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resurrection. You are now prepared, then, for our confining ourselves to the statements of our text. And we pass at once to the contemplation of the person of the Judge. We wish to set before you the combined wisdom and mercy of the appointment, that He who is to decide our portion for eternity, is the very Being who died as our surety. We suppose the end of all things to have the dead to have heard the voice of the archangel, so that small and great are hastening to judgment. We suppose this sublime and fearful vision, to which we have already referred, now receiving its accomplishment. "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 found no place for them." And who is it that sits upon this throne? Who is it by whose verdict the condition of untold myriads is to be eternally fixed, and whose single sentence is to determine whether everlasting happiness or everlasting misery shall be awarded to the members of the vast human family? It is a question of the first moment; for the thorough equity of the trial depends mainly on the character and capacity of the Being who presides. If you tell me an angel, the highest and the holiest, occupies the judgment-seat, you do not satisfy me that every verdict will be rigidly just. I cannot believe of any finite being, that he knows so accurately every circumstance in the conduct of every individual of our race, that he can make no mistake in settling the portion of millions upon millions. The wicked man may have hopes of eluding his penetration; and the righteous may have fears as to the extent of his power of discriminating. And, therefore, O you may array this angel-judge with majestic attributes, and assign him every known property and the highest perfections which constitute creatureship; but there can be no certainty throughout this vast assemblage which the graves have given up, that no crime shall escape detection, and nothing done for God be overlooked.
What then? Shall the throne be occupied by Deity himself? Shall men appear before their Maker, and receive their doom from the Omniscient? Beyond all question, such an arrangement is not liable to those objections, which seem to lie against the appointment of an angel as the judge. Nothing can escape the Omniscient, and therefore it is impossible that his decisions shall be other than rigidly impartial. The beings who shall crowd up from their sepulchres, if told that He who created them, whose all-seeing eye has watched their every action, so that in the deepest solitude they have been under his inspection, the very thoughts of the heart having been observed and registered, —if told, we say, that this Omniscient One from whom nothing can be hidden, and by whom nothing can be overlooked, is about to sit in scrutiny on their conduct, and to determine accordingly their everlasting state; will they not be fraught with a persuasion, that every thing will be done by the strictest laws of equity, and that there will not be a solitary particular in the enormous sum of human doings which shall be passed by unnoticed? Yes, they must necessarily be persuaded of all this; and yet there would be a kind of shrinking from the tribunal, as though it were not that to which creatures like ourselves can be summoned. We confess the amazing dignity of the Judge; we own it impossible that any one should fail to receive at his hand the most exact retribution; that a single threatening or a single promise should not be made good; that hypocrisy should be undetected, or humility unobserved. But then it is the very dignity of the Judge which confounds us; there is so un
measured a separation between ourselves and the Being by whom we shall be tried, that we cannot go with any confidence to the tribunal of one who can have no sympathy with us. Of a different nature, a nature, too, which has nothing in common with the feebleness of our own, how is it possible that he should at all enter into our case and circumstances, and decide with a nice reference to changes and trials? O then for a judge, who can have something of a fellow feeling with the parties to be judged! We shrink away from absolute Deity. We know not how the weak and offending are to find access to One who has nothing in common with them, who has never experienced any of their trials, who has had none of their battles to fight, none of their sorrows to endure, none of their temptations to wrestle with. O how can such a judge, with all his wisdom and all his justice, be a fit judge of fallen men? The principles on which he will ground his decisions, will be those of unerring righteousness and truth: but is there any hope, that, in applying such principles to the case of creatures circumstanced as we are, he will proceed with that consideration, that measure of attention to our trials, which we might expect from one who knew experimentally what we are and what we suffer? O, then, we again say, for a judge, who can have something of a fellow-feeling with the parties to be judged!
But this seems like asking that our Judge should be man. Who but man an fully sympathize with man? And yet if an angel be not qualified to sit judgment, how can a man be? A man may have the power of sympathy, which an angel has not; but then he is far inferior to the angels in those other properties which are required, and in those properties we were bold to pronounce that even angels are altogether deficient. So that, if we would determine who alone seems fitted to bear the office of judge of this creation, we appear to require the insupposable combination-insupposable, we mean, so long as you shut us out from the Gospel-the omniscience of the Deity, and the feelings of humanity. We cannot dispense with the omniscience of Deity; we see clearly enough that no finite intelligence can be adequate to that decision which will ensure the thorough justice of future retribution. But, then, neither can we dispense with the feelings of humanity; at least, we can have no confidence in approaching his tribunal, if we are sure that the difference in nature incapacitates him from sympathy with those whose sentence he is about to pronounce, and precludes the possibility of his so making our case his own, as to allow of his deciding with due allowance for their feebleness and temptations.
