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he weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear*."
Here then is the great master-key to the whole of this mysterious dispensation of Heaven. God we see, has appointed a day when every desiciency in his administration shall be supplied, and every seeming disproportion arid inequality shall be rectisied-)-.
Even in this world it appears that wickedness is punished in some measure, and to a certain degree; and we have seen that the interests of virtue itself, among other considerations, require that it should not be instantly punished to the sull extent of its deserts. God is perpetually showing, even in the present lise, his different regard to right and wrong, by every such method as the constitution of the world which he has created admits; and therefore no sooner shall that world come to an end, and all obstacles to an equal administration of justice be taken out of the way, than he' shall come to execute righteous judgment upon earth.
"He is not slack as men count slackness^," that is negligent and remiss; he only waits for the proper season of doing all that hitherto remains undone. Human weakness indeed, by a small delay of punishing, may lofe the power of doing it for ever. "But in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strengths." Human inconstancy may be vehement and passionate at sirst; then negligent and languid. The sense of an unworthy action that does not injure us, quickly wears out of our mind; and if we take no immediate notice of it, we shall possibly take none at
* Matth. xiii. 41, 42, 43.
f " As the soul survives the dissolution of the body (says the excellent Plutarch) and exists after death, it is most probable that it will receive rewards and punishments in a suture state ; for it goes through a kind of contest during the present lisc, and wheis that is over, it wiU have its due recompence hereafter." 561. A.
How nearly does this approach to the doctrine of the Gospel, which had been promulgated nearly one hundred years before Plutarch wrote But thanks be to God, what this great man thought only probable, we have the happiness of knowing to be certain.
i 3 Pet. iii. 9. § Isaiah zzvi. 4.
all. Btit we must not think God to be such an one as ourselves. Eternity itself will make no change in hit abhorrence of wickedness, nor will any thing either transport him to act before his appointed time, or prevail upon him to- give a respite when that time comes. The sinners of the antediluvian world, abusing the long space of Ode hundred and twenty years which he allowed for their repentance, perished at the end of it without mercy. The angels who sell from their sirst. estate before this earth was created, he has reserved for torments, that shall not sinally take place till it is consumed*.
The same important period his insinite wisdom has .marked ont for the sinal judgment of men. And undoubtedly it may produce advantages of unspeakable moment thus to deser justice, with a design of rendering fome chosen parts of duration memorable throughout the universe, by a more extensive and illustrious exercise of it. For it must needs make an inconceivable strong and lasting impression upon every order of beings that shall then be present at the solemn scene, to hear the sinal doom of a whole world pronounced at once; and to behold sins that had been committed thousands of years before, punished with the same attention to every circumstance as if they had been but of yesterday.
How far off these judgments of the Lord may be, we none of us know.: 'But with regard to ourselves, they are near, they are even at the door. The sew days we have to pass in this transient scene will determine our condition for ever, and bring us into an eternal state, compared with which the continuence of the present frame of nature, from its very'beginning, will be as nothing. Then every act of the government of God will be seen in its true light; the imagined length of distance between guilt and its punishment will totally disappear; and offenders wfH lament in vain that sentence is executed fo fpeedily as it is against evil works. But with peculiar severity will it be executed on them, who despising the riches of that goodness which would lead them to repentance, "treasure up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of Godf." - * Jude vi. % Pet, ii. 4, f Rom. ii, 5..
Upon the whole then let not either the sinner triumph, •or the virtuous repine, at the apparent impunity or even prosperity of the wicked in the present lise. To the audacious sinner we apply thofe most opposite and most awsul words of the fon of Sirach. "Say not who shall control me for my works, for the Lord shall surely avenge thy pride. Say not I have sinned, and what harm hath happened unto me; for the Lord is indeed long-sufsering, but he will in no wise let thee go. Say not, his mercy is great, he will be pacisied for the multitude of my sins; for both mercy and wrath come from him, and his indignation resteth upon sinners. Make therefore no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day; for suddenly shall the wrath of the Lord come forth, and in thy security shalt thou be destroyed, and perish in the day of vengeance*."
To the religious and virtuous on the other hand we say, "Fret not thyself because of the ungodly, neither be thou envious against the evil doers. Hold thee still in the Lord, and abide patiently upon him; but grieve not thyself at him whose way doth profper, against the man that doeth after evil counsels. Wicked doers shall be rooted out j and they that patiently abide the Lord, thofe shall inherit the landf." "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient for the coming of the Lord draweth nighj."
It is not indeed always an easy task to exercise this patience, when we see conspicuous instances either of individuals or of nations, notorious for their prossigacy, triumphant and prosperous in all their ways. We can scarce repress our discontent, or forbear joining with the prophet in his expostulation with the Almighty, "Righteous art thou, O Lord! yet let me talk with thee cf thy judgments. Why do the ways of the wicked profper? Why are all they happy that deal very treacherously|| i" To
* Eccles. 6, f Psalm xxxvii. 7.
\ James v. 7. j| Jerem. xii, 1
-this we can now answer in the words of Job: a Knowest thou not this, since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of ths hypocrite but for a moment. Though his excellency mount unto the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever, and they that have seen him shall say, where is he*?"
In sact it has been proved, in the course of this enquiry, that in such an immense and complicated system as that of the universe* there are many reasons which we can discern, and a thousand others perhaps totally unknown to us, which render it necessary that the virtuous should sufser a temporary depression, and the wicked enjoy a temporary triumph. Hut let not these apparent irregularities dispirit or discourage us: for whenever the .purposes of Providence in these mysterious dispensations ihall have been accomplished, every disorder shall be rectisied, and every appearance of injustice done away. The time and the season for doing this God has reserved in his own power: and we must not presume to prescribe rules to the wifdom of the Almighty. To men excruciated with path, every moment seems an age; and to men groaning under oppression, their deliverance, if it come not instantly} may seem extremely distant. But let them not dispah- i m due season they shall reap if they saint not. At tht period marked out-by insinite wisdom, and which it is their duty to await with patience, God shall cause Ha judgment to be heard from heaven, and the earth shall tremble and be still. He shall then demonstrate to tht whole world " that his hand is not shortened that it cannot redeem, and that he still retains the power to savef.''— He shall prove, in a manner the most awsul and most satifc sactory, "that verily there is a reward for the righteous, and a punishment for the wicked; that doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earths."
* Job xx. 5. f Uaiah, 1, %. \ Psalm lviii. io.
E are now, in the course of these Lectures, arrived at the fourteenth chapter of St. Matthew, which begins in the following manner:
"At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the same of Jesus, and said unto his servants, this is John the Baptist ; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him ; for Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison, §)F Herodias sake, his brother Philip's wise; for John said unto him, it is not lawsul for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he seared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. But when Herod's birth-day was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod; whereupon he promised with an oath, that he would give her whatsoever she would ask; and she, being before instructed of her mother, said, give me here John Baptist's head in a charger. And the king was sorry; nevertheless, for the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her, and he sent and beheaded John in the prison; and his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel; and she brought it to her mother; and his disciples came and took up the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus."
Before we enter upon this remarkable and affecting narrative of the murder of John the Baptist by Herod, it will be proper to take notice of the two sirst verses of this chapter, which gave occasion to the introduction of that transaction in this place, although, it had happened some time before.