Sidor som bilder

happiness: but those, who remain impenitent and unreconciled to God, will be fixed in an endless state of sin and misery.

It is now time to show,

[ocr errors]

judgment seat of Christ; who will separate them from each other, and adjudge the one to a place of holiness and happiness, and the other to the place prepared for the Devil and his angels. And there is no

II. That mankind are in such a state of probation during the pres-intimation, that after the judgment ent life.

For evidence of this, we are indebted, principally, if not wholly, to Divine revelation. Our text teaches the probationary state of mankind in this life, in general terms; but there are numerous passages which teach us all the particulars of our present probationary state.

of the great day, there will be any change of character or condition. But, on the contrary, every conceivable mode of expression is used, to make it appear, that after the final judgment, the holy and happy state of the righteous, and the sinful and miserable state of the wicked, will be unchangeable and eternal. "And these shall

Thirdly. The scriptures teach us; that the future and unalterable state of mankind, is suspended upon their conduct in this life. It is

First. It is very plainly and ful-go away into everlasting punishly taught in the scriptures, that ment; but the righteous into life mankind are free, moral agents, eternal." and accountable to God for all their conduct in this life. They are uniformly addressed, as proper subjects of commands and invítations, of promises and threats.not intimated, that any thing done They are represented as being all under law to God; who is pleased with the conduct of some, and displeased with the conduct of others. And an apostle expressly asserts, that every one of us shall give account of himself to God."


Secondly. There are numerous passages, which teach us, that after this life, mankind enter upon an unalterable and eternal state. It is said, that at death, the expectation of the wicked perisheth; but that those, who die in the Lord are blessed, and enter into rest. The scriptures represent mankind as divided into two classes, called the righteous and the wicked, saints and sinners, the just and the unjust; and they teach us, that, at death, those of the one class, are in a holy and happy state, and those of the other, in a sinful and miserable state. The scriptures further teach us, that, at the end of the world, there will be a day of judgment; when both saints and sinners must appear before the

by men, between death and the general judgment, will make the least alteration in their eternal state; but, on the contrary, an apostle assures us, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.' It is plainly taught, in many passages, that those, who remain impenitent and unholy till death, will perish; but that those, who repent and believe the gospel in this life, will be saved.

Fourthly. It is taught in sacred scripture, that all the actions of men, in the present life, will materially affect their future and endless state. Every deed of every man's life, will come into account, at the day of judgment. Not even an idle word will be overlooked, nor the giving of a cup of water to one of Christ's disciples, go unrewarded. As men ever act as free, moral agents, so all their ac

tions are good or bad, deserving of praise or blame; and it is as reasonable that they should be called to account for all their actions, as for any of them. The future reward of saints will be in exact proportion to the number and magnitude of their good deeds, done here in the body. He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully. And, on the other hand, the future punishment of sinners, will be in exact proportion to the number and magnitude of their evil deeds done here in the body. The number of stripes will be according to the number and criminality of each one's offences.

Thus it appears, that mankind, during the present life, are in a state of probation.

It remains to show,

III. What good ends God may answer, by placing mankind, here, in a state of probation.

God is not bound, in justice to his rational creatures, to give them a season of probation. When He had made the first man upright, He might, if He had seen fit, have confirmed him, at once, in holiness and happiness forever. And upon the first apostacy, God might justly have confirmed Adam in a state of sin and misery forever.

But, though God was under no obligation to mankind, to give them a term of trial; yet it was not without good reasons, that He determined to place them in a state of probation. By dealing with mankind in this manner, He has wise and important ends to answer; some of which appear quite obvious. And,

First. By placing mankind in a state of probation in this world, God gives them opportunity to act out their hearts and form their characters. By being in such a state, sinners have opportunity to

[ocr errors]

show what is in their hearts. would not be seen, by creatures, how desperately wicked the human heart is, if God did not give men a season of trial, and exercise forbearance and long-suffering towards them. It is because sentence against their evil works is not executed speedily, that their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. and that they have opportunity to do the evil, which their hearts are inclined to do. It is for the same reason, that sinners have opportunity to increase the number and magnitude of their sins, as well as to exhibit the evil of their hearts, and thus to become greater vessels of wrath and more fit for destruction.

