I know not how such questions can be answered by those who suppose the day of judgment to be nothing more than one on which Jesus Christ will publicly declare what the eternal fate of His creatures is to be for ever; without any trial beyond that which has already taken place in the court of each man's conscience, and in the presence of the living God.
We at once admit that the difficulty, or impossibility even, of answering such questions, is no adequate reason for our denying any fact clearly revealed in Scripture which may suggest them. But if these belong, not to the fact itself, but to what appears to us to be a wrong interpretation of it; if a different view is freed from such difficulties, without others, more numerous and serious, being evolved; if the information afforded by Scripture is to be received as authentic; and if, moreover, while keeping strictly to the letter of Scripture, it is more in harmony with the grand ends to be accomplished by the kingdom of Christ, and discloses more of the glory of the great King, surely a presumption is thereby afforded in favour of its truth, though, perhaps, at first sight it may interfere with preconceived opinions.
Instead, then, of the day of judgment being a day of twenty-four hours merely for the passing of a righteous sentence upon the good or bad, it seems to us to be clearly revealed in Scripture that it will be a period of time long enough for the peaceful and orderly ongoing of all its august proceedings;—when Jesus Christ will summon to His immediate presence all who have been the subjects of His mediatorial kingdom, or have been placed under His authority for accomplishing the purposes of His reign;—when each person will be tried in the presence of the assembled universe, and his true relationship to his King must be proved upon evidence minute, sifting, and unquestionable;—in one word, when the whole government of the Mediator, from the beginning till the end of time, over men, angels, and devils, shall be fully disclosed, and its excellence manifested to the confusion of the wicked, the joy of the righteous, and the glory of the Triune God!
Difficulties will, no doubt, be suggested by the view we have thus so briefly stated, as well as by the others I have been obliged to discard. But instead of attempting to remove these, I shall at present pass them by, leaving them to be tacitly and satisfactorily answered by the positive truth regarding the judgment, which I shall now endeavour to establish.
The Judge will be Jesus Christ:—
"We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ."
"Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead, at his appearing and kingdom."
"The day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ."
"The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son."
Now, there are several reasons discernible by us why Jesus Christ should thus be "appointed to judge the world."
1. From the constitution of His person. As God, He is possessed of omniscience to discern every thought and intent of the heart; unerring wisdom and unsullied righteousness to try every case; with omnipotent power and sovereign authority to execute every sentence. On the other hand, as "the Son of man," He will appear in His human nature, for "every eye shall see Him." This "same Jesus" said the angels at His ascension, "who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." Men will be judged by one who is their Brother, "who, in all points, was tried like one of us;" "who in all things was made like His brethren."
2. Another reason why Jesus Christ will direct all the proceedings of the day of judgment, arises from the peculiar relationship in which, as the only Mediator between God and man, He stands to the human race. Let us dwell for a moment upon this point.
We are informed in Scripture, that Jesus Christ is the Creator of this world:—
"All things were made by him." "He was in the world, and the world was made by him." "God who created all things by Jesus Christ." "All things were created by him and for him."
He is also Governor of the world:—
"God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all."
To accomplish the various ends of this glorious government, He is King of nature; all the elements of nature which can in any way affect the history or destiny of the human race being directed and controlled by Him. "The winds and the seas obey Him;" pestilence and famine, the volcano and the hurricane, are ministers of His, that do His pleasure. He is the King of providence; armies and fleets, conquests and invasions, discoveries and inventions, migrations and settlements,—all are under the government of His wise and omnipotent sceptre. He is the King of grace; the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit are dispensed to the persons and in the measure which seem best to Him. Finally, He is the King of angels and devils; so that their power and agency, in relation to the human family, are either controlled or guided by Him.
Now, this kingdom of Jesus Christ, which began with the history of the world at least, will one day be resigned into the hands of God. "Then cometh the end," says the apostle, "when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God the Father, that God may be all in all." But ere that end comes, the Mediator himself will, as we suppose; disclose the history of His kingdom to the assembled universe. He will make known "His ways and acts" towards the children of men. He will meet friend and foe, and disclose the real history of each person who ever lived, from the first moment of his birth to the moment of his trial; and of each family, and city, and kingdom, from their rise till their final extinction in the dust; and thus the universe shall know how His government over human affairs, in all ages and climes, has been conducted; and in what manner His authority and power over all things for His Church has been exercised; that it may be known on evidence, whether He is indeed worthy to have received such honour and power in the great and universal kingdom of Jehovah!
3. But there seems also a fitness in Jesus being the Judge, from His peculiar relationship to the Church. "He created all things, that unto principalities and powers might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God." And He is now, in virtue of what He has done as a Priest, the Head over all things for the Church as a King. "Because he humbled himself, God hath highly exalted him." The grand end of His whole mediatorial reign is, "that unto God might be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus." But the work of Jesus Christ as Mediator will not have terminated, nor will He have received His full joy and reward, until He raises His people from their graves, and gathers His elect from the four winds of heaven; and opens the Book of Life, and from this biographical record adduces evidence of the reality of their loyalty, and of their love to the King; and reveals the glory of all His dealings towards them in every age:—until, in one word, the living Church, of which He is the Head, which "He loved" and "purchased with His own blood," and "sanctified and cleansed with the washing of the water of His word," shall be presented to Himself, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish. His judgment of the Church will be the consummation of His mediatorial glory, and the fulness of His reward.
As to the time when Jesus Christ shall judge the world, we are ignorant. "Of that day knoweth no man, not even the angels." We know only that it will come suddenly—"as a thief in the night"—upon the whole world; and that "we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
No words of man can venture upon any description of the appearance of the Judge, or the accompaniments of that great and terrible day of the Lord. But here are a few Scripture statements descriptive of this solemn scene:—
"For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works," (Matt. xvi. 27.)
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other," (Matt. xxiv. 30, 31.)
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord," (1 Thess. iv. 15-17.)
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ," (2 Thess. i. 7, 8.)
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up," (2 Pet. iii. 10.)
"And 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 I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works," (Rev. xx. 11-13.)
WHO ARE TO BE JUDGED?
We reply, men and fallen angels.
"We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ." If the government of Jesus Christ over men is to be revealed on that day, it is clear that all men, without exception, must be judged. So linked, indeed, is the history of each man with that of others,—as, for instance, the tempter with the tempted, the oppressed with the oppressor, the teacher with the taught, the child with the parent;—so necessarily is each man's condition and character affected by that of all who have gone before him, up to his first parents;—so truly do all human beings make up one race, one family, from the life of each being more or less connected with that of all, that the knowledge of the real history of even one man, almost implies an examination into the real history of the whole human race. And we shall possess, for the first time, a true history of the whole world, when we truly understand the history of each person, family, and kingdom in it; and so also shall we possess the true history of each individual part, only when we know its relationship to the great whole; and the history of events, when we perceive what bearing they have had on the kingdom of Jesus Christ, whose history is that of the world.
