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that they spared no pains, and vigilantly used every means of crucifying their evil propensities, and bridling their appetites and passions.
The discoveries of that solemn day will likewise relate to men's words. "Every idle word that men shall speak, shall be given an account of at the day of judgment: for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Matt. xii. 34-37. Our words must indeed be known in some measure to others: but men are commonly very careful to whom they declare their unreserved sentiments; and would often be extremely disconcerted, if their discourse in private circles, among the select companions of their vices, should be disclosed to those, with whom they desire to maintain another kind of character. But the profane, blasphemous, atheistical, infidel, abominable speeches, which men vent in their secret cabals; with all the falsehoods, slanders, boastings, bitterness, imprecations, and horrid language, which on some occasions they utter, during the whole course of their lives, will be produced against them before the assembled world. "For the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison; it sets on fire the whole course of nature, and is set on fire of hell.” James iii. 5-10. The secret influence of evil conversation, corrupts men's principles and morals, and wounds their reputations; it ruins domestic and relative comfort, and disseminates impiety, infidelity, heresy, profligacy, enmity, discord, and confusion, through neighbourhoods, cities, and nations. Yet no discovery can be made of such private mischiefs, except by the omnipresent and omniscient Judge. It would be tedious to insist particularly, on the flatteries, deceptions, false colourings, seductions, and other artifices, by which wicked men carry on their base designs. These, however, are hidden things of darkness, which will be brought to light when the Lord shall come. If, then, all our words without exception, whether spoken openly, or among our select companions, shall be thus made known at the great decisive day, could nothing else be produced against us, we must surely feel that this alone would overwhelm us with confusion. The story is well known, of the person who invited a company of his friends, that were accustomed to take the Lord's name in vain, and contrived to have all their discourse taken down and read to them. Now if they could not endure to hear the words repeated, which they had spoken during a few hours; how shall we bear to have all that we have uttered, through a long course of years, brought forth as evidence against us at the tribunal of God?-but the hour is coming when this will actually be the case: when not a single irreverent mention of the Creator's sacred name; not one objection to his law, government, or gospel; not one sarcasm or jest upon his cause or worshippers, shall be overlooked! when every word "spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed on the house tops!" Where then will the wicked and ungodly appear? How shall any of us endure that scrutiny; unless we have fled for refuge to the hope of the gospel, and all our sins have been buried in the depths of the sea?
But words of another kind shall be made known when the Lord shall come. The servants of God love to associate together, and many censure them for it but what saith the Scripture? "They that feared the Lord, spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name; and they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not." Mal. iii. 16-18. When the "books shall be opened," the social piety, gratitude, and charity of true Christians will be brought to light. Their discourse about the perfections, ways, and works of God; the best methods of promoting his glory, the peace of the church, and the benefit of mankind: their mutual warnings, exhortations, counsels, and encouragements; their spiritual, affectionate, and animating
conversation; and all the words which the Lord delighted to hear, will be made known before men and angels. And when these shall be contrasted with the filthy, impious, and frivolous speeches of the wicked; it may easily be conceived, how men's real characters will be discriminated, and in what sense by their words they will be justified or condemned."
The thoughts also of every heart shall be disclosed. Men generally imagine, that these at least, are free and subject to no controul; so that they allow their memory and imagination, to excite and feed corrupt affections; representing to themselves, with all the ingenuity of invention, scenes that accord to their predominant propensities: and by these speculative indulgences they try to make themselves amends for those restrictions, which regard to reputation, interest, or health may impose.—But God especially requires purity of heart, and truth in the inward parts, by which real religion is distinguished from hypocrisy. "Ye fools," says our Lord to some of these whited sepulchres, " did not he that made that which is without, make that which is within also? Thou blind Pharisee, first cleanse that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also.” Matt. xxiii. 25-28. Luke xi. 39, 40. How would it astonish us, if we could see all that passes in the thoughts of many very virtuous persons, during a single day! And as to the imaginations of the profligate; they are the very residence of evil spirits, in which they forge all manner of abominable crimes, previous to the actual commission of them. Instead therefore of men's hearts being better than their lives, as self-flattery often suggests, they are uniformly far worse for every sinful word and action was at first an evil thought and desire; but ten thousand evil thoughts and desires, conceived and cherished in the heart, proceed no further; because men have not opportunity, courage, or ability to realize them in practice..