And here revelation comes in, and sets before us a Judge in whose person is centred that amazing combination which we have just pronounced as insupposable. This Man, by whom God hath ordained that "he will judge the world in righteousness," is himself divine, the Word that was in the beginning with God, and which was God. He shall come in human form, and every eye shall see him, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; and they who pierced
shall look upon him, and recognize, through all his majesty, the "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Yet He who descends is equally the ever-living Creator. The angels and archangels, by whom he is surrounded, adore him as from everlasting and to everlasting, the beginning and the end, the infinite, the self-existent. He, whose sign shall be seen in the heaven, and because of whom all the kindreds of the earth shall wail, is that Being
who is not ashamed to call us brethren," and who "in that he suffered, being tempted, is able to succour them that are tempted:" and yet he is also that inaccessible One, who cannot be tempted with evil, who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach, and whose goings forth have been from of old, the "I AM THAT I AM." In his person, then, is that marvellous union which we seek in the Judge of the whole human race. He is GOD, and therefore must he know every particular of character, every action, every motive, every thought, every word; so that there cannot rest suspicion on any of his verdicts he cannot be imposed on, by the show of piety, and he cannot overlook it when real. But then, he is also man: he has himself been a sojourner on earth; he has borne my griefs, and wept my tears, and experienced my trials and therefore will he put himself in the position of those who are brought to his bar; he will know exactly what they have had to contend with, and he will be able to adjust each sentence to the opportunities and capacities of the being on whom it is passed. And is he not then the Being, to occupy that great white throne, around which, in our text, St. John beheld the innumerable gathering" And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God?"
It is thus we are assured, that mercy and justice will alike have full scope in the transactions of the judgment, and that in appointing that the Mediator who died as our substitute will preside at our trial, God hath equally provided that every decision shall be impartial, and yet every man be dealt with as brother to him who must determine our fate. It is one of the most beautiful of the arrangements of redemption that the offices of Redeemer and Judge meet in the same person, and that person divine. We call it a beautiful arrangement, as securing towards us tenderness as well as equity; the sympathy of a friend as well as the disinterestedness of a righteous arbiter. Had the Judge been only man, the imperfection of his nature would have led us to expect much of error in his verdicts; had he been only God, the distance between him and ourselves would have made us fear that in determining our lots he would not have taken into account our feebleness and trials. The hypocrite would have hoped to baffle the penetration of the man; the lowly and the afflicted, conscious of frequent transgressions, of broken vows, of inconsistencies and backslidings, might have been appalled by the perfections of the God. It would have been an encouragement to wickedness, had the Judge been mere man, and therefore liable to be deceived; it would have filled humble piety with dread, had the Judge been only God, and therefore not touched with a feeling of our infirmities. But now the grave shall yield up its countless population, and no one, throughout the vast congregation, shall have a word to object against the fitness of the Being who occupies the judgment-seat. The bold transgressor, who, despite the remonstrances of conscience, lived long in rebellion, and then died in impenitence, he shall know that awful form on the throne of fire and of cloud, and he shall long to screen himself beneath the mountain and the rock, that he might escape the trial and the sentence not because he can impeach the judicial qualities of the Arbiter before whom. he is to appear, but only because the book of his own conscience has been opened, and from its statements he is to be judged; and he knows that the Being about to judge him is the very Being who endured agony for him, and shed blood for him, and offered him pardon, and besought him not to be his
destroyer; and because, therefore, he knows that there is no plea which can be urged against his utter condemnation, no subterfuge by which he may escape. Mercy exhibited itself, and was despised; what then shall arrest justice, or procure acquittal for the guilty? The believer in Christ, who hearkened to the suggestions of God's Spirit, and brake away from the trammels of sin, he, too, shall know the Son of man, as he comes down in the magnificent sternness of celestial authority; and we say not, that it shall be altogether without dread or apprehension, that the righteous, starting from the sleep of death, shall hear the deepening roll of the archangel's summons, and behold the terrific pomp of the heavenly judicature. We dare not attempt to define the emotions of those most assured of deliverance, when standing in their resurrection bodies, on the earth, as it heaves with strong convulsions, and looking on the firmament lined with ten thousand times ten thousand angels, and beholding a throne such as was never piled for mortal sovereignty, and hearing sounds such as imagination cannot catch the echo of, the crash of disordered elements, and the tramp of myriads as they pass to judgment, and, clear and thrilling above all, the thunder of the trumpet-peal which has stirred the dead, and called to the sea, and the mountain, and the desert, that the general Easter of this creation was come: we dare not, we say, attempt to define what shall