It has been questioned how far the sins of the people of God, which have been for ever pardoned, are to be revealed at judgment. But we see no reason whatever why this should not be the case, and every reason why it should. We might, beforehand, have thought it more likely that God would not have recorded in the Bible, and exposed in the light of all coming ages, the sins of His most eminent servants, as those of Abraham, Moses, David, of Peter, or of Paul. But He has told the whole truth regarding them for our warning and instruction; and so will the whole truth be told regarding every saint at judgment, "that no flesh may glory in His presence;" and that the reality of the wickedness of the old man may be proven, as well as the reality of the holiness of the "new man created in Christ Jesus unto good works." And what saint can be unwilling to have revealed what he was, that so the glorious love of God's Spirit may be made the more manifest, as the sole cause of what he has become, and will continue to be for ever and ever?
Fallen angels shall also be judged upon that day: "For God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them, down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment," "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." Under what dispensation those beings first sinned against God, we cannot tell. All we know from the information given us by God is, that they have been permitted to exercise their power in this world, on the side of evil, ever since the creation of man. Satan, the adversary, the tempter, the enemy, who is the head of these principalities and powers, has been a "liar and murderer from the beginning;" and in every age and clime, he and his wicked spirits have advanced the kingdom of darkness with indomitable perseverance, untiring energy, ceaseless hate, and "all deceivableness and unrighteousness in them that perish." Fallen angels having thus taken so dreadful a part in the history of Christ's kingdom, and being responsible for all they do, shall be tried at judgment; and what a revelation must their trial be of the character, the hellish plots and machinations of those enemies of Jesus Christ and His Church!
We have already alluded to the individuality of the examination at the last day,—how "every one of us must give an account of himself to God;" and "receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether good or evil;" and also, how each fact must be brought to light upon evidence whose truth cannot be questioned. Upon that day, mere assertions will not be sufficient to establish the right or the wrong condition of any one before the judgment-seat. The universe must know the truth! Evidence must, therefore, be adduced which will "convince all;" and that evidence, too, will be sifted. Before sentence is passed, overwhelming proof will demonstrate the righteous ground on which each individual must take his place among those on the left hand or on the right. Let us see if we can discover any sources of evidence for the detection and discrimination of character.
"THE BOOKS SHALL BE OPENED."
1. The Book of Providence will be opened.—In this book has been recorded, and from its pages can be shewn, by Jesus Christ, everything which has been done to us, and for us, by Himself, since the hour of our birth till that of our death. Every temporal mercy or spiritual blessing—every advice given by ministers, relations, or friends—every Sabbath which dawned upon us—every stirring of conscience within us—every visitation of sickness or domestic affliction—every item, in short, of that immense sum of things which, in His providence or by His grace, was given us each successive hour of life, and which was intended to mould our characters according to the will of God;—all shall be revealed at judgment, that the universe may know what Jesus Christ, the King, has really done for each one of His subjects, and what each subject has been, and done, in relation to Him.
2. The Book of Memory shall be opened.—An awful volume! It seems almost certain that anything once known to us must for ever abide in memory, and can never be absolutely and for ever lost. Out of sight it may be, but never really out of mind. It may appear to be dead, though it only sleeps, ready to start into vigorous life when touched by some hand which can reach it in the dim mysterious recess where it lies concealed. It is thus, before returning, after a long absence, to the home of our early life, we are unable to discover any page in the volume of our memory inscribed with more than a few incidents which filled up those early years of gladness. Every page seems a blank, or its records, if not obliterated, can hardly be traced. But when we do return, what a magic influence is exercised by every tree, rock, and stream, and by the old home itself with which these were once inseparably associated! The history of days and years now glow with the vividness of first impressions, where, until now, all was so indistinct and illegible. Old familiar voices ring in our ears, beloved faces of the old dead gaze upon us as of yore, and their forms flit before our moist eyes. But were not these things all the while in our memory, although unnoticed by us until called forth by fitting circumstances? And have we not seen evidence of the same mysterious life of the past within us, when in extreme old age a second childhood awakens all the incidents of the first; when memory, like a flash of lightning, irradiates the sky, otherwise dark and wintry, revealing the scenes of early days, which were before quite forgotten? More wonderful still—it is certain that things once known, which in health were as lost to memory as if they had never been, are suddenly recalled, and appear in all their former life and freshness, when fever touches the brain with her delirious hand. The sick man, in his ravings, speaks perhaps a language known only in his infancy, and recalls incidents belonging to a period which was a total blank in his recollections during days of robust health. And what does all this prove but the momentous truth, that anything which once was done,—anything which we have ever thought, uttered, or known, or was ever inscribed in the book of memory,—remains there engraven in characters more permanent than those which, cut deep in the hoary monuments of Egypt, have outlived teeming centuries of human history? Darkness may cover the page, but by a vivid and mysterious flash every letter is illuminated. That flash may be only some trifle, such as a note of music—the tone of some voice—
"The subtle smell which spring unbends, Dread pause abrupt of midnight winds,— An echo or a dream!"
And thus may it be at judgment; by the extension of the same kind of power, may our whole life, in its minutest details, pass before our eyes,—each minute of it delivering its own history of word or deed, of things done or things received,—and each recognised as true by the possessor of them all. Accordingly, every man is now, whether he wills it or not, unconsciously writing or daguerreotyping his own biography;—his whole life forming a work of more importance, to himself at least, than any other in the universe,—each volume a year, each chapter a month, each day or hour a page. At judgment memory will read the whole, and be compelled to feel that every word is true. It is strange, too, how rapid—reasoning from analogy—such a review may be, without diminishing from its distinctness. States of being, or successive acts, which occupied long periods of time, may very rapidly be recalled in all their minute features. In moments of sudden peril, when death seemed approaching, how frequently have men told us that they beheld, in a twinkling of an eye, the great features of their whole life like a panorama passing before their mind's eye! And thus at judgment, clear, yet rapid—intensely real and vivid, yet sudden as light—may the life of the boy, and the man, and the patriarch, from, the first till the last moment of conscious and responsible existence upon earth, be presented to the mind with a self-evidencing power of truth, which cannot, which dare not, be denied or resisted! Jesus Christ will speak to the man from within the man, and, with irresistible power, say to him, "Son, remember!"
3. The Book of Conscience shall be opened.—This will afford abundant evidence, when read along with the books of memory and providence, of the witness in every man's soul for the moral government of God, and that ever accused or excused his life. That tremendous power which has dogged the murderer in his flight, following him across the seas, tracking him to his refuge in some solitary island or savage wilderness,—that presence which, like an evil spirit from another world, has disturbed the guilty in the midst of his festivities, or sat heavily on his soul, brooding over him in his slumbers as a horrible nightmare, until he has started up in the agony of despair,—that judge which has made kings tremble on their thrones, and ruffians shiver in their silent cells,—that awful voice will be allowed then to speak out with the power, as well as with the authority, that belong to it. It will pass judgment upon all the facts in each man's life, which shall then, for the first time, be fully and fairly submitted to its inspection; and each page in memory's book will find a corresponding page in the book of conscience, on that "day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ," A thousand excuses will be silenced by it, and false hopes crushed, and a fiery law go forth to destroy all the coverings which the deceitful heart now draws over its own wilful and desperate wickedness.
