A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 17, 1869, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 4/19/2011*4/19/2011
Do not marvel at this: for the hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28,29)
1. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is uniquely a Christian belief. With natural reason, assisted by a little light lingering in tradition, or borrowed from the Jews, a few philosophers spelled out the immortality of the soul; but that the body should rise again, that there should be another life for this corporeal frame, was a hope which is brought to light by the revelation of Christ Jesus. Men could not have imagined so great a wonder, and they prove their powerlessness to have invented it, by the fact, that still, as at Athens, when they hear of it for the first time, they start mocking. “Can these dry bones live?” is still the unbeliever’s sneer. The doctrine of the resurrection is a lamp kindled by the hand which once was pierced. It is indeed in some respects the keystone of the Christian arch. It is linked in our holy faith with the person of Jesus Christ, and is one of the brightest gems in his crown. What if I call it the signet on his finger, the seal by which he has proven beyond a doubt, that he has the King’s authority, and has come out from God? The doctrine of resurrection ought to be preached much more commonly than it is as vital to the gospel. Listen to the apostle Paul as he describes the gospel which he preached, and by which true believers were saved: “I delivered to you,” he says, “first of all what I received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” From the resurrection of Christ, he argues that for all the dead, and insists upon it, that if Christ is not risen, both their faith and his preaching were vain. The doctrine of the resurrection in the early church was the main battle axe and weapon of war of the preacher. Wherever the first missionaries went they made this prominent, that there would be a judgment, and that the dead should rise again to be judged by the Man Christ Jesus, according to their gospel. If we would honour Christ Jesus the risen one, we must give prominence to this truth.
2. Moreover, the doctrine is continually blessed by God to arouse the minds of men. When we imagine that our actions are confined to this present life, we are careless about them, but when we discover that they are far reaching, and that they cast influences for good or evil over an eternal destiny, then we regard them more seriously. What trumpet call can be more startling, what arousing voice can be more awakening than this news to the careless sinner that there is a life hereafter, that men must stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive for the things done in their bodies whether they are good or evil? Such doctrine I shall try to preach this morning for just such purposes, for the honouring of Christ, for the awakening of the careless. May God send us good speed and abundance of the desired results.
3. We shall first expound the text, and then secondly, endeavour to learn its lessons.
4. I. First we shall EXPOUND THE TEXT. No exposition will be more instructive than a verbal one. We will take each word and weigh its meaning.
5. Observe then, first, in the text there is a prohibition against marvelling. “Do not marvel at this.” Our Saviour had been speaking about two forms of life giving which belonged to himself as the Son of man. The first was the power to raise the dead from their graves to a renewed natural life. He proved this on several occasions in his lifetime, at the gates of Nain, in the bedroom of the daughter of Jairus, and again at the tomb of the almost rotting Lazarus. Jesus had power when he was on earth and still has power, if he should will it to be so, to speak to those who have departed, and order them to return again to this mortal state and resume the joys and sorrows and duties of life. “As the Father raises up the dead, and quickens them; even so the Son quickens whom he wishes.” After our Lord had spoken for a moment upon that form of his life giving prerogative, he passed on to a second display of it, and testified that the time was then present when his voice was heard to the quickening of the spiritually dead. The spiritually dead — the men who are dead to holiness and dead to faith, dead to God and dead to grace; the men who lie enshrouded in the graveclothes of evil habits, rotting in the coffins of their depravity, deep down in the graves of their transgressions — these men, when Jesus speaks in the gospel, are made to live; a spiritual life is given to them, their dead souls are raised out of their long and horrible sleep, and they are enlivened with the life of God. Now, both of these forms of quickening are worthy to be marvelled at. The resurrection of the natural man to natural life is a great wonder; who would not go a thousand miles to see such a thing performed? The raising up of the dead spirit to spiritual life, this is a greater wonder by far. But albeit that these are wonders, and things which it is legitimate to wonder about by way of admiration, yet there is a marvelling of mistrustful unbelief which is insulting to the Lord, and is, therefore, forbidden. Our gentle Master, as if to overwhelm the critics who were astonished