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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Matthew 25

Verse 10

DISCOURSE: 1396
THE TEN VIRGINS

Matthew 25:10. And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

TOWARDS the close of his ministry our Lord insisted much upon the vengeance which should in a little time be inflicted on the Jewish nation, and upon the general judgment which was to be typified by that event. He the rather dwelt on these subjects that he might keep up in the minds of his disciples an expectation of his future advent, and stimulate them to such incessant vigilance as might enable them to behold his face with joy. In the passage before us he compares his final appearance to the sudden return of a bridegroom; and the state of mankind to that of virgins who had been appointed to pay him the customary honours [Note: Here read the whole parable.]. He mentions two different descriptions of persons who had undertaken that office, and from whose character and end they might derive the most important instruction. We shall be profitably employed whilst we,

I.

Compare their character—

There was much wherein the wise and foolish virgins appeared to resemble each other—
[Both of them professed to be waiting the arrival of the heavenly bridegroom: both, while the bridegroom tarried, became unwatchful, and were overpowered with sleep: both were alarmed at the sudden tidings of his approach, and instantly began to put themselves in a state of readiness to meet him. This fitly describes the state of the visible Church, in which, the professed intentions of all are exactly similar. All believe that Christ will come again to judge the world; and profess to be waiting for his arrival: all too are apt to be off their guard, and to yield to slothfulness. As for hypocrites, they are immersed in the deepest sleep; and even the best of men are sometimes remiss; yea, their utmost vigilance may be almost called a slumber, when compared with that activity and vigour of mind which they ought ever to preserve. The prospect of death and judgment is awful to persons of every description: much as the bridegroom’s arrival is desired, it is a solemn event to all; nor can the holiest of men look forward to it but “with fear and trembling.” Often is his approach announced, when we, alas! are but little prepared for his reception: but all agree in preparing for him when he appears to be near at hand: even hypocrites “in their affliction will cry, Arise and save us:” and all, except the most obdurate reprobates, will feel a desire to meet him with acceptance.]
But notwithstanding this resemblance between the wise and foolish virgins, they widely differed from each other.
[The wise virgins had taken the precaution to secure oil in their vessels, that in case the bridegroom should tarry, they might have wherewith to replenish their lamps, and not be destitute of it in the hour of need. But the foolish virgins were contented with just so much as would enable them to make a fair shew for the present; nor were they at all aware of the danger to which their improvidence exposed them: hence when the cry was made at midnight, the wise virgins had only to trim their lamps, which, though burning dimly, were yet alight; but the foolish ones found their lamps extinguished; nor even knew how, or where, they should obtain a supply of oil. Instantly they requested the other virgins to impart to them of theirs; but were advised to go and procure it where alone it was to be obtained. The bridegroom however coming during their absence, the wisdom of the provident, and the folly of the improvident, were made apparent.
Now such is the difference that still exists between many professors of religion; many have really the grace of God in their hearts; these have seen the danger of an unconverted state, and have received that unction of the Holy One, which they stood in need of: they know how strict the scrutiny will be in the last day, and have therefore prayed, that the Holy Ghost might be shed forth abundantly upon them through Christ Jesus. But others there are (would to God they were few!) who have taken up a profession lightly, and who are satisfied with having a form of godliness while they are destitute of its power. In an hour of alarm, they fly to the creature rather than to God. Even they who scoffed at religion in a time of health, will send for a minister, or some godly neighbour, in a prospect of death; but there they stop, and find to their cost the inefficacy of these means. Had they applied to Christ in due time, they might have “bought oil of him without money and without price:” but the bridegroom’s arrival finds them unprovided; and they are left to bewail the bitter consequences of their folly.]
There being no further room for comparison, we shall now,

II.

Contrast their end—

The wise virgins, who were ready, were admitted with the bridegroom into the marriage feast—
[It was customary for the virgins, who came forth to attend the bridegroom, to participate the pleasures of the nuptial feast. This gives a just idea of their happiness who shall be found ready at the coming of their Lord: they shall enter into the chamber where all the guests are assembled; they shall hear the bridegroom’s voice, and enjoy the testimonies of his regard: the feast provided by God himself shall refresh their souls, while all the harmony of heaven shall fill them with exquisite delight: then all painful watchings and anxious expectations for ever cease: no longer have they any corruptions to contend with, or any drowsiness to regret: their fears are dissipated, their hopes are realized, and their most enlarged desires are swallowed up in actual fruition.]
The foolish virgins, who neglected their preparation, were for ever excluded—
[No sooner was the bridegroom with his retinue entered into the house, than the door was shut. The door, which shut in the one, precluded all hope of admittance to the other. In vain did the foolish virgins come and cry for admission; all knowledge of them was disclaimed by the bridegroom, and they were left in “outer darkness.” Thus will it be to those who shall be called hence before they are prepared to meet their God: the door of heaven will be shut against them; the supplications, which a little before would have prevailed, will now be disregarded: they honoured not the Lord in their life; nor will he now honour or acknowledge them: they are cut off from all hope of joining that blest society, or of tasting the heavenly banquet: nor will they merely suffer a privation of happiness; they will be consigned over to the punishment due to their offences, a punishment exquisite, irremediable, eternal.]

The improvement suggested by our Lord will properly close the subject—

[The grand scope of the parable is, to shew us the need of watchfulness; and the chief argument to enforce that duty is, the uncertainty of the time when our Lord shall come. And is there any one, to whom we have not occasion to direct our exhortation? Ye who, like the foolish virgins, have never yet obtained “the oil of joy and gladness,” watch against self-deception: you may make a specious profession of religion, and take occasion from the infirmities of true Christians to think yourselves in as good a state as they. But it will soon appear who they are that have the grace of God in their hearts; and who have only “a name to live, while they really are dead.” Perhaps ye think that ye shall have time enough to provide oil when the bridegroom’s approach shall be announced: but ye know not whether ye shall have any warning, or whether ye shall be able to obtain it then, if ye neglect the present opportunity. Be assured that, if the bridegroom come, he will not stay for you, but will enter with those who are ready, and leave the rest behind him. O think, what will ye do if the door should be shut against you? how will ye bewail your folly! Be persuaded now to improve your time. Apply for oil to him who “has the residue of the Spirit,” and will “give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask him.” Go not to the creature, no, not even to the ordinances, as though they of themselves could impart this blessing. Ministers and ordinances are, as it were, the pipes through which it shall be conveyed; but Christ, in his person and offices, is the one source of grace; and out of his fulness must ye all receive [Note: Zechariah 4:12-14.].

As for you, who, like the wise virgins, are endued with grace, still continue to “watch.” You see from your own experience what need you have of this exhortation. Too often have you slumbered and slept already, and thereby exposed yourselves to many alarms. Henceforth “let your lamps be trimmed, your loins girt, and yourselves in actual readiness to attend your Lord.” Then, at whatever hour he shall come, ye shall have no cause to fear; ye shall behold him with joy, and participate his glory for evermore.

