Accountability to God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. - Romans xiv:12.
Every portion of the Bible recognizes man's accountability to God. This is the reason why the creature is required to obey the Creator. The solemn thought that we are accountable to God should be ever present with us, exerting its appropriate influence over our hearts and over our lives. How differently would multitudes live if they were not forgetful of the important truth contained in the text.
Let us notice:
I. The Foundation of Accountability to God.
Why are we accountable? I answer because God has made us rational beings. It is obvious that creation furnishes an important, an indispensable element of accountability. There can, of course, be no accountability without existence, and the act of creation gives existence. There are various passages of Scripture which teach us that we are under obligation to God, because he made us. But there is another element of
accountability - God has made us rational beings. The act of creation, unless it involves the production of a rational creature, supplies no element of accountability. A rational nature is essential to moral agency. Men and angels are accountable. Brutes are not. Men and angels are rational, brutes irrational. Human governments do not hold idiots and lunatics responsible. The reason is, in idiots the rational principle does not exist; in lunatics, though it once existed, it has become so impaired as to destroy moral responsibility. Rationality enables us to comprehend the relation we sustain to God, and the nature of our obligations to him; nor can we conceive how God can create a rational being irresponsible to himself. There must of necessity be responsibility wherever there is rationality. This view of the matter commends itself to us, and we instinctively feel that we are accountable because we are rational. "We see that our accountability rests on a true and substantial basis.
II. For What Are We Accountable?
1. For a proper state of heart. - We are required to "keep the heart with all diligence." It is the province of the heart to love. The fact that we ought to love God forces itself upon us without waiting our option in the matter. No man feels that he ought to hate the God that made him. So far from it, conscience lashes with terrible severity the enemies of God because they withhold
the affections of their hearts from him. Now if it is our duty to love God, we are accountable for a proper state of heart, because it is the heart that loves. I present this point because many seem to think that if their accountability extends to the action of their lives and the words of their mouths, it goes no farther. But it does go farther. It reaches the state of the heart. If rational beings are not responsible for their state of feeling and disposition, fallen angels are not sinners. What acts are performed by these angels analogous to the bodily acts of men? None. Does their great sin consist in oral expression? By no means, but in the fact that they hate God, and their rebellious spirits rise up in opposition to his government. They are, therefore, justly punishable. And human beings are accountable for a proper state of heart. If they never acted and never spoke they would be responsible for their state of heart.
2. For the words of our mouths. - They are the wicked who say "Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us." What says Jesus Christ. "For every idle word that men speak they shall give account at the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." What solemn declarations are these! Well may we tremble in considering their import.
The tongue is an important member of the human frame. For its proper or improper use we are responsible. The words which it utters will
be our justification or condemnation on the last day. And why? Because they will indicate the moral character of those who have spoken them. The proper employment of the tongue will be an evidence of our justification by faith - a proof of a proper state of heart. But those whose mouths were full of "cursing and bitterness" will furnish testimony, in what they have said, against themselves. The words they have spoken will show that they were in a state of condemnation, and that their hearts were not right before God. Our public justification or condemnation on the last day will be affected by our words.
3. For the actions of our lives. - How often is it said that "every man shall be rewarded according to his works!" "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad." Nor do these passages refer exclusively to our public actions. God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil. We are required to regulate our lives by the Word of God. The requisition is a reasonable one. If we are under obligation to God, then he has the undoubted right to claim the obedience of our lives, as well as the adoration of our hearts. A man's professions ordinarily show what he would have others think of him; his actions generally show what he is.
The tree is known by its fruit. We are to be Christians outwardly as well as inwardly, And what would religion be worth, if it did not control the life as well as the heart? But we need not philosophize about the matter. We know that for every act we now perform, we shall be held accountable on the last day. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
4. For the right use of our talents. - "Whatever mental endowments we possess God has given. To some he has given five talents, to others two, to others one. The number of talents is nothing, so far as the fact of accountability is concerned. The question is, "What has God bestowed upon us? For the right use of that we are responsible, be it much or little. The improvement of what is given us will secure the commendation of our Lord. If the "slothful servant," in what is called "the parable of the talents," had improved his one talent, his master would have said, "Well done, good and faithful servant." But he failed to improve his talent, and was condemned. Alas! what misimprovement, what desecration of talent do we see everywhere! Men act as if they were irresponsible for the use of the talents God has given them. "We often see those whose mental powers excite the admiration of the communities in which they live, destitute of the fear of God. They act as if they were their own - as if they had a perfect right to employ their talents according to their own pleasure.
