reproduced by permission from a copy presented by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. --Hebrews
Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. --John 12:31
The subject for our consideration tonight is that of Judgment--first individual, and then general--including a consideration of the important questions: When is man judged? And where is man judged?
Before passing to our main topic, however, allow me just to make a remark or two in relation to another that has been introduced by a friend, who kindly offered his arguments on the Resurrection the other evening, and more at large on Sunday evening last, and who has also presented us with them in a printed form. I wish just to say a word or two to one who has felt it his duty to stand up for what he believes to be God's truth, and is on that account worthy of all respect.
I shall not divert you from the subject for this evening any more than is necessary, not only because it would be unprofitable to do so, but also because I had the advantage of the arguments offered by our friend, in sufficient time to write out a short reply to them, without mentioning his name; for we are of those who believe that charity and love are greater than ideas, or even than truth. And sometimes a gentleman is hurt by the use of his name, particularly if attached to what turns out to be a very poor argument. The cause of truth gains nothing from personalities. You may have our friend's arguments preached in his sermon for a penny; you will have the way in which we regard those arguments in a sort of nutshell condition, for nothing. And perhaps you will have the goodness to compare them together and to "prove all things," and "hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
There is one additional remark that I deem it necessary to make, and that is in relation to what our friend, in the early part of his discourse, was tempted to name the "sophistical manner" in which the arguments we had offered were presented to the public. Now, I wish to assure our friend that although the arguments may appear to him to be unsound, they are sincere. He has a perfect right to have his own opinion upon the subject; but every other person has the same right. The humblest man amongst us has such a right as a Protestant. Especially all who think with my Dissenting friend, must allow to others a right to their opinion; to hold that which seems to them to be true, and to hold it firm and fast because it is the truth. And God speed all in the use of this right; long may they be enabled by its use to become free, thoughtful, rational Christians.
But, at the same time, allow me to remind our friend and others that we also claim the same right. We, too, are Protestants; we, too, claim the privilege of holding our opinions, of presenting our arguments, of delivering them to others, as we find we have opportunity. We also hold that we ought to use this privilege, not only as a right, but a right to be used charitably. We suppose that others in advocating their views are as sincere as we are; but we beg others to believe that we are as sincere as they are. Our salvation is as dear to us as their salvation is to them. We believe our salvation will be obtained only by the truth; and if anyone can point out to us that any arguments or statements that we rely upon are not true, we shall give them up immediately.
But when a person, not satisfied with his success in argument, insinuates that we are not sincere; that we are "sophistical"; that we are trying to make a thing that we know to be false appear to be true, we say, as our Lord says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). By his own master must every man stand or fall. I hope the hint thus given will prevent my friend in future, however unsatisfactory he may contend our arguments to be, from assuming the place of judge, for which no mortal is fitted, and pronouncing them "sophistical."
Let us now proceed to the consideration of the great theme before us--and first of all, to the judgment of each individual, which takes place, as we conceive, immediately after death.
Here allow me a remark upon the treatment that reason obtains from many orthodox advocates. It is a treatment that, although not exclusively applied to the subject before us, is very commonly manifested, and that I find in the sermon to which I have adverted. When anyone undertakes to show that one of the common doctrines is unreasonable--although we generally find that people are exceedingly glad to make use of reason wherever it can be used on their side--yet, when a doctrine is found to be unreasonable, and the person who holds it cannot show that it is not so, it is very common for him to begin to hold forth about mysteries that he declares are above man's comprehension, and to say that they are too high for reason; that they may appear to be contradictory, but they are, nevertheless, in some mysterious way true, because they are great mysteries.
Why, this argument is reasoning. They are reasoning when they tell us not to reason. For such arguments we have no respect. We venerate no man's nonsense because he calls it a mystery, and asserts that it is above our reason. Mysteries--true mysteries, God's mysteries--are not things that are contradictory, or that can be shown to be contradictory. They are hidden wisdom; they are deeper truths than usual; they are things that you are invited to think about, not to shun thinking about. And when by meditation you understand them--when you behold their real nature and character--you will find that they are always grander wisdom than any other of God's lessons.
The mysteries of God are not contradictory, but are higher disclosures of holy wisdom. It is man-made mysteries that are contradictory. Mysteries in religion are what the Apostle Paul speaks of when he says, "Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries . . . and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2). Divine mysteries are such as can be understood if a man will apply himself to them, and go on seeking the truth till the truth opens upon him in all its harmony and glory. "It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 13:11), said the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul says, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world" (1 Corinthians 2:7); thus teaching that the mystery of God is hidden wisdom. Again, he says, "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ; which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Ephesians 3:4, 5); thus informing us that what had formerly been a mystery was now revealed. And once more he says, "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:9, 10). Here that which had been a mystery when hid was, when discovered, the manifold wisdom of God. Such are all divine mysteries. Contradictions are only human mysteries, and are, strictly speaking, only pious frauds.
And when a person tells me something that I see to be utterly irrational, which amounts to this: that a thing is and is not at the same time; when a person tells me that in a certain matter three times one make one; when a person tells me that a bit of bread, which he has got from a baker's shop, or made himself, is the great God who fills heaven and earth; when a person tells me that the same body that is buried will be raised, but that it will not be the same, it will be spiritual; and when it is said that these and similar things must be believed, however contradictory, because they are mysteries above our reason, I say, excuse me, they are not above reason in the least. They are far below and contrary to reason.
All truth will be found to come out right when tried in a threefold manner. Three classes of truth all come from God. All truths will be found right if tried by Scripture; they will be found right if tried by reason; they will be right if tried by science. Reason, Scripture, and science all come from God, and in him harmonize--and they must harmonize if we get them right from him. Therefore, if a man tells me that he has something that is very spiritual and sublime, but is unreasonable and unscientific, I know he is mistaken. It does not stand the threefold test.
But a man will say, perhaps, "The Scripture says so and so"--although no man can truly say the Scripture teaches that dead bodies shall rise. He may draw inferences from the letter of the Sacred Scriptures because there is what is called the "letter that killeth" as well as "the spirit that giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6). And if a man will take some portion of the Sacred Scriptures and use it without reference to its spirit and life, he may prove many things that are most absurd.
The question is not what the Scripture says only, but what it means. That is the question to be settled. When God gives us Scripture, he not only tells us to read, but he says, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" (Acts 8:30). And if we do not understand, and do not understand each new truth in harmony with all other truths that we know, we are reading without profit. Hear again what he says: "When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart" (Matthew 13:19). Those things that are brought forth under the pretense of being great mysteries, but that persons cannot understand, depend upon it, are not from God; they are something man-made. God says, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18); and when you have gotten God's idea, you will find that it is reasonable, it is scientific, and it is Scriptural.
