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dead and living, whose names are not found written in the book of life, into the lake of fire. So plainly is the awful evil of the Saviour's second coming declared to the world. But,
2d, This evil has been long delayed. Eighteen hundred years have passed since these declarations were uttered, and still things remain as they were. The heaven is still bright and peaceful over our heads.
The sun still rises and sets, and brings on summer and winter, and the appointed weeks of harvest: and the sign of the Son of man is not yet seen in heaven. The trumpet of judgment does not yet begin to sound; and though “ Tophet has been ordained of old, and the pile thereof is fire and much wood, and the breath of the Lord, as a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it;” its gates are not yet thrown manifestly open to execute conclusive vengeance upon mankind. And this delay is, as in the former case, in mercy. It is to give men more abundantly the opportunity of repentance. It is that the offer of salvation may be faithfully and fully made. It is that the godly among men may send the tidings of salvation round the world; and that a multitude may be redeemed out of every tribe, and nation, and people; and then the end shall come.
It is an awful view of this world, but it is a true one, that its existence is only prolonged, with a deadly curse impending over it, till all the redeemed shall be gathered from the four winds of heaven; and that the interests of the mighty, and the fates of empires, great as they may seem, are nothing in the scale, when weighed against the interests of the church of God. The final judgment of the wicked is only delayed, as the Saviour said, “ for the elect's sake.” While the spiritual temple of God is building, while believers are seeking shelter in the ark, the storm will sleep; but once let the last redeemed soul be safely housed; once let this world be exclusively a scene of rebellion and resolute impenitence; and then, “ as the lightening cometh from the east, and shineth even to the west," so shall the flaming sword of a Saviour's vengeance leave its mysterious scabbard, and bathe that world in flames.
3d, Whenever this dreadful judgment shall come, it will be amply deserved. It is merited at any moment. The state of society, if it be judged by the laws of God, by the revealed rule of godliness, is fearfully wicked. The great evil lies in the native corruption of the heart. “In every man born into the world, it
deserveth God's wrath and damnation;" and in every individual in whom the power of sin has not been subdued by divine grace, it calls for vengeance. But as the world goes forward, the actual evil of depravity and alienation from God increases. It is not the tale of old age, nor the unfounded fable of an alarmist, to say that the wickedness of the wicked is assuming a deadlier dye. They who have watched society closely, know that some years back, before the revival of religion, there was a large neutral mass of persons, who were without lively influential religion, but who did little active rischief; but since that day, this neutral body has been rapidly diminishing in two ways: while true religion has had its triumphs in many who are saved — many also have declined to more ungodliness; have worn a less equivocal character of open irreligion; and vice has assumed among them a degree of inveteracy and concentrated virulence before unknown. Perhaps the corruption of the juvenile population, the practiced villainy and hardihood of mere infant delinquents, is one of the worst features of the times, and one of the strongest indications of the approach of this dispensation towards its close.
Now, though at all times the wickedness of man deserves its doom, yet we conceive that by this progress in wickedness, this gradual secession from God and goodness, there will be in the last days presented for the endurance of divine wrath, a people wrought to the very acmé of ungodliness, prepared for any act of impious desperation, and fit only for the burning.
4th. Whenever this event shall come, it will be unexpected. 6 The day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night.”“ When they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them, and they shall not escape.” “ As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man.” They shall be immersed in the occupations of this present life, and utterly heedless of the life to come.
There is at first an instinctive revolting from this, as a thing impossible. And yet if we look fairly at the case, how much of probability there is in it. We have seen it happen at the deluge, and there is every reason to conclude from facts, that it will happen again. If the day of the Lord were to dawn to-morrow, and with the morning light the sign of the Son of man were seen in the heavens, would it not find the great mass of mankind totally indifferent and reckless? Are there not multitudes of nominal
Christians, even in this enlighted land, who have not a single serious thought of preparation for such a day? They buy, they sell, they plant, they speculate, they eat and drink, and marry and are given in marriage; but for any thing they feel or care to feel respecting the coming of the Son of man, there might have been no promise, no warning, no revelation, no future state, and no God. They have no practical reference to these things, but to make sport of them. Any thing is interesting to them, but the will of God and the promise of the Saviour's coming.
