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ham gives it, as the character of Jehovah, that as Judge of all the earth, he will do right. But if this same awful truth is taught, by dffierent writers of the Old Testament; it is still more clearly and abundantly in the New by our divine Lord and his inspired apostles.
And what can equal, in awful grandeur, the different separate descriptions of this scene which are given to us in this part of the Sacred Volume. "The Judge shall come in the clouds of heaven. Every eye shall see him; at his presence, the heavens and the earth shall flee away, and there shall no place be found for them." As indications of the approach of the final conflagration, it may be, low and terribly mysterious sounds will be heard, awakening the suspicion that some dreadful hour is at hand. Vivid lightnings stand for a time in the heavens, quivering and trembling, and then dart fearfully across the skies. The mysterious sounds first heard continue to come, louder and heavier, until they swell into the vast detonations of mighty earthquakes and the awful crash of worlds coming in collision with worlds. As when Vesuvius and Etna, in the trembling of their mountains and convulsions, give unmistakable indications of their terrible and destructive eruptions; the affrighted inhabitants of the two Sicilies vainly run to and fro to find a shelter from the storms of melted lava that threaten universal ruin. So when the earth trembles and the mountains shake from the convulsions of an expiring universe, its dismayed inhabitants will more vainly seek a covert from the last great tempest of Jehovah's destructive power. All of the race of Adam, of every age, shall feel and know that the last great day is come. Then shall the universe of intelligent beings discern between the righteous and the wicked; for the righteous shall ascend to glory, to honor, and immortal life in heaven; whilst the wicked sink down to shame and contempt and everlasting wailings in hell. If any are disposed to ask, is there any way to escape from so awful a trial, or to avoid the meeting of God in judgment? We answer, No. How, how can any escape? Can the sinner flee from the government of God, and place himself under that of another? Can he escape the vigilance of Omniscience? or get beyond the reach of Omnipotence? Or can man become independent of his God, and set him at defiance? If these things are impossible, then every one of us must give an account of himself to God. And it is immutably true, that God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good or bad. The great difficulty here does not lie in the want of proof that we all must meet God in judgment; but in the want of the conviction of the fact. If men believed that they must meet God at death and in judgment, would they live as, alas! multitudes do, both in and out of the visible church? Who that firmly believes that he shall shortly meet God in judgment, would act the hypocrite towards God or deceitfully and falsely towards man? Could any one dare interpose in the sacred interests of Christ's kingdom, who is himself conscious that he does not even keep up the forms of religion? if he indeed believes that God says to such, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue framest deceit. 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." How hard is it to bring men to believe that they shall very shortly give an account of themselves in the final judgment? even whilst the earth itself, as it were, groans under the burden of their sins. But our unbelief and want of conviction of this awful truth will not retard the day of our meeting with God, or disannul the fixed decree of Heaven appointing that men shall once die, and after that be judged. Fix it, therefore, in your hearts, that you must all very shortly meet God in judgment.
II. As to the preparation necessary to meet God with comfort and peace, we proceed to remark, that it does not consist "in works of righteousness that we have done," however valuable they may be to society. Alas! in the sight of an infinitely holy God, all our righteousness is but "filthy rags." By the deeds of the law, no flesh living can be justified in his sight, neither can we be prepared by any outward acts of religion, however zealously performed, without real inward holiness of heart, and without that love to God and man which constitute the essence of true religion. But the very important question arises, how is depraved and guilty man to obtain this holiness of heart? How? We give the same answer to you, and we are not authorized to give a different one, which Paul and Silas gave to the awakened and inquiring jailor-" Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." We must first, and last, and always, and only meet God in Christ, who is the Mediator between God and man. For God out of Christ, or aside from Christ, is "a consuming fire." We never can find pardon and salvation until we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our peace. In him we have righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Christ himself invites the weary and the heavy-laden unto him for rest. The Father is well-pleased in his Son, and will not reject the soul that trusts in him, and forsakes all to follow him. Here we find a righteousness that is complete, and that will justify us before God. In him we find the most powerful motives to hate and forsake sin. It is the cross of Christ that makes the heart to feel indifferent to this world, and renders its riches, its honors, and its pleasures comparative trifles, that are without any substantial value. Christ breaks the fetters of sin, and bestows upon the emancipated and renewed soul the liberty of the sons of God.
To faith in Christ, we must add repentance of our sins, and works meet for repentance, if we would obtain the necessary preparation. This is a duty, not less enjoined by reason than revelation, when we sin against God or man. For nothing is more just and reasonable than to be sorry for the wrongs we have done, and so change our conduct as to make all the reparation for them that we can. But that our repentance would be available for us, and be accepted of God, we only can know from the Gospel. Repentance is the forsaking of sin, the sorrow and regret for our guilt, and a change of conduct in the fixed purpose never to be guilty again.
