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The coming of the Lord signifies, therefore, the appearance of Christ in human nature to judge the world: when he shall exercise omnipotence, omniscience, and every divine perfection; and so's come in his own glory” as Mediator, “ and in the glory of the Father," as sovereign Lord of all
. This revelation of Jesus Christ will be visible to the whole world, “ this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven." Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they that have pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him : even so. Amen." Acts i. 11. Rev. i. 7. The man Jesus, in his glorified body, even that body which was crowned with thorns, scourged, spitted on, and nailed to the cross; will then be made visible to all men, to those who thus abused him, and to such as have in every age consented to this deed by despising him and his salvation. He will be seen by “ all who have crucified him," as it were, again and again ; as well as by them, for whom “he once suffered, the just for the unjust, to bring them unto God.”
But how immensely will his appearance, as judge of the world, differ from that of the man of sorrows !—The mount of transfiguration, when “his countenance shone as the sun, and his raiment was like lightning;” yea, the vision of his glory, which caused his beloved disciple, who had once reclined on his bosom, in the familiarity of endeared friendship, to "fall down at his feet as dead;" can give us but a faint idea of that divine light and majesty, with which he will be arrayed, when he shall ascend his awful tribunal. “ He shall then be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels :" the angels of his power and authority ; the ministers of his vengeance and his love." At the end of the world, the Son of man shall send forth his angels; and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” “ They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he shall send his angels, and they shall gather together his elect.” Matt. xiii. 41–43. xxiv. 30, 31. Hence it is evident that all the angels are the creatures and servants, as well as the worshippers, of the incarnate Son of God.
His coming will be announced by a summons august and tremendous beyond description; and immediately followed by the resurrection of the dead. «The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." “Behold I shew you a mystery! We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”—“The hour cometh, when all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.” i Thess. iv. 16, 17. 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. John v. 28, 29. Believers will rise first, and then such of the saints as shall be alive on the earth at that time, will be changed ; that “death may be swallowed up in victory." Afterwards the multitudes of the wicked will « awake to shame and everlasting contempt.”—The bodies of the unnumbered millions, who through succeeding ages have inhabited the globe, wherever laid, or however consumed, will be restored to life, and reunited to their immortal souls, that they may participate their happiness or misery. “ Then the dead, small and great, shall stand before God. The sea shall give up the dead that were in it; and death and hell shall deliver up the dead which were in them." Rev. xx. 13-15.
At this important crisis, the earth and all its works, yea, the visible heavens also, shall become one general conflagration : “the heavens and earth which now are, by the same word, are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” “ The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass
away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and all the works which are therein shall be burnt up.' 2 Peter iii. 10-22. Yea, "heaven and earth shall flee away, and there shall be found no place for them."
In vain should we attempt a description of this sublime and awful scene: our faculties labour, and our tongues as it were faulter, when we would think or speak of such subjects!What then will be the feelings of the immense multitudes assembled on this occasion! What the astonishment, terror, and despair of the impenitent! of such as have idolized those things, which are the prey of all devouring flames: of those who have blasphemed that Saviour, who appears to be their Judge, or ridiculed the divine testimony concerning the place of torment, and those evil spirits which are ready to seize upon them? Let us then recollect, that we shall be present, not as mere spectators, but as cited "to give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." 2 Cor. v. 10. Our present conduct is voluntary; we choose whether we will serve the Lord, or no: but we shall not be allowed to choose, whether we will stand before his tribunal, or decline the awful decision.
It is extremely frivolous to start objections against the doctrines of revelation, taken from our low apprehensions, or levelled against the misinterpretations of injudicious believers. "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." He hath declared these things in his authenticated word: his testimony is sure and giveth wisdom unto the simple:" and he "that believeth not hath made him a liar."
Will any man presume to say, that it is impossible for God to raise the dead? That human nature should be capable of such daring absurdity, ought to cover us with shame, and cause us to tremble.-Let us, my friends, imitate the old patriarch, who "by faith being warned of God of things not seen as yet, was moved with fear and prepared an ark." Let us prepare to meet our God, and seriously inquire "who may abide the day of his coming? or who may stand when he appeareth?"
