THE SAINTS JUDGED.
When the saints are raised, they must give an account of all things that they have done while they were in the world, of all things "whether they be good or bad."
1. Of all their bad. But mark, not under the consideration of vagabond slaves and sinners, but as sons, stewards, and servants of the Lord Jesus. "We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;" we saints; "for it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God."
It is true, God loveth his people; but yet he loveth not their sins, nor any thing they do, though with the greatest zeal for him, if it be contrary to his word. Wherefore, as truly as God will give a reward to his saints and children, for all that they have indeed well done, so truly will he at this day distinguish their good and bad; and when both are manifest by the righteous judgment of God, he will burn up their bad, with all their labor and travail in it, for ever. He can tell how to save his people, and yet take vengeance on their inventions.
That is an observable place, 1 Cor.3:12-15: "If any man build upon this foundation, (Christ,) gold, silver, precious-stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man's work shall be manifest; for the day shall declare it; because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall abide that he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, that man shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire."
I am persuaded that there are many things done by the best of saints, which then they will gladly disown and be ashamed of; yea, they have and do still do this with great devotion. In many things now, we offend all; and then we shall see the many offences we have committed, and shall ourselves judge them as they are.
But yet take notice, that in this day when the saints are thus accounting for their evil before their Saviour and Judge, they shall not then, as now at the remembrance and confession of sin, be filled with that guilt, confusion, and shame, that now, through the weakness of faith, attend their souls: neither shall they in the least be grieved or offended that God has, before the angels and the rest of their holy brethren, laid open to a tittle their infirmities from the least and first to the biggest and last.
For the God to whom they confess all, they will now more perfectly than ever see he doth love them and free them from all, even when and before they confess and acknowledge them to him; and they shall have their soul so full of the ravishing raptures of the life and glory that now they are in, that they shall be of it swallowed up in that measure and manner that neither fear, nor guilt, nor confusion can come near them or touch them. Their Judge is their Saviour, their husband, and head; who, though he will bring every one of them for all things to judgment, yet will keep them for ever out of condemnation. Perfect love casteth out fear, even while we are here; much more then when we are with the Saviour, our Jesus, being passed from death to life.
SAINTS REWARDED AT THE JUDGMENT.
Now the saved having accounted for all their evil, and confessed to God's glory how they fell short and did not the truth in this or that particular, and having received their eternal acquittance from the Lord and Judge, in the sight of both angels and saints, forthwith the Lord Jesus will make inquiry into all the good and holy actions they do in the world. Now here shall all things be reckoned up, from the very first good thing that was done by Adam or Abel, to the last that will fall out to be done in the world -- the good of all the holy prophets, of all apostles, pastors, teachers, and helps in the church -- here also will be brought forth to light all the good deeds of masters of families, of parents, of children, of servants, of neighbors, or whatever good things any man doeth.
1. Here will be a recompense for all that have labored sincerely in the word and doctrine. Now shall Paul the planter, and Apollos the waterer, with every one of their companions, receive the reward that is according to their works.
Now all the preaching, praying, watching, and labor thou hast been at, in thy endeavoring to catch men from Satan to God, shall be rewarded with spangling glory. Not a soul thou hast converted to the Lord Jesus, not a soul thou hast comforted, strengthened, or helped by thy wholesome counsel, admonition, and comfortable speech, but it shall stick as a pearl in that crown which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give thee at that day; that is, if thou doest it willingly, delighting to lift up the name of God among men; if thou doest it with love, and longing after the salvation of sinners: otherwise thou wilt have only thy labor for thy pains, and no more. If I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed to my charge.
But if thou do it graciously, then a reward followeth; "for what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye," says Paul, "in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy."
Let him therefore that Christ has put into his harvest, take comfort in the midst of all his sorrows; and know that God acknowledges that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, doth even save that soul from death, and covereth a multitude of sins. Wherefore, labor to convert, labor to water, labor to build up and to feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
2. And as the ministers of Christ's gospel shall at this day be recompensed, so shall also those more private saints be with tender affections and love looked on and rewarded for all their work and labor of love which they have showed to the name of Christ, in ministering to his saints and suffering for his sake. "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free."
