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PREPARATION FOR THE JUDGMENT.
A SERMON FOR ADVENT.
AMOS, CHAPTER 4, verse 12.
Prepare to meet thy God."
A DESIRE to make some provision for the future seems to be a natural feeling, of which man and all other animals, in a greater or less degree, partake. So evident is this principle in the dumb and irrational part of God's creation, that we, who have a better principle to rule and modify this strong natural feeling, are nevertheless commanded to take a lesson of moral virtue from the ways and habits of some of them: “Go to the ant, thou sluggard ; consider her ways, and be wise: wbich, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.”*
But strong also is the feeling, as far as it respects this life alone, in ourselves. Corrupted in all our natural endowments, and fallen through sin, we have need of great restraint and frequent warning against the fear and
* Prov. vi. 6-8.
anxiety of tomorrow's wants prevailing over the weightier urgency of present duties, and spiritual aspiration, and peaceful trust in God. “Take no thought,” no anxious thought, “ for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."* This is the Saviour's command against our natural craving after future hope, and against our pressing fears on subjects connected with our mere animal existence.
But there is an event, closely hidden in the dark future, more certain to arrive than that tomorrow's sun shall shine upon this earth, and for which man, considered in his-coinpound character of an animal and a spiritual being, makes oftentimes little, oftentimes no preparation at all. That event is proclaimed in the text before us, and we are forced, in the more retired action of the soul within itself, to acknowledge the full and awful and moral consequences of the great command:
Prepare to meet thy God.” We feel it, in those better seasons of spiritual converse with our souls, as proclaiming the only event for which all our preparation should unceasingly be put forth.
Does an eager inquiry present itself to the awakened soul, What is it “ to meet" our God; what is it " to prepare"? Barely refreshing our remembrance, that man meets God in every step he takes, in every breath he draws, in every mercy he receives, in every sorrow and suffering he escapes, let us proceed to the true and final subject of all our preparation, God coming to judgment.
* Matt. vi. 94.
The solemn train of thought which this awful and important, though future event, brings to our minds, should be seriously and profitably received at all times; but, at this season of the Christian year, when in the annual round of our church services, the Advent, the first coming of our Lord, is spoken of by every tongue, (would that it were as readily felt and acted upon by every heart !), this matter should be doubly pressed upon our souls. In this hallowed season it applies with peculiar power and fitness; and we shall do well in giving our best attention to all the inferences, doctrinal and practical, which the remembrance of a first Advent brings before us. This is at least one essential step towards the real belief of a second Advent yet to take place, and may lead to a higher sense of the certain arrival of that future display of power and justice, to be enforced from the visible throne of God. So, in our poor proportion of a faithful obedience, meeting "God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself in this world, we may be fitted, through His mercy, for the judgment of “ that day.”
The short but solemn command in the text is intended for us all : we must all prepare to meet our God; here, in this world, in His character of our God and Saviour; hereafter, in the next world, as our King and Judge. It is in reference to this latter meeting, that all our best endeavours to meet Him here, must be directed.
The daily, the hourly preparation, to meet Christ in this world in increasing knowledge of His covenanted mercy to us in His redeeming love, in less and less imperfect obedience to His
pure and holy laws, in better and more enduring perseverance in prayer for the Christian
graces, and temper of the thoughts, words, and habits of our daily lives,—this preparation is the only way to prepare for our meeting Christ, when this world shall be for ever closed upon us in death, and when this world with its all, save the souls and bodies of men, shall be passed in its destruction into the forgetfulness of a momentary duration.
When the foretold issue of that day is thus brought before us, who does not confess that it is a subject full of the deepest and most anxious result? It is the reflection upon
its certain arrival, which, in more collected moments, brings every one to acknowledge the
shortness, and the vanity of all earthly things; that our time is less than nothing in respect to eternity ; that sin and its shortlived pleasures have no weight when weighed, even in the balance of human estimation, with the enduring pangs of the never-dying “worm, the unknown, though revealed agony of “the fire that shall not be quenched.” To encourage this thought, profitable to the soul that makes it practical, let us read and understand a gracious transcript from revealed truth, whereby, as in a mirror, we may see,—whereby, as from God, we may each be brought powerfully to feel,--that our preparation for eternity can be made only during the shortness of time; that our deeds in time will be followed by the pains, or the joys of eternity.
If there be one serious thought in the soul as to its future and eternal existence, it cannot but feel, though but for a passing moment, the awful import of this scripture command,
Prepare to meet thy God.”. And if that thought dwell and increase, if the soul be enlightened with a single ray of divine grace, impressed with one single conviction of its state of being beyond the grave, it will lead to the anxious inquiry, what is the preparation, and when, and how, and where shall it be begun, carried on, and perfected ?
Do we make this inquiry? acknowledging