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SERM. was, to recover mankind out of the snare of the devil; to
restore them to the favour of God, which they had lost ; to put them into a condition of attaining eternal happiness ;
to give them such laws and rules as should certainly bring (John 3. 17; them to heaven if they would be governed by them. “I 12. 47.]
came not,” saith He,“ to condemn the world, but to save the world.”
But His second coming will be, to take an account how men have improved under these advantages, and accordingly to pass judgment upon them. This He has given us to understand, by the similitude of a man travelling into a far country, who, calling his servants, gave every one talents according to their abilities, and at his return called them all to an account. Such as had been careful and diligent according to their power, he rewarded much above what they deserved or expected, and such as had either despised his authority or had been careless of their duty, he punished most severely.
From which it appears, that at present we are in a state of trial; that we may be for ever happy, if it is not our own fault; and that we shall be for ever miserable, if we neglect this day of grace; for when the time of trial, which God shall
have made of all men, is over, then cometh the judgment; by Matt.25.46. which judgment our Lord Christ assures us, “the wicked
shall go into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.”
So that if any thing, either the fear of hell-torments, or the hopes of heaven and happiness, will make people serious and concerned for their souls' eternal welfare, there can be no subject more proper to awaken us, than this of Christ's second coming mentioned in the text :“Behold, I come quickly;
and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according Rom. 2. 7. as his works shall be ;" that is, as St. Paul expresseth it, " To
them, who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good.”
So that you see, Christians, here is a subject of the greatest terror, and the greatest comfort ; terror to such as live in sin,
and know not how soon death and judgment may overtake them ; but comfort to all such as are working out their salvation with fear and trembling; that is, with a concern suitable to the value of their souls, and the account they are to give.
I hope you do not expect I should go about to prove these things; that there will be a day of judgment; and that good men will then be made happy, and wicked men miserable: it is enough, sure, if I shew you, that the Son or God Himself has declared this, in words as plain as can be expressed : “Behold,” saith He, “I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.”
And in the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew, He Himself tells us plainly how He will proceed in that great day; that before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd separateth his sheep from the goats; and that having convinced the one of their good deeds, and the other of their evil deeds, “they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.” So that thus it must be, God having declared it, whether people think of it or not, and though too many never lay these things to heart. But
you will wonder, perhaps, that of so many Christians who profess to believe a judgment and life to come, so few are seriously concerned to provide against that great day. I will shew you the reason, and you will be satisfied it is the true
When a man is over head and ears in debt you cannot speak to him upon a more unwelcome subject than that of settling his accounts ; he had rather think of any thing than of his debts, and of what may be the end of them.
Just thus it is with the generality of Christians. They know very well that they do not live like men who must one day give an account of all their actions, and therefore they do not care of all things to think of that day; they hate the very thoughts of it, as some wretched people have done, who, when they have been under the sentence of death, have made themselves drunk, to keep off the thoughts of death ;
SERM. not that they hoped thereby to escape death, but to be easy
for the present.
And is not this the true reason that most people strive to be in a hurry of business, or pleasures, that they may not think of themselves, or of what may become of them when they die? Yes, most certainly.
But then Christians should seriously consider, that the
decrees of God will stand firm, though they never think of (Jer. 32. them; and that God “will give to every man according to 19.]
his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings,” though all the world should resolve not to lay to heart the dreadful consequences of the judgment of that great day; or, which
as foolish, to put off the thought thereof till it is too late to prepare for it.
But that we may not do so, let us remember what our [Luke 16.] Lord said of the rich man and Lazarus ; that the soul of the
first went directly to a place of misery, as soon as ever it was parted from the body; and that the soul of poor Lazarus was carried by the angels into paradise, called Abraham's bosom: so that you see, Christians, it is not very long before we shall, every soul of us, be in a state of happiness or misery, there to remain until the day of judgment, even as soon as ever death parts our souls from our bodies. After that “ the night cometh, when no man can work." « There is no repentance in the grave.” This life is the DAY OF GRACE, the time of trial. If we live as we should do, during the time God affords us in which to work out our salvation, we are sure to be happy for ever; and if we live in sin, and die without being converted, we are sure to be miserable for ever and ever.
