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life, to decline from the ways of the destroyer, in which, perhaps, thou hast unhappily wandered, and incline to the paths of wisdom and righteousness, and walk therein before him all the days of thy life. And when the work shall be finished, for which God sent thee into the world, even the work of thy salvation, thou wilt perceive, that to depart and to be with Christ, is far better, than to live here in possession of all that the world can give thee. Thou shalt go out with joy, and be led forth with peace by angels, who shall convey and welcome thy spirit to the regions of the living, to the bosoms of our holy fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whence sorrow, grief, and lamentation are banished away, where the light of God's countenance visits and shines continually. And when the trumpet shall sound, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail, thou shalt lift up thy voice and sing for the majesty and glory of thy triumphant Lord, and call to the heavens and the earth to bear thee company—“Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; let the sea make a noise, and all that is therein; let the field be joyful, and all that is in it; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord; for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth, and with righteousness to judge the world, and the people with his truth. He which testifieth these things, saith, Surely, I come quickly, Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
By the Rev. JAMES HALDANE STEWART, A. M.
MATTHEW xxv. 31–33. When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,
then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left.
Many have undertaken to prove the reasonableness of a future judgment from natural religion—and have well done in so doing; for these proofs leave the infidel without excuse;—but when we would use the argument which ought most to impress the mind, we would draw it simply from the word of God: that “God in these last days has spoken to us by his Son;" and that he, who proved that he was the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead, has in the clearest and plainest language declared to us that there is a day coming when he will judge the world. We know not a higher style of argument than this, That God has spoken it. If this be not accredited, nothing will be. As our Lord declared, “ If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." If a man will not receive the testimony of God, who can expect that human reason. ing will succeed? I will not, therefore, occupy your time with proving the truth which the Son of God has made as clear as the day; but proceed to consider some of the points revealed to us in the description of the day of judgment, of which my texts forms a part.
We may notice first, THE MARKED SEPARATION OF PERSONS which there will be in that day. 66 When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with bim, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another as a
shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, and the goats on the left."
It is observable here that every individual comes under the eye of the Judge, who, as the Omniscient God, is acquainted with every thought of our minds, every word of our lips, and every action of our lives. Nothing is hidden from him. He searches the reigns and
. tries the heart; sees through the thickest covering, and brings to light the most secret councils. 66 The darkness hideth not from thee, but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." All past events are equally present to him: he has his book ‘of remembrance. His eye looks through eternity past as well as eternity to come. He distinguishes each character before him, with the same facility that a shepherd divides his flock; and thus knowing them, he separates them one from the other. At present, for wise and important reasons, all are mixed in one gen
Not only in the same city, or in the same Church, but even in the same family, there will be persons of the most opposite principles. But this is only during the present season:
66 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will divide the sheep from the goats." We, my friends, who are sitting in one mixed assembly, will each take his own place.
In this separation, there is this remarkable circumstance, that there are only two classes, and that each individual falls under one or other of these divisions. There is no neutral character in that day.
At present, there are some persons who desire to steer a middle course: to take as much of religion as will drown the accusing voice of conscience, and as much of the world as will, in their opinion, proinote their present enjoyment. They are like the Laodiceans: “they are neither hot nor cold." They are not the advocates of religion. They are for composing the minds of men; lulling them into indifference, under the idea that all religions are alike: or, if they are convinced of the leading truths of the Gospel, they profess them not, “ for they love the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Hence they are always compromising with the world; always wishing to avoid every statement that may be unpleasant to the earthly mind. But in that day, none of these middle characters are to be found: those who are not on the right hand, are placed on the left.
How important is this separation, when we connect it with the declaration of our Lord! “Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his father, with the holy angels.” If we now decline to take our station among the followers of Christ, we cannot expect to be placed among them at that day.
How important, also, in another view! that this two-fold separation will unite in one society those who, whilst they are similar in their ruling principle-self-love, as opposed to the love of Godare quite different in their peculiar dispositions. This will be a source of overwhelming misery to those on the left hand. To illustrate this, you may recollect that some of those unhappy persons who were tried for blasphemy, or circulating blasphemous publications, grievously complained of their having been confined with common felons: they considered themselves as men of a liberal mind, and thought they were much degraded by being associated with robbers and other similar offenders. If this was a distress what will it be for the high-minded infidel, the man who cannot brook to bow his knee to the Son of God; or for the man of honor, as he is called, who is too proud to suffer the slightest indignity-what will it be for such personages to be classed in one company with the profligate, or the covetous, and other characters equally low in their pursuits? Or, what will it be for her who, “ living without God in the world,” has been habituated to all the refinements of fashionable life, to be associated with those who, if not grossly immoral, are quite devoid of every thing like taste or propriety of conduct? And yet such will be the case in this great day. There are only two divisions: the sheep are placed on the right hand, the goats on the left.
A second point, which merits particular observation, is THE RULE OF JUDGMENT, or the principle upon which the sentence is pronounced; which is this, Faith showing itself by love to the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark the words: “Then shall the king say to them on his right hand, Comc, 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; I was a stranger, and ye took me in,-naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me..... Then shall he say to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, ard ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink,” &c.
Here you notice, that the judgment is pronounced upon acts of love, said to be shown to the Lord Jesus Christ: “I was sick, and ye visited me,” &c. To understand the principle of this decision, it is essential to bear in mind the state of man; which is this: God has placed all mankind under his holy and just law, saying, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind,
66 with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Do this, and live; transgress, and die.
. This law, either in thought, word, or deed, every one has broken: so that, should our works, abstractly considered, be the rule of judgment; or if the issue to be tried was, whether we had kept the law or broken the law; not one would escape condemnation; since though in different degrees, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” When we were in this helpless state, our heavenly Father, in the riches of his grace and free mercy, sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world! that, through the merits of his atoning sacrifice and perfect righteousness, we might be saved, declaring that “God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The trial, therefore, at the great day, is, whether faith bas existed; since this, according to the plan of mercy revealed in the Gospel, secures salvation. “Go, and preach the Gospel to every creature: he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.” 66 What shall I do to be saved ?.... Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
The existence of the principle of faith is proved by love to the Saviour. Not for the merit of love; for, in the article of justification, faith alone is needful; but to show that it is genuine, for in this way it manifests itself. For faith is not a name; it is a reality: it is an operative principle, the most powerful in its operation of any principle which enters the human heart. As well may you suppose that a man of an active mind can live without thought, as a man of real faith, live without a demonstration of it. It will be visible in the life, like fruit on a tree in its proper season. The judge therefore mentions a variety of acts, which show this Divine principle: “For I was sick, and ye visited me," &c.