Wc may easily see, then, how the day of final vengeance shall be as unexpected by the world, as the day of the flood. It has only to come upon us as the last day of this year gradually steals upon us; and excepting the comparative few, who are in carnest about their salvation, it will find the mass of society just what the last day of this year will most probably find them, “ minding earthly things," and regardless of eternity, and “ without hope and without God in the world;" and in the face of a faithful record and a faithful ministry, utterly unconscious and unbelieving of any threatened danger. And then,
5th. This judgment will be fatal. It will be fatal indeed. We are informed that many will be alive on the earth at the day of Emanuel's coming; but at his call, also, the sea, and death, and hell, will deliver up their dead. “ All nations shall be gathered before him," and a final decision will then take place on every individal case. And on that day, all who are not found in Christ will be precisely in the same cicumstances as those who were not in the ark. They will be without a refuge. They may 5 say to the rocks, fall on us, and to the mountains cover us, and hide us from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand;" but it will be in vain. They can no more escape the overwhelming terrors of the lake of fire, than the rising waters of the deluge. The convictions of conscience will then be too late; the pang of regret will then be unavailing. “The earth and all the works that are therein, shall be burnt up." And how vainly will the condemned multitude strive to fly from the devouring element, when it pours its flood of flame around the world; and as they shrink from spot to spot, to the cold caverns of dark primeval night, how sad will it be when those searching fires enter the last recesses of their shelter, and ingulf them all!
But how still more inconceivably horrible will it be, when instead of finding this a temporary pang, the mere agony of a natural dissolution, that ushers them into another existence of peace; they shall find those very flames with all their scorching torture, to be their appointed and eternal dwelling place; and that the pang of dying in tormenting fire is to be the perpetual experience of everlasting years.
But let us turn to the last point of resemblance. Thanks be to God, this is not the destiny of universal man. The day that judicially appoints the wicked and the unbelieving to their doom, makes manifest the complete salvation of the righteous. In the midst of the horrors of the flood, the ark of salvation rode peacefully upon the waters. And so in the crisis of this world's destiny,“ the holy city, the New Jerusalem, having the glory of God," shall come down from God out of heaven, “prepared as a brido adorned for her husband;" and then the righteous, the redeemed of the Lord, they “ who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," shall "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." They are ever safe, be the threatcncd and deserved vengeance what it may. Their safety is not in themselves, it is in the grace, and protection, and presence of their God, who has said, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; when thon walkest though the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thec.”
It is a glorious thought to dwell upon, that in that day an innumerable company, redeemed out of every kindred, and people, and tongue, and nation, and language, shall be recognized as the children of God, as having been delivered from the wrath to come. It will be indeed a blessed experience for them to look back upon a world lying in wickedness; to recall the recollection of thc day when they were individually the children of wrath even as others, walking in the course of this world, and serving the prince of darkness; and then to trace the opening of their minds to religious truth, the effectual striving of the Spirit of Christ with their consciences, to remember all the way that they have been led, and the faithful and unfailing care which still sustained and sanctified them, and kept them from falling, till they were presented faultless before the presence of the glory of God. How blessed will be the recollection of all this experience, heightened by the final calamity of the unbelieving recently passing before
their eyes: and then to cast the golden crown of their victory and their glory at the feet of their Redeemer, and to sing “ Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.”
We have now, then, seen the close analogy or resemblance which exists between the wrath of God executed upon the old world, and the wrath to come, which the Son of man shall inflict at his second coming. However long the threatened vengeance may be delayed, it will come in all its merited fullness; but it will be sudden and unexpected, and it will be fatally destructive. Here, then, is a most solemn call on us, for seriousness and diligence. We may as well disbelieve the past as the future; but we must reject neither. My friends, that day must not so come upon us as a thief. “Seeing that we look for such things, let us bc diligent that we may be found in peace, without spot and blameless." You see how
You see how casy it is, and how consistent with our fallen nature, to let time slide away amidst the cares and comforts of this world, and to loose sight of the future judgment. A whole world except cight persons did it. But you see the fatal consequence of such a habit. You may slumber away the intermediate period; but you cannot slumber over the day of judgment, or in the tires of retribution. The days in which the Spirit of Christ shall strive with men are running rapidly out; and then there remains nothing but “a fcarful looking for of judgment, and of that fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary."
It behooves us, then, to use diligently all the means, to listen to all the warnings, and to avail ourselves of all the helps, granted us, for fixing our attention upon the one great subject. Let think as we ought of the rapid wast of life. We spend our years as it were a tale that is told. They fly like a dream or a watch in the night. Let us look then to the days of Noah, and on the Saviour's testimony, take it as a pattern of the coming of the Son of man. It were dreadful indeed, for the remaining sands of life to run out, and the day of our dissolution to fix our perpetual lot, and then the day of account to find us with an enlightened understanding and an awakened conscience, but with an unsanctified heart. Oh! if we felt this risk as we ought, and if we judged of the risk of the future by the negligences with which we have suffered the past to slip away, how deeply earnest would we feel! llow vain would the trifics or the solemnities of time appear!