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sometimes meet to confer together concerning those things wherein they differ, and to hear the reasons that may
be of. fered on one side and the other; and all may be ineffecual as to any conviction of the truth : They may meet and part again, na more agreed than before ; and that side which was in the wrong, may remain so still : Sometimes the meetings of ministers with their people in such a case of disagreeing sentiments, are attended with unhappy debate and controversy, managed with much prejudice and want of candor ; not tending to light and conviction, but rather to confirm and increase darkness, and establish opposition to che truth, and alienation of affection one from another. But when they shall hereafter meet together, at the day of judgment, before the tribunal of the great Judge, the mind and will of Christ will be made known; and there shall no longer be any debate or difference of opinions; the evidence of the truth shall appear beyond all dispute, and all controversies shall be finally and forever decided.
Now ministers meet their people, in order to enlighten and awaken the consciences of sinners : Setting before them the great evil and danger of sin, the strictness of Gods law, their own wickedness of heart and practice, the great guilt they are under, the wrath that abides upon them, and their impotence, blindness, poverty, and helpless and undone condition : But all is often in vain ; they remain still, notwithstanding all their ministers can say, stupid and unawakened, and their consciences unconvinced, But it will not be so at their last meeting at the day of judgment; sinners, when they shall meet their minister before their great Judge, will not meet him with a stupid conscience: They will then be fully convinced of the truth of those things which they formerly heard from him, concerning the greatness and terrible majesty of God, his holiness, and hatred of sin, and his awful justice in punishing it, the strictness of his law, and the dreadfulness and truth of his threatenings, and their own unspeakable guilt and misery : And they shall never more be insensible of these things : The eyes of conscience will now be fully enlightened,
and never shall be blinded again : The mouth of conscience shall now be opened, and never shall be shut any more.
Now ministers meet with their people, in public and pri. vate, in order to enlighten them concerning the state of their souls ; to open and apply the rules of God's word to them, in order to their searching their own hearts, and discerning the state that they are in ; but now ministers have no infallible discerning of the state of the souls of their people ; and the most skilful of them are liable to mistakes, and often are mistaken in things of this nature ; nor are the people able certainly to know the state of their minister, or one another's state ; very often those pass among them for saints, and it may be emi. nent saints, that are grand hypocrites ; and on the other hand, those are sometimes censured, or hardly received into their charity, that are indeed some of God's jewels. And-nothing is more common than for men to be mistaken concerning their own state : Many that are aboniinable to God, and the children of his wrath, think bighly of themselves, as his precious saints and dear children, Yea, there is reason to think, that often some that are most bold in their confidence of their safe and happy 'state, and think themselves not only true saints, but the most eminent saints in the congregation, are in a peculiar manner a smoke in God's nose. And thus it undoubtedly often is in those congregations where the word of God is most faithfully dispensed, notwithstanding all that ministers can say in their clearest explications, and most searching applications of the doctrines and rules of God's word to the souls of their hearers, in their meetings one with another. But in the day of judgment they shall have another sort of meeting; then the secrets of every hoart shall be made manifest, and every man's state shall be perfectly known. 1 Cor. iv. 5. *« Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who will both bring to light the hidden
things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the ihearts': And then shall every man have praise of God." Then none :shall be deceived-concerning his own state, por shall be any more in doubt about it. There shall be an eterpal end to all the ill conceit and vain hopes of deluded hypo.
frites, and all the doubts and fears of sincere Christians. And then shall all know the state of one another's souls: The people shall know whether their minister has been sincere and faithful, and the ministers shall know the state of every one of their people, and to whom the word and ordinances of God have been a savor of life unto hife, and to whom a savor of death unto death.
Now in this present state it often happens that when min. isters and people meet together to debate and manage their ecclesiastical affairs, especially in a state of controversy, they are ready to judge and censure one another with regard to each other's views and designs, and the principles and ends that each is influenced by; and are greatly mistaken in their judgment, and wrong one another with regard to each others views and designs and the principles and ends that each is in. fluenced by, and are greatly mistaken in their judgment, and wrong one another in their censures : But at that future meet. ing, things will be set in a true and perfect light, and the principles and aims that every one has acted from shall be certainTy known; and there will be an end to all errors of this kind, and all unrighteous censures.
