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hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, ' and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punish
. ment; but the righteous into life eternal.”
Whatever be the allowable accommodation of this parable to the examination of individual character, its primary intent is to illustrate the proceedings of the King Messiah, with respect to his professing people, when he shall appear upon earth. One great business of the second advent, as we have learnt from former prophecies, is Christ's judgment of his people. This he executes, not only by vindicating them in their destined and promised rights, but in separating from among them all the wicked and unsound members. This has been represented already by various images. “He shall be as a
“ refiner's fire, and as fuller's soap, and he shall sit as a refiner of silver," &c. “ His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his foor; his wheat will be gathered into his garner, but his chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Compare also the close of the parable of " the tares,” and of that of "the great net cast into the sea.” This refers not to the general judgment, when ALL the dead shall stand before the tribunal of Christ. It is intended to represent what will take place at the appearing of the Son of Man, " when he shall sit upon the throne of his kingdom.” The general judgment could not be represented as forming its decision on one trait of
character alone - love to Christ, effective in charity to his members. Since the general judgment is a judgment
according to works,” each is to receive according to that which he hath done, whether it be good, or whether it be bad. Thousands and ten thousands that will be summoned to that tribunal never knew the Lord Jesus, nor were called to show kindness to his brethren - to “ disciples in the name of a disciple!” This, therefore, cannot mean the general judgment, and it will be found hereafter, that this general judgment does not take place, nor the general resurrection of the dead, at the commencement of Messiah's reign upon earth, when he shall sit upon the throne of his kingdom, but after a thousand years.
Again, we should remark, that though all nations are said to be gathered, yet they are spoken of as being before all mingled together—up to that very time, though essentially different in their nature, as goats from sheep, they were all feeding promiscuously together. One point of the comparison is, “ As a shepherd separateth his sheep from his goats, so shall the King separate them one from another.” Hence it follows, that the church found on the earth at the time of the Saviour's appearing, in " every nation under heaven," is the flock intended as the object of this judgment. Thus we read in the parable of the tares, “ the field is the world."
It extends not to the dead : the sheep among them that slept had long ago been placed at the King's right hand, or, at least, had been separated from the goats, and were in Abraham’s bosom - in the resting-place of the spirits of the just: they come with Christ on this occasion, appearing with him in glory. The goats also, whom, as individuals, death had cut off from the professed church, were gone to their own place :” they have no part in this resurrection; with “ the rest of the dead” they “ live not as yet.” The flock, therefore, now separated, is the same as the field, where the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest; the same as the great net, including of all kinds, which the fishers drag on shore, and select the good from the bad.
The parable before us teaches us this, that the separation which will then take place among the professed believers in the Gospel, who are all supposed to have the form of godliness, will coincide with the genuine influence of Christian love; and could you discern God's discrimination of his own, now, amidst his undivided flock, you would see this to be the constant concomitant of the divine choice; his people are “ taught of him to love one another.” By consequence, this affords the criterion of individual character, as far as characters are evidenced, in the sight of men here upon earth.
“ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.”—“By this we know that we are passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” “ But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion on him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ?”
The inference from this, as it concerns all the waiting family of Christ, is evident: it ascertains beyond doubt the eternal rejection of every professed Christian, in whose heart this love is not shed abroad: it ascertains that all who do love are the sheep of Christ, “ the righteous" or
justified,” “ the elect of God, whom he hath chosen before the foundations of the world were laid”-“ chosen in Christ unto salvation :" it ascertains that all who love Christ, and love him when manifested in his people, are heirs of the kingdom, and shall reign with Christ in glory.
means the destruction of Jerusalem; and another, that it means the successful propagation of Christianity, we ought not, for one moment, to listen to them, or suffer our attention to be diverted from the grander expectation which the words of prophecy have created in the waiting people of God. "The Son of Man" will be that "in his day" which will admit of no doubt or disputation.
Our Lord, however, forewarns his disciples, that these things are not yet: a different scene must be first unfolded before their eyes: :
25." But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation."
He next proceeds to describe the unexpected manner in which the day of his coming will burst upon a careless world:
26. "And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, also, as it was in the days of Lot, they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed."
The destruction of apostate, guilty nations with fire from heaven, we shall remember, is constantly declared in the ancient prophecies, * to be a concomitant of the Redeemer's appearing in the last day his people,
Psalms xi. 6; xxi. 9; Isaiah, xxx. 27, 28; xxxiii. 10, &c.; xxxiv. 8, 9, 10; lxvi. 15, 16; Ezekiel, xxxix. 6; Dan. vii. 9, 10, 11.
therefore, that shall be in the midst of the cities and countries devoted to destruction, in order that they may not be partakers of their plagues, will be delivered, as Lot was out of Sodom.
The suddenness of their deliverance is again expressed, probably in proverbial expressions: —
31. "In that day," in the day when the Son of Man is revealed, as is expressed in the foregoing verse,—“ in that day, he that shall be upon the house-top, and his stuff in the house, let him not come to take it away; and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 32. Remember Lot's wife."
This is a picture of the sudden surprisal of a city ready to be taken by storm, to part of whose inhabitants a moment of deliverance is afforded: but so sudden is the rescue, that not a thought can be bestowed on any earthly possession; that moment must they leave or perish. The hankering of Lot's wife after something she had left in Sodom, that caused her to cast a lingering look on the city she had left, is urged as an example. This must refer to the suddenness of the deliverance of God's people from the midst of ungodly nations in the great day: for it is expressly said to be "the day in which the Son of Man is revealed." What might be literally true of certain scenes in the besieging of Jerusalem by the Romans, and in the besieging of many other towns by their enemies, in which some have a moment, and but a moment, afforded for their escape, is here used metaphorically of the escape of some righteous persons, who shall be in the midst of the mystic city, then to be destroyed by fire from heaven. It follows:
33. "Whosoever shall seek his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it."