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Ground Of Judgment by Benajah Harvey Carroll

Ground Of Judgment 
by
Benajah Harvey Carroll


[Served in the Seventeenth Texas Infantry of the Confederate Army]

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me... Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." Matt. 25:40, 45, 46

FOR four thousand years after the creation of the world one forecast of the future loomed up as the great coining event before the eyes of all intelligences. It was the highest mountain peak in the chain of coming events. I refer to the first advent of the Son of God. The prophets climbed up the highest mountains of inspiration, and from that lofty standpoint, having a wide sweep of vision, they strained their eyes and exercised their prophetic ken to discern the time and manner and purpose of that coming. And kings and princes longed to see that day. His coming was "the desire of all nations."

But when he came he so came as to disappoint the expectations of those who were looking for him. I mean that the guise in which he came was a terrible disappointment to carnal men who so long expected him. There was not enough pomp and pageant. He did not come as a king on a throne and surrounded by guards and attended by conquering armies. In coming he condescended; he who thought it not robbery to be called equal with God and who was God, stooped to take the form of a slave. That is what the word means, slave, not servant. He left the throne of heaven to be born in a stable and cradled in a cow-trough. And he was poor. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. He came in humiliation. He came as a sufferer. He came to endure the great passion appointed to him. And, coming in that guise and for such purpose, there was no beauty in him when men saw him that they should desire him. To them he was without form or comeliness, and in his great suffering they esteemed him afflicted and smitten of God. And he stooped unto death and into death and triumphed over death in his own realm and rose above the grave, and above Jerusalem, and above the mountains, and above the clouds, and above the stars, and ever up, challenging the heavenly portals as he rose: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in." And entering, he took his place upon the throne on high.

Daniel saw that. He says: "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed/ ' Concerning him thus received in heaven, the Apostle Peter now says: "Whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things." But before he ascended he said: "I will come again. I will come in like manner as I go up. I will come in the clouds of heaven.'' Now, from the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, for nearly two thousand years the second advent of the Son of God has been the stupendous coming event of all the future. The eves of the world and of the angels are fixed upon it. As the first advent caught and held with fascinating and attractive power the thought of all intelligences for four thousand years, so now the second advent fills the vision of the universe. ''When the Son of man shall come in his glory"—mark the emphasis, in his glory —and the implied contrast. The first time he came in his humiliation. The first time he came as a slave. When he comes again he will come in" his glory. He will come as a king indeed. He will come in all the splendid sheen of heavenly apparel. He will come environed by guards this time and with pomp and majesty and circumstance and pageantry enough to satisfy the greatest sensationalists that ever desired to see a startling thing.

But when he comes who will come with him? The context says: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him." They are said to be an innumerable company; seraphim and cherubim ; holy angels, all the holy angels. For the first time since the creation of the world heaven will be emptied. When he starts to descend that next time the decree will go forth: "Let all the angels of God fall into line." "Wheel into column," and while the eye cannot look to the end of that line of fire, all of them, all of them will come down with him. Angels! You have heard of them. They were in paradise. They kept the way of the tree of life after expulsion from it. Abraham entertained them. When Jacob slept they came to him and he saw them descending and ascending the ladder to heaven, which symbolized the Lord Jesus Christ establishing communication between the upper and the lower world. When Jesus was born a special choir of them filled the welkin of heaven with hosannas when they sang: '' Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." They released Peter from prison. They came to John. They smote Herod. And one of them breathed the cold chill of death into the hearts of one hundred and eighty thousand of the hosts of Sennacherib. Angels, holy angels! I will tell you directly why they will come with him.

Who else will come with him? We are informed in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews that now, with the innumerable company of angels in heaven and in the presence of God, are the spirits of the just made perfect, the souls of all good men and women and children, the spirits that had been by death released from the tabernacle which fell to pieces here upon this earth. Those disembodied, but perfected and justified spirits, now in heaven, they will come with him. What is the proof? In the letter to the Thessalonians Paul says: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." And Jude says: " Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints."

