In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
1. Thoughts are amongst the secrets of men. They are what men cannot be sure of in each other. They are what men often seem to imagine that even God cannot behold.
2. Whence is it that the thoughts arise which will be called to account? "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts" (Matthew 15:19). Out of the heart also it is that good thoughts, by God's good grace, spring up.
3. And this make it so needful for them to be judged hereafter. They prove what is the inward disposition of the soul, what there is of good or evil there.
4. But though it is easy to see why the thoughts must be judged; yet it is not easy to think as if they would be. How few think continually such thoughts as they would wish to have entirely laid open unto those amongst whom they live! How few such as are fit to be beholden by Him to whom all thoughts are open! How few that God will judge them!
I. WHAT ARE THE THOUGHTS THAT WILL BE JUDGED.
1. Selfish thoughts. For what are the thoughts which God commands us to cherish towards each other? (see Matthew 19:19; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:4). Consider how far are your thoughts guided by these rules?
2. Proud thoughts. The pattern set before it Christian is as follows: "Learn of My, for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:29). The rule laid down for his thoughts of others is, "In lowliness of mind," etc. (Philippians 2:3). How often is this rule violated; how seldom this pattern followed! There is, indeed, a great variety in rank, ability, etc., and it would be but a pretence to humility for a man to profess himself inferior in a point where he cannot help to know his own advantages. But whatsoever be his comparative advantages, let him fix his attention rather on his own actual defects — his sins, wasted opportunities — and he will scarcely think highly of himself.
3. Angry thoughts. These are closely connected with pride and selfishness. He that thinks highly of himself covets largely for himself, and must, therefore, often be disappointed and affronted. Thus spring up angry thoughts; and though neither unkind words or actions follow, the thoughts alone are sinful, and will be judged. The most secret thoughts Christ would have to be now gentle and charitable.
4. Impure thoughts (Matthew 5:27, 28). Let no one imagine himself innocent, merely because his conduct is respectable. The fear of shame, the lack of opportunity, may preserve the outward character, but they cannot secure the favourable judgment of Him who sees the heart to be sensual. Thus not only he who follows after strong drink in excess, but he also who fain would do so if he could is a drunkard in the sight of the Almighty. Thus in another sin, "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15).
5. Worldly thoughts. We learn that a Christian should set his affections on things above (Colossians 3:2), and not be anxious for this world's morrow (Matthew 6:25-34). How, then, can they answer for it hereafter, whose whole minds are occupied with the business of the world they live in; with scarcely one reflection in the day on the world which they so soon must enter? Are not these things among those secrets of men which God will judge?
II. WHAT SHOULD WE DO IN VIEW OF THIS?
1. Besides the times which you set apart for prayer, etc., you must endeavour to cherish thoughts of heaven in the midst of your attention to the business of earth. Say you are engaged in work. Why should you not relieve your toil by thinking of what awaits you when life shall end?
2. Set before yourselves your Christian calling. Keep in view the condemnation from which you have been delivered, and the dealings of Him who has delivered you (Philippians 4:8). And think further of what God has yet in store for us in the world which now we see not. Let us more stedfastly believe that we shall dwell in heaven, and we shall think more frequently of dwelling there. Let us believe more firmly that Christ died for our sins, and we shall think of Him both more often and more thankfully. Then shall we less fear to have our secrets judged, when we have not a thought which is not beforehand submitted to our Judge, suggested by His Spirit, guided by His Word, or devoutly surrendered to His will.
(C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.