“What we say then to you, we say unto all, Watch.”] [Note: If this were the subject of a Funeral Sermon, this would be the proper place to shew how the deceased had received grace from Christ, and how bright his light had shone, and how prepared he was for the summons he received.]


Verses 22-23

DISCOURSE: 1397
THE TALENTS

Matthew 25:22-23. He also that had received two talents, came, and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

THE solemnities of the day of judgment were a frequent subject of our Lord’s discourse. This was a topic well calculated to fix the attention of his hearers. The nearer he drew towards the close of his ministry, the more he insisted on it: nor can we too often dwell upon it in our minds. The parable before us leads us to the contemplation of this awful subject: it very nearly resembles the parable of The Pounds [Note: Luke 19:12-26. In both the parables a rich man going to a distant country committed a sum of money to his servants to improve for him, and on his return dealt with them according to the use they had made of it, rewarding the faithful and punishing the negligent.]. Yet are there some important points of difference between them [Note: In that of the pounds all the servants had an equal sum committed to them: but they made a different improvement of them, and were therefore differently rewarded. In the parable before us, the sums committed to the servants were different; but their improvement of them was equal (each having doubled his deposit) and therefore their reward was equal also.].

These points will furnish occasion for two important observations:

I.

God bestows gifts on every man according to his own sovereign will—

God is the source and author of every blessing we enjoy—
[To him we owe it that we were brought into the world of Christian, rather than of heathen, parents. From him we have received all our bodily and intellectual powers. We possess nothing good, which we have not derived from him [Note: James 1:17.].]

He dispenses extremely various gifts to various persons—
[The greater part of the world are left by him in gross darkness. To the Jews he vouchsafed the light of his revealed will. The light that just dawned on them, has visited us in its meridian splendour. But some in this Christian land are scarcely more instructed in the knowledge of Christ, than if they had no concern with him: others again have had their eyes opened to behold his glory. Great was the diversity of gifts bestowed on the Christians of old [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:5-12.]; and there is the same distinction made in the Church at this day [Note: Ephesians 4:7.]. Hence we are called “stewards of the manifold grace of God [Note: 1 Peter 4:10.].”]

These he bestows according to his own sovereign will—
[The rich man in the parable gave to “each according to his several ability [Note: ver. 15.].” Thus while he acted sovereignly, he acted also wisely, and in this point of view only can that circumstance be applied. It is not true that God bestows the richest talents on the most able men [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26-27.]: besides, the very abilities we possess are derived from him alone; and, if man’s ability were the measure of God’s gifts, man would have room to boast [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]. God acts in all things according to his sovereign will [Note: Daniel 4:35.]. Nevertheless his will is guided by consummate wisdom [Note: Ephesians 1:11. “The counsel of his will.”]: and every person, whatever his lot be, must confess with the Apostle [Note: Ephesians 1:8.]—. These considerations are indeed humiliating to our proud hearts; but they are inexpressibly comforting to those whose talents are small, and whose afflictions are many. Let such persons weigh them well, and make use of them for the suppressing of envy and discontent [Note: This is a little digression from the subject; or rather an application of it: but it is peculiarly proper in this place, in order to shew that the sovereignty of God is not a speculative point merely, but a practical, and most comforting doctrine. We are all placed, like the different members of the body, each in the fittest place: and were our situations altered otherwise than God has ordained, the change would be to the detriment both of the individual member, and of the whole body. See 1 Corinthians 12:11-12; 1 Corinthians 12:18.].]

We may well be satisfied with his conduct in this respect; for,

II.

He will reward every man, not so much according to the talents he possesses, as according to his fidelity in improving them—

A man, endued with great gifts, will not be the more approved on that account—
[The mere possession of great talents does not alter our moral character. Judas was not at all inferior in knowledge to the other Apostles; nor was he less endued with a power of working miracles than they. All his opportunities of spiritual improvement were the same as theirs; but his heart was not changed by means of these privileges; nor was his person the more accepted of God on account of them. On the contrary, the greater his privileges, the greater was his guilt in neglecting to improve them; and he now surpasses others in nothing but shame and misery [Note: Acts 1:25.]. To this purpose are those warnings which our Lord gave to the cities of Judζa [Note: Matthew 11:21-24.]: nor are those warnings inapplicable to those who hear his Gospel now.]

Nor will a person of the smallest talents be on that account overlooked—
[“God looks not at the outward appearance, but at the the heart [Note: 1 Samuel 16:7.]: he notices them that are of a broken and contrite spirit [Note: Isaiah 66:2.]. Few perhaps have been more destitute of gifts than Lazarus: yet how far better is his state now than the Rich Man’s [Note: Luke 16:23-24.]! The widow that possessed but two mites, was destitute enough; but the use she made of them was more acceptable to God than all the rich offerings of the opulent [Note: Mark 12:43-44.]. Thus, if we only improve what we have, we cannot fail of a reward. On the contrary, if we bury our talent, though it be but “one,” we shall be punished for it.]

The Scriptures speak strongly upon each of these points—
[They plainly declare that there are degrees of reward and punishment [Note: 1Co 15:41-42. 2 Peter 2:21.]. Our Lord assures us, that the punishment of men will be proportioned to the light against which they have sinned [Note: Luke 12:47-48.]: and St. Paul affirms, that our services shall be accepted in proportion as they corresponded with our ability to perform them [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:12.].]

Infer—
1.

What little reason is there to envy those who have great talents!

[It is evident that an increase of talent only increases our responsibility. To many, the advantages they have abused are now their greatest torment; and what reason have we to think, that our diligence in serving God would be excited in proportion as our opportunities were enlarged? We all have too much reason to lament our past unprofitableness. Let us therefore rather improve what we have, than covet what we have not.]

2.

How earnest should every one be in trading with the talent committed to him!

[The time is shortly coming when we must give up our account to God: and how awful will it be to be cast out as “wicked and slothful servants!” How will such characters weep and wail for the opportunities they have lost! On the contrary, how delightful to hear the Saviour’s plaudit! What a recompence, to “enter into the joy of our Lord!” O let every soul exert itself to the utmost in his service. Let none be discouraged because they can do but little for God. Many who condemn themselves as vile and faithless, shall hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servants:” and many, who are ready to tremble with apprehensions of his wrath, shall be made partakers of his felicity and glory.]

3.

How little should we regard the attempts of the ungodly to repress our zeal!

[Men never condemn their own stewards for being too faithful or diligent: yet if any of the Lord’s stewards labour to improve their talent, the world cry out against them as over-righteous. But “it is a very small matter to be judged of man’s judgment.” Let the world exclaim against us as hypocrites or enthusiasts, if the Judge of all do but account us good and faithful: His plaudit will abundantly compensate for the obloquy we endured. Let us then, every one for himself, “stir up the gift of God that is in us;” and let us exhort one another in the words of inspiration [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.]—.]


