The GOSPEL TRUTH
THE SHAM JUDGMENT IN CONTRAST WITH THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
THE SHAM JUDGMENT
MANY people dislike the very sound of the word judgment. They have abandoned, as far as they can, any belief in a judgment to come, and they ignore as uncharitable and severe any expression of judgment as to the doings and characters of individuals in the present; but somehow the instincts of humanity are too strong for them, and these very people find themselves, in spite of their theories, pronouncing judgment both on themselves and others every day of their lives.
God has reared a judgment seat in every man's conscience, which in some slight measure answers to, and prefigures the sentence which He declares He will pronounce on every man's action, whether it be good or bad.
Then if there be a great Judge of all, and a standard of right and wrong which He has set up, it must be of supreme importance that we should correctly understand what this standard is, and that we should judge of the conduct of ourselves and of those around us according to it. Surely nothing could be more deceptive and soul-ruining than to accept as correct any short of the one unalterable and eternal standard of righteousness and truth which He has laid down; and yet, alas! Popular Christianity distinguishes itself by nothing more than by a systematic misrepresentation of right and wrong, calling evil good and good evil. Just as in the days of Christ the spirit and essence of the law of God was set aside and made of no effect by traditional interpretations of the letter, so in our time interpretations and expositions, in direct antagonism to the plainest words of Christ, are palmed upon the world by many of the official representatives of Christianity, who back up their false tenets by quotations from "the word," separated from their explanatory connections, and made to sanction views and practices the very opposite to the mind and intention of their Divine Author.
In pointing out as plainly as I am able a few of these misrepresentations, I know only too well I shall lay myself open to criticism, and that I may even ran the risk of wounding some hearts that I would fain cheer. But the vital importance of the subject will not permit me to pass it over lightly.
First: "Judge not that ye be not judged" is one of the favourite texts of popular Christianity, which is interpreted to mean that we are on no account to form an opinion of the rightness or wrongness of anybody's conduct. Under the specious guise of charity, faith and unbelief, obedience to God and disobedience, sin and holiness, are to be confounded in one indiscriminate hodgepodge, and their actors and abettors treated exactly alike, making no separation between the precious and the vile.
This spurious charity is pushed to such an extent that even the man who has pledged himself to preach certain doctrines, and who is actually employed as the agent of a Church for so doing, is not to be condemned if his "riper judgment" should lead him to renounce those doctrines; while at the same time he holds fast the salary and position with which he was entrusted in view of his original engagement.
On the same principle we are asked to allow that people who never go to a place of worship or bow their knees in prayer may be as good and faithful servants of God as any others. We are told that perhaps they are carrying out "the Divine will in a spirit of true devotion to duty," that working is praying, and that a man's belief bounds his responsibility, and so forth.
"We are all aiming at the same thing" is a favourite way of expressing this popular Christianity, which just suits the ideas of drunkards, adulterers, and liars, as well as of shallow professors. To declare positively that people are sinners, condemned already, and on their way to hell, is accounted as "uncharitable judging," "really dreadful," and no one, we are told, can possibly be justified in coming to such a conclusion.
All this we could understand perfectly, coming from the camps of infidelity or from the haunts of vice; but to find it passed off in connection with the name and teachings of Jesus Christ is monstrous indeed. What a sham to worship Him who declares Himself to be THE Way, the Truth, and the Life, if there be no certain way, no definable difference between the true and the false, no practical separation between the Christ life and the life without Christ! Surely it is high time for all who care about the reign of Christ on the earth to make up their minds to one thing or the other. If Christ be our Master, let us learn His lessons, and abide by His rule, and obey His commands. If, on the other hand, some are unwilling to see any difference between the narrow and the broad road, between those who are in the kingdom of God or out of it, who are with Christ or against Him, let them be honest enough to declare openly that they have no Christ and will have no prophet but "Society."
Another text which might be taken as setting forth a very favourite theory of modern Christianity is that in which Paul personified the struggles of a convicted but unsaved soul: "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." We are all to look upon ourselves as "poor, incapable, fallible creatures," and this assumed humility is to absolve us from all condemnation, on account either of doing evil or neglecting to do good. Instead of condemning ourselves or others, when convicted of some flagrant wrong or manifest inconsistency, we are to look upon it as only what might have been expected. How often have I heard people say, with regard to some man holding an official position of great responsibility in the Church, "Well, he does not do this, that, or the other (whatever may be the duty in question) as he might; but, you know, he can't do everything." Such an apology as this would be beautiful in the extreme, applied to those who are known to be earnestly and faithfully striving to do their share for the extension of the kingdom of God; but when applied, as I have generally heard it, to what every one knows to be a systematic and inexcusable neglect of everyday duty, it is no more nor less than a wholesale cloaking of sin. But, friends, whatever you do, never allow your minds for a moment to trifle with questions of duty, for nothing can be more fatal to either body or soul than to give way to the theory that one really cannot be expected to do what one ought.
How differently people treat this question of doing their duty in commercial matters. Imagine the business man who cannot attend to all his customers, or who thinks it unnecessary to keep his place of business open all the week and every week. What would von think of a servant who should consider it unreasonable to get up at the proper time every morning, or carry out your wishes in matters in which her views differed from yours? How long could society hang together if this looseness of thought as to what we ought and ought not to do were permitted to enter into the sphere of every day life? But alas, alas! How much more ruinous is this looseness when it relates to our great spiritual duties towards God and our fellow creatures. Either you ought or you ought not always to pray and not to faint-to learn and to do the will of God, to care for perishing souls, to warn, counsel, and help those around you; and what applies to you applies to all who take upon them the name of Christ in any way whatever. We should never, on any account, allow ourselves to excuse any neglect of God and duty, because such neglect is all but universal, but we should look at things as they are, and in the light of the judgment throne; and when we see conduct worthy of condemnation, condemn it, and be determined to separate ourselves in heart and life from evil practices, however much respected they may be, and to take our stand on the side of duty and of God at all costs.
