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OF JUDGMENT TO COME.
THE LAST JUDGMENT.
Had our occupation in this Discourse been that of the poet or the orator, we have now before us a subject which, for the magnificence of the scenery, the magnitude of the transaction, and the effects which it draweth on, stands unrivalled in the annals of human knowledgt;-a subject indeed with which the powers of conception cannot be brought to contend. Imagination cowers her wing, unable to fetch the compass of the ideal scene. The great white throne descending out of heaven, guarded and begirt with the principalities and powers thereof-the awful presence, at whose sight the heavens and the earth flee away, and no place for them is found—the shaking of the mother elements of nature, and the commotion of the hoary deep, to render up their long dissolved dead—the rushing together of quickened men upon all the winds of heaven down to the centre, where the judge sitteth on his blazing throne-To give form and figure and utterance to the mere circumstantial pomp of such a scene no imagination availeth. Nor doth the un. derstanding labour less. The archangel, with the trump of God, riding sublime in the midst of heaven, and sending through the widest dominion of death and the grave that sharp summons which divideth the solid earth, and rings through the caverns of the hollow deep, piercing the dull cold ear of death and the grave with the knell of their departed reign; the death of Death, the disinheriting of the grave, the reign of life, the second birth of living things, the reunion of body and soul-the one from unconscious sleep, the other from apprehensive and unquiet abodes,--the congregation of all generations over whom the stream of time hath swept-This outstretches my understanding no less than the material imagery confuses my imagination. And
when I bring the picture to my heart, its feelings are over whelmed: When I fancy this quick and conscious frame one instant reawakened and reinvested, the next summoned before the face of the Almighty Judge—now re-begotten, now sifted through every secret corner-my poor soul, pos. sessed with the memory of its misdeeds, submitted to the scorching eye of my Maker-my fate depending upon his lips, my everlasting, changeless fate,- 1 shriek and shiver with mortal apprehension. And when I fancy the myriads of men all standing thus explored and known, I seem to hear their shiverings like the aspen leaves in the still evening of Autumn. Pale fear possesseth every countenance, and blank conviction every quaking heart. They stand like men upon the perilous edge of battle, withholden from speech and pinched for breath through excess of struggling emotions--shame, remorse, and mortal apprehension, and trembling hope.
Then the recording angel opens the book of God's remembrance, and inquisition proceedeth apace. Anon they move quicker than the movement of thought to the right and left, two most innumerous companies. From his awful seat, his countenance clothed with the smile which makes all heaven gay, the Judge pronounceth blessing for ever and ever upon the heads of his disciples, and dispenseth to them a kingdom prepared by God from the first of time. To their minds, seized with the tidings of unexpectud deliverance, it seemeth as a dream, and they wonder with ecstasy at the unbounded love of their Redeemer. They wonder, and they speak their unworthiness, but they are reassured by the voice of Him that changeth not. Then joy seizeth their whole soul and assurance of immortal bliss. Their trials are ended, their course is finished, the prize is won, and the crown of eternal life is laid up for them in store;-fulness of joy and pleasures for ever, at the right hand of God. Again the judge lifteth up his voice, his countenance clothed in that frown which kindled hell, and pronounces eternal perdition, with the devil and his angels, upon the wretched people who despised and rejected him on earth. They remonstrate, but remonstrance is vain. It is finished with hope, it is finished with grace, it is finished with mercy; justice hath begun her terrible reign to endure for ever. Then arise from myriads of myriads the groans and shrieks and thènes of despair; they invoke every mother element of nature to consume their being back into her dark womb; they call upon the rocks to crush them, and the hills to cover
them from the terrible presence of the Lord and from his consuming wrath. Such episodes of melting tenderness there will be at this final parting of men! such eternal farewells! but, ah! the word farewell hath forgotten its meaning, and wishes of welfare now are vain. A new order of things hath commenced, the age of necessity hath begun its reign, all change is for ever sealed.
