THE UNIVERSAL JUDGMENT.
" And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: because 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."'—Acts, xvii. 80, 81.
The present state is the infancy of human nature; and all the events of time, even those that make such noise, and determine the fate of kingdoms, are but the little affairs of children. But if we look forward and trace human nature to maturity, we meet with events vast, interesting, and majestic, and such as nothing but divine authority can render credible to us who are so apt to judge of things by what we see. To one of those scenes I would direct your attention this day; I mean the solemn, tremendous, and glorious scene of the universal judgment.
You have sometimes seen a stately building in ruins; come now and view the ruins of a demolished world. You have often seen a feeble mortal struggling in the agonies of death, and his shattered frame dissolved; come now and view universal nature severely laboring and agonizing in her last convulsions, and her well-compacted system dissolved. You have heard of earthquakes here and there that laid Lisbon, Palermo, and a few other cities in ruins; come now and feel the tremors and convulsions of the whole globe, that blend cities and countries, oceans and continents, mountains, plains, and valleys in one promiscuous heap. You have a thousand times beheld the moon walking in brightness, and the sun shining in his strength ; now look and see the sun turned into darkness, and the moon into blood.
It is our lot to live in an age of confusion, blood, and slaughter; an age in which our attention is engaged by the clash of arms, the clangor of trumpets, the roar of artillery, and the dubious fate of kingdoms; but draw off your thoughts from these objects for an hour, and fix them on objects more solemn and interesting: come view
" A scene that yields
A louder trumpet, and more dreadful fields;
The world alarm'd, both Earth and Heaven o'erthrown,
And gasping Nature's last tremendous groan :
Death's ancient sceptre broke, the teeming Tomb,
The righteous Judge, and man's eternal doom."—Young.
Such a scene there certainly is before us; for St. Paul tells us, that God hath given assurance to all men he shall judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained; and that his resurrection, the resurrection of him who is God and man, is a demonstrative proof of it.
My text is the conclusion of St. Paul's defence or sermon before the famous court of Areopagus, in the learned and philosophical city of Athens. In this august and polite assembly he speaks with the boldness, and in the evangelical strain, of an apostle of Christ. He first inculcates upon them the great truths of natural religion, and labors faithfully, though in a very gentle and inoffensive manner, to reform them from that stupid idolatry and superstition into which even this learned and philosophical city was sunk, though a Socrates, a Plato, and the most celebrated sages and moralists of pagan antiquity had lived and taught in it. Afterwards, in the close of his discourse, he introduces the glorious peculiarities of Christianity, particularly the duty of repentance, from evangelical motives, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment.
In these dark times of ignorance which preceded the publication of the gospel, God seemed to wink or connive at the idolatry and various forms of wickedness that had overspread the world; that is, he seemed to overlook, or take no notice of them, so as either to punish them, or to give the nations explicit calls to repentance. But now, says St. Paul, the case is altered. Now the gospel is published through the world, and God therefore will no longer seem to connive at the wickedness and impenitence of mankind, but publishes his great mandate to a rebel world, explicitly and loudly commanding all men everywhere to repent; and he now gives them particular motives and encouragements to this duty.
One motive of the greatest weight, which was never so clearly or extensively published before, is the doctrine of the universal judgment. And surely the prospect of a judgment must be a strong motive to sinners to repent:— this, if any thing, will rouse them from their thoughtless security, and bring them to repentance.
God has given assurance to all men ; that is, to all that hear the gospel, that he has appointed a day for this great purpose, and that Jesus Christ, God-man, is to preside in person in this majestic solemnity. He has given assurance of this; that is sufficient ground of faith; and the assurance consists in this, that he hath raised him from the <kad.
The resurrection of Christ gives assurance of this in several respects. It is a specimen and a pledge of a general resurrection, that grand preparative for the judgment: it is also an authentic attestation of our Lord's claims, and an incontestable proof of his divine mission; for God will never work so unprecedented a miracle in favor of an impostor ; and he expressly claimed the authority of supreme Judge as delegated to him by the Father; the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son.