Thus it comes out with the threefold test by which all doctrine should be tried. Take this idea with you, and you will find a light opening upon you as to the mode in which you should treat the Sacred Scriptures. You will never have to tell people that a view is Scriptural but not rational. If it is really found to be not rational, or not scientific, it is not because the Scriptures are wrong, but because man's interpretation of them has been mistaken. Well, thus "prove all things." And how can a person prove all things when he does not use his reason? And how then can he "hold fast that which is good"?
We come, now, to the immediate subject for tonight: individual judgment. This is the first idea to which we wish to call your attention. What we have already said about sound reason and rational science being in harmony with true religion, and with the Word of God when it is rightly understood, belongs to this subject as well as to every other.
I have no doubt but that all my respected hearers have often been told that there is to be a day at some future time when all persons are to be judged; when the Savior of the world is to come for judgment in the outward clouds of the air. It used to be said that it was to be in the valley of Jehoshaphat, a small valley near to Jerusalem, and that the myriads of human beings who had lived from the beginning of the world up to that period were to be collected in that place, and were all to be judged there. When the judgment was over, the world in which we live was to be burnt up, and all the starry bodies were to partake in the annihilation. But what was to follow afterwards was never very clearly stated. Some thought there was to be another earth and another sky in which the redeemed were to live.
Now, notwithstanding you have been told this, and although it has been the constant doctrine, very likely, preached to most of you for a long time--a doctrine from which you would conclude that there was to be no going to heaven or going to hell before the judgment was over, because people were not to be tried until that time--yet it has also been generally preached and supposed that people go to heaven or to hell when they die. But this is just the sort of thing that we have pointed out in relation to other doctrines. There is to be a grand trial when the world comes to its end, but nevertheless people are to go to heaven and hell when they die besides.
If they are judged as soon as they die, and go to heaven directly, what then is the use of that judgment some thousands of years to come? What is the necessity for it? They are judged already, as we teach and you admit. And why, then, after they have been thousands of years in heaven, and others thousands of years in hell, are they to be brought up, and a form of trial to be gone through? The two things are inconsistent. Can it be to ascertain whether they ought to have been there or not? It is irrelevant to think so. Every person surely goes to heaven who ought to go there, and every person goes to hell who ought to go there, and this soon after death. Does it not, then, seem unreasonable to bring them from their everlasting abodes thousands of years after, and try them over again? Put these two things together, and does the idea look reasonable? Is it a rational doctrine? Are we to be told that this is a great mystery too, and quite above our reason? Are we again to be told we must not inquire into it because it is a great mystery? But this is precisely in the same category with every other of those doctrines that were really hatched in times of ignorance and darkness.
Let us then inquire, not only what the Scriptures say, but whether the Scriptures mean what persons who have got their doctrine through the dark ages say. Are there really no higher, no brighter views than those that have been handed down to us from the dark ages of a corrupted church in which, for superstition's sake, all mysteries were cherished? We believe that better may be had at the present time. We have no reverence for anything because it was professed five hundred or a thousand years ago. If age is the only claim it has, although persons with great names, in those days of pride and selfishness, held such doctrines, we have not the slightest reverence for them on these accounts. If they had good reasons for holding their doctrines, we ask: What were their reasons? Give us the reasons; never mind the names. If the thing is right, we hold to it for that reason. If the thing is wrong and pernicious; if it tends to make us only such Christians as these men were, a thousand or even three hundred years ago, we shall be content to go without their doctrines and their light. The church of those times was an unenlightened, persecuting, vicious church, and the less we go back to it the better.
We must go on. Churches never go back. God never goes back in nature or in spirit. We are not to go back to Judaism, nor to the dark ages of Christianity. God has promised that there will come a time in which a new city--a city of heavenly gold, and clear as crystal--will come down from him, in which principles will be revealed that will make religion clear. "The time cometh when I shall show you plainly of the Father" (John 16:25). There will be a time in which religion will be found to be such that men shall know the Lord, all over the earth. "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14). And we say to men: Go on; do not go back, neither to the old mummery of three hundred, or seven hundred, or fifteen hundred years ago; but look up to the living God of this age. Look to him as your divine teacher; let his word harmoniously teach you, and then you will find that sound religion, sound rationality, and sound science all go hand in hand together. They all come from the same God, and all alike tend to make us noble-minded men.
Well, we have named the inconsistency that comes out in this notion of having two judgments--two general judgments; first of all in letting persons go some to heaven and others to hell, and then trying them thousands of years afterwards, to ascertain whether they ought to have gone to their several places or not. We must surely see that this is a subject that requires a little more light. Then we come to the notion of there being a last day for this outward universe, in which the stars are to fall from heaven and come down upon the earth--although it is now known that there are millions of suns and worlds. Even one of our planets, Jupiter, is as large as nine hundred earths, if they were all rolled into one.
I say, although persons have had this notion, we are certain that the doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures is that each person's probation is finished when he has worked out his salvation, or refused his salvation, at the end of his life in this world. That is his last day--the individual last day. And Christ raises him up at his last day to enter, if he is prepared for heaven, into the abodes of the blessed. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life"; not "I shall be thousands of years hence," but "I am." And every person who puts off his earthly covering is drawn by the spirit of Jesus into the eternal world, and there associated with his own heaven, if he is prepared for heaven; and if not, not. "And I," he says, "if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32).
This is the doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures throughout. Anyone who reads our Lord's words in relation to death at any time will find that man's final state is then realized. "Behold," he says, "I come quickly; and my reward is with me"; not, behold, you are to wait for thousands of years, but "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:12). Again, says the Divine Teacher, when he is likening men to the laborers in a vineyard, "When even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, 'Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first'" (Matthew 20:8). He does not say that the day was closed then; but that there was an immense gap yet to be passed, for no purpose--a sort of half-existence, in which, unless they have what my friend calls in his sermon that indefinable body, the spiritual body, we know not what they are.
Our friend has not given much attention to spiritual bodies and spiritual things, evidently; and therefore he regards the spiritual body as an indefinable body. There is nothing more indefinable about it, however, than there is about the natural body. "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44). The body is an external, fitted to the world in which it lives. The body that is fitted to this natural world is a natural body; the body that is fitted to the other world is a spiritual body. It is quite as easy to understand the one as it is to understand the other. And when the spiritual body that we have now is regenerated, the Apostle says, "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body" (1 Corinthians 15:38). When this spiritual body has been wrought out, has been made beautiful by the reception of angelic principles, it stands forth in angelic loveliness.
