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man nature in the creation, and therefore common to the whole species of mankind. An image may be fashioned in ebony as well as in ivory. Briefly, all men are equally subject to his laws, and shall be equally accountable for their actions. “The rich and the poor shall then meet together, without distinction, before God the Maker and Judge of them all."
2. There shall be a distinction of causes, and every man be judged “according to his works,” the tenor of good works, and the desert of bad. The apostle assures us, That whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal. 6. 7, 8. The harvest shall be according to the seed both in kind and measure.
“Those who by patient continuance in welldoing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, shall obtain eternal life.” Rom. 2. 7. Indeed, “eternal life is the gift of infinite bounty,” Rom. 6. ult. nay of “pure mercy,” Jude 21. and mercy excludes merit. It is said of the blessed martyrs, who contended for the truth and purity of the gospel to the death, that "their robes were washed white in the blood of the Lamb,” Rev. 7. 14. not in their own blood. Their right to heaven was from the application of his merits to them. But the reward is dispensed from God according to the evangelical law; not only as a magnificent prince, but as “a Righteous Judge.” All those to whom the gospel promises eternal life, shall infallibly obtain it
, and none that the gospel excludes. Those who were sensible of their sins, and cordially forsaking them, did humbly and entirely depend upon the grace of God, through the blessed reconciler and Saviour, shall be justified and glorified. Then the Judge will discern between unfeigned faith and vain presumption, and will justify the faith of the saints by the genuine fruits of it, “the godliness, righteousness, and sobriety of their lives,” and a victorious perseverance in their duty, notwithstanding all the pleasing temptations or tortures to withdraw them from it. Thus the apostle expresses his humble confidence ; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which God the Righteous Judge will give me at that day, and not only to me, but to all that love his appearance.” 2 Tim. 4. 5, 8. We read in the description of the last judgment, that “the book of life was opened: the names of all that were written in heaven,” Rev. 20. 12. shall then be declared, that it may appear they are “saved by grace.” For it was his most free pleasure to select some from the common mass of perdition, who were naturally as guilty and corrupted as others, and to predestinate them to eternal glory, and effectual persevering grace to prepare them for it. “The saints are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that they should walk in them.” And the new creation is as undeserved and entire an effect of God's love as the first was. But it is said,
every man was judged according to his works." For eternal election does not entitle a person immediately to heaven, but according to the order established in the gospel. Thus the king at the last day speaks to the elect; “ Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye fed me; naked, and ye clothed me.” Mat. 25. 34, 35.
And according as the saints have excelled in fidelity and zeal in God's service, they shall be rewarded with a more excellent glory. The stars of the supreme heaven are of a different brightness and greatness, as the stars of the visible firmament. Indeed all are perfectly happy, without * jealousy that any is equal or superior to them in that kingdom. But God will crown his own graces as the saints have improved them. Our Saviour valued the widow's two mites, as transcending all the magnificent gifts of others, because of the degrees of love in the giver. There was a richer mine of affection in her heart, gold of a more noble vein, more pure and precious than all their riches. This was of greater price in God's account, who weighs the spirits in his balance. God “will accept and reward according to what a man has, and not according to what he has not.” 2 Cor. 8. 12. He that improves but two talents with his best skill and diligence, shall have a greater reward than another that had ten talents, and was remiss and less careful to employ them for his master's profit. The rule will be exactly observed, “He that
* Plus amant illud regnum in quo non timent habere consortes. Aug. de Civit. Dei. VOL. III.
sows bountifully, shall reap bountifully; and he that sows sparingly, shall reap sparingly.”
