A SERMON ON THE JUDGMENT
by B.H. Carroll
“Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” – Acts 17:31.
My reason for preparing this particular series on “The Judgment,” as following the sermons on “The Resurrection,” grew out of the strong relation between the resurrection and the judgment. This relation consists of two parts: first, the relation between Christ’s own resurrection and the judgment, and the relation between our resurrection and the judgment. The first relation is clearly set forth in both the scriptures read here this morning. (Acts 10:40-42; Acts 17:22-31.) The first one says, “God raised him from the dead and commanded us” — (We have no option. It is an imperious decree of the divine will.). He commanded us that “we should preach that this is he that shall judge the quick and the dead.” And in this text it is stated that the assurance that God has given to all men that there will be a judgment, and that Jesus of Nazareth will be the Judge, is the fact of his resurrection from the dead. The word “assurance” here is literally “faith” in the original. He hath given faith to all men: that is the ground of faith, the data, the basis upon which a rational faith can rest, in that he hath raised him from the dead. So far as the relation between our resurrection and the judgment is concerned, we may express it in this form: Our resurrection must precede the judgment — closely precede it. In every case where the general judgment of God is spoken of it is preceded by the general resurrection, the resurrection of the just and the resurrection of the unjust, and the cause of this precedent lies, doubtless, in this fact, that the judgment will be upon the entire man; not just a part of him, as the spirit, nor another part of him, as the body, but the entire man, body and spirit. And yet another cause lies in this, that until the resurrection of the dead, when we reach the end of the affairs of time, it is impossible for man to rightly comprehend the extent of his influence upon those that come after him, and we are responsible for our influence as well as for our deeds. One who poisons the minds of young people, or debauches their morals, or shakes their faith, or stands as an obstacle before Jesus Christ and keeps men from coming to God, does not find a termination of his evil in his own death. That influence goes on, as when a pebble is dropped in a lake the ever widening circles of waves never stop until they touch the remotest shore. Therefore, in order for the judgment to reach not only the whole man, but the whole effect, the moral effect, of the man’s life, it is necessary that it shall be deferred until the end of time and after the resurrection of the dead.
Now, as this is but the beginning of a series of sermons upon this subject, I wish, first of all, to inquire into the basis of the judgment. What are the foundations upon which it rests? These foundations are clearly set forth in the passage read from the seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. First, God made the world . He made it and all things therein . It is his workmanship. He made men, all men . Not only is the judgment based first upon the fact of God’s creative act, but also upon the fact of his providence. His providence controls the world now and has always controlled it; and not merely by a general providence, but by a personal, moral government he rules over the world. That moral reign of God extends throughout all ages and to all men. Not only this, but it is by his decree that our times are allotted to us and the boundaries of our habitation. And not only this, but in everything it is his decree that men should seek after him, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he be not far from every one of us. In his omnipresence he is accessible to all men. Now, this creative act of God, this general providence of God and his special providence, and this moral government of God, when followed by the special revelation of God, constitute the broad foundation upon which judgment rests. You can easily understand, therefore, the feelings that filled the heart of the Apostle Paul when he passed through Athens. Oh, what a sad thing, that the city where intellectual development was the greatest, and physical training exhibited its most marvelous examples, and where the arts and sciences flourished to the greatest and highest degree – oh, how sad to think that this city was the most ignorant on the face of the earth! Ignorant! Ignorant! I do not mean ignorant in many things, but on the main thing. With all their books they were ignorant of that one Book whose first sentence would have flashed more light into their minds than all that had been ascertained by their wisest men, and that was, “In the beginning God created the heavenand the earth.” They did not know that they were ignorant of God’s creation of the world. “It happened,” said the Epicureans, and their evolution descendants now say, “It was the result of a fortuitous concourse of atoms. As God did not create the world, God cannot judge the world.” You see how that follows. God does not control the world. “It is Fate,” says the Stoic. Fate, and if Fate control there is no responsibility. Where there is no responsibility there can be no judgment. “Chance,” said the Epicurean. “Fate,” said the Stoic. Oh, the ignorance, the ignorance! Then they were ignorant of the revelation of God, that in his compassion he had revealed himself by inspiration of men, declaring his will. He had manifested himself in the flesh, in the person of his own Son, to come and redeem from darkness and from death the men whom he had created. They did not know it. By their boasted wisdom they had not found God. And so when Paul stood there in the market-place at Athens and kept preaching Jesus and the Resurrection, Jesus and the Resurrection, they thought he was a babbler. You will see at once that unless the mind takes hold of the fact that God made the world and God governs the world by his providence, and God rules the world by his moral law, and God holds men responsible to that moral law, we cannot have an idea of the judgment.
