BROTHER BEEBE: – In your editorial of July 15th, (No.14, Vol.9, of the SIGNS,) you propose a friendly discussion of the subject you there introduced; namely, A FINAL JUDGMENT; as I have to dissent from your views on some important points advanced by you, I will avail myself of your proposition, hoping the discussion will not prove un-important.
I will however first say, that from your remarks at the Delaware Association, particularly your concluding remarks, and from some things which afterwards transpired, I had looked forward with a good deal of anxiety for your explanation through the SIGNS, fearing you would extend your views so as to involve a denial of the resurrection of the bodies of the dead; and consequently that there would be a split between us, and perhaps one far more extensive. But I am much relieved since you have distinctly avowed your belief in the final resurrection of the bodies both of the saints and the wicked; that they will be raised, the one to the resurrection of life, and the other to the resurrection of damnation. This being the case, I would have it distinctly understood that, although I dissent from you, as before stated, in important points contained in your editorial; yet the difference is not such as does, or ought to mar my fellowship towards you, as I at present view it. Other brethren may, perhaps, differ further from you than I do; such I will leave to discuss their own points; hoping however it may be with a desire to vindicate truth, not to resent a difference of opinion.
In reference to the judgment of the saints, I differ nothing from the views advanced by you. Never, since I was brought, as I hope, to know Christ as the end of the law for righteousness, have I been able to acquiesce in the notion that the saints at a final day are to stand with the wicked and be again judged. You have justly said that the elect of God in reference to their relation to the law and to their being transgressors thereof, have been brought to judgment. Yes, all their sins have been brought forward and the sentence of the law, in strict justice, has been passed and executed in reference to their sins, upon their adorable Head, Husband and Surety, Christ Jesus. For, as said the prophet, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all;” again, “He was wounded for our transgression,” &c. Isa. 53:5,6. Peter testifies thus, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” I Pet. 2:24. Paul’s testimony is, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law; being made a curse for us.” Gal. 3:13. Again it is said, “For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.” – Heb. 10:14. In view of the testimony of these two or three witnesses I cannot conceive how the elect can be made again to stand in judgment, upon the demands of the law. But this is not all; believers have been made individually to participate, or have fellowship with their Head, both in receiving the sentence of the law, and in being released from it; that is, in their being arraigned, convicted of the enormity of their guilt as transgressors of the law, made to feel their just condemnation, &c., in their experience, and then in receiving by faith the sentence of justification on account of the perfect satisfaction made to law and justice by Christ’s obedience in the stead of his people. Having then had their justification declared from the throne of God by the resurrection of Christ Jesus as their Representative, from the dead, and the same being witnessed to them with their individual participation therein, by the Holy Spirit; how can the saints legally be made again to stand in judgment upon the demands of the law, unless the judgment of the court of heaven, thus sealed by the Holy Ghost, can be first set aside? And if such were to be the case, would it not involve Christ Jesus, the Head, and Husband, in a second judgment, as well as his body and bride? Again, I might show, that all the descriptions given in the New Testament of the events connected with the resurrection of the saints, indicate that they are on, that event, to be manifested as participants with Christ in his glory; rather than to be associated with the world in the final judgment thereof. But I will forbear at present.
But when you deny that there is to be a final judgment of the wicked, I decidedly dissent from you, because I believe that the scriptures as clearly declare such a judgment as they do the resurrection of the dead.
I will first notice some of the grounds taken by you in support of your position, and then bring forward some of the testimonies in favor of the idea of a final judgment.
