The Final Testimony
James Smith, 1865
"Truly, I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren — you have done it unto Me." Matthew 25:40
The Lord Jesus here gives us one view of the final judgment: saints and sinners separated; saints rewarded — and sinners punished, and both according to their works. The whole mass here presented, are those who lived under the gospel where it was known and acknowledged, and who themselves made some profession of it. Hence, the one party is commended and rewarded, for what was done to the Lord's people; and the other was condemned and punished, for not doing what they ought to have done, and had an opportunity of doing.
In the church of Christ there is variety, for the
least implies greater.
Some are small — some great;
some are feeble — and some strong;
some are rich — and some poor;
some are gifted — and some almost destitute of anything resembling a gift;
there are spiritual babes, young men, and fathers.
The least, may be those who have little grace and no gifts, poor in situation, lowly in appearance, reputed as nothing among men. The state and stature of the members — are under the direction of Jesus; as are their circumstances and situation. He has placed each in the body, as it has pleased Him. To every one is given, both gifts and grace, according to the sovereign pleasure of our God and Savior.
In the church there is unity — all are brethren. Adopted, by the same act of sovereign, distinguishing grace; born again, by the agency, power, and operation of the same Holy Spirit; proving their adoption by the same graces, for they are all acknowledged to be the sons of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.
Thus, all stand in the same relation to God — for they are all children; to the Lord Jesus Christ — for they are all His brethren; and to the Holy Spirit — for each one is His temple.
Loved with the same love,
chosen by the same sovereign grace,
redeemed by the same sin-atoning blood,
regenerated by the same Spirit,
sanctified by the same truth, and
destined to inherit the same heaven
— they are all one in Christ Jesus.
In the Church of Christ there is identity — they are not only one in Christ — but they are one with Christ.
They are His flock — and He is their shepherd.
They are His bride — and He is their bridegroom.
They are His branches — and He is the living vine.
They are His body — and He is their head.
O how close the union! They are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. He watches over them, walks with them, dwells in them, and communicates to them.
Christ and His people are one. United in holy love, love so strong and durable, that nothing shall ever separate or divide them. Hence the apostle triumphantly demands, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!"
The Savior recognizing this oneness between His people and Himself, bears testimony to the fact — that what is done to His people, He takes as done to Himself. Does Saul of Tarsus persecute the saints at Jerusalem, and go to Damascus to bring the believers bound to Jerusalem for punishment? He is arrested by the way, stopped in his career, and it is demanded of him, "Why do you persecute them?" No. But, "Why persecute you Me?"
So here in Matthew 25 — is a hungry Christian fed, or a thirsty Christian supplied with drink, or a naked Christian clothed, or a houseless Christian sheltered, or a sick or imprisoned Christian visited? Jesus says, "You did it unto Me." Wondrous union, this! Extraordinary representation of it! What tender sympathy must Jesus have with those, who are thus one with Himself!
See then, how close the union between Jesus and His people — they are one. One body, influenced by one spirit. He the head — they the different members. The least is as really united to the head, and is as precious, as the greatest.
How watchful the eye of Jesus, over His people. The eye in the Head, sees whatever is done to one of His members.
How tenacious the memory of the King of saints. He will not forget the good deeds of His people. The cup of cold water given to another, because he belongs to Christ, will not lose its reward. Nor will He forget, how some have neglected His poor, sick, and persecuted ones; but will tell them of it before assembled millions, when He sits on the throne of His glory, and exclude them from His kingdom for it! O brethren, let us not love in word, only — but in deed and in truth; thus shall we prove that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. How careful we should be in our treatment of our brethren — doing or neglecting. Who acts toward a poor believer — as he would act toward Christ personally? But we ought to do so — if Christ and the believer are but one.
How calmly we may leave all our affairs with Jesus. Am I neglected? Jesus knows it, He observes it, He will settle with those who neglect me. Am I hated, misrepresented, slandered, persecuted? Jesus is privy to the whole of it, and says, "Avenge not yourselves; vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." It is wrong, then, to encourage resentful feelings, or desire to take vengeance. How injurious to me, how contrary to the direction of my wise, all-knowing, and loving Lord.
How often we forget, how very seldom we realize the fact — that Christ and His people are one. One, at all seasons. One, under all circumstances. One, in poverty. One, in sickness. One, in prison. One, in death. O for grace to look upon myself daily, yes, hourly — as one with Christ!
O for grace, to look upon every believer, whatever his creed, meeting with whatever sect or party, differing from me ever so much — as one with Christ! May I never forget, that if I injure a believer — I injure Christ. If I wound a believer — I wound Christ. If I neglect a believer in need, or sickness, or persecuted for righteousness' sake — I neglect Christ.
How different the judgment will be, according to the Savior's representation of it — to what many people expect. Not only will gross sinners be condemned — but professors, who have simply omitted to honor Christ in His members. Not only will actual transgressions be denounced and punished — but the neglect of positive duties, or omitting to carry out the law of love. May every thought of my heart, every word of my mouth, and every act of my life — proceed from, and be regulated by, that new commandment which Jesus gave when he said, "I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you — you must also love one another!"