When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory–Mat 25:31
Can God Be Love and Punish?
I fancy our other profound difficulty is this. How can God be love? How can God care and be a Father and wish us well and have the power to give us the best, and yet forever have creatures in hopeless misery? Again there is no answer, but again does not this present world suggest that it may be possible? Is not God love today? Is not God infinitely kind today? And yet today are there none who have committed the unpardonable sin which can never be forgiven, neither in this life nor the life to come? May there be forgiven, neither in this life nor the life to come? May there not be a fixity of heart, a deadness like that of the nether millstone, owing to our free will working as well as the love of God? There is not one of us in pew or pulpit, who does not long with all the passion of his heart for universal restoration; there is not one who does not crave that ultimately all should be blessed; but the Lord has been our light, the Lord has been the Revealer of the Father, and it is the Lord who says, “Where their worm dieth not and the fire is never quenched.” It is the Lord who says, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” I want to speak in the right tone, I don’t want to speak harshly. I am like a man groping in the dark, but with one hand I grip Christ, and I say, Brother, would not it be awful to awaken and find that you were wrong and the Lord was right? “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him.”
Christ Himself Will Be the Judge
The next thing which our blessed Saviour tells us is that He Himself is going to be our judge: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory.” Our judge is not God, the Father; our judge is Christ, the Son, and you know that is as stupendous as it is beautiful. Think how stupendous it is. Here is Christ, born in a manger, living for thirty years in a little cottage, going about among humble people, doing little deeds of kindness, and then He says, “I am going to judge mankind.” It is either arrogance raised to the point of madness, or it is the truth, and I do not think that any fair review would ever charge the Lord with arrogance. And if it is the truth, your Carpenter of Nazareth is God, and you have got to bow before Him and say, “My Lord and my God.” All well enough to say, I love the Carpenter of Nazareth; I like to watch Him talking with the children, watching the sparrows, moving through the harvest; but mark you, your only source of knowledge of that Carpenter tells you that He said, “I am going to judge the world.” Then how beautiful it is that you and I are going to be judged by a Man, by One who bore our burdens, by One who knew our frame, by One who understands us perfectly. The other day there came into the vestry a man who again had given way to drink. When I asked him what was the cause of it, he answered something like this: “I was down and out, my business tottering, my home unhappy, and I gave way to drink.” If I had judged him, what would he have said? He would have said, “You do not understand; you never had a business that was tottering; you were never unhappy at home.” But if I could have said to him, “Brother, I have been down and out, I have come through all that you have, and yet God brought me through,” my very presence would have judged him. It is so with the Lord. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. He was down and out when every disciple forsook Him and fled; and He is going to be our Judge. I could imagine some daring soul on the Day of Judgment, if the judge was God the Father, saying, “Thou who dwellest yonder, far away in the light that never fades, you do not understand.” Nobody ever can say that to Christ; I think just His presence will be the judgment.
Our Judgment Will Depend on the Discharge or Neglect of the Common Charities of Life
One thing more I have got to say, and it is this, that our Lord–apart from the figure altogether–teaches us the principle of the Last Judgment, and the principle is this: it is the discharge or the neglect of the common charities of life. May I say it again? It is the discharge or the neglect of the common humanities of life–visiting the prisoner, cheering the sick, giving bread to the hungry, clothing the naked; and that is but a short and swift summation of what we call the charities of life. Are you not surprised? You thought character was going to be the test in the Last Judgment; you thought the Spirit of Christ was going to be the test–”If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.” But what is the spirit of Christ? It is believing and experiencing what He said about the new birth and proving it by doing what He did. It is the Spirit who brought Him to the manger, it is the Spirit who kept Him quiet in Nazareth for thirty years, it is the Spirit who made Him move among men, teaching them, healing them, helping them, doing them good; and if that is your life, you have got the Spirit of Christ. You do not know it ? Of course you don’t; none of the saved knew it, they were all amazingly surprised when the Lord told how He reckoned them (see Mat 25:35-40). And you may have the Spirit of Christ if you go out and be kindly, charitable, helpful; and yet you may never know it till the judgment comes. You say, I am going to be judged by my relationship to Christ. Yes, you are. When the Lord was here, with whom, tell me, did He identify Himself? Was it with Herod? “Go tell that fox.” Was it with the Pharisees? “Woe unto you, Pharisees.” The Lord identified Himself with the poor, with the needy, with the last, with the least, with the lost; and He is the same yesterday and today and forever. And if the Lord is identified with all who are in need, then every time you help a man in need you are brought into relationship with Christ.
We Must Revise Our Lives
It has been very difficult–not difficult to speak the truth, but to speak the truth in the right spirit. I trust I have done it tenderly, and I simply want to ask you to remember that all of us have got to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and therefore should not we all revise our lives, lest at the end, when far off there is music, for us it should be wailing and gnashing of teeth?