« AnteriorContinuar »
or evil of each other's actions. It is likewise requisite, that the subject of the laws, should have proper means of knowing the grounds of the rewards or punishments of which he is the subject, in the execution of the laws; and that it should be made manifest, to the conscience of him who is rewarded or punished, what he is rewarded or punished for, and the ground on which the Judge assigns such a retribution; and, if he see others punished or acquitted, that the ground of it should be manifested to him, that he may see the justice of it. That there should be some judicial proceeding in which that should take place, seems absolutely necessary, in order to a proper manifestation of the grounds of the subject's reward or punishment, and a display of the justice of his judge to his own conscience; which must be, if the subject be dealt with as a rational moral agent.
§ 2. Hence it is of necessity, that every one of mankind must be the subject of such a dispensation of God towards him, which may fitly be called an appearing before the judg ment-seat of God. And it is most reasonable to suppose, that this judicial proceeding will not be secret; that each individual will not be judged so, that the transaction with respect to him will be out of the sight and knowledge of all others; but that truth and righteousness will be made visibly to take place, after a prevalence of wrong, wickedness, and confusion, in the violations of a divine law, which was public, and the law of their union and regulation in society: many of those violations are, of course, visible to others, and others are concerned in them, either in being united in the wickedness, and accessary to it, or a party concerned in suffering the injury done by that wickedness.
§ 3. Reasonable creatures are the eye of the world; they are capable of beholding the beauty and excellency of the Creator's workmanship, and those displays of himself, which he has made in his works; and, therefore, it is requisite, that the beauty and excellency of the world, as God hath constituted t, should not be hid or kept secret. But the beauty of God's constitution of the world, consists mainly, without doubt, in the intelligent part of the world, which is the head and end of all the rest, et instar omnium. But the beauty and order of God's constitution of this, consists chiefly in his moral regulation of it. Now, therefore, since God has made the beauty and regularity of the natural world, so publicly visible to all; it is much more requisite, that the moral beauty and regularity of his disposals in the intelligent world, should be publicly visible. For the beauty of God's works, consists a thousand times more in this, than in the other. It is reasonable to suppose, that these will be as publicly visible as the brightness and beautiful order and motions of the heavenly bodies, and the
regular successions of the various seasons of the year, and the beauties of nature in the air, and on the face of the earth. The moral deformity and confusion of the world, is most public; it stands forth continually in view through all ages. It is, therefore, fit, that the rectifying of this deformity and disorder, and the bringing of light out of darkness, should also be made. publicly visible to those creatures, that are made to be the eye of the creation, to behold its beauty, and the glory of the Creator in it. God has given man a nature, which, if it be under the influence of true virtue, desires, above all things, to behold this kind of order and beauty. When man sees a great and horrid crime committed, as some nefarious act of injustice, cruelty, &c., the nature of the reasonable creature has something in it, which desires and makes it requisite, that he should see justice done, and right take place, with respect to such an act. The mind, or heart, as it were, fails in such a case, if it neither sees this, nor hopes to see it.
§ 4. If it be requisite that judgment should be public, and that many should stand together before the judgment-seat; on the same account, it will appear most reasonable to suppose. that the whole world should appear together in one great assembly, before the judgment-seat. The whole world is one commonwealth and kingdom, all made of one blood, all under one moral head, one law, and one government; and all parts of it are joined in communication one with another. All are sinners, and yet God appears placable to all, &c. All dwell in one habitation, viz. this earth, under the same roof of the visible heavens, having the same sun to enlighten them, &c. Besides, many of the causes and controversies to be decided by the supreme Judge of the world, are of the most public nature; as causes between princes and heads of great kingdoms and monarchies, and their people; and causes between one nation and another. Yea, there are many causes which the supreme Judge must bring to an issue, wherein the greater part of the world is concerned. And when the cause and controversy between these two is judged, it is requisite that both parties should appear together before the judgment-scat. The Roman emperors had to do with other nations that were without the limits of the empire, to the utmost ends of the earth; as with the Scythians, the Persians, the Arabians, the Indians, the Chinese, the Germans, Cimbrians, and Africans. So that it is requisite when they appear to be judged, that not only the people of the Roman empire should appear with them, but also those other nations. Thus all the nations of Europe have dealings one with another continually; and these European nations have some dealings with almost all other nations upon earth, in Asia, Africa, and America.
§ 5. It is therefore necessary, that all nations should be gathered together before the judgment-seat of the supreme Lawgiver and Judge, that he may determine between them, and settle all things by his wise, righteous, and infallible decision. And many of the good and evil acts that are done, though the world is not properly concerned in them as a party interested, yet are public through the world. They are done in the sight of the world, and greatly draw the attention of mankind. It is fit, therefore, that they should be as publicly judged. And, it is to be observed, that the longer the world stands, the more and more communication have the different parts of it together. So that, at the end of the world, there probably will be the highest reason, in this respect, that all nations that shall then be found upon the earth, should be called together before the judgment-seat of God.
