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II CORI THIA S V. 11. Knowings therefore^ the terror of the Lord, we persuade men, PAUL was uncommonly diligent in his Master's service. He could say, without boasting, I laboured more abundantly than others. He was zealous in propagating the faith which he once destroyed. Much was forgiven him, and he loved much. He was constrained by love, and felt its power as a commanding principle. He was greatly impressed with the importance of death and eternity. The day of judgment was most momentous in his eye, and he always spake of it with peculiar emphasis. That he might find mercy of the Lord in that day, and be free of the blood of all men ; that he might glorify Christ, and win souls to him, were powerful motives to diligence, made him patiently endure hardships, and count nothing dear in Christ's service. When false apostles pretended to equal him either in doctrine, zeal, or holiness, he condescended on different instances of his sincerity and their hypocrisy. But if persons would not believe him, he told them there was a day coming which should declare, when the secrets of all hearts would be revealed. Im-
pressed with that day and his appearance before Christ, nothing could either terrify or allure him from the path of duty. Having asserted, in the preceding verse, that " we must all appear before the judgment-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 text he makes a proper improvement of that solemn subject. He endeavours to persuade men to fly from the wrath to come, by pointing out the terror of the Lord. The connexion between this and the foregoing verse is similar to another declaration in his former epistle — " Yea, wo is unto me if I preach not the gospel !" While future happiness is often set before sinners to prevail with them to come to Christ, in this and many other passages, the great danger of neglecting salvation is also urged as a powerful motive. In order to explain this text we shall endeavour to open up the Terror of the Lord; — the Knowledge which the apostle had of it; — and the Liprovement he made of it — we persuade men; — and thea apply the whole. I. We begin by opening up the Terror of the Lord. The first idea that occurs concerning the terror of the Lord, is the terror of mind which a guilty criminal in prison has when he thinks of and anticipates his trial and execution. How must his heart throb when he hears that the judge is arrived, and the witnesses snmmoned and ready; when his own conscience
accuses, and warns him that an ignominious deaths at once depriving him of life and all its pleasures, will certainly be the issue ! Could any point out to euch a one a possibility of escape, with what avidity would he listen to every word ! Paul knew this to be a faint emblem of the situation of the sinner favoured with the means of grace, and therefore endeavoured to persuade him. But there is a melancholy difference between the criminal to be tried at a human court, and the condemned sinner to whom Christ is offered. The poor sinner neither knows nor will believe his true condition. He is ignorant of the danger of that eternal ignominy and death to which he is exposed; and instead of prizing, despises the remedy. He is unacquainted with the true character of the Judge, who is omniscient, inexorable, and the offended party. There is another difference of great moment which deserves our attention : other judges ought to be equally steady and inflexible before the trial as in the time of it ; but the great Judge of the Gospel hearer, till the very moment of the trial, is slow to anger, and beseeches sinners to be reconciled. He sends his servants to the streets and highways to compel sinners to come in. He invites and persuades till the eleventh hour. But, with all this tenderness and mercy, he certifies them that if they now refuse, and are found enemies at that day, they will eternally feel " the terror of the Lord," which they are now warned to avoid. What this terror is will appear still more evident from the following observations : 1 . This terror is founded in, and flows from, the holy nature of the Judge. Some things depend upon
the M'ill of God ; but to hate and punish sin is essential to his nature. Whatever some have said, God must surelj punish a sinner continuing in sin so far as not to walk with him, and give him the light of his countenance. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. If life lies in the Lord's favour, to be eternally separated from the fountain of life is in itself a great punishment. If God could forgive sin without a satisfaction, how did he give his own Son to the death, and not spare him ? If God does not afflict men willingly, how could he have willingly afflicted Christ ? If there had been any other plan equally glorifying to the divine perfections, we may safely conclude that God would have adopted it. We are sure that the wages of sin is death ; that the Judge of all the earth will do right, and render to every man according to his works ; and that God will by no means clear the guilty. Much is said in the Scriptures respecting God's holiness and justice. " He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity." " Sin is that abominable thing which he hates ;" and " he is glorious in holiness." Divine holiness is that attribute by which God swears; and it reflects a lustre on all his other perfections. In short, the primary and fundamental reason why sinners may and should fear, is because God is a holy and just God. 2. This terror is annexed to his law as a penalty. In the day thou eatest thereof, said Jehovah, thou shalt surely die. Whether penalties are essential to a law, we shall not expressly determine; but the greatest number of human laws have them annexed.