Let us now enter upon the majestic scene. But, alas! what images shall I use to represent it? Nothing that we have seen, nothing that we have heard, nothing that has ever happened on the stage of time, can furnish us with proper illustrations. All is low and groveling, all is faint and obscene that ever the sun shone upon, when compared with the grand phenomena of that day ; and we are so accustomed to low and little objects, that it is impossible we should ever raise our thoughts to a suitable pitch of elevation. Ere long we shall be amazed spectators of these majestic wonders, and our eyes and our ears will be our instructors. But now it is necessary we should have such ideas of them as may affect our hearts, and prepare us for them. Let us therefore present to our view those representations which divine revelation, our only guide in this case, gives us of the person of the Judge, and the manner of his appearance ; of the resurrection of the dead, and the transformation of the living; of the universal convention of all the sons of men before the supreme tribunal; of their separation to the right and left hand of the Judge, according to their characters; of the judicial process itself; of the decisive sentence; of its execution, and of the conflagration of the world.
As to the person of the Judge, the psalmist tells you, God is judge himself. Yet Christ tells us, the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son ; and that he hath given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. It is, therefore, Christ Jesus, God-man, as I observed, who shall sustain this high character; and, for reasons already alleged, it is most fit it should be devolved upon him. Being God and man, all the advantages of divinity and humanity centre in him, and render him more fit for this office than if he were God only, or man only. This is the august Judge before whom we must stand; and the prospect may inspire us with reverence, joy, and terror.
As to the manner of his appearance, it will be such as becomes the dignity of his person and office. He will shine in all the uncreated glories of the Godhead, and in all the gentler glories of a perfect man. His attendants will add a dignity to the grand appearance, and the sympathy of nature will increase the solemnity and terror of the day. Let his own word describe him. The Son of man shall come in his glory, and in the glory of his Father, and all the holy angels with him ; and then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the Judge before whom we must stand; and this is the manner of his appearance. Is this the supposed son of the carpenter, the despised Galilean? Is this the man of sorrows ? Is this he that was arrested, condemned, was buffeted, was spit upon, was crowned with thorns, was executed as a slave and a criminal upon the cross ? Yes, it is he; the very same Jesus of Nazareth. But O how changed! how deservedly exalted! Let heaven and earth congratulate his advancement.
While the Judge is descending, the parties to be judged will be summoned to appear. But where are they ? They are all asleep in their dusty beds, except the then generation. And how shall they be roused from their long sleep of thousands of years ? Why, the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. The trumpet shall sound, and they that are then alive shall not pass into eternity through the beaten road of death, but at the last trumpet they shall be changed, changed into immortals, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, Now all the millions of mankind, of whatever country and nation, whether they expect this tremendous day or not, all feel a shock through their whole frames, while they are instantaneously metamorphosed in every limb, and the pulse of immortality begins to beat in every part. Now, also, the slumberers under ground begin to stir, to rouse and spring to life. Now see graves opening, tombs bursting, charnel-houses rattling, the earth heaving and all alive, while these subterranean armies are bursting their way through. What vast multitudes that had slept in a watery grave, now emerge from rivers, and seas, and oceans, and throw them into a tumult ! Tlie dead, small and great, will arise to stand before God, and the sea shall give up the dead which were in it. Now the Judge is come, the judgment-seat is erected, the dead are raised. And what follows ? Why, the universal convention of all the sons of men before the judgment-seat. What an august convocation, what a vast assembly is this ! Now all the sons of men meet in one vast assembly. Adam beholds the long line of his posterity, and they behold their common father. Now Europeans and Asiatics, the swarthy sons of Africa and the savages of America,. mingle together. Christians, Jews, Mahometans, and Pagans, the learned and the ignorant, kings and subjects, rich and poor, free and bond, form one promiscuous crowd. The extensive region of the air is very properly chosen as the place of judgment; for this globe would not be sufficient for such a multitude to stand upon. In that prodigious assembly, my brethren, you and I must mingle. And we shall not be lost in the crowd, nor escape the notice of our Judge; but his eye will be as