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coming of the free gift unto justification of life, must refer to that free offer which is made unto all men indiscriminately, of being justified in case they exercise faith in the Son of God.
As to those passages which reveal it to be the Father's will, that of all which he hath given to the Son he should lose nothing; they are good proof, that such as were in a special sense given to the Son, as a re. ward of his obedience unto death, will not only be recovered from their depraved state by regenerating grace, but that they will also be preser. ved unto the heavenly kingdom. It proves that none will be able to deceive and ruin the elect: but how does this prove
that reprobates will not be deceived and ruined ?
This Article harmonizes with the first and second.
What can be more fit and proper than this, that the Creator of all things should call his rational creatures to an account for their conduct? He is infinitely able to bring them before him, and to decide concerning their respect. ive characters. The day of judgment will reflect much light upon the moral perfection of God, as it will manifest his delight in holiness, and his hatred of iniquity. It will give an advantageous opportunity to show his perfect impartiality ; for when all pations are assembled before him, he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats: and he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. In making the division, it will be most man. ifest that God is no respecter of persons. Some of all nations, and of all classes of society, will undoubtedly be found in each of these two divisions ; but no impenitent person will be found on the right, nor will any penitent character be found on the left hand.
The glory of the Eternal Being is the chief end of all his works. His moral perfection is that in which his glory chiefly consists; and the day of judgment will, in a wonderful manner, display that glory which consists in the purity of his nature, manifested in loving righteousness and hating wickedness.
The doctrine of a general judgment, and the everlasting separation which is then to be made between the righteous and the wicked, most perfectly harmonizes with the third and fourth Articles. The third brought into view an infinitely perfect law, given by the God of the spirits of all flesh, to regulate the conduct of his rational creatures. We found the Lawgiver, promising his favor to the obedient, and threaten. ing his everlasting displeasure to those who should transgress his precepts. In the fourth Article we were led to contemplate the melancholy fact, that the divine law had been actually broken ; that a part of the angels, and the whole race of Adam, had apostatized from God. In view of the promulgation of this law, and in view of the contempt which was cast upon it by such a wide-spread rebellion, how unspeak. ably important for the glory of the Lawgiver, and the effectual sup. pression of a spirit of rebellion, that this matter should have a public trial; and that the sentence of approbation on the righteous, and of
condemnation on the wicked, should pass in the presence of the assembled universe.
There certainly can be no disagreement between this and the fifth Article. The same wonderful Personage, who was there exhibited making an atonement for the sin of men, is here presented to our view as the supreme Judge. For both of these works unlimited attributes are needful.
In making the atonement, He, who thought it not rob. bery to be equal with God, humbled himself infinitely low, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; but when he comes to judge the world, he will be highly exalted. If Jesus of Nazareth, who hung upon the cross, was the King of the Jews, and the Lord of glory, it must be apparent to all, that it is most suitable he should have the honor of being the Judge of quick and dead. The doctrine of atone. ment will appear very attractive and glorious in the day of judgment; as it will then be seen to have had an astonishing effect on an innumerable multitude of the race of Adam, in washing them from their sins, and preparing them for the right hand of the Judge. There will be a brighter radiance about the judgment seat of Christ, when it is viewed in connection with his cross. When all those who are standing before his judgment seat shall recognize, in the person of their Judge, Him who became a man of sorrows, and endured the ignominý and pain of the cross, for the purpose of supporting a righteous government, and opening a way for his enemies to be freed from condemnation; they must be convinced, however dreadful and intolerable may be the sen. tence which he passes upon the wicked, that it is not the result of malice, nor of a proud indifference to their happiness. When the bleeding Savior, and the inflexible Judge, are known to be one and the same character, his friends will be consoled, and his enemies confound. ed and put to silence.
There is no want of harmony between this and the sixth and seventh Articles. If the system of doctrines had closed with these Articles, there would have been none of the children of men prepared for the right hand of the Judge; for though in the sixth we saw all men invi. ted to the marriage supper of the Lamb; yet in the seventh we find them all, with one consent, making excuse, and obstinately refusing to partake of the good provided for them.
In the eighth Article we considered the doctrine of regeneration. They who experience this change, become friendly to the character of God; they lothe themselves as the transgressors of his law; and they put their trust in Him who gave himself a ransom for their souls. Now in the day of judgment, these sanctified ones will all be distinguished from their fellow men, by being placed on the right hand of the Judge. Though they will not deserve such an honor, yet for such an honor has their sanctification prepared them.
The ninth Article relates to the sovereignty of grace in redemption. Between that and the present Article there is no variance. Both in forming creatures at first, and in creating them anew in Christ Jesus, the Most High is governed by no prescribed rules, but does that which seemeth good in his own eyes.
But in the treatment of characters which are formed, he governs himself by rules of rectitude he has seen fit to make known to us. When we are in our sins, we have no pro
mise from God, that he will ever renew our hearts; but when our hearts are renewed, we may know that we shall not be classed with the enemies of God, and may therefore have boldness in the day of judgment. 1 John, iv. 17.
There is a perfect harmony between this and the tenth Article. In that Article it was shown, that the difference which God now makes between men by his regenerating grace, was according to his eternal purpose.
We found that all who would ever be saved, were, in dis. tinction from others, given unto Christ as his elect seed.
Some were given to him, and some were not given. And in the great day, all those who were given to him, will appear with him in glory. The elect will every one of them be made meet for the right hand, and the rest will all be fitted for destruction.
