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but they are not exempt from the judgment of God. Before him our thoughts are as much an evidence of our true state as our words or our actions. The secret springs of man's conduct will then be brought to light and exposed to view. The design of this scrutiny, in the great day of account, will not be to inform the Judge, who already knows all things; but to convince angels and men of the justice of his proceedings, and to exhibit the grounds upon which he passes sentence.
But by what rule will the judgment be conducted? It is said, in general terms, that “ Christ “ will judge the world in righteousness.” Jesus will be an upright and impartial judge. He will not, therefore, retaliate even upon Pilate or Judas. But as men will be judged in righteousness, we may suppose that the judgment will be conducted by some rule-by a rule known to them, or which, at least, they had it in their power to know. Now, the law of nature, including the light of reason and conscience, is a universal rule. This is a rule that is known, or which may be known, by all men; and, therefore, according to it all mankind will be judged. “ For “ when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by “ nature the things contained in the law, these, not “ having the law, are a law unto themselves : which “ shew the work of the law written in their hearts, “ their consciences also bearing witness, and their “ thoughts the mean while accusing, or else excusing, “ one another *." By this rule conscience now acquits or condemns men, at least in numerous instances. As the heathens are ignorant of every rule except this, it may be concluded that they will be judged by this only. But as to those who have enjoyed the benefit of revelation, they will be judged according to it. Those who lived before the time of Moses, it may be supposed, will receive their judgment according to that traditionary revelation which
* Rom. ii. 14, 15.
God was pleased to give before any part of the Holy Scripture was penned. The Jews, from the time of Moses till the coming of Christ, upon the principles we are admitting, will be judged according to the writings of Moses and the Prophets. Those of them who have lived subsequently to the advent of the Messiah, and all professed Christians, as well as all others, whom the light of revelation has reached, will be judged according to the whole canon of Scripture, the law and the Gospel. .
But the Scripture exhibits to us another striking representation of the proceedings of the great day under the imagery of opening the books.—This is evidently an allusion to the forms of the proceedings in human courts of judicature. Thus, the Prophet Daniel declares, the “ judgment was set and the “ books were opened :"- and in the description here given, it is asserted, that “the dead were judged is out of those things which were written in the “ books.” To illustrate the striking imagery of the books, the following remarks may be offered.
First, the book of God's remembrance will be opened.-We are assured by the Prophet Malachi that “ a book of remembrance is written before “ him *.” This book may be said to be an exact register of every man's state before God. Here are recorded all his thoughts, words, and actions. This will be a most awful book to all those who die in their sins. But it will be a sweet memorial of the love and obedience of the believer in Christ, who has repented of his sins and brought forth fruits meet for repentance.
Secondly, the book of conscience will also be opened. This will be an exact counterpart of the book of God's remembrance. The particulars recorded in these two books will mutually correspond with each other.
* Mal. iii. 16.
Thirdly, the book of the law may be mentioned as one of the records then to be opened.--The law of nature will be the canon for those who have had no other; the law of revelation, for those to whom it has been manifested. The law is the standard of duty and sin, of right and wrong, to every human being. It promises life upon one condition; the condition of perfect obedience. But none upon the right hand, or upon the left, whether under the law of nature or revelation-none of the children of Adam, under any dispensation of religion, will presume to claim a title to life by the law, after the book of conscience has been opened. “ By the law “ can no flesh be justified.” It will only condemn the wicked who have died in impenitence.
Fourthly, it may with propriety be asserted, that the book of the Gospel will also be opened.—This record will awfully add to the condemnation of those who have died in their sins under the Gospel dispensation. “For this is THE CONDEMNATION, that “ light is come into the world, and men loved dark“ ness rather than light, because their deeds were “ evil *.”—“He that despised Moses' law, died with“ out mercy under two or three witnesses : of how “ much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be “ thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the
Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the
covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an un“ holy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit “ of grace.”—But while the Gospel will be an awfully tremendous record against all those who have died in impenitence and unbelief, it will be a blessed book to every true believer in Jesus ; for it declares, “ He that believeth and is baptized shall “ be saved *.”_" This is the record, that God hath “ given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
* John, iii. 19.
Heb. x. 28, 29.
Mark, xvi. 16.
“ He that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath “ not the Son, hath not life *."
Finally, it is asserted, with emphasis and speciality, that “ another book was opened, which is the “ book of life."-In this book will be found recorded the names of all those who will actually be saved, and brought to the possession of eternal glory and felicity; the chosen of the Father, the redeemed of the Son, and the sanctified of the Holy Ghost. Here are inserted the names of all true believers in Jesus, who having been convinced of their sins, and enlightened in the knowledge of Christ, have “ fled for “ refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in “ the Gospel," and have evidenced the reality of their faith by their holy life and conversation. In this blessed register will be found the names of millions of infants who have died interested in the salvation of Christ; for “ of such," said the blessed Saviour, “is the kingdom of God.” Here are registered the names of all those whom the God of sovereignty has purposed, in his providence and grace, to recover from the ruins of the fall, from the death of righteous Abel to the last saint that shall have been regenerated by the power of his holy Spirit " when “ he shall have accomplished the number of his “ elect.” In short, this book shews us the perfect knowledge that the omniscient God has of all those on whom he intends to bestow eternal life, and whom he has registered as members of the “ general “ assembly and church of the first-born which are “ written in heaven.” These having been prepared by divine grace for a state of glory, honour, and felicity, are now put in full possession of their inheritance.
But another circumstance of importance, in the proceedings of the great day, may here be noticed. The Scripture warrants us to conceive of witnesses, who will be produced to bear evidence to the facts. But who are these? The Judge himself, who has a perfect knowledge of all hearts, will be a witness against the guilty: “ I will come near to you to “ judgment; and I will be a swift witness against “ the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and " against false swearers, and against those that op« press the hireling in his wages, the widow and the “ fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from “ his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of “ Hosts *.” But the omniscient Judge will, no doubt, likewise be a witness for his people, by bearing testimony to their sincere piety, to their cordial acceptance of salvation through Christ, and to those holy dispositions which have been wrought in their souls by the power of the Holy Spirit.-Angels also will be witnesses, who have been sent forth “ to “ minister to the heirs of salvation,” and who will have inspected the affairs and conduct both of good and bad men.-Devils, likewise, who once tempted men to sin, will now turn witnesses and accusers.-Conscience will become a witness. It is now often seared; but it will then bear a faithful testimony to every thing that has been done whether good or bad.-Men will also be witnesses one against another. Ministers must bear witness against those who have rejected the Gospel which they had faithfully dispensed to them, so as to be pure from their blood. The people, in many cases, will testify against their ministers for “ prophesying smooth « things to them, and saying Peace, peace, when “ God was saying, There is no peace of !"- Parents will witness against their children, and children against their parents.—Those who have been friends and companions in sin will then be constrained to appear as evidences one against another.–Alas! what confounding testimonies will be produced in
* 1 John, v. II, 12.