Saints, as well as sinners, by being placed in a state of probation, have opportunity to act out their hearts and form their characters. There is that in the hearts of saints, which is directly opposite to all the affections and exercises of impenitent sinners. They have some disinterested, holy love to God and men, which, during their probationary state, manifests itself in acts of piety and beneficence. As, by giving saints a season of probation, God can, consistently, sanctify them in part only; so, while in this state, they have opportunity to experience the Christian warfare, which consists in the opposition between sinful and holy affections and exercises, and which, by contrast, more clearly exhibits the nature and effects of both. But though saints remain imperfect, while they continue in this state of trial; yet they never apostatize, but grow in knowledge and grace, and lay up treasure in heaven. Thus they are formed for vessels of mercy, and prepared unto glory.

Secondly. Mankind, by being placed in a state of probation, during the present life, are prepared

for the judgment of the great day. | -The general judgment is designed, not to inform God, but to inform his intelligent creatures-not to teach God how He ought to deal with mankind; but to show, that his dealings with them are righteous and just: and hence it is called the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." But, in order that the general judgment may answer its design, it is necessary that mankind should have a season of probation, in which they may both form and exhibit their characters. There would seem to be no propriety or use in the general judgment, if mankind had not been previously placed in a state of probation. But, when God shall bring all the works of mankind, both saints and sinners, during the present life, with every secret thing, into judgment, they will all see the righteousness and justice of his dealings with them, and the reasons upon which the final sentence will be grounded, in every instance.

Thirdly. By placing mankind in a state of probation, during the present life, God gives himself opportunity to display towards them his Divine perfections, in the clearest and strongest light. This was, doubtless, his original and chief design in putting mankind upon trial; as it is the ultimate and chief end of all his purposes, works and ways.

suffering towards sinners, while He bears with all their ingratitude, enmity and rebellion, and forbears to execute upon them the just penalty of his violated law. During their probationary state, God has opportunity to exhibit towards saints, his power and grace, in their preservation from apostacy, in their sanctification through the truth and by the Spirit, and in the pardon of their multiplied offences, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. And, at the day of judgment, and through eternity, God will have opportunity to show his wrath and make his power known upon the vessels of wrath, who, while upon probation, were fitted to destruction; and to make known the riches of his glory upon the vessels of mercy, who, while upon probation, were prepared unto glory.


1. Of all the creatures of God, mankind, in this world, are in the most interesting and critical situation. They are in a state of probation.

The angels, who persevered in holiness, during their term of trial, are confirmed in holiness, and happiness forever. "The angels, who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, are reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." Departed saints are with Christ, and like him. They rest from their labours, sins and sorrows, and have passed beyond all danger of failing of the grace of God. Departed sinners are prisoners of despair. There remaineth nothing for them, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.' Their

As mankind, while upon probation, have opportunity to act out themselves towards God; so He has opportunity to act out himself towards them. While mankind are in a state of probation, God has opportunity to display towards them his sovereign goodness, in having mercy, upon whom he will have mercy, and hardening whom he will. During their probation- Men on earth, are the only creaary state, God has opportunity to tures in a state of probation, of manifest his patience and long-whom the scriptures give us any

expectation has perished.'

account. No mention is made of any other creatures, whose eternal destiny is suspended upon their present conduct. Let elect angels, or fallen angels, the spirits of the just made perfect, or the spirits in prison, do what they may, between this time and the day of judgment; and it will not affect their eternal state. But the presBut the present conduct of men upon earth, may raise them to heaven, or sink them to hell. Mankind, in this world, have every thing to gain, and every thing to lose. Of all Of all the creatures of God, therefore, they are in the most interesting and critical situation.

[ocr errors]

are adding to their future and eterdal weight of glory; while sinners, continuing such, are, by all their evil deeds, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. Yes; every good action, performed by a saint, will yield him more happiness, than was ever enjoyed in this world; and every evil action, done by a sinner, continuing impenitent, will cause him more misery, than was ever endured in this vale of tears! How important, then, are the actions of men, in the present life.