at his claims, addressed them to this effect: “You need not marvel at these two claims of mine; I claim another power of quickening, which will amaze you much more. There will happen before long an event which to you, at any rate, will be more marvellous still than anything which you have seen me do, or which I claim to perform. There will come a time when all the dead who are in their graves, multitudes upon multitudes in the valleys of death, shall all at once, at my voice, spring up to life, and stand before my judgment throne.” To you, dear brethren in the faith, the quickening of the dead is not so great a marvel as the saving of dead souls; and, indeed, the raising of a corpse from the grave is by no means so great a marvel as the raising up of a dead soul from the sleep of sin. For in the raising up of a dead body there is no opposition to the fiat of Omnipotence. God speaks, and it is done; but in the saving of a dead soul, the elements of death within are potent, and these resist the life giving power of grace, so that regeneration is a victory as well as a creation, a complicated miracle, a glorious display both of grace and power. Nevertheless, to the few, and to all who are still ruled by the carnal mind, to the mere outward eye, the resurrection of the body seems a greater marvel for several reasons. Comparatively few in our Saviour’s day were quickened spiritually, but the resurrection shall consist of the quickening of all the dead bodies of men that have ever existed. This is a great marvel if you consider the hosts of the sons of Adam who have fattened the soil and glutted the worms, and yet everyone of them shall rise again. Souls were quickened in our Saviour’s day as in ours, one by one — here one and there one. Long years roll on, the whole history of manhood interposes before the regeneration of all the elect is accomplished; but the resurrection of the dead will take place at once; at the sound of the archangel’s trump the righteous will rise to their glory; and after them the ungodly will rise to their shame; but the resurrection will not be a gradual rising up, a slow development, for all at once the myriads shall swarm on land and sea. Conceive then what a marvel this must be to a mere natural mind! A graveyard suddenly enlivened into an assembly; a battlefield, in which tens of thousands had fallen suddenly, disgorging all its slain. The suddenness of it would amaze and startle the most carnal mind, and make the miracle appear great beyond comparison. Moreover, my brethren, the resurrection of the dead is a thing that such men as the Jews could appreciate, because it had to do with materialism, had to do with bodies. There was something to be seen, to be touched, to be handled, something which the unspiritual call a matter of fact. To you and to me the spiritual resurrection, if we are spiritual men, is the greater marvel, but to them the resurrection seemed to be more wonderful because they could comprehend it, and form some notion of it in their unspiritual minds. So the Saviour tells them that if the two former things made them wonder, and made them doubt, what would this doctrine do, that all the dead should be raised again in a moment by the voice of Christ? Beloved, let us humbly learn one lesson from this. We are ourselves by nature very like the Jews; we wonder mistrustfully, we unbelievingly wonder when we see or hear of fresh displays of the greatness of our Lord Jesus Christ. So narrow are our hearts, that we cannot receive his glory in its fulness. Ah, we love him, and we trust him, and we believe him to be the fairest, and the greatest, and the best, and the mightiest, but if we had a fuller view of what he can do, the probabilities are that our amazement would be mingled with a great deal of doubt. As yet we have only feeble ideas of our Lord’s glory and power. We hold the doctrine of his deity, we are orthodox enough, but we have not thoroughly realised the fact that he is Lord God Almighty. Does it not sometimes seem to you to be impossible that such and such a grievously ungodly man could be converted? But why is it impossible for him who can raise the dead? Does it not seem impossible that you could ever be supported through your present trouble? But why is it impossible for him who shall make the dry bones live, and cause the sepulchre to disgorge? It appears improbable at times that your corruptions should ever be cleansed away, and that you should be perfect and without spot. But why is this so? He who is able to present tens of thousands of bodies before his throne, who long have slept in the sepulchre, and mouldered into dust, what can he not accomplish within his people? Oh doubt no more, and do not let even the greatest wonders of his love, his grace, his power, or his glory, cause you to marvel unbelievingly, but rather say as each new prodigy of his divine power rises before you, “I expected this of such a one as he is. I gathered that he could achieve this, for I understood that he was able to subdue all things to himself. I knew that he fashioned the worlds, and built the heavens, and guided the stars, and that by him all things consist, Therefore I am not astounded though I behold the greatest marvels of his power.” The first words of the text, then, urge us to faith, and rebuke all unbelieving amazement.
