« ÎnapoiContinuați »
ters of those who shall then receive so different a doom? Yes, my text determines the point; for,
V. “They that have done good shall come forth to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.” These are the grounds of the distinction that shall then be made in the final states of men, doing good and doing evil. And certainly this distinction is perceivable now; to do good and to do evil are not so much alike as that it should be impossible to distinguish between them. Let us then see what is implied in these characters, and to whom of us they respectively belong.
1. What is it to do good ? This implies, (1.) An honest endeavor to keep all God's commandments; I say, all his commandments, with regard to God, our neighbor, and ourselves, whether easy or difficult, whether fashionable or not, whether agreeable to our natural constitution or not, whether enjoining the performance of duty or forbidding the commission of sin, whether regarding the heart or the outward practice. I say, an uniform, impartial regard to all God's commandments, of whatever kind, in all circumstances, and at all times, is implied in doing good ; for if we do any thing because God commands it, we will endeavor to do every thing that he commands, because where the reason of our conduct is the same, our conduct itself will be the same. I do not mean that good men, in the present state, perfectly keep the commandments of God in every thing, or indeed in any thing; but I mean that universal obedience is their honest endeavor. Their character is in some measure uniform and all of a piece ; that is, they do not place all their religion in obedience to some commands which may be agreeable to them, as though that would make atonement for their neglect of others; but, like David, they are for having a respect, and indeed have a respect to all God's commandments : Psal. cxix. 6. My brethren, try yourselves by this test.
(2.) To do good in an acceptable manner pre-supposes a change of nature and a new principle. Our nature is so corrupted that nothing really and formally good can be performed by us till it be renewed. To confirm this I shall only refer you to Eph. ii. 10, and Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27, where being created in Christ Jesus to good works,
and receiving a new heart of flesh, are mentioned as prerequisites to our walking in God's statutes. As for the principle of obedience, it is the love of God: 1 John v. 3. that is, we must obey God, because we love him ; we must do good, because we delight to do good; otherwise it is all hypocrisy, constraint; or selfishness, and cannot be acceptable to God. Here, again, my brethren, took into your hearts, and examine what is the principle of your obedience, and whether ever you have been made new creatures.
(3.) I must add, especially as we live under the gospel, that your dependence for life must not be upon the good you do, but entirely upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ. After you have done all, you must acknowledge you are but unprofitable servants; and renounce all your works in point of merit, while you abound in them in point of practice: Phil. iii. 7, 8. This is an essential characteristic of evangelical obedience, and without it you cannot expect to have a resurrection to eternal life and blessedness.
I might enlarge upon this head, but time will not permit ; and I hope these three characters may suffice to show you what is implied in doing good. Let us now proceed to the opposite character.
2. What is it to do evil? This implies such things as these ; the habitual neglect of well.doing, or the performance of duties in a languid, formal manner, or without a right principle, and the wilful indulgence of any one sin : the secret love of sin, though not suffered to break forth into the outward practice. Here it is evident at first sight that profane sinners, drunkards, swearers, defrauders, avowed neglecters of religion, &c. have this dismal brand upon them, that they are such as do evil. Nay, all such who are in their natural state, without regeneration, whatever their outside be, must be ranked in this class; “for that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” John iii. 6; " and they that are in the flesh cannot please God, nor be rightly subject to his law.” Rom. viii. 7, 8.
And now who is for life, and who for damnation among you? These characters are intended to make the distinction among you, and I pray you apply them for that purpose.
As for such of you, who, amidst all your lamented in
firmities, are endeavoring honestly to do good, and griesed at heart that you can do no more, you also must die; you must die, and feed the worms in the dust. But you shall rise gloriously improved, rise to an immortal life, and in all the terrors and consternation of that last day, you will be secure, serene, and undisturbed. The almighty Judge will be your friend, and that is enough. Let this thought disarm the king of terrors, and give you courage to look down into the grave, and forward to the great rising day. O what a happy immortality opens its glorious prospects beyond the ken of sight before you! and after a few struggles more in this state of warfare, and resting awhile in the bed of death, at the regions of eternal blessedness you will arrive, and take up your residence there for ever.