4. "Another book will be opened, which is the Book of Life"—In that book are inscribed the characters of all God's people, and the evidence of the reality of their faith in Christ and obedience to Him. "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them!" These works, which are the evidence, results, and rewards of faith, are recorded by that same Spirit through whose power alone the soul has lived, believed, and been enabled to bring forth such fruit to the praise of the glory of God by Jesus Christ. In the book of life will be found recorded by the omniscient Holy Spirit of Truth, that secret life of every saint which was "hid with Christ in God." Then shall be revealed the reality of their repentance and inward renewal of soul; the sincerity of their love to God and to His people; their secret prayers, thanksgivings, confessions, intercessions, and holy communion with God; their plans, longings, and sacrifices for the spread of the gospel, and for the glory of God upon earth; their deeds of charity for Christ,—every prison they entered, every naked one they clothed; the hungry they fed, or the offences forgiven by them from love to Him who forgave them;—that whole character, in short, which is the result of union with Christ, will be evidenced to the universe from what is recorded of it in the Lamb's Book of Life.
And is there not another book, even "the Book," which may also be opened at judgment as a witness for the Triune God in His dealings with mankind? How many millions of men have possessed the Bible, and acknowledged it as the word of God! Who, therefore, among them, will be able to plead ignorance of any truth—any duty—any danger—any promise—the knowledge of which could essentially affect their eternal salvation? True, they may never have opened the Bible, or have refused to believe it, or have despised and rejected its warnings, counsels, and reproofs; but the Bible was nevertheless given them, and their very ignorance may be their crime. Or, if not ignorant, but only "hating knowledge," and "not choosing the fear of the Lord,"—their condemnation is, that they preferred the darkness to the light, because their deeds were evil? Oh, what a witness will that Book be against the slothful, the wilfully ignorant and unbelieving!
Are these sources of evidence not sufficient wherewith to determine, to the conviction of the universe, each man's character at the judgment of the great day? Should more be required, many other witnesses may be summoned, if necessary, before the white throne. Satan and wicked spirits are ready to accuse the sinner, and to prove how he yielded to temptation, became habit and repute in sin, and a willing and active instrument for destroying others. True, Satan is a liar; but is this testimony a lie? Can these accusations, if false, be disproved? Can Christ be appealed to either as to their falsehood, or for exculpatory evidences of genuine repentance or new life? And holy angels, too, are there, who will be able to testify as to whether this man ever gave them joy as a true penitent, was the object of their ministrations as an heir of salvation, or known to them as a fellow-worker in Christ's kingdom upon earth. Relations, friends, neighbours, church-members, are also there to tell, at Christ's bidding, what was the manner of his life in the family, in society, or in the "household of God." What has this man as a father, husband, or child, done? What example did he set? What temper and conduct did he manifest at home? What was his influence as a companion? Did he lead to hell or heaven? What did Christians find him to be as a fellow-Christian? Was he cruel and covetous, slothful and indifferent, uncharitable and censorious; or loving, zealous, and self-denying, the author of peace and lover of concord, a friend and brother? Oh! surely, even now we can easily see how there can be no want of means at the great day of judgment, by which, without any revelation from the unerring and all-seeing Judge himself, each man's character may be searched and known to its inmost depths, and in all its minute details be revealed.
And now, reader, before we proceed, let us here entreat of you to examine your present life. We ask, whether you think it possible that it can afford any evidence upon that day of sincere love to Jesus Christ?—anything which can warrant the Judge to say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant?"—anything in your aims, wishes, purposes, pursuits, endeavours, which evidence the existence in the least degree of that kind of life which is the result of being born and sanctified by God's Spirit, and cannot otherwise be accounted for?
How many shrink from that examination now, which must take place then! But is it not wiser to know your sins, and see your danger now, when the one can be pardoned, and the other averted, than, for the first time, to awake to a sense of both, when your sins can never more, as far as man can discover, be removed, and your danger, if real, must end in ruin? We have many foreshadowings of judgment revealed to us by Christ; and we have the unavailing pleadings of those who desire to be recognised as among His friends. "Lord, Lord!" cry some, "open to us!" These are not infidels, but professed believers in Christ's supreme authority. "Lord, hast thou not taught in our streets?—open to us!" is the plea of those who heard the truth spoken, it may be by Jesus personally; of those, at least, who had the privilege, and did not neglect it, of hearing the word preached. "Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in thy presence?—open to us!" appears to others sufficient evidence of friendship for the Redeemer, and such as might be urged by those who followed Him in Judea, and saw His person, heard His words, yea, sat at meat with Him as "His familiar friends." "Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, and done many wonderful works?—open to us!" Thus could Judas have pleaded; and many a man, perhaps, who had the gift of miracles without the grace of God; or many more who have had rare gifts of talent, genius, eloquence, which have done good to others, in spite of their own selfish motives; and who, by many wonderful works, have cast out "evil possessions" of wicked principles and practices from others, while evil, nevertheless, possessed themselves. And with as imposing claims many too may seek admittance to God's kingdom, because they "gave their goods to feed the poor, or their bodies to be burned." Yet, to each and all such pleadings, Jesus represents himself as saying, "I know you not! Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity!" But if so, we ask you, reader, what evidence of Christian life can you adduce better or more satisfactory than all this? Nothing, be assured, will be accepted which does not prove a right spirit, or, in other words, the existence in the soul of love to Jesus Christ in some form or other. "LOVEST THOU ME?" will be the grand question, the truthful reply to which will determine our real state on that great day. Hence, while the evidence of doing wonderful works, or of giving our body to be burned, is rejected as worthless, inasmuch as the one proves only the existence of power, and the other of what may be but a sacrifice to self, and not to the Saviour,—yet the gift of a cup of cold water to a disciple for the sake of the Master, will suffice to open the doors of heaven, because affording evidence of the heart which loves Jesus, and for which heaven has been prepared. "Come, ye blessed of my Father! Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of my disciples, ye have done it unto me!" "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ; let him be accursed!"
We need not add that we have assumed that the persons thus judged have had full opportunities of knowing and serving Jesus as their Lord.
RESULTS OF JUDGMENT.
What shall the results be of such a searching, impartial, and conclusive investigation into the history of mankind? Some of these we may, perhaps, be permitted to anticipate.
The proceedings of the day of judgment will answer all the accusations of Christ's enemies.
The government of Jesus Christ is hated and opposed here. This fact, alas! in human history, cannot be denied. We do not speak of Satan and his angels, who war against the Lord, nor even of His unconscious foes among the heathen; but only of those men who possess the Bible, and all the means of knowing the will of their Divine King. Yet how many among them are His open and avowed enemies. There is not one feature of His character which men do not blaspheme,—not one act of His government at which they do not cavil. He is alleged to be unrighteous in His commands; unfair in His treatment of mankind; unwise in His arrangements; unfaithful in His words; and even vindictive, unmerciful, implacable in His judgments, and in no respect worthy of man's love and obedience. Jesus of Nazareth—believed in by the Church, known and loved by all its living members—is still "despised and rejected of men." Nor are His enemies ashamed to speak out their thoughts, and openly to scorn and ridicule Him; asserting that He has no right to govern them or the world,—and thus "denying the Lord that bought them." Now, as on the day of His crucifixion, a rabble of all ranks, talents, and professions, cry, "Away with this fellow;" while they demand in His stead some Barabbas "hero" of their own to worship. There is often manifested an opposition to Christianity which assumes the aspect of personal hatred. We do not at all allude in these pages to the sincere, reverential man, who doubts, questions, argues, opposes, sifts, denies, rejects, while endeavouring, with an honest mind, to discover and believe the truth, whatever that may be; nor to the sadness of spirit of one who wishes "the glad tidings" to be true, but cannot arrive at a conclusion so desirable for his own good and peace, as well as for that of society; nor to the effects of a peculiar constitutional temperament which has a tendency first to doubt and invest everything with darkness, and then endeavours in vain to dispel what itself creates. But when we speak of infidels and unbelievers, we speak of ungodly men who dislike the truth of God, and who manifest this dislike in their triumph when any supposed error in the life or the doctrines of Jesus Christ is detected, or any evil (for which He is held responsible) is exposed in His followers, and who keep an ample mantle of charity for those who disbelieve, but none for those who believe in Jesus Christ as their only Saviour.
