T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N,
A Servant of the Lord's Christ.
Written from Bedford Prison.
But to pass that, [we come THIRD, to the examination the just must undergo, and the account they must give to the Lord the Judge; or,]
THE JUDGMENT OF THE JUST.
ow when the saints are raised, as ye have heard, they must give an account of all things, in general, that they have done while they were in the world; of all things, I say, whether they be good or bad.
FIRST, Of all their bad; but mark, not under the consideration of vagabonds, slaves and sinners, but as sons, stewards, and servants of the Lord Jesus. That this shall be, it is evident from divers places of the holy Scriptures:
First, Paul saith, "We shall all stand before the judgment- seat of Christ,"—we saints—"For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom 14:10- 12). Again, "Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment- seat of Christ; that every one [of us] may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor 5:9,10).
It is true, God loveth his people, but yet he loveth not their sins, nor anything they do, though with the greatest zeal for him, if he be contrary to his word; wherefore as truly as God will given a reward to his saints and children for all that they have indeed well done; so truly will he at this day distinguish their good and bad: and when both are manifest by the righteous judgment of Christ; he will burn up their bad, with all their labour, travel, and pains in it for ever. He can tell how to save his people, and yet take vengeance on their inventions (Psa 99:8).
That is an observable place, in the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, and the third chapter, "If any man build," saith he, "upon this foundation [Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor 3:12-15). Now observe,
1. As I said before, the foundation is Christ (verse 11).
2. The gold, silver, and precious stones that here are said to be built upon him, are all the actings in faith and love, according to the word, that the saints are found doing for his sake in the world (1 Peter 1:7; Rev 3:18).
3. To build on him wood, hay, and stubble, it is to build, together with what is right in itself, human inventions and carnal ordinances, fathering them still on God and his allowance.
4. The fire that here you read of, it is the pure word and law of God (Jer 23:29; John 12:48).
5. The day that here you read of, it is the day of Christ's coming to judgment, to reveal the hidden things of darkness, and to make manifest the counsels of the heart (1 Cor 4:5).
6. At this day, the gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble, and that of every man, shall be tried by this fire, that it may be manifest of what sort it is; the wind, the rain, and floods, beat now as vehemently against the house upon the rock, as against that on the sand (Luke 6:48,49).
(1.) That the apostle speaks here of the saved, not of the reprobate— "He himself shall be saved."
(2.) That this saved man may have wood, hay, and stubble; that is, things that will not abide the trial.
(3.) That neither this man's goodness, nor yet God's love to him, shall hinder all his wood, hay, or stubble from coming on the stage, "Every man's work shall be manifest: the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is."
(4.) Thus, a good man shall see all his wood, hay, and stubble burnt up in the trial before his face.
(5.) That good man then shall suffer loss, or, the loss of all things that are not then according to the word of God—"If any man's works shall be burnt," or any of them, "he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire"—that is, yet so as that all that ever he hath done, shall be tried, and squared by the word of God.
From all which, it must be unavoidably concluded, that the whole body of the elect must count with their Lord for all things they have done, whether good or bad, and that he will destroy all their bad, with the purity of his word, yea, and all their pains, travel, and labour that they have spent about it. I am persuaded that there are now many things done by the best of saints, that then they will gladly disown and be ashamed of; yea, which they have and do still do with great devotion. Alas, what gross things do some of the saints in their devotion father upon God, and do reckon him the author thereof, and that he also prompts them forward to the doing thereof, and doth give them his presence in the performance of them! Yea, and as they father many superstitions and scriptureless things upon him; so they die in the same opinion, and never come in this world, to the sight of their evil and ignorance herein.
But now the judgment-day is the principal time wherein everything shall be set in its proper place; that which is of God in its place, and that which is not, shall now be discovered, and made manifest. In many things now we offend all; and then we shall see the many offences we have committed, and shall ourselves judge them as they are. The Christian, is in this world, so candid a creature, that take him when he is not under some great temptation, and he will ingeniously confess to his God, before all men, how he hath sinned and transgressed against his Father; and will fall down at the feet of God, and cry, Thou art righteous, for I have sinned; and thou art gracious, that, notwithstanding my sin, thou shouldest save me. Now, I say, if the Christian is so simple and plain-hearted with God, in the days of his imperfection, when he is accompanied with many infirmities and temptations; how freely will he confess and acknowledge his miscarriages, when he comes before his Lord and Saviour; absolutely stript of all temptation and imperfection. "As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10,11). Every knee shall bow, and reverence God the Creator, and Christ the Redeemer of the world; and every tongue shall confess, that his will alone ought by them to have been obeyed in all things; and shall confess also, and that most naturally and freely—I mean, the saints shall—in how many things they were deceived, mistaken, deluded, and drawn aside in their intended devotion and honour to God.
