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The Great Assize

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/07/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                                The Great Assize

                                                        A Sermon                                                       (No. 1076)                             Delivered on Lord's Day Evening, August 25th, 1872, by                                                   C. H. SPURGEON,                                     At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

              "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done               in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."2Corinthians 5:10.

          THIS MORNING WE preached concerning the resurrection of the dead, and it seems consistent with           order to carry forward our thoughts this evening, to that which follows immediately after the resurrection,           namely: THE GENERAL JUDGMENT; for the dead rise on purpose that they may be judged in their           bodies. The Resurrection is the immediate prelude to the Judgment. There is no need that I try to prove           to you from Scripture that there will be a general judgment, for the Word of God abounds with proof-passages.           You have them in the Old Testament. You find David anticipating that great assize in the Psalms (especially in           such as the forty-ninth and fiftieth, the ninety-sixth Psalm, and the three that follow it), FOR MOST           ASSUREDLY THE LORD COMETH: HE COMETH TO JUDGE THE EARTH IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. Very           solemnly and very tenderly does Solomon in the Ecclesiastes warn the young man, that, let him rejoice as he may           and cheer his heart in the days of his youth, for all these things God will bring him into judgment; for God will           judge every secret thing. Daniel in the night visions beholds the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven,           and drawing near to the Ancient of Days; then he sits upon the throne of judgment AND THE NATIONS ARE           GATHERED BEFORE HIM. It was no new doctrine to the Jews; it was received and accepted by them as a most           certain fact that there would be a day in which God would judge the earth in righteousness. The New Testament is           very express. The twenty-fifth of Matthew, which we read to you just now, contains language, which could not           possibly be more clear and definite, from the lips of the Saviour himself. He is the faithful witness, and cannot lie.           You are told that before him will be gathered ALL NATIONS, and he shall divide them the one from the other, as           the shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats. Other passages there are in abundance, as, for instance, the one           that is now before us, which is plain enough. Another we might quote is in the second epistle to the Thessalonians,           the first chapter, from the seventh to the tenth verse. Let Us read it, " And to you who are troubled rest with us,           when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on           them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with           everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be           glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed)           in that day." The book of the Revelation is very graphic in its depicting that last general judgment. Turn to the           twentieth chapter, at the eleventh and twelfth verses. The seer of Patmos says, " And I saw a great white throne,           and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for           them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; 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." Time would fail me to refer you to all the Scriptures. It is asserted over and over again           by the Holy Spirit, whose Word is truth, that THERE WILL BE A JUDGMENT OF THE QUICK AND OF           THE DEAD.               Beside that direct testimony, it should be remembered there is a convincing argument that so it must needs be,           from the very fact that God is just as the Ruler over men. In all human governments there must he an assize held.           Government cannot be conducted without its days of session and of trial, and, inasmuch as there is evidently sin           and evil in this world, it might fairly be anticipated that there would be a time when God will go on circuit, and           when he will call the prisoners before him, and the guilty shall receive their condemnation. Judge for yourselves: is           this present state the conclusion of all things? If so, what evidence would you adduce of the divine justice, in the           teeth of the fact that the best of men are often in this world the poorest and the most afflicted, while the worst of           men acquire wealth, practice oppression, and receive homage from the crowd? Who are they that ride in the high           places of the earth? Are they not those, great transgressors, who "wade through slaughter to a throne and shut the           gates of mercy on mankind"? Where are the servants of God? They are in obscurity and suffering full often. Do           they not sit like Job among the ashes, subjects of little pity, objects of much upbraiding? And where are the           enemies of God? Do not many of them wear purple and fine linen and fare sumptuously every day? If there be no           hereafter, then Dives has the best of it; and the selfish man who fears not God, is after all, the wisest of men and           more to be commended than his fellows. But it cannot be so. Our common sense revolts against the thought.           There must be another state in which these anomalies will all be rectified. "If in this life only we have hope in           Christ, we are of all men the most miserable," says the apostle. The best of men were driven to the worst of straits           in those persecuting times for being God's servants. How say ye then, "Finis coronat opus," the end crowns the           work? That cannot be the final issue of life, or justice itself were frustrated. There must be a restitution for those           who suffer unjustly: there must be a punishment for the wicked and the oppressor.               