1st. You appear to place a final judgment of the wicked and of the saints upon the same grounds, blending both together, and opposing both by the same arguments. But I understand the case of the two to stand upon very different grounds. It appears to me evident, from the whole course of God’s government as declared in the scriptures, that every act of the dispensation of his justice, is so ordered as to manifest his righteousness therein, even as his setting forth Christ Jesus to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, was, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past; and to declare it, that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. (See Rom. 3:25,26.) Now I cannot conceive but that God would have been equally just in acquitting from the demands of the law, all in whose stead Christ should have suffered the penalty of the law, had not Christ been thus publicly set forth to suffer before the world and his enemies, and without having his crucifixion published from age to age, as now, but his justice then would not, as now, have been made manifest in justifying him which believeth in Jesus. Even in the case of Christ himself, there appears to have been a summing up of the charges against him, as the Surety of his people, as well as an executing of judgment upon him, hence the laying on him the iniquities of us all, was, as represented by the High Priest’s laying his hands on the head of the scape-goat, and confessing over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, &c., (Lev. 16:21,) an actual bringing to view, those iniquities for which he was to suffer. These texts also, “By his knowledge shall my righteous Servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities,” and, “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” (Isa. 53:11; Heb. 5:8,) seem to me to import that he not only had his work before him and knew for whom he was to suffer, but also that he was made to know in his own soul, his people’s sins, and the guilt thereof, and the justice of the wrath to be inflicted. Hence his agony in the garden, and his saying, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” &c.
2nd. You admit that the regenerate are brought into judgment, that the mountains of their guilt are set in order before them, and that the law of God, in flaming precepts, bears testimony against them, &c. Why all this? God knew before that they were his people, that Christ had redeemed them, had been made unto them righteousness; he knew their sins, for he had laid them all on Christ. It was not then that God should acquire any clearer knowledge of their case, that they were thus brought to judgment at the bar of conscience; but that the justice of God should be made manifest to them, both in their condemnation as transgressors of the law, and in their justification through the obedience of Christ, &c.
3rd. If we examine the cases of natural judgments recorded in the scriptures, we shall find in connection with the execution of these judgments, a manifestation made of the justice of God therein. Take for instance the judgment of God upon Egypt. God had told Abraham, more than four hundred years before, that his seed should be afflicted by the Egyptians four hundred years, and also that this nation he would judge. Gen. 15:13,14. – Here then was a determination of the event beforehand, and this declaration may as well be called a passing of sentence upon Egypt as may the declaration of Christ, that, “He that believeth not shall be damned,” be considered as a sentence passed upon the unbelievers eighteen hundred years ago. Yet Moses and Aaron must be sent to Pharaoh with message after message; and the rebellion and hardness of Pharaoh’s heart is made manifest, and sentence was passed in consequence thereof in reference to each plague, and the justice of God was thus made manifest in pouring his plagues upon Egypt.
In the case of the various judgments executed upon Israel, we find that in all the idolatry, disobedience, &c., of that people, the law of Moses condemned them and denounced the punishment, &c., as much as do the scriptures condemn the world for their course; and yet the execution of every particular judgment, was preceded by a prophet’s being sent to them, to point out to them the sins for which they were to be visited, and to pronounce sentence in the case. And when Christ came to execute judgment upon the Jews, they were left so to manifest themselves, and the justice of the vengeance against them, that even Titus the Roman general said that he was only an instrument in the hands of heaven which manifestly declared its wrath against the Jews.
Here then is the difference between the case of the saints and that of the world. The saints have been brought to special judgment, both in themselves and in the Head, as you admit, and their condemnation and justification both have been made manifest, as being in accordance with strict justice. But are the unregenerate thus judged in this life, and their sins in their true colors, and the justice of their condemnation manifested to themselves and to others? Certainly not; excepting that the saints know from their own experience, the justice of God in condemning the wicked; and excepting the instances of national judgments as such, which can only take place in this world, as all national relations are dissolved with this life. – Hence the reason for a future judgment in relation to the wicked, and in distinction from the saints, is, I think, fully manifested. But I do not understand this future judgment to involve that arminian mass of nonsense which you connect with it, and by doing which, you have not done justice to the sentiments of your brethren, who differ from you. Neither will it be a process of enquiry, to give Christ, the Judge, a knowledge of their characters and crimes. But it will be a summing up of the evidence of their guilt, as given in their lives, and thus making manifest the justice of the final sentence then to be passed and executed upon them.
