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“shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to * meat, and will come forth and serve them.''* “ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast and “ unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the “ Lord: for as much as ye know that your labour is " not in vain in the Lord.”
Luke xii. 35–38.
ROMANS, i. 6-9.
Who will 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; indig. nation and wrath; tribulation and anguish, upon eve
ry soul of man that doeth evil. In meditating on the solemnities, discoveries, and consequences of that great decisive day, when the Lord shall come to be our Judge; we were obliged to pass over in a general manner, several important particulars relative to the subject: and especially we re. served for a separate discourse, the consideration of the manner, in which all men will be judged accord ing to their works, and receive according to what they have done, whether it be good or evil. The present will therefore be an appendix to the preceding discourse, as intended to illustrate its interesting truths, and to render them more perspicuous and impressive.
In the passage before us, the apostle does not under: take to decide a controverted point of doctrine, to state the method of a sinner's justification, or to account for that difference of character which actually subsists among the descendants of fallen Adam. These subjects he has fully discussed in other parts of his writings: but here be takes occasion from his subject to shew, that the opposite conduct of the righteous and the wicked will terminate in future happiness or misery. He considers some persons more favoured by providence than others, as the Jews had every way the advantage of the Gentiles: but he inti: mates that they generally abused those advantages to their deeper condemnation: “Despisest thou the rich“es of his goodness, and forbearance, and long suf.
fering, not knowing that the goodness of God lead“eth thee to repentance?” The more kind, patient, and merciful the Lord is, the baser our rebellion and ingratitude must appear, the greater cause have we to repent, and the more abundant motives and encouragements. But if men presume on his lenity, sup. posing that he will not or cannot punish, and so encourage themselves in sin, they “ despise the riches “ of his goodness and mercy;” and “after their hard
ness and impenitent heart, treasure up to them“ selves wrath, against the day of wrath and revela“tion of the righteous judgment of God, who will "render to every man according to his deeds.” The treasures, which they, perhaps covetously and dishonestly, accumulate on earth, must be left to their survivors: but the vast accessions, which they daily make to their load of guilt, and the heavy wrath of God against them, are laid up for themselves, to be their future and eternal portion. For at the great day of righteous retribution, God “ will render unto eve
ry man according to his deeds: to them who by pa“ tient 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 wrathi, " tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man “ that doeth evil.”- In discoursing on these words, I shall endeavour,
1. To describe more fully the two characters contrasted by the apostle, and to shew the doom reserved for each.
II. Compare the statement thus made with several other important scriptures, which may serve to elucidate and confirm it.
III. Explain more precisely the rule of judgment, as delivered in the sacred oracles: and
IV. Make some particular application of the subject. 1. Then I shall endeavour to describe more fully the two characters contrasted by the apostle, and to shew the doom reserved for each.
The apostle's reasoning throughout this whole epistle proves, that he was speaking of sinners under a dispensation of mercy. He therefore considers a man, thus circumstanced, proposing to himself the acquisition of glory, and honour, and immortality. Such a purpose must imply a belief of the scriptural doctrine, concerning the perfections and government of God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of righteous retribution: with a persuasion that eternal happiness is attainable even by sinners, in the way which the Lord hath revealed. At the same time the man is convinced, that the blessing must be sought with diligence and self-denial, and that it ought to be preferred before all other objects whatever. Thus, while “ there be many that say, Who will shew us
any good,”—“seeking every man his gain from his
quarter,” pursuing worldly pleasures, honours, and distinctions, or wasting their lives in sloth and dissipation; he “ seeks first the kingdom of God and his “ righteousness,” and “ labours for the meat which “ endureth unto everlasting life.” He is now become a candidate for “glory, and honour, and immor- .
tality:" and nothing, inferior to an endless inheri. tance and unfading joys, can satisfy the vast desires of his heart. Whatever he renounces, ventures, or suffers, he resolves to seek “a kingdom that cannot be s moved.” He feels the force of our Lord's questions, “What is a man profited, if he gain the whole “ world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man
give in exchange for his soul?” He does not, howcver, merely seek deliverance from wrath and misery; he is also athirst for happiness in the enjoyment of God, and of those“ pleasures which are at his right « land for evermore."
He attends to religion, not that he may be seen of men, or acquire reputation; nor is he solely intent on pacifying an uneasy conscience: but as a reasonable creature, formed for an immortal existence, he aims, in this introductory scene, to ensure felicity in the world to come. He " believes that God is, and that he is the rewarder of