Ah, little do the people of God think how largely and thoroughly God will at that day own and recompense all the good and holy acts of his people. Every bit, every drop, every rag, and every night's harbor though but in a wisp of straw, shall be rewarded in that day before men and angels: "Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones, a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you," saith Christ, "he shall in no wise lose his reward." "Therefore, when thou makest a feast," saith he, "call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee; for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."
If there be any repentance among the godly at that day, it will be because the Lord Jesus, in his person, members, and word, was no more owned, honored, entertained, and provided for by them, when they were in this world; for it will be ravishing to all to see what notice the Lord Jesus will then take of every widow's mite. He will call to mind even all those acts of mercy and kindness which thou hast showed to him when thou wast among men. He will remember, cry up, and proclaim before angels and saints those very acts of thine which thou hast either forgotten or through bashfulness wilt not at that day count worth the owning. He will reckon them up so fast and so fully that thou wilt cry, "Lord, when did I do this, and when did I do the other? When saw we thee hungry and fed thee. or athirst and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in, or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick or in a prison, and came unto thee?" And the King shall answer and say unto them, "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me. The good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. Whatever thou hast done to one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me. I felt the nourishment of thy food and the warmth of thy fleece; I remember thy loving and holy visits, when my poor members were sick and in prison and the like. When they were strangers and wanderers in the world, thou tookest them in. Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
3. Here also will be a reward for all that hardness and Christian enduring of affliction that thou hast met with for thy Lord, while thou wast in the world. Here now will Christ begin from the greatest suffering even unto the least, and bestow a reward on them all, from the blood of the suffering saint to the loss of a hair.
4. There is also a reward at this day for all the more, secret and more retired works of Christianity.1. There is not now one act of faith in thy soul, either upon Christ or against the devil and antichrist, but it shall in this day be found out, and praised, honored, and glorified in the face of heaven.2. There is not one groan to God in secret against thy own lusts, and for more grace, light, Spirit, sanctification, and strength to go through this world like a Christian, but it shall even at the coming of Christ he rewarded openly.3. There has not one tear dropped from thy tender eye against thy lusts, the love of the world, or for more communion with Jesus Christ, but as it is now in the bottle of God, so then it shall bring forth such plenty of reward, that it shall return upon thee with abundance of increase. "Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh." "Thou tellest my wanderings and puttest my tears in thy bottle; are they not in thy book?" "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
If thou indeed and in truth close in with Jesus, thou shalt be lovingly received and tenderly embraced of Christ at that day, when he hath thousands of noble saints, as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, with all the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, attending on him; and many thousands of glittering angels ministering before him. When the ungodly shall appear there, with their pale faces, with their guilty consciences and trembling souls -- who would then give thousands of worlds, if they had so many, if they could enjoy but one loving look from Christ -- then shalt thou have the hand of Christ reached to receive thee, saying, Come, thou blessed, step up hither; thou wast willing to leave all for me, and now I will give all to thee. Here is a throne, a crown, a kingdom; take them. Thou wast not ashamed of me when thou wast in the world among my enemies, and now will not I be ashamed of thee before thine enemies, but will, in the view of all these devils and damned reprobates, promote thee to honor and dignity. Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Thou shalt see that those who have served me in truth shall lose nothing, but they shall be as pillars in my temple and inheritors of my glory, and shall have place to walk in among my saints and angels. Oh, who would not be in this condition? who would not be in this glory?
At the day of judgment, Israel will be sufficiently weary of this world; they will even as it were inexpressibly groan to be taken up from hence: wherefore the Lord will come, as making use of the weariness and groaning of his people, and will take them up into his chambers of rest, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes.
That we are justified in the sight of the divine Majesty by free grace, through that one offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, I bless God I believe it; and that we shall be brought to glory by the same grace, through the same most blessed Jesus, I thank God I believe that also Again, that the glory to which we shall be brought by free grace through the only merits of Jesus, is unspeakably glorious and complete, I question no more than I question the blessed truths but now confessed.
But notwithstanding all this, there is a reward for the righteous, a reward for their works of faith and love, whether in a doing or in a suffering way, and that not principally to be enjoyed here, but hereafter: "Great is your reward in heaven."