This opposition to the government of God through Jesus Christ has not been a temporary outburst by a few only. The kingdom of Satan has existed here since the fall of man, side by side with Christ's kingdom, and opposed it in every age and clime. The kingdom of holiness and peace has never entered the soul of any living man, without first meeting, and then overcoming, enmity and ill-will by the power of truth and love. It has never entered a single country on the surface of the globe without terrible combats being fought again and again, in which the best soldiers and noblest subjects of the Great King have "had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonments." "We will not have the Lord to reign over us!" has been everywhere the awful battle-cry; and the conflict rages now as fiercely as it did in any age of the world! Nor, moreover, has this opposition been given by uncivilised savages; but men of knowledge and of genius have dedicated all the powers of their mind to the dread task of ridding the world of the Redeemer's sceptre. What they have thought, they have spoken; what they have spoken, they have written and recorded in books, that their influence might extend beyond their own immediate circle and their own time, and that other nations and other generations might know what they thought of the Saviour,—how sincerely they themselves despised and rejected Him, and desired all others to do the same. What is every infidel publication but an accusation against Jesus Christ, a protest against His government, and an attempt to rouse the world to join in the rebellion? "They take counsel together against the Lord and his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us!"
And this hatred to Christ will continue till the end of the world: for we read, that "in the last days will come scoffers." Nay, it is quite possible that accusations against Him are, and shall be, maintained by the wicked up till the very hour of judgment. For, even as the criminal before his trial will feed his pride, and soothe his conscience, by denying every charge alleged against him, or by blaming every one but himself; so it may be that the wicked, after death, will continue to cast the blame upon the Saviour, for all they are and have been, even when they can no longer doubt the reality of His existence or government.
And will Jesus ever answer those accusations? Why should He? you perhaps exclaim. His character, you say, cannot be affected in the estimation of the good by anything which the enemies of all righteousness can urge against it. His throne can no more be shaken by the puny attacks of men or devils than the everlasting mountains can be disturbed by the storm-blasts which howl around them. What more, then, is needed, than to shut up the wicked in a prison-house, through whose adamantine walls the accusing cry can never pierce, and whose doors are for ever barred by the holy decree of the Almighty? Ah! were it so, even this thought might possibly gratify pride and enmity, could a condemned, though not judged spirit for ever carry with it a conviction of having waged a war in which power alone had conquered weakness, and might trampled upon right; and that all its charges remained unanswered and unanswerable! But let no one presume upon this. It is true that Jesus Christ now, as when on earth He stood before His enemies, "answers nothing." Do not misunderstand this awful silence! You "marvel greatly" that He works no miracle to satisfy your doubts, or you deny His power of doing so, and therefore you imagine, that because He replies not to your accusations, He either hears them not, cares not for them, or cannot meet them. But be assured, a day is appointed when the question between you and Him will be fairly tried. Unbelievers of all ranks, and whatever be their ability, will have an opportunity of re-stating their case, and of proving the truth of their accusations—if they can. Let none suppose that Jesus will shrink from such an investigation. Every utterance is reported for review at judgment; every book is kept for that day. It is not the method of the divine government to put down its enemies by mere physical power, as if the question between God and man was indeed one of strength and weakness, and not rather of right and wrong. The Lord will indeed answer his enemies; but He will do so by the irresistible power of truth, and the omnipotent force of righteousness. He will crush and overwhelm them; but it will be in their own conscience, and in their own estimation. He will expel them from whatever refuge of lies they may vainly attempt to seek for shelter, and expose them to the full blaze of principle, until their inmost souls echo the dread sentence of "GUILTY," which must be pronounced upon them, while they stand "speechless" amidst the assembled universe, and before the omniscient and holy Judge of all the earth. "He is coming with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to CONVINCE all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their HARD SPEECHES which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him!"
Do we address one who is a professed unbeliever in the truth, or rather, who "believes a lie,"—that there is no Saviour? We ask such a one to consider what the certain, or even probable consequences will be to him, if all we have said is nevertheless true? What if you shall see Jesus Christ face to face, and have your whole outer and inner history, as it is known to God, minutely revealed to your own mind, and to the assembled jury of the universe? Will your thinking, or saying, that the whole is a fiction, make it so? Will your scoff at God's revelation of the future prevent the dead from rising, or the Judge from appearing? Will a foolish jest, or a proud callousness, or a subtle argument, or a brave indifference to what others fear, enable you, on the resurrection morning, to shut your ears against the sound of the last trump, or to disobey the summons of the Son of God to rise from the tomb, and to appear before Him? And if no unbelief can change the will of God, or make that false which He proclaims to be true, nor alter His prescribed order in things to come, no more than it can do His present order in the starry heavens,—what can you say to Jesus Christ in your own defence? How can you, in consistency with His Word, so justify your own opinions and conduct, as to make it possible for Him to say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of thy Lord?" But, blessed be God! the same Word of truth which condemns the sinner, and shuts out all hope of safety to him, while in his state of unbelief and ungodliness, invites him, and commands him, to come out of that state, and to share the life which is in Christ for every man. We cannot repeat it too often that Jesus offers immediate pardon and life through faith in His blood, to the chief of sinners—to the oldest and most bitter enemy which He has upon earth! Jesus offers His Spirit to every man, to enlighten his understanding, renew his will, and spiritualise his taste and affections, and shed abroad the love of God in his heart; so that even thou, whoever thou art, mayest yet love, and be loved by, Jesus Christ and His saints for ever and ever! "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and THOU shalt be saved!" But should His long-suffering patience, and abundant mercy, and rich love, fail to gain your heart,—should you "prefer darkness to light," and "remain in unbelief," and live and die without Him,—how can you escape? Is it not righteous that you should walk in the darkness which you love, and be separated from your Saviour and His people, whom you dislike, and be permitted "to eat of the fruit of your own way, and be filled with your own devices?" On "the great and terrible day of the Lord," you will, alas! be "convinced" that the sentence pronounced upon you by the Saviour, of "Depart from me!" is but an echo of what your own heart is now saying to Him! Hear, I beseech you, the words of warning which God now addresses to you, in order that you may, in time, "flee from the wrath to come!" "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," (Heb. x. 26-31.)
But let us further inquire, What shall be its results with reference to the righteous?