This is taught in the Sacred Scriptures. The Psalmist says, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15). Not satisfied when he awakes having no shape, or awakes at some enormously distant period in his old body; but when, having gone asleep in time, he awakes in eternity, with the beauty of the Lord his God upon him, he will be satisfied; he will have every wish fulfilled; he will have fullness of joy. We cannot suppose that those saints that have gone before us are unsatisfied because they have not got the earthly shells they have left behind them--that they are lingering and hoping and wishing that these shall be brought up. I have examined the mummies of three or four thousand years ago, which are to be seen in the British Museum--those miserable masses of filth and corruption--and have thought of a glorious angel like the one who spoke to St. John--who was so magnificent that the Apostle was about to adore him, but was told he must not do it, for he was one of his brethren--and I have asked myself: Can it take anything from the glory of such a blessed one to be without this mass that is here? Let those miserable men who love their bodies so well as to bestow every care on them, and very little on their souls, look there, and see what they become, notwithstanding all that can be done to preserve them. Can any blessed one who in angelic beauty has been living for thousands of years--can he want this miserable stuff? Oh, no! Oh, no! The spirit went to God who gave it; but the dust to dust. "Dust thou art," is said of the body, "and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis 3:19).
We shall be satisfied, when we awake, in God's likeness. God's likeness is being wrought in us now. The Apostle says, "He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God" (2 Corinthians 5:5). We are being wrought now. From the first moment that the glorious seeds of truth and goodness from the Lord Jesus Christ enter into our souls, there comes a tinge of spiritual beauty upon them. If we saw man in his natural state, such as God sees him, we should know that he is really as he is described in the Scriptures: "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores" (Isaiah 1:6).
We must be born again. It is not a thing for which there is no necessity. It is not enough that at the last moment we believe in Christian doctrine--believe that our Lord Jesus Christ has died for us, and has done everything for us. We must believe that; but believe in time to let him do the same thing for us that he has done for the world. Your little world has to have new light poured into it; you have to be redeemed from your sins, as he redeemed the world from the power of hell.
It is this confusing of two grand truths, and putting them in antagonism to each other, that has led to religion being emasculated of its strength; to its becoming almost a nullity--a faith alone, instead of a faith in Christ, as our real Savior, who saves from the sins of passion, of lust, and of selfishness. These are the things that make men unhappy. These are what the world needs saving from. Christ has done his part. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus," said the angel, "for he shall save his people from their sins"; not from the guilt of sin only--not from the punishment of sin only, but he saves from sin itself; and when that is obliterated from a man, he need not concern himself about punishment; it is all over. He is not the man to be punished; he is a new man; he has been born again; and being a new man, and born again by the great Savior's operation, let him go on rising from the dead and being perfected in heavenly life.
This, brethren, is the real and important resurrection. We are "dead in trespasses and sins" to begin with, in our religious life; and the grand business for us is to awake, to rouse ourselves; not, as my friend has made it out in part of his sermon, to awake out of the earthly dust; but, as the Apostle Paul says: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Ephesians 5:14). It is the dust the serpent feeds on that we are to awake out of; the dust of ignorance and sensuality. The other dust will do us little harm.
You will be quite right if you get the holiness of Jesus Christ formed in you by being born again. The Apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Philippians, says, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). He had no notion that death for him was any curse; it was a gain. It is only a curse to wicked men, it is a gain to good men. The caterpillar enters upon a better life, when it puts off its old case; and when the angel within a man puts off his case, he emerges with the beauty of an angel. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul says, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead; not as though I had already attained" (Philippians 3:11, 12); but he was thinking of a very different resurrection from the resurrection of dead bodies. "Not as though I had already attained"; but "if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead," and be comformable to the image of his death. This is the great resurrection.
Let a man go on being thus conformed, and he will be conformed by the spirit of Jesus Christ in proportion as he obeys him by putting down everything that is opposed to love to God and charity to man--by obeying God's Commandments. "If ye love me," the Lord Jesus says, "keep my Commandments." "If a man love me, he will keep my words." If we do this, "Christ in us, the hope of glory," will every day make us more like himself, and this likeness to himself will begin to shed its holy influence; will make it shine even through the body. It will be seen in your face--it will be seen in your works--it will be seen in the sphere round about you--it will be seen in your temper--it will be seen in the heavenly justice that governs you in every transaction--it will be seen that you are Christ's, and in taking his image and likeness upon you, you become truly a Christ's-man.
That is the meaning of the word "Christian," Christ's-man. He only is a true Christian who is Christ's-man; he only who has "Christ in him, the hope of glory," and working in him every day, will, when he comes to the termination of his day's work--the end of his regenerate life, when his work here is finished--he will not have to wait for his crown. Having been the soldier of Christ, fighting against sin, "wrestling against spiritual wickedness in high places"--having taken "the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God," and used it against his evils of temper and of every other kind, against everything he finds not in harmony with the spirit of Christ--having fought as a good soldier of Christ, day after day, when he comes to the end of his life's campaign, he will find the "crown of righteousness" there. It has not to be waited for during thousands of years. "Be thou faithful unto death," says the Lord Jesus, "and I will give thee a crown of life"; not thou shalt wait an immense period and then shalt possess it. The beggar who lay at the rich man's gate, subject to contumely and scorn, was, nevertheless, Christ's man in his degree. "The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom" (Luke 16:22). No waiting--no long interval--was carried instantly. Why, what could we have to wait for? The grave effects nothing.
People in the dark ages used to think somewhat in this way: God was in some respects like themselves; and as they had great imperfections of memory, God also, they thought, would forget if he did not keep a great book, and so he employed the angels as bookkeepers; and when any person committed a fault, it was written down in this book; and the angels were employed in this strange business. Everybody, it was believed, would have to be judged out of this great book.
But what a narrow idea of God was this! As if he needed to be reminded by any record what had happened at a certain time, or as if he needed witnesses; he who knows all things from the beginning! He would certainly never give the angels the employment of taking notes in this way. It was a puny, narrow, self-derived notion, as to what is meant in the Scriptures by writing in books.
Daniel records what he saw in vision, when his spiritual sight was opened, and he saw into the eternal world; he beheld the representation of the judgment going on, as you may read: "And the Ancient of days did sit . . . . Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened" (Daniel 7:9, 10). But what books? Every man's mind is his book. "The sin of Judah," says Jeremiah, "is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond; it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars" (Jeremiah 17:1). That is where sin is written.
