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dience, and continue but for a time. They readily perform such duties as are creditable, cheap, and easy ; but they refuse to part with Herodias, or to cut off the offending right hand ; they do not mortify constitutional or customary evils, reject unhallowed gain, venture the displeasure of rich and powerful friends, or attend to those things in religion, which would expose them to contempt, reproach and hardship.-Thus they maintain a religious profession, while exempted from peculiar trials; and many pass through life, unsuspected by themselves or others: but “if persecution or tribulation arise because of the word, by and by they are offended.”—On the contrary, they, of whom we now speak, have “ received the good seed into an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience." They are not partial in their religion, but shew themselves the friends of Christ by doing whatsoever he commands them. They have indeed many infirmities, and may fall into sin through inadvertency ; they may even live in some sinful neglect or practice, through ignorance or mistake; but cannot habitually commit known sin. They search out their faults; and as they discover any, repent of, and forsake them. “ Their hearts are sound in the Lord's statutes, and they shall never be ashamed.”
In this course of believing obedience, the disciples of Christ encounter many temptations, struggle with various discouragements, and are exposed to sharp trials. The contempt and hatred of the world, the assaults of the tempter, the peculiarities of their circumstances, dispositions, and habits, and the chastisements of their heavenly Father, combine to try their patience. Perseverance and constanoy, in following the dictates of conscience, expose them to the charge of obstinacy and perverseness, or subject them to heavy losses and difficulties; while inward conflicts, permitted to humble and prove them, sometimes make them ready to faint and despond.-Yet they “ patiently continue in well-doing;" they submit to the will of God under afflictions, meekly bear injuries, wait the appointed time for the fulfilment of the Lord's promises, and persevere in the path of upright obedience. They seek for blessings which cannot be expected in any other way: and are ready to say, “ Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”—Their religion resembles a river, which still continues to flow, though sometimes with a fuller current, and at others with a diminished stream: while that of the hypocrite resembles a land food, now impetuously deluging the fields, and then wholly disappearing. But to those who thus “ patiently continue in well doing,” and to them only, will the righteous Judge at last assign the eternal inheritance. “He that continueth to the end shall be saved.”
We need not enlarge on the reverse of this character. “ To them who are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, the Lord will render indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish ;" yea “ upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” Such persons, instead of believing the gospel, and in humble repentance embracing the promised salvation, contend against it, “ contradicting and blaspheming." They dispute against the strictness of the divine law or justice, and the sentence denounced against transgressors. They oppose their own reasonings against the express testimony of God, in respect of the mysteries of redemption ; and venture to charge him foolishly, as if they were more wise and righteous than He.-Being thus “contentious, they do not obey the truth;" submit to God, repent of sin, believe in Christ, separate from the world, or walk in newness of life. For “ they obey unrighteousness;" sin, in one form or other, has dominion over them; and their unbelief is the effect of a depraved heart and a rebellious will, which it tends reciprocally to confirm and render more desperate. To persons of this character, the righteous Judge will recompense “ indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish ;” not regarding their outward privileges or distinctions, but deciding impartially according to their works: for, “ there is no respect of persons with God. Let us then,
II. Compare this statement with several other important Scriptures, which may serve to elucidate and confirm it.
It is the uniform declaration of the sacred writers, that all men shall be judged according to their works: yet it is equally evident, that faith or unbelief determine a man's state in the sight of God, as justified, or as under condemnation. “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” “ He that believeth not is condemned already: because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Mark xvi. 16. John iii. 18. v. 24. The same instruction is implied in the apostle's vision, “ the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works; and whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev. xx. 12_15.
The prophet having shewn, that the ways of the Lord are equal, was led to state the characters of the righteous, and the wicked ; and then he adds, “ when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive ;--repent and turn from all your transgressions, so iniquity shall not be your ruin." Ezek. xviii. The true penitent therefore will not be condemned, when judged according to his deeds; which he must be if the solemn process should be conducted according to the strictness of the law, without reference to the grace of the gospel, to which all these invitations and promises belong.
The atoning sacrifices of the Mosaic law, which typiñed the redemption of Christ, were offered upon Mount Zion : and David, inquiring who should ascend and worship with acceptance on that holy hill, draws a character which entirely accords with that given of a true believer in the new Testament. Psalm xv. Thus he shews us, which of the professors of true religion, will stand accepted in the day of judgment: but this has nothing to do with such as openly neglect or oppose revealed truth, or refuse the salvation of the gospel.