This mighty crisis in the history of the human race, this catastrophe of evil and consummation of good, fortunately it is not our province to clothe with living imagery, else our faculties should have failed in the attempt. But if our divine Poet hath, by his mighty genius, so rendered to conception the fallen angels beneath the sulphurous canopy of hell, their shapes, their array, their warfare and their high debates, as to charm and captivate our souls by the grandeur of their sentiments and the splendour of their chivalry, and to cheat us into sympathy and pity and even admi. ration; how might such another spirit, (if it shall please the Lord to yield another such,) draw forth the theme of judgment from its ambiguous light, give it form and circumstance, feeling and expression, so that it should strike home upon the heart with the presentiment of those very feelings which shall then be awakened in our breasts. This task awaits some lofty and pious soul hereafter to arise, and when performed will enrich the world with a “ Paradise Regained” worthy to be a sequel to the Paradise Lost;” and with an “ Inferno" that needeth no physical torments to make it infernal; and with a judgment antecedent to both, embracing and embodying the complete justification of God's ways to man.
Instead of which mighty fruit of genius, this age (Oh, shocking!) hath produced out of this theme two must nauseous and unformed abortions, vile, unprincipled, and unmeaning—the one a brazen-faced piece of political cant, the other an abandoned parody of solemn judgment. Of which visionaries, I know not whether the self-confident tone of the one, or the ill-placed merriment of the other, displeaseth me the more. It is ignoble and impious to rob the sublimest of subjects of all its grandeur and effect, in order to serve wretched interests and vulgar passions. I have no sympathy with such wretched stuff, and I despise the age which hath. The men are limited in their faculties, for they, both of them, want the greatest of all faculties-to know the living God and stand in awe of his mighty power: with the one, blasphemy is virtue when it makes for lovalty; with
the other, blasphemy is the food and spice of jest-making. Barren souls! --and is the land of Shakspeare and Spencer and Milton come to this! that it can procreate nothing but such profane spawn, and is content to exalt such blots and blemishes of manhood into ornaments of the age. Puny age! when religion and virtue and manly freedom have ceased from the character of those it accounteth noble. But I thank God who hath given us a refuge in the great spirits of a former age, who will yet wrest the sceptre from these mongrel Englishmen; from whose impieties we can betake ourselves to the “ Advent to Judgment" of Taylor; “ The Four Last Things" of Bates; the Blessedness of the Righteous" of Howe; and the "Saint's Rest" of Baxter; books which breathe of the reverend spirit of the olden time. God send to the others repentance, or else blast the powers they have abused so terribly; for if they repent not, they shall harp another strain at that scene they have sought to vulgarize. The men have seated themselves in his throne of judgment, to vent from thence doggrel spleen and insipid flattery; the impious men have no more ado with the holy seat than the obscene owl hath, to nestle and bring forth in the Ark of the Covenant, which the wings of the cherubim of glory did overshadow,
But, to return, our office is not to create forms for the presentation of the last judgment to the fancy, but to measure it by reason, and examine how it squares with the noble sentiments of justice which God hath implanted in our breast. Having already taken his constitution of government to task, it now remains that, in like manner, we take to task the judgment and the award which is to pass thereon. As to the manner of the judgment, we have already thrown out our conjecture in the preceding part, and the preliminaries of it we have examined at length. It now reinains that we enter into inquiry upon the matter of it, or the principle by which decision is to be given. This is stated at length in Matthew, chapter xxv. verse 31:
" When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd di. vidcth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye
gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shali the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink! When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in: ur naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels; For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal."
These six charities, upon which the destinations of the righteous and the wicked are made to turn, seem at first thought but a slight review of human life, and but a loose inquisition into our obedience of the divine law; and we feel as if the tests of judgment to come should have been more consonant to the spiritual character of the divine constitution, turning more upon the perfection of Christian character, than
six outward moral actions of charity ana human-heartedness, which are hardly hid from the natural feelings of the most unfeeling savage. But when thoroughly examined, as we now, in dependence upon divine grace, shall endeavour to do, this will turn out to be the most thorough inquest into our faith and feelings and character, and the severest test of our obedience which the Scripture contains among all its descriptions of this solemn event.
The six necessary consolations and supports of human life are bread, water and clothing-health, human fellowship, and freedom to travel over the creation of God. Being abridged of any one of these demands, Nature complains; and being cut off from any one of them, she is miserable if she have no refuge in the hopes of the world to come.