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OF THE PERSON BY WHOM THE WOULD SHALL BE JUDGED.
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.
IN these words, besides the general point mainly intended, concerning the certainty of a future and general judgment, there are likewise several particular propositions.
First, That the administration of this judgment is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, That all men are liable to this judgment.
Thirdly, That all the actions which men have done in this life shall then come to account, and they shall be judged for them.
Fourthly, That this sentence shall be passed upon men, according to the nature and quality of their actions, whether good or evil. I have handled the general point—the certainty of a future judgment: I shall now proceed to the particular propositions contained in the text, and shall handle them in the order in which I have proposed them.
First, That the administration of this judgment is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he is the person constituted and ordained of God, to be the judge of the world. The tribunal before which 40we must stand, is here in the text called “the judgment-seat of Christ.” “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.” In the prosecution of this I shall,
First, Endeavour to confirm and illustrate the truth of this proposition.
Secondly, Draw some inferences from it, by way of application.
First, For the confirmation of it, I shall do these two things:
I. Prove it from clear testimony of Scripture.
II. Endeavour to give some account of this economy and dispensation; why God had committed the administration of this great work to the Lord Jesus Christ; in all which I shall rely only upon Scripture, the thing being capable of no other proof or evidence. And, indeed, the whole mediatory undertaking of our blessed Saviour, and all the circumstances of it, are matter of pure revelation; this is the hidden and manifold wisdom of God, which none of the princes and philosophers of this world knew, and which we could not possibly have found out and discovered, had not God been pleased to reveal it to us.
I. I shall prove this from express testimony of Scripture, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the person constituted and ordained by God, to administer the judgment of the great day: (Matt. xiii. 40-43.) “So shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father.” 41Here our Saviour is represented as the chief minister of God’s justice, in the distribution of rewards to the righteous and the wicked; and though the effect and execution of the sentence only be expressed, yet it supposeth a judicial process preceding. So likewise, Matt. xvi. 27. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels, and then he shall reward every man according to his work.”—“Shall come in the glory of his Father;” that is, with his authority committed to him. (Matt. xxiv. 30.) Where our Saviour speaking of his coming to judge the world, it is said, “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;” that is, in order to the judgment of the world. But most fully and expressly, (Matt. xxv. 31.) where you have the manner of his coining particularly described, together with the solemn representation of the process of that great day. “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: and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate the one from the other, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say to them on his right hand,” &c. You see the whole administration of this judgment, and the management of every part of it, is committed to Christ. (John v. 22.) Our Saviour there produceth his commission, and tells us from whence this authority was derived to him: The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son.” And (ver. 27.) “He hath 42given him authority also to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man.” (Acts x. 42.) “Anil he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he that is ordained of God, to be the judge of the quick and dead.” (Acts xvii. 31.) “He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained,” that is, by Jesus Christ; for it follows, “Whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Rom. ii. 16.) “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” (Rom. xiv. 10.) “We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.” (2 Thess. i. 7-9.) The apostle there speaking of the day of judgment, describes it thus: “When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on all them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of his Son, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (2 Tim. iv. 1.) “I charge thee, (saith St. Paul there to Timothy,) before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, and his kingdom.” (Rev. xxii. 12.) “Behold I come quickly, (saith our Lord,) and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.” I proceed to the
II. Second thing I proposed, namely, To give some account why God hath committed the administration of this work into the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ. And of this, I shall give an account in these two particulars:
1. God thought fit to confer this honour upon Christ, as a suitable reward of his patience and sufferings.43
2. He thought fit likewise hereby to declare the righteousness and equity of his judgment, in that mankind is judged by one in their own nature, a man like themselves.
1. God hath thought fit to confer this honour upon Christ, as a suitable reward of his obedience and sufferings, of his coming into the world by his appointment, to undertake the work of our redemption, and to mediate a reconciliation between God and us, of his voluntary submission to a condition so mean and low, to that poverty and contempt, and to those extreme sufferings which he did so patiently undergo, in the prosecution of this great design.
