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S E R MON XLI.
Acts xvii. 30, 31. And the times of this ignorance God · winked at ; but now commandeth all men every where
to repent, because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
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THE present state is the infancy of human nature;
1 and all the events of time, even those that make fuch noise, and determine the fate of kingdoms, are but the little affairs of children. But if we look forwards and trace human nature to maturity, we meet with events vaft, interesting and majestic ; and fuch as nothing but divine authority can render credible to us who are so apt to judge of things by what we fee. To one of those scenes I would direct your at. tention this day; I mean the folemn, tremendous, and glorious scene of the universal judgment.
You have sometimes seen a stately building in ruins ; come now and view the ruins of a demolished world. You have often seen a feeble mortal struggling in the agonies of death, and his shattered frame disa folved ; come now and view universal nature severely labouring and agonizing in her last convulsions, and her well-compacted system diffolved. You have heard of earthquakes here and there that have laid Lisbon, Palermo, and a few other cities in ruins; come now and feel the tremors and convulsions of the whole globe, that blend cities and countries, oceans and continents, mountains, plains, and vallies in one VOL. II.
promiscuous promiscuous heap. You have a thousand times beheld the moon walking in brightness, and the sun fhining in his strength; now look and fee the sun turned into darkness, and the moon into blood.
It is our lot to live in an age of confusion, blood, and flaughter ; an age in which our attention is engaged by the clash of arms, the clangor of trumpets, the roar of artillery, and the dubious fate of kingdoms; but draw off your thoughts from these ob. jects for an hour, and fix them on objects more folemn and interesting : come view
6 A scene that yields
Such a scene there certainly is before us; for St. Paul tells us that God hath given assurance to all men he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained ; and that his resurrection, the resurrection of him who is God and man, is a demonstrative proof of it.
My text is the conclusion of St. Paul's defence or sermon before the famous court of Areopagus, in the learned and philosophical city of Athens. In this august and polite assembly he speaks with the bold. ness, and in the evangelical strain, of an apostle of Christ. He first inculcates upon them the great truths of natural religion, and labours faithfully, though in a very gentle and inoffensive manner, to reform them from that stupid idolatry and superstition into which even this learned and philosophical city was sunk, though a Socrates, a Plato, and the most celebrated fages and moralifts of pagan antiquity had lived and taught in it. Afterwards, in the close of his discourse, he introduces the glorious peculiarities of Christianity, particularly the great duty of repentance, from evangelical motives, the resurrection of
the the dead, and the final judgment. But no sooner has he entered upon this subject than he is interrupted, and seems to have broken off abruptly; for when he has just hinted at the then unpopular doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, we are told, fome mocked, and others put it off to another hearing: We will hear thee again of this matter.
In these dark times of ignorance which preceded the publication of the gospel, God seemed to wink or connive at the idolatry and various forms of wickedness that had overspread the world ; that is, he seemed to overlook * or take no notice of them, so as either to punish them, or to give the nations explicit calls to repentance. But now, says St. Paul, the case is altered. Now the gospel is published through the world, and therefore God will no longer seem to connive at the wickedness and impenitence of mankind, but publishes his great mandate to a rebel world, explicitly and loudly, commanding all men every where to repent; and he now gives them particular motives and encouragements to this duty.
One motive of the greatest weight, which was never fo clearly or extensively published before, is the doctrine of the universal judgment. This the connection implies : He now commandeth all men to repent, because he hath appointed a day for judging all men. And surely the prospect of a judgment must be a strong motive to finners to repent :-this, if any thing, will rouse them from their thoughtless fecurity, and bring them to repentance. Repentance should, and one would think must be as extensive as this reason for it. This St. Paul intimates. He now commandeth all men to repent, because he hath given assurance to all men that he has appointed a day to judge the world. Wherever the gospel publishes the doctrine of a future judgment, there it requires all men to repent; and wherever it requires repentance, there it enforces the command of this alarming doctrine.
God * yperidon.