Furthermore, let it be understood that a disposition to obey all the commandments of God, is involved in the preparation mentioned in our text. The very essence, indeed, of religion is, the spirit of obedience to Christ. A partial compliance with some of the duties of religion, whilst
others equally important are neglected, is not what we mean as sufficient here. Every duty must be attended to, in its place and at the proper time. Nor will it do to think, that to be punctual and faithful in some duties will make up or atone for the omission of others equally important. We cannot thus compound matters with God. Nor will it answer to expect that performing the common duties of morality will expiate for the want of piety towards God; or that a superabundance of zeal, in some things pertaining to God and religion, will compensate for the violation of mercy and truth and righteousness toward men. David said, then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all of thy commandments."
If we would prepare to meet God in peace and comfort when we shall see him on the throne of final judgment; we must often meet with him in prayer whilst he occupies the mercy-seat. For your benefit, to hear your petitions, he is now on this mercy-seat. But he will soon vacate this seat for the throne of the Judge. Now, therefore, is the time to petition, to pray, to seek. Sad, indeed, is the state, and gloomy are the future prospects of those who seldom or never pray. And they pray not because they have never felt their sinfulness and poverty. How can they, who are strangers to private prayer, or who, if they have families, have erected no altar of prayer to the God of Heaven; who offer to him no sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise, and supplicate him for no mercy, be prepared to meet God, except with terror and dismay?
But they who have made a covenant with God by prayer; who have made supplication to him with strong crying and tears; who have often received gracious answers from him, and found him a present and prompt help in times of trouble; and to whom, in his most gracious condescension, he has granted the privilege of freely expressing to him all that their hearts feel or desire in times of distress or affliction; have, as it were, contracted an intimacy with God, and shall meet him not only with comfort and peace, but through the riches of his grace shall enter heaven itself, with songs and shouting and everlasting joy upon their heads.
Solemn and impressive, indeed, are the circumstances under which we are now assembled. One younger, perhaps, than four-fifths of this large assembly, has been called from time to eternity. One of us. One that has lived among us from her birth until her death. One that we knew. One that we dearly loved. One that was amiable, modest, quiet, and good, and as such very highly appreciated by her numerous acquaintances and friends. She is not here. She has gone to meet her God, we believe, in much peace of mind. We indulge the confident hope, that by the mercy and grace of God she was prepared for the event. During her sickness, the state of her mind was uniformly calm and quiet. Death came without any of its usual terrors. When she was dying, she distinctly and emphatically remarked, "What a beautiful morning is this-what a beautiful morning!" Sweet child! it was, indeed, a beautiful morning, when the glorious dawn of immortal life came over thy pure and precious soul. It was "a beautiful morning," when thy liberated spirit triumphantly and happily ascended to the God who gave it. When the night of death passed away, and thy favored eyes were graciously permitted to see the day-break of a bright and endless being, no wonder, dear sister, thou didst, in the raptures of thy soul, exclaim, "What a beautiful morning!"
Yes. It was a beautiful, glorious morning, when sustained and soothed by an unfaltering trust in the Redeemer, your spirit triumphed over the terrors of death, and ascended on high to dwell with the just and the good. It was a beautiful morning, thou sweet, rapt seraph; it was a beautiful morning.
Friends of the deceased, as it is your privilege to indulge the hope of her present happiness, your duty will lead you to bow submissively to Him whose grace is sufficient to sustain you in this great trial. God alone can effectually help in distress. The sympathies of friends, however tender, cannot reach your case in such circumstances; but your heavenly Parent can pour into your hearts the wine and the oil of his divine consolation. Look out of yourselves. Look to the future. Look upward. Look to God. And let us not forget that all of us very soon must follow her.
"As the long train of ages glide away, the sons of men,
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The chariot! the chariot! its wheels roll in fire,
The glory! the glory! around him are poured,
The trumpet! the trumpet! the dead have all heard;
The judgment! the judgment! the thrones are all set,
O mercy! O mercy! look down from above,
CHRIST THE HEAD--THE CHURCH THE BODY.
"And gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body."EPHESIANS i. 22, 23.
THE Church is not any one particular denomination. In the Scriptural use of this name all are meant who have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ in the exercise of a saving faith, and who have professed attachment to Christ according to the forms of some evangelical communion; nay, if they have not made such open profession, because it has been impracticable, they are not on this account excluded from the fellowship of the Son of God. The Church comprises all real Christians. It is this company of true believers that is called in the text the body of Christ. Of this company, considered as a body, Christ is the head.
Could we venture to use language expressing such intimacy between ourselves, poor miserable sinners, and the divine Son of the blessed God, if he himself had not authorized it? Should we dare, even in the use of figurative language, to hint at such a tender and loving union as that which Christ declares to exist between himself, and those whom he has chosen for his own? He says, "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother."