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He will discharge the judicial function, who is a partaker of the nature which will be arraigned at the bar; who, having suffered humiliation, disgrace and death in the prosecution of His work as the Savior of men, will have His claims vindicated and His glory illustrated by presiding at the last assize; who, having, in accordance with the eternal counsels of the Godhead, conducted all of the previous stages of redemption, will perform the last, decisive act by which the economy of grace will be closed.
He, who promulgated the law on Mount Sinai, who expounded the law on the Mount of Beatitudes, who fulfilled the law on Mount Calvary, who administers the law on Mount Zion, and who will execute the law on the Mount of final judgment,-He it is, who lifts the awful curtain hanging between us and the everlasting future, and lets in light upon the throne of justice and the procedures of the day of doom. The Judge himself ascertains us beforehand of what we are to expect. It is a striking consideration, that the passage, from which the text is extracted, furnishes a particular account of the order and the steps which will obtain in the final trial that is to stamp the complexion of our destiny-the most minute description of the judicial process which is contained in the Bible. It deserves the most careful scrutiny, for it meets and satisfies the strong craving of our minds for knowledge of the future, and at the same time renders inexcusable our ignorance of the manner in which we will be dealt with in the great judicial day.
Nor can it fail at once to arrest our attention, that the order which, as we are informed, will be pursued, is the inverse of that adopted in human courts; so far as their decisions are not merely grounded in the arbi
trary will of ar autocratic despot. In them, in consequence of human ignorance, the testimony is first taken, in order that the innocence or guilt of the party at the bar may be collected from the investigation of the facts in the case, and then the sentence is pronounced. But in that final court, the Judge will first pronounce the sentences, "Come, ye blessed," or "Depart, ye cursed," and then will Himself adduce the testimony which will manifest the justice of His decisions.
From the nature of the case, no one can be tried by his peers, for all will be equally impleaded before the bar-all will be on trial. Nor can it be requisite that a preliminary investigation of facts should be instituted, for, the Judge is alike omniscient and infinitely righteous. All the facts are perfectly known to Him, and the justice of the findings will be admitted and enforced by the consciousness of every individual at the bar. What there may be of momentary dissent or protest will instantly be dissipated by the incontrovertible testimony which the Judge Himself will proceed to adduce.
The passage before us, and concurrent utterances of the Word of God, assure us that men will be judged according to their works. "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." "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." It is of the very last consequence that just here we should make no mistake. Reason would convince us, and the Scriptures definitely
declare, that no transgressor of the divine law can be justified on the ground of his own works. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." There has been but one doer of the law, in order to justification. Christ, as the divinely appointed substitute of sinners, has completely obeyed it both as to its precept and its penalty; and his vicarious righteousness, received by faith, constitutes the only ground of acceptance with God, either in this world or at the judgment-bar. When, therefore, the Bible asserts that men shall be judged according to their works the meaning is, not that they will be pronounced in the great day to be justified and acquitted on the ground of, or on account of, their works. The meaning is, that the works of the righteous will furnish the evidence that they are justified on the ground of, or on account of, Christ's merits; and that they possess a character, which makes them meet for the enjoyment of God's presence and the fel lowship of heaven. The case of the unbelieving wicked is different. They will be condemned on the ground of their works, as not only intrinsically blameworthy, but as furnishing the evidence that they had rejected the merits of Christ as the ground of their acceptance, and that they possess a character which makes them deserving of banishment from the presence of God and from the glory of His power. They will be judged not only according to, but on account of, their works. I beseech you, brethren, to commit no blunder in this matter, for it must entail disastrous consequences upon your eternal interests.
The question now springs up and challenges attention, What sort of works are those which Christ tells us will afford the evidence of the justice of the judicial
sentences? The answer is, works of charity; and it is an answer which merits our maturest consideration.
Let us, first, notice the singularly conspicuous place which will be assigned to offices of charity in the inquisition of the last, great day. Turning to those on His right hand, the King will utter the thrilling words, "Come, ye blessed!" But why? What title have they to such a welcome? Does the King say, Ye were just, ye were true, ye were faithful, ye were temperate, ye were orthodox, ye adhered to my church in life, and ye died in its communion? No. All that may be involved in the character of those whom He will approve and receive amidst the solemnities of that day. But He does not say that He will signalize those traits. What will the King say to the righteous? Ye fed the hungry, ye gave drink to the thirsty, ye entertained the stranger, ye clothed the naked, ye visited the sick and those who were in prison. What a marvellous preeminence will be accorded to charity in the last day! Surely it cannot be that the other Christian graces are not worthy to be mentioned on that day, but it is that charity is more worthy of distinction than they. "And now," says the apostle Paul, "abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity." Great is faith. Is it not the grace which unites us to Christ as a Savior? Is it not the victory that overcometh the world? Did not the ancient heroes of Christ's cause on earth triumph by faith over every difficulty, and vanquish every foe? Did they not live by faith, and was it not by faith they died? Great is hope. Does it not sustain us under life's burdens, animate us for its conflicts, cheer us amidst its afflictions, comfort us as we walk through the valley of the deathshade, and make the darkness of the dying hour blush
with the morning light of heaven? Yea. Great is faith, and great is hope, but the distinction of charity is that it is greater even than they. Noble grace! It is the chief feature in that image of God which the divine Spirit stamps upon the regenerated soul. The very expression of unselfishness, it asks nothing and gives everything. The most useful of all the virtues, it leads its possessor to live for the good of others. It is emphatically the grace which contemplates the duties relating us to this present world of sin and wretchedness, while faith and hope are aspiring to the rewards of the future. It is content to hang upon a cross, while they are looking for a crown. Itself destined to chief honor in the day when the fire of an impartial judgment will try all pretensions to virtue, and calcine to ashes all the gauds and pomps of merely human and civil works, it is unconscious of its own value, and will be surprised at its recognition by the final judge. Entitled to the palm in the sisterhood of divine graces, it will modestly disown all claim to it, and shrink from its bestowal. Heavenly charity! its hand, which was opened to every plea of human want, will put back tne amaranth of eternal honor which will be placed upon its head with the sanction of the Godhead, and amidst the thunders of angelic acclamations; while its human beneficiaries-the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, now relieved from every earthly woe, stand ready to escort it to the gates of glory and welcome it to the abodes of bliss. Such is the distinction that will be conferred upon this grace of Charity, which in itself gentle, humble, selfrenouncing, will ultimately be crowned as the impersonation in human form of the genius of Christianity! Such the honor that will be, amidst the solemnities of