Paul was as great a maintainer of the doctrine of God's free grace, and of justification from sin by the righteousness of Christ imputed by grace, as any one that ever lived in Christ's service from the world's beginning till now; and yet he was for this doctrine: he expected himself, and encouraged others also to look for such a reward for doing and suffering for Christ, which he calls "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Surely, as Christ says in a case not distant from this in hand, "If it were not so, he would have told us."
Wherefore a reward I find, and that laid up in heaven; but what it is I know not, neither is it possible for any here to know it any further than by certain general words of God, such as these: "Praise, honor, glory, a crown of righteousness, a crown of glory, thrones, judging of angels, a kingdom, with a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Wherefore, though in the day of judgment thou shouldst there slight all thou didst on earth for thy Lord, saying, "When, Lord, when did we do it?" he will answer, "Then, even then when ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."
"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." For as the just go before the unjust in name and dignity and honor, so they shall, in the last day, go before them in the resurrection.
Now then, when the saints have risen out of their graves, given up their accounts, received their glory, and are set upon their thrones -- when they are all of them in their royal apparel, with crowns of glory, every one presenting the person of a king, then come the unjust out of their graves, to receive their judgment for what they have done in the body. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one," both saints and sinners, "may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
"And the windows," or floodgates, "of heaven were opened." This opening of the floodgates of heaven was a type of the way that shall be made for the justice of God upon ungodly men, when Christ has laid aside his mediatorship; for he indeed is the sluice that stops this justice of God from its dealing according to its infinite power and severity with men. He stands like Moses, and as it were holdeth the hands of God. Oh, but when he shall be taken away, when he shall have finished his mediatorial work, then will the floodgates of heaven be opened, and then will the justice and holiness of God deal with men without stint or diminution, even till it has filled the vessels of wrath with vengeance till they run over. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,"
The Judge is the almighty and eternal God: the law broken is the holy and perfect rule of God, in itself a consuming fire: sin is so odious, and a thing so abominable, that it is enough to make all the angels blush to hear it but so much as once mentioned in so holy a place as that is, where the great God doth sit to judge. This sin now hangs about the neck of him that has committed it, yea, it covers him as doth a mantle.
Doubtless before the flood had carried off the ark, others besides would with gladness have had there a lodgingroom though no better than a dog-kennel; but now it was too late, "The Lord had shut the door."
As the just shall rise in power, so the wicked and unjust in weakness and astonishment. Sin and guilt bring weakness and faintness in this life; how much more when both, with all their force and power, like a giant fasten on them? As God saith, "Can thy hands be strong, and can thy heart endure in the day that I shall deal with thee?" Now will the ghastly jaws of despair gape upon thee, and now will condemnings of conscience, like thunderclaps, continually batter against thy weary spirit. It is the godly that have boldness in the day of judgment; but the wicked will be like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Now when the wicked are thus raised out of their graves,'they shall, together with all the angels of darkness, their fellow-prisoners, be brought up, being shackled in their sins, to the place of judgment; where there shall sit upon them Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Chief-judge of things in heaven, and earth, and things under the earth. On whose right hand and left shall sit all the princes and heavenly nobles, the saints and prophets, the apostles and witnesses of Jesus; every one in his kingly attire upon the throne of his glory. Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, "But those my enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me."
When every one is thus set in his proper place, the Judge on his throne with his attendants, and the prisoners coming up to judgment, forthwith there shall issue forth a mighty fire and tempest from before the throne, which shall compass it round about. Which fire shall be as bars and bounds to the wicked, to keep them at a certain distance from the heavenly Majesty. "Our God will come and not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him." "His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels like burning fire. A fiery stream issued, and came forth from before him."
This preparation being made -- to wit, the Judge with his attendants on the throne, the bar for the prisoners, and the rebels all standing with ghastly faces to look for what comes after -- presently the books are brought forth, the books both of death and life, and every one of them opened before the sinners now to be judged and condemned; for after that he had said, "A fiery stream issued, and came forth from before him," he adds, "Thousands, thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The judgment was set, and the book was opened." And again, "I saw a great white throne and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no more 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 the things that were written in the books, according to their works."