In this, perhaps, more than in other things, human lawgivers have followed divine example. When God entered into covenant with Adam, he threatened death as the penal sanction. In this there was much mercy, as it fairly warned him. Besides, fear is a powerful principle in human nature. If it should be said that innocent Adam could not fear, or that that principle was inconsistent with his state of perfection : what, not be jealous of losing the good he had, or have an holy fear lest he should incur the punishment threatened ! It is of the greatest importance here, and ought to be carefully observed, that the covenant was made with Adam, not for himself only, but for all his posterity : that it stands in all its unabated force to every one who is %nder it. The common phrase of the covenant of works being broken, only signifies that Adam broke the condition entitling to life, which by no means invalidates the curse or penalty annexed. God's sentence binding over to punishment, stands in full force against every sinner Jwho is not interested in the covenant of grace. All who are not interested in the righteousness of the Surety are under the curse of the old broken covenant, and have contracted a debt of obedience in Adam their representing head, to which they are continually adding by transgressing the law as a rule of duty, and which they can never pay in their own persons ; and therefore, if they continue in this state, the curse will fall upon them in all its weight. This seems evidently included in what the apostle wrote to the Romans, (Rom. iii. 19, 20,) " ow we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them 16
who are under the law : that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight : for by the law is the knowledge of sin." And also in what he wrote to the Galatians, (chap. iii. 10 — 12) " For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse : for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident : for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith : but the man that doeth them shall live in them." 3. The terror of the Lord is more fully explained and delineated in his word, and chiefly in the threatenings. It has been often said, that all the increasing light of the gospel is only an unfolding of the first promise. In it we have the Seed of the woman, and such a seed as could do more than Adam in innocence. With all his holiness and perfection, he could not resist the temptations of Satan, but fell before them ; the Seed of the woman could bruise the head of that cunning adversary, after he had gained complete victory over our first parents, and restore the image of God after it was lost. The first promise was a revelation to our first parents of the covenant of grace, the expiating sacrifice which atoned for their sin» and the garment which alone could screen them from divine wrath. In hke manner, the first threatening contained the punishment which will be inflicted on ^^ those who die under the curse ; and every succeeding \/ threatening only opens up the contents of the first.
If it should be objected, that there are few stripes and many; and that it will be more tolerable for one place than another; we might answer, that the penalty of God's law is the just punishment; and if eating the forbidden tree deserved death, the penalty implied that every offence should get its due. We might also add that, while some sins, and especially those of Gospel hearers, are more heinous than others, the penalty includes punishment proportioned to the crime with all its aggravations. Awfully, therefore, must these suffer at last who have despised Christ, and rejected the counsel of God against their own souls. There are many threatenings in God's word. Some express his indignation against sin in general, and others against particular transgressions. Of the first we have an example, Rom. vi. 23, " The wages of sin is death." The third commandment is an instance of the last, when God declares that he will not hold him guiltless who taketh his name in vain. Of this last too we have a striking example, Deut. xxvii. 15 — 26. There we have in every verse a curse denounced against a particular sin specified in it. All the threatenings are expressly designed to open up the terror of the Lord. They ought to be carefully studied, and viewed as loud monitors of our danger. About them all it should never be forgotten, that God is under infinite obligation from his justice, holiness, and faithfulness, fully to execute them. If he is and must be true to his promises, he will be equally true to his threatenings. " He keepelh truth for ever."
