And as it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment:…
I. WE HAVE THREE DIRECTIONS TO GIVE YOU.
1. Our first direction regards the argument taken from the disorders of society. Do not confine your attention to those disorders which strike the senses, astonish reason, and subvert faith itself Reflect on other irregularities which, although they are less shocking to sense,. are yet no less deserving the attention of the Judge of the whole earth, and require-a future judgment. Have human laws been ever made against hypocrites? See that man artfully covering himself with the veil of religion, that hypocrite, who excels in his art! See his vivacity — or his flaming zeal, shall I call it? — to maintain the doctrines of religion, and to pour out anathemas against heretics! Not one grain of religion, not the least shadow of piety in all his whole conversation. It is a party-spirit, or a sordid interest, or a barbarous disposition to revenge, which produces all his pretended piety. And the justice of God, what is it doing? My text tells you, "After death comes judgment." Have human laws been ever made against the ungrateful? Who shall punish this black crime? I answer again, "After death comes judgment." Have men made laws against cowards? I do not mean cowardice in war; the infamy that follows this crime is a just punishment of it. I speak of that mean cowardice of soul which makes a man forsake an oppressed innocent sufferer, and keep a criminal silence in regard to the oppressor. Pursue this train of thought, and ye will everywhere find arguments for a future judgment; because there will everywhere appear disorders which establish the necessity of it.
2. Our second direction regards the argument taken from conscience. Conscience is that faculty of our minds by which we are able to distinguish right from wrong, and to know whether we neglect our duties or discharge them. The judgment that constitutes the nature of conscience is founded on three principles, either fully demonstrable, or barely probable. First, I am in a state of dependence. Second, there is a supreme law; or what is the same thing, there is something right and something wrong. Third, I am either innocent or guilty. On these three principles an intelligent spirit grounds a judgment, whether it deserves to be happy or miserable; it rejoiceth if it deserve to be happy; it mourns if it deserve to be miserable; and this judgment, and this joy, or sorrow, which results from it, constitutes what we call conscience.
3. Our third direction concerns the proof taken from revelation.
II. BUT WHAT SHALL BE THE DESTINY OF THIS AUDIENCE?
1. We shall be judged as having lived under an economy of light. We shall be judged according to what is clear in the gospel itself; and not according to what is abstruse and impenetrable in the systems of the schools. But if this truth be comfortable to good people, it is also terrifying to people of an opposite character. Ye will be judged as reasonable beings, who had it in their power to discover truth and virtue.
2. We shall be judged as having lived under an economy of proportion; I mean to say, the virtues, which God requireth of us under the gospel, are proportioned to the faculties that He hath given us to perform them. Endeavours to be perfect will be accounted perfection. This very law of proportion, which will regulate the judgment of us, will overwhelm the wicked with misery. It is always an aggravation of a misery to reflect that we might have avoided it, and that we brought it upon ourselves.
3. We shall be judged as having lived under an economy of mercy. What can be more capable, at once, of comforting a good man against an excessive fear of judgment, and of arousing a bad man from his fatal security?
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