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use. Whereas, on the contrary, both the righteous and the wicked are represented by our Lord, in his account of the proceedings of that great day, Matt. xxv. as totally ignorant of their future state, and expreffing their surprize at the decision of their judge; when, according to this hypothesis, they could not but have been acquainted with it, by dear or joyful experience, long before,
If we examine the scripture promises, we Thall find no hint given of any thing taking place to the advantage of good men before the coming of Christ to judgment. When our Lord encourages persons to give to the poor, he says, Luke xiv. 14. “ They can“not recompense thee: but thou shalt be “ recompensed at the resurrection of the “ just;” not before. The apostle Paul, speaking of the duty and expectations of christians, directs their views to the same great event, and to nothing before, or short of it. Titus ii. 11. “For the grace of God, “ which bringeth salvation, hath appeared “ to all men; teaching us, that denying
Cc4 “ungod. “ ungodliness and worldly lufts, we should “ live foberiy, righteously, and godly, in “ this present world; locking for that “ blessed hope, and the glorious appearing " of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus “ Christ.” The apostle Peter had no other idea when he said, 1 Pet. iv. 12. “ Be“ loved, think it not strange concerning the “ fiery trial, which is to try you, as though “ some frange thing happened unto you : “ but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers “ of Christ's sufferings; that when his “ glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad “ also with exceeding joy."
The same only time of the reward of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked, is also particularly mentioned, Rev. xi. 16. where the four and twenty elders are said to fall down upon their faces, and to worship God, saying, “ We give thee “ thanks, O Lord God Almighty, because “ thou hast taken to thee thy great power, “ and hast reigned. And the nations were “ angry, and thy wrath is come, and the “ time of the dead that they should be
“ judged, «judged, and that thou shouldest give re“ ward unto thy servants the prophets, and “ to the saints, and them that fear thy " name, small and great, and shouldest «« destroy them who destroy (or corrupt) “ the earth.” All the exhortations of the New Testament go upon this fame proper christian principle.
.: The punishment of the wicked is also always represented as taking place at the same time, viz. the day of judgment, and not before. Thus it is only " at the end
of the world,” Matt. xiii. 14. that our Lord says, “the Son of man shall send forth “ his angels;” when “ they shall gather out “ of his kingdom all things that shall offend, “and them that do iniquity, and shall “ cast them into a furnace of fire. “ Then,” and not before, “ shall the righteous shine “forth as the sun, in the kingdom of " their father.”
When the apostles write to comfort the friends of deceased christians, they drop not the most distant hint of their enjoying
any degree of happiness at present, which is a topic which they could not possibly have overlooked on such an occasion, if they had really believed it, even though they had imagined that the resurrection was ever fo near at hand. It is plain, however, that the apostle Paul had not the notion of the resurrection being so very near, when he wrote the Epistle to the Thessalonians, whom he endeavours to comfort upon this occasion. For, in the second Epistle, which, in this respect, is only explanatory of the former, he speaks of the rise, progress, and destruction of the man of fin, as to take place before this great event.
On the contrary, all the consolation that he has to offer, is derived from the prospect of the joyful resurrection of their deceased friends. 1 Theff. iv. 13. “ I would not “ have you to be ignorant, brethren, con“ cerning them which are asleep, that ye “ forrow not, even as others who have no “ hope. For if we believe that Jesus died, « and rose again, even so them also who “ sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him.
* ---Wherefore, comfort one another with " these words.” The very phrase which the apostle here makes use of, viz. “ sleep“ing in Jesus,” clearly implies, that he had no idea of their being awake, alive, and happy.
Besides, we see, in this very paffage, that the apostle was apprehensive that the persons to whom he was writing would imagine, that they who should be alive at the second coming of Christ, would at least have some advantage over those who should be raised from the dead. For so the word carol.ee ought to be rendered, and not prevent, as in our translation. This suspicion the apostle endeavours to obviate, by showing that, of the two, those who had been dead would rather have the advantage of the living; since the resurrection of the dead would precede the change that was to pass upon those who should be found alive; and this he relates, as by express revelation from Christ, ver. 15. “ For this we say unto you, “ by the word of the Lord, that we who “ are alive, and remain unto the coming