Every man, however, must judge for himself in this matter: but let us ask ourselves, whether we should feel comfortable, at the idea of all our secret thoughts being disclosed, I do not say to the whole world, but to our intimate friends and acquaintance?-Yet they must all be disclosed to men and angels, at the great day of righteous retribution !—" Let then the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts:" for unless evil thoughts are excluded or opposed, every apparent reformation must be hypocritical. "O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness, how long shall vain thoughts lodge within thee?" Peter seems even to intimate a doubt, whether the thought of Simon Magus's heart did not constitute the unpardonable sin; " pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." Jer. iv. 14. Acts viii. 20-24. This is therefore a matter of the greatest importance: and the discovery of those secret thoughts, which no human eye could reach, and which were scarcely ever suspected, will exceedingly help to discriminate characters at the great day. Nay, the countless multitude of vile imaginations and desires, which are the spontaneous production of our depraved nature, will greatly illustrate the truth and justice of God, in all his declarations and decisions, concerning the workers of iniquity.
On the other hand, the thoughts of believers also will be made known, when the Lord shall come. Then it will appear, that they abhorred, watched against, and laboured to exclude every evil imagination, and to repress all sinful desires that they humbly mourned over the vain-glorious, envious, impatient, and peevish emotions of their hearts; and that they endeavoured to employ their minds, during their retired hours, in holy contemplations.It will then be known how much their thoughts were occupied, in considering by what means they might best glorify God, and serve their generation; and how many desires they felt, and plans they formed, which they could not accomplish. Their affectionate longings after the salvation of their relatives, neighbours, and persecutors: and the anguish of heart they felt on their account, even when censured as severe and harsh in reproving and warning them, will be brought to light; with all other pious, holy, and be
nevolent thoughts and desires: and these discoveries will evidence them to have been the genuine followers of the holy Jesus.
We must even go further still in this matter: the state of every man's heart, and the motives of his actions will then be fully disclosed. The admired morality of numbers will then be demonstrated to have been only a modification of self-love; without any real regard to the authority or glory of God. The Pharisee's prayers, fasting, and almsgiving will be shown to have resulted solely from pride and ostentation. Many will be proved to have preached the gospel from envy and strife, from avarice or ambition; and to have professed it, as a step to emolument or distinction.-In short every mask will then be taken off; many admired characters will appear completely odious and contemptible; and "the things which have been highly esteemed among men" will appear to have been "abomination in the sight of God." Need I say, how tremendous this must be to dissemblers of every description, who now act a plausible part, and exhibit on the stage of the world in an assumed character?
But on the other hand, the humility, gratitude, zealous love, and holy affections of true believers will be made manifest to the universe. The pure motives of those actions, which were censured or calumniated, will be demonstrated: every accusation will be silenced, all misapprehensions removed; and it will be undeniably evident, that from the time when they made an explicit profession of the gospel, their repentance, faith, love, and habitual conduct were answerable to that profession.-We proceed therefore,
III. To advert to the consequences of these discoveries.
By them the immense difference of character between the righteous and the wicked, will be undeniably manifested. In this world, numbers find it convenient to varnish over their crimes, to palliate or excuse many parts of their conduct, and to cast others, as it were, into the back ground, where they are little observed; while, regardless of their hearts, they have leisure to place their counterfeit virtues in a conspicuous light, and to make them appear immensely better than they really are.-On the contrary, the believer has many infirmities, and is engaged in a sharp conflict with "the sin that dwelleth in him," and with the temptations of Satan. The world rigorously scrutinizes his conduct; and the Lord tries his faith and grace, as silver is tried in the furnace. He is so afraid of hypocrisy and ostentation, that he carefully conceals many things which might exalt his character, and scrupulously shuns the appearance of good before men, when he but suspects that there is not the reality of it in the sight of God. 2 Cor. xii. 6. On these and other accounts, the apparent difference betwixt true Christians, and specious hypocrites or moralists, bears no proportion to the degree in which their characters do really differ. But the discoveries of the great day will perfectly distinguish them, and all the world will "discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not."
When the Lord shall thus "bring to light the hidden things of darkness," every mouth will be "stopped, and all the world will become guilty before God; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God." Rom. iii. 19, 20. The discoveries of the great decisive day will completely elucidate this fundamental doctrine of Christianity, which is now so generally misunderstood or opposed: for the whole of men's thoughts, words, and works, will appear so contrary to the holy precepts of God, or so far short of their spiritual perfection, that all must then feel the force of David's words, "If thou, Lord, shalt mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?" As therefore "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," all must fall under condemnation, who are not interested in the salvation of the gospel.
But it may be asked, in what sense then will every man be judged according to his works? This shall be reserved for the subject of a separate dis
course: and it may suffice to answer at present, that all avowed unbelievers, however distinguished, will be judged and condemned for the sins they have committed; and all professed believers will be judged according to their works, as proving, or disproving the sincerity of their profession.
