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David, speaking of the then present and continued operation of the government of God, said, ' Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy, for thou renderest unto every man according to his work.' 15 And again, God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.' 16 This judgment and anger of the Lord are spoken of as being exercised simultaneously, and not as being put off to the end of time. It was in operation every day. The words, with the wicked,' in this passage, are added by the translators; but the succeeding context seems to require the supply of these words, in order to express the full sense of the text. The anger of the Lord is the ardor and condemnatory operation of his government against the wicked; and this, forget it not, is every day. The same writer says again, The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth.' 17 Not that he shall never be known until time is lost in the bosom of eternity, because he shall never till then execute judgment: The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth;' for, it is added, 'The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.' This was one means by which he executed judgment upon them; it was by snaring them in their own evils. It is not admitted by all, that those evils which men suffer, in consequence of sin, by and from their own iniquity, are punishments proceeding from the judgment of God. But we discover from the Scriptures that they are of that character. It was with reference to those very evils on sinners that the Scriptures said, 'The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth.' He has wisely in-wrought a law in the moral and physical constitution of man, and of the world we inhabit, by means of which he executes punishments on transgressors. Accordingly, it is said in Prov. v. 22, His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.' And Gen. ii. 19, 'Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee.'
We might continue our quotations from the Old Testament to a great length, in direct support of the position we have assumed, with regard to the present and continual operation of the retributive judgment of God. But a few more quotations must suffice. David, in relation to the judgment of God affecting his own case, said, 'For thou hast maintained my
10 Ps. vii. 11.
17 Ps. ix. 16.
15 Ps. lxii. 12.
right and my cause; thou sattest in the throne, judging right.' 18 And in prayer he said, 'Lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth; render a reward to the proud.' 19 And with reference to the redemption of Israel, when the Egyptians were cut off, he sang, Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still; when God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth.' 20
By the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord said of his transgressing people, And I scattered them among the heathen; according to their way, and according to their doings I judged them.' 21 And addressing Israel concerning punishments which were about to be executed upon them, he said by the same prophet,Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee; and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.' 22 And the context informs us that the means by which this judgment should be executed upon them, to recompense them for all their abominations, were 'the sword without, and the pestilence and famine within.' It was not in part, that the judgment of God on earth should recompense them; it was for all their sins.
In full confirmation of the view, which we have now taken of the subject before us, as it is presented in the Old Testament Scriptures, St. Paul, the faithful apostle of Christ, adds the following conclusive testimony: For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?' 23 By the word spoken by angels,' St. Paul meant the law; for he was here drawing a comparison between the law and gospel. And Stephen said, in his address to the Jews, that they had received the law by the disposition of angels, and had not kept it.' 24 St. Paul likewise said to the Galatians, that the law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.' And every transgression of the law received a just recompense of reward. All the people, for every transgression and disobedience, received a just recompense of reward, through the righteous adminis
18 Ps. ix. 4. 19 Ps. xciv. 2. 20 Ps. lxxvi. 9. 21 Ezek. xxxvi. 19. 29 Ezek. vii. 8. 23 Heb. ii. 2, 3. 24 Acts vii. 53. Gal. iii. 19.
tration of the judgment of him, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, even to give every man according to his ways.' It follows, hence, as a conclusion which we cannot avoid, even if we would, that it is not the manner of the divine government, at least that it was not in those former ages, to put off to the future world, either in all or in part, the judgment of men for their deeds on earth. There was no lack of justice in God's government of his family. They received a just recompense of reward.
III. Under the preceding head we have brought to view, in its scriptural light, the judgment of God, in relation to discipline, or to the execution of rewards and punishments on men, according to their treatment of the divine law. The same judgment will be the principal subject of this third division; but we shall here discuss God's judgment of the world by Jesus Christ; and chiefly as it is presented in the New Testament.
The holy prophets had spoken beforehand concerning the judgment of Christ. Isaiah had said, in evangelic prophecy, Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him, and he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench; he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.' The Evangelist quotes it thus: He shall bring forth judgment unto victory.' "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law.' 25 It appears that the word judgment is here used for Christ's government or kingdom. When he should set judgment in the earth, the isles should wait for his law. That is, they should wait for the law of truth and love, which his judgment, his government or kingdom, would administer. And in the preceding phrase, He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles,' the meaning seems to be, that he should extend to the Gentiles the benefits of his kingdom. The nature and operation of this government or kingdom of Messiah is learned by reading onwards. Thus saith God, the Lord, I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the
25 Isa. xlii. 1-4.
prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.' It is hence seen that the judgment of Christ here spoken of, is a kingdom of light, truth and love, the influence of which delivers the human mind from the prison of darkness, sin and death.
This judginent of Christ was again spoken of by the same prophet, as follows: 'And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, and shall make him quick of understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.' 26 Then follows a poetic description of the blessed and happy effects of this execution of the judgment of Christ, in smiting and slaying the wicked: The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead then.' Such is the prophet's poetic description of the loveliness and gentleness of the moral world, to be effected by the judgment or kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is, perhaps, the prevailing sentiment in the popular theology of our day, that when Christ shall sit upon the throne of his glory to judge the children of men, the execution of his judgment will bar the door of reformation forever, and doom all sinners to a hardened and irrecoverble state of sin and wo. But such a judgment the wisdom of heaven has never planned, nor will Christ ever execute it. All the judgments of God are designed to effect some change for good. The execution of the judgment of Christ, as we have seen, instead of sealing forever the eyes of the blind, and barring the prison-doors of sinners, is designed to open the blind eyes, to break open the prisondoors, and to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. Instead of ordering that sinners shall eternally continue in sin, it will smite and slay the wicked, so that the most stubborn and lion-like spirits of rebellion shall be subdued into the submissive gentleness of the peaceful lamb.
26 Isa. xi. 1-4.
After speaking, as above quoted, of the judgment that was to be exercised by the righteous branch which should spring forth from the root of Jesse, the prophet adds, 'And in that day ́there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and his rest shall be glorious. To the same day, and to the same judgment, St. Paul seems to have had reference, when, in his address to the Athenians, he said: 'And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent; because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.'27 We are aware that many have understood this to speak of a judgment in the future world, which shall decide the eternal states of men according to their characters on earth. But this would make entirely without sense, the reason which the apostle assigns why the ministry of repentance should now, more than in former ages, be sent unto all men. If he spoke of a judgment in the unseen world, by which the final states of all men of all ages are to be determined according to their conduct on the earth, how should this fact be a reason why all men, Gentiles as well as Jews, should have the ministry of repentance. now, more than in the former ages? That would be no reason for such a difference. But understanding this language of the apostle to refer to the same judgment, and the same day or dispensation of judgment, of which the prophet spake in the instances we have quoted, the whole appears consistent. The former times of ignorance with the Gentile nations, God winked at, or suffered to remain. As it is expressed in Acts. xiv. 16; Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.' The revelations of God extended not unto the Gentiles. But God had appointed a dispensation, called here, as in the prophet, a day, in the which he would set up, by Christ Jesus, a judgment or kingdom of light and truth, which should be calculated to extend its benefits to all nations, Gentiles as well as Jews. He should bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. In the fulness of the appointed time, Christ Jesus came, and established his judgment in the world. This appointed dispensation of Christ's kingdom and judgment had commenced in St. Paul's time; and this was certainly a good
27 1 Acts xvii. 30, 31.