God's laws are always so perfect that they execute themselves. He is not like imperfect men. He has not to make a law, and then appoint someone to see it carried into effect. God's laws are always self-vindicating. Let the wicked man try ever so much, he cannot avoid being his own bookkeeper. Let him try to conceal as much as he pleases, and yet the mark will be made upon his own soul. It is there; he knows it is. There is not one of us but who can turn over the pages of the book of the soul, and tell what is written there. And that which we try to conceal the most will be written the plainest. The soul of each person is his book.
Sin, when we cherish it, makes its impressions and workings upon the soul. The cunning man who is continually scheming in order to attain some selfish end forms his spirit in a fox-like manner, until you can see the fox peering out of his eyes; you may see the cunning in everything he does. The wolfish man is continually working out in himself the desire of trampling upon others. But the violence of the passions that so lamentably affect others affect himself more grievously still.
We need to learn fully these truths, brethren--they are our life. We have overlooked them too much, and leaned upon a sham religion that has had nothing in it. We want a true religion that sets forth the principles that regenerate a man; that knows what heaven and hell are, and proclaims that we are living every day for either the one or the other. There is no mistake about it. We can go and find incipient heavens and hells upon earth. We can go into our own neighborhoods and see the hells that are there. Those who are infernally-minded are miserable in themselves, and they make others miserable around. They are devils already--half, or three-quarters, or nearly full blown, until at length they will become so malignant, and so blind, and so stupid, as to be mad with their insanity--be indeed insane from the principles they have loved and cherished. That is what is meant in the Sacred Scriptures, where hell is described not only as a place of fire, but also as a place of darkness.
A man who thinks merely according to the letter of the Scriptures, if he thinks at all, would be puzzled with this contrariety. A very large number of persons think very little, alas, about religion or anything else. Our efforts are sometimes useful in rousing people to think, and are most useful when we can draw them towards spiritual truth. Spiritual truths speak to us by experience. They furnish their own evidence. When a person is in a passion, he is not only on fire with fury, but he becomes blind with foolishness. You will never interest a person when he is in a passion. He is sure to judge wrongly, because his mind is as dark and foolish as his heart is mad. The Scriptures, when understood in relation to a man's interior state, always give us clear and important lessons.
On the other hand, a person who loves the things of heaven; who loves goodness because it comes from God who is supremely good; who loves the truth because it comes from God, and is a light in the soul; who shows his love to these by really obeying them in life--such a person becomes heavenly-minded. "The kingdom of God," says our blessed Savior, "is within you." You see he already possesses the spirit of heaven in the gentleness, the kindness, the self-sacrifice, and the willingness to do whatever God requires of him to promote the happiness of those around him. And such a man will be a little heaven--such a man knows he is going to heaven, because he has heaven in him. This is the true preparation that is required to be effected by the power of religion in every soul. Those go to heaven who have received heaven into themselves. If a man has obtained the heaven of loving God and his neighbor, he will show it from the beginning of the day onwards, in whatever he has to do.
Such a person is prepared for heaven, and heaven is prepared for him. And when he is thus prepared, is it not a welcome doctrine as well as the doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures--that when his talents have thus been used, whether the two have made other two, or whether the five have made other five--our Lord will say immediately, "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord"? He is prepared for heaven, and he goes. His character is heavenly and has been formed by his works. The Christian is what his spirit is. If he is thus built up for heaven by living obedience to the Lord Jesus, he feels the attraction to heaven, and heaven feels welcome to him. He dies like Lazarus, and is carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.
The angels had doubtless been around him long before. It is a matter we very often forget, that the spirit world is not at an immense distance. Men have thought, since they got so immersed in the concerns of their bodies, that there was nothing else but body in the world. That was the idea almost universally held years ago, and many still cling to it. It is true that in words they may confess something else; they talk of going to heaven and glory, and so on; and of getting immediately when they die, to "Canaan's happy shore." But when you seek to understand their attitude, you will find they have no definite idea of what they mean. When you ask if they mean that persons are really living in human form there, they will talk about bodies there as indescribable bodies. Yet they sing:
Come, let us join our cheerful songs
With angels round the throne;
Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,
But all their joys are one.
This is a sublime song, in which every heart instinctively joins. The Church rings with it, and all feel delighted with the idea of joining this glorious throng. But many when they do so, forget what their doctrine states; that there has been no judgment; that they have no bodies; and that they are not to go to heaven at all for many thousands of years to come! We do not say, as others say, that after the resurrection "the vaulted roofs" shall "echo back their shouts of triumph." I tell you they already echo with sounds of triumph. John heard them more than eighteen hundred years ago, when he saw the ten thousand times ten thousand that had come out of every nation and kindred and tongue. He says he heard them, and the glorious arches of eternity rang with: "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might be unto our God forever and ever" (Revelation 7:12). And when we can join that company, heaven will ring with our voices too, and we shall not have to wait any long indefinite period until that time. Oh no! Why, the poet Pope gave us a far more beautiful account than this, and one that every heart feels to be the true, the Scriptural one. When describing the dying man, he says:
The world recedes: it disappears!
Heaven opens on my eyes! my ears
With sounds seraphic ring
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Grave! where is thy victory?
O Death! where is thy sting?
That is the resurrection, followed by the real judgment. That is the entrance into eternity. It is what we preach; and further it is what you believe, when you are under the influence of the love of Scripture truth, and not under the influence of the old pronouncements from the dark ages. Well, then, I say, do not think of this indefinite period, of a deferred entrance into life. The soul is the real man; let that be in the image of Jesus, and you will find that the eternal world is a real world--all below is shadow, all beyond is substance.
But we have said that there is not only a particular judgment that each person undergoes immediately after death on his entering into the eternal world, and which determines his place there; but there is also, in the Sacred Scriptures, not unfrequently mentioned a general judgment, and several such judgments. These likewise take place in the spirit world, not in the world of nature. Here is the world of preparation. The world of judgment is the world into which we enter. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). This is a doctrine that requires a little consideration, for it is a comprehensive one, although owing to men having very much neglected spiritual things, they have overlooked it. They have overlooked Scripture teaching respecting the spirit world, even when reading the sacred book. They have thought only according to the letter, but not according to the spirit; since the sun went down over the prophets, they have almost forgotten everything about the real nature of spirit and the spirit world.
The spirit world was well known in the early days of Christianity. Churches go on, as it were, in cycles; they have their beginning in which all is love and zeal and light. In the Jewish Church, when it commenced under the leading of the Patriarchs and Moses, while the people were animated by gratitude to God who had effectually redeemed them from slavery, and chosen them to be his people, they took the Commandments of God and loved and obeyed them; but after a while a different spirit set in, and ultimately, darkness, folly, and night. And so it has been in relation to every Church. There has been a cycle--a beginning, a noon, an evening, and a night. This is frequently shown in the Scriptures. Under the name of "a new heaven and a new earth," a new Church is described. These terms mean a new dispensation; and when a former Church has gone on till men have corrupted it, made it of none effect by their tradition, it becomes like a broken-down, worn-out world. The old world, as it were, becomes ready to be destroyed--God, in some form, visits it, proclaims that its end is come, passes judgment upon it, and begins a new one.
