« PreviousContinue »
THE RULE OF FUTURE JUDGMENT.
MATTHEW vii. 21.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of
heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
The discoveries of the gospel are of a very awful and interesting character, my brethren, and very closely allied to the original and better impressions of our own hearts. There is no one, I presume, who has not at some time, perhaps very frequently, found his thoughts drawn out to a future state of being, and his mind engaged, however transiently, on his own personal condition in another world. And whoever has attended to his own experience, even thus far, must have some perception of the great uncertainty of all conclusions of a future state, derived from the resources of human wisdom ; and be also aware of the strong propensity in human nature to swerve from the express declarations of the divine word, and bring down the standard of salvation to the convenience or the caprice of its own corrupt inclinations.
To be furnished, then, against all doubt and uncertainty on so near a concern as our everlasting existence, ought surely to be considered a great blessing, and a ground of the deepest thanksulness, by every rational being ; and should form the only foundation of their hopes, and of their duties under those hopes. But while this will no doubt be admitted by all who hear me, I fear it must also be admitted, that this heaven-granted help to our severest necessity, has not been thus generally applied; that very few, comparatively speaking, have so brought their personal condition to this standard, as to have formed their expectations for hereafter solely upon what it makes known to all as the fixed and unchangeable determination of the Ruler of the Universe, in dispensing the rewards and the punishments of eternity
It is a near and an inevitable interest, my dear friends, to which God calls your attention, and for which he hath made such wonderful provision, that it may be glorious to him and happy to you. But it can be so no otherwise than in conformity with those great principles of his moral government, revealed in his word, which shall exhibit him to the universe of men and angels, glorious in holiness and excellent in mercy; long suffering and gracious to a race of sinners, yet inexorable against sin persisted in, against the honour of his law, and the manifestation of his love. God cannot save sinners, who die such. Salvation must be wrought out in the present life, by a death unto sin and new birth unto righteousness; and fruits meet for repentance and faith must manifest the reality of those evangelical graces in our conversation in this world, if we hope for their reward in another state of being. This is the clear and reasonable doctrine of the religion which the Son of God taught in person, and which the Holy Ghost hath recorded in the Scriptures of truth, for our learning.
Yet clear and reasonable as it is, what multitudes in the present day, as at the beginning, venture to overlook or to disregard this authority and to risk eternity, either with no preparation, or with a false or hypocritical one. Many will say to me in that day, Lord ! LORD! Many will be ready and desirous to acknowledge CHRIST the Judge, who could not be prevailed upon to confess the crucified Jesus before the world. Many will say to me in that day--LORD, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. Many will be desirous to claim an alliance with the King of heaven upon the unimproved privileges of Christian birth, or the mere profession of an unfruitful faith. Many will say to me in that day—LORD, LORD, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works ? Many who call themselves his ministers, will be confident of being recognized by the great Head of the Church, in the day of judgment, upon false pretences to, and corrupt departure from, his pure and undefiled religion as it was taught and practised by his blessed apostles. But my text tells us it will be in vain. The description is sadly prophetic, my brethren, of the awful consequences of those corruptions and divisions which deform, and impede the gospel. And my text is the warning which now addresses itself to me and to you, lest that day come upon us with a false profession and an unfounded hope, unprovided to abide its trial and escape its doom. But it is not only the warning, it is the direction also, to shun the danger, and escape the ruin, which it denounces alike against the careless and the presumptuous.
Not every one that saith unto me LORD, LORD, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.
In discoursing on which words, I shall endeavour to explain, in the
First place, what we are to understand by the words, Not every one that saith unto me, LORD, LORD.
SECONDLY, what is meant by our Saviour's expression of mens' entering into the kingdom of heaven.
THIRDIY, I shall inquire what qualification must be possessed by those who shall be admitted to enter in ; and, then,
CONCLUDE with an application of the subject.