I tell you honestly that I have turned away numberless times of late years, and with almost despairing disgust, from audiences of what would be called intelligent Christians, that is to say, persons who talk and act upon an intelligent view of any imaginable subject, except that of Christian duty. How often do I hear the remark, "We know things are not as they should be," from people who have not the slightest intention of striving in any way to make things better, and who would not, on any account, incur the odium of expressing any condemnation on that neglect of religious duty which they profess so much to deplore. Away with this unmanly, unwomanly cowardice. We have the light; let us come to it in order to see whether our deeds, and the deeds of those around us who profess to be "working for God," are wrought in Him. We can, by God's grace, do our duty, if we will. As we tried to show in a former lecture, Christ came on purpose to empower us to do it; but let those who will not have such a doctrine and such a Christ, but who prefer to accept the miserable theories of impotency, which would not be tolerated for a moment in the kitchen, the shop, or the exchange. Let them at least save Christ from the indignity of having such helpless, incapable creatures called by His name, and professing to be His followers. He says with respect to all such, "Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?"
"But the Lord looks at the heart," is another of the pet doctrines of popular Christianity.
True, terribly true in the right sense, for God is not to be mocked with lip service or the formality of worship in which the heart has no share, but false, ruinously false, when it means, as it generally does, that all sorts of wrong may be passed over and excused, if people only say they mean to do right.
I rejoice beyond all expression in the precious thought of the Lord's long suffering and tender mercy towards those who sit in darkness; and if we were living in the centre of Africa, where people have been trained only to fear and worship some hideous imaginary power of evil, if we had absolutely no spirit of truth, and no word of light to hear or to read, no knowledge of God or a Saviour, it might be admissible to consider everybody right who meant right; but even those in this country who are most sceptical as to Divine revelation cannot pretend to be in any such position as this, much less people who profess to call themselves Christians. Is there anybody here taking refuge in this hollow subterfuge? Friend, let me ask you, did you really worship and serve God last Sunday? Had you any convictions as to what He wished you to do, not only on that day but throughout the following week? If so, have you acted on them, have you honestly tried to carry them out? If not, do not, I beseech you, try to pacify your conscience with any silly nonsense about the Lord looking at the heart. He has plainly told us over and over again in the New Testament, and in the very last book of it, that He will judge every man according to his works, and, moreover, He has laid down the same rule of judgment for us. "By their fruits ye shall know them." "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous." I fear there are thousands of professed Christians excusing themselves from the performance of the most manifest duty by this excuse; for instance, when a prayer meeting is announced, there are a certain number of people who make an effort to be present, but a much larger number of so-called Christians who deliberately choose to keep away. It is quite allowable to apply the doctrine of the Lord's looking at the heart to the poor mother who would fain be there, were she not detained by the inexorable claims of half a dozen little children; but to cloak over with the same excuse, the constant indifference, nay, positive irreligious, in the great majority, is only to refuse to come to the light because it would condemn you. People who mean well, where there is no physical impossibility in the way, do well; but those who fail to do well, will fare ill when the great reckoning day comes. Further, I charge it upon popular Christianity, even when it does pay some tribute to the truth with regard to character, by recognising here and there what it calls an "excellent man," or a "noble woman," that when you come to examine into the meaning of these phrases, they are, in many instances, utterly misleading. Most generally the persons thus eulogised are distinguished, rather for the lack of those peculiar characteristics set forth by Christ and His apostles as of supreme importance, than by the possession of them. Just try to call up a person so distinguished within your own knowledge, and ask yourself how they have earned their title. To begin with, do they excel in prayer, or are they in most cases persons who were never known to pray in public, or, at any rate, without being specially called upon to do so? Or, are they renowned for praying by the bedsides of the sick, or even with their own families in the privacy of their own homes? Do these persons excel in faith, shown by their works in the way of bold, straightforward testimony for God, or in daring, unpopular enterprises for the salvation of men? or are they generally silent both in public and private, giving no personal testimony as to their knowledge of Christ, and carefully abstaining from any outward demonstration on His behalf, which would bring them into discredit with their neighbours? Probably they do excel in what is called charity; but is not this generally due to the fact that they are much richer than others, and only out of their enormous abundance do they contribute occasionally large sums for Christian or philanthropic objects. What a name may be acquired in modern Christendom by the judicious use of a few hundred pounds per year, without so much as speaking a kind word to a brother or sister in need, or denying yourself a moment's ease or a single luxury! Is it not notorious that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it is simply the possession of a certain amount of wealth which gives a man or woman his or her grade in religious as well as in civil society, and that people chosen for and entrusted with leading positions in churches, are simply those who have the best houses of their own? By-and-by their splendid coffins will be pompously deposited in the family vault, and you will be told that they "maintained an unblemished character for many years;" that is to say, they neither got drunk, blasphemed, committed robbery, nor picked anybody's pocket. They lived in society in such a style as made them welcome in the circles of semi-worldliness everywhere. Their linen and their dresses were unblemished, for they never turned aside, like their Divine Master, into any of the soiling habitations of the poor and the wretched, nor mingled amongst such mobs as continually jostled Him all the way through life. Their names were always mentioned with honour, for they took care never to let them be used in connection with any enterprise, even on behalf of Jesus Christ, which was not considered "quite the thing."
Do not misunderstand me. I am very far from wishing to pour contempt upon such persons, for without them what would become of the churches and of benevolent enterprises generally? I do not question that many of these individuals have at one time or other been converted, and might have become true saints, had they been faithfully dealt with; but alas! They have, to a great extent, been made the victims of that sham judgment which now selects them as its standard-bearers. Of many of them, I doubt not, it might be written, were Jesus Christ again amongst us, and were they brought in contact with Him, that He looked upon them and loved them, notwithstanding all their worldliness and pride of position. But what I want to point out is, that such persons are not distinguished by popular Christianity for the peculiarly Christ-like traits in their characters, but for the possession and use of a long purse. This exaltation of mere morality with money stamps modern Christianity as an unjust judge, and it will be fatal to your views of what Christ demands of you, if you accept its model men and women as the representatives of Christian excellence.
Fifth: As I have before remarked, there has come over society of late quite a fever of professed benevolence towards the poor; and yet, in connection with this very pleasing awakening to the existence of millions of miserable people, we have another striking illustration of the sham judgment of modern Christendom. "Those wretched, filthy people" are simply the poorer classes, who are compelled by their poverty to herd together by families in small rooms, surrounding perhaps a court-yard full of oyster-shells and other refuse, at which society--and Christian society, too--turns up its nose, and declares that the people breathe an "atmosphere of moral pollution." Perfectly true; there is an atmosphere of moral pollution present in these dark alleys and horrible dens, to which people are driven by thousands, that others may have plenty of room in which to carry out their ideas of civilisation; but to eyes that look at things in the light of God, I say there is an atmosphere of moral pollution, not a whit less dangerous, and far more blameworthy, in very different circles.
Is it not notorious that multitudes of people amongst what are called the higher classes deliberately denude themselves of ordinary clothing, and then go in a half-dressed condition, with every addition of ornament that can be conceived, to insure that they shall be noticed and admired, to large places of public amusement? Is there not a growing disposition in Christian circles to look upon it as perfectly harmless for Christian families, including often those of ministers, to spend hours together, dressed in the way I have described, at parties, balls, and other entertainments, frequently given within the precincts of some consecrated building, or in order to raise money for church purposes? Now, I ask, how it comes to pass that the poor are spoken of as herding together without regard for decency, under the circumstances of necessity which I have described; while the herding together of the rich and well-to-do in this voluntary indecency should be regarded with complacency and described as refined and genteel! That such is the judgment of modern Christendom can only be attributed to one fact--the power of the purse; and that the Churches should in the main devote their attention to the well-to-do classes, while they regard the masses of the people as a kind of outside element, to be operated upon by separate agencies, as a few missionaries and Bible-women, is, I contend, a crying scandal to the Saviour's name. The judgment of Jesus Christ led Him to spend most of His time herding with fishermen, with publicans and sinners. Their language might often be very violent and bad, and their home life simply scandalous; but the Son of God preferred to make His bed in a fishing-boat, and to sit talking with that infamous woman of Samaria, rather than to hobnob with the religious swelldom of Jerusalem, the outside of whose cup and platter would have passed muster with modern Christianity, whilst their lives were full of hypocrisy and unrighteousness.
Sixth: "The brutal tastes of the lower orders" is another pet phrase of modern Christendom.
It represents the idea that for a poor man, who has to keep himself and his family on a few shillings per week by hard labour, which takes away all inclination towards study or more exalted pursuits, it is a brutal taste to like to have a quart of fourpenny beer as often as his scanty means will allow. It is a brutal taste to take pleasure in seeing two men fight each other, with their fists inflicting in the course of half an hour many hard knocks and bruises; and it is a still more brutal taste which leads men to train animals to fight each other, and to take pleasure in seeing them do so. Now I perfectly concur in the denunciation of all these evils, from which God is enabling the Salvation Army to rescue multitudes of these poor, so-called "brutal fellows;" but let us turn the light of truth upon the Christian society which shrugs its shoulders in horror at the mere description of these men who get drunk and beat their wives; the Christian society whose refined taste leads it to have as little intercourse as possible with these lower orders.
What sort of taste is it, which, in the presence of the existing state of things among the poor, spends not fourpence but four shillings, and double and treble that sum on a single bottle of wine for the jovial entertainment of a few friends, and from twenty to forty pounds for a dinner to be swallowed by a dozen or two of people! I maintain that no splendid furniture, no well-trained and liveried servants, no costly pictures or display of finery or jewels, can redeem such a scene, viewed in the light of the teachings of Christ, from being worthy of being called "brutal," and all the more brutal because it is delighted in by persons whose intelligence and knowledge of the awful state of things in the world around them must make them fully aware of the good that might be done with the money which they thus lavish upon their lusts.