Verse 34

DISCOURSE: 1398
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT

Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

IT is scarcely needful in a Christian assembly to prove that there will be a Day of Judgment; because no one entertains a doubt respecting it: but to impress on our minds a consideration of the judicial process, and of the eternal consequences which will instantly ensue, is of the utmost importance. Taking for granted, therefore, that there is amongst us a certain and universal expectation of that day, we shall proceed to notice the description which the Judge himself has given of it, from its commencement to its termination.
Let us call your attention to,

I.

The preparatory solemnities—

These are comprised under two heads:

1.

The coming of the Judge—

[Our blessed Lord is ordained to be the Judge both of the quick and dead. It is of himself that he speaks, when he says, “The Son of Man” shall come [Note: ver. 31.]. As the Son of Man, he stood at the bar of Pilate: and, as the Son of Man, he will summon the universe to his tribunal. As the Son of Man, he himself was judged, condemned, executed: and, as the Son of Man, he will pass judgment on all, whether men or devils. At his first advent he appeared in the lowest state of degradation, “a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people [Note: Psalms 22:6.]: but in that day “he will come with power and great glory,” surrounded by myriads of his holy angels. The pomp and glory of his appearing will infinitely surpass either the lustre of Mount Tabor, or the more terrific splendour of Mount Sinai [Note: Matthew 24:30-31. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.]. His throne will be erected in the air; and the books, both “the book of his remembrance,” wherein the actions of men were recorded, and the volume of inspiration, whereby they are to be judged, will be opened before him [Note: Dan 7:9-10 and thrice mentioned Revelation 20:12.].]

2.

The summoning of those who are to be judged—

[“Before him shall be gathered all nations.” Every creature, from Adam to the last of his descendants, shall appear in one vast assembly. Not one shall be absent: not one will be able to withstand the summons of the Almighty, or to elude his search. “The great and mighty of the earth” shall then stand on a level with the meanest beggar [Note: Revelation 6:15.]. Every one shall appear in his own proper body [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:38; 1 Corinthians 15:42.]. As for the difficulty of collecting the scattered atoms of every individual, atoms that have been transformed into ten thousand different shapes, this is no difficulty with God: he who created them out of nothing by a mere act of his will, can by a similar act of volition reunite the atoms that are necessary to constitute our personal identity: and he will do it “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:” and when the dead are raised, then, and not till then, will he change the bodies of those who are alive upon the earth, that they also, together with those who are risen, may “meet the Lord in the air [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.].”]

The whole human race being come into the presence of their Judge, he will proceed to,

II.

The trial—

There will be a strict inquiry into their respective works—
[We do not suppose that their regard to him and his salvation will be overlooked [Note: Mark 16:16. Hebrews 2:3.]: but it will be ascertained by the fruits which they brought forth. If their faith was not productive of good works, it will be accounted only as the faith of devils. But what are the fruits which alone will be considered as just evidences of our love to Christ? O that this matter were duly weighed amongst us! It will not be asked merely, Whether we transgressed the law by grosser acts of sin, such as uncleanness, or drunkenness, or theft, or perjury, or murder; but whether we were active in doing good to our fellow-creatures for Christ’s sake? Whether we “fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick,” and delighted ourselves in all offices of love to our fellow-creatures from a sense of love to Christ, and with a view to his glory [Note: ver. 35, 36.]? Yes, on this will the salvation or condemnation of men depend. Mark it well, my brethren. It is not for formal duties or empty professions that any will be applauded, but for active, diligent, unremitted exertions in the cause of Christ: nor is it for sins of commission merely that any will perish, but for sins of omission [Note: Compare Matthew 7:21. with ver. 25, 27, 30 and ver. 42, 43.].]

Then will they be separated according to their true characters—
[The characters of all will then be as easily discerned as sheep are discerned from goats; and they will be separated accordingly, “the sheep on the right hand of their Judge, and the goats on his left hand.” Then will be seen two wonderful sights; the righteous, however separated from each other by trifling forms or various sentiments on earth, all united in one body, and perfectly of one heart and mind. Nor will there be so much as one hypocrite found amongst them: the tares which now grow among the wheat will all be plucked up: the wolves in sheep’s clothing will all be detected; and the whole collective mass be holy, even as God himself is holy. Then also will all the wicked be standing in one vast congregation together. Those who had mixed themselves with the saints on earth will have the mask taken away, and be made to appear in all their natural deformity: and those trembling saints who were wont to number themselves amongst them, will have had their integrity cleared, and their doubts removed: and all, whether righteous or wicked, will take their proper place, according as the evidence, adduced before their Judge, attested or disproved their piety.]
The trial closed, the Judge will proceed immediately to,

III.

The sentence—

He will first address himself to those on his right hand—
[Among the reasons which might be assigned for his first pronouncing sentence on the righteous, the principal seems to be, that they are to be his assessors in judgment, and to confirm the sentence which he will pronounce upon the ungodly [Note: Matthew 19:28.]. But from the moment of their separation, what joy will till every breast! What mutual congratulations will resound on every side! How delightful will be their anticipation of the felicity that awaits them! What smiles too will beam forth in the countenance of their Judge, when he shall turn towards them!

In his address to them, though he mentions their good works, in order to manifest the equity of his procedure, yet he traces up all their blessedness to the sovereign grace of him, who had loved them “from before the foundation of the world.” It was the Father who had chosen them from all eternity [Note: Ephesians 1:4.], who had sent them a Saviour; who in due time had called them by his grace; and who was the true source of all the blessings they enjoyed [Note: James 1:17.]. Hence he calls them, “Ye blessed of my Father.” In bidding them to take possession of “the kingdom prepared for them,” he marks very strongly the same idea: for he tells them to “inherit” it: by which he clearly intimates, that it was neither earned nor purchased by them, but attained through their adoption into God’s family, and their consequent regeneration by the Spirit of grace.

Surely the sound of these gracious words must pour all heaven into the souls of all to whom they are addressed.]
Then he will turn unto those upon his left hand—
[But how is his countenance now changed! What anger, what indignation flames in his eyes! And what terrible displeasure is conveyed in his voice! The grounds of their condemnation are explicitly declared. They had neglected to serve him, and to do the things that were pleasing in his sight; and therefore they are bidden to “depart accursed.” And it is worthy of observation, that they are not said to be cursed of his Father: no; though the saints owe their felicity to the election of the Father, the wicked do not owe their misery to any arbitrary act of reprobation: the righteous are blessed of the Father; the wicked are cursed of themselves; it is to their own neglect of duty that they must trace their eternal condemnation: they perish, not because there was any want of mercy in God the Father, or of merit in God the Son; but because “they rejected the counsel of God,” and would not accept his proffered salvation [Note: In this respect the text exactly accords with Romans 9:22-23. where the Apostle states that the vessels of mercy were prepared for it by God; but the vessels of wrath were fitted for it by themselves.]. In this world they had said to God, “Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways [Note: Job 21:14.]:” and in that world their Judge will reply, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of your souls: “I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity.” The place into which they are to depart was not indeed prepared for them, as heaven was for the saints: it was “prepared for the devil and his angels:” but as the wicked are partakers of their guilt, they shall be also of their punishment.]