6. I now call your attention to the second sentence — the coming hour. “The hour comes,” says Christ. I suppose he calls it an hour, to intimate how very near it is in his esteem, since we do not begin to look at the exact hour of an event when it is extremely remote. An event which will not occur for hundreds of years is at first looked for and noted by the year, and only when we are reasonably near to it do men talk of the day of the month, and we are coming very near to it when we look for the precise hour. Christ intimates to us, that whether we think so or not, in God’s thought the day of resurrection is very near; and though it may be a thousand years off even now, yet still to God it is only one day, and he would have us endeavour to think God’s thought about it, not consider any time to be long, since if it is time at all it must be short, and will be so regarded by us when it is past, and the day has arrived. This is practical wisdom, to bring close up to us what is inevitable, and to act towards it as though it were only tomorrow morning when the trump should sound, and we should be judged.
7. “The hour is coming,” says the Saviour. He here teaches us the certainty of that judgment. There are some events which may or may not be; emperors may live or die, their sons may ascend their throne, or their throne may be broken into dust and scattered to the winds of heaven; dynasties may stand or they may wither like autumn leaves; the greatest events which we supposed to be inevitable may never occur; another wheel, which has not yet been seen by us in the great machinery of Providence, may make events revolve in quite another fashion from what our puny wisdom would foretell; but the hour of resurrection is certain, whatever else may be contingent or doubtful. The hour comes; it assuredly comes. In the divine decree this is the day for which all other days were made; and if it were possible that any determination of the Almighty could be changed, yet this never shall be, for “he has appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; in which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.” “The hour comes.” Reflect, my brethren, that most solemn hour comes every moment. Every second brings it nearer. While you have been sitting still in this house, you have been borne onwards towards that great event. As the pendulum of that clock continues unceasingly to beat like the heart of time, as morning dawn gives place to evening shadows, and the seasons follow in constant cycle, we are drifting along the river of time nearer to the ocean of eternity. Borne as on the wings of some mighty angel who never pauses in his matchless flight, I journey onward towards the judgment bar of God. My brethren, by that very same flight you are also hurried on. Look to the resurrection, then, as a thing that is always coming, silently drawing nearer and nearer hour by hour. Such contemplations will be of the utmost service to you.
8. Our Lord’s words read as if the one hour of which he spoke completely drove into the shadows all other events; as if the hour, the one hour, the last hour, THE hour par excellence, the master hour, the royal hour, was of all hours the only hour that was coming that was worth mentioning as being inevitable and important. Like Aaron’s rod, the judgment hour swallows up every other hour. We hear of hours that have been fraught with the fate of nations, hours in which the welfare of millions trembled in the balances, hours in which for peace or war the die must be cast, hours that have been called crises of history; and we are apt to think that frequently periods such as this occur in the world’s history: but here is the culminating crisis of all, here is the iron hour of severity, the golden hour of truth, the clear sapphire hour of revelations. In that august hour there shall be proclamation made of the impartial decisions of the Lord Christ with regard to all the souls and bodies of men. Oh, what an hour is this which comes on quickly! My dear brethren, now and then I covet the tongue of the eloquent, and now I do so that I might on such a theme as this fire your imaginations and inflame your hearts; but let me ask you to assist me now for a moment, and since this hour comes, try to think it is very very near. Suppose it should come now while we are assembled here; suppose that even now the dead should rise, that in an instant this assembly should be melted into the infinitely greater one, and that no eye should be fixed upon the forgotten preacher, but all fixed upon the great descending Judge, sitting in majesty upon his great white throne, I urge you to imagine as though the curtain were lifted up at this moment; anticipate the sentence which will come out for you from the throne of righteousness, consider as though at this precise moment it were pronounced upon you! Oh now, I urge you to examine yourselves as though the testing days were come, for such an examination will be to your souls’ benefit if you are saved, and they may be to your souls’ arousing if you are unconverted.
