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Regard with wholesome fear the tribunal of Christ

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

“THE Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John v. 22). I know, O Lord Jesus, that when Thou comest as the righteous Judge of all the earth, Thou wilt bring to light the secret deeds and words and thoughts of all men (1 Cor. iv. 5). Above us in that dread day will stand our awful Judge; beneath us will be a yawning hell; within us we shall carry a stinging conscience, and without us a threatening fire; on my right hand my sins shall rise up to accuse me, on my left the fiends of hell to terrify me. Good angels shall be there to bar the way to heaven, and evil angels to hasten my fall into the lowest hell. O blessed Lord Jesus, to whom shall I flee in such a wretched plight as this? As Job (ix. 28) said, “I am afraid of all my sorrows,” knowing that Thou canst not justly spare any sinful offender. There shall I stand between time and eternity; time is rapidly passing, the infinite ages of eternity yet await me. There in that awful judgment the evil spirits shall require all their works, and all those evil deeds which they here persuaded me to do shall they there produce to my condemnation, that they may drag my wretched soul with them down to hell. “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from a fig-tree” (Is. xxxiv. 4). “Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed” (Is. xxiv. 23). And if these works of Thy hands, O God, which have never done any evil, shall flee away from Thy presence, how can I, a miserable sinner, hope to appear before Thy face? “Yea, the heavens are not clean in His sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water” (Job xv. 15, 16)? “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear” (1 Pet. iv. 18)? Whither then shall I flee, to whom shall I turn, but to Thee, O Lord? Thou wilt be the Judge of my sins, and yet Thou hast died for my sins! “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John v. 22). Yes, the Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son, but on the other hand the Son hath been delivered up for our sins (Rom. iv. 25). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John iii. 16), not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. How then wilt thou judge me, O Lord Jesus, when the Father hath sent Thee, that through Thee I might be saved? Thou didst perfectly do the will of Thy Father in all things; how then wilt thou fail to do it in the matter of saving such a miserable sinner as I? “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. xviii. 14). Truly I am one of those little ones in Thy sight, as well as in my own; for what am I, but dust and ashes (Gen. xviii. 27)? Nor am I but dust and ashes in Thy sight, but in respect of growth in godliness I am very little and very insignificant. Therefore, O Lord Jesus, do Thou finish in me, one of Thy little ones, the will of Thy Father in heaven.

Thou hast come into the world, O Lord Jesus, “to save that which was lost” (Matt. xviii. 11); how canst Thou then judge him who ardently desires to be saved by Thee? I know that my sins will rise in judgment against me, and that they will cry aloud for vengeance upon me, but then, O blessed Jesus, Thou hast transferred my sins to Thyself, Thou art “the Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world” (John i. 29), and why not mine also? How wilt Thou condemn me for my sins, when Thou hast died for them? Thou hast died for the sins of the whole world (1 John ii. 2), why not then for mine also? O blessed Lord Jesus, if Thou hadst wished to judge so strictly, why wert Thou constrained to leave Thy heavenly home and become a man, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross? Devils will accuse me, and will require from my soul the evil deeds which they persuaded me to do. “But the prince of this world is judged” (John xvi. 11), and the “prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Thee” (John xiv. 30). And if he has nothing in Thee, surely he will not have in me; for I believe in Thee, O Lord Jesus, and for that reason Thou abidest in me and I in Thee (John xiv. 23). If then Satan accuse me, he will accuse Thy brother; if he accuse me, he will accuse the well-beloved Son of the eternal Father. And how wilt Thou severely judge Thy friend, Thy brother and Thy son? The law of Moses will judge me in that day, and will pronounce a curse upon me. “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deut. xxvii. 26). But Thou, O Christ, “hast redeemed me from the curse of the law, being made a curse for me” (Gal. iii. 13). The law of Moses may pronounce a curse upon me for my sin, but Thou wilt pronounce a blessing upon me, for oh, how I long to hear Thy voice saying unto me, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. xxv. 34)! The law may accuse me, but Thou never wilt, but wilt rather intercede for me (Rom. viii. 34). I fear not the curse of the law, for “Thou hast blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us” (Col. ii. 14). Lost souls will rise up and condemn me in that day, and declare that I merit the same condemnation with themselves. I freely confess, O Lord Jesus, that for my sin and guilt I deserve no better than they, and yet my humble confession of my guilt, and my saving knowledge of Thee, after all, does make me different from them. “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation” (John v. 24). I hear Thy word, O Lord Jesus, and I do believe on Thee, and though my faith be so weak, yet I do believe. “Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief” (Mk. ix. 24). “Lord, I believe, but increase my faith” (Luke xvii. 5). Though I may not be free from the sins of the damned, yet from that of unbelief Thou wilt deliver me, O Lord.

All these, mine accusers, strike terror to my heart, but the thought of Thee, O my righteous Judge, gives new courage to my soul. The Father hath delivered to Thee all judgment (John v. 22); He hath delivered all things into Thy hands (Matt. xi. 27); and yet He hath also delivered Thee up for us all (Rom. viii. 32); and moreover Thou Thyself hast delivered up Thyself for the Church, that Thou mightest sanctify it, and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word (Eph. v. 26). How wilt Thou then severely judge those for whom Thou didst deliver up Thyself to death, even the death of the cross (Phil. ii. 8)? “No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourished and cherished it, even as the Lord the Church; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, of His bones” (Eph. v. 29, 30).

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