains, but the innumerable myriads of men and women it 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 his 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

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 their irreversible decree; their posture speaks acknowledgment of the right of judging, submission 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, judgment 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 judgment. But what need of books or of records to assist the memory of Him who is omniscient, 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, Oʻman, 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 to crowm thee with joy unspeakable, and full of glory; whether the opening of the book of life is to display thy name in golden characters to 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 one according to his 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 quarel, 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 judgment with thy servant, O God, for in thy sight shall no flesh living be justified.” “ If thou,

- All

Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” “ Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgression.” “Behold, O God, our Shield, and look upon 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: “ Judgment is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” judgment is committed unto the Son." “ Therefore thou art inexcuseable, Oman, whosoever thou art, that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemneth thyself; for thou that judgest, doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment 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 the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; 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 judgment 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 immor. tality; 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," Rom. ii. lll.

But while by every serious consideration thou art restrained, ignorant fallible creature, from judging ano. ther-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 judgment 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 de. ceitfulness 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 the compassionate and gentle to the infirmities of others, because that thou also hast sinned. It will produce “ godly sorrow, which worketh repentance unto salvation, 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 judgment 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 cry. ing 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?

« PreviousContinue »