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surprising of his properties, and should often be considered by us lest we presume on it to our injury. There is something wonder. fully natural in that saying which St. Peter puts into the mouth of the mockers of the last days: "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 say, there is something very natural in this: it is just the language, which the long deferring of punishment is likely to draw from beings like ourselves. It is hard, it requires much faith, to realize the truth, that after long ages, during which there has been no interruption of one fixed order of things, there would be a complete breaking up of the existing system, and that God, who, century after century, has abstained from any visible interference with the world and its concerns, will suddenly come forth, assume the sovereignty, and deal out retribution. But we are to bear in mind what the apostle adduces in answer to the scoffers: "Be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The Almighty computes not by our measures, whether of space or of time. Inhabiting eternity, as well as filling immensity, all things are present to him which seem to us indefinitely removed; and what we count delay can argue no change in the purposes of a Being whose existence is one unbroken Now, without a past and without a future.
But however convinced we may be theoretically, that God's long-suffering is no evidence that he will not ultimately take vengeance, we require continual caution, that we may not practically presume on his patience, and be encouraged to sin by his abstaining from punishment. And such caution and watchfulness are best kept in exercise, by endeavouring to connect, as it were, our two states of being. For if we come to regard time as but a segment of eternity, we shall come to view all that is here, as designed for exhibition hereafter, and free ourselves, by God's help, from that habit of separating actions from their consequences, which is among the most fruitful sources of all sin.
Now, it is a very striking instance, which is given in our text, of this future repairing of what occurs on earth; and we are anxious to gain for it our closest attention, because persuaded of the practical importance of bringing you to place yourselves amidst the scenes of the last judgment, surrounded with all your actions, fresh as though just wrought, and with all your privileges ready to bear witness, whether for you, or against you. We speak
of the practical importance of leading you to do this, because this is what we have called your closely connecting your two states of being, and because we cannot but feel sure that any, who accustom themselves to the overleaping the interval that separates them from this world, and trying their conduct by the aspect it will wear at the tribunal of God, will be in little danger of abusing the divine patience, or of using it for aught else than as a motive to holiness.
You observe that Christ, in this passage, disclaims the office of a Judge, declaring that he came "not to judge the world, but to save the world." We know that the Redeemer is the ordained judge of human kind, and that by no other will the sentences be passed which are to fix the doom of every individual of our race. But this was a part of his mediatorial office, on which he was not to enter on his first appearing; his second advent is to be the advent of the Judge; and, therefore, while he was yet in humiliation, yet engaged in exhausting the curse which our disobedience had provoked, he might justly speak of it, as not belonging to his office, to pronounce on the condition of any of his hearers. The time for judgment was not yet come. He would persevere in his errand of mercy: and if any who heard his word should obstinately refuse to believe, he would not take upon himself to arraign and condemn; he would leave them in the hand of God, who had appointed a day when all should be tried, and sentenced according to their works. But then it was not to be supposed, that because Jesus had come, not to judge the world, but to save it, his ministrations upon earth had no connexion with the great assize to be held upon men. Though he had not assumed the office of judge, he was preparing what may be called the materials of judgment: "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." As though he had said, "It is my present business to deliver the communications with which I have been entrusted by my Father, to preach the Gospel, and to call sinners to repentance. I may meet with scorn and unbelief; my message may be rejected, my authority denied; but I do not proceed to pass formal sentence upon those, who, by thus treating me, place themselves in vast peril: enough that I have preached to them the words of everlasting life; those words cannot perish; they may now be despised, but shall hereafter be repeated before men and angels, and those who rejected me, will need no other judge, no other accuser.".
You see that Christ thus brings into close association our two states of being, representing what men have heard on earth, as following them into the invisible world, and there giving testimony from which there is no appeal. And we suppose this to be only the particular case to a general truth; so that the whole business of life will be, so to speak, transacted again at the judgment, and men's portion be decided according to the cautions and advantages which shall then be remembered. This is the idea that we wish kept uppermost in your minds, in order to guard you against abusing the divine patience. It may be long, according to the arrangements of the Almighty, before an action receives its due recompence; but the action, though perhaps forgotten by ourselves, will re-appear hereafter, re-appear in the freshness of a crime newly wrought, and ask and find the severities of immediate retribution.
