Monday, January 16, 2006

JE Resolutions 7 and 19

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

19. Resolved, never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trump.

I thought it best to take these two Resolutions together since they are so closely related. On first reading it can almost seem as though he is simply re-stating the same resolution but upon close examination he is really addressing two similar, but different concepts.

Both resolutions demonstrate several truths:

1. there will most certainly be a "last hour" of his life, and ours

2. there are certain things that we know for certain that, were we to do them, we would be afraid of the consequences

3. this clearly demonstrates the certainty of coming judgment.

4. it also demonstrates the fact that we do know right from wrong, why else would we fear?

Did you notice how many times I used the word certain/certainty? I did that on purpose and for several reasons. First of all because, deep down, we all know that coming judgment is a reality. Our conscience tells us so. This can easily be supported by scripture.

Romans 2:14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Even those who do not claim to know Christ and would vociferously maintain that they do not believe in a final judgment, were they to think it through carefully, would see that judgment is unavoidable. The very fact that everyone knows when they have been wronged by another proves that this is so:

Romans 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

But notice what the passage above tells us. We, as humans, have the seemingly inexhaustable capacity to suppose that we will escape judgment.

Jonathan Edwards from Self Flatteries: the Vain Self-Flatteries of the Sinner, Section I expounds on this idea:

It is very evident, that sinners flatter themselves that they shall escape punishment, by this, that otherwise they would be in dreadful and continual distress. Otherwise, as long as they are in sin, they could never live and go about so cheerfully as they now do: Their lives would be filled with sorrow and mourning, and they would be in continual uneasiness and distress; as much as those that are exercised with some violent pain of body. But it is evident that it is not in fact so; it is apparent that men are careless and secure; that they are not much concerned about future punishment, and that they cheerfully pursue their business and recreations. Therefore they undoubtedly flatter themselves, that they shall not be eternally miserable in hell, as they are threatened in the word of God

It is evident that they flatter themselves with hopes that they shall escape punishment, as otherwise they would certainly be restrained at least from many of those sins in which they now live: They would not proceed in wilful courses of sin. The transgression of the wicked convinced the Psalmist, and is enough to convince every one, that there is no fear of God before his eyes, and that he flatters himself in his own eyes. It would be impossible for men allowedly from day to day to do those very things, which they know are threatened with everlasting destruction, if they did not some way encourage themselves, they should nevertheless escape that destruction.

So we see that even though do we know right from wrong, we are capable of justifying our actions. The thrust of these resolutions, then, is that we cannot, we must not live our lives (clearly knowing right from wrong!) with the hope that we shall escape judgment. These resolutions call us to examine ourselves. Is there a known sin in my life that I am tolerating? If I knew that within the hour I would be standing before the Righteous Judge, would that not cause me to fear? Wouldn't I run to Christ, confessing my sins, repenting in tears if I knew this to be the case? Of course I would--we all would. Then why don't we?

We may live with the hope that we will know--even if it's just a split second!--that we are dying and we can make an appeal for mercy. We think we will get sick, or have time to cry out to God before the bus hits us. And it is true that sometimes people do know with a certainty that they are dying and so they have the opportunity to confess and repent and make things right before God. But the truth is, even then they don't know the hour, and because of that, I would venture to guess that many, many people, when faced with the certainty of death are busy telling themselves they will surely survive to live another day, another hour, rather than run to the only One who can save them.

We cannot count on getting a heads-up on the hour of our death. In fact, Resolution 19 adds the detail that distinguishes these two resolutions from each other, and that is the last trump. Whether we die a natural death, or whether we are "alive and remain" when the last trump comes, we will be ushered into judgment at some point in time.

The only way we can be sure we are not fooling ourselves is to learn to examine ourselves honestly and often, because we do not know when the last hour of our life may be. . .