In perfect harmony with these Scriptures, our Lord describes his true disciples, " whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, my sister, and my mother.” “ Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” Matth. xii. 49, 50. Luke xi. 28. This word or will of God doubtless has peculiar relation to Christ, and the voice from heaven, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:" and a moral or pharisaical decency of conduct most essentially differs from the obedience of faith. “ He that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John v. 10–12. The unbeliever, therefore, whatever his moral character may be, so far from doing the will of God, disobeys his express command, and deliberately affronts his veracity.
Our Lord closed his sermon on the mount with this remarkable passage, “ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils ? and in thy name done many wonderful works ? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not ; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built
his house upon the sand; and the rains descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Matt. vii. 21–27. Ľuke vi. 46-49. This passage evidently refers to the day of judgment; but it mentions none except those who call Christ Lord, come to him, and hear his sayings. His professed disciples therefore are exclusively intended; and living faith is described as distinguishable from dead faith by its holy fruits. Disobedient professors will be condemned as hypocrites, or wicked and slothful servants; but avowed unbelievers as "enemies, who would not have the Son of God to reign over them.” Matt. xxv. 30. Luke xix. 21-27.
But the solemn description of the great decisive day, given us by the Judge himself, is most conclusive on the subject. Matt. xxv. 31-46. In this important scripture, acts of kindness shewn to believers for the sake of Christ, are the only deeds mentioned, as the reason for the rejoicing words addressed to the righteous, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world." And no charge is brought against the wicked, but their omission of such duties, when the sentence is denounced, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels' Yet it will then appear, that the righteous have performed many other good works of divers kinds, and that the wicked have been guilty of numerous other crimes and omissions. Why then did our Lord mention these things exclusively? Doubtless, because he supposed them to constitute the most conclusive evidence of genuine faith, or unbelief. Beneficencè, not springing from love to Christ, nor exercised towards his disciples, his brethren or representatives, cannot be here intended, as many have inconsiderately imagined, for who will say, that an indiscriminate liberality, connected with an ungodly licentious life, will entitle a man to the heavenly inheritance? Or if any should venture on such an assertion, would they also allow, that the want of this beneficence will expose a man to the awful doom here denounced, however free from vice, or adorned with other virtues, his character may have been? Or will any one maintain, that the liberality of infidels to one another, from any motive, answers to our Lord's words, " I was hungry and ye gave me meat ;-for as much as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me?"-Indeed a measure of the same absurdities attaches to every other interpretation of this passage: except that which goes upon the following principles, gathered from the several parts of the Sacred Volume. There is no salvation for sinners, except by the mercy of God through Jesus Christ; no interest in this salvation without faith; no true faith, except that which worketh by love; no love to Christ is genuine which is not accompanied by special love to his disciples; and no love to the brethren is unfeigned, which does not influence a man to alleviate their distresses, supply their wants, and do them good, as he hath opportunity and ability. This love is the fruit of the Spirit: where the Spirit of Christ dwells, all the fruits of the Spirit will be produced and "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his." A detail of particulars would not have suited the majesty of our Lord's description: the most prominent distinguishing feature of believers and unbelievers was selected; and thus an intimation was given of the rule of judgment, sufficiently clear to the humble student of Scripture, though others may mistake or pervert it. In this view of it the whole is obvious, and coincides with other testimonies of the sacred writers. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." 1 John iii. 14. "Seeing ye have purified your hearts though the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren; see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently; being born again-by the word of God:" 1 Peter i. 22, 23. "If a brother or sister be naked, or destitute of daily food, and one of you say depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful for the body, what doth it profit?" "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and
in truth; and hereby we know, that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him." James ii. 15, 16. 1 John iii. 18, 19. So that love of the brethren, shewn in active kindness, is uniformly required as evidence of our faith in Christ, and love to his name.
These reflections elucidate the following Scriptures also, and are confirmed by them." Know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead." "The grace of God that bringeth salvation-teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Titus ii. 11-14.
One most solemn and affecting passage still remains to be considered : "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." 2 Thess. i. 5-12. We are here expressly informed, that at the day of judgment, all will be condemned who have not known God, and obeyed the gospel; but how many persons of moral character and external respectability will be found in that company! No exceptions, however, are intimated; the saints, even those that believe, will alone stand accepted by the Judge; and all else will be punished with everlasting destruction from his presence.
I shall conclude this part of the subject, with the words which Christ spake to his servant John, "Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.-I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city," Rev. xxii. 12-14. But to whom does the title and privilege of the Tree of Life belong? Surely to the true believer, who loves Christ, and keeps his commandments. are my friends," says he, "if ye do whatsoever I command you."