9. But we must pass on. “Do not marvel at this: the hour is coming when all who are in the graves.” Notice this very carefully, “all who are in the graves,” by which term is meant, not only all whose bodies are actually in the grave at this time, but all who ever were buried even though they may have been disinterred, and their bones may have mingled with the elements, been scattered by the winds, dissolved in the waves, or merged into vegetable forms. All who have lived and died shall certainly rise again. All! Compute then the infinite number! Count now the countless! How many lived before the deluge? It has been believed, and I think accurately, that the inhabitants of this world were more numerous at the time of the deluge than they probably are now, owing to the enormous length of human life; men’s numbers were not so terribly thinned by death as they are now. Think if you will from the times of the deluge onward, of all Adam’s progeny. From Tarshish to China men covered the lands. Nineveh, Babylon, Chaldea, Persia, Greece, Rome, these were vast empires of men. The Parthians, Scythians, and Tartar hordes, who shall tally them up? As for those northern swarms of Goths and Huns and Vandals, these were continually streaming as from a teeming hive, in the middle ages, and Frank and Saxon and Celt multiplied in their measure. Yet these nations were only types of a numerous band of nations even more multitudinous. Think of Ethiopia and the whole continent of Africa; remember India and Japan, and the land of the setting sun; in all lands great tribes of men have come and have gone to rest in their sepulchres. What millions upon millions must lie buried in China and Burma! What innumerable hosts are slumbering in the land of the pyramids and the mummy pits! Every one, both great and small, embalmed of old in Egypt, who shall compute the number? Hear then and believe — out of all who have ever lived born of woman, not one shall be left in the tomb; all, all shall rise. I may well say as the psalmist did of another matter, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain to it.” How has God identified all these bodies, how has he tracked the form of each corporeal frame? How shall Jesus Christ be able to raise all these? I do not know, but he shall do it, for so he declares and so has God purposed. “All who are in their graves shall hear his voice.” All the righteous, all the wicked, all who were engulfed in the sea, all who slumber on the lap of earth; all the great ones, all the multitudes of the sons of toil; all the wise and all the foolish, all the beloved and all the despised: there shall not be one single individual omitted. My dear friend, it may be best for you to look at the question in a more personal light; you will not be forgotten; your separated spirit shall have its appointed place, and that body which once contained it shall have its watcher to guard it, until by the power of God it shall be restored to your spirit again, at the sounding of the last trump. You, my hearer, shall rise again. As surely as you sit here this morning, you shall stand before the once crucified Son of Man. It is not possible that you should be forgotten; you shall not be permitted to rot away into annihilation, to be left in the darkness of obscurity; you must, you shall rise, each and every one without a solitary exception. It is a wondrous truth, and yet we may not marvel at it so as to doubt it, though we may marvel at it and admire the Lord who shall bring it to pass.
10. Passing on. “All that are in the grave shall hear his voice.” Hear! Why, the ear has gone! A thousand years ago a man was buried, and his ear — there is not the slightest vestige of it left — all has vanished; shall that ear ever hear? Yes, for he who made it hear at the first, performed as great a wonder then as when he shall make it hear a second time. It needed a God to make the hearing ear of the newborn babe; it shall need no more to renew the hearing ear the second time. Yes, the ear so long lost in silence shall hear! And what shall be the sound that shall startle that newly awakened and newly formed ear? It shall be the voice of the Son of God; the voice of Jesus Christ himself. Is it not wonderful that that same voice of Jesus is now sounding in this very place, and has been thousands of times, and there are men who have ears, who, have yet never heard that voice; yet when that voice shall speak to men who have no ears, they shall hear it and rise to life. How deaf must those be who are more deaf than the dead! What is their guilt who have ears to hear, yet do not hear! and when the voice of Christ sounds through the building again and again in the preaching of the gospel, they are no more moved by it than the shingles which cover them from the rain. How dead, I say, must they be who are not moved by the word, which arouses even the dead in their graves who have lain in it these thousand years! Ah, my brethren, while this teaches us the stolidity of human nature and how depraved the heart is, it also reminds you who are careless that there is no escape for you; if you will not hear the voice of Jesus now, you must hear it then. You may thrust those fingers into your ears today, but there will be no doing that in the day of the last trump, you must hear then; oh that you would hear now! You must hear the summons to judgment; May God grant that you may hear the summons to mercy, and become obedient to it and live. “All who are in their graves shall hear his voice”; whoever they may have been, they shall become subject to the power of his omnipotent command, and appear before his sovereign judgment seat.
