Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries
Christ's Coming to Judgment
Jude 14, 15. Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
GOD has had in every age some to testify against the ungodly, and to warn them of the consequences of their sin at the future judgment: and though the faithful execution of this office meets with but ill returns from an ungrateful world, yet we trust there will be found, to the end of time, some, who will gladly suffer reproach or even death itself in the service of their God, and in the benevolent attempt to save their fellow-sinners from destruction. We do not indeed hear of many, who were witnesses for God, before the time of Moses; and even his warnings and exhortations were enforced principally with temporal sanctions: yet the certainty of a future judgment was known not only by Moses, but by the antediluvian world; and was solemnly urged by Enoch as a motive to repentance. This prophecy is not recorded in the Old Testament; but, by whatever means Jude attained the knowledge of it, whether by tradition, or by some written memorial, or by immediate inspiration, we may be sure that it was delivered by Enoch; and we may be thankful that such a precious fragment of inspired truth has been preserved to us.
It proclaims to us,
I. The manner in which our Lord shall come to judgment.
Christ, we are assured, is coming to judge the world.
There can be no reason to doubt that Enoch referred to Christ, even to that very "seed of the woman, who was to bruise the serpent's head," him he represents as coming to complete his victory over Satan and his agents by calling them to his tribunal, and by consigning them over to the punishment they have deserved. The New Testament writers uniformly speak to the same effect: they declare that it is at the judgment seat of Christ we must stand; that it is Christ who is ordained to be the Judge of the living and the dead; and, that all judgment is therefore committed unto him, because he is the Son of man; or, in other words, that he, who died for sinners, shall, in that very nature that he assumed for them, be the immediate author of salvation to his followers and of condemnation to his enemies.
And even the manner of his appearing is here plainly predicted.
It is not with "his saints," but with his holy ones, or holy angels, that he will come. The saints will not be his assessors in judgment until they themselves shall have received their sentence: then indeed "they shall judge angels;" but until then, they themselves will stand before him to be judged. But the holy angels will be his attendants in the clouds of Heaven; all the "myriads" of them shall descend with him from their blessed abodes, to increase the solemnity of that day, and to honor him, to whom they owe their very existence. This accords with the description given by Daniel, by Paul, and by Christ himself. How different will our Lord's appearance then be from what it was when he first visited our guilty world, and lay a helpless infant in the manger! and how earnestly should we now exert ourselves that we may he prepared to meet him!
That our minds may be raised to an expectation of that day, let us consider,
II. The ends of his coming.
It is not to display his own glory that Christ will come; but,
1. To pass judgment upon the whole world.
All, who have ever lived in this wretched world, shall be summoned before him. The old and the young, the rich and the poor, will all come forth out of their graves, and those that shall be then living upon earth shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and all shall stand together at his tribunal. Every one shall then be tried as by fire; their actions shall then be weighed as in a balance; and the most secret motions of their hearts be brought to light. Then shall they that are approved, "have praise of God;" and they that are disapproved, be driven from his presence. Nor will Jesus merely pronounce the sentence of condemnation or acquittal, but he will "execute" it himself, either exalting them instantly to thrones of glory, or casting them headlong into "the lake that burns with fire and brimstone."
2. To manifest the equity of his decisions.
Whatever endeavors be now used to show men their guilt and danger, they have many things to allege in their own favor; nor even "if we could speak with the tongues of angels," could we bring home conviction to their hearts. But Jesus will show them, beyond all contradiction, the futility of their excuses: and will prove by such unquestionable evidence "the deeds they have committed, the words they have spoken," and the thoughts they have entertained, that they shall be silenced and confounded before him. The ministers, who once labored for their salvation, shall then be forced to bear testimony against them: their companions in sin, though to their own confusion, must also testify of those deeds of darkness, which they once fondly hoped would be buried in eternal oblivion. The very places, where their most secret iniquities were committed, should rather stand forth to accuse them, than that they should escape with impunity. Above all, "God himself will be a swift witness against them," and will so thoroughly "convince" them of all their sins, whether of commission or of omission, that they shall be constrained to acknowledge the equity of that sentence, which dooms them to everlasting burnings. Even in Hell will they be compelled to say, "Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments."
