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THE JUDGMENT. “When the future life begins, every man will see Christ as He is, and the sight of Him may of itself bring a finality to his character and destiny, as it discovers each man fully to himself.” – PRESIDENT PORTER, New-Englander, 1878.
“It only requires a different and apportioned organization — the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial - to bring before every human soul the collective experience of his whole past experience. And this,
- this, perchance, is the dread Book of Judgment, in whose mysterious hieroglyphics every idle word is recorded. Yea, in the very nature of a living spirit it may be more possible that heaven and earth should pass away, than that a single act, a single thought, should be loosened or lost from that living chain of causes, to all whose links, conscious or unconscious, the free will, our absolute self, is coextensive and co-present." COLERIDGE.
“We are to think of the Judgment not as an event, limited to a specific day,' but as a process, which runs its course throughout the whole existence of the responsible subjects of law.” — WHITON, Gospel of the Resurrection, page 144.
“Death, if I am right, is, in the first place, the separation from one another of two things, soul and body, nothing else. And after they are separated they retain their several characteristics, which are much the same as in life. ... When a man is stripped of his body, all the natural and acquired affections of the soul are laid open to view.” – PLATO, Georgias.
“And I saw the dead, the small and the great, standing before the throne; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." – REVELATION xx. 12.
It is related of Daniel Webster, the regality of whose moral endowment no one disputes, that when once asked what was the greatest thought that had ever occupied his mind, he replied, “ The fact of my personal accountability to God.”
A common definition of man is that he is an accountable being. The epithet carries a world of meaning. It differentiates man from the rest of creation. Consciously accountable for conduct, -
1 It is not within the proper scope of a sermon to treat this subject with that close criticism it is now receiving from theological scholars; for this I refer my readers to such works as Dr. Mulford's Republic of God, and Dr. Whiton's Gospel of the Resurrection, - two notable additions of the day to theology. While I fully accept their teaching that Judgment is a constantly recurring crisis, I also recognize the fact that it has an objective basis in the changes that attend man's personal history. Thus, a change of worlds is followed by judgment, - the change evokes judgment; thus, “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment.” But the Scriptures do not indicate that this judgment involves finality as distinguished from previous ji dgments; it may involve it, but not necessarily, and only as successive judgments or crises point towards finality. Finality is to be found in character, and not in judgment, except as a crisis tends to develop and fix character. The true substance of judgment is to be sought in subjective moral conditions, and not in external governmental arrangements.
this makes man man. Eliminate accountability, and he drops into the category of instinct and natural desire; if he is a savage, he becomes a beast; if he is civilized, he becomes virtually a criminal. The great leading question in govern. ment, in society, in religion, in individual life, is how to awaken and render active a sense of accountability. It is the factor that stands between free dom and law; free to obey law; an inwrought sense demanding this use of freedom.
Freedom and conscience imply accountability ; accountability implies rendering account, and this implies a judgment; such is the logic that covers human life, few and simple in its links, but strong as adamant, and inexorable as fate. It underlies and binds together the twofold kingdom of time and eternity, — one chain, whether it binds things in heaven, or things on the earth.
No one of these coördinate facts is widely separated from the others. The sense of accountability is all the while acting; we are constantly rendering account; we are all the while undergoing judgment and receiving its awards.
It is the weakness of formulated theology that it · arbitrarily transfers the most august and moving
features of God's moral government to a future world, thus placing the wide and mysterious gulf of time and death between actions and their motives. It is an axiom in morals that the nearer motive commonly determines the conduct; hence it should be as close as possible. The wisdom of this is hinted in the speed with which suffering overtakes