11. Notice the next words, “and shall come out.” That is to say, of course, that their bodies shall come out of the grave, out of the earth, or the water, or the air, or wherever else those bodies may be. But I think there is more than that intended by the words, “shall come out.” It seems to imply manifestation, as though all the while men were here, and when in their graves they were hidden and concealed, but as the voice of God in the thunder discovers the forests and makes the hinds to calve, so the voice of God in resurrection shall expose the secrets of men, and make them to bring out their truest self into the light, to be revealed to all. The hypocrite, masked villain as he is, is not exposed now, but when the voice of Christ sounds he shall come out in a sense that will be horrible to him, deprived of all the ornaments of his masquerade, the vizard of his profession torn away, he shall stand before men and angels with the leprosy upon his brow, an object of universal derision, abhorred by God and despised by men. Ah! dear hearers, are you ready to come out even now? Would you be willing to have your hearts read out? Would you wear them on your sleeve for all to see? Is there not much about you that would not bear the light of the sun? How much more will it not bear the light of him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, seeing all and testing all by trial which cannot err! Your coming out on that day will not be only a reappearance from amid the shadows of the sepulchre, but coming out into the light of heaven’s truth which shall reveal you in noonday clearness.
12. And then the text goes on to say that they shall come out as those who have done good and those who have done evil. From which we must gather the next truth, that death makes no change in man’s character, and that after death we must not expect improvements to occur. He who is holy is still holy, and he who is filthy is still filthy. Just as they were when they were put into the grave men who had done good, so they rise as men who have done good; or just as they were when they were interred, men who had done evil, so they rise as those who have done evil. Therefore, expect no place for repentance after this life, no opportunities for reformation, no further proclamations of mercy, or doors of hope. It is now or never with you, remember that.
13. Notice, again, that only two characters rise, for indeed there are only two characters who ever lived, and, therefore, two to bury and two to rise again — those who had done good and those who had done evil. Where were those of mingled character, whose conduct was neither good nor evil, or both? There were not any. You say, do not the good do evil? May not some who are evil still do good? I answer, he who does good is a man who, having believed in Jesus Christ, and received the new life, does good in his new nature, and with his newborn spirit, with all the intensity of his heart. As for his sins and infirmities, into which by reason of his old nature he falls, these being washed away by the precious blood of Jesus, are not mentioned in the day of account, and he rises up as a man who has done good, his good remembered, but the evil washed away. As for the evil, of whom it is asserted that they may do good, we answer, so they may do good in the judgment of their fellow men, and as towards their fellow mortals, but good towards God can never come from an evil heart. If the fountain is defiled, every stream must be polluted also. Good is a word that may be measured according to those who use it. The evil man’s good is good to you, his child, his wife, his friend, but he has no care for God, no reverence, no esteem for the great Lawgiver. Therefore what may be good to you may be evil to God, because it is done for no right motive, even perhaps done with a wrong motive; so that the man is dishonouring God while he was helping his friend. God shall judge men by their works, but there shall be only two characters, the good and the evil; and this makes it solemn work for each man to know where he will be, and what has been the general tenor of his life, and what is a true verdict upon its entirety. Oh sirs, there are some of you, who with all your excellencies and moralities, have never done good as God measures good, for you have never thought of God to honour him, you have never even confessed that you had dishonoured him, in fact, you have remained proudly indifferent to God’s judgment of you as a sinner, and you have set yourself up as being all you should be. How shall it be possible, while you do not believe your God, that you could do anything that can please him? Your whole life is evil in God’s sight — only evil. And as for you who fear his name, or trust you do, take heed to your actions, I urge you, seeing that there are only those who have done good, and those who have done evil. Make it clear to your conscience, make it clear to the judgment of those who watch you (though this is of less importance), and make it clear before God, that your works are good, that your heart is right, because your outward conduct is conformed to the law of God.