The discoveries of this awful day will likewise silence all the blasphemies which are continually uttered against the justice of God in the condemnation of the wicked. It is on this account called "the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." While men conceal or palliate by far the greatest and worst part of their conduct, they may argue plausibly against the denunciations of Scripture; but when the whole of their character and conduct shall be openly exhibited, and all the world shall know every thing respecting them which is now seen by the heart-searching Judge alone; then the justice of the tremendous sentence will be universally acknowledged; the friends of God will perceive and adore his glory in this part of his moral government; and the wicked shall be silent in darkness and despair, when bid to "depart accursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
Far be it from us to suppose, that the merciful Saviour, who is TRUTH itself, would use such language on this occasion, if not really applicable to the case! He does not allow us to speak deceitfully for him; and will he utter fallacious words himself?-Yet we cannot hear of eternal punishment, unquenchable fire, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, a worm that never dieth, and the place prepared for the devil and his angels, without feeling our hearts tremble, and revolt against the description.-How unspeakably dreadful then will be the accomplishment? when the Lord, to stop the sinner's mouth, by a discovery of his crimes, shall say, with stern indignation," these things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself, but I will reprove thee and set them in order before thine eyes!-Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver." Psal. 1. 21, 22. Cease then, poor sinner, to object and dispute; and make haste to flee from the wrath to come, and to seek refuge in the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A more pleasing subject, however, is before us, while we contemplate the redeemed of the Lord, saved by his grace, washed from their sins in the Saviour's atoning blood, completely justified, absolved from every charge, and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Then death will be swallowed up in victory; and raptures inexpressible will commence a felicity, still to be increased, with the enlargement of their capacities, through the countless ages of eternity. But I must leave it to your own minds, brethren, to form some conception of the opposite sensations which will delight or agonize every heart, when the wicked" shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal."
"And then shall every man have praise of God." Then every humble believer, according to his measure of faith and grace, will be honoured with the commendation of his condescending Lord, for those services which the world condemned, and which perhaps his brethren undervalued or censured. To be accosted by the Judge of the world, in these most gracious terms, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," will form an adequate gratification to the noblest ambition of which the rational nature is capable. Seeking for this glory, honour, and immortality, let us here be indifferent to all human applauses or contemptuous reproaches. This is the honour that cometh from God only, and is reserved for all his saints; when no more danger shall remain of their being exalted above measure, or sacrilegiously ascribing any thing to themselves: but when, on the contrary, they will cast their crowns before the throne, and return all to the bounteous Giver, in endless songs of adoring praise. Let us not faint then, on account of our trials and difficulties; for "our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are working for us, a far more exceeding and eternal "weight of glory.”
Let us also remember the caution, "judge nothing before the time." Our duty often requires us to form some judgment of men's characters and actions but in all other respects, our business is with ourselves and the Lord, and not with our fellow-servants. And the more diligent we are to be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless, the less time and thought we shall have to spare, for censuring and condemning the conduct, or suspecting the motives of other men.
But do you, my friends, really believe these things? and are you preparing to meet your Judge? I fear, the actions, conversation, and spirit of numbers awfully prove the contrary. Still, however, the Lord waits to be gracious: flee then to him as a Saviour, without longer delay, who will speedily come to be your Judge. You who profess the gospel, be advised and persuaded to examine yourselves whether you be in the faith: look well to it that your evidences of conversion are clear and decisive; for that day, of which we speak, will detect multitudes of self-deceivers, as well as unmask many artful hypocrites. And if you are conscious of following the Lord with an upright heart, take heed that you do not slacken your diligence, or yield to unwatchfulness: "Let your loins be girded and your lights burning and be yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord :" "for blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve him." Luke xii. 35-38. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord: for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
FINAL RETRIBUTION OF BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS.
ROMANS, 11. 5—9.
Who will render to every man according to his deeds; to them, who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.
IN meditating on the solemnities, discoveries, and consequences of that great decisive day, when the Lord shall come to be our Judge; we were obliged to pass over in a general manner, several important particulars relative to the subject and especially we reserved for a separate discourse, the consideration of the manner in which all men will be judged according to their works, and receive according to what they have done, whether it be good or evil. The present will therefore be an appendix to the preceding discourse, as intended to illustrate its interesting truths, and to render them more perspicuous and impressive. In the passage before us, the apostle does not undertake to decide a controverted point of doctrine, to state the method of a sinner's justification; or to account for that difference of character which actually subsists among the descendants of fallen Adam. These subjects he hath fully discussed in other parts of his writings: but here he takes occasion from his subject to shew, that the opposite conduct of the righteous and the wicked will terminate in future happiness or misery. He considers some Сс