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IGNORANT OR CARELESS READER.
Seeing the Providence of God hath commanded forth this plain discourse, I shall hope, upon experience of his dealing in the like cases with me, that he hath some work for it to do in the world. Who knows but it was intended for the saving of thy soul, by opening thine eyes, and awaking thee from thy sin, who art now in reading of it! Be it known to thee, it is the certain truth of God, and of high concernment to thy soul, that it treateth of, and therefore requireth thy most sober consideration. Thou hast in it, (how weakly soever it is managed by me,) an advantage put into thy hand from God, to help thee in the greatest work in the world, even to prepare for the great approaching judgment. In the name of God, I require thee, cast
I not away this advantage; turn not away thine ears or heart from this warning that is sent to thee from the living God! Seeing all the world cannot keep thee from judgment, nor save thee in judgment, let not all the world be able to keep thee from a speedy and serious preparation for it. Do it presently, lest God come before thou art ready! Do it seriously, lest the tempter overreach thee, and thou shouldest be found among the foolish self-deceivers when it is too late to do it better. I entreat this of thee on the behalf of thy soul, and as thou tenderest thy everlasting peace with God, that thou wouldest afford these matters thy deepest consideration. Think on then, whether they are not true and weighty: think on them lying down and rising up: and, seeing this small book is fallen into thy hands, all that I would beg of thee concerning it is, that thou wouldest bestow now and then an hour to read it, and read it to thy family or friends, as well as to thyself; and as you go, consider what you read, and pray the Lord to help it to thy heart, and to assist thee in the practice, that it may not rise up in judgment against thee. If thou hast not leisure on the other, take now and then an hour on the Lord's days, or at night, to that purpose : and if any passage, through brevity, especially near the beginning, seem dark to thee, read it again and again, and ask the help of an instructer, that thou mayest understand it. May it but help thee out of the snares of sin, and promote the saving of thy immortal soul, and thy comfortable appearance at the great day of Christ, I have the thing which I intended and desired. The Lord open thy heart, and accompany his truth with the blessing of his Spirit! Amen.
SERMON OF JUDGMENT,
2 COR. v. 10, 11.
For 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. Knowing, therefore, the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.
It is not unlikely that some of those wits that are taken more with things new than with things necessary, will marvel that I chose so common a subject, and tell me that they all know this already; but I do it purposely upon these following considerations. 1. Because I well know, that it is these common truths that are the great and necessary things which men's everlasting happiness or misery doth most depend upon. You may be ignorant of many controversies and inferior points, without the danger of your souls, but so you cannot be of these fundamentals. 2. Because it is apparent by the lives of men that few know these common truths savingly, that think they know them. 3. Be. cause there are several degrees of knowing the same truths, and the best are imperfect in degree, the principal growth in knowledge, that we should look after, is, not to know more matters than we knew before, but to know that better, and with a clearer light and firmer apprehension, which we darkly and slightly knew before. You may more safely be without any knowledge at all of many lower truths, than without some further degree of the knowledge of those which you already know. 4. Besides, it is known, by sad experience, that many perish who know the truth, for want of the consideration of it,
and making use of what they know, and so their knowledge doth but condemn them. We have as much need, therefore, , to teach and help you to get these truths, which you know, into your hearts and lives, as to tell you more. 5. And, indeed, it is the impression of these great and master truths, wherein the vitals and essentials of God's image upon the soul of man doth consist: and it is these truths that are the very instruments of the great works that are to be done upon the heart by the Spirit and ourselves. In the right use of these it is that the principal part of the skill and holy wisdom of a Christian doth consist ; and in the diligent and constant use of these, lieth the life and trade of Christianity. There is nothing amiss in men's hearts or lives, but it is for want of sound knowing and believing, or well using these fundamentals. 6. And moreover, methinks, in this choice of my subject, I may expect this advantage with the hearers, that I may spare that labour that else would be necessary for the proof of my doctrine ; and that I may also have easier access to your hearts, and have a fuller stroke at them, and with less resistance. If I came to tell you of any thing not common, I know not how far I might expect belief from you. You might say these things are uncertain to us; or all men are not of this mind.' But when every hearer confesseth the truth of my doctrine, and no man can deny it without denying Christianity itself, I hope I may expect that your hearts should the sooner receive the impression of this doctrine, and the sooner yield to the duties which it directs you to, and the easier let go the sins, which, from so certain a truth, shall be discovered.
The words of my text are the reason which the apostle giveth, both of his persuading other men to the fear of God, and his care to approve to God his own heart and life. They contain the assertion and description of the great judginent, and one use which he makes of it. It assureth us, that judged we must be, and who must be so judged, and by whom, and about what, and on what terms, and to what end.
The meaning of the words, so far as is necessary, I shall give you briefly. “We all,” both we apostles that preach the gospel, and you that hear it,“ must,” willing or unwilling, there is no avoiding it,“ appear,” stand forth, or make your appearance, and there have your hearts and ways laid open, and appear as well as we, “ before the judgment seat of Christ ;" that is, before the Redeemer of the world, to be judged by hiin as our rightful Lord. That
every one, even of all mankind, which are, were, or shall be, without exception, “may receive," that is, may receive his sentence, adjudging him to his due; and then may receive the execution of the sentence, and may go away from the bar with that reward or punishment that is his due, according to the law by which he is judged. “ The things done in his body," that is, the due reward of the works done in his body; or, as some copies read it, “ the things proper to the body,” that is due to man, even body as well as soul. According to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” that is, this is the cause to be tried and judged, whether men have done well or ill, whilst they were in the flesh, and what is due to them according to their deeds. “Knowing, therefore, &c., that is, being certain therefore that these things are so, and that such a terrible judgment of Christ will come, we persuade men to become Christians, and live as such, that they may then speed well, when others shall be destroyed; or, as others, “ Knowing the fear of the Lord,” that is, the true religion, “we persuade men.”
Doct. 1. There will be a judgment. Doct. 2. Christ will be the judge. Doct. 3. All men shall there appear. Doct. 4. Men shall be then judged according to the works that they did in the flesh, whether good or evil. Doct. 5. The end of judgment is, that men may receive their final due by sentence and execution. Doct. 6. The knowledge and consideration of the terrible judgment of God, should move us to persuade, and men to be persuaded, to careful preparation.
The ordinary method for the handling of this subject of judgment should be this. 1. To show you what judgment is in the general, and what it doth contain ; and that is, 1. The per
2. The cause. 3. The actions. ]. The parties are, 1. The accuser. 2. The defendant. 3. Sometimes assistants. 4. The judge. 2. The cause contains, 1. The accusation. 2.
. The defence. 3. With the evidence of both. 4. And the merit. The merit of the cause is as it agreeth with the law and equity. 3. The judicial actions are, I. Introductory. I. Citation. 2. Compulsion, if need be. 3. Appearance of the accused. II. Of the essence of judgment, 1. Debate by, 1. The accuser. 2. Defendant, called the disceptation of the cause. 2. By the judge. 1. Exploration. 2. Sentence. 3. To see to the execution ; but