Charles Simeon Commentary - James 5:9 - 5:9

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Charles Simeon Commentary - James 5:9 - 5:9


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NEARNESS OF JUDGMENT

Jam_5:9. Behold! the Judge standeth before the door.

OF the Day of Judgment there is frequent mention in the New Testament: and so strongly was the idea of it realized in the minds of the inspired writers, that they conveyed to the Church, unintentionally on their parts, an expectation of its speedy arrival. This arose indeed, in part, from our blessed Lord himself having blended his description of it with a prediction of the judgments which impended over Jerusalem, and which were to be inflicted upon it before that generation should have passed away [Note: Mat_24:29-35.]. Yet, when there was no reference to the destruction of the Jewish polity, the language used respecting it was often exceeding strong. St. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians, thus expresses himself: “This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive, and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord [Note: 1Th_4:15-17.].” We wonder not that some should mistake his meaning, as we find they did, insomuch that, in his next epistle, he was constrained to rectify their misapprehension of his words, and to bring to their recollection, that he had before told them of many important events, which would occur previous to the arrival of that day [Note: 2Th_2:1-5.]. St. James speaks of that period in terms of similar aspect with those of the Apostle Paul: “The coming of the Lord draweth nigh [Note: ver. 8.]:” and again, “The Judge standeth before the door.” Whether, in these passages, St. James had any reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, I cannot exactly say: it is possible he might; because it would be some consolation to the suffering Christians to know that their oppressors would soon be disarmed of their power: but, beyond a doubt, he chiefly refers to the time appointed for the future judgment; when all the inequalities of this present state will be done away, and every person receive a suitable recompence, according to the injuries he has either inflicted or sustained. In this view, the Apostle says, “Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned:” that is, vent not your indignation against an oppressor, no, not even in an inarticulate sound [Note: The word means “groan.” There is a certain vehement, though inarticulate sound, resembling a groan, by which we are apt to express an angry and indignant feeling against one whom we are unable to punish. This is the feeling forbidden in the text.], lest the same judgment come on you which you would be ready to inflict on him: but leave the matter to your Almighty “Judge, who standeth before the door,” ready to “award tribulation to those who trouble you; but to you, who are troubled, rest [Note: 2Th_1:6-7.].”

Let us consider,

I.       The truth that is here suggested—

To enter into the full meaning of this awful truth, we must distinctly notice its two leading parts:

1.       Death is at hand, to carry us before our Judge—

[This is an undoubted truth. The experience of every day attests it. Death lurks within us; and finds, in the disordered state of our bodies, ten thousand means of accomplishing our destruction. He lies in ambush, too, in every thing around us. There is not any thing which may not prove an instrument in his hands to bring us down. Nor is it by disease or accident alone that he can effect his purpose. In instances without number he inflicts the fatal stroke, without so much as employing any visible or acknowledged agent. If only he receive his commission from God, he is able to work either by means or without means. It need only be said, “This night shall thy soul be required of thee;” and with irresistible power he executes the decree; and transmits us, prepared or unprepared, into the immediate presence of our God.]

2.       Our Judge is at hand, to pronounce our deserved doom—

[He is not afar off, that he must be sought after: nor is he so occupied with the cases of others, as not to be at liberty to consider ours. The instant we are brought before him, he is ready to pronounce his sentence. Of this, the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a striking illustration. “All is naked and open before him,” at one view; and in one instant of time he can so present every thing before our minds, that we also may discern the equity of his sentence. If at night we wished to see a variety of objects, we must take a light, and view them in succession, one at a time: but if the sun be risen upon the earth, we can see ten thousand objects at once. Thus can the Judge of quick and dead, in one instant of time, present to our view the records of our whole life, to serve as a foundation of the sentence that he shall pass upon us. Some notion of this we may form from the account given us of the Samaritan woman. She had had some conversation with our Lord, who had made known to her one particular circumstance of her life: and with such power was that particular truth accompanied to her soul, that she went home and said, “Come, see a man who has told me all that ever I did [Note: Joh_4:29.].” Now this omniscient Judge is at the door, ready to pass sentence on us, the very instant we are brought before him: and, if our eyes were opened, as those of Elisha’s servant were [Note: 2Ki_6:17.], we might see the throne of judgment already set; the Judge himself seated upon it; the books opened before him; the list of the prisoners, according as they are in succession to be brought before him; and the officers ready, both to summon them in their turn, and to execute on all the sentence awarded to them.]

