Page images
PDF
EPUB

in the Judgment all that are in their graves shall come forth, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.” He assures us, that then all nations shall be gathered (at one and the same time) before him; and that he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats.” He describes the present state of society by corn and tares growing together; the Judgment as the harvest; and declares, that then his angels shall separate them; and that then the wicked shall be cast into fire ; and then (at the same time) the righteous shall shine forth in the kingdom of his Father. * Now, if words are still to be the medium of thought, is it possible for these expressions to convey any sentiment except that the Judgment is to be one—that it is to embrace all men—and that each man is to be judged and sentenced in the presence of all other men?

We are aware that the milder disputant has endeavoured to avoid the force of these declarations by supposing the Judgment to continue through the millennium ; and on this supposition he has proposed to unite two periods, which would otherwise be divided by

* It is well known that the original particles used denote an identity of time.

ages, in one time. But if this supposition were granted, it would be unavailing. This is, evidently, the connexion of two distinct periods; not the reduction of two periods into one. Still, on this theory, there is a distinct period in which the saints are raised and judged ; and another period in which the wicked are raised and judged ; and it matters not whether minutes or ages divide them. This, then, is not the Judgment of Scripture. It has no unity; no separation; no publicity. The Judgment of Scripture is universal, simultaneous, and at once. The righteous and the wicked are raised together ; they stand together at the tribunal of the Judge; they are separated from each other in judgment ; and when separated into classes, still in the presence of each other, they receive their ultimate sentence of life or death.

Another particular to which we are conducted by the light of Scripture is evidently this; that the Judgment is to occur at the end of time. Our Lord repeatedly speaks of it as at “ the end of the world.” As frequently he calls it with emphasis, “ the last day;" whatever time may precede it, there shall be no time after it ; and in like manner the apostle Paul styles it “the eternal Judgment,” because it is placed at the end of time and

the opening of eternity. It is vain to attempt, by any refinement on the original phrases, to explain away the force of these expressions. In these, as in other instances, the import of the terms is fixed by their connexion. The final Judgment is invariably associated in Scripture with the end of the present state of things; the dissolution of the earth and heavens; the resurrection of all men; and the settlement of their destinies in unknown states of being.

The most plausible mode of opposing these representations is adopted by those who admit the correctness of the terms employed; but who contend, that they are susceptible of an indefinite latitude in their application. They maintain, for instance, that the “ last day ” cannot denote' a literal day of twenty-four hours; that, as it cannot be taken literally, it may be figurative of any given period ; that it may therefore include the whole term of the millennium ; and that this construction has the countenance of Scripture, since “a thousand years with the Lord are denominated one day.”

As the Scripture reference here made has been used by one respectable writer,* not merely to illustrate, but to establish his hypothesis, we shall at once dispose of it by

* See Perie's Works, Vol. I.

asserting, that it can have no bearing on the subject. It is not said, as it is quoted, that one day with the Lord is a thousand years ; but that one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as one day. The intention is plainly to show, by a peculiarly fine mode of expression, the insignificance of all time compared with God's illimitable eternity.

me

On the actual time occupied in the Judgment, we may have occasion, in another place, to observe. It is sufficient for our purpose at present to say, that no enlightened expositor would maintain that the last day must include neither more nor less than twenty-four hours. It may be composed of days, of years, of ages; this is not now material. The only thing of importance to be remembered is, that whatever the extent of the period to be allotted to the Judgment, that period must be considered, both from the testimony of Scripture and the nature of things, to be occupied with the Judgment alone. Whenever it begins, then the probation of man ends; the engagements of life will have terminated ; and the attention of all will wait on the process of trial and the sentence of the Judge.

The final Judgment, therefore, whatever its period, cannot synchronize with the millen

nium, neither in its opening nor in its close. For during both, human life will be still in progress; however refined the engagements of men, they will be substantially the same; and sin will still be developing itself in apostasy and rebellion.

One is urged to ask, by what perversion of mind any man could be led to identify such events with a general and final Judgment. With every desire to deal candidly by the argument, it must be evident, that nothing can surpass its absurdity. It is making the Judgment at once past and future. It is bringing it within a period of probation, with which it is necessarily incompatible. It is judging some men, while others have not only yet to be judged; but while they have to be born, to live, and to do the deeds amenable to Judgment. It is blending the transactions of Judgment with those of time. Men eat and drink, live and die, are married and are given in marriage, pursue their avocations, and indulge in their pleasures, while the Judge is present, and their fate in his hand! This is not merely to rob the final Judgment of its dignity ; it is to destroy its existence!

In truth, there is an alarming tendency in modern opinion, to disturb the faith of the

« PreviousContinue »