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tender mercy and the strictest justice, the most precious promises and the most awful threatenings. We find God therein described as a just God and a Saviour; as a tender Parent and a righteous Judge; as a Refuge from the storm of impending wrath, and a consuming fire to the impenitent workers of iniquity. In like manner, we find the Son of God at one time represented as clothed with the sinless infirmities of human nature; at another, as arrayed with divine majesty and glory; now as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, and again as the Judge of the quick and the dead; now inviting the weary and heavy laden to come unto him, and then saying to the impenitent, Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity.
This intermixture of mercy and judgment is wonderfully adapted to the frame and constitution of human nature; that such as cannot be moved by considerations addressed to the more gentle and amiable affections of the mind, such as hope and love and joy and gratitude, may be excited, by arguments addressed to their fears, to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold of eternal life. That which is here employed is of the latter description: and we shall easily perceive with what propriety the coming of Christ to judgment is denominated the terror of the Lord, if we consider,
1. The preparations for this solemn event. When this great and terrible day of the Lord is at hand, we are informed that there shall be signs in the heavens to denote its approach; that the sun shall be turned into darkness, and that the
moon shall assume the colour of blood. This may, perhaps, be intended to intimate, that the destruction of the earth will be effected by the fire contained in its bowels. For, whoever has read the accounts of earthquakes and volcanoes in those places where they are most frequent and most destructive, will recollect, that the darkness of the sun, and the red appearance of the moon, which are here spoken of, are particularly mentioned as the effects of the air being filled with sulphureous vapours, before any great earthquake and eruption take place.
As it was in the deluge of water, so shall it be in this deluge of fire. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, and every human being, and all living creatures, were destroyed from off the face of the earth, except such as were contained in the ark. And thus, while mighty streams and rivers of fire issue from the bowels of the earth, and consume not only cities but whole continents, what remains of the spoils of the devouring element will be utterly destroyed by the thunder and lightning, and all the dreadful artillery of heaven! What will then become of all the magnificent palaces and structures, all the large possessions and treasures, and all the glories of the world, which are now so much admired and coveted? What will become of them, when the whole face of the earth shall present the appearance of the crater of a huge burning mountain? What will become of the wicked and ungodly who have scoffed at these
things, and walked after their own lusts, saying, Where is the promise of his coming? Will they, at the appearance of these signs of approaching judgment, flee to the tops of the mountains? That were only to stand more exposed to the lightnings from heaven. Will they hide themselves in dens and in recesses of rocks? This were only to fall into the burning furnace beneath. But no human language or imagination can reach the awful scene of which the apostle speaks, as merely preparatory to the great and terrible day of the Lord. The heavens and the earth, says he, which are now, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judg ment, and perdition of ungodly men.
2. Let us next consider the terrible majesty and awful grandeur in which the Judge himself will appear.
The greatest display of majesty among men which history records, is either when a mighty and absolute monarch is represented as marching triumphantly in the midst of a victorious army, with all the splendor of a court and the discipline of a camp, sending his officers before him, who with the sound of trumpets give notice of his approach, and every where received with the shouts and acclamations of the people; or, when a wise and powerful prince, sitting upon the throne of his majesty, and surrounded with all his nobles and officers of state, administers justice himself, and summons criminals before him to pronounce sentence upon them.
In allusion to each of these displays of terrible
majesty, Christ is represented as coming in the clouds of heaven, as in a triumphal chariot, with power and great glory; as descending from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God; and as sitting upon the throne of his glory, and all nations gathered before him. I saw, says the apostle John, Revelation, xx. 11, 12. I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Yes, God our Saviour (for to him all judgment is committed) will then render to every man according to his deeds; to them, who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doth evil.
And that no evidence may be wanting of the character, dispositions and conduct, of every individual of the human race, the books will be opened. A book of remembrance, we are told, is 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. Then shall ye discern between the righteous and the wicked; between him that served God,
and him that served him not. The books of the respective laws under which men lived shall be opened, whether the law of nature, the law of patriarchal revelation, the law of Moses, or the more pure and perfect law of Christ. Conformably to this idea, the apostle says, As many as have sinned without law, that is, without the written law, shall perish without that law, by the sentence only of the law of nature; and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law. Beside them shall be placed another book, which is the book of life: not a bare record, like the former, of human actions and human conduct in general, but of the actions and conduct of those who were quickened into a divine life-into whom the Spirit of life enteredin whom he dwelt as in living temples-who walked by the light of life, were supported by the bread and water of life, and are now to be conducted to the fountain and the tree of life, in the midst of the paradise of God.
In that day-how awful the consideration!God will judge the most secret transactions of men by Jesus Christ. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.
To you whose hearts are right with God, who are renewed in the spirit of your mind, and created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that ye should walk in them, this great day of the Lord will be stript of all its terrors. Having fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you in the gospel, your sins will not then rise up