particularly fixed on every one as though there were but one before him. Now the Judge is seated, and anxious millions stand before him waiting for their doom. As yet there is no separation made between them; but men and devils, saints and sinners, are promiscuously blended together. But see! at the order of the Judge, the crowd is all in motion; they part, they sort together according to their character, and divide to the right and left. When all nations are gathered before the Son of man, himself has told us, he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats ; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, hut the goats on the left. And, 0! what strange separations are now made! What multitudes that once ranked among the saints, and were highly esteemed for their piety by others as well as themselves, are now banished from among them, and placed with the trembling criminals upon the left hand! and how many poor, honest^ hearted, desponding souls, whose foreboding fears had often placed them there, now find themselves, to their agreeable surprise, stationed on the right hand of their Judge, who smiles upon them! What connections are now broken! what hearts torn asunder! what intimate companions, what dear relations, parted for ever! neighbor from neighbor, masters from servants, friend from friend, parents from children, husband from wife. Those that lived in the same country, who sustained the same denomination, who worshiped in the same place, who lived under one roof, must now part for ever. And is there no separation likely to be made then in our families or in our congregations ? Is it likely we shall all be placed in a body upon the right hand ? Are all the members of our families prepared for that glorious station? Alas! are there not some families among us, who, it is to be feared, shall all be sent off to the left hand, without so much as one exception ? for who are those miserable multitudes on the left hand ? There, through the medium of revelation, I see the drunkard, the swearer, the whoremonger, the liar, the defrauder, and the various classes of profane profligate sinners. There I see the families that call not upon the name of the Lord, and whole nations that forget him. And, O! what vast multitudes, what millions of millions of millions do all these make! And do not some, alas! do not many of you belong to one or the other of these classes of sinners, whom God, and Christ, and Scripture, and conscience conspire to condemn ? If so, to the left hand you must depart, among devils and trembling criminals, whose guilty minds forebode their doom before the judicial process begins. But who are those glorious immortals on the right hand? They are those who now mourn over their sins, resist and forsake them; they are those who have surrendered themselves entirely to God, through Jesus Christ, who have heartily complied with the method of salvation revealed in the gospel; who have been formed new creatures by the almighty power of God; who make it the most earnest, perseverinsr endeavor of their lives to work out their own salvation, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in the world. These are some of the principal lineaments of their character who shall have their safe and honorable station at the right hand of the Sovereign Judge. And is not this the prevailing character of some of you ? I hope and believe it is. Through the medium of Scripture-revelation, then, I see you in that blessed station. And, O! I would make an appointment with you this day to meet you there. Yes, let me this day appoint the time and place where we shall meet after the separation and dispersion that death will make among us; and let it be at the right hand of the Judge at the last day. If I be so happy as to obtain some humble place there, I shall look out for you, my dear people. There I shall expect your company, that we may ascend together to join in the more exalted services and enjoyments of heaven, as we have frequently in the humbler forms of worship in the church on earth. But, 0! when I think what unexpected separations will then be made, I tremble lest I should miss some of you there. And are you not afraid lest you should miss some of your friends, or some of your families there? or that you should there see them move off to the left hand, and looking back with eagerness upon you as if they would say, " this is my doom through your carelessness; had you but acted a faithful part towards me, while conversant with you or under your care, I might now have had my place among the saints." O! how could you bear such significant piercing looks, from a child, a servant, or a friend? Therefore, now do all in your power to convert sinners from the error of their way, and to save their souls from death.
When we entered upon this practical digression, we left all things ready for the judicial process. And now the trial begins. Now God judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. All the works of all the sons of men will then be tried; for, says St. Paul, we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every man may receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done, whether it be good or whether it be evil.