Then will come,

IV.

The execution—

The righteous shall be borne up into the regions of eternal bliss—
[On the pronouncing of the sentence, the heavens will be opened, and all the saints will ascend thither to take possession of their thrones. But who can conceive the happiness of those who are admitted into the presence of their God; who are placed beyond the reach of sin or sorrow, and have an eternity of blessedness before them? What praises, what adorations, and hosannahs will resound through all the courts of heaven!]
The wicked shall be cast down into the regions of eternal misery—
[We attempt not to describe their misery; for it passes the power of words to express, or of imagination to conceive: but this we assert, that it will be truly and properly eternal. It shall co-exist with the felicity of heaven; for its duration is expressed by the very same word [Note: αἰώνιον. It is in vain to say that αἰὼν signifies a limited period; for the duration of heaven and of hell are equal: and if we limit the one, we must limit the other also.]. If any doubt the eternity of hell-torments, I ask, What shall ever terminate them? Will the fire that is kindled there be extinguished? or the souls that are cast into it be consumed? Or shall they be purified in the fire, and be exalted at a future period to the regions of bliss? No one of these things shall be: “The fire shall not be quenched:” “the worm of a guilty conscience shall never die [Note: Mark 9:43-48.]:” and, instead of being improved by their misery, the sufferers will gnaw their tongues for anguish, and blaspheme that God who inflicts their punishment [Note: Revelation 16:8-11.]. Besides, there is a gulf fixed betwixt them and the saints in glory; so that none shall ever pass from the one place to the other, or experience the smallest change in their condition [Note: Luke 16:26.]. How terrible will then be the state of the ungodly! How “will they call upon the hills to fall upon them, and the rocks to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb!” But, what they would not believe, they now feel to their cost; and shall feel, as long as God himself shall endure, even for ever and ever.]

Infer—
1.

How desirable is it to be prepared for death and judgment!

[This is the time for preparation: the moment death arrives, our state is fixed for ever: “As the tree falleth, so it lieth.” What folly then is it to procrastinate, and to defer our preparation! If death would stay for us, and we could command the influences of the Spirit, and ensure repentance at the last, there were some reason for delay: but when we know not but that the next hour we may be summoned into the presence of our Judge, or that the grace we now despise shall never be offered us again, what madness is it to lose the present moment, and to trifle on the brink of such a precipice! Awake, brethren, from your stupor; and “prepare to meet your God.” Go to the Saviour, while yet there is hope concerning you: and let it be the one concern of your lives to “flee from the wrath to come.”]

2.

How important is it to form a just judgment of our own character!

[Suppose for a moment that we judge ourselves now with somewhat too great severity, what harm is done? We disquiet ourselves indeed a little more than is necessary for a few days; but we are stirred up to greater diligence and circumspection; and are stimulated to exert ourselves more earnestly for the securing of the prize. But what if we lean too much to the favourable side? It will be too late to remedy our error when once we pass into the eternal world. There is no repentance in the grave. It will be no excuse to say, “Lord, I was mistaken; I did not think so much strictness was necessary; I thought that such characters as I were safe [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.].” Now, therefore, “judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord.” Inquire now, what is the tenour of your life. Do not be contented to examine whether you have committed any gross sin; but inquire whether you are running as in a race, and striving to the utmost to glorify your God by all possible acts and offices of love? Examine particularly, whether all that you do is, not to purchase heaven, but to testify your love to Christ? If you bring yourselves to any lower standard than this, you will deceive yourselves to your eternal ruin. But, if, after a strict inquiry into these things, “your conscience condemn you not, then have you a scriptural confidence towards God [Note: 1 John 3:21.].”] [Note: If this were the subject of a Charity Sermon, it would be proper here to recommend the charity, and to exhort them to beneficence; but at the same time to caution them against the idea of meriting heaven by their alms-deeds; and to remind them, that their love must spring from faith in Christ, and be exercised simply for his sake, and to his glory.]


Verses 35-40

DISCOURSE: 1399
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARITABLE EXERTIONS

Matthew 25:35-40. I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in Prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

THE solemnities of the Day of Judgment can never be too attentively considered: and we have reason to be thankful that they are here so plainly set before us. The coming of the Judge, the summoning of the universe before his tribunal, the separation of the righteous and the wicked, and the sentence that shall be passed on all the human race, are exhibited, as it were, in this passage before our eyes. But there is one thing here specified, which is more peculiarly interesting to us, inasmuch as it either divests that day of all its horrors, or must cause us to look forward to it with inexpressible dread; I mean, the ground upon which the decision will be formed, and the doom of every individual be fixed. That the whole of our principles and conduct will be taken into consideration, there can be no doubt; but there is one point which will be inquired into, and will be regarded as a certain evidence of all the rest, namely, our activity in doing good to our fellow-creatures for Christ’s sake: and, according as we shall be found to have abounded, or been defective, in that, will our definitive sentence be passed. This is asserted by the Judge himself: and the terms in which he has expressed it lead me to shew,

I.

The proper exercises of Christian benevolence—

Love is the distinguishing feature of a true Christian—
[“God is love;” and every one that is born of God, is “created anew after his image.” The natural selfishness of the human heart is subdued and mortified by the grace of God; and “the new creature” desires to “live no more unto himself, but unto that Saviour who died for him.” “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits?” is his daily inquiry. To requite the Saviour he finds impossible: and therefore he looks out for others to be the representatives of his Lord, that through them he may manifest his sense of the mercies vouchsafed unto him. He is not contented with cultivating devout affections in his heart, but endeavours to render them substantially operative towards man. In a word, he exercises faith; but it is a “faith that worketh by love.”]
The poor and afflicted are the more peculiar objects of that love—
[Doubtless love, in its most extended sense, comprehends much more than mere benevolence to the poor: but it is shewn in this particularly; and, wherever it exists, will manifest itself in this in a more abundant measure. We have a bright example of this in the person of Job [Note: Job 29:11-16.]. So highly did he esteem these duties, that, if he had been remiss in them, he would have accounted himself deserving of the heaviest judgments [Note: Job 31:16-20; Job 31:22.]. The conduct of the first Christians is not precisely of the kind we are considering; nor is it of necessity to be imitated by us: but it proves to what an extent the principle of love will carry us, if occasion require it at our hands [Note: Acts 4:32-35.]. But the example of the Macedonian Churches comes home fully to the point; and shews us, that not even the deepest poverty, or the severest affliction, will preclude the exercise of self-denying kindness, when love has a just ascendant over our hearts [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:1-4.]. We lay the more stress on this, because it was proposed for the imitation of the whole Corinthian Church; and because the formation of such a principle, and the production of such a conduct, is the main scope and intent of the Gospel. The particulars specified in our text attest this — — — as does also that saying of the Apostle, “Bear ye one another’s burthens, and so fulfil the law of Christ [Note: Galatians 6:2.].”]

To such exertions we may well be stimulated, if we consider,

II.

