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PREPARING FOR THE JUDGMENT
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But, according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in His sight.
“Seeing that ye look for these things.” [Verse 14] What things? Let us glance back at the descriptive record of the outlook. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” [Verse 10] Here is an apostle vividly anticipating an awful day of judgment. In that final judgment righteousness is to be triumphantly vindicated, 322and iniquity is to be irrevocably overwhelmed. The coming of the day is sure; the time of its dawning is uncertain. It will assuredly come, but it will come as a thief! The affairs of all men are moving forward to consummation and crisis. There are details in the apostle’s out look, the mere drapery of the expectation, which I do not profess to understand, and which I shall make no attempt to explain. But altogether apart from the mysterious vestures in which the judgment is clothed, there are three outstanding characteristics of this stupendous crisis in the history of the soul. The anticipated judgment is to be a time of dissolution. “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with a fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” With the material details in this description I am not now concerned. It is sufficient for me to receive this cardinal impression: that the judgment is to be a season of convulsion, of upheaval, of exposure of foundations, of the dissolution and exhibition of the component parts of things. In that day it is to be revealed of what elementary substance things and characters are made. And, secondly, the anticipated judgment is to be a time of discrimination. This out standing event is to mark not merely a culmination, 323but a crisis. Things are to be analysed and tested, and judged by the pattern in the mount, and there is to be a separation of part from part, of character from character, of the healthy from the corrupt. “The wicked not stand in the judgment..” And, thirdly it is to be a time of transformation. Out of the dissolution and discrimination is to arise a changed world. “According to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” [Verse 13] Out of the crisis is to be born a new morning, with new light and new atmosphere, and a new home, and a new spirit pervading all things. Such are the pre-eminent characteristics of this overwhelming event in which every earthly life is to culminate in the judgment presence of God.
And now with this foreground of severe and sanctified expectancy, the apostle proclaims the following challenge: “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be?” [Verse 11] How ought men to live in the face of a hereafter and a sure and awe-inspiring judgment? With that towering possibility confronting us, which to the apostle was a great and solemn certainty, with what kind of ambition ought we to direct and control our days? Let us mark the coolness and sanity the apostle’s reply. For there is nothing 324heated in his speech, nothing feverish, nothing sensational and fanatical. He does not tremble in paralysing fear; he does not maim his life by ascetical severities. Looking upon this superlative event, his life is cool and calm, full-toned and healthy. “Seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, with out spot and blameless in His sight.” [Verse 14] That is not counsel for men in their decrepitude, when their evening time is come, and their sun is in the west, and the shout and struggle are over, and the fight and feast are done; it is counsel for life in its morning and its pride, counsel which seeks the creation of a rich and consecrated character, full-blooded and effective all along the changing way. If there be a judgment, as there will be, if there be a morrow of crisis, as there surely will, then in these robes we may meet it with eager and fearless face; “In peace, without spot and blameless in His sight.”