1. First, I am to explain what we are to understand by the words, Not every one that saith unto me, LORD, LORD.
As the words of my text were spoken at the close of that divine summary of Christian doctrine and practice, contained in our Saviour's Sermon on the mount, they evidently refer us, as well as those to whom they were spoken, to the trial and proof of all religious condition, in the standard of the gospel. They are, therefore, addressed to all those to whom the gospel is offered, and to whom, thereby, life and immortality are brought to light; but more particularly to those who in any manner rely on the Lord Jesus Christ for acceptance with God. The whole text is prospective in its bearing, and points us forward to that day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to the gospel ; and the supreme importance of an interest in him will be so manifest, that every
semblance even of a knowledge of lim or of his religion, will be resorted to, as a refuge against despair.
By calling our Saviour Lord, we acknowledge him to be the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world, thereby admitting his authority as a divine teacher, and owning the truth and obligation of his religion. But as this acknowledgment of Christ necessarily includes observance of his institutions and example, the words under consideration are an enforcement of this obligation upon all who thus acknowledge hiin as LORD, with a plain declaration implied, that otherwise, it will profit them nothing. Why call ye me Lord, and do not the things which I say? These words in the text, therefore, are equivalent to the declaration-Not every one who is born in a Christian land, and received into the visible Church by baptism-not every one who makes an external profession of religion—not every nominal or pretended believer in Christianity—shall thereby be entitled to the rewards of my kingdom. These, indeed, are all required of those who call me Lord, and are profitable, as means to an end; but without the end they are but as leaves on the fig tree. The belief of religious truth, if it goes no further-if it produces no fruits, no corresponding effects upon the lise, is a barren, useless thing ; it is dead, being alone. This, therefore, says our LORD, will be no recommendation to my favour; to complete the Christian character, and fit you for the inheritance of the saints, more substantial proofs of faith and holiness are required than the mere accidental advantages of birth and education, or the mere profession of religion. This may easily exist, and even be found prominent, in the midst of inordinate affections, unsubdued lusts, unbumbled pride, and unholy lives. But into my kingdom, no unclean thing can enter; neither whatsoever worketh abonination or loveth a lie.
Tbese are the words to be understood and applied by a'l under the gospel: a conclusion which is confirmed by the very purpose of religion, independently of any special declaration, and, therefore, to be the more seriously considered in every investigation of spiritual condition. Yet, as our blessed Redeemer knew the prevailing propensity of our fallen nature to put words for things, and to substitute form for substance ;
as he also knew with what unwearied assiduity the great enemy of God and man would work for the corruption of the truth, and, even through the semblance of religion, scduce multitudes from the simplicity and certainty of the gospel; therefore, did be warn them beforehand that nothing short of the genuine fruit of the gospel, obtained through the operation of the Holy Ghost upon the heart, and manifested in the present life by a holy conversation in the world, would secure his acknowledgment of them as his true disciples, in the great day of eternity.Not every one that saith unto me Lord, LORD, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
II. Secondly, I am to explain what is meant by our Saviour's expression of men's entering into the kingdom of heaven.
The words kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are used in Scripture to express, sometimes the visible Church or communion of saints upon earth, and sometimes the kingdom of glory in a future state. In the present connexion there can be no doubt as to which of these our Lord refers in the text. By entering into this kingdom, then, we must understand the being adjudged worthy of a reward of eternal life, and as this necessarily leads the thoughts to realize the trial we have to undergo at the tribunal of Christ, it serves to impress more powerfully upon the heart the necessity of that circumspection and earnestness, that diligence and faithfulness in all our duties, without which there can be no good hope of being permitted to enter in.
Few things, my brethren, are better calculated to beget a false estimate of religious condition, than to entertain in the imagination expectations of future happiness without a distinct reference to a future judgment. When the mind is excited with high wrought descriptions of the glories of heaven, or with bigh wrought imaginations of what awaits the righteous in the kingdom of God—when the practice prevails of dwelling upon this subject almost exclusively either in public or in private, and professors of religion are snatched, as it were, from death to glory, overlooking the awful trial which must precede it—the sober duties of the gospel are forgotten, and no relish is entertained for any thing in religion, unless as it is calculated to uphold