The acceptableness of them to the Lord Jesus—

The Lord Jesus identifies himself with his afflicted people—
[He has sympathized with them in every period of the world. What was it but compassion that caused him to undertake the cause of fallen man? When Israel was in Egypt, he heard their cries, and pitied their sorrows [Note: Exodus 3:7.]. Whilst they sojourned in the Wilderness, “in all their afflictions he was afflicted.” In his state of humiliation, “he made himself poor for their sakes, that they through his poverty might be rich:” and now, in his exalted state, he considers their cause his own. Are they persecuted? he, as he told the persecuting Saul, is the person injured [Note: Acts 9:4-5.]. “Whoso toucheth them, toucheth the apple of his eye.” Are they relieved? he tells us in the text, that every office of love shewn to men for his sake he accepts, as shewn to him. He esteems the meanest of his people as “a brother,” and will acknowledge him as such before the assembled universe: or rather, he esteems him as a member of his own body; in the prosperity and happiness of which the Head is no less interested than the member itself.]

What a fund has this one declaration laid up for them in every age of the world!
[We cannot conceive any other thing which could have so forcibly interested the mind of man. The obligations which we owe to Christ infinitely exceed any thing which words can express, or imagination can conceive. Were he therefore to command any thing, the hope of pleasing him would be a strong incentive to his believing people to obey him: but when he declares, that he will accept as done for himself whatsoever is done for others in his name, methinks the diligence of all in serving him should so anticipate the wants and wishes of mankind, as almost to banish misery from the world. But, though the greatness of human miseries, and the fewness of the Lord’s people, preclude the hope of such an event as this, yet this one consideration, of administering to the Lord Jesus Christ in the person of his people, animates thousands to the most ardent zeal, and carries them through the most self-denying exertions.]
If we need any further stimulus to such exercises, let us consider,

III.

The importance of them to ourselves—

The issue of the final judgment depends altogether upon them. In that day they will be brought forth,

1.

As an evidence of our state—

[As God has taught us to judge of the tree by its fruits, so will he himself do in the day of judgment: and, whatever may have been our professions of faith and love, he will judge of them only by the fruits which they have produced. The fruits after which he will inquire, and by which he will be determined, are those spoken of in the text. Where they are found, there must a living faith and real piety have existed [Note: James 1:27.]: and, where they are not found, there must have been an entire absence of true love to God [Note: 1 John 3:17.]. By this test, therefore, shall every man be tried; and, according to this shall he stand or fall [Note: James 2:13.].]

2.

As a justification of our sentence—

[The day of judgment is emphatically called “the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God [Note: Romans 2:5.]:” and it is appointed, not so much for the awarding of happiness or misery to the sons of men, as for the display of God’s equity in these decisions. Much is spoken in the Scriptures of God’s having chosen men to salvation, and predestinated them to the adoption of children: and, beyond all doubt, the whole glory of man’s salvation must be given to him: but still he will evince to the whole assembled universe that there is an equity in his proceedings, and that the destinies of all exactly correspond with their moral characters. The labours of love, in which the righteous had abounded, are here produced; and those whom Christ here speaks of as “his brethren,” are ready to attest the truth of his assertions. On the other hand, the neglect imputed to the others is obvious: and though they attempt to extenuate their guilt, it is brought home to them in the completest manner; nor have they one word to utter in arrest of judgment. Thus is the righteousness of God made manifest; “he is justified in what he speaks, and clear in the judgment which he passes [Note: Psalms 51:4.].”]

3.

As a measure of our reward—

[We must not imagine that men are saved on account of any merit of their own. It is not possible that their works of love should ever purchase so great a reward as will then be given them. Indeed, the surprise which they express, “When saw we thee, &c.?” clearly shews, that they had not founded their hopes upon their own works: they had been redeemed to God by the precious blood of Christ; and in Christ they had trusted as the only Saviour of the world: but God is pleased to notice the works which they had done for his sake, and to bestow on them “a reward of grace:” nor is even a cup of cold water, which had been given to a disciple for his sake, suffered to pass without an appropriate reward. Hence we see that the more we abound in works of charity, the more exalted will be our happiness in heaven: whilst, on the other hand, the more means and opportunities of doing good we have neglected, the heavier will be our condemnation to all eternity.]

We would further improve this subject—
1.

For our instruction in general—

[If such be the particular objects to be inquired into, how little prepared are most of us to meet our God! The generality think it sufficient if they do not occasion sorrow, though they never exert themselves diligently to relieve it: but let it be known and peculiarly marked, that the omission of these duties is of itself sufficient to condemn us; and that the sentence of condemnation that is here denounced against the wicked, refers, not to any thing which they have done, but to what they have left undone. I know, indeed, that all have not the same ability, or the same opportunity to relieve their afflicted neighbours: but have we availed ourselves of the opportunities that have been afforded us? If we have, though our efforts have been few and weak, they shall be accepted; for “if there be in us a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not:” but if we have not, let us not deceive ourselves with vain hopes; for, “as unprofitable servants, we shall be cast into outer darkness, where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.”]

2.

In reference to the occasion before us—

[The charity for which we plead has a near affinity with that described in our text [Note: The particular objects of the Charity should be here stated.] — — — We call upon you then to assist it, by personal exertions, if you can, but at all events by liberal contributions. What would you do if Christ himself were now present, and soliciting your assistance? Would you send him away unpitied and unrelieved? Would you not rather vie with each other, who should be most forward, and most liberal in his relief? Know then that he is present, and will accept at your hands whatever you do for him. Know also, that the harvest which you will reap shall be proportioned to the seed you sow [Note: 2 Corinthians 9:6.].]


Verse 41

DISCOURSE: 1398
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT

Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

IT is scarcely needful in a Christian assembly to prove that there will be a Day of Judgment; because no one entertains a doubt respecting it: but to impress on our minds a consideration of the judicial process, and of the eternal consequences which will instantly ensue, is of the utmost importance. Taking for granted, therefore, that there is amongst us a certain and universal expectation of that day, we shall proceed to notice the description which the Judge himself has given of it, from its commencement to its termination.
Let us call your attention to,

I.

The preparatory solemnities—

These are comprised under two heads:

1.

The coming of the Judge—

[Our blessed Lord is ordained to be the Judge both of the quick and dead. It is of himself that he speaks, when he says, “The Son of Man” shall come [Note: ver. 31.]. As the Son of Man, he stood at the bar of Pilate: and, as the Son of Man, he will summon the universe to his tribunal. As the Son of Man, he himself was judged, condemned, executed: and, as the Son of Man, he will pass judgment on all, whether men or devils. At his first advent he appeared in the lowest state of degradation, “a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people [Note: Psalms 22:6.]: but in that day “he will come with power and great glory,” surrounded by myriads of his holy angels. The pomp and glory of his appearing will infinitely surpass either the lustre of Mount Tabor, or the more terrific splendour of Mount Sinai [Note: Matthew 24:30-31. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.]. His throne will be erected in the air; and the books, both “the book of his remembrance,” wherein the actions of men were recorded, and the volume of inspiration, whereby they are to be judged, will be opened before him [Note: Dan 7:9-10 and thrice mentioned Revelation 20:12.].]

