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· Preached at
Before the right honourable the
On Eifter-Tuesday, April 7, 1707.
St. MATTH. XXV. 40. Verily 1/1y unto you ; inasmuch as ye have done it
unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
CT. Paul being brought unto the Areopagus, or N highest court in thens, to give and account of the doctrine he had preached concerning Icfus, and the resurrection, fitly took that occasion to imprint on the minds of those magistrates, before whom he stood, the belief of a future judgment, and to shew, what connexion there was between the rising of Jesus from the grave, and his coming to judge the world. “God,” said he, “ hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the
world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead," Acts xvii. 31. The rising of Jesus from the dead, was an irrefistible evidence of the truth of his doctrine; and one part of his doctrine was, that he would judge the world. By rising from the dead, he took poffeffion of his kingdom (all power being then given unto him both in heaven and in earth) Matth. xxviii. 18. and was to reign, til all his enemies were put under his feet, i Cor. XV. 25. that is, till evil men, and evil fpirits were judged; which was the last and most illuftrious instance, wherein his kingly power was to be exercifed: And then (and not till then) he was to deliver up his kingdoms to the Father. I Cor. xv. 24. On these (but more efpecially on the former of these) accounts, did God give assurance unto all meni, that he w'uld judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he tad ordained, in that be raised bim from the dead.
The festival of our Lord's resurrection we have already celebrated; and may now therefore turn our thoughts not improperly to consider the chief consequence of his resurrection, a judgment to come; that branch of it especially, which relates to the enquiries that our Judge will then make concerning our obedience to his great commando ment of charity; the enforcing of which, is the pious and peculiar design of these annual aflem. blies.
In the account of that folemnity, which our blessed Saviour himself hath given us, we are told, that he will " then fay to them on his right-hand;
Come, ye blested 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 drivk; I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked, and ye cloathed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prifon and you came unto me.” Amazed at this merciful fentence, and no ways conscious of any such deserts, these good and humble persons are Taid to reply; “ Lord, when faw we thee an hun. ‘gred, and fed thec? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? when law we thee a stranger, and took thée in? or naked, and clothed thee? or, when saw we thee fick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” To which our Saviour makes this memorable and gracious return ; fit to be engraven in the hearts, and to be for ever sounding in the ears, of all industrious promoters of charity : “ 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." True it is, Me in person ye never relieved, fupported, comforted; but, since ye 'performed these kind offices to others (who belonged to nie) at my command, and for my fake; I take what you did to them [even to one of the least of them) as done to myself, and shall, under that notion, now give you an exceeding rccompence for it. Come, therefore, ye blesed of 'my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the feundation of the world!
I do not think, this account is to be understood literally, but with such allowances as are usually made in the explication of our Saviour's parables ; which'hold, not in every particular circumstance,
but only as to the main scope and drift of them. Now the general design of this relation manifestly is, to propose to us two considerations, which are powerful inducernents to the practice of charity: One, “That upon this head we shall chiefly be “ examined and tried, at the great day of age “ count ;” The other, “ That acts of mercy done “ to the poor shall then be accepted, and reward. ed, as done to our Saviour himself.”
Of thesetwo points, the former is fufficiently im. plied throughout the tenor of our Lord's discourse, wherein all the instances mentioned relate to the fin. gle head of charity: The latter is directly affirmed in very emphatical words, and with a solemn preface, never used by our Saviour but to give us warning of some remarkable truth that is to follow. “ Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have doneit unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
The words therefore afford proper matter for our devout reflexion, under the two following heads of enquiry:
I. First, Why, in the account given of the proceedings at the day of judgment, acts of mercy alone arc mentioned ?
II. Se ondly, In what sense, and for what reafons it may be presumed, that our Saviour will then accept the acts of mercy we now do to his poor brethren (such he vouchsafes to call thein) as done to himself.
1. As to the first of these enquiries, it is to be