Let me take you to another scene. Here is His Grace, the Duke of Rackrent, and the Right Honourable Woman Seducer, Fitz-Shameless; and the gallant Colonel Swearer, with half the aristocracy of a county, male and female, mounted on horses worth hundreds of pounds each, and which have been bred and trained at a cost of hundreds more, and what for? "This splendid field" are waiting whilst a poor little timid animal is let loose from confinement and permitted to fly in terror from its strange surroundings. Observe the delight of all the gentlemen and noble ladies when a whole pack of strong dogs is let loose in pursuit, and then behold the noble chase. The regiment of well-mounted cavalry and the pack of hounds all charge at full gallop after the poor frightened little creature. It will be a great disappointment if by any means it should escape, or be killed within as short a time as an hour. The sport will be excellent in proportion to the time during which the poor thing's agony is prolonged, and the number of miles it is able to run in terror of its life. Brutality! I tell you, that in my judgment, at any rate, you can find nothing in the vilest back slums, more utterly, more deliberately, more savagely cruel than all that; and yet this is a comparatively small thing. One of the greatest employments of every Christian government and community is to train thousands of men, not to fight with their fists only, in the way of inflicting a few passing sores, but with weapons capable, it may be, of killing human beings at the rate of so many per minute. It is quite a "scientific taste" to study how to destroy a large vessel with several hundreds of men on board instantaneously. Talk of brutality! Is there anything half as brutal as this within the whole range of rowdyism? But against all this, modern Christianity, which professes to believe the teaching of Him who taught us not to resist evil, but to love our enemies, and to treat with the utmost benevolence hostile nations, has nothing to say. All the devilish animosity, hard-hearted cruelty, and harrowing consequences of modern warfare, are not only sanctioned but held up as an indispensable necessity of civilised life, and in times of war, patronized and prayed for in our churches and chapels, with as much impudent assurance as though Jesus Christ had taught, "But I say unto you, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and, return evil for evil, hate your enemies and pursue them with all the diabolical appliances of destruction which the devil can enable you to invent." Alas, alas! Is it not too patent for intelligent contradiction that the most detestable and brutal thing in the judgment of popular Christianity is not brutality, cruelty, or injustice, but poverty and vulgarity? With plenty of money you may pile up your life with iniquities, and yet be blamed, if blamed at all, only in the mildest terms, whereas one flagrant act of sin in a poor and illiterate person is enough to stamp him, with the majority of professing Christians, as a creature from whom they would rather keep at a distance. I had an amusing corroboration of this the other day from one of my younger daughters who had been visiting a poor criminal in one of our large prisons. She said to one of the officers in attendance, "I suppose you do not often have rich people in here?" He replied, "No, miss, we very seldom get anybody but poor folks," and on her replying, "No, I am afraid it is because you do not look out so sharply for them," he remarked to a fellow officer, "If she's all there."
Seventh: Further, "the criminal classes" is another of the cant phrases of modern Christianity, which thus brands every poor lad who steals, because he is hungry, but stands, hat in hand, before the rich man whose trade is well known to be a system of wholesale cheatery.
It is never convenient for ministers or responsible churchwardens or deacons to ask how Mr. Money-maker gets the golden sovereigns or crisp notes which look so well in the collection. He may be the most "accursed sweater" who ever waxed fat on that murderous cheap needlework system, which is slowly destroying the bodies and mining the souls of thousands of poor women, both in this and other "civilised" countries. He may keep scores of employees standing wearily sixteen hours per day behind the counter, across which they dare not speak the truth, and on salaries so small that all hope of marriage and home is denied to them. Or he may trade in some damning thing which robs men of all that is good in this world and all hope for the next, such as opium or intoxicating drinks; but if you were simple enough to suppose that modern Christianity would object to him on account of any of these things, in fact, that you were alluding to such as he, in the phrase "criminal classes,"--how respectable Christians would open their eyes, and, in fact, suspect that you had recently made your escape from some lunatic asylum, and ought to be hastened back there as soon as possible. If any one should dare to cast any reflections upon any of these Christian money-makers, the representatives of their churches would say, "Hush, hush, my dear, Mr. So-and-so is the great man at our place, you know; they would be glad enough of him at the church opposite, but he likes our minister, and we mean to propose him as a deacon at the next church meeting." So the wholesale and successful thief is glossed over and called by all manner of respectable names by the representatives of a bastard Christianity. It is ready enough to cry, "Stop, thief," when some poor fellow who has been out of work for perhaps months, gets desperate at the sight of children crying for bread, and makes a bungling attempt at getting what is not his own in order to satisfy them; or when it hears that such men, left helplessly to their own devices, take to living together, and bringing up a generation of thieves, it cries out vigorously against the criminals. Sure, it may suggest a mission to them, and even set about it in a helpless patronising sort of way, wondering if really it is of any use to try to help "such men," as though they were of different flesh and blood to themselves. Verily such Christianity is of different blood from Him who preferred talking to a thief in His own last moments, to holding conversation with any priest or white-washed temple worshipper standing around. The man who hung by His side was a great ruffian, no doubt, but then he had been trained in that way; and if we want the judgment of Jesus Christ on such a point, He would certainly give it against the pet of modern Christianity, and in favour of this poor rough. The man whom Jesus Christ consigned to a hopeless perdition was he who made long prayers, and at the same time devoured widows' houses; or whose barns were filled with plenty while Lazarus lay covered with sores at his gates.
On no point does the sham judgment of popular Christianity appear more startlingly in contrast with that of Jesus Christ, than on the every-day question of honesty. It knows that its rich tradesmen are so dishonest in their modes of carrying on their business, that if some poor fellow comes out of prison, determined to do right and earn his bread honestly, we know scarcely any with whom we dare entrust him, and with whom he would not be tempted to break his resolution, by being asked to tell business lies, or perform business tricks, which to his "unchristianised" intelligence is only another mode of thieving; but Christianity goes on, with virtuous breath declaring that the poor and found-out thieves are criminals, while the rich and secret scoundrels are the valued supporters of her institutions.
