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Hasty Judgment.

Hasty Judgment.

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Published by glennpease

Judge nothing before the time until the Lord come.

I Corinthians iv. 5.

Judge nothing before the time until the Lord come.

I Corinthians iv. 5.

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Published by: glennpease on Apr 29, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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HASTY JUDGMET. BY JOSEPH BARBER LIGHTFOOT, D.D., D.C.L., LLD., Judge nothing before the time until the Lord come. I Corinthians iv. 5. Second Sunday after Epiphany, 1873. These words speak to us with singular direct- ness at the present time. Four days ago the grave closed over the mortal remains of one, who not long since was the most powerful ruler, and the foremost man, of his generation*. Even, if the approach of death had been slower and the warning more ex- plicit, we should still have received it as a startling announcement, that the lips, on whose oracular utter- ances the fate of Europe hung for long years, were silenced, and the hand, which had dictated peace and ^ The Emperor apoleon III. s. P. s. 13 194 HASTY JUDGMET. [xiv. war to the nations, was stiffened in death. And the strange vicissitudes of his life invested its close with a still more tragic interest. Exile, emperor, victor, vanquished, he had passed and repassed from one extreme to the other in the scale of fortune. Brilliant triumphs and unequalled disasters in war, an empire rapidly consolidated and still more rapidly lost, the intoxication of popular idolatry and the bitterness of popular hatred, the gaiety of a magnificent court and the agony of intense bodily suffering — such were
the sharp contrasts of this eventful career. All those tremendous common-places of human experience — the instability of fortune, and the irony of life, and the rude irreverence of pain and disaster, and the stern republicanism of death — received a new and striking illustration in the fate of their most recent victim. And in the ten days just elapsed the dead man has lived his life over again. The world has been sitting in judgment on his character. All his past actions have been summoned as witnesses for or against him. All his real or supposed motives have been scrutinised and dissected with a pitiless minute- ness. In every social gathering, and in every public print, this has been the one absorbing topic of dis- cussion. It has passed from mouth to mouth, and it has flashed from wire to wire ; till the remotest hamlets have been impanelled to assist in the verdict. XIV.] HASTY JUDGMET. 1 95 It would be futile, even if it were right, to object to the rigid scrutiny which awaits the lives of famous rulers after death. As a warning and as an example, it is well that they should feel the glare of publicity upon all their actions. But I ask (for with this aspect of the matter alone I am concerned) what is the value of the verdict, when given ? Is it adequate ? Is it complete ? Even though it may form a fairly comprehensive estimate of the statesman, the general, the ruler, what does it know of the man — the man with his drawbacks or advantages of education and position, his motives, his temptations, his whole com- plex inner life; the man in himself, stripped of all external circumstances; the man, as he will appear one day before the tribunal of Christ, when the hidden things of darkness will be brought to light, and the counsels of all hearts made manifest ?
And even in its own limited sphere is this verdict so clear, so precise, so unanimous, that it at once commands our unquestioning acquiescence ? Did not his own countrymen within a very few months give and revoke a most deliberate judgment, passing from almost unanimous applause to almost unanimous execration ? Are we not warned that the judgment of posterity will not be the judgment of his contem- poraries; that his name must be added to the long list of those, whom history hereafter will be called 13—2 196 HASTY JUDGMET. [xiv^ to rehabilitate ? Has not his character been described as an insoluble enigma, a conflicting result of antago- nistic qualities, of boldness and hesitation, of en- thusiasm and caution, of affectionate warmth and remorseless calculation, a mixture of the sceptic and fatalist ? And what is all this, I ask, this vacillation, this self-contradiction, this futility, in men's estimate, but a confession, that it is not given to man to fathom the heart of man, a warning that in the Apostle's language we should 'judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come'? And yet, here, if anywhere, the materials exist, which might be thought to have secured an adequate and final verdict; for he of all men lived and died in the full blaze of publicity. During his long term of power, hardly a day passed when some record of his doings was not flashed to all the capitals of Europe. His movements, his looks, his words, his silence, all were duly chronicled. Despite himself, the world was taken into his confidence; and yet the world con- fessed that it did not understand him. It is the

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