To impress this solemn truth upon your minds, let me proceed to shew,

II.      The attention it demands—

“Behold! the Judge standeth before the door:” mark it; contemplate it; act upon it. Surely the consideration of this awful truth should prevail upon us,

1.       To seek without delay the pardon of our past sins—

[If we “die in our sins,” woe be to us! “it had been better for us never to have been born.” But through repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ all our past sins may be forgiven: they may all “be blotted out, as a morning cloud;” yea, though they may have been of a “scarlet or crimson dye, they may be made white as snow.” Should we, then, defer a moment to seek this inestimable blessing? When we know not but that the very next hour we may be summoned into the presence of our Judge, should we endanger the everlasting welfare of our souls by waiting for a more convenient season? Oh! “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are in the way with him; lest the adversary deliver you to the Judge, and the Judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison. Verily, you shall not come out thence, till you have paid the utmost farthing [Note: Mat_5:25-26.].”]

2.       To guard with all diligence against the incursion of fresh sin—

[Remember, that whatever be the state of our souls at the moment of death, that will continue to be our state to all eternity. It may be said, “I have repented long since, and sought for mercy through Christ, and attained to a considerable measure of righteousness.” Be it so. Yet must I declare unto you, that “if you relapse into sin, your past righteousness shall not be remembered; but in the iniquity which you have committed, shall you die [Note: Eze_33:13; Eze_33:18.].” There cannot be a more fatal error, than to imagine that your past experience, whatever it may have been, shall avail you any thing, if you turn back to sin. So far will it be from screening you from the wrath of God, that it will rather render you obnoxious to it, in a tenfold heavier degree: “You only have I known of all the families of Israel; therefore will I punish you for your iniquities [Note: Amo_3:2.].” Hear how strongly God himself has cautioned you against this error: “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption: and he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting [Note: Gal_6:7-8.].” When, therefore, you consider how suddenly you may be called into the presence of your Judge, it becomes you to “keep your garments clean,” and to “use all diligence that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”]

3.       To watch in a more especial manner over the secret workings of your hearts—

[It is not our actions only that our God will call into judgment, but “every secret thing, whether it be good or evil.” There is much that is externally “good in the eyes of men, which yet is an abomination in the sight of God [Note: Luk_16:15.].” There may be in the best exercises of our religion much of pride and self-complacency; and in our most benevolent actions, also, a mixture of ostentation and vanity. Now “God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart [Note: 1Co_4:5.].” How attentive then should we be to the secret workings of our minds! They are all discerned by God, as clearly as our overt acts: “He searcheth the heart, and trieth the reins:” “he weigheth the very spirits of men:” and thousands, who took credit to themselves for acting from the best of principles, will be found no better than hypocrites before him. Beloved, know of a truth, that if ever you would find acceptance with your Judge, you must be “Israelites indeed, and without guile.”]

4.       To improve for your good every summons which is sent to those around us—

[You see in the circumstances now before you a striking illustration of our text [Note: Here the particular circumstances of the person’s death—if it be on account of an individual, or of the epidemic sickness, if that be the occasion—may be entered into at large.] — — — And does not this event speak to you? What if you had been the person summoned into the presence of your Judge: were you prepared to meet him? Would he have found you truly penitent for all your past transgressions; and watchful against every sin, yea, against every degree of evil, even in thought or desire? If not, what would have been your feelings at this moment? — — — Do you not tremble at the thought? Or, suppose that this night a similar summons should be sent to you, (and you have no security that there will not,) are you ready? Do not trifle, my beloved brethren, on the very brink of eternity: but “stand with your loins girt, and your lamps trimmed, as servants waiting for the coming of your Lord.” Then, “whether your Lord come in the morning, or in the evening, or at the cock-crowing, or at midnight,” it shall be well with you. In a word, learn to “die daily:” and then it will be a joy to you to reflect, that your Judge is at the door: for the door at which he stands shall no sooner be opened to summon you into his presence, than angels, as his ministering servants, shall bear you from his tribunal to the realms of bliss.]