Further: "Desecrating the Sabbath" is another virtuous-sounding phrase, which is accepted as the expression of a very reverential religion. So it should be, but here the sham judgment comes in again! What is desecrating the Sabbath? Well, it is not dressing up in fabulously costly clothes (sometimes unpaid for) as near in fabric, style, and fashion as can be to those worn in the very vilest services of sin. It is not to lie in bed consuming the early hours of the day, and then to flaunt in this array to one short service, as an exhibition of self and respectability, spending the remainder of the "sacred day" in an easy chair with the last new book. This is Sabbath keeping, even though to carry it out comfortably, servants may have to work over an elaborate dinner, or the turning out of a luxuriant equipage. Then what is "desecrating?" Well, go and spend next Sunday evening in Mr. Easy's mansion, and he will show you. You will not have an unpleasant time, that is, if your notions agree with his. He will give you a splendid meal, and then you will be allowed to lounge on one of his soft couches, while your host tells you spicy stories about the popular ministers of his denomination, or his daughter will play to you some "sacred" music on the piano or the harp. Fire and lamp-light will gleam softly, and thick curtains shut out the night, about which some one will occasionally remark that it is "awful weather."
Presently a harsh, discordant sound is heard, like shouting and singing with some brass instrumental music all mixed up; and if you looked out you would see a little handful of men and women, wet and mudstained, nearly exhausted in the struggle with rain and storm, and the half rough, half good-natured crowd, who have been allured out of yonder alley, and are now going, swearing, pushing, rolling along, in a fashion of their own, to a little room, or a low music-hall, where these tambourine players and the rest do congregate. Your host will jump up with an annoyed air, and exclaim with great emphasis, "Desecrating the Sabbath, that is what I call it!" and he will go on to expound his views until you understand that it is a Sabbath breaking for those poor folks to have made a noise in the street, even though they were only doing what David and Jesus Christ insisted was to be done--praising God with a loud voice, and confessing Him before all men. For, "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" or "Glory! hallelujah!" certainly had rung clearly out above the din with almost tragic earnestness. You will learn that your host's son and daughter have kept the Sabbath by singing in the church choir, although you see them later on, the one reading a novel, the other strolling out of the house with a cigar and a hint about returning with the latch-key. Now I charge it upon popular Christianity that its professors know all the miserable desecration which lies under the whole modern keeping of the day, and yet have not courage to condemn, but keep their blame for some effort to serve the Lord which they deem vulgar and distasteful. Modern Christendom gives its judgment in favour of the hollow, conventional sacredness of the performance of the dressed-up choir, whose very manner and countenance often betray the irreligion and frivolity of their hearts, and which neither wins the souls of sinners nor stirs the souls of saints; but reserves its strongest censure for the unscientific, rough-and-ready brass band, which empties the public-houses and gets sinners saved by scores and hundreds.
Further: "The Sanctuary," according to modern Christian theories, is a "holy place," and yet a place where no one must speak of being now and actually holy! In fact, it is a place where scarcely anybody except the minister may say a word to or for God; where such a scene as that recorded in I Cor. xiv. 23-31 would be counted the highest fanaticism, and next door to blasphemy. I have heard of a congregation being actually thrown into dismay by the cry to God for mercy of some poor sinner who had been previously convicted, and gone to that chapel in the hope of finding the way of salvation; but he had a near escape of being ejected by the beadle <parish officer>. Better everybody refrain their feet from going to these modern sanctuaries, than have a crowd of rough, needy sinners really wanting light and needing to be brought to repentance and salvation. "Keep silence before me," says modern Christian society, and not a word is breathed to hurt its feelings. It is a literal fact that in these modern sanctuaries any manifestation of the LIVING GOD is the last thing expected or desired. Imagine the scare and horror of excitement and the intense surprise if He came, as He did once in an upper room, with His baptism of fire, in the middle of one of these quiet and soothing services next Sunday morning! There would be a quicker and more precipitous exit of many of the professed worshippers than there was from the temple when He drove them out with a scourge of small cords. The great work nearest to His heart--the gathering in of the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind, or the victims of sin, debauchery, and crime, the thieves and the harlots--is the very last thing desired and expected in these modern sanctuaries. That He should speak in what is called His own "house" is the last thing arranged for. Alas, alas! Do not these facts prove that these are the temples of Mammon, of respectability, of miserable, hollow, Pharisaic profession, where all manner of ungodliness is glossed over by what answers to the tithing of mint, anise, and cummin? and yet Christianity baptizes these temples with her name, and holds up to ridicule and contempt the open-air ring, where poor, simple, but devout and consecrated people, plead with God to speak, and try to make the world hear His message.
Further: "He is much to be condemned!"
Never, as we have shown, because he is taking it too easy; never because he is enjoying a thousand a year, and letting men go on in sin undisturbed; never because he makes no straightforward, bold confession of Christ, or takes not up the cross to follow Him; never because he does not deny himself even the luxuries indulged by others in his "position," in order that he may push on the interests of the kingdom of God in the world!! "But he is much to be condemned" who gets into trouble, into a row, as it is politely termed, for Christ's sake. Modern Christians ask with bated breath, "Why ever should he have gone and stirred up the moral cesspools all around him, filling the atmosphere with `moral pollution'? How could he be so quixotic and fanatical as to expect to make things better where the bishops and clergy, and all the most influential good people of the day, had long decided that it was better left alone? We really cannot pity him," say these modern Christians, "if he is set upon and traduced and persecuted by all the libertines and whoremongers of the age; we fear that he is seeking notoriety, and posing to be a martyr!!" And thus this bastard Christianity adds its ban to the curses of God's enemies on the man who has not done well for himself, but who has dared to stand up for the poor and helpless, for broken-hearted mothers and fathers, and for the innocent and infant victims of the devils of lust and villainy, incarnate in the persons of rich debauchees. Modern Christianity has got rid to a great extent of damnation, but it can damn right vigorously in its own fashion all those who "go to extremes." It can pour its half-pitying, half-sneering contempt upon ignorant, blundering fishermen or mechanics, but who, nevertheless, love God and souls, and believe in heaven and hell, and who really exercise self-denial and take trouble in order to serve God and save men. If such men go to prison to win some point for God and liberty of conscience, these Christians say in their drawing-rooms, in their magazines and newspapers "Ah, they are trying to become notorious!
