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and an almighty judge. For who can resist him who is almighty? Who can evade his scrutiny that knows all things? Who can hope for pity of him that is inflexible? Who can think to be exempted when the judge is righteous and impartial? But in all these annexes of the great Judge, that which I shall now remark, is that indeed which hath terror in it, and that is the severity of our Lord. For then is the day of vengeance and recompences, and no mercy at all shall be showed but to them that are the sons of mercy; for the other, their portion is such as can be expected from these premises.
1. If we remember the instances of God's severity in this life, in the days of mercy and repentance, in those days when judgment waits upon mercy and receives laws by the rules and measures of pardon, and that for all the rare streams of loving-kind ness issuing out of paradise and refreshing all our fields with a moisture more fruitful than the floods of Nilus, still there are mingled some storms and violences, some fearful instances of the Divine justice; we may more readily expect it will be worse, infinitely worse, at that day when judgment shall ride in triumph, and mercy shall be the accuser of the wicked. But so we read and are commanded to remember, because they are written for our example, that God destroyed at once five cities of the plain and all the country; and Sodom and her sisters are set forth for an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Fearful it was when God destroyed at once twenty-three thousand for fornication, and an exterminating angel in one night killed one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrians, and the first-born of all the families of Egypt, and for the sin of David in numbering the people, threescore and ten thousand of the people died, and God sent ten tribes into captivity and eternal oblivion and indistinction from a common people for their idolatry. Did not God strike Corah and his company with fire from heaven? and the earth opened and swallowed up the congregation of Abiram ? And is not evil come upon all the world for one sin of Adam ? Did not the anger of God break the nation of the Jews all in pieces with judgments so great, that no nation ever suffered the like, because none ever sinned so ? And at once it was done that God in anger destroyed all the world, and eight persons only
eşcaped the angry baptism of water, and yet this world is the time of mercy; God hath opened here his magazines, and sent his only Son as the great fountain of it too: here he delights in mercy, and in judgment loves to remember it, and it triumphs over all his works, and God contrives instruments and accidents, chances and designs, occasions and opportunities, for mercy: if therefore now the anger of God make such terrible eruptions upon the wicked people that delight in sin, how great may we suppose that anger to be, how severe that judgment, how terrible that vengeance, how intolerable those inflictions, which God reserves for the full effusion of indignation on the great day of vengeance ?
2. We may also guess at it by this; if God upon all single instances, and in the midst of our sins before they are come to the full, and sometimes in the beginning of an evil habit, be so fierce in his anger ; what can we imagine it to be in that day, when the wicked are to drink the dregs of that horrid potion, and count over all the particulars of their whole treasure of wrath ? “ This is the day of wrath, and God shall reveal or bring forth his righteous judgments.”* The expression is taken from Deut. xxxii. 34. “Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures ? έν ημέρα εκδικήσεως ανταποδώσω, I will restore it in the day of vengeance, for the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants.” For so did the Lybian lion that was brought up under discipline, and taught to endure blows, and eat the meat of order and regular provision, and to suffer gentle usages and the familiarities of societies; but once he brake out into his own wilderness, “Dedidicit pacem subito feritate reversa," and killed two Roman boys; but those that forage in the Lybian mountains, tread down and devour all that they meet or master; and when they have fasted two days, lay up an anger great as is their appetite, and bring certain death to all that can be overcome. God is pleased to compare himself to a lion; and though in this life he hath confined himself with promises and gracious emanations of an infinite goodness, and limits himself by conditions and covenants, and suffers himself to be overcome by prayers, and himself hath invented ways of atonement and
* Rom. ii. 5. A
expiation; yet when he is provoked by our unhandsome and unworthy actions, he makes sudden breaches, and tears some of us in pieces, and of others he breaks their bones or affrights their hopes and secular gayeties, and fills their house with mourning and cypress and groans and death : but when this lion of the tribe of Judah shall appear upon his own mountain, the mountain of the Lord, in his natural dress of majesty, and that justice shall have her chair and golden fetters taken off, then justice shall strike, and mercy shall not hold her hands; she shall strike sore strokes, and pity shall not break the blow; and God shall account with us by minutes, and for words, and for thoughts: and then he shall be severe to mark what is done amiss; and that justice may reign entirely, God shall open the wicked man's treasure, and tell the sums and weigh grains and scruples: siol gåg ώσπερ αγαθών, ούτω κακών παρά τω Θεώ θησαυροί: έν ημέρα γάς (φησιν) εκδικήσεως εσφραγίσθαι τους των κακών θησαυρούς, said Philo upon the place of Deuteronomy before-quoted : as there are treasures of good things, and God hath crowns and sceptres in store for his saints and servants, and coronets for martyrs, and rosaries for virgins, and phials full of prayers, and bottles full of tears, and a register of sighs and penitential groans: so God hath a treasure of wrath and fury, and scourges and scorpions, and then shall be produced the shame of lust, and the malice of envy, and the groans of the oppressed, and the persecutions of the saints, and the cares of covetousness, and the troubles of ambition, and the insolences of traitors, and the violences of rebels, and the rage of anger, and the uneasiness of impatience, and the restlessness of unlawful desires; and by this time the monsters and diseases will be numerous and intolerable, when God's heavy hand shall press the sanies and the intolerableness, the obliquity and the unreasonableness, the amazement and the disorder, the smart and the sorrow, the guilt and the punishment, out from all our sins, and pour them into one chalice, and mingle them with an infinite wrath, and make the wicked drink off all the vengeance, and force it down their unwilling throats with the violence of devils and accursed spirits.
