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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
Acts xvii. 31.
HE HATH APPOINTED A DAY IN THE WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS BY THAT MAN WHOM HE HATH ORDAINED; WHEREOF HE HATH GIVEN ASSURANCE UNTO ALL MEN, IN THAT HE HATH RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD.
The present state can be considered only as the infancy of human nature. The apostle has illustrated this subject in his first epistle to the Corinthians: "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known." The events of time, even those which we judge to be of the greatest importance, the affairs of states and kingdoms, when compared with the events in which we shall hereafter be concerned, seem to dwindle into the mere sports of children. What vast, interesting, wonderful,
majestic events will hereafter open before us! What can be a more solemn, awful, glorious scene than that of the general judgment!" When the Son of of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats."
We have already entered upon the subject of the general judgment; and the reflections to which the consideration of this solemn event gave rise, were the following:—
I. The certainty of its appointment.
II. The character of the Judge, and the manner of his appearance.
III. The persons to be judged, and the proceedings that will take place in relation to their trial.
I. "God hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness."
The certainty of this event was argued from the deductions of reason; from the express testimony of the scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and from the fact of Christ's resurrection: "God hath given assurance unto all men that he will judge the world by Jesus Christ, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
II. In the second branch of the subject, the character of the Judge was pointed out as altogether suitable for his great office.
It is necessary that the judge should be a divine
person; for what less than Almighty power, united with infinite wisdom and knowledge, can fit him to execute universal judgment? It is likewise expedient that he should be the Son of man as well as the Son of God; for who can be so fit to judge us, as one who is a partaker of our very nature? In relation to the manner of the judge's appearance, it was remarked that he would come in all his majesty and glory, as "King of kings and Lord of lords." We proceed now to the consideration of the third part of the subject:
III. The persons to be judged. And the proceedings that will take place in relation to their trial.
1. The parties that will appear at the bar of Christ to be judged, are devils and men.
(1.) Satan and his angels will then receive their final, their everlasting doom.
From the period in which these rebellious spirits first sinned, they were subjected to the righteous justice and vengeance of the Almighty. They were cast down to hell; and wherever they are, they carry about their hell with them. But it is expressly asserted that they are reserved unto the judgment of the great day. Then shall they be judged for all their sinning, and all their temptations to sin, from the time of their apostasy and departure from God to the end of the world. In the day of judgment they will receive a due reward of all the dishonour they have done to God, and of all the mischief they have occasioned to men. The devil and his angels, who are now in chains, though not in such close custody but that they go about seeking whom they may devour, shall then receive their final sentence, and be for ever shut up in the prison of hell. In one of the mysterious visions with which St. John was favoured in the island of Patmos, this event was revealed to him: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." In the prospect of this judgment, which the devils fully expect, they addressed Christ in the days of his incarnation, "Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?"
(2.) But the fact which it behoves us principally to notice, is, that all men must stand in that day before the tribunal of Christ.
The judgment in respect to the human race will be universal—more so indeed than even death itself. For the apostle has told us "we shall not all sleep." When Christ shall come, there will be a world full of men, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage," as in the days before the Flood. None of these will taste of death; but they must all undergo judgment. Hence the church rehearses it as an article of her faith, that Christ will "judge both the quick and the dead." All, therefore, must obey the peremptory summons of the last trumpet. The whole human race—persons of every age, sex, quality, and condition—must appear at the judgment seat. Rich and poor, old and young, noble and ignoble, princes and peasants, mast stand at the bar of God. "I saw the dead," says St. John, "small and great, stand before God." Observe, he says, "I saw them stand before God." There will be no distinctions of worldly pre-eminence. All must alike come to judgment, and stand upon the same trial. No one will escape this scrutiny. Adam and Eve with all their immense posterity will make up this vast assembly.—" We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ:—and before him shall be gathered all nations." The accomplishment of this wonderful work, according to the representation of scripture, will be effected by the ministry of angels. "For the Son of man, when he comes in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Their ministry likewise extends to the wicked as well as the righteous. "For in the end of the world, the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
And now, behold, my brethren, the wonderful and exact separation, which will be made between the righteous and the wicked. All the elect, who have been collected by the angels, shall be set at the right hand of the judge. All the wicked, and those who have done iniquity, who have been gathered
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