17 SEPTEMBER (PREACHED OLNEY FAIR DAY)
The awesome Judge
‘And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ Revelation 20:12
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Luke 21:25–36
There is something awful and solemn in a day of Assize. The news of the judge coming to town awakens a general concern for the unhappy prisoners who are to stand their trial. But especially the prisoners themselves, those who have been guilty of some capital crime and know that the law is against them. How are they affected! How dejected do they appear in earnest—they know their facts will be proved and that the forms of law to which they must be present will issue in their condemnation. The concourse of people, too, adds something to their distress, but especially when they hear their sentence read, how do their hearts fail, their limbs fail, and their eyes flow—they cry for mercy, but in vain. The judge cannot, the law will not, afford it, and the small remainder of life is spent in a comfortless expectation of their sentence. Most of the circumstances I have hinted at are borrowed in Scripture to remind us of the great and terrible day of the Lord, when all who ever lived upon the face of the earth shall stand before the Judge, the One Lawgiver who alone is able to save and to destroy. But the concourse, the solemnity, the event of the most important cases that come before a human judicature, are mere shadows and children’s sports compared to that tremendous judgement which we must see and hear, each one for ourselves.
FOR MEDITATION: I visited the prisoners under sentence of death on Friday morning and again on Saturday. I spoke amongst them with all the earnestness and affection that I could—told them my own story, and that I was sent to them as a proof that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Poor men! I suppose this morning launched them into an eternal unchangeable state. The wealthy, the proud, the gay, and even many who are benevolent and useful in their connections, are likewise to be pitied. Some, because though they have a religious character, and are in some respects exemplary, they do not effectually receive the record which God has given of his Son.
John Newton to William Wilberforce, 1 July 1789
SERMON: REVELATION 20:11–12 [2/6] [EASTER MONDAY EVENING]