(3.) In this world, ministers and their people often meet together to hear of and wait upon an unseen Lord; but at the day of judgment, they shall meet in his most immediate and yisible presence.
Ministers, who now often meet their people to preach to them the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, to convince them that there is a God, and declare to them what manner of being he is, and to convince them that he governs, and will judge the world, and that there is a future state of rewards and punishments, and to preach to them a Christ in heaven, and at the right hand of God, in an unseen world, shall then meet their people in the most immediate sensible presence of this great God, Saviour, and Judge, appearing in the most plain, visible, and open manner, with great glory, with all his holy angels, before them and the whole world. They shall not meet them to hear about an absent Christ, an unseen Lord, and future Judge ; but to appear before that Judge,
and as being set together in the presence of that supreme Lord, in his immense glory and awful majesty, whom they have heard so often of in their meetings together on earth.
(4.) The meeting at the last day, of ministers, and the people that have been under their care, will not be attended by any one with a careless hecdless heart.
With such an heart are their meetings often attended in this world by many persons, having little regard to him whom they pretend unitedly to adore in the solemn duties of his public worship, taking little heed to their own thoughts or frame of their minds, not attending to the business they are engaged in, or considering the end for which they are come together. But the meeting at that great day will be very dif. ferent: There will not be one careless heart, no sleeping, no wandering of mind from the great concern of the meeting, no inattentiveness to the business of the day, ng regardlessness of the presence they are in, or of those great things which they shall hear from Christ at that meeting, or that they formerly heard from him, and of him, by their ministers, in their meeting in a state of trial, or which they shall now hear their min. isters declaring concerning them before their judge.
Having observed these things, concerning the manner and circumstances of this future meeting of ministers and the people that have been under their care, before the tribunal of Christ at the day of judgment, I now proceed,
II. To observe to what purposes they shall then meet,
1. To give an account, before the great Judge, of their behavior one to another, in the relation they stood in to each other in this world.
Ministers are sent forth by Christ to their people on his bu. siness, are his servants and messengers ; and, when they have finished their service, they must return to their master to give him an account of what they have done, and of the entertainment they have had in performing their ministry. Thus we find, in Luke xiv. 16....21, That when the servant who was sent forth to call the guests to the great supper, had done his errand, and finished his appointed service, he returned to his
master, and gave him an account of what he had done, and of the entertainment he had received. And when the master; being angry, sent his servant to others, he returns again, and gives his master an account of his conduct and success.
So we read, in Heb. xiii. 17, of ministers being rulers in the house of God, « that watch for souls, as those that must give account.” And we see by the forementioned Luke xiv. that ministers must give an account to their master, not only of their own behavior in the discharge of their office, but also of their peoples' reception of them, and of the treatment they have met with among them.
And therefore, as they will be called to give an account of both, they shall give an account at the great day of accounts in the presence of their people; they and their people being both present before their Judge.
Faithful ministers will then give an account with joy, concerning those who have received them well, and made a good improvement of their ministry; and these will be given them, at that day, as their crown of rejoicing. And, at the same time, they will give an account of the ill treatment of such as have not well received them and their
messages from Christ: They will meet these, not as they used to do in this world, to counsel and warn them, but to bear witness against them ; and as their judges, and assessors with Christ, to condemn them. And; on the other hand, the people will, at that day, rise up in judgment against wicked and unfaithful ministers, who have sought their own temporal interest more than the good of the souls of their flock.
2. At that time ministers, and the people who have been under their care, shall meet together before Christ, that he may judge between them, as to any controversies which have subsisted between them in this world.
So it very often comes to pass in this evil world, that great differences and controversies arise between ministers and the people that are under their pastoral care. Though they are under the greatest obligations to live in peace, above persons in almost any relation whatever ; and although contests and dissensions between persons so related are the most unhappy