They are zealous of being thought martyrs!" And thus they join hands, as of old, with those who stood around the cross and wagged their heads, and said, "He saved others, Himself He cannot save;" and they can pronounce this judgment with such a pious, ex cathedra air that many simple men accept it as really the judgment of Christ's body on earth, instead of the hollow, sham verdict of modern Pharisees.
In conclusion, let me repeat that if my words seem to condemn the great majority of the representatives of Christianity around us, it is with sincere grief that I admit it. Would to God there were few localities, few churches, and few ministers to which my remarks could be applied! But if there be not few but many, I cannot help it. I appeal to you whether I have spoken more than the truth; and I speak it in love to you who wish to hear and to obey it in the love of it. I would gladly forbear to speak out thus, I have forborne for long, and have frequently felt condemned in so doing, and it is only because I see the utter hopelessness of any improvement, of any recurrence to the simplicity and purity of the gospel, without an utter abandonment of the false and hollow judgment of modern Christianity with respect to the matters we have been reviewing, that I venture to speak thus. I would fain hope that some of you may be induced to forsake every refuge of lies which has been reared around you, and to abandon all the false standards of faith and practice to which I have alluded, and open your hearts and ears to listen to the voice that never changes, but which in all ages alike tells men of a just judgment to come. We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; and it will be no excuse for us there that we were surrounded by false witnesses, sham lights, and an openly received system of hypocrisy. God has shown us His beloved Moses, Daniels, Nehemiahs, Jeremiahs, Pauls, Johns, and numberless other worthies, standing out gloriously alone in the midst of a Pagan society, full of refined and splendid iniquity, and standing out ever more Divine, when all around were "weighed in the balances and found wanting." You have but the old choice to make; may God enable you to make it, and to stand out for God and righteousness against all around you.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT WHITE THRONE.
As we remarked in the first part of this lecture, the innate convictions of humanity are too strong for the successful annihilation of a dread of coming judgment. It seems to have been the universal opinion of the wisest and best of the human race that there ought to be a judgment. The continual miscarriage of justice in this world, and the unequal distribution of its goods and enjoyments; its false standard of right and wrong; its unjust and sham judgments, to which we have already alluded, have seemed to drive it in upon the reason of all thoughtful beings that there must come a settling day.
The unavenged wrongs of multitudes of the poor and the oppressed; of millions of slaves; of poor, helpless children; of tens of thousands of poor, broken-hearted girls, mere children, who have been wrecked of virtue and happiness through the vice of those double or treble their age, and who were fully awake to the consequences of their conduct; wrongs such as these, and multitudes of others, all unjudged and unrequited in this world, seem to demand some future retribution. The unpunished sins of multitudes who have flourished in their lives and gone in triumph to their graves, who floated to their positions of eminence, fame, and luxury through the tears and blood of widows, orphans, and others, down-trodden by their greed and power, cry from the ground, as did the blood of Abel, for avenging justice.
Methinks if we could face this guilty crowd and compel them to speak, they would be obliged to say, "Yes, during our lives we violated all law and justice, won the applause of men and the pleasures and honours in which we revelled by means of the sorrows and sufferings of our fellows; but no strong arm stayed our progress, no tongue denounced our villainies, no power punished our crimes; we lived and fattened, and died with the approbation, nay, applause, of men ringing in our ears; and after death we were praised and flattered on tablets of marble, in newspapers and biographies, as though we had been the excellent of the earth. We know that we are of the devil; we expect and are waiting for the judgment."
Further, the common-sense of humanity perceives that human lives are all unfinished at the grave, and require some appendix, some explanation. If you found a book with the story all unfinished, the villains and seducers all unpunished, and the poor, down-trodden slaves unavenged, the wronged and helpless people undelivered, you would feel that there must be another volume somewhere. So, when life breaks up, with almost all men there are so many things and doings and feelings all unfinished, that you might write on every grave-stone, "To be continued in the next world." It is as if the tree were blighted at its bloom; as if the life were sapped at its source; as if the flood were turned back at its tide.
But, as we have already noted, there is a judgment already begun here and now. The same Divinity is at work in this world who will reign and operate in the next, and He is working on precisely the same principles. The moral government of this world is going on under the shadow, so to speak, of the great white throne. The shadow of that tribunal is reflected on all the tribunals and transactions of this earth.
Formerly, when the judges visited the provincial towns, there used to be a sort of public entry. The legal civic dignitaries went forth to meet them and march in procession with them into the town, preceded by heralds with trumpets, announcing the coming of judgment for the wrong-doers of those towns. So God has His heralds abroad in the world, proclaiming that He is coming. These heralds are already gone forth; they are here to-day.
There is a herald in every man's heart, giving foretastes of what the judgment will be, pointing out and convicting him of sin.
Every transgressor of the Divine law stands condemned before his own judgment seat. Conscience pronounces sentence on him according to his works, independently of all creeds and theories. A false gospel, under the auspices of popular Christianity, essays to set at nought this judgment, and to tell men that they are not to judge themselves according to their works, but according to their beliefs. But God's herald in them remorselessly holds up their sin, and points to coming retribution. Conscience asserts itself, and the man who has sinned knows, feels that he must be judged.