What strange discoveries will this trial make; what noble dispositions, that never shone in full beauty to mortal eyes; what pious and noble actions concealed under the veil of modesty; what affectionate aspirations, what devout exercises of heart, which lay open only to the eyes of Omniscience, are now brought to full light, and receive the approbation of the supreme Judge before the assembled universe! But, on the other hand, what works of shame and darkness, what hidden things of dishonesty, what dire secrets of treachery, hypocrisy, lewdness, and various forms of wickedness, artfully and industriously concealed from human sight, what horrid exploits of sin now burst to light in all their hellish colors, to the confusion of the guilty, and the astonishment and horror of the universe! Sure, the history of mankind must then appear like the annals of hell, or the biography of devils! There the mark of dissimulation will be torn off. Clouded characters will clear up, and men as well as things will appear in their true light. And may not the prospect of such a discovery fill some of you with horror? for many of your actions, and especially of your hearts, will not bear the light. How would it confound you, if they were now all published, even in the small circle of your acquaintance? How, then, can you bear to have them all fully exposed before God, angels, and men!
We are now come to the grand crisis, upon which the eternal states of all mankind turn; I mean, the passing the great decisive sentence. Heaven and earth are all silence and attention, while the Judge, with smiles in his face, and a voice sweeter than heavenly music, turns to the glorious company on his right hand, and pours all the joys of heaven into their souls, in that transporting sentence, of which he has graciously left us a copy, Come, ye blessed of ray Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Every word is full of emphasis, full of heaven, and exactly agreeable to the desires of those to whom it is addressed. They desired, and longed, and languished to be near their Lord; and now their Lord invites them, Come near me, and dwell with me for ever. There was nothing they desired so much as the blessing of God, nothing they feared so much as his curse, and now their fears are entirely removed, and their designs fully accomplished, for the supreme Judge pronounces them blessed of his Father. They were all poor in spirit, and most of them poor in this world, and all sensible of their unworthiness. How agreeably, then, are they surprised, to hear themselves invited to a kingdom, invited to inherit a kingdom, as princes of the blood-royal born to thrones and crowns! How will they be lost in wonder, joy, and praise to find that the great God entertained thoughts of love towards them, before they had a being, or the world in which they dwelt had its foundation laid, and that he was preparing a kingdom for them while they were nothing, unknown even in idea, except to himself! O! brethren, dare any of us expect this sentence will be passed upon us ? Methinks the very thought overwhelms us. Methinks our feeble frames must be unable to bear up under the ecstatic hope of so sweetly oppressive a blessedness. O! if this be our sentence in that day, it is no matter what we suffer in the intermediate space; that sentence would compensate for all, and annihilate the sufferings of ten thousand years.
But hark! another sentence breaks from the mouth of the angry Judge, like vengeful thunder. Nature gives a deep tremendous groan; the heavens lower and gather blackness, the earth trembles, and guilty millions sink with horror at the sound ! And see, he whose words are works, whose fiat produced worlds out of nothing; he who could remand ten thousand worlds into nothing at a frown ; he whose thunder quelled the insurrection of rebel angels in heaven, and hurled them headlong down, down, down to the dungeon of hell; see, he turns to the guilty crowd on his left hand; his countenance discovers the righteous indignation that glows in his breast. His countenance bespeaks him inexorable, that there is now no room for prayer and tears. Now the sweet, mild, mediatorial hour is past, and nothing appears but the majesty and terror of the Judge. Horror and darkness frown upon his brow, and vindictive lightnings flash from his eyes. And now, (O! who can bear the sound!) he speaks, Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. O! the cutting emphasis of every word! Depart! depart from me; from Me, the Author of all good, the fountain of all happiness. Depart, with all my heavy, all-consuming curse upon you. Depart into fire, into everlasting fire, prepared, furnished with fuel, and blown up into rage, prepared for the devil and his angels, once your companions in sin, and now the companions and executioners of your punishment.