[Second.] But yet take notice, that in this day, when the saints are thus counting for their evil before their Saviour and Judge; they shall not then, as now, at the remembrance and confession of sin, be filled with the guilt, confusion, and shame that now through the weakness of faith attendeth their souls; neither shall they in the least be grieved or offended, that God hath before the angels and the rest of their holy brethren, laid open to a tittle their infirmities, from the least and first, to the biggest and last. For,
1. The God to whom they confess all, they will now more perfectly than ever see he doth love them, and free them from all, even when and before they confess and acknowledge them to him; and they shall, I say, have their soul so full of the ravishing raptures of the life and glory that now they are in, that they shall be of it swallowed up in that measure and manner, that neither fear, nor guilt, nor confusion can come near them, or touch them. Their Judge is their Saviour, their Husband, and Head; who, though he will bring every one of them for all things to judgment, yet he will keep them for ever out of condemnation, and anything that tendeth that way. "Perfect love casteth out fear," even while we are here; much more then, when we are with our Saviour, our Jesus, being passed from death to life (John 5:24; 1 John 4:18).
2. The saints at this day, shall have their hearts and souls so wrapped up in the pleasure of God their Saviour, that it shall be their delight, to see all things, though once never so near and dear unto them; yet now to perish, if not according to his word and will. "Thy will be done," is to be always our language here (Matt 6:10); but to delight to see it done in all things, though it tend never so much to the destruction of what we love; to delight, I say, to see it done in the height and perfection of delight; it will be when we come to heaven, or when the Lord shall come to judge the world. But,
3. The sole end of the counting of the saints at the day of God, it will be, not only for the vindication of the righteousness, holiness, and purity of the word, neither will it centre only in the manifestation of the knowledge and heart-discerning nature of Christ [though both these will be in it, (Rev 2:22,23)]. But their very remembrances and sight of the sin and vanity that they have done while here; it shall both set off, and heighten the tender affections of their God unto them; and also increase their joy and sweetness of soul, and clinging of heart to their God. Saints while here, are sweetly sensible that the sense of sin, and the assurance of pardon, will make famous work in their poor hearts. Ah, what meltings without guilt! what humility without casting down! and what a sight of the creature's nothingness, yet without fear, will this sense of sin work in the soul! The sweetest frame, the most heart-endearing frame, that possibly a Christian can get into while in this world, is to have a warm sight of sin, and of a Saviour upon the heart at one time. Now it weeps not for fear and through torment, but by virtue of constraining grace and mercy, and is at this very time, so far off of disquietness of heart, by reason of the sight of its wickedness, that it is driven into an ecstasy, by reason of the love and mercy that is mingled with the sense of sin in the soul.
The heart never sees so much of the power of mercy as now, nor of the virtue, value, and excellency of Christ in all his offices as now, and the tongue so sweetly enlarged to proclaim and cry up grace as now; now will Christ "come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thess 1:10).
Wherefore, though the saints receive by faith the forgiveness of sins in this life, and so are passed from death to life; yet again, Christ Jesus, and God his Father, will have every one of these sins reckoned up again, and brought fresh upon the stage in the day of judgment, that they may see and be sensible for ever, what grace and mercy hath laid hold upon them. And this I take to be the reason of that remarkable saying of the apostle Peter, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19- 21).
If a sense of some sin, [for who sees all? (Psa 19:12)], and a sight of the love of God, will here so work upon the spirit of the godly: what will a sight of all sin do, when together with it they are personally present with their Lord and Saviour?
Yea, if a sight of some sins, with a possibility of pardon, will make the heart love, reverence, and fear with guiltless and heart-affecting fears; what will a general sight of all sin, and together with them an eternal acquittance from them, work on the heart of the saint for ever?
Yea, I say again, if a sight of sin, and the love of God, will make such work in that soul where yet there is unbelief, blindness, mistrust, and forgetfulness: what will a sight of sin do in that soul, who is swallowed up of love, who is sinless, and temptationless; who hath all the faculties of soul and body strained by love and grace, to the highest pin of perfection, that is possible to be in glory enjoyed and possessed? Oh the wisdom and goodness of God, that he at this day, should so cast about the worst of our things, even those that naturally tend to sink us, and damn us, for our great advantage! "All things shall work together for good," indeed, "to them that love God" (Rom 8:28). Those sins that brought a curse upon the whole world, that spilt the heart-blood of our dearest Saviour, and that laid his tender soul under the flaming wrath of God, shall by his wisdom and love, tend to the exaltation of his grace, and the inflaming of our affections to him for ever and ever (Rev 5:9-14).
It will not be thus with devils; it will not be thus with reprobates; the saved only have this privilege peculiar to themselves. Wherefore, to vary a little from the matter in hand: will God make that use of sin, even in our counting for it, that shall in this manner work for our advantage? Why then, let saints also make that advantage of their sin, as to glorify God thereby, which is to be done, not by saying, "Let us do evil, that good may come;" or, "Let us sin, that grace may abound;" but by taking occasion by the sin that is past to set the crown upon the head of Christ for our justification; continually looking upon it, so as to press us, to cleave close to the Lord Jesus, to grace and mercy through him, and to the keeping of us humble for ever, under all his dispensations and carriages to us.
