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wicked; but things will not be always thus. Have but a little patience, and the justice of God's providence, which is now under a cloud, will clear up ; the day is coming, which will make a wide and vast difference between good and bad men, between those that serve God, and those that ferve him not; those that swear, and those that fear an oath ; between the lewd and the chaste, the sober and debauched, the meek of the earth and the murderers; between the proud and the humble, the just and the oppres
between those that persecute, and those who are persecuted for righteoufness.
Now, the difference is frequently on the wrong side ; good men suffer and are afflicted, the wicked flourish and are prosperous: But go into the sanctuary of God, and there thou shalt see their end. Let us but look a little before us, beyond the things which are seen, and are but temporal, unto the things which are not seen, and are eternal, and we shall see all things straight; that the end of the wicked, who fourished in this world, is to be destroyed for ever; and that the righteous, who were so distressed and afflicted in this world, shall enter into rest and joy; when the days of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, these Shall be comforted, and the other torinented.
III. If the reward of the next life shall bear a proportion to the degrees of good or evil which we have done in this world, then, on the one hand, here is matter of great comfort and encouragement to us in the ways of holiness and obedience. This is a mighty argument to good men to grow in grace, and to press forward toward perfection, to be stedfast and unmoveable, and abundant in the work of the Lord, because they know that their labour shall not be in vain in the Lord; but that, according to the degree of our service and obedience, of our virtue and goodness, shall be the degree of our glory and happiness. We serve a good master, who will consider every thing that we do for him; who is not unrighteous, to forget our work and labour of love, and will not let the least service pass unrewarded. Let us not then content ourselves with any low degree of goodness; but be continually aspiring after the highest perfection we are capable of. Since we have such a prize in our view, let us run with patience,
and with all our might, the race which is set before us. For, by the same reason that any man desires happiness, he cannot but desire the highest degrees of it that are attainable; and will consequently endeavour to make himself capable of the greatest degree of glory : And though no degree of holiness can merit everlasting life and happiness, yet greater degrees of holiness will certainly be rewarded with a larger portion of happiness. God is not bound antecedently to his promise, to give so great a reward to any man for his works; yet he hath promised to reward every man according to them.
So that there is no reason why a good man, when he is once come to this, that, by the grace and assistance of God, he can refrain from gross sins, and resist the temptations to them, and perform the great duties of religion, why he should, with Esau, sit down and say, I have enough, I have so much as will carry me to heaven, and I desire no more. It is a fad presage of apoftacy, to stand still in religion. He that once stops, the next thing is to look back. This is the remedy wbich St Peter pre
scribes against apostacy, 2 Peter iii. 18. Take heed, left ye fall from your own ftedfastness: and then it follows, but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The best remedy against apostacy, is growth in goodness. It is a rule in policy, that an ambitious man should never stay at any step of preferment, till he come at the top, because it is some security to be in motion. Our ascent to heaven is steep and narrow, and we are safest when we do not stand still : temptation cannot so well take its aim at us.
Let us therefore press after the highest degree of virtue and holiness, and labour to be as good as we can in this world, that, in the next, our happiness may be the greater; that, when the day of recompence shall come, we may receive an ample reward, and God, the righteous judge, may set a bright and glorious crown upon our heads.
We ought likewise to consider, that, if any man can be content only to be saved, and desire no more but just to get to heaven, that such a degree of holiness and virtue, as will save a man that can attain no more, will perhaps. not save that man who lazily rests in the lowest degree,
and desires no more. To be least in the kingdom of God, is next to being shut out of it. It is not to be expected that God should bestow heaven and happiness upon those who are so indifferent about it, as to desire heaven for no other reason, but because they would not go to hell. Men must not think to drive so near and hard a bargain, in so desirable and advantageous a purchase.
And then, on the other hand, it is matter of great terror to great sinners. The wages of every sin is death, eternal death; and every degree of hell and damnation is dreadful : But there are fins more heinous in themselves, and some that are attended with heavier aggravations in some persons; these do inflame hell, and heat that furnace feven times hotter. There are some 'moderate finners in comparison; these shall have a moderate doom, and a 'cooler hell; but there are others who are extravagant and enormous sinners, that drink up iniquity, as the ox drinks up water; that let themselves loose to commit all wickedness with greediness; such as fin above the common rate of men, with full consent, and upon deliberation, with great design and contrivance, in despite of the clearest convictions, of the best counsels and reproofs ; these make hafte to ruin, and take hell by violence. Now, such mighty transgressors shall be mightily tormented; they shall not be punished at the common rate of finners, their consciences will breed more and sharper ftings, and wilder furies to torment them, and they shall sink into a deeper misery.
More particularly, this concerns us Chriftians, who continue impenitent, and live in our fins, notwithstanding the clear revelation of the gospel, and the wrath of God revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness and uprighteousness of men; notwithstanding life and immortality fo clearly brought to light by the gospel. How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation? What condemnation will be heavy enough for those, who wilfully refuse to be saved ? This is the condemnation, says our Saviour, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light. All the sins which we now commit, are infinitely aggravated above the sins of thousands in the world, who never enjoyed that light, and those advantages and opportunities which we have done. The igno- , rance of these God winked at, but now he expects, he commands all men every where to repent; because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness. What stripes do we deferve, who have known our master's will, but have not prepared ourselves to do according to it? All that light and knowledge which we have, all those counsels and instructions which we have read and heard out of God's word, will inflame our account, and heighten our condemnation, and the very means of our salvation will be the saddest aggravation of our ruin. What our Saviour faid of the impenitent and unbelieving Jews, holds as well concerning impenitent Christians; that it Mall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than for them.
But, beloved, I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation. Let us but remember, and seriously consider, that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive the things done in the body, according to what we have done, whether good or evil; and this will certainly have a mighty awe and influence upon our lives, and all the adions of them. Now, the God of peace, &e,
The uncertainty of the day of judgment, con
Lidered and improved.
M A R K xiii. 32, 33. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no not
the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is.
THESE words are spoken by our Saviour of the day
of judgment; for though, in this chapter, as like
wife in the xxiv. of St Matthew, and the xxi. of St Luke, which are parallel to it, our Saviour discourseth very particularly and largely concerning the eminent appearance of his power and justice in the destruction of Jerusalem, which may perhaps sonetimes in scripture be called his coming; yet it is plain likewise, that he difcourseth there concerning his coming to judgment at the end of the world. For we find, in the xxiv. of St Matthew, that, after our Saviour had foretold his disciples of the utter ruin of Jerusalem, they came afterwards to him, to enquire more particularly about it; verse 3. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Where there are two several questions, to which our Saviour returns a distinct answer. The first, when those things he had been speaking of before should be that is, the things which related to the destruction of Jerusalem, for of that only be had been speaking before. The other question was, concerning the sign of his coming, and of the end of the world. Vol. VIII.