This leads me, in the 3d place, to notice the fact, that you have in your editorial blended the legal enactments, the investigation of charges, and the giving judgment thereupon, all together in the idea of judgment. The term to judge, may in some instances be used to denote the whole of a trial; but more strictly its import is, to pronounce sentence according to the testimony elicited in the previous trial, or investigation. In this latter sense, I think the words to judge and judgment are generally rendered. Hence, from your advancing the idea that the wicked were judged in this life, those universalists who were present at Welsh Tract, were so highly pleased with your preaching, saying that you had advanced exactly their doctrine; inferring, and with much propriety, that if you held the wicked to be judged in this life, you would also hold that they received their punishment here. I hold as firmly as you do, that all have transgressed the law of God, and are therefore already condemned by the law; so the laws of man condemn every transgression thereof, and declare the penalty due the transgressor. But you I believe would not on that account approve of the murderer’s being immediately lynched, or summarily executed, even by those who might have been eye witness to the murder, but would say that he should first have an impartial trial, and that judgment should be regularly passed, and then executed. Again, I admit that the wicked are in a measure tried in this life, – not that they are probationers, for when a person has once transgressed, he is no longer a probationer under the law transgressed. But that God in bearing long with the world, is giving occasion to the wicked to give evidence of their native enmity to God, both by their opposition to the gospel, and by their worldly deportment, and consequently of their being transgressors of the law. And judging from the experience of the regenerate, I believe this evidence given by each individual in his own case is recorded, though in many cases unnoticed by him, in the book of his conscience, and when this book in connection with the book of the law comes to be opened by the Judge, (and which are called books, Rev. 20:12,) the guilt of the sinner, and the justice of the sentence then pronounced against him, or the judgment given, will be manifested. Now I think that you, yourself, will not contend that the impenitent have in this life any just knowledge of the extent of their sinfulness and guilt, or of the justice of their condemnation. If so, does it not prove that they are not fully judged in this life, and consequently, the necessity of a judgment beyond this life?
3rd. In reference to the arguments brought forward in your editorial, they mostly tend, and were probably designed to prove, that the saints will not again be made to stand in judgment; they do not therefore require an answer. The one drawn from the fact of Christ’s being seated on his judgment seat when he executed judgment on the Jews, is perhaps excepted from the above remark. But I cannot conceive that Christ’s having assumed his judgment seat, – not when he came to execute judgment on Jerusalem, but thirty-six years before, is any proof that he will not retain that seat until he hath put all enemies under his feet. Remember, the last enemy to be destroyed is death. I Cor. 15:25,26. Neither is the fact that he judged and executed judgment on the Jews at the appointed time any proof that he will not at the set time judge the anti-christian nations among the Gentiles, for their persecution of the gospel, or that he will not before giving up the kingdom to the Father, bring to a righteous judgment all them “that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,” according to II Thes. 1:5-8. But rather, I consider the former exemplary judgment a sure pledge that these other predicted judgments will be also fully executed. Your views on Matt. 25:31-46, I do not in general object to, provided that passage be understood to be a figurative representation of the genuine effect of the coming of Christ in his gospel, whether before, or after the destruction of Jerusalem, or after the two Witnesses shall be again raised up and Babylon destroyed. For whenever he thus comes in the clouds or on the white horse of the gospel,* the preached gospel will have that discriminating effect. But in this view of the passage, I should consider the last verse to be a summing up of the figure by a positive declaration, that as the gospel points out the characters of these two classes, so their final ends will be. One exception however I must make, I cannot agree with what you intimate, that the preached gospel distinguishes between nations as such; setting one nation on the right hand, the other on the left. Peter’s view I think more correct, viz: – “That God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him.” Acts 10:34,35. The declaration, “Before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats,” &c., allowing for the brevity used generally in such figurative representations, does not necessarily require that the word them should have the word nations for its antecedent. The example referred to, that of a shepherd’s dividing the sheep from the goats where they were all flocked together, leads to a different construction. The shepherd, we must conclude, must take his flock by individuals to make the separation.
The next thing in course would be to bring forward the testimonies of scripture in favor of a final judgment, but this I will reserve for another communication.
Centreville, Fairfax Co,, Va., Aug.17, 1841.
* Matt. 24:30,31; and Rev. 19:11-16
Signs of the Times
Volume 9, No. 18.
September 15, 1841