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THE END OF THE WORLD.
DELIVERED IN BOSTON ON THE FOURTH SABBATH IN FEB, 1820
ST. MATTHEW XIII, 47-50.
" Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the
sea, and gathered of every kind:Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.---So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from among the just.--And shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Christian friends, the passage now read in your hearing claims your most serious and candid attention, for the following reasons :
I. It was spoken by the great and good teacher, who was sent of God, as the way, the truth, and the life; and therefore treats of nothing but what we are all deeply interested to know.
II. It is one of the many passages which are usually employed in support of the doctrine of an eternal state of indescribable tortures, in which the wicked are to suffer in the future state ; and therefore is a passage which is necessarily called up for investigation in the great controversy which now occupies the public mind, on the subject of doctrine, We say, the controversy which now occupies the public mind; for notwithstanding all the caution used by the clergy to prevent the free discussion of the question, whether all men are embraced in the benevolent designs of our Saviour's grace, or only a part, it is very evident that 110 question in divinity excites at this time so much interest and attention as this. For many years
after the doctrine of unlimited salvation was preached in this country, by a few faithful ambassadors of our divine master, the orthodox clergy very frequently sought opportunities to investigate this great question, and to refute the doctrine for which these few contended. But these affairs now wear a very different aspect. In room of a desire to meet this weighty subject before the world, and contend against it, only where they expect to be answered, constant prudence is employed to direct the public mind to other topics, and never even to think of this, only as a subject embracing such dangerous tenets as to render it unsafe to inquire into them, or listen for one moment to any arguments in their support. By these means, the wisdom of this world is endeavouring to make the best of the superstition and credulity of the people, that is possible. To serve this interest by these means, the passage now before us is often recited to the following purport : The Saviour has informed us concerning the awful condition of sinners in the future state, by the application of the parable of the net that was cast into the sea. This net gathered of every kind, good and bad; but when it was drawn on shore, they sat down and made a separation, gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. Of this the following solemn and awful application is made. "So shall it be at the end of the world; the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."' And here the speaker will add ; no comment is necessary; the words of the Saviour are too explicit to need explanation ; this is the closing scene, it is so to be done at the end of the world. Such observations and remarks are made in a most solemn tone of voice, accompanied with a studied horror of countenance which as it were, petrifies the hearer into a gloomy despair. In such cases it is left entirely to tradition to say what is meant by the end of the
alvain world, and by the furnace of fire ; for should the
question be allowed to exist in the mind, what our bodore Saviour meant by the end of the world, and this
furnace of fire, and should we allow ourselves to search the scriptures to ascertain these facts, it would be seen at once, that they have no relation to a future state of existence.
III. It is what we all owe to the cause of truth and to ourselves, to lay prejudice aside, and to investigate this subject with all the impartiality and honesty of mind of which we are capable. To do otherwise, and retain our early errors and prejudices in opposition to reason and divine revelation, is the same kind of conduct as that of the Jews, who, being destitute of candor, and averse to reason, said that Jesus was a Samaritan and had à devil.
In our endeavours to obtain a correct view of what our Saviour meant, when he delivered the words of our text, the following particular questions will be duly noticed.
1. What is meant by the kingdom of heaven, and by its being, like a net that was cast into the sea which gathered of every kind ?
2. What is meant by the end of the world, and the separation of the wicked from among the just ? And,
3. What is meant by the furnace of fire into which the wicked are said to be cast ?
As it is of the first importance to obtain a correct idea of the time to which our text alludes, the hearer is requested to be looking after this particular through the whole of these inquiries.
When we read of the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, in the New
Testament, if we are at all careful to observe the connexion, or the similes by which it is represented, we shall at once see that a future, immortal state is not the subject. When Jesus said to the pharisees, in reply to their blasphemy; “But if I cast out devils by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you,'
he certain.y did not mean that' a future eternal state had come to them. When he said; “ It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the king dom of God,” he could not mean, that it was thus difficult for a rich man to enter into a future state; for we see not but the rich are equally subject to die and to go into another state of being as the poor. When the Saviour told the pharisees that publicans and harlots should go into the kingdom of God before them, we have not the least reason to believe that he meant that publicans and harlots would die and go into the eternal world before they did. When the blessed Redeemer told the chief priests and the elders, that the kingdom of God should be taken from them, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof, most surely he did not mean that the future, eternal world would be taken from them, and given to somebody else. When Jesus told the scribe, who answered him discreetly, that he was not far from the kingdom of God, he did not mean that he was nigh his death, and a future state. But it is evident that by the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, the Saviour meant the dispensation of the gospel, which was the ministry, in which he was sent to the house of Israel.
Let the hearer now carefully associate this meaning with the words, " kingdom of God," and then observe how perfectly rational the before mentioned passages will appear. " But if I cast out devils by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come unto you.” That is, if you rightly under stand that the miracles wrought by me, are performed by the spirit of God, then certainly my ministry is truly of God. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” That is, those who are rich, being covetous are extremely averse to the liberal spirit of the gospel, and are loth to dispose of their property in the way which
the difficulties of persecution will render necessary. ure the aid
- Publicans and harlots, go into the kingdom of God before you.” Meaning that the publicans and
the harlots, being free from the superstition, big* otry, self-righteousness, and religious pride, all
which were so very peculiar to the pharisees, that it was much easier for them to adhere to a dispen, sation, of mercy and forgiveness, to a ministry of impartial goodness, than for those who thought themselves righteous and despised others. We see the nature of this subject in our times. It is not so difficult for those, who have made no profession of religion in the partial systems of men, to receive the truth, the impartial truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is for those, who have professed the religion of the wisdom, the partial wisdom of this world ; and who think themselves so much better than their neighbour, as to say ; stand by, come 'not nigh me, for I am holier than thou. “Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Here it is evident, that the Saviour meant, that the dispensation of the gospel in which he was sent to the Jews, would be taken from them, and given to the Gentiles, who would receive it, and obey its requirements. We have an account of the fulfilment of these words of the Saviour in the 13th of Acts; when Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch, and there preached the gospel of the kingdom, the Jews contradicted and blasphemed, which caused these servants of Christ to reply to their countrymen as follows; " It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles; for so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a 'light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldst be for salvation to the ends of the earth.” Here is an instance of the kingdom's being taken from the Jews, to whom it was first sent,