Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1902-1932. He understood that there were limits on human judges.
He was once exhorted by Judge Learned Hand “Do justice, Sir, do justice.” Justice Holmes replied “That is not my job. It is my job to apply The Law” (Thomas Sowell, The Quest For Cosmic Justice, p. 168) What did he mean by this? He meant, that such was not the function of an earthly judge. “He was not saying that justice did not belong in the Law. He was saying that it was not a judge’s function to put it there, this was a legislative function (ibid, p. 170). Moreover, not all laws are necessarily just.
He also understood that there was a great deal of differences between the judgments of men and God’s judgment. He remarked “The Law takes no account of the infinite varieties of temperament, intellect, and education which make the internal character of a given act so difference in men. It does not attempt to see men as God sees them….If, for instance, a man is born hasty and awkward, is always having accidents and hurting himself or his neighbors, no doubt his congenital defects will be allowed for in the courts of heaven but his slips are no less troublesome to his neighbors than if they sprang from guilty neglect. His neighbors accordingly require him, at his proper peril, to come up to their standard, and the courts which they establish decline to take his personal equation into account” (Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions p. 195-196). An illustration – Remember Lennie in the book “of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.
1. The Psalmist said of God “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne” (89:14). Again “The law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right rejoicing the heart; The Commandment of the Lord is pure enlightening the eyes….The judgment of the Lord are true and righteous together” (19:7-9). Not all laws of men are just. Men sometimes pass laws to defraud others and to enrich themselves and their cronies (e.g. Isaiah 10:1-2). God’s laws are not like this.
Moreover, it is evident that for a system to be just there needs to be “Rule of Law”. Such is defined as “a government of laws and not men” (The quest for cosmic justice; p. 151). That is, the law does not exempt certain favorites. Moreover “By ‘Rule of Law’ is not meant simply that edicts are enforced but that only laws set forth in advance can be used to punish” (Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Appointed, p. 220). God does not play favorites (cf 1 Pet. 1:17; Acts 10:34-35). Furthermore, it has revealed his standard to man long before judgment.
2. God’s judgment takes into account man’s abilities (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; Luke 12:41-48, Mark 12:41-43; 2 Corinthians 8:12). It takes into account man’s motives (Matthew 6:1, 5, 16; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3). It takes into account our thoughts (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). He knows us completely (Psalm 139:1-4)
Will you be ready for that great day?
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