The Judgment of Light

John 3:19.---' And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.'

In the Revised Version of 'judgment' replaces the 'condemnation' of the Authorized Version, and there can be no doubt that the alteration comes nearer to the intention of the original. The Greek language has a remarkable niceness and accuracy of discrimination which no other language equally possesses. It has three words for judgment, and the one here used refers to the process by which the verdict is made apparent. The best translation would therefore be, This is the judging. The coming of light is part of a process of separation which leads to a verdict. The Greek crisis always implies something of the meaning which the word 'crisis' has come to bear in our own language. There is a point in the process where the evidence begins to turn to one side, where the truth is disentangled from confusion, obscurity and falsehood; a critical moment, and it is this crisis that the coming of light precipitates.

For the perfection of this process the evangelist does not seem to think that the passing of condemnation is necessary. This does not mean that in the Divine process of judgment condemnation is not brought home; but the condemnation is always self-pronounced. It is the coming of the light that immediately reveals the verdict; just as a lightning flash on a dark and cloudy night suddenly reveals the hidden and unknown landscape.

Human judgment.---How clumsy and false human judgments seems beside this judgment by light. In criminal procedure all that we can decide is whether the man actually committed the crime alleged against him, and our sense of justice is satisfied when to this we have added some entail of discomfort, suffering, or death; the social conscience is then relieved of its fear and anger. Such a process may be criticized as entirely lacking any sort of moral satisfaction. Many of our criminals are those against whom society has sinned rather than those who have sinned against society. Even when we are right, our punishment more often than not confirms the criminal in the course which he has adopted. And it is this practice, with which we remain so largely satisfied, that is allowed to determine our conception of the judgment of God. The police court rather than the Bible is the source of a good deal of popular theolgy.

In all our judgments we are apt to assume that there is only one standard against which all are to be compared. It is right enough to believe that there is a standard to which we all need to be brought and made aware of; but it is worse than cruelty to punish those who fall short of a standard they have never glimpsed. Yet how rarely we stopped ask what were the sinner's own ideas about things; how much did he know, what light did he possess?

Many religious people seeme to make a most unwarrantable application of the evangelic principle of judgment. They are content to make the material of judgment entirely different from that of the Gospels. They insist that it is what a man believes that makes the real determinant of judgment, and they imagine that the Fourth Gospel supports them because it says believe. But the one use of the word means that which a man professes, and the other means that by which a man lives. But, it may be asked, do not the Gospels divide men up into two very sharp divisions: those who travel the broad way and those who travel the narrow way? Such divisions are right and true but what is wrong is that we, judging from without and on very limited observations, can tell where the dividing line runs.

What is commonly wrong is to pass a judgment on our fellow-creatures. Never let it be forgotten that there is scarcely a single moral action of a single man of which other men can have such a knowledge, in its ultimate grounds, its surrounding incidents, and the real determining causes of its merits, as to warrant their pronouncing a conclusive judgments upon it.

Divine Judgment.---The Divine judgment is according to the light received. The recognition of this standard has been brought into prominence by science, which is simply more accurate and classified observation, and it forces us to recognize that human conditions should profoundly determined the condemnation we pass on one other. When we notice that criminals come in the vast majority of cases from the poor, a half starved, and the slum-bred classes, we ought to begin to ask ourselves whether the two things are not in some way connected. A great deal of crime is simply a form of insanity, as many a criminal expert can tell us. In order form an accurate judgment, therefore, we ought to know something about a man's ancestry, environment, education and condition of brain; and how impossible it is for a human agent to know all these things. But Divine judgment takes us far beneath mere externals. It asks not what were a man's conditions, but what was the measure of light of which he was conscious, what were his moral intuitions, what were his ideals; for these conditioned the responsibility of the man. And here again we have to confess that we are utterly incompetent to judge. The only judgment possible is that no man is fully living up to light that he possesses; and this means that we're all guilty. But this is just what to our Scripture say: All have sinned and that they have come short of the glory of God. It is evident then that this judgment must be left to the God who seeth in secret, and before whom all the things are naked and open.

