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The MORAL REFLECTION.
UR blessed Saviour foretells to his apostles
the destruction of the temple, which happened forty years after his ascension, under Titus Vespasian, and the ruin of Jerusalem, together with that of the fynagogue and the people. This fad disaster was the just punishment of their fins, and principally for the murther of the Messias, so long expected, and so barbarously put to death, by the contrivance of the priests, and consent of the whole nation. God gave them forty years, to enter into themselves; he expected their repentance with patience : but their obstinacy was proof against all his goodness, and so drew down upon them divine vengeance, the greater, because long deferred.
O my God! how long have you expected my return to your grace, which I have forfeited by my fins? How long have I refused your pressing invitations to repentance ? Your frequent calls to lead a life worthy of the religion, your only Son brought from heaven, and I have the happiness to profess? Yet, like the hard-hearted Jews, I have persisted in my obstinacy; and, as much as I am able, have, not once, but often, crucified my Saviour by my disorders, Heb. vi. 6. Nay, I am more guilty than they ; for your apostle confesses, had they known he was God, they would not have crucified him ; fo that ignorance might plead in fome measure their excuse: but alas ! I have not this pretext: I know he is my God, my Saviour, and have contemned the very Majesty I adore ; and consequently deserve no more mercy than that unfortunate people, which wanders about the world like accursed Cain, as a perpetual monument of your justice. But, my God, your grace has mollified my stubborn heart; my past life confounds me, and your patience raises my confidence, that you will feal my pardon: I cast myself at your feet with bended knees, a contrite heart, and a firm resolution rather to die, than to live in your disfavour.
The apostles were curious to know the time, when the temple was to be destroyed, and the world to end ; tell us when Mall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming : but our Saviour thought not fit to satisfy their curiosity: the end of the world, and the day of judgment, are secrets God has reserved to himself; yet we know the world will soon end to us, and that the sentence of our eternal destiny will be pronounced at farthest within fome years, and perchance within some days, and even moments : this ought to be the subject of our daily meditations, of all our thoughts : we cannot be too careful to provide against a moment, unknown to us, yet on which our all depends.
Our Saviour bids us stand on our guard, to avoid surprize. O my Saviour : I will follow thy advice, and resolve to live in the state I defire to die: death steals upon me unforeseen ; and because I am ignorant when it will come, by the assistance of thy grace, I will always be prepared to receive it.
Tho' our Saviour concealed the time of the utter ruin of Jerusalem, he gave them a sign that should precede it ; when je mall see the abomination of desolation, Spoken of by Daniel the prophet, fand in ihe holy place, (whoso readeth, let biin under si and.) This prophanation happened in the time of the siege, when a troop of affalsins seized on the temple, and committed, in that holy place, a thousand murthers and facrileges. There is no greater sign of God's anger against a man or nation, and of a sudden vengeance, than when he permits facrilege and prophanation of holy things. It is true, my God, I have not prophaned thy church by murthers, as the unfortunate Jews did thy temple ; but how often have I approach'd to thy holy table with a rankled heart, and received thy body and blood into a breast polluted with crimes, with enmities, and hatred ; and thus turned the food of life, the source of grace, into poison and sacrilege? Pardon, I beseech thy mercy, my impiety; revenge thy honour, and my crimes, on my body, my estate; only spare my soul, redeemed by thy sacred blood.
Our Saviour, by several expressions, marks the miseries the Jews underwent at the destruction of their city, and those the church will undergo in the reign of Antichrist. For then Mall be
For then fall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world. Perchance these miseries touch us not, because some are past, and others at a great distance. But at least God, who is terrible in his anger, and severe in his justice, is always present ; and therefore fear to offend him, and endeavour to procure pardon by a sincere repentance : remember, if he be merciful, he is also just ; and if his mercy raises your hope, let his justice awake
There Mall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and Mall jew great signs and wonders. To try his elect, God has permitted false prophets in all ages to rise, and here he cautions us against them ; Believe them not.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the Sun mall be darkned, and the moon hall not give her light. Before our Saviour's second coming, the end of one misery shall be the beginning of another: wars and seditions will begin the tragedy ; then plagues, earthquakes, and famine will follow; VOL. II,
the cruel persecution of Antichrift will succeed ; and lastly, a general conflagration will consume all things. O my God! what condemnation will seize on men in those days ? What horror? What confusion ? Who then shall we esteem happy ? Power and dignities will be no defence; wealth of no 'ufe ; nothing will afford comfort or assurance, but a good conscience, but either innocence or repentance.
And then mall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then mall all the tribes of the earth mourn. The royal standard of the cross shall appear more bright than a thousand funs; the cross that once was a scandal to the Jews, and a fable to the Gentiles, shall confound the pride of those, and the infidelity of these : it shall receive now a homage, not to the salvation of the wicked, but to their damnation : the infidel will confess, it should have been the object of his faith, the libertine, the rule of all his actions : but alas! this confeffion comes too late : the gate of mercy is shut ; nothing remains but tears and lamentations, the laft refuge of the miserable. Let us weep now, whilst tears are profitable, whilst they disarm justice, and move God to mercy : defer them not, till the cross appears in heaven; for they will only end in defpair ; or rather they will always continue, as the marks of our paft folly, and of our eternal reprobation.
And be shall send his angels with a great found of a trumpet, and they shall gather together bis ele&t from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. The angels will convey the saints to our Saviour's right hand, the devils will draw the wicked to his left ; those to receive the final fentence of their eternal happiness, these of their eternal misery. O my God! what would a finner give for the lowest place among thy elect? He forfeited his ease and quiet in this world, and even his soul, to raise a fortune; and what has he gained, but the fad privilege to be the more tormented ? Now those virtuous Christians, who were condemned for fools at the world's tribunal, are esteemed wise ; and those sinners, who magnified their own wisdom, condemn their folly.
Let us spend some thoughts, dear Christians, on this dreadful day, and make some preparation for it ; it is in our power at present to provide a place, either on Christ's left hand, or his right ; and it is uncertain how long Providence will allow us this opportunity: it is the worst of follies, to dally when heaven and hell lie at stake, and a madness to learn the happiness of the saints by its loss, and the misery of the damned by experience.
O my God! let this last trumpet continually found in my ears, Arise ye dead, and come to judgment : Let the prospect of this terrible judgment appear always before my eyes, and the two eternities be present to my thoughts : such a difinal scene, on the one side will, I hope, withdraw me from sin : such a charming, such a transporting object, on the other, will persuade me to practise those virtues, thou hast commanded in thy gospel, and taught me by thy example: what signifies the applause of men ; if I am pronounc'd guilty at thy tribunal ? or their reproach, if thou doft declare me innocent ? By thy judgment I must stand, or fall: and thrice happy I, if I am of that blessed company, which thou dost invite to eternal joy. Come ye blessed.