Then again, a judgment coming from God must be a judgment in righteousness. The Judge of all the earth will do right. His justice will not discriminate. There will be no respect of persons with God. Those fictitious things that have much to do with turning justice aside in the tribunals of earth cannot possibly affect the final arbitraments of God. Everything will be taken into fair account. But in order for that judgment to be a judgment in righteousness, to be a judgment in such righteousness that the one who receives the heaviest punishment by way of penalty in the day of wrath may yet be compelled to testify to the righteousness of the verdict against him, it was imperative that the Judge himself should be one in some touch with the judged, and therefore in the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ he became the Son of Man, and because he was the Son of Man God commits all judgment to him . There are many points upon which we cannot enter sympathetically into the joys and the labors and the destinies of angels. We are different in nature, and God in his pure spirit, invisible to us, unapproachable in his glory, would frighten us, would horrify us, would dazzle us, if we had to appear before him . But if one is constituted as the Judge, himself also a man, having entered into human life and passed through its experiences from the cradle to the grave, knowing its heat, its cold, its hunger, its poverty, its pain, then such an one, from his experience, having been tempted in all things as we are tempted, would be for men the fairest and the best judge that the world could have. Yet, again, though a man in one phase of his nature, if he be a misanthropical man, a Timon the man-hater; if he be not compassionate to human infirmities, if he do not love men, if he do not love men enough to die for men, we would have a Judge upon the throne whose cold heart, though the heart of a man, would chill us when we came to stand before him . But if that Judge is a man, and the man of all men the most loving, of all men the most patient, the most condescending, the most pitying, one who gave himself to die for men, no man can question the verdict that is rendered on the score of an unjust and unsympathetic Judge. But if a man is to be the Judge, there must be some adequate assurance to us that he is so constituted, there must be some broad ground, some impregnable data, that will make the guaranty sufficient to us, that not someone else, but this very one, is constituted the judge of the world. And that was the assurance of the resurrection from the dead. When God raised him from the dead, after the claims that he had made, and when he had predicted those claims upon that resurrection, when he had put all of the claims upon the solitary test of the fact that God would raise him from the dead upon the third day, and that resurrection having taken place, there is ground, broad and adequate ground, for every man to believe that God has not only appointed a day in which he will judge the world, but that he has appointed a man to be the judge of the world. We, upon our part, can have no objection to the judge, and God, upon his part, can have no objection to the judge. The infinite love that he manifested toward us he also manifested toward the Father; in his divinity he touches the throne. In his humanity he touches the cradle and the grave ; so that in every respect God has assured that this judgment that is to be held will be a righteous judgment. And no matter what you think about it now ; no matter how much you may complain of God’s government; one thing is certain, that when you hear the voice that pronounces the judgment, whether it be, “Come, ye blessed,” or “Depart, ye cursed,” there will rise to your lips no protest. Your memory and your conscience will be eternal witnesses of the complete righteousness of every temporal judgment of God and of the righteousness of this final verdict which is passed upon all men . So that to any objector you may say this: “The Bible teaches that when the general judgment is held, no matter what the verdict on you is, you are assured that you will testify when it is given that it was righteous, that it was fair, that there can be no question of its reasonableness in every particular, and you will be the judge of that.”
Now, having considered this basis of the judgment, we can understand how the apostolic heart was disturbed when he looked out upon that city which, with all of its culture, its refinement, its devotion to arts and science, was in ignorance of the great fact of the universe. And now we can see what a relation there is between such a sermon today and the meeting which is in progress in the University. “The times of this ignorance God over looked, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. “Why? Why repent?” Because he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” And that judgment certain, however remote; that judgment clearer than sunlight, how ever distant; that judgment in the text looms up before us as an eternal certainty, whose natural tendency is to awaken conviction in the hearts of men, and to cause men to turn from their sins, to repent of their sins, to accept the salvation offered in Jesus Christ. And this motive is as high as heaven itself. You see at once how, when it is grasped by the mind and felt by the heart, that it operates in bringing about repentance. There is a God. He made me. He made the world. His moral government rules over me. I am responsible to him. I have sinned against him. I have gone astray, and there is a judgment day appointed, and when that day comes I must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for the deeds that are done in the body, and the light of that day will unmask every hidden thing, and bring every secret thing into judgment. The light of that day will not merely touch my overt acts and bring them clearly outlined into view, as a range of mountains on a clear day, but it will shine into my very heart. It will look to the seat and origin and spring of action. It will discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. It will bring out my motives. It will show me as I really am in God’s holy sight, and every word that fell from my lips in time, and every imagination that took wings, like a bird set free, and flew with wayward pinions into forbidden space, and every slimy thought that was allowed to crawl like a serpent of hell through the inner chambers of my soul; all of them will be brought out in the light of that day.