4 The terror of the Lord is partly realized in his awful judgments inflicted on his enemies in this world. Some of these are recorded in his word, declaring at once what he has done, and warning what he would do in like cases. As the Lord is the same, the history of nations favoured with his word proves that his procedure is nearly the same in similar cases. The severest judgments, however, only partly realize the wrath and terror of the Lord. For many wise reasons God does not pour out all his wrath upon transgressors in this world, and some escape without any visible token of Divine vengeance. But, as Governor of the world, he sets up some as beacons ; and reserves the rest for the day of retribution. As the way to heaven may be known by the footsteps of the flock, so God has here and there set up a person, guilty of this and that sin, as a monument of his wrath, as it were, with this motto inscribed on it, " Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men ; Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." At a very early period a just and holy God began to set up these beacons ; and he will continue to do it till the end of the world. " Thus God set a mark on Cain, and he wandered a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth." A whole world, eight persons excepted, were drowned in the flood. Sodom was destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven. Pharaoh and his host were drowned in the Red Sea. The wilderness w^as strewed with the carcases of unbelieving Israelites. On account of their sins, the land spewed
out the wicked Canaanites till they were utterly
exterminated. Persisting in idolatry, and refusing to be reclaimed, the Jews were carried captive to Babylon, as an evidence of the Lord's anger on account of their sin. Long after, Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans, their city and temple were destroyed, and their nation cast off, because they had rejected the chief corner-stone. Though the spirit of the Gospel be mild, the Lord is always the same, and sin is always equally odious in his sight. The ew Testament dispensation was introduced with some remarkable instances of divine vengeance on account of sin, which will be standing beacons to the end of time. Great love prevailed among the disciples of Christ, and they had all things in common. While the honest-hearted considered this as a precious opportunity of evidencing their love to Christ, and doing good to the household of faith, Ananias and Sapphira improved it as a fair opportunity of getting a name to live. Having sold their possession, they kept back part of the price ; but asserted they gave the whole. Filled with the Holy Ghost, Peter discovered their wretched conduct, and made them a public example. Having proved, to the conviction of all around, that they lied to the Holy Ghost, and detected their hypocrisy, he reprobated their conduct, and pronounced their doom, and they fell down and gave up the ghost. Herod too, employing his power to persecute the Church, was suddenly cut off in the height of his prosperity. On a certain occasion, the multitude shouted, it is the voice of a god, not of a man. This impious adulation, when
adopted by one who professed the knowledge of the true God, brought him to an awful end. He was
made a sudden and striking example of divine displeasure. The avenging angel of the Lord smote him with an irresistible, though invisible, stroke — he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. These judgments are truly awful, and a part of the terror of the Lord ; but, alas, they are only the small beginnings of the sorrow of sinners ! 5. The terror of the Lord will be fully inflicted in the other world. Then only does the sinner get his due. That period the apostle has chiefly in his eye. Here every sinner has a multitude of mercies. There he has none. Then only does the wrath of the Lamb begin to burn. JYow is the accepted time, and the period of God's patience. To describe the terror of the Lord after death exceeds the wisdom and eloquence of angels. God has said much concerning it in his word. We ought to search the Scriptures, that we may be furnished with such knowledge of future wrath as will warn us to fly from it. The terror of the Lord in the other world may be divided into different parts, to enable us to form some suitable conceptions of it. There is the terror of the /n'&Mwa/ and/Mf/^mewA The great Judge and every offender must meet. The trump will sound, the call will be given. Awake, yc dead, and come to judgment ; and willing or unwilling they must all obey ! o wonder that guilty sinners shriek, and " try to hide themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, and cry to the mountains
and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb : for the great day of his wrath is come ; and who shall be able to stand !" The Judge comes in his glory ; and every sinner must appear before him, and give an account of his every deed, word, and thought, where not one was good ! Awful beyond expression must his situation be ! In the entrance of the solemn scene, the splendour of the Judge will overwhelm him, and an awakened conscience will anticipate the sentence! Besides, multitudes of God's enemies have already been long in the place of punishment, and come Out of it (if they come out, or rather do not bring it along with them) not to abate their pain ; for they would prefer the hottest place in hell to a sight of the Judge on his tribunal, and a reckoning with him ! The Judge is seated — the books are opened — the criminal is summoned — and all that he has done is brought under careful review, and judged with strict justice and the greatest impartiality ! Well may we ask, " Where then shall the wicked and ungodly appear?" May not the Judge be deceived ? In such a vast crowd of important business, may not some things escape his notice ? Amidst the amazing multitude, which no finite power can number, may not some individual pass unnoticed ? The omniscience of the Judge renders these things impossible, and scarcely leaves room for supposition itself Might not then a single person or two creep over to his right hand ! Indeed they dare not ! A single glance of his eye would strike terror to their hearts !