2.

The summoning of those who are to be judged—

[“Before him shall be gathered all nations.” Every creature, from Adam to the last of his descendants, shall appear in one vast assembly. Not one shall be absent: not one will be able to withstand the summons of the Almighty, or to elude his search. “The great and mighty of the earth” shall then stand on a level with the meanest beggar [Note: Revelation 6:15.]. Every one shall appear in his own proper body [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:38; 1 Corinthians 15:42.]. As for the difficulty of collecting the scattered atoms of every individual, atoms that have been transformed into ten thousand different shapes, this is no difficulty with God: he who created them out of nothing by a mere act of his will, can by a similar act of volition reunite the atoms that are necessary to constitute our personal identity: and he will do it “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:” and when the dead are raised, then, and not till then, will he change the bodies of those who are alive upon the earth, that they also, together with those who are risen, may “meet the Lord in the air [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.].”]

The whole human race being come into the presence of their Judge, he will proceed to,

II.

The trial—

There will be a strict inquiry into their respective works—
[We do not suppose that their regard to him and his salvation will be overlooked [Note: Mark 16:16. Hebrews 2:3.]: but it will be ascertained by the fruits which they brought forth. If their faith was not productive of good works, it will be accounted only as the faith of devils. But what are the fruits which alone will be considered as just evidences of our love to Christ? O that this matter were duly weighed amongst us! It will not be asked merely, Whether we transgressed the law by grosser acts of sin, such as uncleanness, or drunkenness, or theft, or perjury, or murder; but whether we were active in doing good to our fellow-creatures for Christ’s sake? Whether we “fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick,” and delighted ourselves in all offices of love to our fellow-creatures from a sense of love to Christ, and with a view to his glory [Note: ver. 35, 36.]? Yes, on this will the salvation or condemnation of men depend. Mark it well, my brethren. It is not for formal duties or empty professions that any will be applauded, but for active, diligent, unremitted exertions in the cause of Christ: nor is it for sins of commission merely that any will perish, but for sins of omission [Note: Compare Matthew 7:21. with ver. 25, 27, 30 and ver. 42, 43.].]

Then will they be separated according to their true characters—
[The characters of all will then be as easily discerned as sheep are discerned from goats; and they will be separated accordingly, “the sheep on the right hand of their Judge, and the goats on his left hand.” Then will be seen two wonderful sights; the righteous, however separated from each other by trifling forms or various sentiments on earth, all united in one body, and perfectly of one heart and mind. Nor will there be so much as one hypocrite found amongst them: the tares which now grow among the wheat will all be plucked up: the wolves in sheep’s clothing will all be detected; and the whole collective mass be holy, even as God himself is holy. Then also will all the wicked be standing in one vast congregation together. Those who had mixed themselves with the saints on earth will have the mask taken away, and be made to appear in all their natural deformity: and those trembling saints who were wont to number themselves amongst them, will have had their integrity cleared, and their doubts removed: and all, whether righteous or wicked, will take their proper place, according as the evidence, adduced before their Judge, attested or disproved their piety.]
The trial closed, the Judge will proceed immediately to,

III.

The sentence—

He will first address himself to those on his right hand—
[Among the reasons which might be assigned for his first pronouncing sentence on the righteous, the principal seems to be, that they are to be his assessors in judgment, and to confirm the sentence which he will pronounce upon the ungodly [Note: Matthew 19:28.]. But from the moment of their separation, what joy will till every breast! What mutual congratulations will resound on every side! How delightful will be their anticipation of the felicity that awaits them! What smiles too will beam forth in the countenance of their Judge, when he shall turn towards them!

In his address to them, though he mentions their good works, in order to manifest the equity of his procedure, yet he traces up all their blessedness to the sovereign grace of him, who had loved them “from before the foundation of the world.” It was the Father who had chosen them from all eternity [Note: Ephesians 1:4.], who had sent them a Saviour; who in due time had called them by his grace; and who was the true source of all the blessings they enjoyed [Note: James 1:17.]. Hence he calls them, “Ye blessed of my Father.” In bidding them to take possession of “the kingdom prepared for them,” he marks very strongly the same idea: for he tells them to “inherit” it: by which he clearly intimates, that it was neither earned nor purchased by them, but attained through their adoption into God’s family, and their consequent regeneration by the Spirit of grace.

Surely the sound of these gracious words must pour all heaven into the souls of all to whom they are addressed.]
Then he will turn unto those upon his left hand—
[But how is his countenance now changed! What anger, what indignation flames in his eyes! And what terrible displeasure is conveyed in his voice! The grounds of their condemnation are explicitly declared. They had neglected to serve him, and to do the things that were pleasing in his sight; and therefore they are bidden to “depart accursed.” And it is worthy of observation, that they are not said to be cursed of his Father: no; though the saints owe their felicity to the election of the Father, the wicked do not owe their misery to any arbitrary act of reprobation: the righteous are blessed of the Father; the wicked are cursed of themselves; it is to their own neglect of duty that they must trace their eternal condemnation: they perish, not because there was any want of mercy in God the Father, or of merit in God the Son; but because “they rejected the counsel of God,” and would not accept his proffered salvation [Note: In this respect the text exactly accords with Romans 9:22-23. where the Apostle states that the vessels of mercy were prepared for it by God; but the vessels of wrath were fitted for it by themselves.]. In this world they had said to God, “Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways [Note: Job 21:14.]:” and in that world their Judge will reply, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of your souls: “I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity.” The place into which they are to depart was not indeed prepared for them, as heaven was for the saints: it was “prepared for the devil and his angels:” but as the wicked are partakers of their guilt, they shall be also of their punishment.]

Then will come,

IV.

The execution—

The righteous shall be borne up into the regions of eternal bliss—
[On the pronouncing of the sentence, the heavens will be opened, and all the saints will ascend thither to take possession of their thrones. But who can conceive the happiness of those who are admitted into the presence of their God; who are placed beyond the reach of sin or sorrow, and have an eternity of blessedness before them? What praises, what adorations, and hosannahs will resound through all the courts of heaven!]
The wicked shall be cast down into the regions of eternal misery—
[We attempt not to describe their misery; for it passes the power of words to express, or of imagination to conceive: but this we assert, that it will be truly and properly eternal. It shall co-exist with the felicity of heaven; for its duration is expressed by the very same word [Note: αἰώνιον. It is in vain to say that αἰὼν signifies a limited period; for the duration of heaven and of hell are equal: and if we limit the one, we must limit the other also.]. If any doubt the eternity of hell-torments, I ask, What shall ever terminate them? Will the fire that is kindled there be extinguished? or the souls that are cast into it be consumed? Or shall they be purified in the fire, and be exalted at a future period to the regions of bliss? No one of these things shall be: “The fire shall not be quenched:” “the worm of a guilty conscience shall never die [Note: Mark 9:43-48.]:” and, instead of being improved by their misery, the sufferers will gnaw their tongues for anguish, and blaspheme that God who inflicts their punishment [Note: Revelation 16:8-11.]. Besides, there is a gulf fixed betwixt them and the saints in glory; so that none shall ever pass from the one place to the other, or experience the smallest change in their condition [Note: Luke 16:26.]. How terrible will then be the state of the ungodly! How “will they call upon the hills to fall upon them, and the rocks to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb!” But, what they would not believe, they now feel to their cost; and shall feel, as long as God himself shall endure, even for ever and ever.]