"For many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." They will put on all the confidence they can; they will trick and trim up their profession, and adorn it with what bravery they can. Thus the foolish virgins sought to enter in; they did trim up their lamps, and made themselves as fine as they could. They made shift to make their lamps to shine a while; but the Son of God discovering himself, their confidence failed, their lamps went out, the door was shut upon them, and they were kept out.
They will make a stop at this gate, this beautiful gate of heaven; they will begin to stand without at the gate, as being loath to go any further. Never did malefactor so unwillingly turn off the ladder when the rope was about his neck, as these will turn away in that day from the gates of heaven to hell.
It may be that when thou hearest that the dust of the street, that cleaveth to a minister of the gospel while thou rejectest his word of salvation, shall be a witness against thee at the day of judgment, thou wilt be apt to laugh, and say, The dust a witness! witnesses will be scarce when dust is forced to come in to plead against a man.
Well, sinner, mock not; God doth use to confound the great and mighty by things that are not, and that are despised.
When once the master of the house is risen up, that is, when Christ hath laid aside his mediation for sinners, and hath taken upon him only to judge and condemn, then will the wicked begin to stand without, and to knock and contend for a portion among them that are blessed. Ah, how will their hearts twitter while they look upon the kingdom of glory! And how will they ache and throb at every view of hell, their proper place; still crying, O that we might inherit life, and O that we might escape eternal death!
Thus you see how loath the sinner is now to take a hay of life everlasting. He that once would not be persuaded to close with the Lord Jesus, though one should have persuaded him with tears of blood, behold how fast he now hangs about the Lord: what arguments he frames with mournful groans; how with shifts and words he seeks to gain time, and to defer the execution. "Lord, open unto us! Lord, Lord, open unto us! Lord, thou hast taught in our streets, and we have both taught in thy name, and in thy name have we cast out devils. We have eat and drank in thy presence. And when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?" O, poor hearts; how loath, how unwillingly do they turn away from Christ; how loath are they to partake of their ungodly doings! Christ must say, "Depart," once, and "Depart," twice, before they will depart. When he hath shut the door upon them, yet they knock, and cry, "Lord, open unto us:" when he hath given them their answer, that he knows them not, yet they plead and mourn. Wherefore, he is fain to answer again, "I tell you, I know you not whence you are; depart."
O this word, depart, how dreadful is it; with what weight will it fall on the head of every condemned sinner! For you must note, that while the ungodly stand thus before the Judge, they cannot choose but have a most distinct view both of the kingdom of heaven, and of the damned spirits in hell. Now they see the God of glory, the King of glory, the saints of glory, and the angels of glory; and the kingdom in which they have their eternal abode. Now they also begin to see the worth of Christ and what it is to be smiled upon by him, from all which they must depart; and as I say they shall have the view of this, so they will most clearly behold the pit, the bottomless pit, the fire, the brimstone, and the flaming beds that justice hath prepared for them of old.
At the day of judgment, will be tried whether thou art within that part of the book of life wherein all the elect are recorded; for all the elect are written here, as Christ saith, "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Now then, if thy name be not found either among the prophets or apostles or the rest of saints, thou must be put by as one that is cast away, as one polluted, and as an abominable branch. Thy name is wanting in the genealogies and rolls of heaven; thou art not marked for everlasting life; therefore thou must not be delivered from that soul-amazing misery: for there are no souls can, though they would give a thousand worlds, be delivered at the day of God, but such that are found written in this book. Every one of those that are written, though never a one of those that are not written, shall in that day be delivered from the wrath to come.
But O methinks, with what careful hearts will the damned now begin to look for their names in this book. Those that, when once the long-suffering of God waited on them, made light of all admonition, and slighted the counsel of making their calling and election sure, would now give thousands of treasures, that they could but spy their names, though last and least among the sons of God. But, I say, how will they fail; how will they faint; how will they die and languish in their souls, when they shall still, as they look, see their names wanting! What a pinch will it be to Cain, to see his brother there recorded, and he himself left out. Absalom will now swoon and be as one that giveth up the ghost, when he shall see David his father, and Solomon his brother written here, while he withal is written in the earth, among the damned. Thus, I say, will sadness be added to sadness in the soul of the perishing world, when they fail of finding their names in this part of the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
SINNERS WITHOUT EXCUSE AT THE JUDGMENT.