Oh, the scope of the final judgment of God, in view of which and of that assurance of the resurrection of the dead, what ought I to do now? What action is becoming to one so situated, being possessed of a moral nature, a rational and accountable being, finding myself condemned under the righteous law of God, altogether helpless in myself to recover from my ruin, and the publication made to me that the Judge himself has come to redeem the world, and that by simple faith in him all of the black record of my wrong can be expunged from the books of the recording angel, and I can in a moment become whiter than snow? What a power, then, the judgment is, to bring about repentance? And instead of harsh censure, instead of bitter hostility to any form of speculative philosophy, that through chance or fate would retire God from the universe as its maker, and from its control as a ruler, oh, let there come into our hearts the most unspeakable compassion for such blindness, when we see them groping, groping. That is exactly the Greek idea of the expression, feeling after God. That we might feel after him and find him! And when we see them groping on the rugged edge of the pit, liable of themselves, even if none should give them a push, to fall any moment into perdition, oh, what should be the feeling of our hearts toward them, and how should we endeavor to lead them to repentance instead of ourselves passing judgment upon them now!
We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. I have given you merely this introductory statement of the series of sermons to be preached upon this subject. You know — your conversation with men and your observation of men have taught you — that unless the judgment can come within the reach of man’s vision, unless the sense of responsibility to moral government can enter into men’s hearts, there will be no restraint of crime, and no deadlier poison could be concocted, nor could there be any more dangerous form in which it could be administered to human lips than for speculative philosophy to creep into the text-books of schools and weaken men’s convictions in the fact that God made the world, God rules the world and men are morally responsible to God, and men must answer to God in the general judgment for all the deeds that are done in the body.
I close this introductory statement with a single idea, but though solitary it is huge, far-reaching, suggestive. It lies under that department of the subject called the scope of the judgment. Will God bring me into judgment for anything that my spirit does after my body dies? No; then as sure as there can be on this earth any logic, there can be no probation after death. God himself counts the books closed, the case made up, not another entry to be made upon its pages, when a man dies, when his body dies. And hell never generated a more dangerous fallacy than the delusion that some how, in some way, in the other world there may be a gospel of mercy preached, there may be a mercy preached, there may be a means of recovery, there may be a new probation. Though Adam’s spirit has been with God since Adam died, not one thought of that spirit, not one deed that that spirit has done since Adam’s body died will be taken account of in the judgment. In other words, so far as the judgment is concerned, character, if not sooner, does certainly crystallize at death. It is no more malleable, it is no more fusible, it is no more ductile, it is fixed and fixed forever. If a man dies unjust, he is raised unjust. If a man dies vile, he is raised vile. The judgment shall make no inquisition into the grave, there will be no search or investigation except what you did, what you said, what you thought, what you felt, here, now, in time. See what a bearing that has on repentance. If death may come to me any hour; if death comes to some body every hour; if every time we draw a breath some soul has laid down its body and departed out of the region of probation, and has gone into that fixedness of character in which it shall stand at the judgment; and if you and I in a few hours may be in that condition; oh, how timely that God now commandeth men everywhere to repent. All men! It makes it a matter not merely of eternal moment but of immediate concern. It presses for instant consideration. It admits of no delay. The thief of the world, deeper-branded as a thief than any of them is the thief that keeps stealing the precious moments in which alone we can prepare to meet God, and while stealing, whispers, “Time enough! Time enough! Time enough!” It may be your brother. It may be your daughter, that bright-eyed girl, O mother! that is the apple of your eye. I tell you that if she were to die to-night, and die unprepared to meet God, not all your tears, not all your prayers, not all that your friends can bring to bear, not all that time can muster and eternity can congregate will give one spark of hope for the salvation of that child . Not a spark!
“Then repent, the voice celestial cries,
No longer dare delay.”
Do not dare to shove aside this chief, momentous question, “How shall I be judged before God?” Inasmuch as I am not judged now and cannot be, and inasmuch as I must stand before the white throne of the final judgment of my Lord, oh, what reasonable hope have I that in that judgment day I shall be acquitted and not condemned?