TIMES OF PERSECUTION IN SCOTLAND,
SUFFERERS FOR THE ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST.
Sermons & Lectures by Donald Cargill.
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.Revelation 20.11,12.THERE are some who have a sight of the last judgment in vision; there are others who have it by faith; but the world shall have a sight of it at last in itself, and feel the effects of it. Then we shall not only be beholders, but we shall be a party. Every person shall be a party, and each party ought to be considering what will be their place and portionwhether the left hand of Christ shall be their place, and wrath their portion, or His right hand their place, and heaven and happiness their part and portion. But we shall only say this before we proceed to particulars, that there is not a more blessed and profitable sight upon earth than a sanctified sight of the last judgment. Its profitableness appears in this one thing, that it awakens and rouses the soul of a man when thinking upon it. What is it like, then? It is like a fright to the body. They will sleep no more when once affrighted thoroughly by the judgment of God. A sanctified sight of it awakens souls, so that they never rest until it be thorough work with them. It is said of some that they never smiled after some faint views of this. This is the case of the thoroughly convinced sinner, at least till he is brought to rest in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But then there is something more in it than this. It not only awakens the soul, but leaves a carefulness in the soul to be ready against that judgment come, and against the time that that white throne shall appear or be erected. Ye know what is said of repentance: that it leaves sorrow and indignation for sin: So does the sight of this judgment. "Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?"
But that we may proceed, the thing that we have to speak concerning this last judgment is concerning the preparation to it:
I. "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." The parties here, then, are the dead. All men are considered as dead before this; for the Judge will not come until all men be passed through death, or at least undergo a change equivalent to it, then the elect shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye; and yet it may be as sharp and painful as a lingering death. The thing is evident, that they must all be dead, and after that the judgment. The holy God hath decreed death, and then judgment to follow, because
- The parties to be judged, who are the dead, under which are comprehended those who shall be then alive, as also Enoch and Elias.
- The Judge, Jesus Christ the Mediator, who hath the keys of hell and death, and is appointed Judge both of quick and dead, and is called God in the 12th verse of this chapter. And
1. If there had not been sin in the world, there had not been death and judgment. There would have been no need nor occasion for a sentence to have been given out against any. Now, when we remember death and judgment, we should remember sin, too, which procured these. He that remembers his sins most will readily be best prepared for death and judgment; for it is impossible for a man to have a right view of death and judgment, and yet not be looking for something to evade the strength and power of them. Neither is there any other thing that will do it, but the all-sufficiency of the Mediator Christ Jesus. But, as to the parties to be judged, "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." A fair sight, indeed. There was never such a noble and great assembly since the world began, and never will be afterwards to all eternity. Why, heaven, earth, and hell will all meet together. The Lord with His great and mighty host of angels will meet there; the devil and all his angels will be brought forth there; the sea will give up its dead, and there will not be one individual missing; for the same cause that brings one is an evident and relevant cause to bring all, and that is judgment, for all have been sinners before God; and it must be seen or evidenced how they have been freed from sin. It must be a public judgment. For in effect, if it were only private, it might be accounted a private murdering (or condemning) of persons. And so this shall be the greatest sight, and assembly or concourse, that shall be together through all eternity.
2. As there is a cause for one convening, so for all to convene before God. The same power that brings up one can (nay, will) bring up all, for a greater or lesser number is all one unto Omnipotent power. The cause then being one, the power one, therefore all must appear, and the end must be one, viz., that they may receive their sentence; while as many particular persons as there are, so many particular sentences shall be given out for them before God.
3. It is the dead, small and great. It may be asked, why says John this? Is it in regard of the great and the mean men? No; we think not, for death hath taken away that difference. Death levels all, and their dust is mixed together in the grave, so that in their rising again, there shall be no difference, but in respect of their sanctity; for death shall once make all equal. If there is a difference after that, it is grace merely that makes it. By small and great, then, may be meant the old, those at the greatest age or stature, and those infants or young ones that have not attained unto their perfection of staturein a word all that ever breathed or had life: none are exempt, but all shall appear before God. But
There are two objections that may arise here:
1st, All infants are included under one of the covenants, either the covenant of works or of grace. If under works, then they have the breach of the covenant to answer for. They have Adam's sin to answer for as being the serpentine brood, or offspring of a transgressor, and so have a corrupted nature in them, so that the Lord will say, "Where is the rest or remains of that perfect soul created in man at the beginning?" In a word, the Lord will find infants under Adam's transgression, if not sanctified by Christ; for says the apostle, "all died in Adam," and through the "offence of one, many be dead."
- If infants be signified here, why should they be judged? They have no actual sin. The
- Is, if they rise, will they rise infants again? for answer to these
Again, If under the covenant of grace, then Christ will deal with them as believers that have His righteousness and holiness to stand between them and wrath. It is true, the Lord's way of dealing is a mystery; but it is as true that they are sanctified as well as those who are sanctified by faith and knowledge. For without holiness, we are assured, "None shall see the kingdom of God."
