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of the New Testament the doctrine of which, as to the distribution of reward and punishment hereafter, will be found in strict accordance with the awful declaration in the text, “ The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then shall He reward every man according to his works.” I here pause to observe that the word “reward” in this translation is ambiguous; and that the word in the original, ámoddoet, will give or assign, is as appropriate, when speaking of punishment, as it is when applied to reward.--St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, illustrates “the righteous judgement of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds ;" * and again lays it down as an incontrovertible truth, that, “ every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Hearken once more to this appalling, but most perspicuous, declaration, “We must all appear before the judgement-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.” In the book of Revelation however is contained the most explicit account of the transactions of that day, which shall assign to every one of us, and every one of our fellow-creatures, the final and the appropriate reward or punishment, which we may be found to deserve. And this high authority is a most strong confirmation of the statement, which I am laying before you, concerning the real doctrine of Scripture upon a subject, which ought to be continually present to our minds, and
a Rom. ii. 6.
b Rom. xiv. 12.
c 2 Cor. v. 10.
continually to influence our conduct. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened : and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things, which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades delivered up the dead, which were in them: and they were judged every man according to his works.” a
The same principle of equitable and complete retribution is also thus inculcated.
" That servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes." Here it is expressly laid down, that the same action will be differently regarded by the righteous Disposer of all things, according to the knowledge of duty possessed by the doer: and thus, the administration of Divine justice is at once placed, as it ought to be, in a higher light than the imperfect processes of human laws; which must refer in the main to the outward act, without making sufficient allowance for, and in many cases being utterly unable to discover, the inward motive.
But we cannot have recourse to a more full or a more satisfactory elucidation of the doctrine, which I am endeavouring to place in a right point of view, than that, which is clearly deducible from the parable of the talents : and, in referring to this decisive authority, I shall conclude this summary of the information, which is to be derived from the infallible source of Holy Writ.
a Rev. xx. 12, 13.
b Luke xii. 47, 8.
From the place, which this instructive parable occupies in the Gospel of St. Matthew; at the very close of our Lord's ministry, and immediately preceding the awful announcement of the day of judgement; it plainly appears that the information which we gain from it as to the manner, in which the Almighty deals with the children of men, applies more particularly to the distributions of another life. - And with equal evidence does it appear that such distribution will be regulated, not in a vague and sweeping allotment of good and evil, but by the most exact scale of recompense, adjusted to every possible distinction of character; so that they, who have done little, shall receive little; but they who have done much, unto them much also shall be given. The very same conclusions are to be drawn from the similar parable of the ten pounds, or minæ, in the Gospel of St. Luke.-Ten servants are entrusted each with the management of one mina.—He, who improved the sum entrusted to him so as to gain other ten pounds, is entrusted with authority over ten cities; he, who gained five pounds, over five cities; while the unprofitable servant, who neglected to make any use of the property entrusted to him, who misspent his time and abused every opportunity of improvement, is punished with the loss of his one pound; or, as we have it in St. Matthew's Gospel, is “ cast into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And, now let me ask, whether any description of a future state can be imagined more suitable to the perfections of the Deity, or more adapted to the condition and feelings of such a creature as man, than the account, which we actually find to be contained in the Scriptures? Can any state of things be more encouraging to the good, and more consoling to the afflicted? Can any have a more evident tendency to repress the audacity of the transgressor, and dispose him to turn aside from the path he has been pursuing into better habits, than that, which represents the Supreme Judge of all the world, with power unlimited as His wisdom, and goodness proportioned to both ;—than that, I say, which represents the Supreme Judge as weighing in the most impartial scale the precise amount of merit or demerit belonging to each individual, and then awarding a recompense of good or evil, fitted with the nicest adjustment to the aggregate of virtue and of vice? Will it not induce the righteous to persevere more steadily in his virtuous and Christian career, when he knows that each successive step in goodness will increase the quantity of reward? Will not even the audacious transgressor pause in his iniquitous undertaking, when he is distinctly informed that, for each additional act of guilt, fresh coals of vengeance will be heaped upon his head ?
In what particular manner this end will be obtained; by what species of allotment these proceedings regulated; what will be the condition of that existence, in which the balance of good and evil in this previous state of being shall be ascertained with unerring certainty, while the exact preponderance of virtue or of vice shall obtain its corresponding reward or chastisement; it is not given us to understand in this our mortal state.-But the Scriptures most satisfactorily answer the question, “ Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right ?” and Christian ministers cannot be too earnest or too distinct in impressing upon their respective flocks the very interesting and awakening truth, that the “ Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then shall He recompense unto every man according to his works ;"_" to them, who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life; but unto them, that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.”
We must however hasten to a conclusion. To the manner, in which the meaning of Scripture upon this highly important topic has been stated, possible it is that some objections might be raised; but I am aware of none, that could not be answered immediately and satisfactorily. The view we have taken of the question has enabled us, if I am not mistaken, to remove some impressions unfavourable to the evidence of Revelation itself; while, at the same time, it supplies to every sincere believer motives, powerfully calculated to direct his mind towards the right regulation of his conduct; towards such a mode of life,
a Rom. ii. 7, 8.