The harmony between this and the eleventh Article is very easily discovered. They who are justified now, will all be placed on the right hand at the great day, and will receive that welcome sentence, u Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you “ from the foundation of the world." “ Whom he justified, them he also glorified." The judgment is not designed to reverse anything which is confirmed by the Savior in the present world. What he binds on earth, he will bind at the day of judgment. They who are now freed from condemnation, will then have their sins blotted out by a public act of the Judge, and will be openly acknowledged as his friends. Acts üi. 19-21.
But if there had been no such truth in the word of God, as that which is contained in the twelfth Article, viz. the perseverance of the saints, then there would have been no certain connection between being justified here, and being openly acquitted in the day of judgment. Perseverance is the link which connects justification unto life with the actual enjoyment of life eternal. They who are justified by faith, are kept through faith unto salvation,
1. If we are determined to believe nothing but what is confirmed by our senses, we shall reject from our creed the present Article, for we have never heard the archangel's trump, nor seen the dead arise from their tombs. We have not seen the dissolution of the world, nor witnessed the scenes of the last day. What if we have not ? equally true that we did not witness the beginning of things; we did not see worlds spring into existence. It is “through faith we under. stand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” And through faith in the inspired word, we understand that their frame will be at length taken down. It must be as easy for the Almighty to take down the fabric of the universe as it was to rear it up; and as easy to call men from death to life, as it was to call them from non-entity into existence. Why, I would demand with the apostle, “ why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” I would add, why should it be thought a thing incredible, that God should judge the dead, after he has raised them to life?
2. Let a deep and abiding impression be made upon every mind, that the doctrine, which we have now been considering, is not only true, but exceedingly solemn and interesting. What a solemn thing, to be a man, an accountable creature ! “ After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them." We shall be reckoned with. There are creatures in our world, which, though they have the same bodily senses with us, and the power of voluntary mo. tion, will never be called before the judgment seat. Since they are incapable of knowing their Creator, or feeling an obligation to be gov. erned by his laws, the object of their existence terminates with their lives : but with us it is not so. Our place in the created system is vastly more important than that of the beasts which perish.
We are blessed with reason and a conscience, and immortality is stamped on our existence. It is true that we, as well as the beasts, die and turn to dust : but our dust, in distinction from theirs, will be reanimated; and in the character of accountable creatures shall we be arraigned before the Judge of all the earth. “ It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment;" the judgment, which shall decide for an endless eternity, the destiny both of the one who writes and the one who reads.
3. Though the judgment of the great day is unavoidable, the terrors of it may be avoided, by our passing judgment on ourselves before. hand : " for," said the apostle, “if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” If we will institute a trial, and arraign ourselves at the bar of conscience, and take the side of the supreme Judge, heartily condemning all that in our conduct which he condemns ; when he shall assume the judgment seat we shall not be judged, that is, judg. ment will not be passed against us. Before our probationary state closes, we are able to anticipate, as it respects our own case, the deci. sions of the last day. We have great advantages for doing it, since the written word, which Christ assures us is the rule by which those de. cisions will be regulated, is in our hands. John xii. 48. The character with which we shall appear before the judgment seat is formed in this life; for every one will receive the things done in his body: and these things, whether they be external actions or affections of the mind, lie open to our own inspection. How dreadful it must be for us to go up to the judgment, in such a state as to be wholly unprepared to meet its investigations and decisions. Since unbelief and thoughtlessness do not cause judgment to linger, how foolish to be unbelieving and thoughtless on a subject so tremendously solemn!“ Agree with thine Adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him.” This, fel. low sinner, is the advice of our best Friend. If we refuse to profit by it, and go up to the judgment seat, without having previously settled the controversy between us and God, we shall bewail our folly through a hopeless eternity.
THAT WHICH INSURES THE FULL DISPLAY OF THE CREATOR's Glo. RY, ACCORDING TO THE FOREGOING SCHEME OF DOCTRINES, IS THE ETERNAL COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL, AND THE MIGHTY OPERATION OF
HIS OWN HAND.
This Article divides itself into two branches, the one relating to the counsel, and the other to the operation or agency of God. I propose in a concise manner to take a distinct view of each branch: And, J. Of the counsel of God. By this is intended the wise purpose
of his infinitely capacious and holy mind, relative to all the works which his hand will ever accomplish. God does not work without a plan. In every thing he does, he has an object ; and the means which he makes use of to accomplish it are dictated by his own infinite wisdom. The scriptures impel us to the conclusion, that from eternity he had a fixed purpose to originate a dependent universe, even the very one which now exists ; and that he always intended to govern and manage it just as he has done.
The scriptures speak of the counsel, purpose, and determination of God, concerning future events. When we hear the Almighty saying,
My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” we are led to contemplate his counsel as relating to events not yet brought to pass: and when we hear it asserted, that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, we are manifestly led to view the counsel of his will as preceding his operations, and giving direction to them all. Isa. xlvi. 10. Eph. i. 11.
The same thing is true concerning the decree of God; it is repre. sented as going before, and as guiding his operations. It is said, “ he hath made a decree which shall not pass.” “ The consumption de. creed shall overflow with righteousness.” The consumption was de. creed before it overflowed with righteousness. In one place it is said, “ Before the decree bring forth ;” which manifestly supposes the de. cree formed before the happening of the event to which it relates. Ps. cxlviii. 6. Isa. x. 22. Zeph. ii. 2.
The purposes of God are spoken of as relating to future events, as much as the purposes
of “ The Lord of hosts hath sworn, say. ing, surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” “I have purposed it, I will also do it.” İsa. xiv. 24; xlvi. 11. The expression, " called according to his purpose,” clearly shows the purpose to precede the event to which it related. In truth, its antecedence was nothing less than a whole eternity; for the event referred to had just transpired, and yet was “ according to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. viii. 28. Eph. iii. 11.
Determination is applied to God, to express the fixcdness of his pur.