Shall all be there that day! Yes, all who ever were, are, or shall be — all, from the highest to the lowest. The haughty monarch, who in this world was screened by the pitiful maxim, " The king can do no evil, and is not accountable," will find such language of no avail at that tribunal ! There he must account for the lives and property of those over whom he reigned, and thousands slain at his instance will stand as ready proof against him, cursing the day when, to gratify his ambition, they sported with death, and were hurried to the dread tribunal — " Cut off even in the blossom of their sin, o reck'ning made, but sent to their account With all their imperfections on their head." Then every motive for beginning and continuing the scourge of war will be weighed in an equal and unerring balance. Then he will find, what he might have known before, that " Tophet is ordained of old ; yea, for the king it is prepared." The crafty statesman and politician, too, must be there, and all his measures shall be measured again by a rule which seldom occurred to him ! The oppressor too, and the oppressed, shall be there ! A vast concourse ! The beggar and the Gospel hearer, and you and I, must be there ! Every eye shall see him, and all his enemies shall have ample justice ! There is the terror of the sentence. The judgment being finished, sentence will be pronounced against all his enemies — a sentence replete with terror; " Then shall he say unto them on the left hand. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, pre-
pared for the devil and his angels." Here every word is emphatic, important, and decisive ; and will he pronounced with infinite majesty, and with an holy indignation which will pierce every heart. This Sentence is just, final, and irreversible ; and will be pronounced with an authority which neither can be disputed, nor disobeyed. From this sentence there can be no appeal. Every mouth shall be stopped. His enemies shall go away into everlasting punishment. Thus, There will also be the terror of the execution. The sentence will be executed without the least delay. The enemies of the Judge, without exception, shall be turned into hell. The sufferings of the damned there, joining the severity and duration together, is the precise amount of the terror of the Lord ; but who can tell or reckon up that amount ! We can only have Very faint conceptions of devouring flames and everlasting burnings. All the miseries of this life bear no proportion, and scarcely have the least semblance to the torments of hell. The godly have the greatest share of trials here : but they are all mixed with mercy. Hell is pure, unmixed wrath. Sinners who suffer most in this world, are only sprinkled with a few dropis of Divine wrath ; but in hell the waves roll over them. Here they only take, as it were, a small sip of the cup of wrath ; there they drink the bitter dregs. To assist us in our conceptions of Divine wrath, we should carefully consider how terrible it was to CJirist. Falling upon him, it made him sweat great drops of 17
blood, and cry out in extreme agony, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me !" If it was so in the green tree, what will it be in fuel dried, and already attracting the flames of wrath ! Attempting to describe the terror of the Lord as inflicted in the other world, the heart fails, and the mind sinks under the awful and arduous task ! One thing is certain, these torments never abate, nor come to an end ; and the longest use and habit never make them in the least degree more tolerable. Awful eternity ! But the mind recoils. — May a gracious God grant that we may never go to the place of punishment, where these terrors are felt, and known in their utmost extent ! ! ! 6. In explaining this terror it is of the last importance to observe, that it is the terror of the Lord. His wrath is infinitely superior to the wrath of all the creatures. However terrible it may be to be wholly given over to Satan, that tormentor, it can never be compared with " falling into the hands of the living God," justly incensed and taking vengeance. He can torment his enemies more, in a short space, than all the creatures could do to eternity ; and he takes the punishment of his enemies into his own hands. Every Divine perfection makes the future punishment of sinners awfully great. Through partiality, creature punishment is often improper. God is just, and exactly proportions the punishment to the crime. Impotent creatures often are unable to inflict the punishment which they meditate and design. Their malice is superior to their power. An omnipotent God is able
to inflict that which he knows to be just. Among the creatures, one punishment is often exchanged for another. God is of one mind. He is immutable and inexorable ; and the sinner shall never again see his face in mercy. But something still more awful is implied, when it is called the terror of the Lord. It is the terror of the Lord Jesus Christy as is evident from the foregoing verse. The apostle asserts, that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and immediately adds, knowing therefore the terror of the Lord. It is the terror of Him who, though equal with God, took our nature upon him, and laid down his life for sinners. It is the terror of him who co?//J have saved the chief of sinners — of him who would have saved them — who often invited them, and complained when they would not comply — ^who gave the most gracious assurance that whosoever would, might come, and that whoever came would not be cast off It is the terror of the La7nh who offered himself a sacrifice, to satisfy Divine justice, in the room of sinners. It is the terror of him who appointed the means of grace for gathering sinners to himself, and promises to accompany them with his Spirit and gracious presence to make them effectual ; and whose Spirit every impenitent Gospel hearer in some measure quenches. When we consider what the Lord Jesus hath done for Gospel hearers, the precious opportunities they have enjoyed ; and how awfully they have neglected and despised them ; it is no wonder that his wrath should be most awful and terrible when it begins to