Further, not only does conscience convict of sin, but to a certain extent punishes sin, even here. What horrors men suffer from their guilty consciences, in spite of all their infidel reasonings and hopes. How many suicides will be found, like Judas, to have been driven to distraction by the remorse and anguish of realized guilt. Is not the fact that such suffering is the consequence of sin unquestionable evidence that so long as the soul continues to live and remain guilty, it must continue to suffer? If transgressors can find no comfort or deliverance from this tormenting sense of guilt in this world, on what principle can it be argued that they will find it in the next? If conscience is too strong for them here, what ground is there for supposing that they will rise superior to it in the future?
Secondly: God has a herald in society. We have wandered a long distance from God in these days, I admit, and as distance from the sun brings corresponding darkness and obliterates the distinctions between natural objects, so distance from God brings spiritual darkness and induces blindness to moral distinctions. Nevertheless, far as society has got away from God, and rotten as it largely is, still it has the herald trumpet blowing loudly enough to proclaim evil to be evil, and, being evil, to be amenable to judgment. And although many preachers of a false theology, under the patronage of popular Christianity, combine to persuade men and themselves that they will escape punishment, the very libertines, thieves, gamblers, and moral bankrupts of all descriptions, pronounce their judgment to be false, saying, "Hypocrites all of you, we know we are of the devil; his works we do, and we expect to go to hell."
I have no doubt that the great secret of the success of the Salvation Army with multitudes of the openly wicked and profane is that we go straight to their consciences, attacking their sins, making no excuse or palliation, but telling them as straight as Jesus Christ Himself told the sinners of His day, that, except they repent, forsake their sins, and turn to God, everlasting fire must be their portion. This gospel answers to the voice of conscience within; they know it is true, because it matches their most secret and powerful intuitions, whereas the popular gospel of this day, its judgment included, is the laughing-stock of hell; it dare neither damn the sinner nor sanctify the saint.
But we must now consider for a few minutes what the character of this judgment is to be, which is proclaimed alike by conscience, reason, and religion. And the BIBLE, after all, is the great authority. It meets us just where conscience and reason fail us, and responds to and corroborates the profoundest and most indestructible intuitions of humanity.
Here the Bible comes forward and proclaims the fact of a coming judgment in the most emphatic and unmistakable language, and describes the principles on which it is to be conducted, and the consequences which are to follow from it, with the utmost minuteness. I have avoided quoting texts more than I could help in former lectures, mainly because the number corroborative of each of my points would have been so overwhelming; but I must necessarily quote three or four passages here, and shall take them from the words of Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John, that in the mouth of three or four witnesses this truth may be established.
"The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John v. 28, 29).
"If 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: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. i. 7-9).
"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" (2 Cor. v. 10).
"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 Peter iii. 10).
"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" (Jude 6).
"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" (Rev. xx. 11, 12).
I accept that authority. That answers to the voice of my conscience. That satisfies the claims of my intellect. Here I perceive that God will avenge the wrongs, not only of His own elect, but of the fatherless, the widow, and the oppressed of all ages, and the cry of my soul for justice is met, my sense of outraged righteousness is appeased, my conscience pronounces,
"True and righteous art Thou, O King of saints!"
But people say, and a great many Christian people say in this day, "A good deal of the language in these and similar texts is figurative language." They do not like the doctrine; it is too definite, too particular, too inclusive for them; and so they try to explain it away. But supposing that some of the language were figurative, what then? What do you gain by making it out to be figurative? What are figures for? Surely no one will argue that the judgment, as pre-figured in the words of Jesus Christ and His apostles, will be less thorough, less scrutinising, less terrible than the figures used to set it forth! Therefore it does not matter whether these be figurative expressions or no, seeing that they are calculated to convey the most awful and tremendous ideas of the judgment which any figures could convey, which the wisdom of God could select.
Some of the objections which people bring against the literal fulfilment of these passages seem to me to be very weak.
They say, "Where could be the scene of such a judgment seat?" I answer, He who created the universe can surely make a platform big enough on which to judge the inhabitants of this little world. For aught we know, there may be one already erected. There may be a world of judgment going on, where the representatives of the Divine government are already at work, getting ready for the final sentence. We do not know.
Again, they say, "Look at the time it would require." But I say, He who has had patience to watch the long procession of man's iniquities through the ages of time will perhaps have patience to judge men on account of them! And as one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, be sure, sinner, He will take the time to investigate your case; you will not be missed out.
Note that this judgment is to be universal.
These passages and numberless others declare that the dead, small and great, shall stand before God, and that every knee shall bow before Him, and every tongue confess to Him. If God in some way will deal individually with every son and daughter of Adam, what does it signify where or by what method He does it, so that the end be secured? You and I will find our way from the spot, wherever it may be, to heaven or to hell, according to the sentence. Our destiny in the great eternity which follows will be settled by the sentence, not the method by which it is arrived at. The great matter to us is that "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." This is not the Old Testament. I have purposely confined my quotations to the New; this is the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, by which Paul declares God will "judge the secrets of men."
Not only will every man and woman be dealt with, but every character will be demonstrated, made manifest.
There will be no whited sepulchre business there, no make-believe sentimental salvation, no false gospel, with its creeds and phrases, no ceremonial salvation, but we shall all stand revealed as we are, black or white, good or bad, washed or unwashed, pure or impure.