That God hath committed all power to Christ, with a design to put an honour upon him, our Saviour himself tells us: (John v. 22, 23.) “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son; that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” The Scripture speaks of this matter, as if, when Christ undertook the great work of our redemption, it were expressly covenanted between God the Father and him, that he should undertake this work, and submit to all those grievous things, which were necessary to be done and suffered, in order to the effecting of it; and that when he had accomplished it, God would confer this glory upon him, that in his human nature he should be “exalted to the right hand of God,” and have “power given him over all flesh, to judge the world, and to give eternal life to as many as he pleased;” and when he had received this reward, that then this mediatory office should cease, and he should “resign up the kingdom to God the Father, that God might be all in all.” This is the 44scope and design of the several texts of Scripture concerning this matter.
With relation to this covenant and agreement between him and his Father, he prays, (John xvii. 1, 2.) that he would not be unmindful of the glory which he had promised to invest him withal. “Fa her, the hour is come; glorify thy Son; as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” And, (ver. 4, 5.) “I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work that thou gavest me to do.” And then he claims the reward of it: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self.” And the apostle to the Hebrews (chap. xii. 2.) tells us, that the hopes of this did encourage, and bear up our Lord under his sufferings, “Who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And St. Peter tells us, (1 Pet. i. 11.) that “the prophets of old testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” And St. Paul tells us what this glory is, (Eph. i. 20, 21.) viz. that “God hath set him at his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come.” But most expressly, (Phil. ii. 7-11.) the same apostle tells us, that in consideration of the great humiliation and sufferings of Christ, God hath highly exalted him. “He made himself of no reputation, (he emptied himself) and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the 45death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And that the giving of this name and authority to Christ, upon account whereof all creatures shall be subject to him, doth principally import that power of judging the world which was committed to him, is evident from the explication of these phrases, of “bowing the knee to Christ,” and of “confessing to him with the tongue,” which the same apostle tells us elsewhere do signify our being judged by him. (Rom. xiv. 10, 11.) “We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ: for it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.”
So that you see that the glorious reward of Christ’s self-denial and suffering, doth principally consist in having the judgment of the world committed to him, which therefore is called “his kingdom,” (Matt. xvi. 28.) where our Saviour expresseth it by “the Son of man’s coming in his kingdom.” (2 Tim. iv. 1.) “I charge thee, there fore, (saith St. Paul to Timothy,) before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, and his kingdom.” And it is with relation to this power and authority, that the title of King was given to him, (Matt. xxv. 34.) “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand,” &c. And the Scripture almost every where, when it speaks of Christ’s coming, calls it his glorious 46appearance. (Matt. xvi. 27.) “They shall see the Son of man coming in the glory of his Father.” (Matt. xxiv. 30.) “They shall see the Son of man coming with power and great glory.” (Matt. xxv. 31.) “When the Son of man shall come in his glory.” And (Tit. ii. 13.) it is called, “The glorious appearance of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
And this is a very suitable reward of his great submission and sufferings, that he, who lived in so mean and obscure a condition, should come in great glory; that he, who was rejected and despised of men, should be attended on by mighty angels; that he, who was arraigned and condemned by the powers of the world, should have authority given him to summon all, both small and great, the kings and great men, and judges of the earth, to appear at his bar, and to receive sentence at his month.
And this shall be the last act of his Mediatorship, to sit in judgment upon the world, to distribute rewards to his faithful servants, and to punish his obstinate and implacable enemies. And when this work is finished, then this authority shall expire, and the office and kingdom of the Mediator shall cease; for “when he shall have subdued all things to himself, (as the apostle expressly tells us, 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25, &c.) “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom of God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power. For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that hath put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”47
2 God hath committed the administration of this judgment to Christ, that he might hereby declare the righteousness and equity of it, in that mankind is judged by one in their own nature, a man like themselves. And therefore we find that the Scripture, when it speaks of Christ, as judge of the world, doth almost constantly call him “man,” and “the Son of man.” In the places I have mentioned before; (Matt. xiii. 41.) “The Son of man shall send forth his angels.” And, (Matt. xvi. 27.) “The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father.” (Matt. xxiv. 30.) “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” (Matt. xxv. 3l.) “When the Son of man shall come in his glory.” (Acts xvii. 31.) “He hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world with righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.” By the constant use of which expression, the Scripture doth give us plainly to understand, that this great honour of being judge of the world, was conferred upon the human nature of Christ. For as he is God, he is over all, and judge of the world, and could not derive this power from any, it being originally inherent in the Deity. Which likewise appears in those expressions of his being “ordained a judge,” and having “all authority and judgment committed and given to him.” (Acts xvii. 31.) “He will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom he hath ordained.” And, (John v. 22.) “The Father hath committed all judgment to the Son.” And (ver. 27.) “He hath given him authority to execute judgment.” Now this cannot be said of Christ as God, but in respect of his human nature. And this is clear be yond all exception, by what our Saviour adds, as 48a reason why this authority is committed to him; “He hath given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man:” that is, because in that respect, and no other, he is capable of having this authority derived to him; for as he is the Son of God, he hath it in himself. And, perhaps, for this reason likewise—because, in respect of his human nature, he is visible; a man being part of the visible creation of God, and the judgment of the great day being to be administered in a visible manner, and to that end the bodies of men to be raised and united to their souls, in order to their visible appearance at this judgment; it seems very congruous, that the Son of man, clothed in our nature, and in vested with a human body, should sit in judgment upon mankind.