Now this was preeminently done when our Lord and Savior descended upon earth. Persons have been led into error, some by not thinking much about religion, and others by thinking only about one point--a most important point, it is true, but one that has been magnified often to the exclusion of everything else: I mean the death of the Lord Jesus Christ--a most important portion of the Gospel, but one that ought not to exclude his life, nor the other grand things that are unfolded in the Sacred Scriptures.
When the Apostle Paul said: "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2), he did not mean that Christians were not to think of anything else, but they were not to think of anything to the exclusion of that. There were men who came early into the Church, and who denied that God had appeared in the Church or come in the flesh at all. Some said he was not crucified at all, but that Judas Iscariot was crucified in his stead. Some said his body was not a real body, but a phantasm. When the apostle insisted that Christ crucified was to be believed, it was not to be believed to the exclusion of his words and deeds, but to the exclusion of these fantastic dreams.
Unhappily too many Christians at the present day have revived the notion of thinking so much about Christ's death, that they have not thought much about Christ's life, and very little about their own. He died that we might live; but not that we might suppose we had nothing to do. A good old lady told me after the second lecture that I delivered here, that I completely spoiled Christ's atonement by saying that men had to do something. When the atonement was over, she said all was over. Man had nothing to do. She had thought only of God's being "in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself," but not of the latter part: "Be ye reconciled to God." We must always avoid this error; we must get life from Christ to live ourselves; we must get power from Christ to conquer our sins; we must not take one precept of the Gospel and make it so large as to exclude all the rest; we must endeavor to have the whole counsel of God--death and life--Christ and man--God operating and man cooperating; and in this way endeavor to make our life Christ-like; and when we are made Christ-like he will take us to himself. "Where I am, there shall also my servant be."
But notwithstanding what the Lord Jesus has done, the man that does not enter into the spirit of heaven cannot go there. If he were let into heaven he would not be happy. He would be like a fish out of water, or a wolf being let into a fold of lambs; he would be a vulture taken into a dovecot. We must be angel-minded, or else we shall not be able to bear the very atmosphere of heaven. You will remember what Christ says about him who came in amongst the guests, and had not on a wedding garment: "Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless" (Matthew 22:12). He had got truth and knowledge, but he had not married it to love or goodness; his garment was not a wedding garment, and he could not speak there--he was speechless; what he had to utter could not be sounded in that holy region, and he had to go, bound hand and foot, into "outer darkness." Let us bear that well in mind.
I have mentioned that Churches are spoken of as to their formation, under the name of new heavens and new earths. Each has its beginning, its middle period, and at length it comes to its end. Now, after a Church has been corrupted, and then proceeds to corrupt the world and the ways of God for a considerable time, it becomes rather a school of error and mischief than of truth. Such the Church became in the days of Constantine. The Christian religion has been long supposed to have received a crown of glory then, because the Emperor had, after a certain fashion, embraced Christianity. A strange fashion it was, and a strange man he was; but still, because such a person had laid hold of Christianity, one who could make its ministers into "Right Reverend Fathers in God," and give very ostentatious names and great power, it was supposed that the Church was going on gloriously, although at that very time it was fast losing its first love. Its ministers were becoming men of pelf instead of piety, men to care about the fleece and not the flock; men who not only burned with hatred and revenge against each other, but absolutely plotted against each others' lives. It is said that on one occasion, eighty ecclesiastics in returning from a Council were sent to the bottom of the sea by the vessel being set on fire by order, and the sailors leaving them to perish. This was the beginning of the persecution of each other, the quarrellings, the slaughterings, the Councils, the creed-makings, the corruptions, which showed they had lost their love of Christianity for the love of themselves. Religion had perished, and now their chief objects were their dignities, their pelf, their power; they continually endeavored to lord it over God's heritage. And whenever a man gets into that lordly self-seeking spirit, he is on the high road to twist religion to make it suit himself, not to regard religion as that which is to make him like the meek and lowly Jesus. And from the men of these times came the corruption of Christianity.
Just so, from the Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees came the corruption of Judaism. Judaism came into such darkness that prophet after prophet had in vain exhorted them to repent, to come to the light, to serve God in spirit and in truth. Yet they still persevered in their evil courses and sank lower into sin and darkness, until at length the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to pass judgment upon them, and said, "It is finished." God has done with you for a Church--"It is finished." It is the end of your world; it is the last day of your Church; it is time for you to be swept away altogether from pretending to be a Church in the divine sight. A new one must begin from new principles--those that I bring into the world, which make the spirit of heaven to appear once more: the spirit of humility, of love, of following the light, of doing good, of serving others. This is the new spirit out of which to form a new heaven and a new earth such as St. Paul spoke of: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Now, not only does God proclaim in the world that "all things are become new," but he does judgment also in the spirit world. I have before said that when a Church begins to pervert its doctrines, to make everything dark and false, to fashion everything to its own ends--"like priest, like people"--darkness spreads over the mind; wicked principles spread over the life. Men may call themselves Christians, but they are only baptized infidels. They may talk about Christ in the spirit of that ruthless fiend of a man who headed an army of men also called Christians in the war of the Albigenses in France. I mean the Abbot of Citeaux, at the town of Beziers, where there were fifty thousand men, women, and children; and who, when he had got possession of it, was asked how were they to distinguish the faithful from the heretics--the early Protestants of that time, who gave their protests against priestly power and domination. His answer was, "Kill them all! God will know his own." These men called themselves Christians, and were supposed to be led by a great Christian; he was a great ecclesiastic of the time. Such Christianity is the wickedest infidelity; it is the most ruthless spirit of hell, dignifying itself with the name of heaven.
There is no real Church, no real Christianity in men and centuries of this class. And yet, if you look over all Christendom, such as it was through the Middle Ages, and down even to a hundred years ago, all over Europe, and in this country, you will find it blind, ignorant, and persecuting on both sides. Roman Catholics were crushing Protestants when they could, and Protestants were crushing Roman Catholics when they could. Both were fierce, besotted, and cruel. And yet there are foolish men who wish us to go back to the Church of those times. They speak ignorantly of such a Christianity as venerable and beautiful.
We are very much better now. The world is advancing now to greater light and love. We are thinking now of alliances, not of divisions. They can yet, perhaps, only ally themselves for certain objects, but that is better than the old state.