Now let us look a little more closely at those features of the character which will stand triumphant in the judgment. “Found in peace.” [Verse 14] Let us once again rid ourselves of the common interpretation of peace. In the ordinary mind peace is synonymous with quietness and rest. We are walking up Ludgate Hill at noon, and we are jostled by the hurrying and perspiring crowd, and we turn from the hurrying multitudes 325into the cool quietness of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and we are tempted to say to ourselves, How peaceful it is! Or we go into some little village church, hoary with the passage of many years, and with no sound disturbing the stillness except the occasional song of a bird which steals tenderly through the open window, and again we use the pregnant word, How peaceful! Or we go into the chamber of the dead, and we look at the body with the wrinkles wiped out, and the once-while weary limbs lying in undisturbed rest, and again we say, How peaceful it is! But these are not the symbols of Christian peace, however pertinently they may express the secret of stillness. Peace is not stillness, but a certain kind of movement. It is movement without friction: cog works into cog with perfect and noiseless harmony: everything moves without jar, and there is no grit in the wheels. Peace is not the absence of noise, but the absence of discord. “When we dig away to the very roots of the word we find its primary content is “perfect joining.” Nothing works out of its place. Everything moves in every thing else with delightful confluence. And this is peace, and therefore peace is harmony; it is the absence of the rebel, the extinction of strife. And so if there is to be peace in my life, all the powers in my life must co-operate 326without friction and move in harmony under the supreme control of the sovereign will of God. Here is a musical instrument, the organ. It is a very complex instrument, containing I know not how many hundred parts. And there is a movement in the organ known as ciphering. And what is ciphering? It is the sounding of an organ-pipe, in consequence of some derangement or maladjustment, independently of the action of the player. Harmony is dependent upon the obedience of each note to the organist’s authority. If any note breaks out of its own accord, the harmony is broken, and we are the victims of jarring discord. Now every man’s individuality is like a complex organ. How manifold and varied are the component parts! And the harmony of the individual is dependent upon the co-operation of all his powers. And yet how frequently the harmony of the life is broken by the ciphering of a part! Some faculty is rebellious, and breaks away from the control of the will. How often the player upon the instrument has to confess, “I cannot control my temper!” or, “I cannot control my imagination!” or, “I cannot control my passions!” But there is this distinction between ourselves and the musical instrument. The organist at the keyboard has no control over the ciphering; it is independent of him, and 327works entirely away from his resources and his will. But the individual has resources at his disposal, offered to him by his Lord, resources found in the dynamics of grace, by which every faculty can be subjected to the holy purpose of our Lord. It is possible for the individual to be “found in peace,” and for “all that is within me” to bless God’s holy name.
Let us investigate a little more in detail this manifold organ of the individual self. There are my powers of body. These are to be “found in peace.” They are to work in harmony with one another, and under the control of the sovereign will of God, and they are to move as common subjects of the King. “Present your bodies.” We must bring our basal energies to the Lord, and have these bodily forces subdued to the higher harmonies, like the profound notes of the organ that give body and fulness to its tender and sweetening strains. “Let the ape and tiger die,” sings Tennyson. But there is a better way. And the better way is to transform them. I do not want my passions annihilating; I want them turning to useful force. I want the sword changed into a ploughshare, and the spear into a pruning-hook, and I want the beast at the base harnessed to the imperial and holy purpose of God. If a man consecrates “the ape and tiger” 328to the Lord, and these are brought into obedience under the Lord’s control, the life will receive a tremendous driving-power, and every holy ambition will be pursued with almost violent zest. “I keep my body under,” says the Apostle Paul. “I allow no ciphering!” Every bodily desire is held in the leash, and all work together, and are “found in peace.”
There are my powers of mind. We speak of wandering thoughts, thoughts that are rebellious to the general dominion, and that steal away to forbidden fields. “We have unrestrained imaginations, fancies that go off on their own charges and ask no question concerning the lands in which they roam. “Bring every thought into captivity to Christ.” It is possible for all our mental powers to be “found in peace.” We have more power over our thoughts than we frequently conceive. There is much reserve of authority which has not yet been exercised. We can refuse a thought expression, and that refusal enormously strengthens our self-control. “Give no unproportioned thought its act.” Make every thought bow down to Jesus before you give it utterance! But if we still find that our sovereignty is ineffective we can refer our weakness to the Spirit. We can take these rebel thoughts and imaginings, and we can 329say to the Holy Spirit, “These thoughts, my great Companion, are beyond me! I have no power to deal with them! I hand them over to thee!” And marvellous is the efficacy of the reference! Marvellous is the re-arranging of this disordered world, and the subjection of the mental chaos into harmony and peace.
And there are my powers of soul. There are the superlative senses in my life. These also must be “found in peace.” Our sense of right must not be allowed to join the rebel forces of mere expediency. Our sense of the sublime must not be permitted to career after degrading superstitions. Our highest powers must pay obeisance in the holy place, and acknowledge in awed communion the holiness of the Lord. All this is peace, for this is harmony, the powers of body and of mind and of soul all co-operating in producing the music of the spheres, the melody which is well-pleasing unto God. And this is the character with which one can confidently meet the day of judgment. “Give diligence that ye may be found in peace.”
