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“ 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.”
But the separation between the righteous and the wicked will be made before the tribunal of Christ. The elect, who will have been collected by the angels, shall be placed on the right hand. Those who have done iniquity, and have lived and died impenitent, who will likewise have been gathered together by them, will be placed on the left.
" He “ shall separate them one from another, as a shep“ herd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he “ shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats
on the left *.” There is no necessity of waiting for the separation till the trial be over; for the righteous will arise out of their graves with evident marks of distinction from the wicked.. The former will have their bodies formed and fashioned like unto the glorious body of Jesus Christ; while the bodies of the latter will only be fitted to endure an eternity of misery.—The righteous will have already been with their Lord, while absent from the body, and the wicked will have already been in a place of torment enduring the misery of the damned. It has been supposed that the soul, immediately on its separation from the body, appears before God, and in à private, particular, and personal judgment, receives sentence of eternal life or everlasting death. But whether this be the case or not, the general judgment is, on many accounts, important and necessary. It is only by the general judgment that the reproach of the children of God, as a collective body, can be removed; but in that day the rebuke of his people will he take away from off all the earth. It is only by the general judgment that the character of hypocrites can be manifested in its true
Matt. xxv. 32, 33.
colours to the view of mankind. It is only by the general judgment that the influence of men's conduct and example upon their fellow-creatures will be discovered. Who can tell how far one man's influence may reach! It may affect hundreds and thousands in his own time. It
It may affect hundreds and thousands for many ages to come; yea, even to the end of time. What but the general judgment can discover the beneficial effects which the example and influence of a Wickliffe, a Luther, and a thousand other names that might be mentioned, have had upon the world?
the world? What but the general judgment can manifest the pernicious effects of the writings of a Voltaire, a Paine, and a numerous host of other infidels, whom the righteous Governor of the universe has suffered to live as the pests, the scourges, and the curses of mankind ? Finally, it is only by the general judgment that the Almighty can clear up many of those mysterious providences that now appear to be involved in clouds and darkness. For these, and perhaps for many other reasons, it is necessary that the whole human race should meet together at the tribunal of God. This is farther amplified in the next verse:
“ And the sea gave up the dead which were in “ it; and death and hell delivered up their dead “ which were in them; and they were judged every “one according to their works.” This is a description of the general resurrection, which will of necessity take place prior to the judgment. It is also an amplification of the idea that none will be exempted from the impartial scrutiny of that great day. Whereever the bodies of the posterity of Adam are deposited, whether in the sea or in the earth, when the archangel's trump shall sound, they will immediately obey the summons, and come forth reunited to their souls. The sea shall give up its dead, and surrender those bodies which seem to have been lost in it, or to have been devoured by its numerous inhabitants. The grave and separate state, at the voice of the archangel, shall resign their prisoners, the bodies and souls that are contained in them. The whole multitude of human beings, that ever shall have lived upon the earth through all generations, will then appear before the throne of God. All that have ever died shall be raised again, and experience a reunion of their souls with their bodies; and those who shall then be living upon the earth will be changed: and, as a matter of infinite importance, it is repeated, they shall be “ judged every man according to his works."
To those who entertain doubts respecting the resurrection of the dead, or who may be disposed to propose cavilling questions on the subject, it may be replied in the words of Christ to the Sadducees, “ Ye “ do err; not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power “ of God." The holy Scriptures expressly assert this predetermined fact; and the omnipotence of God is able to accoinplish it. The resurrection of the body does not imply a physical impossibility: it is, therefore, a work which comes within the sphere of almighty power, and its possibility has been already demonstrated by facts. The body of Christ was raised from the dead; and some of the bodies of the saints who slept arose at the same time. Το these facts may be added that of the resurrection of the man raised by the corpse of Elisha.-What parts of the body will constitute its identity, is a question which will not here be discussed. The wicked, when standing at the tribunal of God, after the resurrection, will have no doubt that they are the same persons in body and soul who lived in a state of sin in the present world: and the righteous will be equally conscious that, in these respects, they are the same identical persons who adhered to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus. But it will be necessary to notice some further circumstances respecting the final judgment, as mentioned in this prophecy and in other parts of Scripture.
It has been stated, that in the separation made between the righteous and the wicked, the former will be placed at the right hand, and the latter at the left, of the Judge. On the one side stand the glorious company of saints, shining as the stars of heaven. There, by the eye of faith, we behold the great multitude of the elect whom no man can number, gathered out of all nations and peoples and kindreds and tongues. Among these there will not be found one ungodly person, not one hypocrite or unbeliever. All the godly of whatever name, denomination, rank, or order, will be placed at the same side; even at the right hand of Jesus. On the left there will stand all the wicked, who ever have lived on the face of the earth, and who have died in an unholy and unregenerate state. The whole human race will now be separated into two classes only. But what a separation will this be!
What connexions will then be eternally broken! How many who were united by the ties of blood, of affinity, and of friendship, will then be parted for ever! Relatives, friends, neighbours, acquaintances, will be separated to meet no more. In many cases the husband will be disunited from the wife, the father from the son, the mother from the daughter, the brother from the sister! Those who have lived under the same roof, who have worshipped in the same congregation, who have united in the same external forms of religion, will, in many instances, be parted from each other for ever.
Let the reader of these pages with seriousness contemplate the tremendously awful separation which will then be made by the righteous Judge of the world. Let him reflect on the different descriptions of character of which these two classes of human beings will be composed. On the one side, through the light of divine truth, he may view the murderer, the adulterer, the fornicator, the drunkard, the swearer, the liar, the sabbath-breaker, and all the various tribes of the profligate and the profane, who have lived and died in sin and impenitence. There he may view all hypocrites and unbelievers. There he may behold the nations that forget God, and the families that call not upon his name. By the same light of Scripture may be contemplated the widely different character and state of that company of glorious beings, whom no man can number, placed on the right hand of the Judge. These are they who have repented of their sins, and who have believed on Christ to life everlasting. These are they who, having seen the demerit and felt the burden of sin, have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them in Christ. These, whether adults or infants, whether Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, male or female, are the happy and blessed characters whose sins have been washed away in the precious blood of Christ, who have been justified through his meritorious righteousness, and who have been born again and sanctified by the agency and operation of the Holy Spirit.
But upon what principles will the trial proceed? -God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ; and the Judge, being omniscient, will bring to light all the hidden things of darkness. Men will be tried and judged according to their works: for “ God will
bring every work into judgment, and every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil*.” All the deeds done in the body, with all the circumstances relating to them, will be exhibited in their true light. But when it is said that men shall be judged according to their works, this includes likewise their words and their thoughts. “For every “ idle word,” says Jesus, “ that men shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day of judg“ment." And the Apostle declares that the Judge “ will then make manifest the counsel of the hearts*. Thoughts do not come under the cognizance of man;
Eccles. xii. 14.
I Cor. iv. 5.
+ Matt. xii. 36.