What, then, has been the turning point in this change of spirit? The judgment.
When a religion has begun its downward course, growing darker and darker through centuries, even those who follow out conscientiously what they are taught, and think they are right in their religion, acquire errors and faults that they can only be delivered from with difficulty. They think that when they persecute others at the command, perhaps, of their leaders, they are doing God's service. They die in these mistaken principles. Religion gets so interwoven in their souls with dangerous errors by years of ardor that when they go into the other life, they cannot enter heaven. Nothing false can enter there. Yet they were conscientious, and so are not at all fitted for the world of endless woe.
I dare say there are many of my friends who are set against the idea of an intermediate place. We do not believe there is any such place as purgatory, but we do think there is an intermediate state, a world of spirits, in which judgment takes place, and into which we go immediately after death, and with which, as to our spirits, we are connected now. Those who are thoroughly heavenly go at once to heaven, and those who are thoroughly infernal go at once to hell. But the large class whose characters are mixed, and who, although their real motive is good, have been led by erroneous teachings--which yet they thought were right--into bad habits of various kinds, these, in the intermediate place, have their errors removed. We do not think that heaven and hell are next door neighbors. God does not teach that they are in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. You will remember it is said, "Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed"--a great open place or state; heaven and hell are not just close together--"so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence (Luke 16:26).
It is this intermediate state that is the place of judgment. During the many centuries in which a declining Church drags itself along, millions enter the world of spirits in a greatly imperfect state; some three thousand millions in a century. Upon a large part of these multitudes, judgment takes place at the end of a Church. Now, my friends, do you consider it rational that all persons, good and bad, should be taken to heaven to be judged? What shall the bad do there? Or that the good and bad are taken to hell to be judged? It is not rational to think that the well-disposed go down there. If they are judged at all, there must be some place where they are judged. It is this intermediate world.
Again, there are good people of every religion: good Roman Catholics, good Protestants, good Jews, good Mohammedans, and good Pagans, too. These persons have thought their views and sentiments right, and where are their errors to be corrected if there be not some middle region for instruction and judgment? We are told that nothing "that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie" can enter into heaven (Revelation 21:27). But surely you do not think that sincere and good persons who were attached to their religion--though it be Mohammedan, because they believed it to be God's religion--you do not think God will send them to hell? And yet they cannot take Mohammedan errors with them to heaven. What, then, is to be done? There is this intermediate place where the angels instruct them in what is right, and remove all wrong notions from their minds. And that takes place which our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of when he says, "For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath" (Matthew 25:29). That is to say, a man who has the real spirit of heavenly goodness, who desires to love the Lord and obey his will--he has the root of the matter, even though he holds to a false creed. Well, "unto everyone that hath shall be given"; he will have all his difficulties removed, all his views set right. And "from him that hath not," who only seems to be good, all will be stripped off, so that he will have his naked soul, whatever it may be, exposed to men and angels, and he will go to his own: "For from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."
Well, now, this is the place of judgment; and when a Church has been in a corrupt state for a considerable time, vast numbers congregate in this intermediate place until the time comes when God puts an end to the false Church and begins another. He descends into that world with myriads of angels, effects judgment upon all who are there, unfolds all their states, which is called the opening of the books, consigns each to the place where he has to go; and this is the judgment that takes place at the end of a Church, not at the end of the world. In our English translation, we read of the end of the world; in the Greek, however, the New Testament phrase means the end of the age. Each dispensation is called an age. At the end of the Jewish age the Lord Jesus Christ effected a judgment, first in that world, and then planted his Church in this--made way for a new dispensation--that light and love might flow freely from himself.
You may recall to memory many instances in which this truth is taught in the Gospel. Jesus says, as you will read in John: "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:31). There was nothing outwardly going on of a very remarkable character, but he says, "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out"; he was clearing the inner world, and making way for the glorious influence of divine light and love to flow down to the outer world; and this is the inner soul of a Church on earth. Again, he says, "For judgment I am come into this world" (John 9:39). Again, he says in the same Gospel, "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; . . . of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged" (John 16:8, 11). To these in this inner world the apostle alludes when he says: "Christ . . . being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:18, 19). Who were those spirits in prison, but the spirits that were in prison by false notions? Their souls were imprisoned by false ideas until our Lord Jesus Christ went and set them free, and then took them to heaven with him, leading captivity captive; the everlasting doors were opened to receive him.
How beautifully is this presented to us by St. Paul in Ephesians: "Now that Christ ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" (Ephesians 4:9). "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive" (Ephesians 4:8). All spirits that remained in this intermediate region were freed from their captivity; all mistakes and wrongs taken away; the books were opened; the inward souls of men were brought out as to what they really were, and then the Lord "ascended up far above all heavens"; the everlasting doors were opened to receive him, and he took all who were inwardly prepared with him, to form a new heaven, and from that a new earth among men. At the end of every Church this sublime proceeding takes place, and this is a general judgment, as awful and wonderful as it has commonly been thought, only it takes place in the spirit world, and not in the world of nature. It takes place unseen of men, but revealed to them by the Lord--either by himself, or by someone commissioned by him.
This work is very grandly spoken of by John the Baptist when our Lord was about to enter upon it. He said, "He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (John 1:27), but who "shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor" (Luke 3:16, 17). The floor is the barn floor where the wheat is taken after it has been reaped. There it has to be threshed--there the chaff has to be stripped off and removed from the wheat. "He will thoroughly purge his floor and gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn up with fire unquenchable" (Luke 3:17).
When, therefore, you read of a grand judgment in the Scriptures, it is the judgment in the spirit world at the end of a Church that is meant. By clearing that world, God provides that the souls of men on earth shall be free for better things. The dark weight of folly and falsehood that has been hanging about men's souls is removed; for men an earth are in hidden connection with spirits--with spirits in the inner world. When things are rectified there, new light and love, with new freedom, flow down here; a new Church is formed; all things on earth became new. This was to be done at the end of the first Christian Church.
And we believe it has been done; and that because it has been done, we are living now in what everyone feels to be a new age. There are new impulses in science, in reason, and religion. Everything is acquiring a new character. The great bulk of men are unable to tell why it is that everything now is progressing. We say, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17); it is because the old dispensation has come to its end and a new one has begun.