What is it then that people flatter themselves with ? Is it with hopes that God will be more merciful to them than He has declared in His Word? or is it because they hope to come off as well as others? or is it because they do not firmly believe a judgment to come ? Lord help us ! that Christians should so easily deceive themselves to their own ruin !
Suppose people will shut their eyes, and harden their hearts, and will not believe the terrors of the world to come, till they sadly feel them; what do they get by this? Will their unbelief make the truth of God of none effect? Will God change His word, and His purposes, and stop His judgments because sinners do not believe, or do not mind His threatenings?
But they hope God will be merciful to them, after all; and these hopes are apt to make them less fearful of offending, and less careful of their ways.
Pray let us consider how far God has declared that His mercy shall reach.
He knows whereof we are made, and that we have made ourselves liable to His anger; in great mercy, therefore, He sent His own Son to redeem us. He knows we are weak, and that we have many enemies and temptations to struggle with; in great mercy, therefore, He offers grace and assistance to all such as earnestly pray for it. He knows that we are ignorant, and His mercy has given us a rule and a law to walk by; and when we have broke this law (as we are but too apt to do), He will in mercy accept of our sincere repentance.
Besides all this, His mercy has provided a reward of everlasting life for all such as strive to obey Him sincerely, though they should fail in many things. Now, these are all instances of God's great goodness to
But then there are persons to whom God has declared that He will not shew any mercy or favour : even to all such as, having these mercies proposed to them, do yet despise them; who live in sin, and die without repentance and without bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
Hear what St. Paul saith: “Be not deceived,” (that is, 1 Cor. 6. 9. do not hope for God's mercy while you go on to break His commandments ;) "for neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” So that you see, Christians, we must not depend upon mercy, but upon the terms of the Gospel, which are, faith and repentance, and doing works answerable to amendment of life.
And let us not fancy that God cannot be angry, and severely too, with sinners. He hath given us instances that He can and will be so, against such as despise His long-suffering, and goodness, which ought to lead us to repentance. He destroyed the whole world, except eight persons, for their
SERM. wickedness. He destroyed Sodom with fire and brimstone.
He cast off His own people, the Jews, and dispersed them through the world, to be a standing example to mankind, not to provoke the goodness of God at their peril, nor to expect His pardon and favour without striving to deserve them.
But then people are apt to comfort themselves with these thoughts: It will not be worse with me than with the rest of the world. Poor comfort, God knows; and yet, it is to be feared, too many support their spirits with this delusion, and think they need not be more afraid of what may come hereafter, than every body about them. And yet, in this world, nobody cares to be miserable for company, or undone because some desperate people do not care what becomes of them.
All serious people will be wiser than so, and will be awakened by the terrors of our Lord's second coming, to lay hold of the mercy offered them in His first coming, which was to call men to repentance and amendment of life ; that, when our Lord comes again to judge the world in righteousness, (that is, in justice, we may be found in the number of those who shall be thought worthy to escape that frightful sentence : Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”
Now, this should oblige us all to two duties especially ; First, to repent us truly of all our sins past; and secondly, to be very careful of our thoughts, words, and actions, for the time to come.
By a timely repentance we shall be restored to God's favour; and by a wary and a sober life, for the time to come, we shall have the comfort of being assured that our repentance was sincere.
Whoever is not prevailed on to take this method must, all his life long, be subject to bondage; he cannot but be afraid of death, and of that judgment which must follow.
And this all Christians are so well satisfied of, that they could have no satisfaction in this life, but only in hopes of repenting, and being reconciled to God sometime before they die; by which sad delusion, infinite numbers of souls have been lost for ever, and infinite numbers are like to follow them, unless Christians can be persuaded to see the danger of a death-bed repentance.