4. How wretched will be the condition of finally impenitent sinners. When, from the world of 2. Mankind upon earth, have despair, they look back upon this peculiar reason to be thankful to world of probation, and reflect upGod. He has placed them in a on the precious time, which they state of probation. He might have foolishly wasted, the precious opconfirmed them in sin and misery, portunities, which they carelessly upon their first transgression. neglected, and the precious means Fallen men have no more claim to of salvation, which they ungratea reprieve, than fallen angels. But fully and perversely abused, what God does more than reprieve man- shame will cover their faces, what kind in this world: He makes stings of remorse will pierce their them overtures of pardon and eter- hearts! They will see, that they nal life, even at the expense of the have not only transgressed the hosufferings and death of his well-be-ly, just and good law of God, but loved Son. He sets life, as well as death, before them, and gives them an opportunity to escape from hell and fly to heaven." Their day of probation is a day of grace, in which they have a price put into their hands, to get saving wisdom. Surely, then of all intelli-his offers of mercy. They will be gent creatures, mankind are under the most weighty obligation to be thankful to Him, of whose mercy it is that they are not consumed.



3. How important are all the actions of men, during the present life. All they do here, will materially affect their condition through the ceaseless ages of eternity. If they sow to the flesh, they will, of the flesh, reap corruption; but, if they sow to the spirit, they will, of the spirit, reap life everlasting.' Saints, by all their good deeds,

despised his patience, forbearance and long-suffering. They will see, that, when God called, they refused; when He stretched out his hand, they disregarded it; that they set at nought his counsels, despised his reproofs, and spurned

convinced, that, when life was offered them, they chose death, and voluntarily pursued the road to hell. With this conviction upon their consciences, how will their hearts sink and die within them, even before God shall begin to show his wrath and make his power known upon them!

In view of this subject, let saints be exhorted more constantly to sow to the spirit. This is your reasonable service; and in performing it, there is great reward.

Your state of probation is not yet highest interest. Be exhorted to at an end. It is only by sowing repent and turn yourselves from to the spirit, and bringing forth its your transgressions, that so iniprecious fruits, in all holy conver-quity may not be your eternal ru

sation and godliness, that you can make your calling and election sure. Wherefore, be not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; for in due season you shall reap, if you faint


Let sinners cease to sow to the flesh. Let the time past of your lives suffice you, to have followed the desires and devices of your evil hearts, in opposition to the Divine commands, and your own


You now enjoy the only season of probation you will ever have. A large portion of this short term of trial and reprieve, is already gone. Soon you will enter an unchangeable state. "Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation." Today, therefore, if you will hear the voice of God, calling you to repentance, faith and holiness, harden not your



time to be observed, should be preFOR THE HOPKINSIAN MAGAZINE. scribed. Our observing a day as ON THE SABBATH. holy time, does not make it holy. No. II. If one day of the week be holy Though the Christian churches time, it is because God has sanctihave generally been agreed refied it, and set it apart for holy specting the day of the week, rest and worship. And to keep which ought to be observed as a any day as holy time, which has Sabbath, under the present dispen- not been thus sanctified and set sation; yet there are some, and in apart, is a species of will-worship. our own country too, who differ As it is a matter of such imporfrom the generality of their breth-tance, that Christians should keep ren,upon this important point. The the same day as a Sabbath, which writer, and probably all who will God has appointed, it may be preread his essays, have been educat-sumed, that He has said enough ed in the belief, that the first day in his word, if we search it with of the week ought to be kept as diligence and candour, to enable the Christian Sabbath: but we us to ascertain which the day is. ought to have a better reason to give for our belief and practice, than tradition, or the opinion and example of our forefathers. If it be the will of God, as I have endeavoured to show, that one day in seven should be kept as holy time; it is doubtless his will, that one particular day of the week, in preference to the others, should be so kept. That Christians may all keep the same day, and not interrupt one another, it seems as necessary, that the day of the week to be kept, should be pointed out, as that the proportion of




But here it must be premised, that we ought to be satisfied with such evidence on this subject, as God has seen fit to give us. has various ways of making known his will to his creatures; some more, and some less direct. And, surely, it would be arrogance in men, to prescribe to God, the method in which He shall deliver his commands to them. It matters not, whether He has taught us our duty in plain and express terms, or left us to infer it from the tenour and analogy of scripture, provided He has put it

« FöregåendeFortsätt »