1. How needful is it that we should instantly begin our preparation for that day!
Five thousand years ago the prophet spoke of Jesus as so near at hand, that it seemed as if he were already come; and it is in this way that all, whether Prophets or Apostles, have been inspired to speak. So strongly did St Paul express himself on this subject that the Thessalonians conceived the judgment-day to be almost immediately at hand. In the same manner must we say, "The Lord is at hand;" "the Judge is at the door." He surely is coming as soon as ever the events that are ordained to precede his advent shall have received their accomplishment. And with respect to us, it signifies little whether it be near or distant, since as death leaves us, judgment will find us. Is it not even madness then to delay our repentance, since we cannot tell but that death may come within the next year, or day, or hour? Beloved, shall your Lord come, and find you sleeping? Is he hastening towards you, and will you not prepare to meet him? O awake from your slumbers, and turn to him with your whole hearts; that so you may "have confidence before him at his coming."
2. How desirable is it to possess an interest in Christ!
It surely is not necessary to prove that we are ungodly, since we have all sinned, times without number, in thought, word, and deed, against the Divine Majesty. Where then shall we go for the remission of our sins? How shall we get our iniquities blotted out from the book of his remembrance? Our tears, even if we could shed rivers of tears, will never avail for this end: nothing but the blood of Jesus can ever cleanse us from the guilt of one sin: and, if we be not washed in that fountain, we shall die in our iniquities, and lie under the guilt of them forever. Let us then seek an interest in Christ. Let us never attempt to substitute any repentance or reformation of our own, in the place of his meritorious blood and righteousness: but let it be our one desire to "be found in him," and to obtain from him those garments of salvation, which alone can "cover the nakedness" of our guilty souls.
3. With what confidence and comfort may believers look forward to the coming of their Lord!
Whom will they have for their judge but the very person who bought them with his blood? the very person in whom they have believed; and to whom they cleaved with full purpose of heart? Be it so then; the catalogue of their sins shall be produced, a catalogue reaching, as it were, from Heaven to earth; and they shall not have one word to offer in arrest of judgment: yet, will the Savior pass a sentence of condemnation upon them? Will he not himself stand forth and testify, "I saw their deep contrition; I treasured up their tears in my vial; I was witness to their frequent sighs and groans, and to their cries for mercy through my atoning blood," "Deliver them from going down into the pit; I paid their ransom," they were mine; and they manifested that they were mine, by their obedience to my will, and their conformity to my image: "Come, you blessed children of my Father, inherit my kingdom prepared for you?" Fear not then, you weak and trembling saints; but rather "be looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of Christ," you shall surely stand before him with joy; while they, who once justified their ungodliness, and thought, that to be among the godly was a fit matter for derision, shall bewail their folly, and confess the equity of the sentence that fixes you in Heaven, and themselves in Hell. Remember then with gratitude that you are to have Jesus for your judge; and when he says, "Behold, I come quickly," let your hearts reply, "Even so, come Lord Jesus."
The Christian's Duties
Jude 20, 21. But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
IN every age there has prevailed in the Church a proneness to depart both from the principles and practice of the Gospel. Jude in his day, writing to the whole Christian Church respecting "their common salvation," says, "it was needful for him to write to them, and to exhort them all to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints."
