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Let us praise God, who has preserved us from knowing them. But the manner in which we have been relieved, encourages us both to pray and to hope, that our King is an object of God's especial care, and that he will live (long may he live!) to communi. cate still greater benefits to the nation, as the patron of true religion, the guardian of our constitution, and an exemplar of piety and virtue to his subjects; that God may give him to reign in the hearts of an enlightened, free, and affectionate people, and not permit any device or weapon formed against him to prosper.
For similar reasons, bat vastly superior in importance, even as the heavens are higher than the earth, we rejoiee in the assurance and prospect that the Lord himself will descend. He is "the good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep ;"* and therefore, they who know his name, and trust in him for salvation, are bound to him by the strongest ties of attachment and gratitude. They admire his condenscension and his love. To his mediation and care they are indebted for his life and hopes. They remember what they were doing, and how carelessly they were sporting in the path that leadeth to destruction, when he first stopped them, turned them, and led them into his fold. He is, even now, their sun and shield, their wisdom and strength; on him they cast their cares, from him they receive their supplies; therefore they love him, though unseen,† and rejoice in the hope of his appearance.
They know that he who will descend to receive them was once a man of sorrows and a companion of grief. And though this too little affected them in the time of their ignorance; it has been otherwise since they have derived life from his death, and healing from his wounds. They have sympathized with him in the agonies which he endured, in Gethsemane, and upon Mount Golgotha. They remember that his face was defiled with spitting, his head crowned with thorns, his back torn by scourges, his hands and feet pierced with spikes; that he made his soul an offering for their sins, and was crucified for their sakes. Thus "he loved them, and gave himself for them." Thus he delivered them from approaching wrath; and this love has won their hearts. And they are waiting his return from heaven; that when they shall see him as he is, with all his angels, and with all his saints, they may join in nobler strains than they can at present reach, in songs of praise to Him who redeemed them to God by his own blood.
But though they have much to praise him for in this life, they have much more to expect when he shall descend. Their privi
John, x. 11.
† 1 Pet. i. 8.
Gal. ii. 20
§ 1 Cor. i. 7.
leges are great while here. They are already delivered from guilt and condemnation; they have access by him to a throne of grace; they have fellowship with him by faith, and joys which a stranger intermeddles not with-" But it does not yet appear what they shall be."*-They are still in a state of warfare and trial; they are exposed to many troubles, to reproach, opposition and temptation; they are still straitened and hindered, in their best attempts and desires, by an indwelling principle of evil. They are sowing in tears; but when their Lord shall descend, they expect to reap with joy. He is coming to wipe away all their tears, and then they are assured they shall weep no more. The days of their mourning shall cease for ever. He has prepared for them a kingdom, "incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away." In that kingdom they shall shine forth, each like the sun in the firmament, an immense constellation of suns!
The manner in which the Lord will descend, can be but faintly illustrated by any circumstances borrowed from the pomp of this day. When the King enters St. Paul's, his arrival will be announced by the voice of the multitude, the discharge of cannon, and the deep-mouthed organ. But what are these, when compared with the voice of the archangel, the shout of all who love his appearance, and that trump of God which will shake the creation and raise the dead? Perhaps, by the word archangel, in this connexion, we may understand the Lord of angels, the King himself." He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people."|| "The hour cometh, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God." The shout seems a military term. By a shout, soldiers encourage each other in the onset to battle; and there is a triumphant shout of victory when the enemy is utterly defeated. Such will be the shout when the Lord shall descend. His soldiers, who, fighting in his cause, have often endured hardship, and have sometimes lost a skirmish, shall, on the great day of decision, in the final event of the war, stand forth "more than conquerers, through him that loved them."** Their shout shall proclaim his praise: "For they got not the victory by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them."+t The Lord leads them on, teaches them to fight, clothes them with complete armour, and supplies them with strength. He himself subdues their foes; and when he shall descend with glory he will terminate the contest. His people will then utter a universal shout, and shall hear the noise of war no more. When the Lord descended upon Mount Saini, the trumpet of
* 1 John, iii. 2. + Psalm cxxvi. 5. 1 Pet. i. 4. Psalm 1. 4. ¶ John, v. 25. ** Rom. viii. 87.
Matth. xiii. 45. Psalm xlv. S.
God was heard exceeding loud,* it waxed louder and louder; the people trembled, and Moses spoke. The apostle records his words. Even Moses the favoured servant of God, said, "I exceedingly fear and quake." But the sound of the last trump, when the Lord shall descend again, will be much louder, and the effects much more important and extensive. It will be heard not only in the neighbourhood of one mountain, but from east to west, from pole to pole; not only by the living, but by the dead; by all who ever lived.