And that will be a startling denouement. When the legions of the angels have been marshaled and the decree goes forth where the spirits are resting in the paradise of God in the presence of the blessed one: "Come out, ye spirits. Come out, spirits of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Come out, all ye disembodied souls and fall into line. I want to take you with me. I am going to visit the earth you once inhabited. I want to carry you there for a special purpose." And so they come with him. And they come down, descending with the sound of a trumpet, and the shout of the archangel and in the sheen of flashing wings, and in the glory and splendor of heaven they come, down, down, down. They pause in the air, poised above the earth. 

Simultaneously with that descent from above, the descent of the King in his glory and of his holy angels and of the just made perfect with him, there is an ascent from below, and that is the calling up of the unholy angels. Satan, the great serpent, the dragon, the arch-fiend, Diabolus, the accuser of the brethren. From below, drawn by the imperious command of his Creator and Judge, he will come, and his demons with him. The demons that in the days of Christ took possession of men and made them blaspheme; the demons that defiled souls and obstructed the progress of the gospel by wiles and stratagems and delusions and every kind of fallacy and sophistry; the demons who seduced men, whose doctrines poisoned the souls of men ; the demons who, under the guidance of Satan, fought every foot of the progress of Jesus Christ. They will come. I will tell you why directly.

And who else will come? The spirits of the lost will come with him. Dives and those like him in torment. Hell shall give up the dead which are in it. Men, spirits of men, who for sin on earth have been cast down in chains and darkness, are brought up from the prison-house of woe and despair, and they with the devil and his angels gather toward that central point. That will be a sublimely awful sight. Oh, it will be such a sight as no man has ever yet looked upon.

Now, as these two spiritual hosts approach to a common center, what happens? First, the dead arise. When it says the dead in Christ shall rise first, it does not mean that the dead in Christ shall arise before the wicked dead, but it means that the dead in Christ shall rise before the living Christians are changed. The first event in order is the resurrection of the dead, and living people will see it. They will witness the opening of the graves and they will see the body that has been buried or burned, or whose ashes have been scattered to the four winds of heaven, the dead from the sea, from the forest, from under mausoleums and from lowly and unmarked burial places, the dead will rise. The righteous dead will rise transfigured and glorified. Corruption puts on incorruption; mortality, immortality. That which was sown in weakness is raised in power. But they are as yet only bodies. Now, the king yonder, looking down at these still, lifeless bodies of his saints shall say to his angels: "Bring them here! Sever them from the unjust." And as they are brought, the spirits who once inhabited them recognize the houses in which they once lived, and with joy unspeakable, rush into the renovated and glorified habitation which they once animated; and the whole man, soul and body, is now united, perfected and glorified and sanctified.

Then what? The living Christians, the ones who have not died, and who will never die, these undergo a change. Paul says: "Behold I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, ... at the last trump, for the dead shall be raised, and we shall be changed." And that marvelous change which took place when Enoch was translated and Elijah conveyed in a chariot of fire to heaven, that change takes place in every living Christian. Glorified without death, they are caught up with the resurrection bodies of the spirits already with Jesus—yes, together with the Lord in the air, and so shall they forever be with the Lord.

And the spirits of the lost find their bodies raised, raised immortal but not glorified, raised immortal but not conformed to the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, and these they re-enter, so that the whole man is together again. Then they stand with the unholy angels. 

Now what? That leaves on earth only the living sinners. What awful things they have witnessed! How terribly suggestive their being left alone. Ah! what can it mean? "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken and the other left." What does it forebode? You remember that when God took the one righteous man out of Sodom and left only the living wicked, what followed. If the salt is taken away, does not corruption ensue? If light is withdrawn, does not darkness follow? If those whose presence alone have hitherto restrained the wrath of God, if they are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and only the living wicked are upon the earth, what follows? That passage read in Malachi is fulfilled. Fire leaps forth. It rushes out from the forest; fire from the plain; fire from river and lake and pool and sea and ocean, until Arctic and Antarctic and Southern and Indian and Atlantic and Pacific oceans, in one great conflagration meet the fire from the shore, and there is a deluge of fire as there had been a deluge of water. By the same word of God that brought the deluge of water, by that same word of God, the heavens and the earth which now are kept in store are reserved unto fire unto the day of judgment and the perdition of ungodly men; and the living wicked shall be burned up in that fire. I am not now talking about hell. I am talking about the literal fire, and they die in that fire. They do not escape death. They are not transfigured. They are not transferred across the river of death. They die; they die by fire, and they are ashes under the feet of the righteous literally and truly. And they are raised after that death, and their bodies are immortal but not glorified. The fire had come as the water came, but as the water did not annihilate, neither will the fire annihilate. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, as before there was a new heaven and a new earth. And now, that all the preparatory steps are taken, the King takes his place on the throne.