Now turn to the second of the characteristics of the triumphant life: “found . . . without spot.” [Verse 14] Let us mark the significance of the word. It describes a life distressed by no infirmity and corrupted by no disease. It is 330neither lame nor denied. Our God desires the entire life, and He resents a defective offering. He wants “a lamb without spot.” None of our powers are to be made infirm by disease, and none are to be rendered diseased by abuse. Is not this a sane and reasonable teaching? Surely this man’s mind is in no degree impaired by the spectacle of coming judgment! His ambition is to be diligent—to present himself healthy, with every part of his being in working order. We may vary in the quality of our endowments, but there need be no variety in their purity. One man may have ten talents, and another man only one, but in both instances the life can be perfectly clean. One man’s endowment may be as that of a cathedral organ, while another may be common place as an ordinary harmonium, but both can be kept in perfect purity, no part corrupted, and every part sounding out the obedient note.
And the third characteristic of the triumphant character is described in the succeeding phrase, “without blame.” [Verse 14] Is that possible? I may get my body under, and I may succeed, by the grace of God, in freeing every part of my being from infirmity and disease, but is it within the bounds of possibility that I can stand in the judgment “without blame”? I think of my life. I retrace its steps. I mark its deliberate 331rebellions, its sins of selfishness and desire, its injustices in speech and deed, its disloyalties and secret treacheries. How can such a life ever be found “without blame”? And yet it is gloriously possible. It is the .very evangel of grace that, on the day of judgment, men whose lives were once defiled can stand before the Almighty, and no word of blame or rebuke shall fall upon their ears. They shall come to judgment, but there shall be no condemnation. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” I saw a man a little while ago with the marks of his old rebellion still seated in his face; but behind that disfigured countenance there was the illuminating presence of the light of life, and that man shall stand in the judgment “without blame.” But this can only be possible when the life is lost “in Christ.” We are regarded and judged as being in Him. What He is we are, for as He is we shall one day assuredly become. “Our life is hid with Christ.” It may be only poor as yet, and the footprints of the beast may be scarcely erased from our life, but one day we are to be manifested in His beauty. It fills me with amazement that I, once a vagrant, and bearing about with me signs of my degeneracy, shall one day “walk in His likeness.” Yes, and those old days, 332those pitiably blighted days, are never to be named by Him in whose holy presence we are all to stand. “I will remember them against thee no more for ever.”
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
Here, then, is a great ambition—that on the awful day of unveiling we may thus be “found in peace, without spot, and blameless.” And see with what intensity this apostolic ambition is to be pursued. The apostle uses three very strenuous figures of speech. “Be diligent.” [Verse 14] It is again the favourite image of the business man. We are to pursue the riches of this finished character with all the ardour of an expert man of affairs. We are to be inventive and earnest and prompt, buying up every opportunity for moral and spiritual enrichment. “Beware!” [Verse 17] And secondly we are to have all the vigilance of a custodian. Having got a pearl, I am to guard it as one of the crown jewels. “Hold fast that which thou hast; let no man take thy crown.” And thirdly, we are to “be stedfast.” We are to manifest the unshakeable and unshrinkable loyalty of a soldier at the post of duty. In seeking this glorified character we are to stand faithful at our post, “and having done all, to stand.” Go forward to the judgment, seeking peace and 333spotlessness and blamelessness with all the diligence of a business man, with all the vigilance of a watchman, and with all the daring obedience of a soldier on the field of battle.
A life like that, hiding in Christ and always cherishing the Father’s business, need fear nothing that the morrow may bring. For that kind of life the judgment will have no terrors. If we live toward God we shall not fear to see Him. Nay, here is the apostle bold enough to use these very daring and exuberant words, “earnestly desiring the coming of that day.” It is the very music of this Epistle. “That day!” “At that day!” I say it is music to the apostle, as indeed it was music to the Apostle Paul, who gloried in “the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day, and not unto me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.”334
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