A new and more generous spirit is permeating every sect; it is permeating every denomination; it is stirring the whole world. Protestants are not what they were some years ago; they are advancing. This man has got a new belief on one subject, that on another; one half of every congregation does not believe much of what is contained in their creeds. We do not believe in the Athanasian Creed, they say; it is all nonsense. Not only is it so here, but in Roman Catholic countries a similar advance is being made. In Roman Catholic lands I have met with men as liberal as the most liberal Protestants--quite a new thing in such latitudes. Everywhere you find these men advancing: becoming more generous, more noble, more attractive, more Godlike, and more Christ-like. The same spirit is pervading Mohammedan countries. The Sultan has proclaimed that every Christian shall be free; that the Bible shall be free in his land; that every man has a right to these blessings if he desires them. Nay, even the stereotyped empire of China is being broken up too, so that God is making way for truth on every hand. He is teaching men everywhere to spread knowledge, to educate, to print, so as to turn out the materials of learning for man, woman, and child, so that the Lord may be known and his will done throughout the world, not in one little sect, not in one small part of the earth, but all over the wide world. It may be that our country is to go first, and I believe that it will lead the van in this glorious march. Ours is a land of freedom, of the Bible; I believe it is to be the leader in this work; that it is to tell the whole families of the earth of the divine impulse that is coming from on high--the impulse that fulfils the promise of heaven, and says, "Behold, I make all things new."
This time the Lord declared would come, and now everyone may see it is coming, and coming on in mighty strides. It is coming in science and the arts, in kindness and benevolence; and who shall say it will not come also in religion? Who does not own that there are thousands of things he cannot understand; and who does not long for more light? Who can look around and say, "Here are perfect Christians?" Christians, it is true, have been for some time improving, but they are still very far from being what we all know they ought to be. When God is making all things new, let us pray that we also may be made new--less sectarian, more united; less selfish, more Christian; less peevish, more angel-minded; less persecuting, more generous and kind, and that we may so promote the condition of the world that it may be truly said: "The kingdoms of this world are became the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).
O let us help in hastening the coming of this glorious kingdom; and you who have a higher and truer view of our Lord and his Christ, or of him who is both Lord and Christ, pray that he may reign in us forever--that he may reign over our thoughts; reign over our hearts; reign over our works; reign over our politics; reign over our homes; reign in life, and reign in death. "Surely I came quickly. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen" (Revelation 22:20).
Rev. J. Wilkins: In reference to the sermon just published and to which some allusion has been made, I have only to state that I am responsible for all its faults; and as every person will have the opportunity of reading it for himself, I am perfectly satisfied that the decision will be in favor of the Word of God, and in favor, I believe, of the commonly received opinion in reference to the resurrection. Leaving that point, and coming to the lecture this evening, I have no desire to enter into any discussion upon it here, but I will undertake to do as I did last week (God willing); I will thoroughly consider the subject, and bring it before the public on Sunday evening. For if we discuss a point in public, it often happens that much is forgotten on both sides that might have been advanced. It is much better to bring the matter before the public in a more convenient way.
There is just one point, however, and that is in reference to that intermediate state that we have been hearing of this evening. The Word of God tells us, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." Now, we have heard this evening, that if a man professes to love God, if the religion that he has received be false, and he is sincere in that religion, it is put right for him after he has departed from this life. Now, that is quite contrary to the Word of God, in my opinion. We will suppose the case of a Jew: he does not believe in Jesus Christ, and he dies in his sins--"As the tree falls, so it must lie" (Ecclesiastes 11:3)--and then he comes to the judgment in his sins. I should like you to give us a little light upon the subject. Is he to enter into everlasting rest, when he rejects the only Savior, which is the Lord Jesus Christ?
Dr. Bayley: A very interesting question it is; and our friend will see that matters of this kind may be discussed in the calmest spirit. While he addressed us on this occasion no one has felt the least unpleasantness from his remarks. I am equally pleased with the question and the manner in which he has put it.
Our view of the subject is this: Jesus Christ is the only God of heaven and earth, "in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Every person that believes in a God of goodness and truth, although various men may call him by various names, they really believe in Jesus Christ as the name above every name. Mohammedans call him "Allah," which is in fact only the Hebrew name for God, as rendered into Arabic. The Hebrew name is "El," not God, as we have it. Inasmuch as Jesus Christ is really the God of heaven and earth, although the Mussulman does not know it, if he really believes in God he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Belief, of course, is meant as a living principle of action. When then a person believes, not simply as a speculation, but believes so as to carry out the will of God, he believes in the Lord, the only wise God, our Savior. St. Peter himself said long ago, "In every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:35). The name of "Jesus" was not then known in every nation. There is not a quarter of the people of the earth now who know the sound of the name of Jesus, or ever heard of the Gospel. Can we suppose that the God of love will send all these people to hell when they have never had a chance of hearing or reading the Gospel, or the word that we call the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? (Applause, and cries of "No.")
This same blessed Savior says, "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" (John 10:16). He, therefore, in our estimation, who really believes in God, and shows he believes the truth by working it out as he understands it, will hear all the truth he could not learn here about Jesus when he goes into the other life. He will be of that "one fold"; he will worship then that "one shepherd." That is our view.
Q. Did not the Jew that rejected the Lord Jesus Christ professedly believe in the God of heaven?
Dr. Bayley: The question, in our idea, is not what is professedly believed. Those who, with full knowledge, rejected the Savior did not really believe. No man really believes in God but he who works out God's will, and comes gladly to the truth. Our Lord Jesus Christ himself says that the Jew who really did the will of God according to the teaching of Moses would come to him. Many did not really believe, and therefore their profession was worthless.
Q. If there is to be one fold and one shepherd, how can those persons who never heard of Christ be saved? How can Christ be a shepherd to them if they have never heard of him? The Apostle in preaching, says, "There is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved," but the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). If the name of Jesus Christ is not heard of, how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). There must be a hearing of the name of Jesus, or there can be no salvation at all.
Dr. Bayley: Much more proper to ask, "How can they be condemned for not believing in a name that they have never heard?" In our estimation the word "name" does not simply signify a certain expression, it signifies the nature of a person. Jesus Christ says of "him that overcometh, . . . I will write upon him my new name" (Revelation 3:12). He does not mean that he will write the name Jesus on his forehead, but that he will put his new nature--his new character--upon him. By the name of Jesus is meant the nature of God manifest to men. That was his real character. We conceive that the real nature of God, as manifest to men, and impressing his will upon them, is what is implied by the name of Jesus. You know that even in the Greek, the name is not the same as we have it in English. It does not mean that a certain word is to be heard; but that a nature should be felt which is to rule the hearts and minds of men. If that be lovingly carried out, we conceive it is then the name of Jesus written upon man. And thus, wherever that nature constitutes the root of the matter in them, they will take in the rest of heavenly truth, when they have the opportunity, as a sponge takes water.
