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JOHN xi. 47.
I came not judge the world, but to save the world.
The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all
judgment unto the Son. These two passages are an instance of the seeming contradictions which occur sometimes in the Scriptures, and which are laid hold of by ignorant or dishonest readers to prove the most opposite conclusions. It might, I think, be useful to bring all these passages together, and place them close by the side of each other, as I have done with the two which I have just repeated. If that were done, every man of common sense would see that they must be taken with reference to each other; that while each delivers a truth, each also was meant to hinder us from dwelling only upon what the other teaches us ; that they point out to us two ways of looking at the same object, and each equally useful; while they are each conveyed in terms seemingly contradictory to one another for the very purpose of catching our attention, and making us take both truths together in the full meaning of each, instead of attempting to reconcile them, by taking away from the peculiar force of both of them.
The two places which I have chosen for my text will show more clearly what I mean. Both convey a truth of very great importance, and which requires to be fully received; and both, taken together, give us the exact view of Christ's dealings with mankind. He came not to judge the world, but to save the world : here is our example of conduct. The Father hath committed all judgment unto him: here is our warning, and at the same time our hope. And as both are true of the Lord himself, so are they true also, in an inferior measure, of us also. We are set not to judge the world, but to save the world ; not to strive to put down evil by force, but to labour with all meekness and long suffering to overcome evil with good.
Yet“ know ye not that we shall judge angels ?" 1 Cor. vi. 3. that when the throne of the Son of man is set for judgment, he will be surrounded with ten thousands of his saints; and that all the good will join with full assent in that great sentence
by which the power of evil may be put down for ever?
He came not to judge the world, but to save the world. Here is our example; for as he was, so are we in this world. And his commands are very full and strong, that we should imitate him in this point. Judge not that ye be not judged. If thou speak evil of another, and judgest another, thou speakest evil of the law, and judgest the law. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? Nothing can be more natural than the question of the servants in the parable to their master, as soon as they saw that the tares had grown up amongst the wheat: “ Lord, wilt thou then that we go
and gather them up ?" And nothing can be more useful for us to dwell upon than the master's
“ Let both grow together until the harvest.” So in two cases in our Lord's life the same principle may be observed in his answer to James and John about the Samaritan village, and in his behaviour to the woman taken in adultery. When he was asked to call down fire from heaven to consume the people who had refused to receive him, he replied, “ Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of; for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.”
You see they
are almost the very words of the text, “ He came not to judge the world, but to save the world." Yet we know that he shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them who obey not his Gospel : a fire not to consume them, but to burn them like that bush in the wilderness which Moses saw burning with fire, yet unconsumed. But each in his own order : first he came as the Saviour, and afterwards he shall come as the Judge. So, again, with his behaviour to the woman taken in adultery. He was neither a temporal judge, to order the law to be enforced upon her; nor was he then acting as the judge of all the earth, to punish the adulterer, together with all other sinners, with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. He acted then as a private individual, and as he meant his disciples to act in their private capacities, when they were pot placed in the office of magistrates whose business it is to judge and to punish. Let him, he said, that is without sin among you, cast the first stone at her. Our private severity against sinners should be ever checked by the remembrance of our own sin; of course, this does not apply to men who are called by the law to try and to judge offenders; for they are acting then in the place of him to whom judgment belongs, and have his authority to condemn and punish : but it does apply not only to all cases of personal wrong done to ourselves, but whenever we hear of evil conduct, and have to speak or to act concerning the offender. It is then that the greatest tenderness is called for; a spirit of kindness and forbearance almost without limit. We are so much more likely to be too violent than too merciful, to disguise our own angry passions under the name of a regard to public justice and public example, that whether in our own conduct, or in advising others, I know not that we can too strongly enforce the words of our Lord, that he came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
But are we then to suffer evil to go on un-resisted, and, leaving it to the judgment of Christ, take no pains to oppose it ourselves ? Nay, we are to resist it all our lives long-to resist it even unto blood, if need be; but then it is our own blood that is spoken of, not that of those with whom we are contending: we may and must strive against sin in ourselves, and in others, with all arms but those of violence. It has been a common remark, that those who are too careless to prevent crimes, are often the most severe in punishing them ;