Now, having counted for all their evil, and confessed to God's glory, how they fell short, and did not the truth in this, or that, or other particulars, and having received their eternal acquittance from the Lord and Judge, in the sight of both angels and saints; forthwith the Lord Jesus will make inquiry,
SECOND, into all the good and holy actions and deeds they did do in the world. Now here shall all things be reckoned up, from the very first good thing that was done by Adam or Abel, to the last that will fall out to be done in the world. The good of all the holy prophets, of all apostles, pastors, teachers, and helps in the church; here also will be brought forth and to light, all the good carriages of masters of families, of parents, of children, of servants, of neighbours, or whatever good thing any man doth. But to be general and short,
First, here will be a recompense for all that have sincerely laboured in the word and doctrine—I say, a recompense for all the souls they have saved by their word, and watered by the same. Now shall Paul the planter, and Apollos the waterer, with every one of the their companions, receive the reward that is according to their works (1 Cor 3:6-8).
Now, all the preaching, praying, watching, and labour thou hast been at, in thy endeavouring to catch men from Satan to God, shall be rewarded with spangling glory. Not a soul thou hast converted to the Lord Jesus, nor a soul thou hast comforted, strengthened, or helped by thy wholesome counsel, admonition, and comfortable speech, but it shall stick as a pearl in that crown "which the Lord the righteous Judge, shall give thee at that day" (2 Tim 4:7,8). That is, if thou dost it willingly, delighting to lift up the name of God among men; if thou doest it with love, and longing after the salvation of sinners, otherwise thou wilt have only thy labour for thy pains, and no more. "If I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed to my charge" (1 Cor 9:17; Phil 1:15). But, I say, if thou do it graciously, then a reward followeth; "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye," saith Paul, "in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy" (1 Thess 2:19,20). Let him therefore that Christ hath put into his harvest, take comfort in the midst of all his sorrow, and know that God acknowledgeth, that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, doth even save that soul from death, "and covereth a multitude of sins" (James 5:20). Wherefore labour to convert, labour to water, labour to build up, and to "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;— and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:2,4).
Secondly, And as the ministers of Christ's gospel shall at this day be recompensed; so shall also those more private saints be with tender affections, and love looked on, and rewarded for all their work and labour of love, which they have shewed to the name of Christ, in ministering to his saints, and suffering for his sake (Heb 6:10). "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free" (Eph 6:8). Ah! little do the people of God think, how largely and thoroughly, God will at that day, own and recompense all the good and holy acts of his people. Every bit, every drop, every rag, and every night's harbour, though but in a wisp of straw, shall be rewarded in that day before men and angels—"Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you," saith Christ, "he shall in no wise lose his [a disciple's] reward" (Matt 10:42). Therefore "When thou makest a feast," saith he, "call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:13,14).
If there be any repentance among the godly at this day, it will be, because the Lord Jesus, in his person, members, and word, was no more owned, honoured, entertained, and provided for by them, when they were in this world: For it will be ravishing to all, to see what notice the Lord Jesus will then take of every widow's mite. He, I say, will call to mind, even all those acts of mercy and kindness, which thou hast shewed to him, when thou wast among men. I say, he will remember, cry up, and proclaim before angels and saints, those very acts of thine, which thou hast either forgotten, or, through bashfulness wilt not at that day count worth the owing. He will reckon them up so fast, and so fully, that thou wilt cry, Lord, when did I do this? and when did I do the other? "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" (Matt 25:37-40). "The good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid" (1 Tim 5:25). Whatever thou hast done to one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me. I felt the nourishment of thy food, and the warmth of thy fleece. I remember thy loving and holy visits when my poor members were sick, and in prison, and the like. When they were strangers, and wanderers in the world, thou tookest them in. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; - - - enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt 25:21-23; 34- 47).
Thirdly, Here also will be a reward for all that hardness, and Christian enduring of affliction that thou hast met with for thy Lord, while thou wast in the world. Here now will Christ begin from the greatest suffering, even to the least, and bestow a reward on them all: from the blood of the suffering saint, to the loss of a hair: nothing shall go unrewarded (Heb 11:36-40; 2 Cor 8:8-14). "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17). Behold by the scriptures how God hath recorded the sufferings of his people, and also how he hath promised to reward them—"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you," and speak "all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice," leap for joy, "and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven" (Matt 5:11,12; Luke 6:22,23). "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt 19:29).
Fourthly, There is also a reward at this day, for all the more secret, and more retired works of Christianity. 1. There is not now one act of faith in thy soul, either upon Christ, or against the Devil, and Antichrist; but it shall in this day be found out, and praised, honoured and glorified, in the face of heaven (1 Peter 1:7). 2. There is not one groan to God in secret, against thy own lusts, and for more grace, light, spirit, sanctification, and strength to go through this world like a Christian: but it shall even at the coming of Christ be rewarded openly (Matt 6:6). 3. There hath not one tear dropped from thy tender eye against thy lusts, the love of this world, or for more communion with Jesus Christ, but as it is now in the bottle of God; so then it shall bring forth such plenty of reward, that it shall return upon thee with abundance of increase. "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh" (Luke 6:21). "Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle; are they not in thy book?" (Psa 56:8). "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psa 126:5,6).