As it is requisite, that all who dwell on the face of the earth at the same time, should appear together before the judgment-seat; so it is also requisite, that all generations that have succeeded one another, appear together. Many of the moral acts, both good and bad, not only are public in this respect, that they are known over great part of the face of the earth, in or near the time of them but also they are made public to all the following generations, by tradition and history. And if the actions of one generation be not visible to all, yet the actions of one generation are very visible to the generation immediately following, and theirs to the next; and so all, in this sense, are very visible one to another. And as all nations of the world are morally concerned one with another, though not so as each one immediately concerned with every other nation; yet all are mutually concerned by concatenation.—One_nation is concerned with the next, and that with the next, and so on so that there is need that all such should appear together to be judged.
§ 7. All generations of men from the beginning to the end of the world, are morally concerned one with another. The first generation is concerned with the next, and that with the next, and so on to the end of the world. Therefore it is requisite, that all should appear together to be judged. Parents may injure their children, and children may injure their parents; and so they are two parties in one cause, which must be decided by the supreme Judge. Therefore, it is needful, that they, as parties, should appear together, when their cause is judged. Jarents and children, or a younger generation and an older, may be accessary to each other's crimes, or united in each other's virtuous deeds; and therefore it is requisite that they should be judged together. Yea, the present generation may become accessary to an injury committed by their ancestors ages ago.
For, in many things, they stand in the stead of those ancestors, and act for them and have power to continue the injury, or to remove it.
§ 8. Posterity is concerned in the actions of their ancestors or predecessors, in families, nations, and most communities of men, as standing in some respect in their stead. And some particular persons may injure, not only a great part of the world contemporary with them, but may injure and undo all future generations of many individuals, families, or larger communities. So that men who live now, may have an action against those who lived a thousand years ago: or there may be a cause which needs to be decided by the Judge of the world, between some of the present generation, and some who lived a thousand years ago. Princes who, by rapine and cruelty, ruin nations, are answerable for the poverty, slavery, and misery of the posterity of those nations. So, as to those who broach and established opinions and principles, which tend to the overthrow of virtue, and propagation of vice, and are contrary to the common rights and privileges of mankind. Thus, Mahomet has injured all succeeding posterity, and is answerable, at least in a degree, for the ruin of the virtue of his followers in many respects, and for the rapine, violence, and terrible devastations which his followers have been guilty of toward the nations of the world, and to which they have been instigated by the principles which he taught them. And, whoever they were, who first drew away men from the true religion, and introduced and established idolatry, they have injured all nations that have to this day partaken of the infection.
§ 9. In like manner, persons, by their virtue, may be great benefactors to mankind, through all succeeding generations. Without doubt, the apostle Paul, and others who assisted him, and following generations, may properly become the subjects of a judicial proceeding, with respect to that great religious change and revolution in the nations subject to the Roman empire, in abolishing Heathenish idolatry, and setting up Christianity in the room of it.
§ 10. The end of the divine judgment is the manifestation of the divine justice; and how fit is it, that the justice of the universal and supreme Head and Judge of all mankind, in governing his kingdom, should be most publicly manifested, and exhibited to his whole kingdom! This doctrine of the day of judgment, exceedingly becomes the universal moral Head of the world, who rules through all generations.
§ 11. If there shall ever come a time, wherein the Lawgiver and Judge of the world will publicly regulate the moral state of all generations, the end of the world, when there shall be a final period to all farther probation, seems to be a proper time for it. If ever, by divine wisdom and righteousness, there be
brought about a righteous, holy, and glorious issue of the confused state of the world, it will be, when this world shall have come to an end. As the proper time for judging a particular person, is, when the probationary state of that person is at an end; so the proper time for the public judgment of the world, is, when the probationary world comes to an end.
§ 12. There is all reason to think, that the wicked will hereafter be punished together, having a place of punishment assigned for them, where they shall suffer divine vengeance in sight of one another and that the righteous will also be rewarded together. If so, it is most requisite that their judgment should be together; that they may understand the ground and reason of that punishment, and of that reward, which they shall see in cach other.
§ 13. It is most agreeable to reason, that there is a future state of rewards and punishments, wherein God will reward and make happy good men, and make wicked men miserable. And if there be a future state of happiness to God's favourites, it is rational to suppose, that this should be ETERNAL: because, otherwise, God's greatest favourites, to whom he gives the greatest rewards in another world, would, in one respect, have most to torment them; to wit, the dreadful and eternal end of that sweet happiness. The sweeter and more happy life is, the more terrible are death and the thoughts and expectations of it. It is not likely that God would add such a sting to the sweetest enjoyments and rewards of his greatest favourites. It is rational, therefore, to suppose, that the life he gives them after death, is life eternal; life that is not to come to an end by another worse death, consisting not only in the destruction of the body, but the abolition of the soul. God has not made men like the brutes, who cannot contemplate futurity, and therefore, have no allay to present enjoyment by the prospect of an end by death. And if it be so, that there be an eternal state of happiness in another world, set before us to be sought after: then how rational are the Christian doctrines and precepts, of placing our affections on heavenly objects; of weanedness from the world; of behaving as pilgrims and strangers on the earth; of not laying up treasures on the earth, but in heaven; of selling all for the kingdom of heaven; of not looking at the things which are seen, which are temporal, but at the things which are not seen, which are eternal! Hence, also, the reasonableness of the Christian precepts of patience under sufferings, seeing these afflictions are but for a moment, in comparison with the duration of the future weight of glory.
§14. The doctrine of the gospel concerning an INVISI BLE WORLD, to which good men are to be transferred, and where they are to have their inheritance and fixed abode, is