AT THE APPEARING OF CHRIST.
Such is the fate of all who die without an understanding of the truth revealed for the faith of their generation. He that understands the truth, but declines the obedience it commands, will be held accountable for its rejection; for "he that believeth not shall be condemned" "in a day of judgment," "when the Deity shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus .Christ, according to the gospel Paul preached" (Rom. ii. 16; Mark xvi. 16).
But, sinners understanding and believing the truth, and rendering the obedience it commands, in that enlightened and faithful obedience, become saints. As such, they have received the truth as a sacred deposit, for the use or abuse of which they are held responsible in the great day of account (Jude 6). Saints, who use the truth aright, styled by James "doers of the Word, and not hearers only," are the "just" or "righteous"; but saints who abuse it, being hearers only of the Word and not doers, lovers of the world and the things that are in it, striving at once to serve God and Mammon, are the "ungodly" and the "unjust," who, like Esau, sell their birthright for a morsel of the world's meat; to whom, in the judgment, will be found no place for repentance, sought ever so carefully with tears (Heb. xii. 16–17).
These three classes are indicated by Peter in the words, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Epist. iv. 18): the enlightened sinner, who rejects the truth; the ungodly, who disgraces it; and the righteous, who do it. Add to these a fourth class, constituted of unenlightened sinners, among whom, and into whom, the light has not shined and cannot shine, from whatever cause, and the whole race of Adam is marshalled, or arranged in due or scriptural order before the mind.
Now, would it be reasonable to subject unenlightened sinners, illuminated sinners, and ungodly Sardian saints, to one and the same condition? The Righteous Judge is not "a hard man, reaping where He hath not sown." Where the Word hath not been sown, He will look for no result; but, on the contrary, where He has made proclamation by "faithful men, able to teach others," whose teaching He has borne witness to "by signs and wonders, and with divers miracles and distributions of Holy Spirit," which is "preaching the gospel with Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (Heb. ii. 4; 1 Pet. i. 12), He expects to reap and gather in. This is just and reasonable, as well as scriptural. And as "no man can come to me," saith the Spirit, "except the Father who hath sent me draw him," He will not raise them up in the last day upon whom the drawing influence of the word has not been brought to bear (Jno. vi. 44). They are "as the beasts that perish."