1. The righteous will then fully understand the excellence of Christ's government over themselves.
How profoundly mysterious, as yet, to ourselves, is our own individual history! If we attempt to gather up the past, and to trace the whole way along which we have journeyed, with the innumerable windings of the path, and all the dark valleys through which it has led, the rugged places it has passed over, or the many lofty hills up which it has ascended,—how endless, how perplexing does it appear! If, again, we try to measure the various powers which have helped to make us what we are, or to weigh the number and relative importance of all the things which have combined to produce the present result of character within, and of circumstances without us,—how soon are we lost amidst the mass of the infinite items which make up the sum of even our little history. How inadequate are all our attempts to solve the problems without number which every year suggests. Why, for example, has this or that happened? Wherefore this sorrow or that joy?—why such changes of place or of fortune?—why the loss of old friends or the gift of new ones?—why—But the questions are endless, and never can be answered till judgment. It is true, that we are often privileged to see very clearly the reason of many of Christ's dealings with us here. He shews us His ways as well as His acts—treating us as "friends" who "know what their Lord doeth." The wheel of Providence often makes its revolutions in so short a period that we see the whole movement. It was thus in the case of Abraham. The mystery of God's command was resolved after three days on Mount Moriah. Thus, too, the darkness of family grief and of a distant Saviour, which brooded over the household of Bethany, was dispelled, and vanished before bright sunshine, at the cry, "Lazarus, come forth!" But it is not always thus; and though it would be so more frequently if we waited more patiently upon God and considered His ways, yet, at best, but a small fraction of our life is understood here. Moreover, our own history is so interlaced with the history of others, that what is more properly theirs, in some degree is ours also. Can Moses, for instance, yet fully comprehend his own life in its relation to the Jewish nation, whose fate is still involved in darkness? Can any one of the saints of old, whose deeds and words are recorded in God's Book, and are telling every day and hour upon the history of mankind, and must continue to do so till time shall be no more, comprehend what they really have done on earth? Must not the end of all things come before they understand the place and the work their Lord assigned to them? And so is it with the humblest believer. He is a part of a great whole; and to understand how Jesus has governed Himself as a part, he must be able to see his own life in relation to the great whole. But each Christian who has walked by faith, and held fast his confidence in Christ, will then also have revealed how the Lord has governed him, and all that He has done to him and for him, and what He has enabled him to be and to do on earth. The sackcloth and ashes of every patient Job will be turned into garments of praise; and the lamentations of every mourning Jeremiah into songs of gladness: and in adoring wonder and unutterable joy, every head will be bowed down, every crown cast at Christ's feet, and every heart will feel, and mouth confess, "He hath done all things well!" What an amazing disclosure will this be of the wisdom and love with which our gracious Lord has assigned to each servant his lot,—given to each "his work," and so prepared all things for him in the world, and so made all things work together for his good, that "the fruit has been holiness, and the end everlasting life!"
2. But the Christian will also behold at judgment the excellence of Christ's government over others, and over the whole world.
If we are such mysteries to ourselves, and if we cannot as yet truly write our own biographies, how much more perplexing to us is the personal history of any other in his relation to the Redeemer! How impossible to discover the reasons of all, or of any, of Christ's providential dealings with him, or to read aright any one day in his life! Was it possible for Job's friends to interpret, at the time, Job's sufferings? God alone could have corrected Jacob when, in the dark night of his sorrow, yet just before the daybreak of his joy in Egypt, he cried, "Joseph is not, Simeon is not, and will ye take Benjamin away?—all these things are against me!" Daniel in the lions' den, or the three young men in the furnace, with a wicked king in peace upon the throne; John the Baptist in the dungeon, with Herod in the banquet hall; Stephen falling asleep beneath the shower of cruel stones, and Saul gazing complacently at the murderers' clothes laid at his feet:—these, and a thousand other such incidents in human history, are, to beholders, involved in a portion of that darkness which hung over the cross of Christ itself, at the time, a mystery of mysteries to all who witnessed its agonies! But when, from the history of persons, we rise to the contemplation of the history of cities, countries, and nations; or ascend to a still higher region in order to take in, if possible, the history of the human race from age to age; and to comprehend what Jesus Christ has done for it, and how He has governed it,—how much more profound is the darkness! If, for instance, we endeavour to form any estimate of the effect which has been produced upon the character and destiny of mankind by the present structure of the physical earth, with its mountains, seas, rivers, winds, and climate—the house which Jesus Christ has built and furnished for His creatures; by the famines and pestilences, wars and conquests, migrations and settlements, arising out of circumstances more or less controlling man, and beyond his will; as well as by all that has come, as it were, directly from Jesus, through His Church, from Eden till this present hour;—how infinite to us is the field of observation! "O the depth of the riches both of the knowledge and wisdom of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" We gaze upon those majestic wheels of His providence, some of which take whole cycles to revolve, and "their wings are so high, that they are dreadful!" It is so, for example, with the history of Israel, which, commencing with Abraham, when earth was young, four thousand years ago, is still moving on as a distinct stream flowing amidst the waters of the great ocean, yet never mingling with them, though nearing the unfathomable gulf where all is still.
But "what we know not now, we shall know hereafter," upon the great "day of the revelation of Jesus Christ," when, in the light of unerring truth, the history of each man, and of the whole race, will be seen, and for the first time understood. "Now we know in part, but then we shall know even as we are known." Every question which here perplexes or pains the thoughtful and conscientious inquirer, will be fully answered. The secret and hitherto hidden springs of actions will be laid bare, and their remotest results disclosed. We shall apprehend the real life—the true philosophy—of history. Then will the government of Jesus Christ over the whole family of man, and every individual member of it, be seen—what it has always by His Church believed—to have been one of righteousness, wisdom, and love.
3. Need I add, as the last grand result of judgment, that the Triune God will be glorified?
God the Father will be glorified! The prayer of Christ shall then be fulfilled: "Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee!" The doxology of the apostle will be realised: "To him be glory by the Church through Christ Jesus throughout all ages!" That glory will be seen in His having committed the government of the world to Jesus Christ. Then will be understood, as it never was before, how "God so loved the world in giving His only-begotten Son" to be its Creator and Governor, and the Prophet, Priest, and King of His Church.
God the Son will be glorified! Every event and act in His great mediatorial kingdom will shew the grandeur of His character. The whole world's history will be as a mirror, full of the light of this Sun of Righteousness,—reflecting the greatness of His power, the depths of His wisdom, the beauty of His holiness, and the riches of His grace. He will "be glorified, too, in His saints." Each believer will not only be a living monument of what Christ has done, but, as a child of God, will also be in his character an image of what Christ the first-born is!
God the Spirit will be glorified when the results are made manifest of all He has done for and in the Church, and of all which men have received from this Teacher, Sanctifier, and Comforter! If many will have cause to mourn upon that day because they have resisted and grieved Him by their wilful impenitency and wickedness, what a multitude, greater than any man can number, will adore Him for the spiritual ignorance in the ways of God which He dispelled,—the all-sufficient strength for duty and trial, for life and death, which He imparted,—the holy love which He shed abroad upon their hearts,—the good fruit which by His aid they produced in their lives,—the calm peace which He gave to their consciences,—the prayers heard and answered by God which He prompted,—and the joy unspeakable to which He often raised their souls!
Thus will the proceedings of the great day of judgment, without one single exception, reveal to the intelligent universe the glory of God,—Father, Son, and Spirit,—as displayed in the government of the world through Jesus Christ.
