A Sermon For Magistrates
In the Name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
It is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having heft his house, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded also the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh.
In this parable Jesus Christ represents the condition of every man with reference to the account of his administration, which the Lord of all the earth shall unexpectedly demand of him, and the watchfulness therefore necessary in our stewardship. “It is as when a man, sojourning,” etc. Mark. 13. 34.
After Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of man, had with His blood bought us to he His own, and had with grievous and bitter toil provided us with gifts and appointed us as stewards, He was declared to be “Lord of all.” After He had come down to this world and here taken upon Himself human nature, after He had spent thirty years sharing the misery of this life, He now, in the parable before us, considered heaven to be another, yes, a foreign country, although He “was in heaven” seen while here on the earth. He departed in a visible manner and was taken up to heaven in the sight of the disciples. Before this, however, He left the goods in His house, His possessions in the kingdom of nature and of grace, in the care of His servants. He gave them “authority, and to each one his work.” The porter, or the ministry, received a special admonition to watch and await the return of the master, which should certainly take place, though no one knew when. The Lord Jesus now extends and applies this admonition to each and every one, “Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh.”
This same Lord of all lords has, even since His departure to the Father, in His almighty government retained earthly rulers and judges. In His Word He asserts that these officials are retained and sustained by the government of God. They have not, like the wild beast, received their thrones and power from the dragon, but from God, “for the powers that be are ordained by God.” The office is from God, though men determine who shall manage it.
Inasmuch as a judge has received his office and the power thereto appertaining, he is obligated to render an account to the Lord from whom he has received his office. The admonition in our text, then, concerns also judges, “Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh.” Let us pray that they as well as all men may humbly take the admonition to heart. “Our Father,” etc.
Text 2 Cor. 5. 10.
For we must all he made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
THE TRIAL AND FINAL JUDGMENT OF AN EARTHLY JUDGE
AS A WEIGHTY MATTER FOR HIS CONSIDERATION
IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS OFFICIAL DUTIES
1. The trial and judgment of an earthly judge in his official capacity.
2. A weighty matter for his consideration in the performance of his official duties.
The Trial and Judgment of an Earthly Judge in the Day of Judgment.
This trial is inevitable, for “We must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ.” It is not in the matter of judgment as in that of conversion, that a person may do as he pleases. No, judgment will be made, though we may not like it. You cannot in judgment act as you may attempt to act when called to the kingdom, namely, excuse yourself and stay away. No, you must be manifest, even though you might prefer to be buried under mountains and hills, for “we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ.” Such an investigation awaits us all, consequently also judges, for our text says, “we must all he made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ.” There are certain events which are very common among men, but none of these is more common than judgments. It is a general law that we must all die; and yet there have been exceptions even to this law. Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven without any previous separation of body and soul. In the last day there shall be numerous exceptions to this law of mortality, for “we shall not all sleep,” says Paul with reference to the human race. Concerning those who shall live at the end of the world, he says more especially that they shall be changed. But even in that very day, when so many shall escape death, no one will escape judgment, “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
There will be a careful, considerate investigation on the last day. The apostle expresses this with the word “manifest.” “We must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ.” The whole man, with all his relationships, shall then he brought into the light which beams forth from the all-seeing eyes of Jesus Christ. This implies, not only what the apostle says at another place, “We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God,” but even more, namely, what Solomon says in the last words of Ecclesiastes, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it he good or whether it be evil.”
Then a judge also shall be made manifest in all his official transactions, not only in matters pertaining to him personally and to others of his profession, which shall all be made known, but even everything that has taken place in the official performance of his judicial duties. The purpose he had in view when he sought for so responsible a position and the ways and means used to attain so great a distinction shall be made manifest, not only according to the conception of a lighthearted and covetous world, but in the light of God’s Word, which even now shines, but which shall then reproachingly enlighten consciences where prejudice and blindness mostly prevailed. Everything that the judge has said in matters belonging to his office shall then be revealed, even the most hidden motives actuating him, for “the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.”
Upon this trial follows a stern and irrevocable judgment. Paul expresses this empathically. Instead of the judgment he mentions its executions, punishments or rewards, for here execution follows immediately upon the judgment. He does not say that each one may be judged according to what he has done; but “that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done.” Nor will the result, as is sometimes the case when men pass judgment, be different from that which the appearance of things led one to expect. No, you may know beforehand what the result will be, if your conscience is enlightened by the Spirit of God so that you know what you have done, for “each one shall receive the things done in the body,” that is the things done while he lived. Here the judge is not guided by the false testimony of perjurers, for the deeds shall themselves bear witness. They shall be the data and material for the judgment, and “each one shall receive the things done.”
A judge, no doubt, has opportunity to do much good, for he has great power. If he has permitted the Holy Spirit to convert his heart to believe on Jesus Christ, so that in the love of Christ he desires to do that which is right and good, that is good according to the Word of God, then he has somewhat of his Saviour’s power also. It is then certain that he will do good, for what he does comes from a heart cleansed and sanctified by grace. Nor will he fail of his reward, not indeed by reason of his own merits, but by reason of the grace of God, for Christ’s sake alone. The judge’s unselfishness shall be rewarded with imperishable, heavenly treasures, instead of the gifts of perishable silver and gold which he has sacrificed. Having been just in his judgments, he shall be crowned with the “crown of righteousness.” For his kindness and patience with the cries of distress he shall “find mercy of the Lord in that day,” when “each one shall receive the things done in the body, whether it be good or bad.”