burn. With infinite propriety may he address them at the last day, as in Prov. i. 24 — 28, " Because I have called, and ye refused ; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded ; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity ; I will mock w hen your fear cometh ; when your fear cometh as desolation ; and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind ; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer ; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me." — There is scarcely any term which more emphatically points out the awful nature of the terror of the Lord than when he is said to laugh at the sinner's calamity. It expresses an holy but awful complacency in pouring out bis wrath upon such as rejected his counsel, and preferred their lusts to his grace and salvation. In this world he wept over Jerusalem; in the other he laughs at all his foes. It will be an essential part of their punishment to be judged, condemned, and consigned to everlasting torment, by Him who did so much for sinners, who strove so much with themselves ; and whom they treated with such contempt. Leaving the other branches of this subject we shall conclude with some inferences. 1. We infer that Christ holds an important and distinguished place in the Christian religion. He is the great and final Judge. Before him we must all appear. To qualify him for such important work, omniscience and almighty power are absolutely neces-
sary. He is Lord of all. He is the believer's sole comfort. Take Christ out of the Scriptures, or keep him out of view ; the Christian would see no ground at all for consolation. He is the sinner^s terror. Most terrible will he be to him at last, when he " shall be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that obey not his Gospel." With authority he will bestow a kingdom on his own people, and consign his enemies to everlasting destruction. He is the glorious Saviour who now calls sinners to him, and he will be the glorious Judge who shall at last dismiss themHe performs every promise, and executes every threatening. His comforting presence is the happiness of heaven, and his tormenting power the essence of hell. 2. That as sinners have now every encouragement to come to Christ, if they still refuse, they can have no reason to complain when cast into outer darkness. JVotv they have every encouragement. When in this world he called and invited them. He still speaks from heaven, and intreats them not to refuse. He appoints ordinances, which are as accessible as the streets or lanes of a city. He sends forth and qualifies his servants. He expressly enjoins them to " compel sinners to come in." He makes the worst welcome. To gain their hearts, he is at great pains, and gives them line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. He warns them of their danger if they refuse. If they perish how can they complain! Christ may well complain and say, long I stood and knocked at the door of your hearts, but you would not open :
ye hardened jour hearts, and quenched my Spirit : what could I have done more, but ye set at nought my counsel. Instead of complaining, may not the sinner say, what could I have done more to ruin myself, and reject the counsel of God ! I have spoken and done evil as I could. When cast into outer darkness every mouth shall be stopped before God. 3. The great duty of gospel ministers. They should endeavour to persuade sinners to fly from the wrath to come, and escape the terror of the Lord. The apostle kept this always in his eye. Affected with the situation of thoughtless sinners, wantonly sporting on the brink of eternal destruction, he laboured to awaken, alarm, and arouse them. He endeavoured to bring hell to them, and present it to their view, that they might never go to it. Every minister of Jesus Christ ought to do the same. eglecting this, or doing it in a careless manner, the ambassadors of Christ are neither faithful to their great Master, to perishing sinners, nor their own Bouls. o where is loitering more criminal and inexcusable than in the sacred function. If the servants of Christ have tasted that the Lord is gracious, a sense of what he has done for their own souls should make them steadfast and immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Believing they should speak. o thought can be more comforting than that some perishing souls, by their means, have been plucked as brands from the burning. othing can be more galling than that some have perished for
lack of knowledge, through their negligence. Much lies at the watchman's door. Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he comes shall find so doing. 4. That the law should be preached as well as the Gospel, and in subserviency to it. one ever knew better than the apostle the unsearchable riches of Christ ; or the propriety and efficacy of them, as an evangelical motive to prevail with sinners to believe. ever was any at more pains in opening up the blessings of the ew Covenant, the perfect righteousness of the Redeemer, and the fulness of grace lodged in his person; the immediate right, and free access which every sinner has to them all in the Gospel ; and none ever urged them more powerfully as motives to believe. But he did not forget to preach the law. He opened up its spirituality and extent. He exhibited it as a glass in which sinners might see their sin and guilt. He opened up the penalty, and set the terror of the Lord before men. He pointed out the remedy, and made use of the law as a schoolmaster to drive them to it. The same method should still be adopted. Ministers should try to break the heart by the law, that the sinner may apply to Gospel grace for the cure. 5. How hardening and infatuating must sin be ! Though the happiness of heaven be set before the sinner to encourage him ; though the torments of hell be opened up to terrify him ; though the law be opened up to detect his crimes and the fallacy of all his excuses ; though salvation by free grace be offered to him in the Gospel to allure him; and though all these things be done frequently, fervently, feelingly, faithfully, and though the charmer should charm ever so wisely, still he sins ! Can any thing break the power of sin ! othing but that Grace which is invincible indeed !
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