Let all such remember that God has claims on them.
5. For the proper employment of time. - Few persons seem to know the value of time. They permit precious days, and months, and years, to pass away unimproved. They practically forget that interests of infinite importance, if secured at all, must be secured during this short life. They are occupied with comparative trifles. Some are the enthusiastic devotees of pleasure; some worship with insane ardor at the shrine of honor, and others are busily gathering the gold that perishes. None of their plans contemplate preparation for eternity. And whenever time is employed in forgetfulness of its relations to eternity, it is misemployed. Every misspent moment must be accounted for at the judgment. Of every wellspent moment there will be a favorable report.
6. For our influence. - We are social and imitative beings. Our influence over others, and their influence over us, arise chiefly from this fact. Even if we desired it ever so earnestly, we could not go through the world without exerting an influence; and influence is one of the prominent means of doing good. As we are under obligation to do all possible good, it is of necessity our duty to use our influence most advantageously and effectively. The influence of multitudes is "evil, only evil, and that continually." "One sinner," it is said, "destroyeth much good." Let it be remembered that, at the
judgment of the great day, we shall be held responsible for all the influence we exert in this world.
7. For the use of our property. - We are required to "lay by in store as God has prospered us." Jesus says, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Men forget often that the gold of this world belongs to God. He puts it into the hands of his stewards, and requires them to use it for his glory. They, however, soon begin to think it is their own, and that they have a right to do as they please with it. They rob God. Every man is in danger of becoming covetous, who does not systematically give to the cause of God. Human nature loves gold, and will love it idolatrously, unless its power over the heart is kept broken, by giving away as the Lord prospers. This subject is not understood. Men wish to be rich. They wish to make their children rich; that is, they wish to place them in circumstances, which, according to the teaching of Jesus Christ, will render their salvation barely possible. "How hardly shall they that are rich enter into the kingdom of God." "The Lord loves a cheerful giver." This shows that giving is right, otherwise the Lord would not love those who give cheerfully. It must not be forgotten that men are as accountable to God for the use of their property as for any thing else. How much money, hoarded up by misers, or squandered by spendthrifts, will be heard of on the last day. And it will be seen that many professed Christians sinfully
spent their money to gratify the "lust of the eye," and maintain the "pride of life."
III. When Shall We Give Account to God?
We learn from the context that this account must be given when we "stand before the judgment seat of Christ." God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he has ordained. "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. The earth, also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up." When the day of the Lord comes, there will be a full vindication of the Divine Government from all the aspersions of men and devils. It will be seen that it was administered in perfect accordance with the principles of justice. The day of judgment will be a great day; for great interests will be involved in its adjudications. All the millions of the human race will be judged. And the text, as if to remind us that no individual will be excepted, says, "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Every good man shall do this, and every bad man; every rich man, and every poor man; every bondman, and every freeman. Every one shall give account of himself, etc. Men are so impertinent in this world that they often give account of others rather than themselves. At the judgment this will not be case. Every one shall give account of himself to God.
Yes, this account must be rendered to God, not to man. It must be given, amid infinitely solemn circumstances, to an Omniscient Judge, in the presence of an assembled world.
1. A constant sense of our accountability to God would have a very salutary influence upon us. Many things we now do and say, would not be done and said, if we remembered our accountability. We forget that for all we now do, God will bring us into judgment.
2. Let us live with reference to our final account. This is the part of true wisdom. How shall we be prepared to meet the Judge of the living and the dead? is the great question.
3. As in death shall we be in judgment. No change takes place in the moral character after death. Judgment publishes the moral character acquired before death.
4. How desirable to hear the Judge say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!"
5. How terrible those words of denunciation, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!" Which of these sentences shall we hear?
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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