On the other hand, woe to the unrighteous judge, “which feared not God, and regarded not men,” for he shall receive the deeds done in the body. The bribes which he has received that he might pervert justice shall be as an eternal fire in his conscience, and the tears of those who have suffered wrong shall unceasingly trouble his soul, for “each one shall receive the things done in the body,” and be judged according to his deeds.
A Weighty Matter for the Consideration of a Judge in the Performance of his Official Duties.
The final judgment is a weighty matter. According to what has just been said, the coming judgment is important, for there will not then as now be any way of escape for an unrighteous judge. Things cannot be buried in darkness before Him “who hath eyes like a flame of fire.” It shall be impossible to complicate the trial and to give matters a false appearance, for the Supreme Judge is an omniscient God, who searches the reins and hearts of men. It shall not avail against the Almighty, to use a power one no longer has, nor to resort to new deeds of violence in defense of previous wrongs.
The final judgment is a weighty matter for a judge, for on it depends his eternal welfare. My beloved, what is temporal welfare in comparison with eternal welfare, and of what avail is the former if the latter be neglected? It is verily nothing but imagination, a dream, often mingled with apprehensions and pain. How rapidly this changing stream of time flows on; and we are carried along soon to face the Judge and to receive the verdict of our eternal destiny as prepared by ourselves in this present life.
This final trial and judgment is important for a judge, for he will then be confronted by a situation which a judge fears above all things in this life. To have all his actions and judicial decisions subjected to an official public examination has always — and rightly so — seemed to a public officer a terrible ordeal. But this, our text tells us, shall certainly happen on the last day. Even the book of conscience will be opened and the whole world shall be able to read what is there written. If a judge should be judged by his inferiors, yes, by those whom he has judged, he would consider this very humiliating, but this very thing shall happen. A judge, who has not been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, nor has by the holy God been received into fellowship with the saints that are to judge the world, will be judged by them. If he has been a man of the world, here in life, if from his judgment-seat he has spoken of the world, then he shall have to suffer the disgrace in the day of judgment of seeing among his own judges those whom he here despised and judged.
A judge should consider this weighty matter, namely, that a careful examination and a stern judgment await him in the day of judgment.
He should be anxious to have his own case adjudged before that day: the matters that concern his own person, the matter of his salvation; that the offenses committed by him in office and out of office, for which his conscience accuses him in his solitary moments and in times of distress; that sins condemned in the Word of God may be conquered and that he may desist from his denials and excuses and no longer resist the Holy Spirit. He should be anxious that the Holy Spirit may by means of the Word reveal Jesus Christ in his conscience, that he may realize how the Saviour has in His death fulfilled the judgment against us and that in His resurrection He was “taken away from oppression and judgment.” A judge should remember that “the Father hath given all judgment unto the Son,” that it is He who can make the serfs of sin free indeed from the punishment of serfdom which He has Himself endured and justify them with the righteousness which He has purchased for them with His own obedience. To seek after this in the Word of the Lord and to call upon His name should be matters of chief concern to a judge, for otherwise his whole official position becomes fundamentally iniquitous and his judgment fearful, whether men praise or censure him.
A judge should consider this weighty matter that he might conduct his office in the fear of God. The apostle Paul makes an analogous conclusion in the verse following our text, “knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men,” we deal gently and tactfully with men. Paul realized this as a teacher, and judges should come to a similar realization, that they may be kind and sympathetic in their office, remembering that they must give account of their stewardship, and that a careful examination and a stern judgment are pending. With this object in view this doctrine is presented in the Word of God by the apostle of Christ, and with the same object in view I have presented it today.
Most worthy auditors, you who are appointed to be judges over the people, hear now the voice of God, a message from the Judge of all the world; even of you. Hear the word now preached to you and according to which you are to be judged on the last day, hear it in such a manner that it may, even before that day, be a judge in your thoughts, in your inmost hearts, in your consciences, in order that you may with free consciences and courageous hearts proceed to judge your brethren. Do not then forget that you are some day to be judged exactly as you have judged others. As is done before your judgment-seats, so it shall be done in that supreme judgment when each one shall receive the things done in the body. The Lord God grant that even then, on the day of judgment, you may be judges, that you may be numbered among the many thousand saints with whom the Lord shall come “to execute judgment upon all,” and to “convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
It is not judges alone who are to he examined in the last day, for “we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ.” Judgment shall then be passed, not only upon the deeds of judges, but also upon my conduct as a preacher; upon your way of bringing up your children, O father and mother; upon your manner of living together, O man and wife; upon your conduct in your parental home, O child; upon your conduct as a servant. Consider this matter in the light of the Word, before that final judgment shall be made. Pass the sentence upon yourself in confession and prayer before the mercy seat, and you shall obtain mercy and not come into condemnation, but pass from death to life. Beware of passing judgment upon the consciences of others; for that judgment belongs to God; or upon their faults, for that belongs to the judges. Still less does it behoove you to pass judgment privately upon judges in their public transactions, for you are not a judge at all, least of all their judge. “Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.” Amen.