« PreviousContinue »
let us study and fulfil the precepts of the Gospel; let us look at and emulate the examples of the saints ; let us consider and alleviate the sorrows of our pil. grimage; let us perceive and avoid the horrible consequences of impatience; let us court till we obtain the heavenly grace of patience, with her dowry of benefits and blessings conferred on her by Jesus Christ, into whose patience the Lord direct your hearts, until she have her perfect work in the salvation of your souls, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed, as is most due, in all churches of the saints, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, now and evermore. Amen.
THE GREAT ASSIZE.
ACTS, XVII. 31.
He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the
world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath
The distinction between good and evil hath been from the beginning the great end of the law of Heaven, at sundry times and in divers manners promulgated to the sons of men. From this celestial founa tain particular systems of human laws have been drawn forth, and adapted to the exigences of different ages and countries, by wise and good men; they have
been enacted by the authority of kings with the ad: vice of senates, and carried into execution by faithful and diligent magistrates, "to the punishment of “ wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of “ true religion and virtue.” The advantages of these institutions, and the praise and honour which are due from all mankind to those who employ the treasure of learning, and exert the powers of eloquence, for the public good, must be evident to every one who thinks but a moment upon the subject. The excel
lent Hooker closes a survey of law, in all its different departments, with the following encomium, conceived and expressed in a manner peculiar to himself: “Of “ law there can be no less acknowledged, than that " her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world.
All things in heaven and “ earth do her homage; the very least as feeling her
care, and the greatest as not exempt from her power. Both angels, and men, and creatures of
what condition soever, though each in different sort “ and manner, yet all with uniform consent, ad
miring her as the mother of their peace and “joy.”
But true and just altogether as this character of law in general most certainly is, yet it must be confessed, that the penal sanctions of human laws will not always come up to the necessity of the case, nor will the medicine reach the disorder, in a multitude of instances. It is in the power of the civil magistrate to chastise many public enormities, to regulate in some measure the external deportment of men, and to preserve the frame of society from suffering those convulsions which must otherwise bring on a speedy dissolution. But when prudence hath enacted all her statutes, and intrusted vigilance with the execution of them, men will still continue to "put evil for good, “ and good for evil.” Monsters of iniquity will creep from their dens to infest and annoy the public, although they cannot be dragged from thence to suffer as they deserve. Much wickedness must remain unpunished, and great misery must go unrelieved. Avarice and ambition will conceive and bring forth
crimes, of which no earthly tribunal can take cognizance. Some sins will be too common, and some sinners too powerful, to be animadverted upon in this world. The prosperous villain will often die unmolested in his bed, and bequeath the fruits of his oppression to his heir; while injured innocence shall descend before him with sorrow to the grave, and quickly pass away out of remembrance. The cries of orphans will still ascend to heaven; the tears will still run down the widow's cheek; and the poor man will frequently find no helper upon earth.
. This the royal preacher and judge of Israel saw, who was so renowned through all the world for his wisdom and justice; he saw and mourned the impossibility of preventing it. “I considered," says he, "all the op“pressions that are done under the sun; and beheld " the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had " no comforter ; and on the side of their oppressors “ there was power, but they had no comfortera." The conclusion which king Solomon drew from what he saw of this kind under the sun, must be adopted by us likewise : " I said in mine heart, God shall
judge the righteous and the wicked .” The interests of virtue and justice require that many causes should be heard, which cannot be brought to a trial here below; and therefore the day will surely come, when God shall erect a tribunal universal and scrutinizing as the light of heaven; where all those of fences, which the best of magistrates taken from among men are necessitated to suffer and overlook,
shall be inquired into by himself. And when we behold this august assembly, our thoughts are naturally carried on to that great and awful process, the consideration of which will furnish the best rules for the conduct of all who are concerned in these earthly judicatories; from whence there lieth an appeal to the judgement-seat of Christ. There every cause must be re-heard, and finally determined, until virtue and vice shall be distinguished by the voice of God adjudging them to separate habitations for evermore. “ He hath appointed a day, in which he will judge “ the world in righteousness, by that man whom he “ hath ordained."
The words direct us to employ our meditations on the appointment of a day for judgement; the person and appearance of the judge; and the judgement itself. Man
inay abuse his liberty, and transgress the law of the great King; but the punishment will follow and overtake the offence, though not immediately; nor can we deduce any inference from its being deferred, but that God is merciful, and that the sinner should repent. The day of vengeance was fixed from the foundation of the world; but it was likewise then determined that another day should precede it, commensurate to the duration of this present system which
may be called the day of man, when the earth is given into his hands, and he executes his will upon it. Now he may “rejoice, and let his heart cheer “ him;" he may " walk in the
“ walk in the ways of his heart, and " in the sight of his eyes;" he may devote his youth to pleasure, sacrifice his manhood to ambition, and