2ndly, For the second objection: Will they rise infants again? The schoolmen will have it that all shall be raised about the age of thirty years, that being the prime of man's strength, and about the age of Christ when He suffered. But as this seems groundless, so it seems to derogate from the mystery of the resurrection. For though the same body be raised, yet will it be another kind of body, than ever formerly it was at any age. But this we must say, that the elect shall be perfect in whatever condition they die, for all "that is imperfect shall be done away." Their persons, stature, judgment, and knowledge, shall all be perfect. We may add this, that an infant of days will then be as much for the glory of God as any man of his full strength. We are sure they shall be capable of enjoying the fullness of felicity. The soul shall then be filled with felicity, and the condition of the body shall be glorious. "I saw the dead small and great." We are persuaded that those whom the Lord's goodness could not bring from their wickedness to Him for mercy on earth, His power shall bring unto Him at the last judgment.
II. We have the Judge. "I saw them stand before God." The very first sight of Him begets terror in them, and, as it were, a hell in their consciences. We see the Judge here, and though not a word is spoken of Him in the 11th verse, but a great white throne, yet all that see Him here, say, it is God, the Mediator Christ Jesus, God in our nature. All this assembly shall see Him, and then they shall acknowledge Him to be God, and everyone according to their condition shall begin either to tremble or to rejoice. Fear shall seize the hypocrite, the unregenerate and unbeliever. The believer shall then rejoice. Why? He hath God that sits upon the throne for his friend. So then the believer may expect mercy, but all unbelievers have nothing to look for but pure and unmixed justice. Now John sees them all brought in, and standing before God. He sees the godly standing there also. But they shall soon be despatched. "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you." Then shall they be set down as assessors in the judgment with God, and shall give their assent to the condemnation of the wicked. The father shall vote the condemnation of his own child, and the husband the condemnation of the wife, and shall say, "Thou art righteous, O Lord, because thou hast judged thus."
Now, another part of this procedure is the consulting of the law with regard to what is found to be due to every one of them. Oh, it shall be a tragical sentence that shall be passed upon many! although to many others it shall be a glorious day, so that they never saw the likefor some never saw or enjoyed perfect holiness and felicity until then. Now the law takes place, "The books were opened; another book was opened," not as if Jesus Christ were literally so to proceed, for He needs neither books nor witness for His own remembrance, and your consciences (the recorder) shall witness for Him.
But to show forth the power and justice of God, the judgment shall be as particular and accurate as if all were registered before Him. But it may be asked, "What books are these that they shall judge by?"
1. There is one book that must not be wanting, and that is the Bible, or Word of God. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day." As soon as conscience sees this, it says, "If God be judge with thee, O Bible, heaven's acts of parliament, so to speak, then I am gone." You know what the apostle says, "When God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel." Not that we shall need this Bible in heaven, for the Spirit of God says that "there is no temple there," for all there are complete, illuminated, divine. This, then, shall be the last sight man shall have of the Bible, or word of God, lying before the throne, and according to it God shall judge all both small and great.. And what does this intimate unto us? It says, Read the word of God and improve it; for as it approves of, or casts and condemns you now, so by it ye shall either be condemned or approved of at the last great day. There shall be no sleeping unto you there (nor to me neither), when standing before the tribunal of God. But
2. There is a book upon man's part, viz., the conscience, "Their consciences also bearing witness in the meanwhile, their thoughts accusing, or else excusing one another."
3. There is a third book in the Judge's hand which, so to say, may be called the register of His remembrance, which He brings from heaven with Him; and God will say unto every one of you, "Look now into your own conscience, and see if it does not agree unto my register." Woe unto them that must stand before God until they must answer for all their wicked and flagitious deeds! Ye must not go down yet; ye must answer for all your wickedness and rebellion against God, idolatry, swearing, Sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, whoring, lying, stealing, false-witness, covetousness, and unfaithfulness to friends and relations, with others that will be almost innumerable. We shall say that there is one book in the Judge's hand and another in conscience's; and conscience shall read as fast and as long as God reads unto you. There will be no denying or gainsaying. Then, O rebellious souls, you shall not escape! Then this book shall miss none of you; nay, not so much as the least straying thought you may have. Oh, this will be a sore and searching book! and yet there remains another.
4. A fourth or last book, and a comfortable one too. And who is there? Who but the believer is there? It is a white roll called the "Book of Life." "And none shall enter there but those who are written in the Lamb's book of life." There are none there but the names of such as shall be saved.
Now to conclude, ye that are in earnest with God, plead that He may let you see your names written in this Book of Life, even before ye go hence and be no more. Many are now earnest and solicitous to know if their names be in their woeful commissions to take and apprehend you. Oh, that it were in the hearts of men to be in earnest to know if their names be in the Book of Life, and that they might see their names there! O Sirs, take care what you give God now to write. Alas, alas, alas! you give Him many ill-deeds to mark against you. Oh, that He had this to write, that you had unfeignedly repented of them all! But we fear we have now been too long.
1. This sermon was preached September, 1680.