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that day, when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, and make manifest the counsel of all hearts !
What now remains but that the final sentence be passed ? Behold with the eye of faith, the glorious company at the right hand of the Judge. There stand“ all the elect people of God.” Jesus has acknowledged them as his“ faithful subjects and ser“ vants.
Every charge brought against them has been overruled. Their plea, that they trusted in him for salvation, has been ratified and confirmed. Their sins have been borne by Jesus, and have been washed away in the fountain of his precious blood. Clothed in the robes of their Redeemer's righteousness, from the period of their justification, they have possessed a title to the heavenly inheritance. Let heaven, earth, and hell, stand in silence, and hear the sentence of the Saviour and Judge! “ Come, ye “ blessed children of my Father, inherit the king“ dom prepared for you from the foundation of the “ world *.” What imagination can conceive the delight and joy with which the saints of God will hear these emphatic words pronounced! They longed for the immediate presence of their God and Saviour; and now they are called to come and dwell with him for ever. They desired the blessing of God above all things: they dreaded nothing so inuch as his curse. But now they are addressed as the everlastingly “ blessed of the Father.” They often felt their spiritual poverty, and their unworthiness of the least of God's mercies; but now they are called to inherit a kingdom-a kingdom prepared for them, long before they had any existence (except in the mind of their eternal and omnipotent Creator), even “ from the “ foundation of the world." And here let it be observed on what account the sentence is passed on them. It is neither for their works, nor for their faith. The kingdom they are called to possess was prepared for them by God from the foundation of the world: they are invited to inherit it, as sons, and not to receive it as a reward for their services. They were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, and clothed with his spotless righteousness; and this is the sole and proper ground of the gracious sentence pronounced upon them. But the saints of God, being qualified for the enjoyment of heaven by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, are often said to be judged “ according to their works.” It is therefore added to the sentence delivered by their Judge, “ For I was an hungered, and ye gave me “ meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was “a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye “ clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was “in prison, and ye came unto me *." This language, however, does not denote the ground, but the evidence, of their title to heaven. It shews the manner in which the grace that prepares for glory, operates in the hearts of those who possess it. It demonstrates the connexion between glory and good works, those works which are evangelically good, and performed out of faith and love to Jesus. True believers will not only be judged according to these works, in opposition to the works of the wicked and unregenerate; but as far as grace has had opportunities and occasions of action in the present world, and as far as those opportunities and occasions have been embraced and improved, so far likewise it may be asserted, without derogating from the sovereignty of God in the distribution of his final and gracious rewards, that his people will receive these rewards in proportion to their works. In this great day of retribution our gracious Lord has taught us that he will have respect to the diligent use we have made of our talents. To this it may be added likewise, that
* Matt. xxv. 31.
the more grace has enabled us to do for God, the more will our hearts be filled with joy and gratitude on the remembrance of it, and the more glory shall we have to ascribe to the Author of every good and perfect gift, for the measure of grace he was pleased to confer upon us. Thus, a plentiful harvest will be reaped from the seed of good works, and “a cup of “ cold water given to a disciple in the name of a “ disciple, shall in no wise lose its reward."
We have heard the sentence to be pronounced on the righteous at the right hand of the Judge. Let us now notice that to be passed on the wicked at the left. The time of mediation is now passed away; and, in respect to the wicked, nothing appears in the character of Him who once came to save sinners, but the majesty and terror of an inexorable Judge. The tremendous sentence is now denounced:-“ De
part from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire pre
pared for the devil and his angels *.” How awfully is the severity of the Judge here displayed ! Every word is emphatically big with terror. The tremendous doom here denounced upon the wicked is too awfully terrible to be reflected on. They are commanded to depart for ever from the fountain of all happiness—with the curse of God upon their heads-into the fire that shall never be quenchedprepared originally, not for man, but for the devil and his angels; those evil spirits who once enticed them to sin, but who will now be their companions and tormentors for ever. But why is this dreadful sentence passed? “ For I was an hungered, and ye
gave me no meat : I was thirsty, and ye gave me “ no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not “in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick and in “ prison, and ye visited me not t." These charges are not only evidences of their ungodly, unregenerate state, but they are also grounds of their condemnation; for, though good works do not merit salvation, because, when we have done all that we can do, we have done no more than our duty, and are unprofitable servants; yet evil works merit damnation. It should also be observed, that sins of one kind only are here mentioned; namely, those of omission. But if the wicked are deserving of condemnation for omitting duty, how much more are they so for committing sin? The sentence, therefore, is righteous, and it is justly put into execution. The following verses bring us to the awful catastrophe.
* Matt. xxv. 41.
+ Ib. xxv. 42, 43.
6 And death and hell were cast into the lake of “ fire. This is the second death. And whosoever “ was not found written in the book of life was cast “ into the lake of fire.”-Death and hell, or the grave and the separate state, are here represented as persons who will be cast into the lake of fire. This implies that they will be destroyed, and subsist no longer to receive the bodies and souls of men. Death will be swallowed up in victory, and Hades, or the unseen separate state between death and the resurrection, will be annihilated. There will be no death in heaven; and all the wicked will be cast into a place of eternal torment. The souls and bodies both of the righteous and the wicked will be no more liable to be dissolved by death; and, consequently, the separate state will no longer exist. The final state of separation from God, and of eternal misery in the lake of fire, is styled the “ second “ death." Into this place of punishment and torment all will be cast who shall not be found written in the book of life. A record in the book of life, written by the pen of Omniscience, of the repentance, faith, love, and good works of the believer, as evidential of his election, redemption, and regeneration, is the necessary preservative from being cast into hell. In other words, an interest in the salvation of Christ is the only security against the second death.
Now the final sentence is put into execution. Hell opens its voracious jaws to swallow up all the wicked. They are cast down into the pit of burnings, where the “ smoke of their torment ascendeth up “ for ever and ever" “ where the worm dieth not, “ and the fire is not quenched."-But let us contemplate the different state of the righteous. The redeemed and sanctified of the Lord, having been assessors with Jesus in his judgment on the wicked, and having given their Amen to his righteous decision, now march to their eternal home under the conduct of the Captain of their salvation. Here they shall be for ever with the Lord, completely and everlastingly happy according to the utmost measure of their various capacities. Here they shall “ “God day and night in his temple: and he that sit“ teth on the throne shall dwell among them. They “ shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; “ neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. “ For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne “ shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living “ fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all “ tears from their eyes *."
The state of all the inhabitants of the world being everlastingly fixed, the earth itself, which had so long been a stage of sin, shall now meet its fate. Behold, “ the heavens shall pass away with a great “ noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent “ heat ; the earth also, and the works that are there“ in, shall be burned up." This globe, on which men now dwell, shall be dissolved into an ocean of liquid fire, and every thing will be overwhelmed in the universal conflagration. What then will become of the possessions to which men are so fondly attached? Alas! they will no more be found! All things will be involved in the general destruction.May every reader of these pages be found amongst
* Rev. vii. 15-17.
+ 2 Peter, iï. 10.