Now the grand period is arrived in which the final everlasting states of mankind are unchangeably settled. From this all-important era their happiness or misery runs on in one uniform, uninterrupted tenor; no change, no gradation, but from glory to glory, in the scale of perfection, or from gulf to gulf in hell. This is the day in which all the schemes of Providence, carried on for thousands of years, terminate.
" Great day? for which all other days were made:
For which earth rose from chaos; man from earth;
And an eternity, the date of gods,
Descended on poor earth-created man !"—Young.
Time was, hut is no mpre! Now all the sons of men enter upon a duration not to be measured by the revolutions of the sun, nor by days, and months, and years. Now eternity dawns, a day that shall never see an evening. And this terrible illustrious morning is solemnized with the execution of the sentence. No sooner is it passed than immediately the wicked go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. " See the astonished thunderstruck multitude on the left hand, with sullen horror, and grief, and despair in their looks, and crying and wringing their hands, and glancing a wishful eye towards that heaven which they lost; and now an eternal farewell to earth and all its enjoyments! Farewell to the cheerful light of heaven! Farewell to hope, that sweet relief of affliction!
" Farewell, happy fields.
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors ! hail,
Infernal world! and thou profoundest hell,
Receive thy new possessors !"—Milton.
Heaven frowns them from above, the horrors of hell spread far and wide around them, and conscience within preys upon their hearts. Conscience! O thou abused, exasperated power, that now sleepest in so many breasts, what severe, ample revenge wilt thou then take upon those that now dare to do thee violence! O the dire reflections which memory will then suggest! the remembrance of mercies abused! of a Saviour slighted! of means and opportunities of salvation neglected and lost! this remembrance will sting the heart like a scorpion. But O eternity! eternity! with what horror will thy name circulate through the vaults of hell! eternity in misery! no end to pain! no hope of an end! 0 this is the hell of hell! this is the parent of despair! despair the direst ingredient of misery, the most tormenting passion which devils feel. But let us view a more delightful and illustrious scene. See the bright and triumphant army marching up to their eternal home, under the conduct of the Captain of their salvation, where they shall ever be with the Lord, as happy as their nature in its highest improvement ia capable of being made, with what shouts of joy and triumph do they ascend! with what sublime hallelujahs do they crown their Deliverer ! with what wonder and joy, with what pleasing horror, like one that has narrowly escaped some tremendous precipice, do they look back upon what they once were! once mean, guilty, depraved, condemned sinners! afterwards imperfect, broken-hearted, sighing, weeping saints! but now innocent, holy, happy, glorious immortals!
" Are these the forms that moulder'd in the dust ?
O the transcendent glories of the just !"—Young.
Now with what pleasure and rapture do they look forward through the long, long prospect of immortality, and call it their own! the duration not only of their existence, but of their happiness and glory! O shall any of us share in this immensely valuable privilege! how immensely transporting the thought!
" Shall we, who some few years ago were less
Than worm, or mite, or shadow can express;
Were nothing; shall we live, when every fire
Of every star shall languish or expire ?
When earth's no more, shall we survive above,
And through the shining ranks of angels move ?
Or, as before the throne of God we stand,
See new worlds rolling from his mighty hand !
All that has being in full concert join,
And celebrate the depths of love divine !"—Young.
O what exploits, what miracles of power and grace are these! But why do I darken such splendor with words without knowledge ? the language of mortals was formed for lower descriptions. Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God hath laid up for them that love him.—1 Cor. ii. 9.
And now when the inhabitants of our world, for whose sake it was formed, are all removed to other regions, and that it also meets its fate, it is fit so guilty a globe, that has been the stage of sin for so many thousands of years,
and which even supported the cross on which its Maker
expired, should be made a monument of the divine dis-
pleasure, and either be laid in ruins or refined by fire.
