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1. That God is the universal monarch of the world, and has supreme authority to govern reasonable creatures, antecedent to their election and consent. The psalmist calls to the heathens, “ Know ye that the Lord is God," Psal. 100. 3. that is, the most glorious being, and absolute sovereign; “ for it is he that made us, and not we ourselves.” He formed all things by his almighty goodness, and is king by creation.
2. The two principal and necessary parts of his sovereignty are, to give laws for the ruling of his subjects, and to pass final judgment upon them for their obedience or disconformity to his precepts, Mere natural agents are regulated by a wise establishment, that is the law of their creation. The sun and stars are moved according to the just points of their compass. The angels are under a law in heaven, “and obey his commandments." The human nature of Christ, though advanced to the highest capacity of a creature, “yet received a law.” And this whole work upon earth for our salvation, was an act of obedience to the will of God. If a prince out of affection to his friend will leave his own dominions, and live privately with him in a foreign country, he must be subject to the laws of that place. Indeed it is not conceivable that a creature should be without a law; for this is to make it supreme and independent : supreme, in not being liable to a superior power to confine and order it; independent, as to its being and operations ; for dependance necessarily infers subjection. There is a visible connexion between those titles; “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King." Isa. 33. 22. And sometimes in scripture his sovereignty is intimated in the title of judge: thus in that humble expostulation of Abraham for Sodom; “Shall not the Judge of all the world do right?" He addresses his request to God under that title, to soften his power, and incline his clemency to save the wicked for their sakes who were comparatively righteous, that is, innocent “ of their crying sins."
3. As his right to govern and judge the world is natural, so are his attributes, his wisdom, holiness, justice and power, that qualify and render him most worthy to exercise this government. These are finite separable qualities in angels or men, but essential perfections to the Deity. It is more rational to conceive that things may be congealed by the heat of fire, or turned black by whiteness, than that the least act of injustice can be done by
the righteous 'Lord. The apostle rejects with extreme detestation, the blasphemous charge of unrighteousness in God's proceedings : “ Is God unrighteous that taketh vengeance ? God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world ?" Rom. 3. 5, 6. He may as soon renounce his nature, and cease to be God, for as such he is necessarily Judge of the world, as violate his own perfections in his judicial proceedings with us.
4. God being invisible in his own nature, hath most wisely ordained the last judgment of the world to be transacted by a visible person ; because men are to be judged, and the whole process of judgment with them, will be for things done in the body. The person appointed for this great work, is Jesus Christ the Son of God united to the human nature. “ The Father judgeth no man,” John 5. 22. not as if he descended from the throire, and divested himself of his supremacy, but not immediately; " but hath committed all judgment to the Son." And it follows, “As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself: and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man;" ver. 26, 27. that is, in the quality of Mediator, for the reward of his sufferings. The quality of this office requires no less person for the discharge of it, than the Son of God.
(1.) Upon the account of its superlative dignity. No mere Creature is capable of such a glorious commission. To pass a sovereign sentence upon angels and men, is a royalty reserved for God himself. We read that " no man in heaven or earth was able to open the sealed book of his eternal counsels, as unsearchable as deep,” Rev. 5. only Jesus Christ, who was in the “ Bosom of the Father," the seat of his counsels and compassions, and was acquainted with all his glorious secrets, could unfold the order of the divine decrees about the church. And if no creature was worthy to be admitted into God's counsel, much less to be taken into his throne. The eternal Son, “the express image of his person," is alone fit to be authorized representative in judgment. Our Saviour declares that the Father invested the Son with this regal power, that “all men should honour the Son," John 5. 23. with the same religious reverence, and supreme adoration, “ as they honour the Father.”