3. We may guess at the severity of the Judge by the lesser strokes of that judgment, which he is pleased to send upon
sinners in this world to make them afraid of the horrible pains of doomsday: I mean the torments of an unquiet conscience, the amazement and confusions of some sins and some persons. For I have sometimes seen persons surprised in a base action, and taken in the circumstances of crafty theft and secret injustices, before their excuse was ready; they have changed their colour, their speech hath faltered, their tongue stammered, their eyes did wander and fix no where, till shame made them sink into their hollow eye-pits, to retreat from the images and circumstances of discovery; their wits are lost, their reason useless, the whole order of the soul is discomposed, and they neither see, nor feel, nor think, as they use to do, but they are broken into disorder by a stroke of damnation and a lesser stripe of hell; but then if you come to observe a guilty and a base murderer, a condemned traitor, and see him harassed, first by an evil conscience, and then pulled in pieces by the hangman's hooks, or broken upon sorrows and the wheel, we may then guess (as well as we can in this life) what the pains of that day shall be to accursed souls; but those we shall consider afterwards in their proper scene; now only we are to estimate the severity of our Judge by the intolerableness of an evil conscience; if guilt will make a man despair, and despair will make a man mad, confounded and dissolved in all the regions of his senses and more noble facul. ties, that he shall neither feel, nor hear, nor see, any thing but spectres and illusions, devils and frightful dreams, and hear noises, and shriek fearfully, and look pale and distracted, like a hopeless man, from the horrors and confusions of a lost battle, upon which all his hopes did stand; then the wicked must at the day of Judgment expect strange things and fearful, and such which now no language can express, and then no patience can endure.
Πολλούς δ' οδυρμούς και γοους ανωφιλιώς
Then only it can truly be said, that he is inflexible and inex, orable. No prayers then can move him, no groans can cause him to pity thee; therefore pity thyself in time, that when the Judge comes, thou mayest be one of the sons of everlasting mercy, to whom pity belongs as part of thine inheritance ;
for all these shall without any remorse (except his own) be condemned by the horrible sentence.
4. That all may think themselves concerned in this consideration, let us remember that even the righteous and most innocent 'shall pass through a severe trial. Many of the ancients explicated this severity by the fire of conflagration, which (say they) shall purify those souls at the day of judgment, which in this life have built upon the foundation hay and stubble, works of folly and false opinions, and states of imperfection. So Saint Austin's doctrine was,* “ Hoc agit caminus, alios in sinistra separabit, alios in dextra quodam modo eliquabit : The great fire at doomsday shall throw some into the portion of the left hand, and others shall be purified and represented on the right:” and the same is affirmed by Origin and Lactantius ;t and St. Hilary thus expostulates, “ Since we are to give an account for every
idle word, shall we long for the day of judgment," “ in quo est nobis indefessus ille ignis obeundus in quo subeunda sunt gravia illa' expiandæ a peccatis animæ supplicia : wherein we must every one of us pass that unwearied fire, in which those grievous punishments for expiating the soul from sins must be endured; for to such as have been baptized with the Holy Ghost, it remaineth that they be consummated with the fire of judgment.” And St. Ambrose adds, that if any be as Peter or as John, they are baptized with this fire, and he that is purged here, had need to be purged there again : “ Illic quoque nos purificet, quando dicat Dominus, intrate in requiem meam ; Let him also purify us, that every one of us being burned with that flaming sword, not burned up or consumed, we may enter into paradise, and give thanks unto the Lord, who hath brought us into a place of refreshment.”+ This opinion of theirs is in the main of it very uncertain, relying upon the sense of some obscure places of Scripture, is only apt to represent the great severity of the Judge at that day, and it hath in it this only certainty, that even the most innocent person hath great need of mercy, and he that hath the greatest cause of confidence,
* In Psalm ciii.
+ In Jerem. hom. 13. et in Luc. hom. 14. et Lactantius, lib. vii. Instit. c. xxi. Hilarius in Psal. cxviii. octon iii. et in Mat. can. 2. * In Psalm cxviii, serm. 3.