14. I shall not keep you much longer in the exposition, except to notice that the mode of judging is remarkable. Those who search the Scriptures know that the mode of judging at the last day will be entirely according to works. Will men be saved then for their works? no, by no means. Salvation is in every case the work and gift of grace. But the judgment will be guided by our works. It is due to those to be judged, that they should all be tried by the same rule. Now, no rule can be common to saints and sinners, except the rule of their moral conduct, and by this rule shall all men be judged. If God does not find in you, my friend, any holiness of life whatever, neither will he accept you. “What about the dying thief then?” one asks. There was the righteousness of faith in him, and it produced all the holy acts which circumstances allowed; the very moment he believed in Christ, he affirmed Christ, and spoke for Christ, and that one act stood as evidence of his being a friend of God, while all his sins were washed away. May God grant you the grace to confess your sins, and believe in Jesus, so that all your transgressions may be forgiven you. There must be some evidence of your faith. Before the assembled host of men there shall be no evidence given of your faith based upon your inward feelings, but the evidence shall be found in your outward actions. It will still be, “I was hungry, and you gave me food: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.” Take heed, then, concerning practical godliness, and abhor all preaching which would make sanctity of life to be a secondary thing. We are justified by faith, but not by a dead faith; the faith which justifies is what produces holiness, and “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” See then the two classes into which men are divided, and the stern rule by which God shall judge them, and judge yourselves so that you are not condemned with the wicked.
15. The different destinies of the two classes are mentioned in the text. One shall rise to the resurrection of life. This does not mean mere existence; they shall both exist, both exist for ever, but “life” means, when properly understood, happiness, power, activity, privilege, capacity, in fact, it is a term so comprehensive that I should need a great amount of time to expound all it means. There is a death in life which the ungodly shall have, but ours shall be a life in life — a true life; not merely existence but existence in energy, existence in honour, existence in peace, existence in blessedness, existence in perfection. This is the resurrection to life. As for the ungodly, there is a resurrection to damnation, by which their bodies and souls shall obviously come under the condemnation of God; to use our Saviour’s word, shall be damned. Oh, what a resurrection! and yet we cannot escape from it if we neglect the great salvation. If we could lay down and sleep, and never awaken again, oh, what a blessing it would be for an ungodly man! If that grave could be the last of him, and like a dog he should never awaken again from slumber, what a blessing! But it is a blessing that is not yours, and never can be. Your souls must live, and your body must live. Oh fear him, I beseech you, “who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Yes, I say to you, ‘Fear him.’ ”
16. II. Our time is almost spent, but I must occupy the remaining minutes in DRAWING LESSONS FROM THE TEXT.
17. The first is the lesson of adoring reverence. If it is so, that all the dead shall rise at the voice of Christ, let us worship him. What a Saviour was he who bled upon the tree! How gloriously is he who was despised and rejected, now exalted! Oh brethren, if we could only see the edges of this truth, that he shall raise all the dead out of their graves, if we could only begin to perceive its grandeur of meaning, I think we should fall at the Saviour’s feet as John did when he said, “I fell at his feet as dead.” Oh, what amazing power is yours, my Lord and Master! What homage must be due to you! All hail, Emmanuel! You have the keys of death and of hell. My soul loves and adores you, you ever great enthroned Prince, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
18. The next lesson is consolation for our wounded spirits concerning our departed friends. We never mourn with regard to the souls of the righteous, they are for ever with the Lord. The only mourning that we permit among Christians concerns the body, which is blighted like a withered flower. When we read at funerals that famous chapter in the epistle to the Corinthians, we find in it no comfort concerning the immortal spirit, for it is not required, but we find much consolation with regard to what is “sown in dishonour,” but shall be “raised in glory.” Your dead men shall live; that decaying dust shall live again. Do not weep as though you had cast your treasure into the sea, where you could never find it; you have only put it into a casket, from where you shall receive it again brighter than before. You shall look again with your own eyes into those eyes which have spoken love to you so often, but which are now closed in darkness of death. Your child shall still see you again; you shall know your child; the very same form shall rise. Your departed friend shall come back to you, and having loved his Lord as you do, you shall rejoice with him in the land where they die no more. It is only a short parting, it will be an eternal meeting. For ever with the Lord, we shall also be for ever with each other. Let us comfort one another, then, with these words.