(2.) Upon the account of the immense difficulty no mere creature is able to discharge it. To judge the world, includes two things : 1. To pass a righteous and irrevocable judgment upon men for all things done in this life. 2. The actual execution of the sentence. And for this no less than infinite wisdom, and infinite power are necessary. If a select number of angels of the highest order were deputed, yet they could not manage the judicial trial of one man: for besides the innumerable acts and omissions in one life, the secrets of the heart, from whence the guilt or goodness of moral actions is principally derived, are not open to them. He alone that discerns all things, can require an account of all. • (3.) The Son of Man is invested with this high office as the reward of his sufferings. We must distinguish between the essential and economical power of Christ. The Son of God, considered in his divine nature, has an original power of judgment equal with the Father ; but considered as Mediator, has a power by delegation. In the quality of the Son of Man, he is inferior in dignity to the Father. The apostle declares this in that scale of subordination of the creatures to believers, and of believers to Christ, and of Christ to God; “ All things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." And observing the beautiful order that arises from the superiority and dependance between things, he saith, “ The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God." Now this power by commission was conferred upon him as the reward of his sufferings. The apostle expressly declares it, that Christ“ being in the form of God," without any usurpation truly equal to him in divine perfections and majesty, “ humbled himself, and became obedient to the death of the cross. Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." His victorious sufferings
. are the titles to his triumphs; his being so ignominiously depressed and condemned by men, is the just reason of his advancement to judge the world.
5. There is a day appointed wherein the Son of Man will appear in sensible glory, and exercise his judicial power upon angels and men. He is now “ seated at the right hand of the Majesty on bigh,” and the celestial spheres are under his feet : universal nature feels the power of his sceptre: he reigns in the hearts of the saints by his word and Spirit, and restrains the fury of his enemies in what degree he pleases : but still his servants are in distress, and his rebellious enemies insolently break his laws; and the curtains of heaven conceal his glory from us : therefore a time is prefixed when in the face of the world he will make an eternal difference by the rewards and punishments, between the righteous and the wicked, and his government shall have its complete and glorious issue. This is styled the “ Judgment of the great day.”
(1.) With respect to the appearance of the Judge. When the law was given from Mount Sinai, the mountain was covered with fire, and the voice of God as loud as thunder proclaimed it from the midst of the flames, so that the whole army of the Israelites was prostrate on the plain, struck with a sacred horror, and almost dead at the amazing sights and sounds. From hence it is said, that “in his right hand was a fiery law.” And if the Lawgiver appeared in such terrible majesty at the proclaiming the law, how much more when he shall come to revenge the transgressions of it? It is set forth in scripture in the most lofty and magnificent expressions : “He shall come in his Father's glory, and his own glory, and the glory of the angels.” Luke 9. 26. A devouring fire shall go before him, to consume all the works of the universe. He shall descend from the highest heavens, glorious in the attendance of innumerable angels, but more in his own majesty, and sit on a “radiant throne high above all.”
(2.) It is great with respect to the appearance of those who are to be judged: all the apostate angels, and the universal progeny of Adam. The bowels of the earth, and the bottom of the sea, and all the elements shall give up the dead. The mighty angels, the winged ministers of justice, shall fly to all parts, and attach the wicked to bring them as miserable prisoners before that high tribunal. And those blessed powerful spirits shall congregate the righteous, to present them at his right hand.
(3.) It is great with respect to what shall be then done : he shall perform the most glorious and consunimate act of his regal office; after a righteous trial, pronounce judgment, upon which the eternal destiny of the world depends. And immediately the saints shall ascend with him to the everlasting mansions of glory, and the wicked shall be swallowed up in the fiery gulph for ever, To define the particular time when this shall be accomplished, is beyond the knowledge of the angels of highest dignity. It is inter arcana imperii, among the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. It is observable that God has revealed the times precisely wherein some great events should come to pass ; after how many years the Israelites should be freed from Egyptian bondage; after what space of time they should be restored from the captivity of Babylon ; when the Messiah should die for the expiation of sin : but there is no designation by certain characters of the particular day, nor year, nor age in any prophecy, of our Saviour's coming to judgment. And of this an account may be given. The special end of those predictions was, that those who lived to see their accomplishment, notwithstanding the seeming impossibilities, might believe the truth and power of God to fulfil the revelation of his purposes for the time to come. But at the last day, all the promises and threatenings will be fulfilled, nothing will remain to be the object of faith; and consequently it was superfluous to declare the certain time, since the exact accomplishment of it according to the prediction, will neither be useful to confirm believers, or convert infidels.
Lastly, The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most convineing and commanding evidence of this doctrine, that he shall judge the world. For he was charged with blasphemy deserving of death for this testimony: “I say unto you, hereafter shall you see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Mat. 26. 64. He dedicated martyrdom in his own sufferings. Now God in raising him from the dead, confirmed the truth of his testimony by that visible aniracle, and the belief of it converted the world to christianity.