Infer—
1.

How desirable is it to be prepared for death and judgment!

[This is the time for preparation: the moment death arrives, our state is fixed for ever: “As the tree falleth, so it lieth.” What folly then is it to procrastinate, and to defer our preparation! If death would stay for us, and we could command the influences of the Spirit, and ensure repentance at the last, there were some reason for delay: but when we know not but that the next hour we may be summoned into the presence of our Judge, or that the grace we now despise shall never be offered us again, what madness is it to lose the present moment, and to trifle on the brink of such a precipice! Awake, brethren, from your stupor; and “prepare to meet your God.” Go to the Saviour, while yet there is hope concerning you: and let it be the one concern of your lives to “flee from the wrath to come.”]

2.

How important is it to form a just judgment of our own character!

[Suppose for a moment that we judge ourselves now with somewhat too great severity, what harm is done? We disquiet ourselves indeed a little more than is necessary for a few days; but we are stirred up to greater diligence and circumspection; and are stimulated to exert ourselves more earnestly for the securing of the prize. But what if we lean too much to the favourable side? It will be too late to remedy our error when once we pass into the eternal world. There is no repentance in the grave. It will be no excuse to say, “Lord, I was mistaken; I did not think so much strictness was necessary; I thought that such characters as I were safe [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.].” Now, therefore, “judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord.” Inquire now, what is the tenour of your life. Do not be contented to examine whether you have committed any gross sin; but inquire whether you are running as in a race, and striving to the utmost to glorify your God by all possible acts and offices of love? Examine particularly, whether all that you do is, not to purchase heaven, but to testify your love to Christ? If you bring yourselves to any lower standard than this, you will deceive yourselves to your eternal ruin. But, if, after a strict inquiry into these things, “your conscience condemn you not, then have you a scriptural confidence towards God [Note: 1 John 3:21.].”] [Note: If this were the subject of a Charity Sermon, it would be proper here to recommend the charity, and to exhort them to beneficence; but at the same time to caution them against the idea of meriting heaven by their alms-deeds; and to remind them, that their love must spring from faith in Christ, and be exercised simply for his sake, and to his glory.]


Verse 46

DISCOURSE: 1398
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT

Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:41; Matthew 25:46. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

IT is scarcely needful in a Christian assembly to prove that there will be a Day of Judgment; because no one entertains a doubt respecting it: but to impress on our minds a consideration of the judicial process, and of the eternal consequences which will instantly ensue, is of the utmost importance. Taking for granted, therefore, that there is amongst us a certain and universal expectation of that day, we shall proceed to notice the description which the Judge himself has given of it, from its commencement to its termination.
Let us call your attention to,

I.

The preparatory solemnities—

These are comprised under two heads:

1.

The coming of the Judge—

[Our blessed Lord is ordained to be the Judge both of the quick and dead. It is of himself that he speaks, when he says, “The Son of Man” shall come [Note: ver. 31.]. As the Son of Man, he stood at the bar of Pilate: and, as the Son of Man, he will summon the universe to his tribunal. As the Son of Man, he himself was judged, condemned, executed: and, as the Son of Man, he will pass judgment on all, whether men or devils. At his first advent he appeared in the lowest state of degradation, “a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people [Note: Psalms 22:6.]: but in that day “he will come with power and great glory,” surrounded by myriads of his holy angels. The pomp and glory of his appearing will infinitely surpass either the lustre of Mount Tabor, or the more terrific splendour of Mount Sinai [Note: Matthew 24:30-31. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.]. His throne will be erected in the air; and the books, both “the book of his remembrance,” wherein the actions of men were recorded, and the volume of inspiration, whereby they are to be judged, will be opened before him [Note: Dan 7:9-10 and thrice mentioned Revelation 20:12.].]

2.

The summoning of those who are to be judged—

[“Before him shall be gathered all nations.” Every creature, from Adam to the last of his descendants, shall appear in one vast assembly. Not one shall be absent: not one will be able to withstand the summons of the Almighty, or to elude his search. “The great and mighty of the earth” shall then stand on a level with the meanest beggar [Note: Revelation 6:15.]. Every one shall appear in his own proper body [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:38; 1 Corinthians 15:42.]. As for the difficulty of collecting the scattered atoms of every individual, atoms that have been transformed into ten thousand different shapes, this is no difficulty with God: he who created them out of nothing by a mere act of his will, can by a similar act of volition reunite the atoms that are necessary to constitute our personal identity: and he will do it “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:” and when the dead are raised, then, and not till then, will he change the bodies of those who are alive upon the earth, that they also, together with those who are risen, may “meet the Lord in the air [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.].”]

The whole human race being come into the presence of their Judge, he will proceed to,

II.

The trial—

There will be a strict inquiry into their respective works—
[We do not suppose that their regard to him and his salvation will be overlooked [Note: Mark 16:16. Hebrews 2:3.]: but it will be ascertained by the fruits which they brought forth. If their faith was not productive of good works, it will be accounted only as the faith of devils. But what are the fruits which alone will be considered as just evidences of our love to Christ? O that this matter were duly weighed amongst us! It will not be asked merely, Whether we transgressed the law by grosser acts of sin, such as uncleanness, or drunkenness, or theft, or perjury, or murder; but whether we were active in doing good to our fellow-creatures for Christ’s sake? Whether we “fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick,” and delighted ourselves in all offices of love to our fellow-creatures from a sense of love to Christ, and with a view to his glory [Note: ver. 35, 36.]? Yes, on this will the salvation or condemnation of men depend. Mark it well, my brethren. It is not for formal duties or empty professions that any will be applauded, but for active, diligent, unremitted exertions in the cause of Christ: nor is it for sins of commission merely that any will perish, but for sins of omission [Note: Compare Matthew 7:21. with ver. 25, 27, 30 and ver. 42, 43.].]

Then will they be separated according to their true characters—
[The characters of all will then be as easily discerned as sheep are discerned from goats; and they will be separated accordingly, “the sheep on the right hand of their Judge, and the goats on his left hand.” Then will be seen two wonderful sights; the righteous, however separated from each other by trifling forms or various sentiments on earth, all united in one body, and perfectly of one heart and mind. Nor will there be so much as one hypocrite found amongst them: the tares which now grow among the wheat will all be plucked up: the wolves in sheep’s clothing will all be detected; and the whole collective mass be holy, even as God himself is holy. Then also will all the wicked be standing in one vast congregation together. Those who had mixed themselves with the saints on earth will have the mask taken away, and be made to appear in all their natural deformity: and those trembling saints who were wont to number themselves amongst them, will have had their integrity cleared, and their doubts removed: and all, whether righteous or wicked, will take their proper place, according as the evidence, adduced before their Judge, attested or disproved their piety.]
The trial closed, the Judge will proceed immediately to,

III.