At the same time he declares, that "ungodly men had crept in among the saints," and had not only grievously dishonored the Gospel, but had "turned the very grace of God itself into lasciviousness," and vindicated their licentious practices as allowed and sanctioned by the Gospel of Christ. Against the influence of such pernicious examples, the Apostle was anxious to preserve all who yet maintained their integrity. He bade them remember, that the Apostles of our Lord had from the beginning taught them to expect, that such hypocrites and apostates would arise: and he exhorted them so to walk before God, that they might hold fast their steadfastness even to the end. The directions which he gave them were such as could not but approve themselves to their judgment, and commend themselves to their inmost souls. The same dangers to the Church are existing still; and the same directions therefore are necessary for us, as well as for those in the apostolic age. Permit me then to call your attention to them:
I. To the two former, as instrumental to your welfare.
"Build up yourselves, brethren, on your most holy faith."
It is here supposed that you have embraced the faith, and that you are standing upon the true foundation which God himself has laid in Zion. But you must not be satisfied with having believed in Christ: for Paul says, "As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk you in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving." Your faith is truly a "most holy faith," in its nature, in its tendency, and in all its practical effects, it is "most holy;" and to build up yourselves more and more upon it is your bounden duty. Seek then to advance continually in the knowledge of it, in all its bearings, and in all its relations. View the whole mystery as planned by Infinite Wisdom, and formed into a covenant of grace; the Father undertaking to accept an atonement in our behalf; the Son engaging to offer that atonement in his own sacred person; and the Holy Spirit engaging to bring to Christ those who should be given him of the Father, and those whom he should purchase with his most precious blood. Eternity itself will not suffice to explore the wonders contained in this mystery; and therefore, like the holy angels, we should incessantly be searching into it, with a view to comprehend, as far as our limited capacities can reach, the wisdom of God displayed in it.
We should seek to grow also in a simple reliance on the Gospel of Christ, as of itself perfectly suited to us, and altogether sufficient for the necessities of the whole world. It is impossible ever to be too jealous upon this head; since the mixing of anything with this foundation will subvert it utterly, and make void all that Christ has done and suffered for us.
In a realizing sense of its excellency, we should also be making higher and higher attainments. There is a rest of the mind, and a satisfaction of the soul, which it is our privilege to possess; and which, in its sublimer actings, approximates very nearly to the felicity of the saints above. There is no measure of this in which we should rest. We are told, that, by believing in Christ, we may be elevated to "a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory, and may already (by anticipation) receive the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls."
Yet not in these respects only, but in every possible view, we should "be building up ourselves on our most holy faith," and be daily manifesting our progress, and "making our profiting to appear" to all around us.
At the same time be "praying continually in the Holy Spirit."
Of ourselves we can do nothing: our sufficiency even for a good thought, must he of God alone: and from him it must be sought by earnest prayer. "He will be inquired of by us, before he will do for us" what in his covenant of grace he has promised to us. If we ask not, we cannot have: but, if we ask in faith, we shall have our joy increased to the full. We must therefore go to God continually; seeking from him in the first instance the "Spirit of grace and supplications," by whose gracious influences alone we can approach him in an acceptable manner, and pray to him as we ought. "That blessed Spirit will help our infirmities;" and though he may not give us that fluency of utterance, or that enlargement of heart, which we may desire, "he will make intercession in us with groanings which cannot be uttered," but which will enter the ears of our heavenly Father, "who knows the mind of the Spirit," and will answer the petitions which are so dictated by him.
We are not indeed to expect any miraculous aid from the Holy Spirit: but a gracious influence we may expect; as Paul says, "Pray always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." Nor need we be concerned whether we address our God in words conceived at the moment, or in a pre-composed form: it is the frame of mind which God regards: and, if that be spiritual, our prayer, even though it consist only of a sigh, or a groan, shall come up with acceptance before him, and shall bring down into our souls all the blessings both of grace and glory.
While then we are building up ourselves on our most holy faith, we must be "pouring out our hearts before him" through the assistance of his good Spirit, and be bringing down from him such communications of grace and strength as our daily necessities require.
The beneficial tendency of the two former directions being thus clear and manifest, let me call your attention,
II. To the two latter, as perfective of your welfare.
"Keep yourselves in the love of God."
