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2 THESS. I. 7, 8, 9. « The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven,
with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” T is remarkable, that in the account here
given us by the Apotle, of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and the eternally awful consequences of it, he represents our Lord's Second Coming to be rather in order to the falvation of his own people, than the punishment of the wicked. For altho' he mentions his taking vengcance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel, he declares in the roth verse, that the end, the principal end of his coming is, that he “ may be glorified in his faints, and admired of all that believe."
2. How plain is it from hence, as well as from a thousand other considerations, that mercy is our Lord's darling attribute, and that judgment is his strange work. He delights to dispense pardons and confer rewards ; but it is with reluctance that he passes sentence of condemnation, or inflicts punish-ment on any. From the Apostle's manner of representing the matter, one would conclude that he would much rather pass the ungodly by, did not the unchangeable perfections of his nature, the divine authority of his laws, and the unalterable rights of his government, oblige him to call them into Judgment. But inasmuch as all his other attributes must be manifested and honoured, as well as his love, his law magnified, and the equity of his government maintained; therefore he must and will “ render to every man according to his works: to them who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, eternal life ; but to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish upon every foul of man who worketh evil, of the sew first, and also of the Gentile, for there is no respect of persons with God. As certainly as he will account his faints worthy through his own worthiness, “ of the kingdom for which they suffer,” so certainly, "when he is revealed, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, will he take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey, not the gospel.”
In two former discourses on these words, the Certainty and Manner of our Lord's Second Coming, as also the Character of those whom he will then condemn, have been particularly. confidered. I now proceed, as was proposed, to hew,
I11. The Nature and Duration of their misery. But that we may justify the ways of God to man,
and prevent any abuse which might be made of this doctrine to the disparagement of the Divine Goodness, I think it proper to premise a few words concerning the Reason of their condemnation and punishment.
1. This is signified in the words of our text, which speak of Christ's “ taking vengeance on them,” and “punishing them.” The expressions (especially in the original,) intimate an unbecoming and injurious conduct in them towards God, which being examined into, they now receive the due reward of their deeds. Enquire we then what their conduct has been, and we shall easily see the reason of their mifery. And here I do not mention their violation of the law of innocence or Covenant of works, made with our first parents before their fall, because the Scriptures no where (that I remember) represent this as the cause of the condemnation of any at the day of judgment. But with our Lord, I observe, “ This is the condemnation," the reason of the condemnation of those who perish, “ that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, their deeds being evil.” They “ rejected the counsel of God against themselves;" they neglected the gospel salvation ; “ they would not come unto Christ that they might have life ;' they refused “ him to reign over them;" they buried, instead of improving, their talent of light and power, Nighted the divine mercy, “ counted the blood of the covenant a common thing," i. e. they trifled with and abufed it, and did final despite to the Spirit of Grace," and therefore, they are condemned. Or, in the language of our text, Chrift, takes vengeance on them because they knew not God, when they might have known him, and obeyed not the gospel, whereas they might have been obedient unto it. Or, in plainer words ftill, he
dooms them unto everlasting fire; not because he appointed them to wrath, and decreed their damnation before they were born, but because he would have saved them, and they would not, chusing death rather than life, and curfing rather than blessing!
2. And that you may be able to form fome idea (tho' after all it will be faint and inadequate) of The divine justice manifested in their punishment, consider both the conduct of God towards them, and theirs in return towards him. Consider the Love of the Father in giving his only begotten Son, and exposing him to the most dreadful fufferings and ignominious death for those wretched finners, who had abused his mercies, broken his Jaws, trampled under foot his authority, and rer belled against his government. Consider the Son of God emptying himself of his glory and happiness, assuming our frail nature in its meanest form, and at last submitting to pain and shame in their greatest extremities; and all this for his bittereft enemies, who Nlighted his dying love, refused his mild government, and even embrued their hands in his most precious blood, or daily crucified him afresh : Consider the holy Spirit of grace operating in various ways, and at different times ; enlightening, awakening, convincing ; alarming with fear, alluring with hope, drawing with love; comforting in trouble, itrengthening in weakness, succouring in temptation; and this with a view to beget repentance, faith, and holiness in the Soul, as a Spirit of Adoption to cry in us “ Abba, Father," to seal us to the day of redemption, and give us an earnest of our future inheritance in our hearts. Consider him as persisting in these kind offices notwithstanding all the neglect, contempt and contumely wherewith we treat him ; notwithKanding we shut our eyes against his light, stop
our ears to his calls, flight his love, reject his favours, and quench his motions; inviting the most impure lufts and diabolical tempers, to fupply the place of his spiritual graces, and entertaining the foul fiend of hell in the inmost recesses of our souls, which should be kept sacred to this heavenly inhabitant. In short, consider the amaz. ing plan of our redemption from first to last, in all its wonderful variety, in all its mysterious grace : Consider the abyss of guilt and misery where it finds us, and from whence it delivers us; the height of bliss and glory to which it advances us, and in which it eftablishes us, together with the astonishing process of divine love in the accomplishment of this great and good work. In a word, consider the greatness of this salvation provided for us, and offered to us in the gospel ; and then say what punishment, what torment do they deserve, and from an holy and just God must they meet with, who neglect and reject it!
3. From a juf God I say, tor they have doubt. less nothing further to expect from his mercy and goodness. The fun of divine love is now for ever fet upon them. It shone indeed with effulgent brightness during the whole day of life, tho it was never suffered to enlighten their minds, clouds of prejudice, exhaled from their sensual souls, obfcuring its beams, and the thick vail of unbe. lief excluding its light; but it will now fhine no more! It has resigned them to the scorching fire of divine wrath, which (however reluctant they may be) will effectually enlighten them ; but ah! with how different a Aame! with how dismal a light! The streams of divine grace, which long watered their ftill-barren fouls in vain, are now run out, or rather diverted into a more fruitful foil, and streams of indignation are directed, by