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pointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained.”_Would we make the sinners in Zion afraid? Would we wish to see fearfulness surprise the hypocrites ? With the Prophet we must demand, “Who can endure devouring fire? Who can dwell with everlasting burnings ?" Would we pursuade the delicate and effeninate to self-denial and mortification, to “ cut off the right hand, and to pluck out the right eye which offend ?” We must, with our Lord, remind them, that it is better one of their members should perish, than that their whole body should be cast into hell, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” Would we fortify the timorous against the fear of man, which always bringeth a snare, and often leadeth into sin ? We must exhort them in the words of Jesus, “ not to fear those that can only kill the body, but rather to fear Him who can destroy bo body and soul in hell.”
3. In short, whether we would rouse the careless, or excite the indolent, or reclaim the backslider, or comfort the distressed, or succour the tempted, or encourage the faint-hearted, or animate the faithful soldier of Jesus Christ, patiently to endure hardships, courageously to fight his enemies, valiantly conquer the powers of darkness, and seize the crown of everlasting life ;-we must bring the day of judgment into view, with the terrors of hell and the joys of heaven, and fetch our arguments, motives, and encouragements, thenceThus will the stout-hearted, and those who are far from righteousness, tremble, with Felix, (who was alarmed at Paul's reasoning concerning a judgment to come) and inquiring “ What must we do to be saved ?” will “ repent and be converted, that their sins may be blotted out.” And thus will the true believer rejoice in hope of the glory of God; and while for the joy that is set before him, he endures the cross and despises the shame,” he will “ give' all diligence to be found of Christ at his coming in peace, and without spot and blameless.":
4. Since then these are such necessary and fruitful subjects of discourse, and so repeatedly offered to our consideration in the sacred Scriptures, it may be profitable for us frequently to employ our thoughts upon them. That we may do it for a few moments at this time, I have made choice of this most alarming passage of Scripture, in which the apostle, with a view to their comfort and support under their sufferings, puts the persecuted church of God at Thessalonica, in remembrance of the very different state of things which would soon take place, with regard to them and their persecutors. “God (says he) will recompense tribulation to those who trouble you, and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who (adds he) shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
In these words we have,
1. The certainty and manner of our Lord's second coming.
II. The character of them who shall then be the objects of his wrath.
III. The nature and duration of the punishment which he will inflict
These are all very important points, and well deserve our most serious consideration.
In this discourse, I shall confine myself to the first of them, viz.
1. The certainty and manner of our Lord's second coming.
1. As to the certainty of his second coming, they who read and credit the oracles of God, can entertain no doubt at all concerning it. It is there foretold and described so frequently and clearly, and with such variety of method and expression, that the most careless reader can hardly avoid observing and understanding it, If therefore I produce some Scripture testimonies of this truth, it is not so much with a view to illustrate and confirm it, as to impress so useful a subject more deeply upon our minds, for it is too manifest, that it may be believed and understood, where it has by no means its
influence. : 2. I observe, then, that this event was foretold by the ancient prophets, as well as by Christ and his apostles. Even “ Enoch of old prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all.” A truth this, of which the Psalmist was not ignorant, for in the fiftieth psalm, he testifies,
“Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence : a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him : he shall call the heavens from above, and the earth,
that he may judge his people.” These predictions, so clear and express, that their sense must be obvious to all, are confirmed and illustrated by the testimony of Daniel, chap. vii. ver. 9, 10. “I beheld (says he) till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool; bis ror was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire ; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before him : thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened !” What a sublime and inimitably grand description have we here, mixed with admirable simplicity? How far does it exceed, in these respects, every thing to be met with in merely human compositions ? How plainly does it appear to have been the effect, not of genius and art, but of a mind, through the influences of the divine Spirit, elevated with the grandeur, awed with the majesty, and struck with the terror of the subject.