Oh, how can we form an adequate conception of the overpowering effect which the revelations of this eventful period in the history of the universe must necessarily produce upon the saints and just men made perfect, and upon the innumerable company of angels, who, with intense interest and profound intelligence, watch the proceedings before the immaculate throne of the Son of man! As age after age passes in solemn review, and as each succeeding era, beneath the light of investigation, emerges out of the darkness in which it had hitherto been wrapped,—as city after city, and kingdom after kingdom, from their early beginnings, onwards through centuries of advancement in power and influence, till their final silence in the dust, are all reproduced in their living reality,—we may conceive how the awful interest in the world's trial must deepen itself in every bosom, and intelligent eyes must gleam with a brighter intelligence, and admiring souls burn with a profounder and holier admiration, as they are enabled to perceive how, over all this earth, to them hitherto so dark and cloudy, Jesus had ever reigned with unclouded splendour, as the sun reigns in the calm heavens, and pours down his beams of light from a region far above the tempestuous sky. And we can, in some degree, conceive how their lips should ever and anon give birth to accents of heartfelt praise, as a deep moral order and beauty are seen growing up, evolving out of the chaos of history, even as a holy temple might rear itself from what seemed to the eye of sense to be the very "lines of confusion, and stones of emptiness." We can imagine, too, when this long day of wondrous disclosures is about to terminate, and its sun to set for ever over the old order of things, how the joy of this great assemblage should reach at last its climax, and have a fulness of glory in it never before experienced; until, as judgment ended, and the whole government of their blessed Lord was disclosed, their sense of the grandeur and infinite majesty of His character and ways should be such as to call forth from ten thousand times ten thousand ecstatic souls, as the grand verdict of the universe, those bursts of praise: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest."
Such are a few of the more obvious results of a day of judgment. But who will dare to deny that these may possibly be extended to other worlds and other orders of beings, and be made influential for the good and happiness of the universe throughout limitless ages, and be the means of impressing unfallen yet peaceable creatures, with a more profound sense of the glory of God and the unchangeableness of His government? We ourselves possess an experience somewhat analogous to this, in the fact of God's righteous dealings with another order of beings—the fallen angels—having been revealed to us for our instruction and warning; and thus, for aught we know, the transactions of the coming day of judgment may, in whole or in part, form such a living record of God's government by Jesus Christ, as may be revealed to millions, of whose existence and circumstances we are as yet ignorant, and be to them for ever as a great Bible, for their warning, comfort, and instruction in righteousness.
We have now brought our thoughts upon "judgment" to a conclusion. May they suggest others more worthy of the theme to all who may peruse them! We have tried to view it in the light of Scripture statement; yet feeling deeply conscious of how dimly and inadequately we perceive and judge of the awful future; of God's relationship to the human family; and of the manner in which the only wise and merciful God will apply the eternal principles of justice (which is but love dealing with sin) to the infinite varieties of human character, or to the circumstances of each human being. Questions innumerable suggest themselves, which we cannot answer now, but which will be answered then, regarding the heathen, and regarding millions who have lived and died without knowing or loving Jesus Christ; doubtless we shall all then be amazed at our own ignorance and sin, and overwhelmed by the majestic glory and excellence of God in Christ. But whatever the results of that day may be, one thing is certain, that they will afford satisfaction and joy unutterable to just and good men, yea, to every human being who has any real sympathy with Him whose "name is Love!"
But let us never forget that every day of our lives is a day of judgment, in which Christ is searching our hearts and judging our lives, condemning the evil and blessing the good, and seeking to separate the one from the other. If we are able to welcome Him as our judge and deliverer in our present day, we shall be able to do so also on "the last day."
I conclude with these words:—
"For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men."
"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him because he first loved us."
"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do."
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
THOUGHTS UPON FUTURE LIFE.
It is obviously impossible to treat a subject so vast and so profoundly interesting as this within the limits of a Parish Paper, except in the most cursory and superficial manner. Yet I am induced to make the attempt, in order, if possible, to impress my readers with such ideas of our life in heaven as are more in accordance with the nature of man and the Word of God, than, I am inclined to think, obtain among many sincere Christians, who accordingly are deprived of encouragements in duty, comforts in sorrow, and bright hopes to cheer them amid the world's darkness, which they might otherwise possess.
Let us inquire, then, in what shall consist the believer's happiness in God's presence.
Now, it will greatly aid us in answering this question regarding our true life in eternity, if we first consider what constitutes our true life in time, or what would constitute our perfect happiness now, if in the full enjoyment of all our mental and bodily powers, and if, in the best possible circumstances, we perfectly fulfilled upon earth God's purpose in our creation.
In endeavouring to solve this question, I remark that our perfection consists in the gratification of every part of our many-sided nature. Thus, for instance, enjoyment might be derived through our senses, though the intellect was comparatively weak, and our moral being depraved; or from the exercise of our intellectual or spiritual nature, while the body suffered from pain: or delight might be poured through all those channels, but yet if we were doomed to be solitary beings, without any companion or friend with whom to communicate or share our gladness, or were prevented from expressing our thoughts and desires by action, the result in either of these supposed cases would not be perfect happiness. But, on the other hand, if we can imagine a man with his whole nature in a state of perfect health, each portion demanding and obtaining its appropriate nourishment, and with all his powers beautifully balanced and in perfect harmony with the plan of God, "according to the effectual working of the measure in every part,"—the senses ministering to the most refined tastes,—the intellect full of light in the apprehension of truth, and strong in its discovery,—the moral being possessing perfect holiness and unerring subjection to the will of God,—the love of society able to rest upon fitting objects, and to find a fall return for its sympathies in suitable companionships, while ample scope was afforded for activity by congenial labour;—then would such a state be perfection or fulness of joy in God's presence here below. I do not, of course, allege that every part of our being has the same capacity to afford us joy, or that the flood can pour itself into the soul with the same fulness through each of these channels, as if, for instance, we depended in the same degree for enjoyment upon our sentient as we do upon our intellectual or moral nature. All I mean to assert is, that whatever proportion may come through each, God has so made us, that perfect joy is derived only through all. Such is man's actual constitution as he came from the hands of his Maker; and such would have been his happiness had he remained unfallen. Placed, as Adam was, in a material world so rich in sources of physical happiness, with an intellect capable of unlocking the countless treasures of science,—with a nature pure and spotless, delighting in the excellent God,—with society begun with woman as a helpmeet for him, and with the active labour required "to dress and keep" his earthly paradise,—he possessed, in such perfect adaptations, a heaven upon earth. And had perfect man been translated to another region, we cannot conceive his joy thereby to become essentially different in kind, though different in degree, supposing him to remain the same being, and to possess the same human nature. Now, man's fall has not altered this principle. Sin is a perversion of human nature, not its annihilation; a disorder of its powers, not their destruction. Nor is restoration by Jesus Christ the gift of a different constitution, as if He made us something else than human beings, but the renovation of the old constitution after its original type. It is making the "old man," diseased, bent down, paralysed, deaf, blind, the "new man," with frame erect, limbs strong, eyes and ears open, and all his powers fresh and vigorous for immortality; and, therefore, that which would constitute the happiness of man were he perfect on earth, will be his happiness, though in a higher degree, when he is made perfect in heaven. This supposition, I repeat, only assumes the fact that we shall be the same persons for ever; that human nature will never cease to be human nature, or be changed into a different species of existence, no more than Jesus Christ, the Head of His Church, will ever cease to be what He is—"the man Christ Jesus," with a human body and a human soul, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
There is another way in which I might describe the nature of our future life, although I shall base my remarks on the principles now stated. We must admit that the perfection of our being is fellowship with God the Father in the possession of that spirit of son-ship which was revealed in Jesus Christ the Son of God and the Son of man. This, and this alone, must insure fellowship with Him in His character and joy. We shall consequently rejoice in all that He rejoices in—as far as this is possible for creatures. Thus, if He rejoices in the glory of His own Being, as Father, Son, and Spirit, so shall we; if He rejoices in all His works, so shall we; if He rejoices in what He does, in what He knows, in what He purposes, so shall we; if He rejoices in the communion of holy and happy men and angels, so shall we. In one word, if "our chief end is to glorify God," when that end is fulfilled, we shall "enjoy Him for ever." And this was our Saviour's prayer when He said, "The glory Thou hast given me I have given them, that we may be one!"