But, principally, because nothing can more effectually declare the equity of this judgment, and that it shall be administered in righteousness, than that God hath ordained a man like ourselves to sit in judgment upon us. In human judgments, it is reckoned a great piece of equity, for men to be tried by their peers, to be acquitted or condemned by those who are as near as may be to them, and in the same circumstances of rank and condition with themselves; because such are like to understand their cases best, and to have a fair and equitable consideration of all the circumstances belonging to it. Now Christ, as he is the Son of man, is near to us, “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, made in all things like unto us, only without sin;” which was necessary to qualify him to be our judge; he dwelt among us, and understands all our circumstances, and whatever may have influence upon our case, to extenuate or aggravate our guilt. What the 49apostle to the Hebrews says of Christ as a high-priest, may be applied to him as a judge: (Heb. iv. 15.) “We have not a judge, which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
That which now remains, is to draw some inferences from what I have discoursed to you upon this argument.”
1. If the Lord Jesus Christ shall judge the world, and we must “all appear before his judgment-seat,” then it greatly concerns every one of us so to demean ourselves in this world, that we may be accepted of him in the next. If a man be to be tried for his life, how will he court the favour of the judge, that when he comes to stand at the bar, he may receive a gracious sentence from his mouth? Why, there is a day certainly coming, when every one of us must appear before the tribunal of the great Judge of the world; and therefore we should with all possible care and diligence endeavour to approve our consciences, and all the actions of our lives to him. “Wherefore we labour (saith the apostle immediately before my text) that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.” This is that which makes his acceptance and approbation so valuable and considerable, that he is to be our judge; to him we must stand or fall, by his sentence we shall be cast or cleared for ever.
We are very apt to court the favour of great men, of the princes and judges of this world, that when we come to stand in need of it, we may have the benefit and comfort of it. But this is not our great interest; for the sentence that men can pass upon us, doth but operate for a little while, the effect and 50consequences of it do not reach beyond this world; it is not final and conclusive as to our eternal state. To allude to that saying of Solomon’s, “many seek the Prince’s favour; but every man’s judgment is of the Lord.” We seek the favour of the great men of this world; but there is a greater man than any of these, whom we are apt to despise and neglect, “the prince of the kings of the earth, the man who is ordained of God, to be judge both of quick and dead.”
Every man’s judgment shall be from him, it is his sentence which above all other we have most reason to desire or dread. Therefore we should have regard to him, and by submitting to his sceptre, and yielding a willing obedience to the laws of his holy gospel, seek his favour, lest “he break us with a rod of iron, and dash us in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This advice we find given to the kings and rulers of the earth. (Psal. ii. 10-12.) “Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; and be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little: blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
2. This is matter of great comfort to all sincere Christians, that Christ shall judge the world; as it likewise is of great terror to all that disobey the gospel, and by their wicked lives confute their profession, and pretended belief of it. Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to them that obey him,” and to none else. He hath not only purchased this salvation for us, but, by a public, and solemn, and authoritative sentence, will confer it upon us.
