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judgment seat. 3. Their trial. 4. Their sentence. 5. Their assumption into the clouds of heaven.
1. This judgment of the righteous includes their citation or summons, which, as was observed before, is to be performed by the voice or trump of the archangel ; i. e. by an audible shout or noise made by the prince of angels, and sounding throughout the universe, like the mighty blast of a trumpet. For as it was anciently the manner of nations to gather their assemblies by the sound of a trumpet ; so by the same sound, the scripture tells us, God will assemble the world of men to judgment. And that this shall be a real audible sound like that of a trumpet, though proceeding from no other instrument than that of the archangel's mouth, I see no reason to doubt; because with such a noise we read God did descend upon mount Sinai, Exod. xix. 16. And why may we not as well understand the one in a literal sense as the other, it being no more improper in the nature of the thing for God to proclaim by such a sound his coming to judge the world, than it was, his coming to give laws to Israel. But then, together with this mighty voice or trump of the archangel, there shall proceed from Christ a divine power, even his holy Spirit, by which he raised himself from the dead, by whose omnipotent agency all those holy relics of the bodies of his saints, which are now scattered about the world, shall be gathered up, reunited, and reorganized into glorious bodies : for so the apostle attributes the resurrection of our bodies to the Holy Ghost, Rom. viii. 11. For if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in us, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken our mortal bodies
by his Spirit that dwelleth in us : and the old materials of their bodies being thus reunited and reformed by the powerful energy of the Holy Ghost accompanying the sound of the archangel's trump, those saintly spirits, which anciently inhabited them, and which are now come down from heaven with their Saviour, shall every one re-enter its own proper body, and animate it with immortal vigour and activity; and whilst the dead saints are thus arising, those who shall then be living, and have not tasted death, shall by the same almighty power be changed, transformed, and glorified in the twinkling of an eye, 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. which being transacted, they shall all be gathered together, by the ministry of the holy angels, from all parts of the earth, before the judgment seat of Christ, Matt. xiii. 27. For,
2. This judgment of the righteous doth also include their personal appearance before the judgment seat. What this judgment seat will be, hath been briefly hinted before, viz. a vast body of luminous ether, condensed into the form of a bright and radiant cloud, and placed in the region of the air, at a convenient distance from the earth, streaming with light from every part, and casting forth an unspeakable glory; for which cause it is called the throne of his glory, and is described by St. John to be a great white, or refulgent, throne, Rev. xx. 11. out of which lightnings and thunders are said to proceed, Rev. iv. 5. which implies, that it will be a cloud, it being from clouds that thunders and lightnings do proceed. And before this glorious tribunal, or bright judgment seat, shall all the assembly of the righteous appear, to undergo a merciful trial, and receive a happy doom. Here shall the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, the holy church throughout all the world, both militant and triumphant, meet, and in one entire body present themselves before their blessed Redeemer; who, looking down from his exalted throne, shall at one view see all the congregation of his saints before him, and with infinite complacency survey the fruit of the travail of his soul, and the mighty purchase of his precious blood; for so the apostle tells us, that we must all stand before his judgment seat, Rom. xiv. 10.
3. This judgment of the righteous doth also include their trial: for so the apostle assures us, We must all appear (i. e. we righteous as well as others) before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, 2 Cor. v. 10. which plainly implies, that even the righteous shall undergo an impartial trial of their deeds, that so they may receive a reward proportionable to them; and more expressly, Rom. xiv. 12. he tells us, that we must every one of us give an account of himself to God. And if every one, then to be sure the righteous must as well as the wicked: not that there will be any doubt of the righteousness of the righteous in the breast of the Judge, to whose all-seeing eye the darkest secrets of all hearts lie open; but yet for other reasons it is highly convenient they should undergo a trial as well as others. As, first, for the more solemn and public vindication of their wronged innocence, that all that infamy and scandal with which their malicious enemies have bespattered them may be wiped off before men and angels; and that being assoiled before all
the world, they may triumph for ever in a bright and glorious reputation. And secondly, that all those brave and unaffected acts of secret piety and charity, to which none but God and themselves were conscious, may be brought into the open light, and, to their everlasting renown, proclaimed throughout all the vast assembly of spirits : for then we shall see all those modest souls unmasked, whose silent and retired graces do make so little show and noise in the world; and all their humble pieties and bashful beauties, which scarce any eye ever saw but God's, shall be exposed to the public view and general applause of saints and angels. Thirdly, they shall be tried also for the vindication of God's impartial procedure in proportioning their reward to their virtue; that so the degrees of each man's proficiency in piety and virtue being exposed to the view of the world by an impartial trial, angels and men may be convinced, that in distributing the different degrees of happiness the Almighty Judge is no way biassed by a fond partiality or respect of persons; but that he proceeds upon immutable principles of justice, and doth exactly adjust and balance his rewards with the degrees and numbers of our deserts and improvements; that so even those that are set lowest in those blessed forms and classes of glorious spirits may not envy those that are above them, or complain that they are advanced no higher; but every one may cheerfully acknowledge himself to be placed where he ought to be, as being fully convinced that he is only so many degrees inferior to others in glory, as they are superior to him in divine graces and perfections. Fourthly and lastly, the righteous shall undergo this trial for the more glorious manifestation of the divine mercy and goodness : for which reason I am apt to think that even their sins, of which they have dearly and heartily repented, shall in this their trial be exposed and brought upon the stage; that so in the free pardon of such an infinite number of them, the whole congregation of the blessed may behold and admire the infinite extent of the divine mercies, and be thereby the deeper affected with, and more vigorously excited to celebrate with songs of praise, the goodness of their merciful Judge. For these reasons the wise man tells us, Eccles. xii. 14. that God shall bring every secret thing to judgment, whether it be good, or whether it be evil; which proposition, being universal, must extend to the righteous as well as to the wicked. But yet though their sores shall be then laid open, it shall be done by a soft and gentle hand, by a serene conscience, and a smiling Judge, who, without any angry look, or severe reflection, or any other circumstance but what shall contribute to the joys and triumphs of that day, shall read over all the items of their guilt, and then cancel them for ever. For,
4. This judgment of the righteous doth also include their sentence. Although to us, whose operations are so slow and leisurely, by reason of the unwieldiness of these fleshly organs with which we act, such a particular trial as hath been before described of such an infinite number of men and women may seem to require an unreasonable length of time, yet if we consider that then both the Judge, and those who are to be judged, shall be arrayed in spiritual bodies, in which they will be able to act with unspeakable nimbleness and despatch, we shall