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“ award tribulation to those who trouble you; but to you, who are troubled, restf.”
Let us consider,
To enter into the full meaning of this awful truth, we must distinctly notice its two leading parts : 1. Death is at hand, to carry us before our Judge
[This is an undoubted truth. The experience of every day attests it. Death lurks within us; and finds, in the disordered state of our bodies, ten thousand means of accomplishing our destruction. He lies in ambush, too, in every thing around us. There is not any thing which may not prove an instrument in his hands to bring us down. Nor is it by disease or accident alone that he can effect his purpose. In instances without number he inflicts the fatal stroke, without so much as employing any visible or acknowledged agent. If only he receive his commission from God, he is able to work either by means or without means. It need only be said, “ This night shall thy soul be required of thee;" and with irresistible power he executes the decree; and transmits us, prepared or unprepared, into the immediate presence of our God.]
2. Our Judge is at hand, to pronounce our deserved doom
[He is not afar off, that he must be sought after: nor is he so occupied with the cases of others, as not to be at liberty to consider ours. The instant we are brought before him, he is ready to pronounce his sentence. Of this, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a striking illustration. “ All is naked and open before him," at one view; and in one instant of time he can so present every thing before our minds, that we also may discern the equity of his sentence. If at night we wished to see a variety of objects, we must take a light, and view them in succession, one at a time: but if the sun be risen upon the earth, we can see ten thousand objects at once. Thus can the Judge of quick and dead, in one instant of time, present to our view the records of our whole life, to serve as a foundation of the sentence that he shall pass upon us. Some notion of this we may form from the account given us of the Samaritan woman. She had had some conversation with our Lord, who had made known to her one particular circumstance of her life: and with such power was that particular truth
1 2 Thess. i. 6, 7.
accompanied to her soul, that she went home and said, “Come, see a man who has told me all that ever I did.” Now this omniscient Judge is at the door, ready to pass sentence on us, the very instant we are brought before him: and, if our eyes were opened, as those of Elisha's servant were", we might see the throne of judgment already set; the Judge himself seated upon it; the books opened before him ; the list of the prisoners, according as they are in succession to be brought before him; and the officers ready, both to summon them in their turn, and to execute on all the sentence awarded to them.]
To impress this solemn truth upon your minds, let me proceed to shew, II. The attention it demands
“ Behold! the Judge standeth before the door :" mark it; contemplate it; act upon it. Surely the consideration of this awful truth should prevail upon us,
1. To seek without delay the pardon of our past sins
[If we “ die in our sins," woe be to us! " it had been better for us never to have been born.” But through repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ all our past sins may be forgiven : they may all “ be blotted out, as a morning cloud;" yea, though they may have been of a “ scarlet or crimson dye, they may be made white as snow.” Should we, then, defer a moment to seek this inestimable blessing? When we know not but that the very next hour we may be summoned into the presence of our Judge, should we endanger the everlasting welfare of our souls by waiting for a more convenient season? Oh! " Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him; lest the adversary deliver you to the Judge, and the Judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Verily, you shall not come out thence, till you have paid the utmost farthing'."]
2. To guard with all diligence against the incursion of fresh sin
[Remember, that whatever be the state of our souls at the moment of death, that will continue to be our state to all eternity. It may be said, “ I have repented long since, and sought for mercy through Christ, and attained to a considerable measure of righteousness.” Be it so. Yet must I declare unto you, that "if you relapse into sin, your past righteousness
6 John iv. 29. 2 Kings vi. 17. i Matt. v. 25, 26.
shall not be remembered; but in the iniquity which you have committed, shall you diek." There cannot be a more fatal error, than to imagine that your past experience, whatever it may have been, shall avail you any thing, if you turn back to sin. So far will it be from screening you from the wrath of God, that it will rather render you obnoxious to it, in a tenfold heavier degree: “ You only have I known of all the families of Israel; therefore will Í punish you for your iniquities?.” Hear how strongly God himself has cautioned you against this error: “ Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption : and he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting m.” When, therefore, you consider how suddenly you may be called into the presence of your Judge, it becomes you to “ keep your garments clean," and to “ use all diligence that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”]
3. To watch in a more especial manner over the secret workings of your hearts
[It is not our actions only that our God will call into judgment, but “ every secret thing, whether it be good or evil.” There is much that is externally “ good in the eyes of men, which yet is an abomination in the sight of God." There may be in the best exercises of our religion much of pride and self-complacency; and in our most benevolent actions, also, a mixture of ostentation and vanity. Now “God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearto." How attentive then should we be to the secret workings of our minds! They are all discerned by God, as clearly as our overt acts : “He searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins :" "he weigheth the very spirits of men :" and thousands, who took credit to themselves for acting from the best of principles, will be found no better than hypocrites before him. Beloved, know of a truth, that if ever you would find acceptance with your Judge, you must be “ Israelites indeed, and without guile."]