Not only may this be affirmed from a general sense of justice, but there is in the conscience of most men, if           not of all, an assent to this fact. As an old Puritan says, "God holds a petty session in every man's conscience,           which is the earnest of the assize which he will hold by and by; for almost all men judge themselves, and their           conscience knows this to be wrong and that to be right. I say 'almost all,' for there seems to be in this generation a           race of men who have so stultified their conscience that the spark appears to have gone out, and they put bitter for           sweet and sweet for bitter. The lie they seem to approve, but the truth they do not recognize. But let conscience           alone and do not stultify her, and you shall find her bearing witness that there is a Judge of all the earth who must           do right." Now this is peculiarly the case when conscience is allowed full play. Men who are busy about their work           or entertained with their pleasures, often keep their consciences quiet. As John Bunyan puts it, they shut up Mr           Conscience; they blind his windows; they barricade his doors; and as for the great bell on the top of the house,           which the old gentleman was wont to ring, they cut the rope of it, so that he cannot get at it, for they do not wish           him to disturb the town of Man-soul. But when death comes, it often happens that Mr. Conscience escapes from           his prison-house, and then, I warrant you, he will make such a din that there is not a sleeping head in all Man-soul.           He will cry out and avenge himself for his constrained silence, and make the man know that there is a something           within him not quite dead, which cries out still for justice, and that sin cannot go unchastised. There must be a           judgment, then. Scripture asserts it, that would be enough: but by way of collateral evidence the natural order of           things requires it; and conscience attests it.               Now we come to consider what our text says about the Judgment. I pray you, brethren, if I should speak           coldly tonight on this momentous truth, or fail to excite your attention and stir your deepest emotions, forgive me,           and may God forgive me, for I shall have good reason to ask God's forgiveness, seeing that if ever a topic should           arouse the preacher to a zeal for the honor of his Lord and for the welfare of his fellow creatures, and so make           him doubly in earnest, it is this. But, then, permit me to say, that, if ever there was a theme quite independent of           the speaker, which on its own account alone should command your thoughtfulness, it is that which I now bring           before you. I feel no need of oratory or of speech well selected: the bare mention of the fact that such a judgment           is impending, and will ere long occur, might well hold you in breathless silence, still the very throbbings of your           pulse, and choke the utterance of my lips. The certainty of it, the reality of it, the terrors that accompany it, the           impossibility of escaping from it, all appeal to us now and demand our vigilance.               I. Ask ye now, who is it, or who ARE THEY THAT WILL HAVE APPEAR BEFORE THE THRONE OF           JUDGMENT? The answer is plain; it admits of no exemption: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of           Christ." This is very decisive, if there were no other text. We must all appear; that is to say, every one of the           human race. We must all appear. And that the godly will not be exempted from this appearance is very clear, for           the apostle here is speaking to Christians. He says, "We walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident. We labour"           and so on; and then he puts it, "We must all appear." So that, beyond all others, it is certain that all Christians           must appear there. The text is quite conclusive upon that point. And if we had not that text, we nave the passage           in Matthew, which we have read, in which the sheep are summoned there as certainly as are the goats; and the           passage in the Revelation, where all the dead are judged according to the things which are written in the books.           They are all there. And if the objection should be raised, "We thought that the sins of the righteous being           pardoned, and for ever blotted out, they could never come into judgment," we have only to remind you, beloved,           that if they are so pardoned and blotted out, as they undoubtedly are, the righteous have no reason to fear coming           into judgment. They are the persons who covet the judgment, and will be able to strand there to receive a public           acquittal from the mouth of the great Judge. Who, among us, wishes, as it were, to be smuggled into heaven           unlawfully? Who desires to have it said by the damned in hell, "You were never tried, or else you might have been           condemned as we were." No, brethren, we have a hope that we can stand the trial. The way of righteousness by           Christ Jesus enables us to submit ourselves to the most tremendous tests which even that burning day can bring           forth. We are not afraid to be put into the balances. We even desire that day when our faith in Jesus Christ is           strong and firm; for we say, "who is he that condemneth?" We can challenge the day of judgment. Who is he that           shall lay anything to our charge in that day, or at any other, since Christ hath died and hath risen again?It is           needful that the righteous should be there that there may not be any partiality in the matter whatever; that the thing           may be all clear and straight, and that the rewards of the righteous may be seen to be, though of grace, yet without           any violation of the most rigorous justice. Dear brethren, what a day it will be for the righteous! For some of them           wereperhaps some here present arelying under some very terrible accusation of which they are perfectly           guiltless. All will be cleared up then, and that will be one great blessing of that day. There will be a