Q. Where is the necessity of preaching the Gospel if it is not true that the Gospel should be the means of salvation?
Dr. Bayley: The Gospel is a sacred truth, higher and nobler than aught else, and the first grand thing in that truth is, as the Apostle says, faith, "for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). When a person has really this essential faith in God, and then comes to know that God is the Lord Jesus Christ, he has the Gospel. Those who have not the advantage of the Gospel in this world, but have the desire to live and follow out truth, will have the advantage of it in the eternal world. "Unto him that hath, shall be given, and he shall have abundance." Shall we think of our God as unfeeling, instead of as a God whose "tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145:9), as a God who never gives people the opportunity of being saved, and then damns them for ignorance; who lets the heathen go on (even now there is not a quarter of the human race that have heard of the Gospel) without knowing him, and then torments them forever for not believing what they could not know? This would be to us such a dreadful idea that we dare never attribute it to the God of love and mercy. (Loud cheers.)
Q. I think that the audience will feel with myself that one point Dr. Bayley has not answered, and I know he will be very pleased to make a reply. That is in reference to the Jew. You were talking about a man being sincere and going to heaven. Now, I believe that I can find hundreds of Jews who sincerely believe the Old Testament, but who sincerely believe that Jesus Christ was not the Messiah, and therefore they certainly reject him; and believing not on him, yet would they die innocent? You told us just now, that however erroneous he may be, if he is sincere, all will be put right in the next world.
Dr. Bayley: I do not see the difficulty that I should attend to. The Jew who sincerely rejects; who, for instance, from education, from a variety of circumstances is taught to reject, is not to blame. Christians have looked upon the Jews as the complete scapegoats of the human race; have regarded them with hateful feelings; have persecuted them; have shown their religion--if that was the religion of Jesus Christ--have shown it to them under the most odious and hateful forms. Now, is it to be wondered at that those who had been in the habit of seeing Christians ill-treat them and their fathers, should not be very willing to hear what they had to say about religion?
It is the blame of Christians rather than of Jews that so little way has been made with really good Jews. I have been on the Continent and seen places distinguished as the scenes where Jews used to be persecuted. The Jews, from the bad treatment they have received, have been, as it were, divided by thousands of miles from Christians. A genuine Jew--one who has believed in the God of his fathers--has believed in Jehovah, and has obeyed the will of Jehovah. Now our doctrine is that Jehovah came in the flesh; so that he has really been to the best of his knowledge loving the very same person that we call Jesus Christ; and hence he has been in connection with the source of salvation. Jesus Christ says, "I am he who is, and who was"--that very same Being--"and who is to come" (Revelation 1:8). Though he has been known before under another name, Jehovah, as the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior he is still the one God.
Q. But if the Jew rejected the visible presence of Christ when on earth, did he not reject Christ?
A. My dear friend, that can have nothing to do with the Jew now. The person who saw Christ in his real character when he was on earth as "God manifest in the flesh," but who nevertheless rejected him, certainly would be in a very different state from one who had never heard of his name or character. To reject him then would be because he had a sinful hatred of all truth and goodness.
Q. But if the Jew altogether rejected him?
A. Jesus Christ says, "Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake" (John 14:11). He did the works that none but "God manifest in the flesh" could do (1 Timothy 3:16); and the Jew that saw these works, and still from interior opposition denied them, must have been in hatred against all that was good and true. He was not the person that we suppose, with real good intents and hopes and purposes.
Q. Just look at what Paul says of himself: "An Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; . . . touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Philippians 3:5, 6). Do we suppose that this was an isolated character?
A. Saul of Tarsus was saved as soon as he had knowledge of Christ. Christ removed the ignorance that he was laboring under, and he came really into the fold of Christ.
Q. You would suppose that there were only very few that were sincere among all the Jews; did they not believe the things professed?
A. They had made the commandment of God of none effect by their tradition. The Jews then were a church in ruins. At such times there is great profession, but little practice. Profession without practice is not faith. The vast majority of the Jews were faithless and dark, and loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. The Lord Jesus said, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Men are not condemned for not receiving light that has never visited them. But when light comes, and from evil is rejected, then is sin and then is condemnation. Only a few among the Jews received the Savior; the great majority were obstinate in wickedness, and from wickedness rejected him who would have saved them. To them the Savior said, "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24).
But this is a very different case from that of a person now, who has taken his impressions of Christianity, and of its Divine Human Head, the Savior, not from the Savior himself, but from teachers prejudiced by ill-treatment, or from the conduct of those who are Christians only in name. Such a Jew may reject Christianity, and yet may inwardly be the very person who would receive it when he understood its real character and worth. Such a person, inwardly good, will have an opportunity provided for him by that merciful Providence who notices and numbers the hairs of our heads and the fall of a sparrow. And if there is anyone who, as Tennyson says:
Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds,
we cannot condemn such. We are sure divine mercy will save all who are salvable. None will perish for want of knowledge and opportunity. And as many have not the opportunity, or the true knowledge of right in this world, there must be another in which these will be given.
The saying of Ecclesiastes is not opposed to this doctrine when rightly understood: "If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth there it shall be" (Ecclesiastes 11:3). For this only teaches that the direction and interior place of a person is fixed at death; and this is fixed by the state of the heart, not by doctrine, profession, knowledge, or community. "The Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). The height of a tree is determined when it falls, but it has much shaping to undergo before it becomes a towering mast, or an article of furniture. So the inner life of man is fixed at death, as to his ruling love being good or evil; but as to his state of knowledge, belief, association, or mistakes in conduct arising from ignorance or false teaching, these will be often greatly changed.
And let us adore the divine goodness that it is so. "In our Father's house are many mansions" (John 14:2). And the good of all ages, of all nations, of all climes, and of all creeds, will find unending peace in those celestial homes best adapted for them. Socrates, with his virtuous sagacity; Plato, with his profound philosophic insight; Cicero, with his burning eloquence, replete with justice and wisdom; Augustine, with his adoring gaze and sublime conceptions; Bernard, with the sacred unction of glowing earnest sanctity; Luther, with his heartfelt honest boldness for truth, and horror of superstitions and deceits; Fenelon, with his saintly sweetness and holy meekness; Wesley, with his untiring zeal; Taylor, Ken, Tillotson, Heber, models of hallowed piety and sacred wisdom; Swedenborg, with his pure, gigantic, systematic, God-given genius, wise and wonderful recognition of the divine love and wisdom and self-repudiation of heart--these and myriads out of all nations, kindreds, and tongues, with their talents all sanctified and expanded; all who were sheep of the divine pasture of truth here, so far as they knew it; who followed the voice of the Great Shepherd when they heard it--these will all be arranged and harmonized in the communions of eternity, and be led by the adorable Lamb to the living waters of ever-increasing wisdom.