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At the day of judgment the doctrines with which a minister has entertained his hearers must be examined. However doctrinal preaching may be discarded by many, and such words as metaphysical, abstruse, &c., are often made use of to obstruct free and candid inquiry; yet it is evident that one great end of the gospel ministry is to disseminate right sentiments; hence it is that Paul so often exhorts Timothy to take heed to his doctrine. Sound doctrine, as well as good practice, is necessary to constitute the Christian character: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God."—2 John, 9.
A careful inquiry will be made whether an empty parade of learning, elegance of style, &c., have been the main things with which a people have been entertained, tending only to gratify vain curiosity, and to fix the attention of the hearera on the speaker. This made St. Paul contemn such a mode of preaching, and determine not to know any thing save Jesus Christ, and him crucified, 1 Cor. ii., 2. Whether vague, equivocal expressions have been used to convey, or rather to obscure the truths of the gospel, by which any thing and almost every thing may be understood. This is causing the trumpet to give an uncertain sound, and has no tendency to impress or give feeling to the mind, as is the case with the words of the wise, being as goads and nails, Eccle. xii., 11. Whether to please men has had greater influence in our composing and delivering our sermons than the glory of God and the good of souls. People will be examined at the bar of Christ whether they have not been dealt plainly with; been told their characters and danger; that they are wholly opposed to God, destitute of every thing that is holy or morally good; that they are by nature under the curse of God's law, exposed every moment to endless wo; that they are hopeless and helpless in themselves; the necessity of the renewing influences of the spirit; the nature of their impotence, that it consists in an evil heart; that therefore they are altogether inexcusable, and are criminal in proportion to the degree of their inability; that nothing short of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the immediate duty of all that hear the gospel.
Ministers and their people must meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give an account whether the true character of God has in any good measure been investigated; as a sin-hating and sin-revenging God.
Without this the character of God is kept out of sight, people left in the dark, and are not able to determine whether they love or hate the true God.
It must be known whether people have had the character and work of the Redeemer set before them; the design of his sufferings, the efficacy of his blood, and the necessity of our union to him. The manner in •which divine truth has been delivered will be a matter worthy of serious examination at that day; whether with that earnestness and fervour becoming the vast importance and solemnity of gospel truth, tending to aifect the mind. The deportment or examples of ministers among their people will be closely attended to; their private visits, exhortations, and reproofs, holy desires and wrestlings for the souls of their hearers, will not escape public notice; the improvement that people have made of such advantages will be brought into public view.
How often people have attended on the ministration of the word, and the manner how, will be matters of serious concern at the judgment day. Those excuses that men make for neglecting public worship will be weighed in a just scale. Whether people have so far contributed to the temporal support of their ministers as to enable them to devote themselves to the service of Christ; or, by too great neglect, have not obstructed the gospel, robbed God, wounded their own souls.
It will be useful that the time of a minister's continuance among a people be known, as it will serve to set he characters of gospel despisers in a true point of light. That ministers and the people of their charge Ee
will meet each other at the bar of Christ, is suggested in my text, and in other parts of the sacred writings. It has already been observed that in this way truth will appear conspicuous, and the conduct of God will be vindicated, and the designs of a judgment day in the best manner answered. It may further be observed, that the matters relating to the gospel ministry are of such magnitude that it appears important that they be attended to; they concern a judgment day and an eternal state. When ministers and people meet in the house of God, it is an acknowledgment that they believe in a future state of retribution, and is a sort of appeal to the day of judgment. The influence of a faithful or unfaithful minister is such as to affect unborn ages; it will commonly determine the sentiments and characters of their successors, and in this way they may be doing good or evil after they are dead, and even to the second coming of Christ. That God's hatred towards false teachers, and against those who choose them, together with their criminality, may appear, it will be necessary that these matters be laid open at the tribunal of Christ. As a proof of the matter under consideration, I may only add, that there always has been an important controversy, in a greater or less degree, between ministers and part of their people; it is so with faithful preachers and some of their hearers; wicked men oppose the doctrines they preach, and will not be convinced. Unfaithful preachers have advocates and opposers; the dispute involved the character of Christ; it cannot be settled in this world. How necessary that ministers and people meet at the great day, to have the matter decided, the doetrines of Christ vindicated, and the characters of ministers or people exonerated.
II, Another important idea contained in the text is, that the church or people of God among whom a faithful minister finishes his work, will be a cause or crown of peculiar joy or rejoicing at the coming of Christ. It will be matter of great satisfaction to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and other saints at that day; but the Scriptures represent that godly ministers will derive peculiar joy from the pious part of their congregations, Dan. xii., 3; 2 Cor. i., 14; Phil, ii., 16. Reflecting on past providences will be a source of great joy at the day of judgment; and as many things have taken place between a minister and his people in which they are more particularly conversant and interested, when they come to be explained it will afford special joy and admiration; as they have been companions in tribulations, so now it is likely they will be in a more peculiar sense copartners in joy, and help each other in magnifying the Lord for special favours, and displays of divine power and grace on their behalf.
The prayers and struggles of pious teachers have been for Zion in general, and for those over whom the Holy Ghost has made them overseers in particular. Now God will give their hearers who have been converted through their instrumentality as a kind of reward and fruit of their travail or labour. When it appears that God has made use of the true ministers of Christ for the conversion of some of the souls once committed to their charge, it will excite wonder, joy, and humility in the minds of pious teachers, that God should deign to honour them as instruments of such glorious work, by which they will be led to adore sovereign grace and condescending love. As it is often through the painful labours of Christ's servants that souls are brought home to God, doubtless he will approve of such virtues by conferring signal honours on those who have turned many to righteousness, who will shine as stars for ever and ever.
Pious people will give such account of their faithful teachers as will meet with the approbation of God, which will be expressed by that heavenly plaudit, " Well done, good and faithful servant!" Their mutual accounts will be given up with joy, and not with grief, Hebrews xiii., 17. The hopes and expectations of such ministers are great, as the apostle suggests in the text—For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are not even ye? &c. He speaks of it as the earnest hope and expectalion of all Christ's ministers, by calling it our hope. They reflect with pleasure on the approaching happy moment, and when it comes it will greatly gratify their holy desires.
That it will be possible to hold equal communion •with all the saints, especially at one time, in the invisible world, perhaps is not admissible. It appears that the wicked who have been associates in sin here will be companions of torments hereafter, Luke xvi., 28.
They are to be gathered like the standing corn, and to be bound in bundles to burn. It is more than possible that the righteous who have lived together in this life, will have a more intimate access to each other in the world to come.
If it will be useful for them to meet in some sense as distinct societies, perhaps it will subserve the interest of the universe that they in a degree continue so. It is the character of the true church of Christ that they treat his ministers with respect in this life, accounting them aS the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, 1 Cor. iv., 1. They help them in their work, 2 Cor. i., 11. God will in the great day reward people for such kindness; as hereby they express their love to Christ, Matt, xxv., 40. This will gratify the benevolent feelings of Christ's servants; at the same time fill them with holy admiration and deep humility, that what has been done to such poor .sinful creatures should be taken notice of.
Ministers and the people of their charge will assist each other, and be united in bringing a verdict against the wicked and impenitent among whom they lived while on earth. The saints are to judge the world, 1 Cor. vi., 2. One way by which they will do this will doubtless be to declare before angels and men what they know about them, or their conduct in this life. An attachment to divine justice will make this delightful work. Ministers must declare what and how they have preached to them, and the bad improvement they have made of the gospel, so far as it has come under their observation; how they have despised