Neither ought we to regard those "scoffers," who according to the prediction of the apostle, are "come in these last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." We know not indeed the precise time when the Lord shall come; but we should not be ignorant that," one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day:" and we are assured that "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night; for when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape." 1 Thess. v. 2, 3. Death is very near, and judgment follows. In this sense "The Judge standeth at the door:" and "the end of all things is at hand." "Be ye therefore ready; for ye know not the time when the Son of man cometh." The intervening space will soon elapse: let us "then account his long-suffering to be salvation" and "seeing we look for such things, let us be diligent, that we may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless."-We proceed therefore,
II. To consider the discoveries which will then be made." The Lord shall come, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts."
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory and all his 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 the sheep from the goats:"-that is, with perfect ease, and infallible certainty. Then shall he be seated on the great white
throne, the emblem of his awful justice and spotless purity," and the books shall be opened.”- This expression, referring to the affairs of men, leads our thoughts to the discoveries of that solemn season. The book of the divine law shall be opened, as the perfect standard of good and evil; the book of providence, stating the talents committed to the stewardship of each individual, with the advantages or disadvantages of his situation; the book of omniscience, developing all the particulars of every man's conduct, and all the motives and thoughts of his heart; and the book of conscience or memory, answering to every charge or discovery, however before buried in oblivion. But another book shall also be opened, or no flesh could be saved ; even the book of life, in which all the elect of God, all true believers, are registered, with the evidences of their repentance, faith, and love. Then, all“ men will be judged out of those things, which are written in the books, according to their works. And whosoever shall not be found written in the book of Life shall be cast into the lake of fire.” Rev. xx. 12-15.
We know but little of the real characters even of those with whom we are most intimately acquainted; and far less of other mens. A vast proportion of their outward conduct is concealed from us: what strangers then must we be to the dispositions and counsels of their hearts! Perhaps a tenth part of the actions of our nearest relatives or friends, do not come under our notice: we must therefore judge as well as we can; and though caution be necessary, a measure of suspicion adequate to our uncertainty, would mar all our earthly enjoyments. David seems not to have suspected Ahithopel, nor the Apostles Judas : yet they were both plausible hypocrites. Many of you, my friends, may perhaps be conscious, that if your neighbours, or relations, knew certain things in your conduct, which you carefully and successfully conceal; your characters would be injured, and yourselves covered with confusion. “ But when the Lord shall come, he will bring to light all these hidden things of darkness." Then the dishonesty and extortion which have here escaped detection, and even suspicion; or which have been pleaded for with specious fallacy, will appear in all their deformity before men and angels. The oppression, rapine, and cruelty, which have been gilded over with the splendour of great talents and renowned atchievements, will be viewed in another light: when “ the earth shall disclose her blood, and no more cover her slain.” Nor will that degrading licentiousness and sensuality, which are often covertly practiced by persons of decent or respectable character, any longer be concealed; though it be now a shame * to speak of those things which are done of them in secret."
But to relieve our minds from such painful reflections, let us take a view of the contrast. The Lord will also bring to light the good works of his believing people: “he saw them in secret, and he will reward them openly.'
Those fruits of faith and love, which the world perhaps vilified and called by some opprobrious name; and those, in which they scarcely “ let the left hand know what the right hand did,” will then be disclosed and approved by the righteous Judge. The self-denial of his despised disciples, in sparing from every article of expence and indulgence, to raise a little fund for the relief of the needy, and even of their calumniators and persecutors: their secret prayers, and compassionate tears over the very persons, who counted them harsh and uncharitable, because they would not “ speak peace when there was no peace;" Jer. xiii. 17. their scrupulous care to avoid every degree of injustice, when no blame was likely to be cast upon them for it; their earnestness in secret devotion, with deep humiliation and enlarged benevolence: all these will be discovered when the Lord shall come, and greatly tend to il. lustrate and distinguish the characters of men. The blemishes and misconduct of pious persons are too often visible to their neighbours, and give occasion to their scoffs and impiety: but it will then appear, that these things were lamented before God with many groans and tears; that they condemned themselves more severely than others could condemn them; that they prayed without ceasing not to be left to repeat their sin and folly; and
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
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 tħeir 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