19. The last lesson is that of self-examination. If we are to rise, some to rewards and some to punishments, what shall be my position? “What shall be my position?” let each conscience ask. How do you feel, my hearers, in the prospect of rising again? Does the thought give you any gleam of joy? Does it not create a measure of alarm? If your heart trembles at the news, how will you bear it when the real fact is before you, and not merely the thought? What has your life been? If by that life you shall be judged, what has it been? What has been its prevailing principle up until now? Have you believed God? Do you live by faith upon the Son of God? I know you are imperfect, but are you struggling after holiness? Do you desire to honour God? This shall rule the judgment of your life; what was its end, and aim, and bent, and object? There has been imperfection, but has there been sincerity? Has grace, divine grace, that washes sinners in the blood of Christ, proven itself to be in you by alienating you from the sins you loved, and leading you to the duties that you once neglected? Need I press these questions; I know they are irksome to those who cannot answer them with comfort. Yes, I must even again press them upon you. I beseech you, this morning, put yourselves into the crucible of self-examination, for you shall not be able to escape from the refiner’s fire at the last. Ah, if I can say, “Yes, my God, with ten thousand sins, yet since the day in which your grace found me, I have tried to honour you”; oh, happy, happy thought to know in that dread hour that the blood has cleansed me, and the righteousness of Christ has enwrapped me, and that I am safe! But if I am compelled to say, “No, up to this moment I have not regarded God, my actions have had no respect for him, a sense of his majesty has never constrained me to perform a single act, and never withheld me from one solitary sin,” oh, then you are judged already! I beseech you, tremble and flee to him who can purge you from all iniquity, and yet present you faultless before his Father’s presence with exceeding great joy.
20. I will ask you another question: if you do not feel happy at the thought of yourself, are you quite peaceful concerning the raising of all others? Are you prepared to meet before God those whom you have sinned with among men? It is a question worthy of the sinner’s thought, of what must be the terrors of men and women who will have to meet the companions of their sins! Was this not the reason for the rich man wishing Lazarus to be sent back to the world to warn his five brothers lest they should come into the place of torment. Was he not afraid to see them there, because their recriminations would increase his misery? It will be a horrible thing for a man who has been a debauched villain to rise again and confront his victims whom his lusts dragged down to hell! How will he quail as he hears them lay their damnation at his door, and curse him for his lasciviousness! “Oh, she is buried long ago,” you say, and you blithely go on in your mirth; but she will see you again, and like a basilisk’s eyes her eyes shall be as they shall flash vengeance on you in the light of eternity, considering you to have been the devil who destroyed her. Let any man here who has sinned against his fellow, tremble; let anyone here who has sent another down to hell, repent lest he perishes now. Oh man, your sin is not dead and buried, and the sinner whom you joined hands with in iniquity shall rise to witness against you. The crime, the guilt, the punishment, and the guilty one, shall alike live again, and you shall live for ever in remorse to rue the day in which you thus transgressed.
21. Another question, if it will be terrible to many to see the dead rise again, how will they endure to see him, the Judge himself, the Saviour? Of all men who ever lived, he is the one of whom you have need to be the most afraid, because it is he whom today you ought most to love, but whom you forget. How many times from this pulpit have I pleaded with you to yield yourselves to Jesus Christ, and how frequently have you given him a flat denial! It may be, some of you have not quite done that, but you have postponed your decision, and said, “When I have a more convenient time I will send for you.” When he comes, how will you answer him? Man, how will you answer him? How will you excuse yourselves? You would not have him as a Saviour, but you must have him as your Judge, to pronounce your sentence. You despised his grace, but you cannot escape his wrath. If you will only look to Jesus now, you shall find salvation in that glance, but in refusing to do so you heap up for yourself wrath when that terrible but inevitable glance shall be yours, of which the prophet says, “All the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” Oh do not spurn him then! Do not despise the Crucified! I beseech you do not trample upon his blood, but come to him, so that, when you see him on his throne you may not be afraid.
22. Beloved, I might have continued to ask more questions, but I shall close with these two. One of the best ways by which to learn what will be our portion in the future, is to enquire what is our portion in the present. Do you have life now, I mean spiritual life — the life that grieves for sin, the life that trusts a Saviour? If so, you shall certainly have the resurrection to life. On the other hand, do you have condemnation now? for he who does not believe is condemned already. Are you an unbeliever? Then you are condemned now, you shall suffer the resurrection to damnation. How can it be otherwise? Seek, then, so that you may possess the life of God now by faith, and you shall have it for ever in fruition. Escape from condemnation now, and you shall escape from damnation hereafter.
May God bless you all with the abundance of his salvation, for
Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — John 5:1-29]