The sentence—

He will first address himself to those on his right hand—
[Among the reasons which might be assigned for his first pronouncing sentence on the righteous, the principal seems to be, that they are to be his assessors in judgment, and to confirm the sentence which he will pronounce upon the ungodly [Note: Matthew 19:28.]. But from the moment of their separation, what joy will till every breast! What mutual congratulations will resound on every side! How delightful will be their anticipation of the felicity that awaits them! What smiles too will beam forth in the countenance of their Judge, when he shall turn towards them!

In his address to them, though he mentions their good works, in order to manifest the equity of his procedure, yet he traces up all their blessedness to the sovereign grace of him, who had loved them “from before the foundation of the world.” It was the Father who had chosen them from all eternity [Note: Ephesians 1:4.], who had sent them a Saviour; who in due time had called them by his grace; and who was the true source of all the blessings they enjoyed [Note: James 1:17.]. Hence he calls them, “Ye blessed of my Father.” In bidding them to take possession of “the kingdom prepared for them,” he marks very strongly the same idea: for he tells them to “inherit” it: by which he clearly intimates, that it was neither earned nor purchased by them, but attained through their adoption into God’s family, and their consequent regeneration by the Spirit of grace.

Surely the sound of these gracious words must pour all heaven into the souls of all to whom they are addressed.]
Then he will turn unto those upon his left hand—
[But how is his countenance now changed! What anger, what indignation flames in his eyes! And what terrible displeasure is conveyed in his voice! The grounds of their condemnation are explicitly declared. They had neglected to serve him, and to do the things that were pleasing in his sight; and therefore they are bidden to “depart accursed.” And it is worthy of observation, that they are not said to be cursed of his Father: no; though the saints owe their felicity to the election of the Father, the wicked do not owe their misery to any arbitrary act of reprobation: the righteous are blessed of the Father; the wicked are cursed of themselves; it is to their own neglect of duty that they must trace their eternal condemnation: they perish, not because there was any want of mercy in God the Father, or of merit in God the Son; but because “they rejected the counsel of God,” and would not accept his proffered salvation [Note: In this respect the text exactly accords with Romans 9:22-23. where the Apostle states that the vessels of mercy were prepared for it by God; but the vessels of wrath were fitted for it by themselves.]. In this world they had said to God, “Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways [Note: Job 21:14.]:” and in that world their Judge will reply, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of your souls: “I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity.” The place into which they are to depart was not indeed prepared for them, as heaven was for the saints: it was “prepared for the devil and his angels:” but as the wicked are partakers of their guilt, they shall be also of their punishment.]

Then will come,

IV.

The execution—

The righteous shall be borne up into the regions of eternal bliss—
[On the pronouncing of the sentence, the heavens will be opened, and all the saints will ascend thither to take possession of their thrones. But who can conceive the happiness of those who are admitted into the presence of their God; who are placed beyond the reach of sin or sorrow, and have an eternity of blessedness before them? What praises, what adorations, and hosannahs will resound through all the courts of heaven!]
The wicked shall be cast down into the regions of eternal misery—
[We attempt not to describe their misery; for it passes the power of words to express, or of imagination to conceive: but this we assert, that it will be truly and properly eternal. It shall co-exist with the felicity of heaven; for its duration is expressed by the very same word [Note: αἰώνιον. It is in vain to say that αἰὼν signifies a limited period; for the duration of heaven and of hell are equal: and if we limit the one, we must limit the other also.]. If any doubt the eternity of hell-torments, I ask, What shall ever terminate them? Will the fire that is kindled there be extinguished? or the souls that are cast into it be consumed? Or shall they be purified in the fire, and be exalted at a future period to the regions of bliss? No one of these things shall be: “The fire shall not be quenched:” “the worm of a guilty conscience shall never die [Note: Mark 9:43-48.]:” and, instead of being improved by their misery, the sufferers will gnaw their tongues for anguish, and blaspheme that God who inflicts their punishment [Note: Revelation 16:8-11.]. Besides, there is a gulf fixed betwixt them and the saints in glory; so that none shall ever pass from the one place to the other, or experience the smallest change in their condition [Note: Luke 16:26.]. How terrible will then be the state of the ungodly! How “will they call upon the hills to fall upon them, and the rocks to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb!” But, what they would not believe, they now feel to their cost; and shall feel, as long as God himself shall endure, even for ever and ever.]

Infer—
1.

How desirable is it to be prepared for death and judgment!

[This is the time for preparation: the moment death arrives, our state is fixed for ever: “As the tree falleth, so it lieth.” What folly then is it to procrastinate, and to defer our preparation! If death would stay for us, and we could command the influences of the Spirit, and ensure repentance at the last, there were some reason for delay: but when we know not but that the next hour we may be summoned into the presence of our Judge, or that the grace we now despise shall never be offered us again, what madness is it to lose the present moment, and to trifle on the brink of such a precipice! Awake, brethren, from your stupor; and “prepare to meet your God.” Go to the Saviour, while yet there is hope concerning you: and let it be the one concern of your lives to “flee from the wrath to come.”]

2.

How important is it to form a just judgment of our own character!

[Suppose for a moment that we judge ourselves now with somewhat too great severity, what harm is done? We disquiet ourselves indeed a little more than is necessary for a few days; but we are stirred up to greater diligence and circumspection; and are stimulated to exert ourselves more earnestly for the securing of the prize. But what if we lean too much to the favourable side? It will be too late to remedy our error when once we pass into the eternal world. There is no repentance in the grave. It will be no excuse to say, “Lord, I was mistaken; I did not think so much strictness was necessary; I thought that such characters as I were safe [Note: Matthew 7:22-23.].” Now, therefore, “judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord.” Inquire now, what is the tenour of your life. Do not be contented to examine whether you have committed any gross sin; but inquire whether you are running as in a race, and striving to the utmost to glorify your God by all possible acts and offices of love? Examine particularly, whether all that you do is, not to purchase heaven, but to testify your love to Christ? If you bring yourselves to any lower standard than this, you will deceive yourselves to your eternal ruin. But, if, after a strict inquiry into these things, “your conscience condemn you not, then have you a scriptural confidence towards God [Note: 1 John 3:21.].”] [Note: If this were the subject of a Charity Sermon, it would be proper here to recommend the charity, and to exhort them to beneficence; but at the same time to caution them against the idea of meriting heaven by their alms-deeds; and to remind them, that their love must spring from faith in Christ, and be exercised simply for his sake, and to his glory.]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 25". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/matthew-25.html. 1832.