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1. That God suffers the wicked to live and prosper in the world. The infinitely holy and wise Creator and Governor of the world, must necessarily hate wickedness; yet we see many wicked men spreading themselves as a green bay-tree; they live with impunity; things seem to go well with them, and the world siniles upon them. Many who have not been fit to live, who have held God and religion in the greatest contempt, who have been open enemies to all that is good; who, by their wickedness, bave been the pests of mankind; many cruel tyrants, whose barbarities have been such as would even till one with horror to hear or read of them; yet have lived in great wealth and outward glory; have reigned over great and mighty kingdoms and empires, and have been honoured as a sort of earthly gods.
Now, it is very mysterious, that the holy and righteous Governor of the world, whose eye beholds all the children of men, should suffer it so to be, unless we look forward to the day of judgment; and then the mystery is unravelled. For, although God, for the present, keeps-silence, and seems to let them alone, yet then he will give suitable manifestations of his displeasure against their wickedness; they shall then receive condign punishment. The saints under the Old Testament were much stumbled at these dispensations of Providence, as you may see in Job, ch. xxi. and Psal. Ixxiii. and Jer.ch. xii. The difficulty to them was so great, because, then, a future state, and a day of judyment, were not revealed with that clearness with which they are now.
2. God sometimes suffers some of the best of men to be in great affliction, poverty, and persecution. The wicked rule, while they are subject; the wicked are the head, and they are the tail; the wicked domineer, while they serve, and are op. pressed, yea are trampled under their feet, as the mire of the streets. These things are very common, yet they seem to imply great confusion.
When the wicked are exalted to power and authority, and the godly are oppressed by them, things are quite out of joint: Prov. xx. 26. A righteous man falling down before the wicked, is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring. Sometimes, one wicked man makes many hundreds, yea thousands, of precious saints, a sacrifice to his lust and cruelty, or to bis enmity against virtue and the truth, and puts them to death for no other reason but that for which they are especially to be esteemed and commended.
Now, if we look no further than to the present state, these things appear strange and unaccountable. But we ought not to confine our views within such narrow limits. When God shall have put an end to the present state, these things shall all be brought to rights. Though God suffers things to be so for the present, yet they shall not proceed in this course alway; com
paratively speaking, the present state of things is but for a moment. When all shall be settled and fixed by a divine judgment, the righteous shall be exalted, honoured, and rewarded, and the wicked shall be depressed, and put under their feet. However the wicked now prevail against the righteous, yet the righteous shall, at last, have the ascendant, shall come oti conquerors, and shall see the just vengeance of God executed upon those who now hate and persecute them.
3. It is another mystery of providence, that God suffers so much public injustice to take place in the world. There are not only private wrongs, wbich in this state pass unsettled, but many public wrongs, wrongs done by men acting in a pub. lic character, and wrongs which atfect nations, kingdoms, and other public bodies of men. Many suffer by men in public offices, from whom there is no refuge, from whose decisions there is no appeal. Now it seems a mystery, that these things are tolerated, when he that is rightfully the Supreme Judge and Governor of the world is perfectly just; but, at the final judgment, all these wrongs shall be adjusted, as well as those of a more private nature.
II. Our second use of this subject shall be to apply it to the awakening of sioners. You that have not the fear of God before your eyes, that are not afraid to sin against him, consider seriously what you have heard concerning the day of judgment. Although these things be now future and unseen, yet they are real and certain. If you now be left to yourselves, if God keep silence, and judgment be not speedily executed, it is not because God is regardless how you live, and how you behave yourselves. Now indeed God is invisible to you, and his wrath is invisible; but at the day of judginent, you yourselves shall see bim with your bodily eyes : you shall not then be able to keep out of his sight, or to avoid seeing him : Rev. i. 7. “Behold he cometh with clouds ; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him : and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." You shall see him coming in the clouds of heaven ; your ears shall hear the last trumpet, that dreadful sound, the voice of the archangel ; your eyes shall see your judge sitting on the throne, they shall see those manifestations of wrath which there will be in his countenance; your ears shall hear him pronounce the sentence.
Seriously consider, if you live in the ways of sin, and appear at that day with the guilt of it upon you, how you will be able to endure the sight or the hearing of these things, and whe. ther horror and amazement will not be likely to seize you,
wben you shall see the judge descending, and hear the trump of God. What account will you be able to give, when it shall be inquired of you, why you led such a sinful wicked life? What will you be able to say for yourselves, when it shall be asked, why you
neglected such and such particular duties, as the duty of secret prayer, for instance? or why you have habitually practised such and such particular sins or lusts? Although you be so careless of your conduct and manner of life, make so light of sin, and proceed in it so freely, with little or no dread or remorse ; yet you must give an account of every sin that you commit, of every idle word that you speak, and of every sinful thought of your hearts. Every time you deviate from the rules of justice, of temperance, or of charity ; every time you indulge any lust, whether secretly or openly, you must give an account of it: it will never be forgotten, it stands written in that book which will be opened on that day.
Consider the rule you will be judged by. It is the perfect rule of the divine law, which is exceeding strict, and exceeding "broad. And how will you ever be able to answer the demands of this law ? Consider also,
1. That the judge will be your supreme judge. You will have no opportunity to appeal from his decision. This is often the case in this world; when we are dissatisfied with the decisions of a judge, we often may appeal to a higher, a more knowing, or a more just judicatory. But no such appeal can be made from our Divine Judge ; no such indulgence will be allowed : or if it were allowed, there is no superior judge to whom the appeal should be made. By his decision, therefore, you must abide.