3. These ancient prophecies of our Lord's second coming have the sanction of his own authority, not only as being inspired by him, but as being confirmed by most express declarations, delivered by himself, as well while upon earth, as after his ascension into heaven, and that, both before friends and enemies. I shall produce only two or three of these as specimens of the rest. Thus, when Caiaphas, the elders, and scribes, had the boldness, or presumptuous wickedness rather, to call their Creator and final Judge to take his trial at their tribunal; before these he testified, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." To his friends and followers, he often foretold the same event, though with a different view, not merely to convince and alarm, but also and especially to comfort and encourage them. Thus, when predicting and describing the destruction of Jerusalem, and the ruin of the Jewish church and polity, he slides (as it were) insensibly into this important subject typified by that, declaring, “ After the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken ; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven : then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” And in the next chapter, (Matth. xxv.) which it seems contains the last public discourse our Lord delivered before he was offered up, he declares to all, “When
the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with
then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations."
4. To these express and particular declarations, delivered by our Lord, while he tabernacled upon earth in his state of humiliation, we may subjoin his testimony from heaven, after he entered upon his state of exaltation, and was invested with all power
in heaven and on earth. The faithful and true Witness, the Alpha and Omega, when he takes his solemn leave of us, in the conclusion of the records of truth, testifies both to his friends and foes, “ Behold, I come quickly, blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.” And again, “Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give unto every man according as his work shall be.” And yet again, He that testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly. To which the church replies, “ Amen; so come, Lord Jesus.” Thus by three testimonies from the lips of Eternal Veracity, is this glorious truth established.
5. But that a doctrine so superior to reason, and yet absolutely certain, and deeply interesting, might want no kind of evidence calculated to gain it credit, messengers were sent immediately from heaven to bear witness to it. Thus when our Lord had given his apostles their last commission, and “while they beheld, he
up from them, a cloud receiving him out of their sight; while they looked steadfastly towards heaven as he went hold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who is taken
you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.”
6. This testimony of the holy angels, or of the spirits of the just made perfect, is frequently confirmed by that of the Holy Spirit in the mouths of the apostles. But as I would not be tedious, I forbear to quote any particular passages, choosing rather to refer you to their sermons, as recorded by St. Luke in the Acts, and to their various epistles, where you frequently meet with many glorious descriptions of this grand event. The testimonies already produced are more than sufficient, not only to establish us in the firm belief of this comfortable truth, but also (which is most wanting) to impress it deeply upon our minds. Good reason have we to settle it in our hearts, that as our Lord is “gone before to prepare a place for us, so he will come again to receive us to himself, that
where he is we may be also; that to those who look for him he will appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Yes,
“At the destin'd period shall return
He, once on earth, who bled for human guilt,
For then will he “change our vile bodies, and render them like unto his glorious body. Then will he “ be glorified in his saints, and admired in all that believe.”
7. Let us rest assured, then, though “the vision is for an appointed time, yet in the end it shall speak and shall not lie.” When the exact period shall arrive indeed we know not, nor can we expect to know, since (as our Lord assures us) it is kept a secret, not only from all the men upon earth, but likewise from all the angels in heaven. But this we know, it will only be deferred till the mystery of God shall be finished ; till the prophecies shall be all fulfilled, and a sufficient number redeemed from among men.- If therefore any scoffers arise in these last days, “walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? fur ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were : we reply, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” No time is long or short with him who is eternal : he can do the work of a thousand years in one day, and a thousand years, nay, the longest time, is no delay to him. He is not, therefore, “ slow concerning his promise of coming again, though some men count it slowness; but he is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but rather that all should come to repentance.”
8. “ But the day of the Lord will come,” and that suddenly and unexpectedly," as a thief in the night, so that when men shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” For, “* Behold, (says Jesus) I come as a thief," at unawares, and“ at such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.—Blessed is he, therefore, that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. Watch we, therefore, for we know not at what hour our Lord doth come. For if we will not watch, he will come as a thief, and we shall not know what hour he will come upon us
If, like the evil servant, we say in our heart, Our Lord delayeth his coming, and begin to smite our fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, our Lord shall come in a