But as those two lines of thought would lead practically to the same conclusion, it seems to me that the nature of our future life will be best understood by most of my readers if I endeavour to shew "what we shall be," according to the arrangement already proposed.
Let us, then, meditate on the glorious supply which God has provided for filling up every part of this our complex nature in heaven.
OUR PHYSICAL LIFE IN HEAVEN.
Speaking of the materialism of heaven, Dr Chalmers truly says:—"The common imagination that many have of paradise on the other side of death, is that of a lofty, aerial region where the inmates float on ether, or are mysteriously suspended upon nothing; where all the warm and felt accompaniments which give such an expression of strength, and life, and colour to our present habitation, are attenuated into a sort of spiritual element, that is meagre, and imperceptible, and wholly uninviting to the eye of mortals here below; where every vestige of materialism is done away with, and nothing left but certain unearthly scenes that have no power of allurement, and certain unearthly ecstasies with which it is impossible to sympathise," The sensitiveness with which many thus shrink from almost alluding to the physical element of enjoyment in heaven, because it is unworthy to be compared with the spiritual glory that is to be revealed, arises, no doubt, from the half suspicion that there is some necessary connexion between materialism and sin; thus forgetting that the body, and the outward world which ministers to it, are God's handiworks as well as the soul; and that it is He himself who has adjusted their relative workings. And surely it is quite unnecessary to remind you at any length how exquisitely God has fashioned our physical frame, as the medium of communication with the outer material world. The nostrils inhale the sweet perfumes which scent the breezy air, and rise as incense from the flowers that cover the earth. By the eye the soul perceives the glories of the summer sky, and searches for its midnight stars; recognises splendour of colour, and beauty of form; gazes on the outspread landscape of fertile field and hoary mountain, of stream, forest, ocean, and island; and contemplates that world of profounder interest still, the human countenance, of beloved parent, child, or friend, strong with the power of elevated thought, sublime with the grandeur of moral character, or bright with all the sunshine of winning emotion. The ear, too, is the magic instrument which conveys to the soul all the varied harmonies of sound, from the choirs of spring, and the other innumerable minstrelsies of nature, as well as from the higher art of man, that soothe, elevate, and solemnise. It is true, indeed, that there are grosser appetites of the body which many pervert so as to enslave the spirit; thus abusing by gluttony, drunkenness, and every form of sensuality, what God the merciful and wise has intrusted to man to be used for wise and merciful ends. But even here there is already perceptible a marked difference between those appetites and the more refined tastes alluded to; inasmuch as the former are found in their abuse to be, strictly speaking, unnatural, and destructive of man's happiness; and even in their legitimate use they decay with advancing years, thus proving that the stamp of time is upon them as on things belonging to a temporary economy; whereas such tastes as those that enjoy the beautiful in nature or in art, for example, abide in old age with a youthful freshness, and more than a youthful niceness of discernment; and so afford a presumption that they are destined for immortality. To the aged saint "the trees clap their hands, the little hills rejoice, and the mountains break forth into singing;" and when the earth is empty of every other sentient pleasure, it is in the beauty of its sights and sounds, still full to him of the glory of his God.
And so must it be for ever! The glorified saint is not "unclothed," but "clothed upon." He inhabits "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The future body is called a "spiritual body" to express, I presume, its pure and immortal essence; for though it will be somehow related to the present body,—as the risen is related to the sown grain which has perished through corruption,—it must be changed into a new and higher form. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." "We shall all be changed." "He shall change our vile bodies, and fashion them like to His own glorious body." It is in this new body, once sown in weakness, corruption, and mortality, but raised at length in power, incorruption, and immortality, no more to suffer, and no more to die, that we shall tread upon the new earth, gaze on the new heavens, and walk in the paradise of our God.
And who can tell what sources of refined enjoyment, through the medium of the spiritual body, are in store for us in God's great palace of art, with its endless mansions and endless displays of glory! Well may we say of such anticipated pleasures what good Izaak Walton says of the singing of birds: "Lord, if Thou hast provided such music for sinners on earth, what hast Thou in store for Thy saints in heaven!" For if this little spot of earth is full of scenes of loveliness to us inexhaustible; if, contemplating these in a body buoyant with health and strength, we feel it is joy even to live and breathe; and if when, seeing God in them all, the expression of praise rises to the lips, "Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches!"—oh, what visions of glory may be spread before the wondering eye throughout the vast extent of the material universe, comprehending those immense worlds which twinkle only in the field of the largest telescope, and vanish into the far distance in endless succession; and what sounds may greet the ear from the as yet unheard music of those spheres; while, for aught we know, other means of communication may be opened up to us, with objects ministering delight to new tastes; and sources of sentient enjoyment discovered which do not exist here, or elude the perception of our present senses. Add to all this our deliverance from those physical evils and defects which are now the causes of so much pain, and clog so terribly the aspiring soul. For how affected are we by the slightest disorganisation of our bodily frame! A disturbance in some of the finer parts of its machinery, which no science can discover or rectify; a delicate fibre shadowed by a cloud passing over the sun; or a nerve chilled by a lowering of the temperature of the atmosphere, will tell on the most genial temper, relax the strongest intellect, and dim the brightest imagination; while other physical causes, quite as mysterious, can make reason reel and lunacy become ascendant. The very infirmities of old age; the constant toil required to satisfy our cravings for food and raiment; the wounds and bruises the body receives, and which agonise it, and the deformity which so often disfigures it, cramping the spirit within a narrow and iron prison-house—these form a terrible deduction from that joy which we are capable of deriving even now through the medium of our physical organisation. Such evils cannot here be rectified. They are the immediate, or more remote consequences of man's iniquity; and under Christ belong to that education by which bodily suffering is made the means of disciplining the soul for immortality. But in the new heavens and the new earth the body will no longer experience fatigue in labour, or be subject to hurtful influences from the elements, nor ever grow old; but be glorious and beautiful as the risen body of Jesus Christ! "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." I wonder not, indeed, that Paul should exclaim along with those who had the first-fruits of the Spirit, "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body."