We ought not , however, to hide our moral convictions of what we feel to be right or wrong, good or evil, even though this does not enable us to pronounce on how far the man who does these things is responsible. One clear duty for us it is that of conforming our outter life to our inner light, and of spreading everwhere the truth as we see it. Every man is called upon to be a witness of what he has. And this sufficiently occupies us. Our chief religious duty is to shine; a very burdensome limitation for some people, but a splendid test for us all.

The Coming of the Light.---The coming of the light precipitates a crisis, and this crisis is for us a supremely personal concern. We might try to evade this by asking questions which no one can answer. Yet to wait until we can answer these questions means to throw away our chance of life altogether. We may quarrel with the conditions of life, but while we are quarrelling, life locks up the treasures which we might have won. It is moral failure to defer action until all questions are answered. For, whatever be the secret of life, is it not undeniable that our light is far ahead of our attainments? While we cry for the moon, the candle of the Lord is alight in our hearts. Who of us can claim that we have conquered in all we see, and are left sighing for fresh worlds to conquer?

It is not what a man knows, but his faithfulness to what he knows, that is the standard of judgment. In no other thing is our age more likely to be led astray than in confusing superior enlightenment with superior moral excellence. Let us remember that what we can see we can be, that the ideal which commands us is our duty. The light we have, that is our judgment.

In Jesus Christ we find the Light of the world. Although that Light has been obscured by theories and controversies about His Person, there is enough beyond all question to throw upon our life a clear and guiding light. He reveals what this life of ours can be, if only it is lived for certain ends. He abandons His own will and immediately another Will is revealed through Him. He dies upon the Cross and makes a path through His broken heart for the glory of God to stream. He shows us what is the peace for which all our hearts long. It is not in pillowed ease, not in cloistered withdrawal from the tumult of the world, not in the avoidance of burdens and pain. Peace comes when the heart's door can be left wide open because it has no secret that we fear to be made known, no treasure that we are afraid might be stolen. To will the will of God brings strength and order to a divided and weakened nature, and enables us not only to bear our own burdens, but to lift the weakness of others. It matters not whether it is for one's own personal life or for the transformation of society, Jesus is simply the light of life, the one light of the world.

But the coming of such a light as that is the coming of judgment. First of all He lays His life along side our own; and all our meanness, wrong motives, paltry ambitions and cowardly fears are revealed in their true light. He comes not to condemn, but to reveal, not to destroy, but to fulfil, and yet this is the worst condemnation that could ever be. To blame us for failure or betrayal sends us hunting round for an excuse or pleading extenuation; but to show the example of sacrifice draws the heart and makes us long for a similar heroism. Before His Cross the world for which we have lived shivers into dust and ashes. By His life we are convicted of living unheroically, unadventurously. His ethic is full of danger to our moral contentment, and is quite unsafe for societies founded upon a false basis of riches or force. To see Christ anew would mean conviction of sin for world and Church alike.

The Judgment of the Future.---The light is going to burn in upon us. God is preparing a dawn of truth, and before its oncoming the sleepy eyes will have to open. There is something in the constitution of the human mind that is porous to truth. For years we may turn our attention elsewhere, we may hide away the truth in some convenient place of forgetfulness, we may refuse to admit the discomfiting light. But somewhere we have got to face the whole truth, to sit calmly down and consider the whole story of ourselves, without possibility of escape or saving face. What pain and shame it will mean, who can tell? The judgment is intensified in the fact that what we have at length to face is not merely broken law, but that we have come face to face with a Person we have wronged, with an incarnation of truth which we have insulted. We must look upon Him whom we have pierced. When we realize that all this gradual overbearing of our defenses was due to a persistent love, to an unchanging and unwearied solicitude for our very best, how shall we bear the revelation? Yet this is the end of God's judgment---not pain or punishment, but the welcome of the light, the admittance of the truth.

Close companionship with our Lord will prepare us to stand before the judgment seat. If we have learned to look upon the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we shall be able to look unblinded at the awful glory of God's unveiled face. If we have knelt in penitence before the Cross, we shall be able to stand unabashed before the judgment throne. If we have walked much in the company of Christ, we shall find we have learned something which will endure when the lust of the flesh and the pride of life and the glory of the world pass away. There is no refuge from God save in God; there is no hiding place from the Lamb but on His pure and holy breast.

In Christ, timothy.