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On the Last Judgment.
2 CORINTHIANS, V. IO.
For we must all appear before the judgmentseat 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.
THESE words present to our view the SERMON great event which is to determine the fate of all mankind. No article of christian faith is more clearly ascertained in Scripture, is of greater importance in itself, and more worthy to dwell upon our minds than this, of the final Judgment of God. It adds solemnity to every part of religion:
SERMON it introduces an awful seriousness into our thoughts, by placing in the most striking light, the close connection between our present behaviour and our everlasting happiness or misery. In the Gospel it is described with so many circumstances of awe and terrour, as may, to many, render the consideration of this subject dark and disagreeable. But we must remember, that though religion be often employed to sooth and comfort the distressed; and though this be one of its most salutary effects, yet this is not the only purpose to which it is to be applied by Ministers of the Gospel, In the midst of that levity and dissipation with which the world abounds, it is necessary to awaken the giddy and unthinking, by setting before them in full view, all the dangers they incur by their conduct. Knowing the terrour of the Lord, adds the Apostle in the verse immediately following the text, we persuade men. In treating of this subject, I shall, in the first place, state the arguments which reason affords for the belief of a judgment to come; and shall next shew the improvements which
we ought to make of the particular dis- SERMON coveries the Gospel hath made to us concerning it.
I. By taking a view of the arguments which reason affords for the belief of a general judgment, our faith in the discoveries of the Gospel will receive confirmation, from discerning their consonance with the natural sentiments of the human heart.
In the first place, and as the foundation of all, I begin with observing, that there is in the nature of things a real and eternal difference between right and wrong, between a virtuous and an immoral conduct; a difference which all men discern of themselves, and which leads them unavoidably to think of some actions as deserving blame and punishment, and of others, as worthy of praise and reward. If all actions were conceived as indifferent in their nature, no idea of justice and retribution would be found among men; they would not consider themselves as in any view accountable for their actions to any superiour. But
SERMON this is far from being the case. Every man XX. feels himself under a law; the law of his being, which he cannot violate without being self-condemned. The most ignorant heathen knows and feels, that when he has committed an unjust or cruel action, he has committed a crime, and deserves punishment. Never was there a nation on the face of the earth, among whom there did not prevail a consciousness that, by inhumanity and fraud, they justly exposed themselves to the hatred of those around them, and to the displeasure of any secret invisible power that ruled the world. This, therefore, may be assumed as an incontrovertible principle, that the difference of good and evil in actions, is not founded on arbitrary opinions or institutions, but in the nature of things, and the nature of man; and accords with the universal sense of the human kind. This being the case, it is certainly reasonable,
In the second place, to think that the Ruler of the world will make some distinction among his creatures according to their actions; and if this distinction be not made,
made, or only imperfectly made in this SERMON life, there will be some future state of existence in which he will openly reward and punish. To suppose God to be a mere indifferent spectator of the conduct of his creatures, regarding with an equal eye the evil and the good, is in effect to annihilate his existence; as it contradicts every notion which mankind have enter tained of a Supreme Being as just and good. It would represent him as inferiour in character to many of his creatures on earth; as there is no man of tolerable virtue and humanity who is not shocked at the commission of atrocious crimes, and who does not desire to see the guilty punished, the innocent protected, and the virtuous rewarded. — If there exist at all a God who governs the world, (and what nation has not acknowledged him to exist?) as a governour he undoubtedly will act; and as such, will, somewhere, and at some period or other, reward and punish, according as his creatures obey, or violate, that law which he originally implanted in their hearts. Whether this be completely done in the present world, is not a point that