And see! the universal blaze begins! the heavens pass
away with a great noise; the elements melt with fervent
heat; the earth and the works that are therein are burnt
up. Now stars rush from their orbits; comets glare ; the
earth trembles with convulsions; the Alps, the Andes,
and all the lofty peaks of long-extended ridges of moun
tains burst out into so many burning Etnas, or thunder,
and lightning, and smoke, and flame, and quake like Sinai
when God descended upon it to publish its fiery law
Rocks melt and run down in torrents of flame; rivers,
lakes, and oceans boil and evaporate. Sheets of fire and
pillars of smoke, outrageous and insufferable thunders and
lightnings burst, and bellow, and blaze, and involve the
atmosphere from pole to pole.
" See all the formidable sons of fire,
Eruptions, earthquakes, comets, lightnings play
Their various engines; all at once discharge
Their blazing magazines, and take by storm
This poor terrestrial citadel of man."—Young.
The whole globe is now dissolved into a shapeless ocean of liquid fire. And where now shall we find the places where cities stood, where armies fought, where mountains stretched their ridges, and reared their heads on high? Alas! they are all lost, and have left no trace behind them where they once stood. Where art thou, O my country ? Sunk with the rest as a drop into the burning ocean. Where now are your houses, your lands, and earthly possessions you were once so fond of? They are nowhere to be found. How sorry a portion for an immortal mind is such a dying world as this! And, O!
" How rich that God who can such charge defray,
And bear to fling ten thousand worlds away !"— Young.
Thus, my brethren, I have given you a view of the solemnities of the last day which our world shall see. The view has indeed been but very faint and obscure; and such will be all our views and descriptions of it, till our eyes and our ears teach us better. Through these avenues you will at length receive your instructions. Yes, brethren, those ears that now hear my voice shall hear the all-alarm
ing clangor of the last trumpet, the decisive sentence from the mouth of the universal Judge, and the horrid crash of falling worlds. These very eyes with which you now see one another, shall yet see the descending Judge, the assembled multitudes, and all the majestic phenomena of that day. And we shall not see them as indifferent spectators ; no, we are as much concerned in this great transaction as any of the children of men. We must all appear before the judgment-seat, and receive our sentence according to the deeds done in the body. And if so, what are we doing that we are not more diligently preparing? Why does not the present affect us more ? Why does it not transport the righteous with joy unspeakable, and full of glory? And why are not the sinners in Zion afraid? Why does not fearfulness surprise the hypocrite? Can one of you be careless from this hour till you are in readiness for that tremendous day? What do the sinners among you now think of repentance? Eepentance is the grand preparative for this awful day; and the apostle, as I observed, mentions the final judgment in my text as a powerful motive to repentance. And what will criminals think of repentance when they see the Judge ascend the throne ? Come, sinners, look forward and see the flaming tribunal erected, your crimes exposed, your doom pronounced, and your hell begun; see a whole world demolished and ravaged by boundless conflagration for your sins! With these objects before you, I call you to repent! —I call you! I retract the words; God, the great God whom heaven and earth obey, commands you to repent. Whatever be your characters, whether rich or poor, old or young, white or black, wherever you sit or stand, this command reaches you; for God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. You are this day firmly bound to this duty by his authority. And dare you disobey with the prospect of all the awful solemnities of judgment before you in so near a view ? O! methinks I have now brought you into such a situation, that the often repeated but hitherto neglected call to repentance will be regarded by you. Kepent you must, either upon earth, or in hell. You must either spend your time or your eternity in repentance. It is absolutely unavoidable. Putting it off now does not remove the necessity, but will only render it the more bitter and severe hereafter. Which, then, do you choose ?
the tolerable, hopeful, medicinal repentance of the present life, or the intolerable, unprofitable, despairing repentance of hell ? Will you choose to spend time or eternity in this melancholy exercise? O! make the choice which God, which reason, which self-interest, which common sense recommend to you. Now repent at the command of God, because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained, of which he hath given you all full assurance in that he hath raised him from the dead.