What nonsense it is for people to talk of going down to death with their hearts full of iniquity, "as a cage of unclean birds "as some of them are so fond of quoting. If so, what effect will death have upon their moral nature! What cleansing stream will be opened by the Angel of Death? If you are not saved from sin before you come down to the Jordan of death, there is no virtue in its waters to wash you. There is only one cleansing medium for SOULS, and that is the blood of the Lamb; and you must get washed in life, if you want to pass muster at death and at the judgment seat.
People say, "Do you think the sins of the saints are going to be dragged out at the judgment seat?" No! not the sins of the saints, for they are cast behind His back; but the saints themselves are going to be dragged out. One great end of the judgment will be to decide who are the saints, and to show to the universe that Jesus was equal to the work He had undertaken, namely, to destroy in the hearts of His saints the works of the devil, and that He was strong enough to hold them up against all the temptations and allurements of sin, blameless unto that day; and now they are to be revealed and held up, not as dark, hollow, evil-hearted, hypocritical people, but as the saints of God, washed and saved and made clean and white, which you know means holy, in the blood of the Lamb. He will point all the devils in the universe to His saints; they will be His boast and glory, and manifest victory over the devil. The question of questions then will be, Are you a saint?
Further, every character is not only to be settled and demonstrated, but it is to be judged according to its deserts--"according to that he hath done."
He that knew his Master's will and did it not, is to be beaten with many stripes; while he who knew it not and did things worthy of stripes, is to be beaten with few. "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell."
We shall be judged according to our privileges, according to the light we have received, and the obedience we have rendered to it, not only outwardly, but inwardly; according to our rebellion or submission to God; according to our loyalty and obedience to Him, in our hearts as well as in our lives.
I am afraid many, even of those who are saved, will suffer great loss in that day. There will be a great deal of wood, hay, and stubble, instead of gold, silver, and precious stones. Oh, let us wake up in time to redeem the few remaining days of our lives. The past is irredeemable; it is gone, and its losses must remain for ever. The harvest which we might have gathered is lost, and God Himself cannot make up to us for that loss. We may have many tomorrows, but we shall never have over again a yesterday. Oh! friends, you who love Him will have to stand before His judgment seat to receive the things done in the body. What are you doing? Are you visiting His sick or in prison? Are you ministering unto Him when hungry or naked, in the persons of His poor? When He is cast out and traduced in the persons of His persecuted ones, are you showing your love to Him by standing up for His character and doing what you can to defend Him? Are you seeking after His lost sheep diligently until you find them, which means, you know, going after them where they are, however the thorns may prick your feet or the sun light on your head? Are you DOING these things? because, if not, don't expect Him to say, "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
Can anybody imagine that Jesus Christ will pronounce a sort of figurative or sentimental judgment--that He will say, "Inasmuch as ye did this or that" to those who never did anything of the kind? Such a proceeding would be very unlike anything He ever did or said when on earth, would it not? He was so true that He was called "the Truth;" so intensely real and practical that no shadow of unreality or sham could endure His gaze for a moment. Is it possible to conceive that He will be any other when He comes to judgment! And yet how many of His professed followers are presuming on a Judge all meekness, mercy, and love, quite forgetting that in that day the reign of mercy will be ended and the Lamb that was slain will appear as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Judge of all the earth, who will still do right.
What are you doing, friend? As the stories come to me from Hackney Wick, Seven Dials, St. Giles', the Borough, and other parts where our people are visiting and working continually, stories of destitution, sickness, sorrow, and suffering, no less than of sin and crime and shame, I feel, what can I do, what can I say that will arouse God's professed people to some concern and care for these poor lost multitudes. Our people tell me they find people who say, "Don't talk to us about a God: we don't believe in such a Being. Don't tell us about Christians: we want neither you nor your tracts, nor your Bibles--away with you. We don't believe in such Christians, who leave us to die in want and misery like this." Men and women nearly naked, children absolutely so, women who must not look off from their match-box making, at 2 1/2d. per gross, or their shirt stitching, at 3d. each, for fear of reducing their earnings a half-penny, and thus robbing their children of an ounce more bread, or the rent of their wretched room of the last fraction which an inexorable (perhaps Christian?) landlord exacts. Thousands of such wretched beings, without a bed to lie upon, without fire to warm them, or sufficient food to keep body and soul together, are living in the greatest degradation and sin all over this London, perhaps not two hundred yards from the very spot where we are assembled this afternoon; and yet who cares for them, or visits them, or weeps over them with a really Christ-like sympathy? Who carries them either the bread that perisheth or the Bread of Life? You London Christians, what shall you say in the great day of account? Where shall you stand? How will you look? Oh, friends, give up the sentimental hypocrisy of singing,
"Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying,"
in the drawing-room to the accompaniment of the piano, without ever dreaming of going outside to do it; such idle words will prove only a mockery and a sham in the great day of account. Such songs will come booming back on the ears of the soul with more awful forebodings than the echoes of the Archangel's trumpet itself! Sentimentalism will have no resurrection; it will rot with the grave clothes! What doth it profit, my brethren, to say to the hungry and naked, either physically or spiritually, "Be ye warmed and filled," if, notwithstanding, ye give them not either the temporal or the spiritual bread? He will say, "Inasmuch as ye did it not, depart from Me."
Further, the verdict of that day will carry universal conviction.
Every being will feel that long-waited-for justice has come at last. The song which will burst forth from the lips of the saints, as they take their places in the celestial city, will be, "True and righteous art Thou, O King of saints;" and methinks the same words, though not uttered by the lips, will be graven on the hearts of the hosts of the lost as they sink to meet their doom, and the realization of the justice of their sentence will make their hell. May no soul in this assembly, nor any who may read these words, ever realize what this means. Amen.
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