This was primary in the mind of the Apostle: the two preceding being urged only as conducive to it. And certainly this is the great object which every Christian should keep in view, and at which he should aim day and night. To have a sense of "God's love shed abroad in the heart;" to "have the light of his countenance lifted up upon us;" to be going to him continually as a Father; to "walk with him," as Enoch did; and, like Abraham, to commune with him as a friend; to "set him always before usu;" to have no wish or desire but to please him; to be "delighting ourselves in him," as our God, our portion, our eternal great reward: this is our wisdom; this is our happiness; this is our security. If we descend on lower ground, we are open to all manner of assaults: but who can reach us there? Who can break through to harm us, when we are "dwelling in God, and God is dwelling in us?" We are "encompassed as with a wall of fire;" we are in a fortress that is absolutely impregnable: we may defy the whole universe to "separate us from his loved."
Let me then especially urge upon you this important duty. Live not at a distance from God: rest not in a formal acknowledgment of him: but endeavor to "walk worthy of him unto all pleasing," get back, as far as possible, to the state of man in Paradise; and labor to walk as on the very borders of the eternal world. My beloved brethren, "let your conversation be thus in Heaven," and let all the faith which you exercise, and every prayer that you utter, be, as it were, a breeze to fill your sails, and bear you forward to your desired haven; that "so you may never fall, but have an abundant entrance ministered unto you into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
"Look also for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
However close your walk with God may be, you must not on that account lean in the least degree to your own righteousness, but must rely entirely on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, and expect "eternal life solely as the gift of God for Christ's sake." And for this you must be waiting, looking, longing, in a state of constant preparation, and of eager expectation. The very perfection of the Christian state on earth is this, to be "looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God." Of many in the Corinthian Church the Apostle says, "they came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Do you then aspire after the same blessed attainment. "Let your loins be girt, and your lamps trimmed, and yourselves as those who wait for the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom;" that, when he shall come, you may "enter in with him to the marriage feast." While you are in such a frame as this, all earthly things will lose their influence; and all attempts, whether of men or devils, to retard your progress be in vain. From my inmost soul therefore I would offer in behalf of you the prayer which Paul offered for the Thessalonian Church, the prayer which so remarkably coincides with that of Jude in my text, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and a patient waiting for Christ."
Settle it in your minds that this is true religion—This is the state in which it is both your duty and your privilege to live—and so living you are sure of mercy, and cannot fail of attaining that eternal life which the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for you.
An Ascription of Praise to Jehovah
Jude 24, 25. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
BY many this Doxology is considered as addressed to the Lord Jesus Christ: but though it is certain that by all the heavenly choir our most adorable Savior is worshiped as one with the Father, without any distinction whatever, and that he is to be honored in all respects by us precisely as the Father, yet we must be cautious never to strain any portion of Scripture for the purpose of honoring him; for, if we do, we give advantage to those who deny his proper Divinity, to represent all our worship of him as unauthorized and erroneous. The more fully we are assured of any doctrine, the more careful we should be not to establish it on a weak foundation; lest, when the foundation on which we have indiscreetly built is shaken, we be led to doubt the truth of the doctrine itself. Of the Divinity of our blessed Lord we have no more doubt than of any other truth of our holy religion: but in the passage before us we apprehend, that it is not to Him in particular that this Doxology is addressed, but to the Father. For, in several other passages, the Father beyond all doubt is addressed, and under the same character as is here described. Paul concludes his Epistle to the Romans thus: "Now to him that is of power to establish you, … to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever." In the Epistle to the Ephesians he again speaks in similar terms: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." So again, in his First Epistle to Timothy he says, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." Those who would apply our text to Christ, think that it must refer to him, because he alone (as they imagine) presents his Church before the presence of his Father's glory: as it is said, "He loved the Church and gave himself for it, … that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, etc." But the very same thing is spoken of the Father also, of whom it is said, that, "by Christ, the Father reconciled all things to himself, … even in the body of his flesh through death, to present us holy and unblamably and unreprovable in his sight." I consider the text therefore as addressed to the Father: and, in order to a suitable improvement of it, will set before you,
I. The character of Jehovah as here described.
His wisdom and his power are altogether infinite: and we might, not improperly, speak of those two perfections as they are delineated in the Holy Scriptures. But I conceive, that, though mentioned generally in the text, we should notice them not as existing in himself, but as exercised towards his Church.