We leave, however, these general considerations, and limit ourselves to the examination of Christ's assertion in our text. We have here the preached Gospel set before us under a most important point of view, as actually the judge by which those who reject it shall be condemned at the last. We know of no sufficient reason for the supposing that Christ spoke exclusively of his own preaching, as though the like might not be affirmed wherever the Gospel is faithfully published, and wilfully rejected. We are not forgetful that there must have been an especial privilege in the hearing the tidings of redemption from the lips of the Redeemer himself; and we admit the possibility, that those who shut their hearts against truth, when delivered by Him who spake as never man spake, incurred a worse responsibility than others who were taught only through the instrumentality of their fellow-men. But if the same word be preached in the name and by the authority of Christ, its future power of acting as a judge cannot have been destroyed, inasmuch as this power must have been at least mainly derived from the nature of the word, and therefore, that being the same, must still be possessed, notwithstanding the vast change in the diguity of the minister. Yes, whatever the weakness, whatever the faults of the agent, in so far as he is faithful in preaching the Gospel, he may take up the words of his divine Master, and boldly declare of every one who puts contempt upon his message, "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
Now there are a great many truths, which force themselves upon our attention the moment we admit this judgment-power in the Gospel. We will endeavour to select those which seem to us the
more simple and practical, and to set them before you with fidelity and with earnestness.
We first observe to you, that there must be a power in every man of receiving the Gospel, and submitting to its directions; otherwise this Gospel could never be his judge, and condemn him on the very ground of its own rejection. This is one of those truths which we would take every opportunity of exhibiting and enforcing; it always appears to us to lie at the very root of the Christian system, that enough is done for every man, unto whom the Gospel is preached, to prove the justice of his condemnation, if he fail of being saved. He must be altogether the author and the cause of his own destruction, if he perish in unbelief, after pardon has been offered him through the mediation of Christ. It is not that he was not elected of God, or because there were not granted to him the influences of the Spirit. It is easy and common to take refuge in the mysteries of religion, when men desire to shake off some blame from themselves: but if Christ spoke truth when he uttered the text, there is no excuse to be found for any that perish in the inscrutable secrets of God's predestination. That which is to rise up in the judgment, and condemn those who have rejected the Gospel-condemn them though there was no other witness and no other accuser-is the Gospel itself; the word which has been heard, the word which has been despised. And we are certain from this, that there can lie no obstacles in the way of the believing and obeying the Gospel, but such as men themselves place; for the Gospel could not condemn because it had been rejected, unless it were undeniable that it might have been received.
You will ask how this can be, for you know that there is no power in man of converting himself, of effecting that great moral regeneration, without which he cannot see the kingdom of God. We reply, that the preaching of the Gospel is the ordained means by which God is pleased to act on a world lying in wickedness, but that the energy is not to be sought in the mere utterance of the word, but in the working of the Holy Ghost, by which the word is made effectual. It is not merely because the Gospel has been faithfully published in a man's hearing, that he will be without excuse at the judgment; it is because the Gospel thus published is the engine with which the Holy Spirit acts; and where this agent acts, there can be no excuse for unbelief. And does the Holy Spirit work upon every man who is brought within the sound
of the Gospel? We cannot doubt it: our text, if it were not supported by other passages of scripture, would of itself be sufficient to establish this point. We are assembled in this place, in obedience to the express commands of God, who has directed that one day in seven should be set apart for his service; that there should be gatherings of the people to hear the word from his ministers : and there may appear to be nothing but just the energy of a solitary man, who is debating and reasoning with his fellow creatures, and striving to excite their attention to certain truths which he counts of great moment. But this is the appearance to those only who look on the surface of things, and who are not accustomed to refer to the Bible as the ground-work of their opinions. The truth is, that a promise of the Redeemer must now be having accomplishment: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." We are gathered together in his name, and therefore must Christ be present with us; present specially by his Spirit, who descended to earth to supply his place to the church, when he himself had returned to the Father. And this Spirit is not present as an idle spectator of what may pass in this, our scene of solemn assembly; this Spirit is present in his office of a reprover and comforter, to convince of sin, to produce contrition of heart, and to pour into the wounded soul the oil of wine and consolation. This Spirit is present to operate by and through the word which shall be preached, and to make that word energetic, to the casting down the strong holds of Satan, and erecting in their stead the kingdom of Christ. Who is there amongst you whom this Spirit neglects, and on whose behalf he is not striving to turn into everlasting benefit the services of the Sabbath? We do not believe there is one of whom this can be said. There may be many of you whose thoughts are wandering over the carth, but they are answerable for their not endeavouring to fix their attention on the business in which they are professedly engaged. Let them call home their thoughts, and cease to mock God by their indifference, ere they venture to account for their remaining unconverted by declaring that the Spirit does not act upon their consciences. There may be others who, acknowledging the necessity of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, are yet secretly resolved to defer to what they call "a more convenient season" the forsaking the world. and following after righteousness: and such are chargeable with resisting the convictions which this Spirit has already produced, and are therefore so grieving the Spirit