"I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. . . And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." And our context says: "He shall sit on the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations."

Yes, all nations shall be gathered before him. There is the supreme court whose decision is infallible and irreversible. There is the tribunal which shall reverse ten thousand earthly decisions. The great white throne of eternal judgment! All men and all angels shall stand before it. 

The question now arises: Who will be judged? And I say, angels, holy angels. And what will be the ground of the judgment of holy angels? Not that they kept their first -estate—the result of that keeping hath already been with them—but because they worshiped the Son of God when they were called on to worship him; because they served him when they were called on to serve him; because they were the ministering spirits to them that are the heirs of salvation; because they furthered the gospel of the Son of God, therefore are the elect angels confirmed, and in that way is the Scripture fulfilled: "He shall reconcile things in heaven as well as things on earth." Then evil angels will be judged, not because they kept not their first estate—they are already cast out for that—but because they would not fall down and worship the Son of God when he was brought into the world. Because they opposed the gospel and fought it over every inch of ground. Because they beguiled men and kept them from believing in the gospel, hoodwinked and blinded them, took possession of them and degraded them. Because they persecuted the righteous. Because they worried and troubled God's people, therefore they will be judged. And there is no other ground of judgment for them. And that disposes of the angels, good and bad. 

Now, the nations are gathered, all nations, all people in one congregation. There they are gathered together. What follows next? "He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." Mark the word "separate," right and left! Right and left! Divide, open ranks. You stand there, and you there. Father here, mother over yonder. Daughter there, son here; brothers, one of you here, the other there. Right and left. Divide! Divide! Separate! That will take the light of hope out of the hearts of all evil men. Oh, there will be weeping at the judgment seat of Christ! There yawns the impassable chasm. No bridge can span it. No wing can fly across it. Separate! Separate! Separate! Good-bye forever!

And now comes to those on the right hand the final sentence. Oh, what a sentence! "Come." The invitation, the welcome in it. "Come ye blessed of my Father, come and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Open wide the door, come in ye blessed, come in, come home, come healed, come cleansed, come washed, come whiter than snow. Come crowned. Come with harps. Come singing. Come with melody in your hearts. Come glorified. Come, ye blessed of my Father."

Why? Now, we will get into the very root of the matter. Why? For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat. I was thirsty and ye gave me drink. I was naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and in prison and ye visited me. That is why. That proves the proposition that only one thing is the ground of judgment, only one thing, and it is the sole ground of God's judgment of men and angels, viz., their treatment of his Son Jesus Christ. That is all. There is no other. It is not that these men fell in Adam. It is not that being fallen in Adam they cursed and swore and stole and murdered; not that. For that the sentence was already passed. They were condemned for that already. No trial about that up yonder, not a bit. But for what? That being fallen; being sinners; being condemned sinners, God brought the gospel to them. Jesus Christ came to them. An overture of salvation was made to them and they rejected that. This is the ground of judgment. The condemnation is that light has come into the world and men love darkness rather than light. For no matter how great a sinner a man is, no matter how great a sinner he has been, if sinful as he is, fallen as he was and is, he will accept the overture of redemption in Jesus Christ, that sets him free from condemnation forever. That acquits him. Being justified by faith he is entitled to peace with God. As many condemned sinners as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God even to them that believed on his name. If he received the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to rescue him from the condemnation that was already on him, well for him. If he rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, woe to him. No other ground of judgment, and no pleading will even be listened to based on your record in other things, for on that record sentence has already been pronounced, and that judgment has already been written, and it is righteous, and you are lost and you stand lost. The sole question is, what did you do with Jesus who came to rescue you from that condemnation? And the word of God does not give a hint of anything else as the ground of final judgment. 