2. The judge will be omnipotent. Were he a mere man, like yourselves, however he might judge and determine, you might resist, and by the help of others, if not by yous own strength, prevent or elude the execution of the judgment. But the judge being omnipotent, this is utterly impossible. In vain is all resistance, either by yourselves, or by whatever help you can obtain : “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished,” Prov. xi. 21. As well might you " set the briers and thorns in battle against God.” Isa. xxvii. 4.
3. The judge will be inexorable. Human judges may be prevailed upon to reverse their sentence, or at least to remit something of its severity. But in vain will be all your entreaties, all your cries and tears to this effect, with the great Judge of the world. Now indeed he inclines his ear, and is ready to hear the prayers, cries, and entreaties of all mankind; but then the day of grace will be past, and the door of mercy be shut: then although ye spread forth your hands, yet the judge will bide his eyes from you ; yea, though ye make many prayers, he will not hear: Isa. i. 15. Then the judge will deal in fury: his eye shall not spare, neither will he have pity: and though ye cry in his ears with a loud voice, yet will he not hear you : Ezek. viji. 18. And you will find no place of repentance in God, though ye seek it carefully with tears.
4. The Judge at that time will not mix mercy with justice. The time for mercy to be shown to sinners will then be past. Christ will then appear in another character than that of the merciful Saviour. Having laid aside the inviting attributes of grace and inercy, he will clothe bimself with justice and vengeance He will not only, in general, exact of sinners the demands of the law, but he will exact the whole, without any abatement : he will exact the very uttermost farthing, Matt. v. 26. Then Christ will come to fulfil that in Rev. xiv. 10. " The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation."
The punishment threatened to ungodly men is without any pity : see Ezek. v. 11. “ Neither shall mine eye spare; neither wili i have any pity.” Here all judgments have a mixture of mercy; but the wrath of God will he poured out upon the wicked without mixture, and vengeance will have its full weight.
III. I shall apply myself thirdly, to several different characters of men.
1. To those who live in secret wickedness. Let such consider, that for all these things God will bring them into judgment. Secrecy is your temptation. Promising yourselves this, you practise many things, you indulge many lusts, under the covert of darkness, and in secret corners, which you would be ashamed to do in the light of the sun, and before the world. But this temptation is entirely groundless. All your secret abominations are even now perfectly known to God, and will also hereafter be made known both to angels and men. Luke xii. 2, 3. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be reveal
neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in the light: and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops."
Before human judges are brought only those things which are known ; but before this judge shall be brought the most hidden things of darkness, and even the counsels of the heart, 1 Cor. iv. 5. All your secret uncleanness, all your secret fraud and injustice, all your lascivious desires, wishes, and designs, all your inward covetousness, which is idolatry, all your malicious, envious, and revengeful thoughts and purposes, whether brought forth into practice or not, shall then be made manifest, and you shall be judged according to them. Of these things, however secret, there will be need of no other evidence than the testimony of God and of your own consciences.
2. To such as are not just and upright in their dealings with their fellow men. Consider that all your dealings with men must be tried. must be brought forth into judgment, and there compared with the rules of the word of God. All your actions must be judged according to those things which are
found written in the book of the word of God. If your ways of dealing with men shall not agree with those rules of righteousness, they will be condemned. Now, the word of God directs us to practise entire justice; That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, Deut. xvi. 20. and to do to others as we would they should do to us. But how many are there, whose dealings with their fellow-men, if strictly tried by these rules, would not stand the test ?
God hath in his word, forbidden all deceit and fraud in our dealings one with another, Lev. xi. 13. He hath forbidden us
. . to oppress one another, Lev. xxv. 14. But how frequent arepractices contrary to those rules, and which will not bear to be tried by them? How common are fraud and trickishness in trade? How will men endeavour to lead on those with whom they trade in the dark, that so they may make their advantage ? Yea, lying in trading is too common a thing among us. How common are such things as that mentioned, Prov. xx. 14. It is nought, it is nought, saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way; then he boasteth.
Many men will take the advantage of another's ignorance to advance their own gain, to his wrong; yea, they seem not to scruple such practices. Beside downright lying, men have many ways of blinding and deceiving one another in trade, which are by no means right in the sight of God, and will ap-, pear to be very unjust, when they shall be tried by the rule of God's word at the day of judgment. And how common a thing is oppression or extortion, in taking any advantage that, men can by any means obtain, to get the utmost possible of their neighbour for what they have to dispose of, and their neighbour needs!
Let such consider, that there is a God in heaven, who beholds them, and sees how they conduct themselves in their daily traffic with one another; and that he will try their works another day. Justice shall assuredly take place at last. The righteous Governor of the world will not suffer injustice without control; he will control and rectify it, by returning the injury upon the head of the injurer: Matt. vii. 2. With what measure ye mele, it shall be measured to you again.
3. To those who plead for the lawfulness of practices generally condemned by God's people. You who do this, consider that your practices must be tried at the day of judgment. Consider, whether or no they are likely to be approved by the most holy judge at that day: Prov. v. 21. The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord; and he pondereth all his goings. However, by your carnal reasonings, you may deceive your own hearts, yet you will not be able to deceive the Judge, he will not hearken to your excuses, but will try your ways by the rule ; he will know whether they be straight or crooked. VOL. VI