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every idle word that men speak, they shall render an account."
Exactly agreeing with this, will be the book of Conscience, which shall also be opened; or, in plainer words, every man shall stand convicted in his own conscience, that he is guilty of every charge brought against him by the law. At present, sinners take little notice of their sins; and if they feel a little remorse of conscience, soon forget it; but at the great day, they (will all rush upon the memory. Conscience shall serve instead, of a thousand witnesses; and, as the Scripture speaks, "every mouth shall be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God."
But, blessed be God, there will be one more book opened, and that is, the book of Life, containing a list of all the names of the people of God; even of those who were chosen by the Father to salvation; -redeemed by the blood of Christ; and who were called, renewed, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Here will be found the names of those people who were convinced of their sin and misery; humbled on account of their abominations; and who, being enlightened in the knowledge of Christ, came to him by precious faith, for life and salvation; and who proved the truth of their faith by the holiness of their lives and conversation.
Now hear, from the word of God, what will be the sentences pronounced on the assembled world, at that awful period. When a poor criminal at the assizes is tried for his life, what a solemn moment is that, when, silence being demanded by an officer of the court, every voice is hushed, and every eye fixed on the Judge! Each of us shall then become, not a spectator of another's trial, but an expectant of our own sentence; that sentence which shall fix, beyond the possibility of an alteration, our happy, or our miserable doom.
Now, hearken! Matt. xxiv. 34: "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink," &c. &c. Let us take care, my friends, to understand this aright; for many have sadly mistaken it. We are not to imagine that such good works as are here mentioned merit heaven; this is not only contrary to the whole Gospel, but contrary also to the meaning of this place. You are to observe, that the judgment here represented is of the professors of the Gospel: all the persons here spoken of, both at the right and left hand of Christ, are such as were called by his name, and professed to be believers in him; and when it is said they are judged according to their works, it means, according to the evidence of their works; that is, whether the faith they pretended to have brought forth good works or not. The sentence passed, is not for their works, nor for their faith neither. The kingdom they receive is not their wages, but their inheritance; not merited, as it were yesterday, but "prepared for them, before the foundation of the world;" and they were prepared for it, not by their works, but by the grace of God, which united them to Christ, led them to believe, and enabled them to bring forth the fruits here mentioned, namely, works of love to the saints; not mere works of humanity, but of love to the poor, despised saints of God, because they belonged to Jesus. These happy persons, you see, had no proud thoughts of the merit of their actions, for they humbly cry, "Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and gave thee meat?" &c.
But O, how awful is the other sentence. "Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!" O what a word is that
"Depart!" What! depart from Christ? Depart from the fountain of all happiness? It will be to the condemned sinner the most dreadful word that ever sounded in his ears: and yet how dreadfully just!-for it will be said to that sinner, who, in his heart, has said a thousand times to Christ, "Depart from me, for I desire not the knowledge of thy ways!"
This sentence will be pronounced against those professors of religion, whose pretended faith did not produce the fruits of love to the saints. Sins of omission only are here mentioned; neglecting to help and relieve the poor and afflicted members of Christ. And if this will be sufficient ground of condemnation, what, think you, will be the lot of persecutors, who, instead of feeding, clothing, and visiting the members of Christ, robbed them of their food, raiment, liberty, and life? What will be the portion of drunkards, swearers, whoremongers, Sabbath-breakers, and the whole herd of profane and vicious sinners? Such, we are elsewhere assured, shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven, but must have their portions with devils and damned spirits.
When St. Paul reasoned of "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled." Did a heathen judge tremble, and shall a Christian be stupid and unaffected? "Behold, he cometh with clouds! Every eye shall see him!" Your eyes shall see him. You have received the solemn summons this day. What will you do? If wise, you will act like Noah, "who being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, builded an ark to the saving of his house." If unwise, you will be like his infidel neighbours, who laughed him
to scorn, and perished in the flood. If ever you would wish, then, to be numbered with the saints, now lay to heart the solemn truths you have heard. Retire a little from the bustle of the world, and from the company of the gay. Endeavour to realize the important scene. O think of the tremendous day, and the miserable state of poor Christless sinners. "Those who are then found Christless, will also be speechless, helpless, and hopeless! How will their heads hang down, and their knees knock together! O what pale faces, quivering lips, and fainting hearts! O dreadful day, when the earth shall be trembling, the stars falling, the trumpet sounding, the dead rising, the elements melting, and the world on fire!"
This scene, so tremendous to a sinner, will be the most happy and joyful that ever was known to the humble believer in Jesus. The second coming of Christ is spoken of in Scripture as a most desirable event; and true Christians are described as "loving his appearance," and saying, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly." And would you not wish to call this great and glorious Judge your friend, and to be owned by him at the great day? Well, then, know, my friends, that he is now set before you in the Gospel, as an all-sufficient and most gracious Saviour. He is now as gracious as he will then be glorious. Why should you keep at a distance from him? His blood can cleanse you from all your past sins, though deeply dyed as scarlet and crimson. He came to seek and save sinners such as you. Look then to him and be saved. Come but to him, he will not cast you out; believe in him, and he will be your friend. Your first business in religion is to fly to your Saviour's arms, and find salvation in his blood. He will then give you his Holy Spirit to soften your heart, subdue your iniquities, and enable you to bring forth those works of love, which he will graciously own and reward in the great day.
Let the thoughts of "appointed death and judgment" be duly improved by the believer. "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness: looking for, and hastening unto the coming of the day of God?" What watchfulness, what seriousness, become us! Let us be concerned to be always ready; daily walking humbly and closely with God; sitting loose to all created objects, from which death may so suddenly separate us; and having our affections placed on heavenly things, to which death will so readily transmit us. Look on death as a disarmed foe; a serpent which may hiss, but cannot sting. Look on judgment as a most desirable event; when soul and body being reunited, and made perfect in holiness, the believer shall be openly acknowledged, and for ever made happy in the full enjoyment of Christ to all eternity. Blessed be God, for Jesus Christ!