With these bright hopes let us who are now alive seek to glorify God in the body which is to be glorified together with Christ. "The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" "Know ye not that your bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost? If any man defile that temple, him will God destroy." "When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth." Let us honour the body as a holy thing; and beware how we put the chains of slavery upon it, or from our selfishness expose it to hunger and nakedness. Let us endeavour even to make art, that ministers to our sense of the beautiful, minister also to our sense of the true and good; and ever speak to us of God as seen in His works; or in "His ways among the children of men." And finally, as we contemplate the body of a departed saint, let us behold it in the light of this revelation. Let the grave in which it lies no longer be associated in our thoughts with the worm and corruption only, and with all the sad memorials and revolting symbols of mortality. Let the voice of Him who is the resurrection and the life be heard in the breeze that bends the grass which waves over it, and His quickening energy be seen in the beauteous sun which shines upon it; and while we hear the cry, "Dust to dust," let us remember that the "very dust to Him is dear;" and that when He appears in His glory, He will repair and rebuild that ruined temple, and fashion it in glory and in beauty like His own!
OUR INTELLECTUAL LIFE.
Let us consider the joy which God has provided for our intellects during our immortal life in heaven.
There are many dear saints of God who have little sympathy with those who associate happiness with the pursuit or possession of intellectual truth. These persons, perhaps, have had themselves such weak intellectual capacities, as made the acquisition of knowledge impossible for them beyond its simplest elements; or their minds have been stunted in early years from want of education; or in the providence of God they have been made "hewers of wood and drawers of water," rather than intellectual princes among the people. Yet let none of us who are so ignorant, and who as yet think and speak like children, be discouraged by a conscious sense of our weak intellectual grasp and scanty information; but rather rejoice with Christ in the dispensation by which God reveals Himself not to talent but to goodness; not to the giant intellect but to the babe-like spirit: "I thank thee, O Father, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes!"
God has, nevertheless, made the acquisition of truth by the intellect a source of supreme delight. You well know how every field in nature has been searched, and every quarter of the globe ransacked, and many days and nights of patient intellectual toil consumed by men who have endured incredible labour, supported by no other motive than their love of knowledge. The immediate joy which is experienced by a great discoverer when a new fact or truth flashes on his mind is to others almost inconceivable. We read that when Newton, after years of difficulty, was just about to step on the summit of that mountain from which he knew he was to hear such intellectual music as never before had sounded in the mind of man, and to catch a glimpse of the hitherto unseen glory of that new ocean of truth which he alone had reached,—for
"He was the first that ever burst Into that silent sea!"—
his joy was so great that he was overcome by his emotions, and wept! This passion of acquiring knowledge is not the least remarkable fact recorded of Solomon. We are told that "he spake of trees, and of beasts, and of creeping things." He himself says of God, "He hath made things beautiful in time: also He hath put it into man's heart to survey the world, and to find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end." "When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun; because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it." There was in all this no doubt "vanity and vexation of spirit," for the attempt was vain to find satisfaction for the soul in the knowledge of things themselves apart from the knowledge of a personal God, or in any truth rather than in Him who is true. And therefore many, perceiving how intellect is often allied to ungodliness, and fails of itself to insure either goodness or happiness, are disposed to refuse to it the high place which God has assigned to it in the soul, and to suspect the reality of the exalted delight which He has designed His saints and angels to enjoy in its exercise. But while the deifiers of mere intellect are ever reminded that it alone cannot deify, but may be abused so as to demonise man, yet let those who slight it remember also that it is the head without whose inventive genius or directing skill the strong arms of labour would be idle. Let the man of material wealth or material power recollect that it is the wealth of science and the power of mind, possessed perhaps by unknown and lonely students who have all their lifetime been struggling to obtain their daily bread, and to snatch "the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table," which have created our manufactures, filled our warehouses, crossed our oceans, healed our diseases, and reared the fabric of law and government.
And God, who has made the intellect the source of delight to the individual, and of good to society here, will surely perfect it hereafter. Whatever its capacity may be, it shall then be filled to its utmost limit; and be characterised by a clearness, vigour, and precision, unknown here to the greatest thinkers. All barriers to its progress shall be removed, which were occasioned here by the mortal body, the poor culture, the little time, the few opportunities, the weak or sinful prejudices; so that the poorest saint will shine there as the sun in its strength! And with this increased power of knowing, how inconceivably increased must be our sources of knowledge; how boundless is the field which supplies them; how inexhaustible the treasures it contains; how unlimited the time for gathering them; how helpful the society that will sympathise with and join in our pursuits! No one surely imagines that on entering heaven we can at once obtain perfect knowledge—perfect, I mean, not in the sense of accuracy, but of fully possessing all that can be known. This is possible for Deity only. For it may be asserted with confidence that Gabriel knows more to-day than he knew yesterday. Nor is it difficult for us to conceive how, throughout eternity, and revelling with freedom throughout God's universe, we may be occupied by the contemplation of new and endless displays of the inexhaustible wisdom and power of God in His works; and see more and more into the life of all things; and continually read new volumes of that great book of nature and of truth, whose first letters we are now learning with difficulty to spell. And could we ever succeed in gathering together the present treasures of all worlds, why may not new and varied creations for ever renew the universe, and grander displays be made of the glory and majesty of the Creator? Besides all this, must not the ways of God, as well as His works, and the wonders of His moral government, extending over all His creatures, and over all worlds, and throughout all ages, afford inexhaustible subjects wherewith to exercise the intellect of man? Is not every truth, too, with which we are already acquainted linked to another and a higher truth? And if so, when shall we reach the end of that awful chain which is in the hand of God? But though for ever we shall thus dive deeper and deeper into the divine mind, never, never can we sound its unfathomable depths. Though we shall ascend for ever from one intellectual height to another in the eternal range of thought, we shall approach, yet never reach, that unseen throne on which is seated the I Am, the Comprehender of all truth, the Solver of all mysteries, but who Himself, though known, because revealed to us in His eternal Son and loved as our Father, must ever, as the absolute One, be the mystery incomprehensible!
From the few glimpses which we obtain in Scripture of angelic life, we may infer that the understanding of the works and ways of God forms no small part of its joy. We read of the sons of God crowding round the earth, and we hear those morning stars singing for joy, as they behold the commencement of this new theatre of wonders added to those with which they were already acquainted. I doubt not that these high intelligences watched with intensest interest the progress of the world's formation, and beheld order and beauty growing out of chaotic darkness and confusion, and during the incalculable ages of the past, before man himself appeared upon the scene, gazed with wonder on the successive creations of animal and vegetable life, whose remains we now see buried in their rocky sepulchres. We know, too, the deeper interest which the angelic host have taken in this world since it became the abode of man. They are acquainted with all its inhabitants, and have seen the mystery of God's providence here unfolding itself from age to age. A great multitude of them hovered over the hills of Bethlehem at that great era when "unto us a Child was born, and unto us a Saviour was given, who was Christ the Lord;" and in sympathy with God and man they ascribed "glory to God in the highest," because of the "peace" which was proclaimed to earth, and of the "good-will" which was expressed towards man. We know also how they have taken an active share under Jesus the King, in advancing the affairs of His kingdom, both by punishing the wicked, and ministering to the heirs of salvation. And to put it beyond a doubt that scope is given even here for the exercise of the intellect of the angels, we are distinctly informed that all the marvellous history now proceeding in this world had a direct reference in its original design to their progressive education: "For God created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto principalities and powers might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." There are indeed things even here "which angels desire to look into!"