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IMPENITENT SINNERS WITHOUT EXCUSE
AT THE GREAT DAY.
Job 31: 14.-What then shall I do, when God riseth up ? and when
he visiteth, what shall I answer ?
JOB made this interrogation in connexion with a solemn disavowal of the crime of haughtiness and oppression. If I despised the cause of my man-servant or my maid-servant;
what then shall I do, when God riseth up, etc., as if he had said : What shall I do at that awful crisis when God shall pass judgment on all my works? As God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world, and as we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, it becomes us to meditate on the transactions of that day, to consider how we shall order our cause, and with what arguments our mouths will be filled.
It is well known, that all who embrace those offers, which are made by Christ in the Gospel, do thereby obtain pardon and the promise of eternal life. Such persons, when God riseth up, will not shield themselves with their own innocence, but by the sufferings of Christ. They are found, as the apostle speaks, not having on their own righteousness, i. e. not relying on their own obedience to the law, as the meritorious ground of their justification; but having on that righteousness, which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith ;-interested in the covenant, which declares the believer justified from all those things, from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses. Persons of this character, and in such a state, will never be confounded. They will lift up their heads with joy, when the Judge shall assemble all nations before his throne.
But no one will pretend, that all are in this state ;—no one, judging on the principles of the Gospel, can suppose that the obedient followers of the Lamb, bear a great proportion to the whole. Though no man knoweth the number of God's children, have we not reason, even now, to form this melancholy conclusion, that Christ's disciples are a little flock, and that the servants of sin are far more numerous ?
To persons of this latter description, the following discourse will be addressed ; the object of which is to inquire, what answer can be given at the great day, by impenitent sinners ;what excuse they will then be able to offer, in their own behalf.
1. Will you answer, that you knew not the being and perfections of God;—that you knew not, that there was any supreme Being, who created yourselves, the world, and the universe? No person, who arrives at years of understanding, can make such a plea. No one can open his eyes, without seeing a crowd of witnesses to the existence of God. Did the heavens and earth create themselves? Did the mighty ocean gather itself together into the deep places of the earth? Did the shores of the ocean form themselves into a barrier against its overflowing? Does the tide rise up, and withdraw, every day, self-moved, or by its own choice? Is it by chance, that the seasons have an orderly return,—the fruits grow in one part of the year, and decay in another? Did you create your own bodies or your own souls? Or is it by chance, that you have eyes to see, ears to hear, feet to walk, or lungs to breathe ? You know the contrary. You clearly perceive, not only that the heavens declare the glory of the Lord, and the firmament showeth his handy work, but that you yourself are fearfully and wonderfully made; and that you must have been created by some intelligent being, who had a design in creating you.
Can you pretend any uncertainty, as to the character of this being ? Can you doubt his goodness? Do you not daily receive the fruits of it? Do you doubt his justice, or his holiness ? Have you the least apprehension that he is unjust, or unholy? And will you dare to allege, in the last day, that unavoidable ignorance on these subjects excused your neglect of God; and that the reason, why you lived without God in the world, was, that you
had no reason to believe that God existed ? 2. But perhaps you will say, though you knew there was a God, and had no reason to doubt what his attributes were, yet you knew not what he required-you were ignorant in what way, he was to be pleased, or displeased. Why this is indeed strange. You knew that there was a holy God, and yet did not know that he required holiness in his creatures! You will not say this in his presence, when he riseth up, unless it be true. You will not dare to say, that you had doubts on this subject, if you had none. And now suffer me to ask any person present, whether he have any doubts on the general subject of what is pleasing or displeasing to God? Have you any doubt, that God requires you to entertain inward affection to himself; to submit to his holy will; to obey his commands; to rejoice in his government, and to desire bis blissful presence? In nego lecting obedience, prayer, and holy communion with God, or righteousness and charity to men, can you pretend it to be a matter of uncertainty, what God required? Can you ever assert that you know not whether it would be most agreeable to him, that you should repent of sin or persevere in it? Will you be able to tell him, that though, in the days of your probation, you saw some persons thoughtless, proud, selfish, haters of that which is good; and others meek, watchsul against sin, sorrowful when they had committed it, devout, and obedient to the divine commands; you were still utterly unable to determine which of these characters was most pleasing in his sight; and whether, to obtain his blessing, you ought to imitate the one or the other? Will you dare to assert this before him, whose eyes are as a flame of fire ?-But,
3. Though you cannot plead ignorance of what God requires, perhaps you intend to show, that his requirements were unreasonable. Can you support this charge better than your former VOL. II.
plea of ignorance? Where is the unreasonableness of the divine commands ? As God is perfect in all his attributes,—the most wise, just, pure and gracious being in the universe, is it a hard case, that man is required to love him accordingly? Would you have cause to think better of God, if he gave liberty to his creatures not to love him, or to love other objects in preference to him? Is it unreasonable, that he requires you to submit to him, with a humble, unrepiping heart? Is it unjust, that he requires you to do good to his creatures, in obedience to his holy commands? Having broken these commands, do you complain, that he requires you to exercise repentance, to feel godly sorrow, to loathe yourself, and acknowledge his righteousness? Can any thing be more reasonable, than that an infinite God should demand of his creatures to live soberly, righteously, and piously in the present world? Look over the moral law given on mount Sinai; look over the whole Gospel, from beginning to end, and see if you can find a single command which ought not to be obeyed ? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good : and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God? Ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal ? Hear, O house of Israel: are not my ways equal ? Are not your ways unequal.
4. Perhaps, you design to make this plea at your final trial, that though you had some knowledge of what the divine requirements were, you did not know in what manner they were sanctioned : i. e. you did not know whether God would reward the obedient, and punish the disobedient.—But this plea is inconsistent with itself. Can any person possibly believe that God requires his creatures to be holy, and forbids them to be sinful, and yet will never treat those who break his laws differently from those who have kept them? Can any one doubt, that those who trample on the authority and violate the laws of God, will experience the divine wrath? Can it be imagined, that a Being, who hates sin and loves holiness, will never make known his hatred of the one, and his complacency in the other?
Besides, almost every page in Scripture, speaks on the subject in the clearest manner. It not only shows what God requires and what he forbids ; it shows likewise the rewards of obedience and the punishment of rebellion : Say ye to the righteous that it shall be well with him : for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked, it shall be ill with him, for the rewards of his hands shall be given him. Though the sinner do evil an hundred times and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with him that feareth God, —that feareth continually before him: but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow. Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish unto every soul of man that worketh evil, but glory, honor and peace to him that worketh good.
While the Bible, which you may peruse daily, contains a multitude of such declarations as these, will you dare, when God riseth up, to plead your ignorance of the rewards of holiness and the punishments of sio?
5. Will you defend yourself by saying, that you had determined to change your heart and life, at some future period; but were called away before your designs were executed ? In that case may it not be asked, who gave you liberty to defer conversion? The divine word most assuredly did not : The declarations of that word are to this effect: Now is an accepted time : behold now is a day of salvation. To-day, -after so long a time as to-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts : but boast not thyself of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Will you plead that you had no warning of your departure, when you scarcely lived a month without witnessing some new triumph of the king of terrors ? What will it avail to say, that you intended to repent at some future season, when that very resolution inplied an intention of remaining impenitent, till that period should arrive? Can you suppose that God is bound to wait your leisure, though religion be deferred from year to year, and one resolution is broken aster