Let us endeavour to realize the majesty and terror of the universal alarm on the final Judgment Day. When the dead are sleeping in the silent grave; when the living are thoughtless and unapprehensive of the grand event, or intent on other pursuits; some of them asleep in the dead of night; some of them dissolved in sensual pleasures, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage; some of them planning or executing schemes for riches or honors; some in the very act of sin; the generality stupid and careless about the concerns of eternity, and the dreadful day just at hand; and a few here and there conversing with their God, and looking for the glorious appearance of their Lord and Saviour; when the course of nature runs on uniform and regular as usual, and infidel scoffers are taking umbrage from thence to ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?” In short, when there are no more visible appearances of this approaching day, than of the destruction of Sodom, on that clear morning in which Lot fled away; or of the deluge, when Noah entered into the ark: then, in that hour of unapprehensive security, then suddenly shall the heavens open over the astonished world; then shall the alarming clangor break over the heads like a clap of thunder in a clear sky.
Immediately the living turn their gazing eyes upon the amazing phenomenon: some hear the long expected sound with rapture, and lift up their heads with joy, assured that the day of their redemption is come; while the thoughtless world are struck with the wildest horror and consternation. In the same instant the sound reaches all the mansions of the dead; and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, they are raised, and the living are changed. This call will be as animating to all the sons of men, as that call to a single person, “Lazarus, come forth.” O what a surprise will this be to the thoughtless world! Should this alarm burst over our heads at this moment, into what a terror would it strike many in this assembly? Such will be the terror, such the consternation, when it actually comes to pass. Sinners will be the same timorous, self-condemned creatures then as they are now. And then they will not be able to stop their ears, who are deaf to all the gentler calls of the gospel now.
Then the trump of God will constrain them to hear and fear, to whom the ministers of Christ now preach in vain. Then they must all hear; for, “all that are in the graves,” all without exception, “shall hear his voice.” Now the voice of mercy calls, reason pleads, conscience warns; but multitudes will not hear. But this is a voice which shall, which must reach every one of the millions of mankind, and not one of them will be able to stop his ears. Infants and giants, kings and subjects, all ranks, all ages of mankind shall hear the call. The living shall start and be changed, and the dead rise at the sound. The dust that was once alive and formed a human body, whether it flies in the air, floats in the ocean, or vegetates on earth, shall hear the new-creating fiat. Wherever the fragments of the human frame are scattered, this all-penetrating call shall reach and speak them into life. We may consider this voice a summons not only to dead bodies to rise, but to the souls that once animated them, to appear and be re-united to them.
This summons shall spread through every corner of the universe; and Heaven, Earth, and Hell, and all their inhabitants, shall hear and obey. Now methinks I see, I hear the earth heaving, charnel houses rattling, tombs bursting, graves opening. Now the nations under ground begin to stir. There is a noise and a shaking among the dry bones. The dust is all alive, and in motion, and the globe breaks and trembles, as with an earthquake, while this vast army is working its way through, and bursting into life. The ruins of human bodies are scattered far and wide, and have passed through many, and surprising transformations. A limb in one country, and another in another; here the head, and there the trunk; and the ocean rolling between.
And now, at the sound of the trumpet, they shall all be collected, wherever they were scattered; all properly sorted and united, however they were confused; atom to its fellow atom, bone to its fellow bone. Now methinks you may see the air darkened with fragments of bodies, flying from country to country, to meet and join their proper parts:
Scatter’d limbs and all
The various bones obsequious to the call,
Self-moved, advance. The neck perhaps to meet
The distant head, the distant legs, the feet.
Dreadful to view, see through the dusky sky
Fragments of bodies in confusion fly,
To distant regions journeying, there to claim
Deserted members, and complete the frame.
The severed head and trunk shall join once more,
Though realms now rise between, and oceans roar.
The trumpet’s sound each vagrant mote shall hear,
Or fixed in earth, or if afloat in air,
Obey the signal, wafted in the wind,
And not one sleeping atom lag behind.
Extract from a sermon on “The Day of Judgment.” —The Columbian Orator