Observe, that among all the objections and cavils that are made and will be made by the ungodly in the day of the Lord Jesus, they have not one about election, and reprobation: they murmur not at all that they were not predestinated to eternal life; and the reason is, because then they shall see, though now they are blind, that God could in his prerogative royal, without prejudice to them that are damned, choose and refuse at pleasure; and besides, they at this day shall be convinced that there was so much reality, and downright willingness in God, in every tender of grace and mercy to the worst of men, and also so much goodness, justness, and reasonableness in every command of the gospel of grace, which they were so often entreated and beseeched to embrace, that they will be drowned in the conviction of this, that they did refuse love, grace, and reason -- love, I say, for hatred, grace for sin, and things reasonable for things unreasonable and vain. Now they shall see they left glory for shame, God for the devil, heaven for hell, light for darkness. Now they shall see, that though they made themselves beasts, yet God made them reasonable creatures; and that he did with reason expect that they should have adhered to, and have delighted in, things that are good and according to God. Yea, now they shall see and be convinced, that though God did not determine to bring them to heaven against their hearts and wills, and the love that they had to their sins, yet that God was far from infusing any thing into their souls, that should in the least hinder, weaken, obstruct, or let them in seeking the welfare of their souls. Now, men will tattle and prattle at a mad rate about election and reprobation, and conclude that because all are not elected, therefore God is to blame that any are damned. But then they will see that they are not damned because they were not elected, but because they sinned; and also, that they sinned, not because God put any weakness into their souls, but because they gave way, and that wilfully, knowingly, and desperately, to Satan and his suggestions; and so turned away from the holy commandment delivered unto them. Yea, then they will see, that though God at some times did fasten his cords about their heads and heels and hands, both by godly education and smarting convictions, yet they rushed away with violence from all, saying, "Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us." God will be justified in his sayings, and clear when he judgeth; though men's proud ignorance thinks to have and to multjply cavils against him.
Now shall be brought before thee and all men, how many strugglings God had with thy heart, on the sick-bed, to do thee good; yea, and at such times, how many vows, promises, engagements, and resolutions thou madest before God to turn, if he would release thee from thy affliction and turn off his rod from thy back; and yet how thou didst, like the man possessed, break and snap in twain all these chains of iron with which thou hadst bound thy soul; and that for a very lust or sin. Here also will be opened before thee how often thou hast sinned against thy light and knowledge; how often thou hast laid violent hands on thy own conscience; how often thou hast labored to put out that light that hath stood in thy way to hinder thee from sinning against thy soul. Ah, Lord, what a condition will the Christless soul be in at that day; how will every one of these things afflict the damned soul they will pierce like arrows, and bite like serpents, and sting like an adder. With what shame will that man stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, who must have all things he hath done against God to provoke the eyes of his glory to jealousy, laid open before the whole host of the heavenly train. It would make a man blush to have his pockets searched for things that are stolen, in the midst of a market, especially if he stand upon his reputation and honor. But thou must have thy heart searched, the bottom of thy heart searched; and that, I say, before thy neighbor whom thou hast wronged, and before the devils whom thou hast served; yea, before God whom thou hast despised, and before the angels, those holy and delicate creatures, whose holy and chaste faces will scarce forbear blushing.
"IGNORANCE" CONDEMNED AT THE JUDGMENT.
While I was gazing at all these things, I turned my head to look back, and saw Ignorance come up to the riverside; but he soon got over, and that without half the difficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place one Vain-hope, a ferryman, that with his boat helped him over. So he, as the others I saw, did ascend the hill to come up to the gate; only he came alone, neither did meet with any the least encouragement. When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entrance should have been quickly administered to him; but he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, "Whence come you? and what would you have?" He answered, "I have eat and drank in the presence of the King, and he has taught in our streets." Then they asked him for his certificate, that they might go in and show it to the King. So he fumbled in his bosom for one, and found none. Then said they, "Have you none?" But the man answered never a word. So they told the king; but he would not come down to see him, but commanded the two shining ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and take Ignorance, and bind him hand and foot, and have him away. Then they took him up and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill, and put him in there. Then I saw that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven, as well as from the city of Destruction.