And if God will be thus impartial in rewarding the saints, much more in punishing the wicked. For the remuneration of our duty is the effect of his most free favour ; but the recompences of sin are due, and decreed by justice, in number, weight, and measure. The severity of the sentence will be in proportion, as men's sins have been more numerous and heinous. Although all the damned shall be equally miserable in despair, all broken on an endless wheel, yet the degrees of their torment are different. Sins of ignorance are extenuated in comparison of rebellious sins against knowledge. The first are like a servant's dashing against his master in the dark, the other like the insolent striking him in the light: and as they incur great guilt, will expose to great punishment. Accordingly our Saviour predicts, “ That the servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” Luke 12. 47, 48. Inactive knowledge is worse than ignorance. For this reason the case of heathens will be more tolerable than that of the Jews : for though some natural principles were strong and quick in their minds, that made them sensible of their duty and danger, yet they were not so clear and perfect as the law delivered by Moses. Thuse sins that were infirmities in a pagan, were presumptuous in a Jew. And the case of the Jews will be more tolerable than of disobedient christians, who enjoy the gospel less charged with ceremonies, and more abundant in grace than the Mosaical dispensation. Those that have set before them the life of Christ, the model of all perfection, that are excited by such loud calls “to fee from the wrath to come,” and yet are deaf and regardless to the commands, nay to the melting invitations and precious promises of the gospel, shall have a more intolerable judgment than the most guilty sinners, even the Sodomites and Sidonians that were strangers to it. The precious blood of the Son of God despised, induces a crimson guilt. And as sins are committed with pride and pleasure, with eager appetite and obstinacy, the revenge of justice will be more heavy upon persoils.
More particularly, sins of consequence, whereby others are drawn to sin, will heighten the guilt, and the retribution of justice will be to every man “according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jer. 17. 10.
This will principally concern superiors in eminency of place, whose dignity has always a concomitant proportion of duty. Their vicious actions are examples, and their examples more powerful rules than their laws, and give countenance to others to sin licentiously. They “ sin with a high hand,” and involve the ruin of innumerable persons that depend upon them : as the dragon in the revelation, whose fall from heaven drew a train of lesser stars with him. And all inferior magistrates, who by personal commission, or partial connivance, encourage and harden others in sin, and by their power discountenance serious religion, and obstruct the progress of it, heap up damnation to themselves.
And the ministers of the word, who are obliged to watch for the souls of men;" and should, like the heavens, by their light, influence and motion, their doctrine and lives, guide and quicken others in the ways of holiness; if by their neglect and wickedness others are lost for ever, their account will be most heavy and undoing.
Of this number are those, who by their unholy conversation weaken the authority and efficacy of the word, and more successfully persuade men to do evil, than by their preaching to do well: for we are apt to take deeper impression through the eye than through the ear, and to follow the physician's practice rather than his counsel. These “ perish not alone in their iniquity.” And such who are unfaithful dispensers of the treasures of their Lord, and by loose doctrines corrupt the minds of men, to fancy a mercy in God derogatory to his holiness, that although they live indulgently in sin, they may obtain an easy pardon and happiness at last: and such who employ their high commission for low and base ends: those who instead of “preaching Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” the pure and saving truths derived from the fountain of the gospel, entertain their hearers with flashy conceits, and studied vanities, to give a relish to curiosity, and to have the applause of fools, and obscure the native majesty of the word, enervate its force, and render it powerless to conscience.
And those who spend their zeal in things of no moment to salvation, and let fly bitter invectives against those that dissent from them in unconcerning matters, by which they harden atheistical scorners in vilifying the office of the ministry as a carnal invention, set up and used for secular ends; and induce others to place religion in formalities, and slight colours of it, as if conformity to needless rites would exclude the defects of substantial holiness.
It is observed in the Chaldee paraphrase, when God was inquiring of Cain concerning Abel, that he charges him, “ The voice of thy brother's blood cries unto me :” as if Cain were a murderer, not of a single man only, but of a numerous race that might have descended from his brother. Thus a wicked minister will be charged, not only for murdering himself, but as many precious souls as might have been converted and saved, if he had faithfully performed his duty.
And parents that should instil the principles of godliness into their children in their early age, and season their minds with the knowledge of the divine laws, to regulate their lives, and make them sensible of their obligations to obey them; that should recommend religion to their affections by an holy and heavenly conversation, if by the neglect of their duty their children are exposed as a prey to the tempter, and ruined for ever, it will enhance their last reckoning, and increase the score of their guilts beyond expression.
And masters of families, and all others that have authority and advantage to preserve or reform from evil those that are committed to their care, and to instruct and command them to do what is pleasing to God, and profitable to their souls, will be sadly accountable for those that perish by their neglect.
In short, we see by common experience, that company and mutual consent is a usual motive to sin; and many persons that alone would with abhorrence reject some temptations, yet are sociably sinful. Now all those who by excitation or example, lead others to destruction, as they are first in sin, will be chief in punishment. We read in the parable of the rich voluptuary, Luke 16. 28. that being in hell, he desired a messenger might be dispatched from the dead to warn his brethren, lest they should come to that place of torment. Is there such charity in