Then, at his great command, they that dwell in the dust shall awake. The earth and the sea shall deliver up their dead. There will be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust. Some shall arise to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
The joy, this day, for the recovery and appearance of our King, is general, I hope universal. I hope there are few persons in the kingdom who do not cordially share in it. However, if contrary sensations do exist, they are suppressed and concealed. But the Great King has borne with many avowed enemies, and with many traitors disguised under the profession of his name, from age to age. He will not bear with them always. He knows them all, and not one of them can escape his notice. To them the language of the trump will be," Arise and come to judgment !" My heart is pained to think, that, possibly, some of this description may be now present in our assembly. Yet I am glad you are here, that I may warn you to flee from the wrath to come. What a dreadful day will it be, when you, if unhumbled, unpardoned, unsanctified, as you now are, shall be compelled to stand before his tribunal! For we are assured, that when he returns to bless his willing people, he will summon his enemies, who would not that he should reign over them. He will place them at his left hand, and denounce that awful sentence upon them, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." As yet he is upon a mercy-seat. Oh! "seek him while he may be found; call upon him while he is near !"** There is forgiveness with him. Humble yourselves before him, and entreat for mercy. Entreat him to show you who he is, and what he has done for sinners; that you may believe and be saved. Otherwise you must stand before his judgment seat. Then his wrath will burn like fire.
But it is of the dead in Christ I am Chiefly to speak. These shall rise first, and, together with those of his servants who shall be living at his coming, shall be caught up to meet him in the air.
*Exod. xix. 16-19. || Luke, xix. 27.
+ Heb. xii. 21. Matth. xxv. 41.
Isa. xxvi. 19. ** Isa. lv. 6.
Dan. xii. 2.
There are expressions in Scripture which intimate, that the servants of the Lord Christ shall have the honour of being, in some manner beyond our feeble apprehension, assessors with their Lord in the day of judgment.* They will witness and approve his proceedings. In this state of infirmity, it becomes them, and is their duty, to pity and pray for the wicked, and to use all their influence to persuade them to pity themselves, to forsake their evil ways, that they may live. But in the great and terrible day, when the wicked shall be turned into hell, the righteous will be so perfectly impressed with the justice and holiness of the sentence of condemnation, that they will not hesitate to say, "Amen: So let thine enemies perish, O Lord!"+
But the apostle, using the language of prophecy which speaks of the future as though it were actually present, says, further, "Then we that are alive, and remain, shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air." Not, as I apprehend, that he expected to be living when the Lord shall descend; by the word we, he expresses his joint relation with the many members which constitute the one body, of which the Lord Christ is the head. Of these, there will be some living when he shall appear. And of these, he says elsewhere, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump." They will not suffer that separation of soul and body which we call death. But as mortal flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, He will change their vile bodies, according to the pattern of his glorious body, and they, like Enoch and Elijah of old, shall ascend, together with those who are raised from the dead, to meet him in the air.
These will constitute his train. The redeemed from the earth; they who lived and died in the faith of his name, through a course of successive generations; and they who shall be alive at his coming, shall be all collected together, and prepared to welcome Him.
Of the numbers who will rejoice to see the King to-day, many, though loyal subjects, will only behold him at a distance; and the far greater part of his people will not behold him at all. Few but the nobility and principal persons can gain admission into the church; though the crowds in the street will participate in the general satisfaction. Could we suppose that, instead of the common people, the streets were filled, and the windows lined by the great; that all the sovereigns, potentates and illustrious personages in Europe, were assembled, to be spectators of the joyful
*Luke, xxii. 30. 1 Cor. vi. 3. † Judges, v. 31. +1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. Phil. iii. 21.
event which now calls for our thanksgivings; splendid as the concourse might appear in the eyes of men, they would be unspeakably inferior, in rank and dignity, to those who shall meet the Lord. Not one of his people will be absent; and, however poor and unnoticed many of them once were, they will then, every one, be greater than the kings of the earth. They will all claim the title, and the claim will be allowed, of "sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty."* They will all possess " that honour which cometh of God only." The glorious company of apostles, the goodly fellowship of prophets, the noble army of martyrs, will march in the procession; and, besides these, an exceeding great multitude, which no man can number, whose exaltation and happiness are but imperfectly represented to us by images borrowed from the things which are deemed most valuable and honourable amongst men. They are said to be clothed with white robes, to have crowns upon their heads, to be furnished with harps, and to bear palms (the emblem of victory) in their hands.‡
"Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure ta give you the kingdom." May grace preserve you from being ashamed of your Lord now, and you will not be ashamed of Him, nor will he be ashamed of you, when he shall come to judge the world.||
When all mankind shall be ranged before this Great Judge, he will own and vindicate his people in the presence of assembled worlds, and pass an irrevocable sentence of exclusion and condemnation upon his enemies; and then, he will say to those on his right hand, "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you;" then he will present them "before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy ;"** then time shall be no more; they will no longer measure their existence by the revolutions of the sun and the moon; they will enter upon an eternal state. With this event the apostle closes the description in my text. Here he stops-the rest is too great for language to express, or thought to conceive. He can only say, "and so we shall for ever be with the Lord.' Who can expound this sentence? We must leave this world, and be admitted into the inheritance of saints in light, before we can fully understand the import of these few words.
We shall be with the Lord. There is no doubt, that if the power of our King were equal to the benevolence of his heart, he would willingly make all who shall see him to-day, yea, all his
* 2 Cor. vi. 18. † John, v. 44: Matth. x. 32. Mark, viii. 38. Rev. x. 6.
↑ Rev. iv. 10. vii. 9.
Luke, xii. 32. ** Jude, 24.