This view of the subject harmonizes the whole Scripture, and reconciles those parts which seem to be contrary to each other: but when this centre of unity is overlooked, men either " go about to establish their own righteousness," or run into Antinomianism. These two extremes are the Scylla and Charybdis, the fatal rock or dreadful whirlpool of our perilous voyage. I have, therefore, endeavoured to mark out the safe passage between them; and may the Holy Spirit guide us at a distance from these and all other dangers, on the right hand and on the left! We proceed then,
III. To state more explicitly, and shew more precisely, the rules of judgment, as delivered in the sacred oracles.
It is most evident, that the Scripture was intended principally for those who bestow pains to understand it; and this obvious reflection illustrates the propriety of the descriptions there given of the great decisive day: for they certainly relate almost exclusively to those who profess the religion of the Bible. We cannot therefore infer any thing from these descriptions, concerning those who have not been favoured with revelation, or have rejected it: though other Scriptures give some light on the subject. The holy law is the unalterable rule of right and wrong, in respect of all men however distinguished; nor is it possible, that God should judge of characters and actions by any other rule; for the law is the exact reflection of his infinite holiness, and he cannot deny himself. He can, however, pardon the guilty, and make allowance for unavoidable disadvantages. They who know not the will of God, and do it not, shall be beaten with few stripes: but they who know and refuse to do his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. Luke xii. 47, 48. It will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and
Gomorrah, than for those who heard the doctrines and saw the miracles of Christ, and did not repent and believe the gospel.
The apostle therefore adds, a few verses after the text, "as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law." They have indeed vio lated the perfect rule of duty: but as they had not the advantage of the written word, they will not be liable to so heavy a condemnation as wicked Jews and Christians: yet, as they acted against the dictates of their own reason and conscience, those remains of the law originally written in the heart, they "will perish without law." For "being a law to themselves," their consciences may indeed excuse some parts of their conduct, but they must condemn others; especially in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ: so that " every mouth will be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God." Rom. iii. 19. All, except idiots, (who scarcely can be thought accountable creatures), know far better than they practice, and might know much more, were not their hearts set against the truth through love of sin. All men must therefore be condemned according to this rule, and the number and aggravation of their crimes, compared with the measure of their advantages, is the standard by which their punishment will be ascertained, by the infinitely righteous Judge.
What the Lord may do in mercy to any of his sinful creatures, it does not become us to inquire, beyond what he hath seen good to reveal: but we have no ground to suppose that any who die without spiritual religion can be happy in another world; and neither Scripture nor history countenance the opinion, that the Lord gives his sanctifying Spirit, where he has not sent some measure of the light of revelation.-We are sure, however, that the state of pagans will be far better than that of wicked Christians so called. While we therefore rejoice in our privileges, we may tremble, lest they should increase our condemnation: and the state of the nations, who still sit in darkness and the shadow of death, should animate our endeavours, and excite our prayers for their conversion.
The apostle adds, " as many as have sinned under the law, shall be judged by the law." The Jews rejected the gospel, and sought justification by the works of the law. Deists discard revelation, and rely on their own moral conduct to recommend them to God; and various descriptions of professed Christians form a complex law of works, out of the religion of the New Testament. But whatever system, men favoured with revelation may adopt, if they put the event of the great decisive day, on their own works, as the ground of their confidence; they will be judged according to the holy law of God, and fall under its awful curse. "Christ is become of none effect to them: they are fallen from grace, and become debtors to do the whole law." Gal. v. 1-6. The advantages such men enjoy, the crimes they commit, their proud aversion to the humbling salvation of the gospel, and the degree of their enmity and opposition to the truth, will determine the measure of their guilt and punishment, according to the decision of unerring wisdom and infinite justice.
Some observations have already been made on the case of those, who allow the doctrines of Christianity, renounce dependence on their own works, and profess to expect pardon, righteousness, and eternal life, as "the_gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." Such persons, when the Lord shall come, will be judged according to this profession; and if their faith be shewn to have been living and genuine, by its holy fruits, according to the discoveries which have been mentioned, they will, as justified believers, receive the reward of righteousness; and their future glory and felicity will be proportioned to the degree of their grace and obedience of faith. But if their conduct and dispositions have proved that they were not true believers, they will remain under the condemnation of the law, aggravated by their abuse of the gospel; and so have their portion with hypocrites and unbe lievers.
IV. Then let us make some particular application of the subject.