resurrection of           reputations as well as of bodies. Men call the righteous, fools; then shall they shine forth as the sun in the kingdom           of their Father. They hounded them to death, as not being fit to live. In early ages they laid to the Christians           charges of the most terrible character, which I should count it shame to mention. But then they will all be clear;           and those of whom the world was not worthy, who were driven and hunted about find made to dwell in the caves           of the earth, they shall come forth as worthy ones, and the world shall know her true aristocracy, earth shall own           her true nobility. The men whose names she cast out as evil, all then be held in great repute, for they shall stand           out clear and transparent without spot or blemish. It is well that there should be a trial for the righteous, for the           clearing of them, the vindication of them, and that it should be public, defying the evil and criticism of all mankind.               "We must all appear." What a vast assembly, what a prodigious gathering, that of the entire human race! It           struck me as I was meditating upon this subject, what would be the thoughts of Father Adam, as he stood there           with Mother Eve and looked upon his offspring. It will be the first time in which he has ever had the opportunity           of seeing all his children met together. What a sight will he then beholdfar stretching, covering all the globe           which they inhabit, enough not only to people all earth's plains, but crown her hill-tops, and cover even the ways           of the sea, so numberless must the human race have been, if all the generations that have ever lived, or shall ever           live, shall at once rise from the dead. Oh, what a sight will that be! Is it too marvelous for our imagination to           picture? Yet it is quite certain that the assemblage will be mustered, and the spectacle will he beheld. Every one           from before the Flood, from the days of the Patriarchs, from the times of David, from the Babylonian kingdom,           all the legions of Assyria, all the hosts of Persia, all the phalanx of the Greeks, all the vast armies and legions of           Rome, the barbarian, the Scythian, the bond, the free, men of every color and of every tonguethey shall all           stand in that great day before the Judgment Seat of Christ. There come the kingsno greater than the men they           call their slaves. There come the princesbut they have doffed their coronets, for they must stand like common           flesh and blood. Here come the judges, to be judged themselves, and the advocates and barristers, needing an           advocate on their own account. Here come those that thought themselves too good, and kept the street to           themselves. There are the Pharisees, hustled by the Publicans on either side and sunk down to the natural level           with them. Mark the peasants rising from the soil; see the teeming myriads from outside the great cities streaming           in, countless hosts such as no Alexander or Napoleon ever beheld! See how the servant is as great as his master!           "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," are now proclaimed. No kings, no princes, no nobles, can shelter themselves           behind their order, assert a privilege or claim an immunity. Alike on one common level they stand together, to be           tried before the last tremendous tribunal. There shall come the wicked of every sort. Proud Pharaoh shall be there;           Senacherib, the haughty; Herod, that would have slain the young child; Judas, that betrayed his master; Demas,           that sold him for gold; and Pilate, who would fain have washed his hands in innocency. There shall come the long           list of infallibles, the whole line of popes, to receive their damnation at the Almighty's hands, and the priests that           trod upon the necks of nations, and the tyrants that used the priests as their toolsthey shall come to receive the           thunderbolts of God which they so richly deserve. Oh, what a scene will it be! These little companies, which look           to us so large when they are gathered together beneath this roof, how do they shrink into the drop of a bucket as           compared with the ocean of life that shall swell around the throne at the last great Judgment day. They shall all be           there.               Now, the most important thought connected with this to me, is that I shall be there; to you young men, that           you will be there; to you, ye aged of every sort, that you, in propria personaeeach one shall be there. Are you           rich? Your dainty dress shall be put off. Are you poor? Your rags shall not exempt you from attendance at that           court. None shall sayI am too obscure." You must come up from that hiding place. None shall say, "I am too           public." You must come down from that pedestal. Everyone must be there. Note the word "We", "We must all           appear."               And still further, note the word, "appear." " We must all appear." No disguise will be possible. Ye cannot           come there dressed in masquerade of profession or attired in robes of state, but we must appear; we must be seen           through, must be displayed, must be revealed; off will come your garments, and your spirit will be judged of God,           not after appearance, but according to the inward heart. Oh, what a day that will be when every man shall see           himself, and every man shall see his, fellow, and the eyes of angels and the eyes of devils, and the eyes of God           upon the throne, shall see us through and through. Let these thoughts dwell upon your minds, while you take this           for the answer to our first enquiry, "Who is to be judged?"               II. Our second question is, Who will be the judge? "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ."           