4. To improve for your good every summons which is sent to those around us
[You see in the circumstances now before you a striking illustration of our textP --- And does not this event
* Ezek. xxxiii. 13, 18. Amos. iii. 2. m Gal. vi. 7, 8. n Luke xvi. 15.
0 1 Cor. iv. 5. p Here the particular circumstances of the person's death—if it be on account of an individual, or of the epidemic sickness, if that be the occasion-may be entered into at large.
speak to you? What if you had been the person summoned into the presence of your Judge: were you prepared to meet him? Would he have found you truly penitent for all your past transgressions; and watchful against every sin, yea, against every degree of evil, even in thought or desire? If not, what would have been your feelings at this moment? --- Do you not tremble at the thought? Or, suppose that this night a similar summons should be sent to you, (and you have no security that there will not,) are you ready? Do not trifle, my beloved brethren, on the very brink of eternity : but “ stand with your loins girt, and your lamps trimmed, as servants waiting for the coming of your Lord." Then, “whether your Lord come in the morning, or in the evening, or at the cock-crowing, or at midnight," it shall be well with you. In a word, learn to “ die daily:" and then it will be a joy to you to reflect, that your Judge is at the door: for the door at which he stands shall no sooner be opened to summon you into his presence, than angels, as his ministering servants, shall bear you from his tribunal to the realms of bliss.]
THE PATIENCE OF JOB. Jam. v. 11. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have
seen the end of the Lord ; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
ONE of the most singular ideas that can be suggested to a carnal mind, is that which occurs in the words immediately preceding the text; “ We count them happy that endure." An ungodly man sees, that it is better to bear afflictions patiently than to sink under them; but he can scarcely conceive how afflictions, under any circumstances, can become a ground of congratulation. This difficulty, however, is solved by taking into the account “the end” of those afflictions : and it admits of easy illustration from the case of Job.
In prosecuting the Apostle's view of this subject, we shall consider, I. The patience of Job under his afflictions
Great and unparalleled were the afflictions of Job
[The destruction of all his property, and all his servants, by bands of robbers, and by lightning, announced to him as it was in three different accounts, by different messengers in speedy succession, would of itself have been sufficient to overwhelm his mind, if he had not been endued with uncommon fortitude; since by this he was reduced in a moment from the height of opulence and grandeur to the lowest indigence and wanta.
But, distressing as these events were, what an inconceivable aggravation must they have received from the tidings delivered by a fourth messenger, the sudden death of all his children! Had he heard of only one child dying, and that by any natural disorder, it would, to such a parent, have been a fearful addition to all his other burdens: but to hear of seven sons, and three daughters, all crushed in a moment by the falling of his house, if it did not bereave him of his senses, we might well expect, that it should, at least, draw forth some murmuring, and unadvised expressions.
To all these calamities were added yet others, that affected more immediately his own person ; and which, in such a conjuncture, must be beyond measure afflictive. Satan, having permission to try him to the uttermost, smote him from head to foot with the most lothesome ulcers, insomuch that he was constrained to sit down among the ashes, and to scrape himself with a potsherd.
In the midst of all this trouble one might hope that he would have some comfort in the kind offices of neighbours, the compassion of friends, and the tender assiduities of his wife. But, alas ! his servants turned their backs upon himd: the children in the streets despised and mocked hime: the very friends who came to comfort him, loaded him with the most unfounded accusations, and asserted, that his sufferings were indications of peculiar wickedness, which God was now disclosing and punishing. His wife also derided his affiance in God, and counselled him to renounce it utterly, yea, to “curse God, and die 8.”
Take any one of these trials separately, and it was great: but view them collectively, and they exceeded all that ever were endured by mortal man.)
They served however to call forth his most unrivalled patience
(Mark his conduct when informed of all his accumulated misfortunes, and especially the loss of all his children: “ Then