Wonderful is the wisdom which he has displayed in his dealings with his people.
Contemplate the plan of salvation through the incarnation and death of his only-begotten Son—What unfathomable depths of wisdom are here?—Well is it called, "The wisdom of God in a mystery!" To contemplate that, will be the employment of eternity.
Nor, if we entered into his particular dispensations towards his people, would this perfection appear in less bright colors; so "unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out." The experience of every saint will furnish abundant matter for adoration through all eternity; for "he has abounded towards every one of them in all wisdom and prudence."
Nor is the power which he exercises towards them less stupendous.
View the temptations with which every saint is beset—the enemies, even all the hosts of Hell, with whom he has to contend—his utter incapacity to do anything of himself—and yet his conflicts, his victories, and his triumphs—Must not that power be wonderful that is able to keep him, and effectual for his preservation even to the end? Yes truly, it is no less a power than that which was put forth to raise the Lord Jesus Christ himself from the dead, and to exalt him above all the principalities and powers both of Heaven and Hell.
It is by the united and continued exercise of these two perfections, that he becomes "our Savior."
In the name of "Savior" he glories; and under that character he loves to be viewed by us. His perfections would indeed be the same, though never put forth for us, any more than for the fallen angels: but, as they are so exercised for our welfare, it becomes us to contemplate them in that particular view, and to render to him the praise which such manifestations of them demand. Reflect a moment on him as a "Savior!" not merely as preserving us in our conflicts here, but as "presenting us faultless before the presence of his glory" in the world above—One moment's reflection upon his character in that view, will abundantly suffice to show you,
II. The dispositions with which it should be contemplated.
Beyond all doubt our hearts should be lifted up with the most devout affection towards him, as the Apostle's was; and should be filled,
1. With love.
Review the character before described, and say, whether, though you yourselves were not the objects of his care, the very existence of those perfections ought not to endear him to your souls? How much more then, when from all eternity they have been consecrated to your service, and destined to be exercised for your good!—I call you then to love him, with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength.
2. With gratitude.
Go to the world above, and see and hear how all the glorified saints are occupied around the throne: what songs of praise are they singing night and day to God, and to the Lamb! How do they all labor for utterance; and, by the very accumulation of the terms by which they strive to evince their gratitude, show how inadequate even the language of Heaven itself is to express the feelings of their hearts—Thus then should it be with us: our whole life should be, as theirs is, one continued song of praise and thanksgiving—Only consider what would have been your state at this hour, and to all eternity, if less wisdom or power had been put forth for you, and you will need no inducement to ascribe to him the glory due unto his name.
3. With affiance.
Where will you look for help, if not to him? Of whom besides can it be said that he has either wisdom or power to do such great things for you? With him alone is either wisdom or might sufficient for you. Go then to him: spread before him your every want: expect from him a supply in every hour of need, a supply suited to your wants and sufficient for your necessities. Never for a moment entertain a doubt of his kindness, his care, his all-sufficiency: for he is God, and not man; and therefore you have not been consumed hitherto, nor shall any enemy prevail against you. Only bear in mind that "He is for you;" and you may defy all the assaults both of earth and Hell.
At the close of his Doxology, the Apostle adds, Amen. Do you also add, Amen, in the very same spirit as he did, and in the same spirit that the angelic hosts are doing it above. And seek to live in this spirit every day, and all the day long. Then, when death shall call you hence, you shall change your place, but not your employment; your sorrows, but not your songs.