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to you in weakness may not be without its good fruits in the coming harvest of eternity.
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen.”
Judgeship of the Saints.
Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts."-1 Cor. iv. 5.
I. The first point in these words, to which I invite attention, is the implied truth, that the dignities and prerogatives of judgeship do appertain to the saints. It is true that the text is a command against judging. The word is, “judge nothing." But there is a limit to the prohibition. There is a time specified, for which the interdiction does not apply. It is only “before the time" that we are not to judge,-implying that, when the time comes, we are to judge, and to exercise all the high functions denoted by that word.
And what is here implied is elsewhere plainly expressed. As to the twelve apostles, Jesus said, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke xxii. 29, 30.) But honors of this kind are not to be confined to the twelve,—though theirs is to be a position of peculiar eminence. Paul, in a subsequent chapter of this same epistle, refers to it as a well-understood item of the Christian faith, and as a matter of common expectation, that “the saints shall judge the world.” “Do ye not know,” says he, “ that the saints shall judge the world?”—that “the world shall be judged by you ?” Nay, more: “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. vi. 2, 3.) Of old had the Psalm
, that "the upright shall have dominion,” (Ps. xlix. 14,) and that the “Great King" "shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet.” (Ps. xlvii. 3.) Daniel had also prophesied, “I beheld, until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” (Dan. vii. 21, 22.) Even the apocryphal book of Wisdom (iii. 7) had said of the righteous, “They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people.” Christ himself, in sundry promises and parables, had pointed forward to judicatorial powers to be possessed by his faithful followers, and afterward dictated to be written to the Church at Thyatira, “He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, and he shall rule them.” (Rev. iii. 26, 27.) And, as was promised, John, in vision, “saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; ... and they lived and reigned with Christ.” (Rev. xx. 4.)*
* See also Ex. xix. 6; Ps. cxlix. 5–9; Isa. xxxii. 1; Matt. xix. 28; Luke xix. 17, 19; 1 Cor. ix. 25; 2 Tim. iv. 8; 1 Pet. v. 4; Rev. i. 6, ii. 10, iii. 21, v. 10, xxi. 7.
There can therefore be no mistake in receiving it as a scriptural truth, and as a subject of well-founded Christian hope, that the faithful servants of the Lord are to be judges, and to exercise all the high offices going along with such dignities.
II. Nor can it be other than a matter of great interest for us to inquire, in the next place, into the nature of that judgeship. This is a point not so clear, at least to the great mass of hearers. And some interpreters have shown great wavering and hesitation in accepting the statements of the Bible respecting it. Some find this judging of the world by the saints in the testimony which they bear by their lives and death against the ungodliness, blindness, infatuation, and ingratitude of the world. Others find it in the power of the keys, with which the Church is invested, the binding and loosing power, by which, in the pursuit of her legitimate mission, what she does on earth is ratified in heaven. Others find it in the authority of the sacred writings which have been committed to the Church, and their enthronement in the council-halls of Christendom to rule the consciences and lives of all men. Others find it in a certain undefined assessorship of the saints with Christ in a grand assize, which they suppose is to take place at the conclusion of all earthly things. Whilst still others find it in these several particulars combined.
That there is truth in these representations, is not to be disputed. The saints, by their righteousness, do condemn the rest of the world for its sins. The Church, within certain limitations, does bind and loose in a way which must needs hold good forever. The holy books of Revelation certainly are the properly-constituted authorities by which all faith and practice is to be regulated. And there is a sense in which the saints will approve, endorse, and ratify all the final decisions of the day of reckoning. But in neither nor in all of these do I find any thing toward a realization of those high judicatorial prerogatives with which we have now to do.
As to the first, it has been the same in all ages, and wherever there have been saints; whereas, the judgeship of which we are inquiring is everywhere spoken of as a subject of promise and a matter for futurity. The apostle does not say that saints do now judge the world and judge angels, but that they “shall judge” them. So far from its being a thing of this present life, our text declaims against any attempt toward its exercise now, as a usurpation, and as sinfully and disastrously premature.
The same objection lies equally and unsurmountably against the second. The exercise of the power of the keys, as possessed by the Church, is a thing already in hand, and not a matter of promise to be fulfilled at a fixed time in the future.
As to the third, it is not a reign of the saints at all, but of God and his own proper word. The books of Scripture are not people; and no rhetoric or logic can make the authority of God's word take the place of personal rulership promised to men. Besides, the world, above all, is just that which the