But are there not some here who are conscious that these favorable characters do not belong to them that know that well-doing is not the business of their life, but that they are workers of iniquity? I tell you plainly, and with all the authority the word of God can give, that if you continue such, you shall rise to damnation. That undoubtedly will be your doom, unless you are greatly changed and reformed in heart and life. And will this be no excitement to vigorous endeavors ? Are you proof against the energy of such a consideration ? Ye careless sinners, awake out of your security, and prepare for death and judgment ! this fleeting life is all the time you have for preparation, and can you trifle it away! Your all, your eternal all is set upon the single cast of life, and you must stand the hazard of the die. You can make but one experiment, and if that fail, through your sloth or mismanagement, you are irrecoverably undone for ever. Therefore, by the dread authority of the great God, by the terrors of death, and the great rising day, by the joys of heaven, and the torments of hell, and by the value of your immortal souls, I intreat, I charge, I adjure you to awake out of your security, and improve the precious moments of life. The world is dying all around you. And can you rest easy in such a world, while unprepared for eternity? Awake to righteousness | now, at the gentle call of the gospel, before the last trumpet give you an alarm of another kind.
THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT.
Acts. xv. 30, 31.—And the times of this ignorance God
winked at ; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Mun whom he hath ordained ; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
The present state is the infancy of human nature ; and all the events of time, even those that make such noise, and determine the fate of kingdoms, are but the little affairs of children. But if we look forwards and trace human nature to maturity, we meet with events vast, interesting, and majestic; and such as nothing but divine authority can render credible to us who are so apt to judge of things by what we see. To one of those scenes I would direct your attention this day; I mean the solemn, tremendous, and glorious scene of the universal judgment.
You have sometimes seen a stately building in ruins ; come now and view the ruins of a demolished world. You have often seen a feeble mortal struggling in the agonies of death, and his shattered frame dissolved ; come now and view universal nature severely laboring and agonizing in her last convulsions, and her well compacted system dissolved. You have heard of earthquakes here and there that have laid Lisbon, Palermo, and a few other cities in ruins; come now and feel the tremors and convulsions of the whole globe, that blend cities and countries, oceans and continents, mountains, plains, and vallies, in one promiscuous heap. You have a thousand times beheld the moon walking in brightness, and the sun shining in his strength; now look and see the sun turned into darkness, and the moon into blood.
It is our lot to live in an age of confusion, blood, and slaughter; an age in which our attention is engaged by the clash of arms, the clangor of trumpets, the roar of artillery, and the dubious fate of kingdoms; but draw off your thoughts from these objects for an hour, and fix them on objects more solemn and interesting: come view
" A scene that yields
A louder trumpet, and more dreadful fields;
Such a scene there certainly is before us; for St. Paul tells us that “God hath given assurance to all men that he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained ;” and that his resurrection, the resurrection of him who is God and man, is a demonstra. tive proof of it.
My text is the conclusion of St. Paul's defence or sermon before the famous court of Areopagus, in the learn. ed and philosophical city of Athens. In this august and polite assembly he speaks with the boldness, and in the evangelical strain, of an apostle of Christ. He first inculcates upon them the great truths of natural religion, and labors faithfully, though in a very gentle and inoffensive manner, to reform them from that stupid idolatry and superstition into which even this learned and philosophical city was sunk, though a Socrates, a Plato, and
a the most celebrated sages and moralists of pagan antiquity had lived and taught in it. Afterwards, in the close of his discourse, he introduces the glorious peculiarities of Christianity, particularly the great duty of repentance, from evangelical motives, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment. But no sooner has he entered upon this subject than he is interrupted, and seems to have broken off abruptly; for when he had just hinted at the then unpopular doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, we are told, some mocked, and others put it off to another hearing: We will hear thee again of this matter.
In these dark times of ignorance which preceded the publication of the gospel, God seemed to wink or connive at the idolatry and various forms of wickedness that had overspread the world; that is he seemed to overlook* or to take no notice of them, so as either to punish them, or to give the nations explicit calls to repent