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our existence! If the view be retrospective, it surveys time and its concerns brought to an end, the present system completed ; if it turn to the scene in prospect, then no end can be seen of all that may be bright or gloomy. Thus it will be a day distinguished from all other days, by its peculiar position and solemnities.
2. As it will be the period when God will display the effects of his probationary dispensations, the worth of mercy will then particularly appear. Such effects will be strictly discriminative of character and condition. Events will have reached their issues ; moral consequences will be brought together in vast accumulation, and will bear with all their weight upon the mind. Fruits will be reaped in kind and in degree, according to what we have sown. And while these effects will be so concentrated at that day, they will also be looked upon in their character of perpetuity. We shall then contemplate things which will not fade away, nor give place to change, but which will endure long as the soul shall live.
We can illustrate by taking a few représentations from ordinary life. Seed time and other preparations, which come before the season of harvest, have their importance; but how do we estimate the one by its connexion with the other, and think of the final consequences which the latter season involves. If there be early changes and disappointments, still hope comes in to cheer by pourtraying the future as better than the past, and “he who sows in tears may reap in joy." But when the time of harvest comes, fraught with all the effects of past endeavours, how joyful if the gain of the year's labor be realized! how dejecting if no fruit for the garner be found! So when a country prepares for its defence against the attack of a powerful foe, the days employed in collecting and marshalling troops and in arranging things to the order of battle; these days will have their anxieties and forebodings as well as hopes; but O! the momentous importance which will gather into that day which will decide for victory or defeat. In like manner, how does the solemnity of the administration of human justice clothe itself with terror on the day of assize, when the force and sanction of the law appear in their most searching and decisive application. This is the day to evince the need of mercy, to make its worth appear, seeing it combines all the importance of the prisoner's apprehension and confinement and future destiny.
It is thus, on the grander scale of man's immortal interests, that the day of judgment will show the unspeakable importance of divine mercy, for it will be the season fraught with the effects of Christ's mediatorial administration. Now, under a dispensation of forbearance, mercy is objectively exercised towards all men. The most wicked receive many bounties, and have within reach, wherever the gospel is known, a rich plenitude of means adapted to secure their eternal salvation. “ His sun shines upon the just and the unjust ;" while the word of his grace exhorts and invites that repentance and faith may be produced in the soul. True christians are not entirely freed from sufferings, nor are the ungodly driven from all their pleasures. But that day will discriminate, and through the exercise of mercy to a glorious consummation, his faithful servants will be free from every sin and every sorrow. At the same time his enemies will be destroyed, judgment will no longer be suspended over their heads; it will be executed in
dreadful effect. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."
On these accounts, that day is often noticed in scripture, as setting forth the greatness of the motives to belief in the gospel; which directs attention to that coming period, because results are to be seen as final, and, therefore in their most imposing and powerful form: placing all things under contribution to illustrate the grandeur of its character. A man may take restricted views of present dealings as they are mixed with judgment and mercy, and say to his soul “Take thine ease," but should he follow the divine dispensations to their results, he dreads the approaching day. Felix trembled when Paul preached to him of sobriety, and righteousness, and judgment to come. Accordingly inspired writers earnestly spake of the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust; of the gathering of all men together ; of the solemn account they must give; of their separation one from another, according to character; of the sentence which the judge will pronounce upon them respectively ; and of the execution of the sentence in their appointed destinies, because all these circumstances declare it to be a day full of decisive effects, and therefore, presenting motives which should now be realized and devoutly regarded. “ Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon you un. awares." This exhortation proceeds upon the principle that it is of highest importance so to live as to secure the benefits of mercy at the final day.
3. As it will be the period when the Lord will reward his servants for all they have done in his name, the Apostle could entreat mercy for his friend at that day. The gifts of mercy to those who faithfully engage in their divine Master's service are often called a reward ; a representation of the case calculated to quicken the heart; for, though it does not make personal desert the measure of hope, yet it gives much importance to dil. igence and zeal. Hence it is said, “ Giving all diligence, add to your faith knowledge, &c. and so an abundant entrance shall be ministered unto you into the everlasting kingdom and joy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
In this life the heroic deeds of Christian duty are to be performed in the faith of a testimony leading to the expectation of future glory: and he who perseveres will ultimately find his faith to end in the beatific vision of heaven. Our blessed Lord himself, when speaking of the kind services done to his people, looked to the day of judgment as the period when the blessings will be fully enjoyed. “ Whoso giveth but a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall by no means lose his reward." The view which Paul took of his own case, is similar. He looked for the prize along the course of his diligence and fidelity in serving his Lord. “ I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also, that love his appearing." No doubt, with this hope, he prayed for the crowning and lasting honors of his friend Onesiphorus. As scripture unfolds such a prospect, it admits the prayer of faith. It is asking agreeably to the will of God. And what good does it not include? The mercy which the Lord will then display towards believing penitents, will appear in its fulness and extent. It will not only rescue from deserved penalties ; it will also enrich with glory, honor, and immortality. So grand are the means of salvation which grace has employed in the advent and sacrifice of the Son of God, that it is no wonder on such a foundation a superstructure should be raised so high! “ Not as the offence so also is the free gift!” “ Where sin abounded grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
4. Itis also to be observed, that the importance of an interest in divine mercy at that day, appears in the fact, that if it be not then enjoyed, the hope of it can be cherished no more. As it is the period when things arrive at their crisis ; when means reach their ends ; when causes produce their effects; so it is distinctively marked by final decision. Beyond it the present restorative system will not extend. Till the dead are raised for judgment, and death the last enemy is destroyed, Christ must hold his mediatorial reign. But, " then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” Such is the period referred to in the text; beyond it no gospel invitation will be published; no thione of grace will be erected ; no pardon will be dispensed! Christ enforced the inprovement of presentopportunites, because the neglect of them would prove eternally ruinous. “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will