But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yes, I judge not my own self.…
I. TERRIBLE ARE THE OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE DAY OF JUDGMENT (2 Peter 3:10; Matthew 24:29), BECAUSE THEY IMPLY SOME GREAT DISPLEASURE OF GOD. But not against things inanimate could that displeasure be (Habakkuk 3:8). Through that mysterious law whereby the creation is bound up with the lot of man (Psalm 107:34; Romans 8:22), the visitation of this our dwelling-place indicates displeasure against ourselves. But it will be terrible to those only whom the judgment shall condemn.
II. THE TERROR OF TERRORS IN THAT DAY IS, THAT IT IS JUDGMENT. Of all the attributes of God, that which is, above all, terrible is — His justice. Man can bear to look on His holiness, and even on His majesty and almightiness: these are not of necessity directed against him; he can even endure to think of His wrath against sin, His heavy displeasure against the sinner. To be passed over-might imply that God knew the soul to be dross from which the refiner's fire could extract no gold. The most awful severity of God were a token of love, that God had not abandoned us. But justice! It is terrible, because God Himself is, as it were, bound by it (Acts 10:34). He cannot show favour, where it is a question of justice.
III. THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, AS THE SUMMARY OF ALL PARTICULAR JUDGMENTS ON INDIVIDUAL SOULS, IS THE GREAT JUSTIFICATION OF GOD; the unfolding of the righteousness of His judgments. We know that there is to be a final parting between the righteous and the wicked. We know too that they who have made most diligent use of the talents committed to them shall have higher rewards, and that among the lost there will be degrees of punishment. And since all these on both sides will vary with each several soul, so each must come into its own distinct judgment, that it and all besides, men and angels, may know why God assigned to it its place; why He could not, without violating His own justice, assign it to any other. All nations and each individual will be judged (Matthew 25:31, 32; Romans 14:10-12; Revelation 20:12, 13). Until God brings home to the soul the value of a soul, mankind seems such an uninteresting mass. Those ever-renewed millions of China are born, live, die, and are to us as one man. We think of them as "the Chinese." It never even occurs to most of us that they have any individual character. So as to those hordes, who, at any time, overran the world. In God's sight they are individual souls, each with its own separate history, by which they have been or shall be judged. But then how fine and minute and appreciating an attribute that justice must be which will allot to every soul of man its own place, its own degree of bliss or of suffering, relatively to every other! For this belongs to exact justice. There can be no ground of complaint there. We could not there wish it otherwise; for it were to wish that God were less just. We shall be judged according to our works; not the works of one period of life only, but all (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:10); not of one age only, but of all; not good alone, but bad also; nor deeds only, but the "idle word"; nor by these alone, but "by the thoughts and intents of the heart."
IV. THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WILL BE A GREAT SURPRISE, BECAUSE MOST OF US, AT THE BEST, KNOW SO LITTLE OF OURSELVES. "The foolish virgins" will expect that the door will be opened; and they will find it shut. They think that they stand in a relation to Him, as their Lord; He knows, owns them not. They shall be amazed at their exclusion. Even among the saved, St. Paul speaks of what must be the most agonising surprise, short of the loss of the soul itself, the loss of the soul's imagined store with God (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
V. THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WILL ALSO BE A GREAT REVERSAL. "Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." Every human standard will simply cease in that day; everything, whereby we can estimate our fellow-men; all which is admired, looked up to, idolised, will be of no account. One question alone there will be then, What use has been made of all and each? Every gift of God well used will have its appropriate reward; but one question will anticipate all, "Whom, according to your light, have you loved and obeyed?"
VI. THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WILL BE A GREAT DISCLOSURE. How few outstanding things will even a strict sifting of the conscience disclose! You see the countenance marked with vanity or cunning or contempt or sensuality, &c. — how many thousand, thousand indulged thoughts or acts must have gone to stamp that expression on the countenance which was formed to be the image of God. They are forgotten, dead, buried: but there is the terrible resurrection. His sins of omission, who can ever imagine? One has but to name the word "prayer," and with what a countless multitude of omissions it encompasses us! Yet even sins of omission are in some degree imaginable, but what about graces neglected or despised! And then the calls of God's providence any one of which might have led to a lasting conversion to God, where have they left us? "To whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." What we have had, might have made glorious saints of those who have had less. Who will be able to bear the sight of all his neglected privileges? Embrace them, then, this day, and so prepare for that day.