That Christ should be appointed judge of all mankind is most proper and fitting. Our British law ordains that a man           shall be tried by his peers, and there is justice in the statute. Now the Lord God will judge men, but at the same           time it will be in the person of Jesus Christ the man. Men shall be judged by a man. He that was once judged by           men shall judge men. Jesus knows what man should be; he has been under the law himself in deep humility, who           is ordained to administer the law in high authority. He can hold the scales of justice evenly, for he has stood in           man's place and borne and braved man's temptations; he therefore is the most fit judge that could be selected. I           have sometimes heard and read sermons in which the preacher said that a Christian ought to rejoice that his judge           is his friend. There may be no impropriety intended, still it seems to me rather a questionable suggestion. I should           not like to put it use that way myself; because any judge that was partial to his friends when he sat on the           judgment seat would deserve to come off the seat immediately. As a judge I expect no favoritism from Christ. I           expect when he sits there he will deal out even-handed justice to all. I cannot see how it is right for any minister to           hold it forth that we should find encouragement in the judge being our friend. Friend or no friend, we shall go in           for a fair trial every one of us, and Christ will not be a respecter of persons. Of him whom God has appointed to           judge the world, it shall not be said when the assize is over that he winked at the crimes of some and extenuated           them, while he searched out the faults of others and convicted them. He will be fair and upright throughout. He is           our friend, I grant you, and he will be our friend and Saviour for ever; but, as a judge, we must keep to the           thought, and believe and maintain it that he will be impartial to all the sons of men. You will have a fair trial, man.           He that will judge you will not take sides against you. We have sometimes thought that men have been shielded           from the punishment they deserved, because they were of a certain clerical profession, or because they occupied a           certain official position. A poor labourer who kills his wife shall be hanged, but when another matt of superior           station does the like deed of violence, and stains his hands with the blood of her whom he had vowed to love and           cherish, the capital sentence shall not be executed upon him. Everywhere we see in the world that with the best           intentions justice somehow or other does squint a little. Even in this country there is just the slightest possible           turning of the scale, and God grant that may be cured ere long. I do not think it is intentional; and I hope the           nation will not long have to complain about it. There ought to be the same justice for the poorest beggar that           crawls into a casual ward, as for his Lordship that owns the broadest acres in all England. Before the law, at least,           all men ought to stand equal. So shall it be with the Judge of all the earth. Fiat justia, ruat coelum. Christ will by           all means hold the scales even. Thou shalt have a fair trial and a full trial, too. There shall be no concealment of           anything in thy favour, and no, keeping back of anything against thee. No witnesses shall be borne across the sea           to keep them out of the way. They shall all be there, and all testimony shall be there, and all that is wanted to           condemn or to acquit shall be produced in full court at that trial, and hence it will be a final trial. From that court           there will be no appeal. If Christ, saith " Cursed!" cursed must they be for ever. If Christ saith "Blessed!", blessed           shall they be for aye. Well, this is what we have to expect then, to stand before the throne of the man Christ Jesus           the Son of God, and there to be judged.               III. Now the third point is, WHAT WILL BE RULE OF JUDGEMENT? The text says that "every one may           receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Then it would           appear that our actions will be taken in evidence at the last. Not our profession, not our boastings, but our actions           will be taken in evidence at the last, and every man shall receive according to what he hath done in the body. That           implies that everything done by us in this body will be known. It is all recorded; it will be all brought to light.           Hence, in that day every secret sin will be published. What was done in the chamber, what was hidden by the           darkness, shall be published as upon the housetopevery secret thing. With great care you have concealed it,           most dexterously you have covered it up; but it shall be brought out to your own astonishment to form a part of           your judgment. There, hypocritical actions as well as secret sins will be laid bare. The Pharisee who devoured the           widow's house and made a long prayer, will find that widow's house brought against him, and the long prayer too;           for the long prayer will then be understood as having been a long lie against God from beginning to end. Oh, how           fine we can make some things look With the aid of paint and varnish and gilt; but at the last day off will come the           varnish and veneer, and the true metal, the real substance, will then be seen.               When it is said that everything that is done in the body will be brought up as evidence against us or for us,           remember this includes every omission as well as every commission; for that which is not done that ought to have           been done is as greatly sinful as the doing of that which ought not to be done. Did not you notice when we were           reading the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, how those on the left hand were condemned, not for what they did,           but for what they did not do: "I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink."           Where would some of you stand, according to this rule, who have lived in neglect of holiness, and neglect of faith,           and neglect of repentance, before God all your days? Bethink yourselves, I pray you.               Recollect, too, that all our words will be brought up. For every idle word that man shall speak he will have to           give an a

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