be the feelings of believers in Christ as this inconceivably tremendous scene is spread before them and around them, but we are certain that they will be assured and comforted as they gaze upon the Judge, and know him as the Mediator who counted nothing too precious to be given for their ransom. They will not be distracted with apprehensions of being forgotten or overlooked, or dealt with according to their manifold failures in obedience. They will remember, that they have entered into everlasting covenant with that majestic personage, before whom the human race is marshalled. They will be upheld by the thought, that he is none other than the great High Priest of their profession, one who loves them with a love that passeth knowledge, and who has provided for the divine honour in providing for their forgiveness and acceptance, and who would violate the most solemn pledges if he suffered them to perish, and were they not to be his members. And, therefore, as the wicked shall seek to hide themselves from the Judge, as knowing him so fitted for the office that they cannot escape, so the righteous shall go in hope and confidence to his tribunal, regarding him as their surety, and certified of his sympathy. Thus each class, the one by the passionate cry to the rock and to the mountain, the other, by that holy assurance which proves that it takes to itself the words of the prophet, "The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king, he will save us ;" each class, we say, furnishes evidence of how just and yet how merciful is the appointment of the Redeemer of all to be the Judge of all; and it tells out in accents, understood and felt by those eager spectators, who flock from every quarter of creation to behold and approve the dealings of their God, that it must indeed be in righteousness that the world shall be judged, seeing that it was before the Mediator Christ, that St. John saw the dead, small and great, stand.
But this leads us to our concluding point, the thorough righteousness of the whole procedure of the judgment. We stay not to examine the assertion of the text in regard to the opening of the book in which human actions are entered. It is evident that nothing is to be gathered from these figurative
representations, but that an exact account is kept of the life of every individual; so that when he is arraigned, all the particulars of his conduct will be produced, and made to determine the tenor of his sentence. "The dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Though no man can be saved by his works, every man shall be judged according to his works. If he have believed on Christ (and this is the single appointed mode of salvation), the sincerity of his faith will be proved by his works, and therefore, in being appointed to everlasting life, he will be "judged according to his works." If he have not relied on the merits of his Saviour, the want of faith will be evidenced by the deficiency of his works; and therefore will he also, as to everlasting misery, be judged according to his works. And over and above this general decision," according to his works," we believe that every particular of conduct will have something corresponding to it in final retribution. Indeed, the brief description, that the judgment will be "in righteousness," comprehends all that can well be advanced on this topic. In righteousness: there shall be no escape for those who by the terms of the Gospel deserved to die, and no condemnation for such as have closed with the offer of forgiveness. The cloak of wickedness shall not disguise it, nor the humility of the lowly cause them to be overlooked. In righteousness: the kings of the earth, and the noble, and the mean, and the learned, and the ignorant, all shall appear on the same level, and human distinctions be no further recognized, as the business of trial goes forward, than as furnishing items in the great sum of human accountableness. In righteousness: every man shall be dealt with in conformity with that rule, that "where much has been given, much will be required, where little has been given, little will be required;" the heathen shall have his standard of trial, and the Christian his; while amongst all those who have been privileged with the Gospel, exact reckoning will be made of the talents of each, and the opportunities and the privileges of each. In righteousness: actions shall be estimated by their motives, by their intrinsic worth, and not by their pomp and their showiness; and the cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple, shall gain the reward of a disciple, denied to the profuse succours which ostentation may have imparted. Yes; the cup of cold water shall not be forgotten. The bounty which you may this day exercise towards these poor children shall be written down in the ponderous book, and produced hereafter as a witness in your favour. And if, as is too frequently the case on these occasions, you come to hear, and not to give, so that, out of an immense multitude of listeners, only few will vouchsafe even a scanty contribution to the necessitous, we dare not doubt, that this indifference to the wants of the poor will be traced in dark lines on the mysterious page, and give evidence as the last judgment goes forward. The dead, small and great, are to stand before God. The young and the old will be there; the children of the school for which I plead will be there; the many now in infancy, and to whom this school, if duly supported, may yet give Christian education, will be there; and others will be there who may have been excluded from this school, because those invited to support it have refused all assistance, or given it in niggard measure. There may be voices declaring that there would have been an asylum for them, beneath whose roof they might have been trained for immortality, had not some who are standing around turned a deaf ear to the claims of the institution, and thus crippled its resources, and withheld it from doing more.