Indeed it is justly matter of great terror to the 51 wicked of the world, who live in ungodliness and worldly lusts; and, under the name and title of Christians, have “trampled under foot the Son of God,” and by their lives have openly declared, that “they would not have this man rule over them.” Sure it cannot but be matter of great horror and amazement to such persons, to think of this Judge, and to consider, that he, whom by their lewd lives and practices they have so contemned in this world, will sit as judge upon them, and condemn them in the next. And therefore our Saviour tells us, (Luke xxi. 25, &c.) that when the day of judgment shall surprise the world, and “they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory;” then the wicked of the earth shall be in great distress and perplexity, and “their hearts shall fail them with fear, and for looking after those things which are coming upon the earth;” but that to good men it shall be a day of great joy, and that the approach of it shall revive their spirits, and raise their heads: (ver. 28.) “But when these things shall begin to come to pass, then lift up your heads with joy, because your redemption draws nigh.”
And this consideration is matter of great comfort to all good men, both upon account of their sufferings and services for Christ.—In respect of their sufferings for him. In this world they are exposed to great trials and persecutions for him: but he, for whose name we suffer, is to give us our reward; he, who is of the same nature with us, and took part of flesh and blood, and suffered himself in the flesh, more grievously than any of us can suffer; he it is to whom God hath referred it, to consider our sufferings, and give what rewards to them he thinks fit. And then, in respect of our services, 52though the best of them be imperfect, and nothing that we do is able to abide the severity of his justice, yet, by virtue of his meritorious sacrifice and satisfaction, the imperfection of them is pardoned, and the sincerity of them is accepted. For he being our judge, who was our sacrifice, and is our advocate with the Father, we may rest assured that he will plead our cause for us, and the merit of his own sufferings, in bar of that sentence which strict justice would pass upon us.
3. And lastly, This shews what reason the ministers of Christ have to be earnest and importunate with sinners, to repent and turn to God, to believe and obey the gospel of Christ, that they may have him their friend, who will certainly be their judge. This inference the apostle makes from this doctrine, in the words immediately after the text; “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;” we, who are employed by Christ, to warn sinners of the danger and terror of a future judgment, who are ambassadors sent from this great King and Judge of the world, to treat with sinners, and to offer peace to them, and in “Christ’s stead to beseech them to be reconciled to God,” as the apostle speaks in the latter part of this chapter. So that, if we ourselves believe what we preach to others, to be the word and law of him who shall shortly judge us, and them that hear us, can we forbear with all possible importunity to solicit their repentance, and to warn them to “flee from the wrath which is to come?” Can we let them sleep in their sins, when we see them neglect so great a happiness, and run themselves upon so intolerable a misery? If we believe that holy book out of which we preach, and the discoveries and revelation there made, we may 53take an easy prospect of another world, and see “the wrath of God revealed from heaven, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” For the gospel hath made a more particular and clear discovery to us of the state of the next world, and the proceedings of the great day, than ever the world was acquainted with before. It tells us who is the person that shall sit in judgment upon us, even “Jesus Christ, whereof God hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Now if we know this, and he assured of it, we cannot but deal plainly with sinners, and, out of tender pity and compassion to them, endeavour to make them sensible of the sad issue and event of a wicked life, and that, without repentance and amendment, they will not be able to stand in the judgment of the great day. When we see men in the highway to ruin and destruction, and the evil day making haste towards them, we cannot but warn them of that sad fate which hangs over them, and endeavour by all means to rescue them from that extreme and endless misery, which is ready to overtake them.
Consider then, sinner, whom it is thou now rejectest and despisest, and whose laws thou castest behind thy back. It is he who, for all his mean appearance in the world, is the Lord of glory, into whose hand the “Father hath committed all judgment.” And can there be a greater madness, than to provoke and make him thine enemy, who shall be thy judge? than to despise him, who can destroy thee? He appeared once as “a lamb, to take away the sins of the world;” but if through our obstinacy and impenitency we render this appearance of his ineffectual for our recovery, he will appear a second 54time in a more terrible manner, as “a lion to tear us in pieces.” He came once as “a light into the world;” in a still and gentle way, to convince and convert sinners: but if we resist this light, he will come “in flaming fire to take vengeance on all them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of his Son.”
And this is that which will make us speechless, and fill oar faces with everlasting confusion, at the second coming of Christ that we have frustrated and made void the end of his first coining. What shall we be able to say to him, when he comes to judge us, who rejected him when he came to save us? With what reason can we hope that he will deliver us from hell, when we would not be saved by him “from our sins, and redeemed from our vain conversation?”
I will conclude all with that merciful warning which the Judge himself hath given us, and left upon record: (Luke xxi. 34-36.) “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be over charged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,”55
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