« PreviousContinue »
CH A P. VI.
· For what we shall be fudged.
ET us now enquire, What we are to
to be judged for : And the general Answer to this is very plain, That we must all stand before ihe Judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what be hath done, whether it be good or bad, 2 Cor. 5. 10. That is, we shall be judged for all the Good and Evil we have done.
This is obvious to all Men, andacknowledged by all, who believe a Judgment; and it may be thought impertinent to prove, that we shall be judged for such or such particular Crimes, when it is universally confessed, that we shall be judged for all.
But as I observed under the former Head, though all Men who believe a Future Judge ment, profefs also to believe that all Men shall be judged; yet some Men are very apt to forget it, and to flatter themselves, that they shall efcape better than others; so it is here: Though Men will in general acknowledge, that we muft give an account of whatever we have done in the Body, yet there are a great many things, which in themselves are very great Crimes, and yet many Men think there is no account to be given of them. I shall not instance in particular Sins, though a great many such there are, which few Men take any great notice of, but shall confine my self to what is
of a more general Nature, for Particulars would be endless :
I. First then we must remember that we shall be judged for our Ignorance: which some Men are fo far from suspecting, that they take Sanctuary in their Ignorance to skreen them from the Judgment of GOD. If they can but keep out the Light, they think they are safe ; to stumble and fall in the Dark is a Misfortune, not a Fault, and will rather move Pity and Compassion, than provoke Revenge: This makes some Men so regardless of Knowledge ; they think God will judge them for no more than they know; and all the good they are like to get by Knowledge, is to encrease and aggravate their Account.
I shall not enter into that Dispute now, (which is nothing to our present Purpose) How far, and in what Cases Ignorance will excuse ; though I think it is very plain in general, that as far as Ignorance it self is excusable, so far Ignorance will excuse: But my business at present is to fhew, That commonly Ignorance it self is a great Crime, and when it is so, if Men shall not be judged for the Sins which they ignorantly commit, yet they shall be judged and condemned for their Ignorance, as well as for their Sins against Knowledge.
For is not Man a reasonable Creature? And is not a reasonable Creature as much bound to know his Dury, as he is to practise it? Has God given us Reason to be the Guide and Director of our Lives, and is it not a great Crime not to attend to it, not to improve and cultivate it? Have we Eyes in our Heads, and is it
any Excuse to us, that we shut them, and lofe our way? Is it any Excuse to us not to know God, and our Duty to him, when God has made us reasonable Creatures, who may know their Maker if they please, and understand the difference between Good and Evil ? I am sure St. Paul by this Argument proves,
that the Heathens were inexcusable, because God had implanted such Natural Notions of himself on their Minds, and had given them so many external and vilble Demonstrations of his Power and Providence in Making and Governing the World, I Rom. 19, 20. Because that which may be known of God, is manifest in them; for God hath Shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of God from the Creation of the world are daily Jien, being understood by the things that are made, even bis eternal power and godhead ; so that they are without excuse. The Heathens did greatly err both in the Knowledge and Worship of God; they were convinced by the Natural Sense of their Minds, and by the Works of Creation, that there is a God; and therefore they are said to know God, 21 ver. And by the same way they might have known that God who made the World, is not like to Gold and Silver, or the Works of mens hands, to Images made like to corruptible Man, or to Birds and fourfooted Beasts, and creeping things; and therefore though they were really ignorant of the Nature of God, and had entertained very gross Imaginations of the Deity, yet they were without Excuse, because God is to be known by Reason and Nature, and therefore a reasonable Creature, who lives in a World which
has the visible Marks of infinite Wisdom and Power on it, can never be excused for not knowing God; that is to say, nothing will excuse our Ignorance of that which we may know, and which we ought to know.
But if the Heathens were so inexcusable for their Ignorance of God, who had no other Helps but the light of Nature, and the visible Works of God; to be sure Ignorance must be a great Crime in those who live where the Gospel is preached; and may, read the Word of God themselves, if they please, and learn their Duty from it: God knows a great many very ignorant People there are among us, who know little more of God than the Heathens did, who sit in Darkness, and in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, in the very Regions of Light, when the day-spring from on high bath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the ways of peace.
Will it not be an impudent thing for such Men to plead Ignorance at the Day of Judgment, who would not look into the Bible, nor attend publick Instructions, to learn their Duty: Who had the Means and Opportunities of Knowledge, but would not use them ; who took a great deal of pains to be Ignorant, and to keep out of the way of Knowledge, which fo often crossed them, that they had much ado to escape it? Whatever may be pleaded in excuse of the Ignorance of Heathens, there can be no Excuse for Christians, who have the most perfect Revelation of the Vill of God, and will not look into it: This is
a great Contempt of God; it is in effect to say to God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways, 21 Job 14. And it is hard to say, which is the most provoking Sin, to despise the Knowledge of God, or to break his Laws : Not to think it worth our while to know the Will of God, or through the power of Temptation to transgress our Duty.
And this is the Danger we are in, if we neglect or reject the Knowledge of the Gospel ; our Ignorance will be our greatest Crime; it will be so far from excusing our Wickedness
, that it will aggravate it, for we chuse to be ignorant, that we may be wicked: And therefore it concerns us diligently to read and study the Scriptures, and to attend upon the Publick Ministry of the Word, and the Private Instructions and Directions of our Spiritual Guides; for since Christ came from Heaven to declare the Will of God, and has put the Holy Scriptures into our Hands, which are a perfect Rule of Faith and Manners, and furnished us with all the Advantages to encrease in Knowledge ; it is as dangerous a thing to be wilfully ignorant of the Gospel, as it is to disobey it.
II. As Men Shall be judged for their Ignorance, so they shall be judged for their Infidelity : This is so plain in Scripture, that it needs little Proof; our Saviour expresly tells us, He that believeth on him (that is, on the Son of God, whom God sent into the world, that the world through him might be saved) is not condemned: but be that believeth not, is condemned already, because be bath not believed in the Name of the only