But just here seems to be a difficulty. If everything depends upon our treatment of Jesus, how can we, who never personally knew, accord him treatment of any kind—either good or bad? If he says: "I was hungry and ye fed me; naked and ye clothed me; sick and ye visited me," making everything depend upon the treatment of him—what else can we say: "Lord, when did we see thee an hungered; thee sick; thee in prison; thee naked? Why, you passed out of the world eighteen hundred years before I was born; or, I passed out of the world eighteen hundred years before you where born. When did I give food and drink to you, and clothing to you, and visit you?" Now, mark. This brings us to the text at the end of the service, and that is a good way to preach, lead up to the text." Inasmuch as ye did it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye did it unto me." What does that prove? That the sole ground of the judgment is our treatment of Jesus Christ in his people and in his gospel, and he identifies himself with his people and his gospel. Now, I want to clear that up a little. I want to make it perfectly obvious to you by an illustration. He sent out some disciples, saying: "As you go, preach, and when you enter a city, preach in my name, by my authority, the message that I bid you, and if they receive you they receive me; and if they reject you they reject me. I make this treatment of you a personal matter." Here rises a wonderful scene. I cannot get some pictures out of my mind. See these preachers coming to a place and the people who receive them. What then? He tells the preachers to do a certain thing. I can see the picture of it in my mind. Two men standing in the street of a city where they have preached Jesus and Jesus has been rejected. Now, by the commandment of Jesus Christ, they stoop down and commence untying their shoes, loosening their sandals, and they take their shoes off and, clinging to their shoes, is the dust of the street of that city on which they stood and preached, and the word says: "Shake it off for a witness. Shake it off for a testimony." That dust on which men stood and preached Jesus Christ is brought up and put on the judgment bar and testifies: "O Son of God, we, the grains of sand upon which apostolic feet stood and preached Jesus to these men on the left hand, we were shaken off the feet of the apostles where Jesus was rejected. We testify in the court of heaven against them."

I have a little pebble about as big as the end of my finger, of no intrinsic value, though it is a beautiful pebble and it has a tinge of crimson running through it. As I was informed by the one who gave it to me, that pebble was picked 'out of the track of Maximilian after he was shot. He stood on that little stone and was shot to death. I had a gold fastening made for it and gave it to my little daughter, and told her that that pebble would' be at the judgment bar of God as a witness of the righteousness or of the unrighteousness of the execution of Maximilian. And the rafters in the roof of the house and the beams in the wall shall speak out in that day and tell their stories of how men received or rejected the Lord Jesus Christ.

And when the Lord Jesus Christ shall come, saith Paul, in flaming fire taking vengeance upon them that have not obeyed the gospel, he will recompense tribulation to them that have troubled you, and he will recompense rest to you that were troubled. And what was the ground of that tribulation? That they troubled God's people. They troubled Israel. They brought a reproach upon Israel. They marred the purity of the white flag of Jesus. They obstructed the gospel. They put stumbling-blocks in the way of God's people. They caused strife and division. They, for selfish ends, and to satisfy their own creed sacrificed the cause of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this I say, is the only ground of judgment. The sentence of Jesus Christ, when that comes, what will you do? How will you receive it? Let me speak for myself: I do not think that I am an undue enthusiast, nor do I think that intense thought and loner study on this subject hath made me mad. I think I I speak but the words of truth and soberness when I say that I would rather my right hand should forget its cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth in everlasting silence than to say "not at home" to Jesus Christ when he comes in his cause, whether he come by day or by night. When he comes and knocks and I hear it, and he says: "I am hungry, give me bread. I am thirsty, give me drink. I am naked, clothe me." When I hear his voice from the prison: "Come to me in bonds. Be not ashamed of my bonds." I hear him in his persecuted cause, crying: "Help, help, or I perish." Oh, God forbid that I should ever turn my back and close my eyes and ears and say, "Count me out, count me out."

J. F. Love, The Southern Baptist Pulpit (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1895), 54-66.

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