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any infringement of the laws of existence. That which threatens to end life quickly, causes quick suffering. The moment we touch fire we are burned; the sentence of broken law is executed at once. And all broken law begins at once to incur judgment; the quick pang of conscience that follows sin is the first stroke of judgment; while undergoing it, the soul is passing a crisis, and turns to the . right or the left hand of eternal righteousness.
Thus we are all the while rendering account to the laws without and within ; we are all the while undergoing judgment and receiving sentence of acquittal or condemnation. It does not follow, however, that because judgment is drawn forward into this world from the next, that it is confined to this world. Great moral laws have universal sweep. As gravitation is the same here and in Sirius, and as righteousness is the same in this life and in the life to come, so the great leading operations of our moral nature are the same in all worlds and in all times. Instead of confining judgment to the future, we take it out of time-relations, and make it a fact of eternity. It is an ever on-going process. Conduct is always reaching crises and entering upon its consequences. It may be cumulative in degree, and reach crises more and more marked; it may at last reach a special crisis which shall be the judgment when the soul shall turn to the right or left of eternal destiny.
But while this latter phase of the great truth may well be allowed to breathe over us an august and solemn influence, it should no less be remem
bered that the throne of judgment is now set, and that the Judge is all the while judging men and nations in righteousness. The powers and solemnities of eternity already enfold us. There is no grandeur or awfulness of future pageant that is not now enacting, if we had eyes to see it. It is a part of our moral blindness that we do not see it. It is the fanlt of theology that it does not teach men, as Christ taught them, that the generations do not pass away till the divine judgments pronounced on them are fulfilled. The most imperative moral need of the age is a belief that the sanctions of God's eternal laws are now in full force and action about us, asserting their majesty and glory in the blessings and inflictions that all the while flow out of them; sure to act hereafter because they are acting now. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, complete, king and sceptre, law and sanction; its reign is begun, it commands, and judges, and rewards, and condemns. It is the recognition of this great moral fact, unseen by the world, and but half seen by theology, that is needed to put us where Christ stood, and to unfold to us the divine order as it appeared to Him. We simply misread — we fail of correct intellectual conception,
- when we interpret his words upon the coming of the Son of Man, and his separating work, taking one and leaving another, as referring to some worldend event. In no one of his discourses does He declare more plainly his coming and judgment than in that on the destruction of the temple, but the generation was not to pass away before his words were to be fulfilled.
Let us not belittle this life. There is no moment of time grander than the present. The ages of eternity will usher in no day more momentous than those that are now passing; for already his fan is in his hand, and He is separating the wheat from the chaff, taking one and leaving another. Already and evermore are we passing through crises or judgments that turn us into right or left hand paths. The providential event, or the moral conviction that tests our character and gives it tendency, is a coming and judgment of the Son of Man. For judgment does not consist in assigning the reward or penalty – that is done by the laws, but in discerning between right and wrong, and separating them. It consists in making manifest, as St. Paul says: “ We shall all” — not appear — but“be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ.” But while recognizing the need of holding to the perpetual coming of the Son of Man for judgment, thus making this life the full theatre for the action of his eternal kingdom, we also recognize the truth that judgment is a fact of the life to come.
A profound view of judgment as a test or crisis entailing separation, shows us that it attends change ; for it is through change that the moral nature is aroused to special action. It is a law that catastrophes awaken conscience. Indeed, all great outward changes, of whatever character, appeal to the moral faculties. They are God's opportunities for getting access to the soul. It is also a peculiarity of the action of the moral nature under great outward changes, that man is disclosed to himself. Recall the most joyful event of your lives, and you will find it to have been also a period of great selfknowledge. Recall your deepest sorrow and you will still more vividly recognize it as an experience in which there was a deep, interior measurement of yourself. Recall the chief catastrophe of your life, the loss by fire, the failure in business, and you will confess that the manner in which you bore it has become a sort of test by which you estimate your character. You got a fair look at yourself, that had much to do with your future.
If change has this revealing and judging power, the change of worlds must have it in a superlative degree. There are no moral laws and forces there that are not also here, for the kingdom of heaven is upon earth, but they may act with greater intensity because of our own changed relation to them. Another world, another body, other senses, other relations, the dimness of earth gone, the clear unrefracting light of eternity shining around us ; here is a change that the Judge may well use and name as the judgment of all. It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that cometh judgment; the testing and unveiling of character and conduct. Preëminently, far beyond anything that has preceded, man is then judged and assigned his true place and direction.
I do not claim to understand and harmonize the many symbolical references to future judgment in the Bible. But any attempt to harmonize them under a conception of one general assize, one event, one day, one assembly of the vast humanity, is vain
and useless ; it is too incongruous, too difficult of conception to justify itself. The fact that all the Biblical references are symbolical, indicates that the bare method and procedure of judgment do not easily come within the range of human thought. Revelation wisely dresses its great moral operations in objective forms — parables, and visions, and symbols, – a drapery that we may throw aside as soon as we have eyes to see the bare and simple truth it unfolds. Thus Christ taught, first the parable, then its interpretation.
I think the central truth of the judgment can nowhere more easily be got at than in the passage before us. No other symbol than that of books could so vividly convey the fact that the whole life comes into judgment. Nothing is left out or forgotten ; there can be no mistake. The books are the unerring transcript of the life. The simplicity of the symbol is marred by the introduction of “another book " than those recording the works. Why is there wanother book which is the book of life;" and what does it mean? All exegesis of the Apocalypse is doubtful, involving as it does, facts that transcend conception. Here and there are rifts in the surging clouds of symbolism through which we seem to get some clear glimpses of “ things to come,” but we must not be too confident. Perhaps we are interpreting best, when we bow before the mysterious words and say, “ Thou, O Lord, knowest, we do not." Still let us humbly venture a reply.
Mankind do not go up to the throne of God to be