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within he cries, “I know you not.” And what then is their case ? There they stand without, yet having met with what they wanted, precisely as to condition, like those within. Where are they left? In the midst of a slumbering and heedless world, at midnight. And what are they excluded from ? The marriage. The parable adds no more. But what is the application of the whole? “ Watch, therefore; for ye know neither the day nor hour wherein the Son of Man cometh."
Now, why should I shrink from delivering the full convictions of my mind upon this subject? why should I not bring them to bear with force on those to whom it is addressed ?-not positively setting forth my view as truth, but rather to draw forth from some pen, guided by a more spiritually gifted mind, if this be false, a view more consonant with truth.
The conviction on my mind is, that this parable sets forth the state of the TRUE church of Christ, and that alone, at his coming. And concerning the parabolic terms, I conceive the church are likened unto virgins, in contradistinction to those who commit fornication with any false religion put up in place or stead of the worship of the one true and living God. Lamps seem to represent that outward profession which all are called upon to make; as candles placed in candlesticks, to shed their light around ; and not under bushels, burning imperceptibly. Oil, knowledge derived from the study of the word of God. Flame, the Divine influence of the Holy Ghost, enlivening and sanctifying the knowledge, and enabling it, encased in a becoming outward profession, to give light unto the world enveloped in midnight gloom.
In the book of Revelation, lamps burning are called “the Spirits of God;" therefore, taking no oil additional, may mean quenching the Spirit; respecting which the Apostle says, "Quench not the Holy Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
Wise, those not content to remain babes in Christ, but who “desire the sincere milk of the word, in order that they may grow thereby,” believing that every portion of the word of God was given for their instruction; who“covet spiritual gifts, and rather that they may prophesy,” which serveth to them that believe, and not to them who believe not; and who seek to understand, by diligent and prayerful search, the meaning of the Prophets, and the mind of the Holy Ghost in all the mysteries of the written word ; and who," forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those which are before, press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Foolish, of“ babes in Christ;" such as are contented, nay determined, to remain so: they to whom the question, in the words of Christ, might well be put, “ Do ye not therefore err because ye know not the Scriptures ?” who, unlike the Bereans, esteemed noble in the word of God, neglect the appointed means to become rightly informed; they " who know to do good, but do it not;" and who are suffering the day of Christ to overtake them unawares. They are such as say, ' Point us to such works alone as have the quotations written out in full, for we cannot take the trouble to seek them for ourselves :' they who say, 'The less we hear of prophecy, or controverted points, the better, since they only discompose the mind;' and who say, 'Here will we rest,' though called to war and conflict, to endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, even unto the end-to fight a good fight, to finish the course, to keep the faith. The foolishness of the five evidently consisted in not being found diligent in the use of means. It is not said the oil they had was bad, or lit by an unholy flame; but only that they were deficient in that which was to be made up by search.
Tarried. This appears to comprehend the whole period between the
first and second advent of Christ; the "little while,” after which “he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” We find this uncertainty kept up throughout the Apostolic times: for though St. Paul warns the Thessalonian converts against expecting an instantaneous return, foretelling the previous rising of the man of sin ; yet in the Epistle by St. John we find, mixed with uncertainty, the anxious hope of speedy union with the Lord, when his risen saints should be made like him, seeing him as he is. “ It is," writes the Apostle, “the last time; and as ye have heard that Antichrist should come, even now are there many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time.” From this and other Scriptures I gather, that the right attitude of the church should at all times be, expecting, longing for, yea, loving the appearing of the Lord.
In brief, then, keeping this interpretation of terms in view, I believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is coming again unto this habitable world, according to the Scriptures, with his saints (the bride) and with his holy angels, preceded by the Archangel giving forth a thrilling blast from the dread trump of God. Yea, he is coming; not, as heretofore, a man of peace in lowly garb; but as a mighty man of war, to rule all nations with an iron rod; his saints being associated with him in this honour. And at his coming the dead in Christ will be raised up; and those alive, and looking for him, as the wise, will be removed, changed, and caught up to meet him in the air ; whilst those like the foolish will be left, too late made wise, to deprecate their folly in the midst of an infidel ungodly world, and to feel the full import of the Saviour's words in Luke xii. 47, 48. For surely a time of trouble such as never was—an earthquake terrible and dread-awaits but the dictum of Almighty God, to try the sons of men. But, lest no flesh at all escape, the days are shortened, for the elect's sake: doubtless, therefore, some foreknown of God as children are left to stem the mighty torrent.
But shall all God's people feel the iron rod ? How then can we understand the words of Christ, urging us to pray for an escape from all? how apply the case of Noah-"as it was, so shall it be"safely shut within the ark by God before the falling of a drop of rain? how the case of Lot-“I can do nothing till thou be come there" -- who entered Zoar under the sun's first rays? But, all things going on apparently the same, whilst peace and safety sound on every side, and some cry out in scoffing terms “Where is the promise of his coming,” one shall be taken and the other left. What separations will then take place! But, lest our faith fáil us and we grow faint, Christ himself has given the word of warning, “Remember Lot's wife!”
His church from age to age have been kept in longing expectation of his second advent. The first three centuries found the spiritual wise with anxious hope high raised ; but within a while outward rest favoured a drowsy spirit, quickly followed by a sleep; which has, till within late years, interspersed with fits and starts of momentary rousing, overspread the church, and caused them to lose sight of, or disregard and slight, this union with their Lord. Theslumber of the eighteenth century, pronounced by some to be the deepest in the annals of the church, was broken at its close by an earthquake on the prophetic earth ; and midst the awful crash, when hell-born infidelity exploded, faintly at first arose the cry, " Behold! the Bridegroom cometh.” This waxing louder and louder, caused his church to arouse, and gather up
their scattered Scriptural hopes, to put them into a form intelligible to give light unto the world. Many who lived then seem now to forget the terrors which seized on all men's minds, and also to slight the warning cry. Like one, awaked at night by the slight rumbling of an earthquake shaking the bed whereon he lay, at first starts up and wildly looks around ; but, the first shock being quickly followed by a calm, he begins to think it was all a dream, and, endeavouring to shake off the alarm, sinks again to sleep—to wake and rise no more: the second shock, heaving the habitation from its base, leaves it a prostrate mass.
And concerning those who differ from the statement here set forth, and deny the signs, or slight the idea of the Saviour's speedy advent, may I not insert again the question, in the words of Christ, “Do ye not therefore err because ye know not the Scriptures?" Does not the book of Revelation plainly declare the marriage of the Lamb precedes the reign of peace ? Read xix. 7-9: “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. Blessed and holy is he that is called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." Does not the
Scripture also declare, that by fire and sword the Lord will visit upon the earth, and try all flesh, to root out Antichrist from the earth; and that the slain of the Lord in that day shall be many ? that they who kill with the sword must perish by the sword ? that all that has ever gone before, or the blackest page of history declares, respecting war and tumults, will fall below the terrors of the last great battle of the Lord ? Does not the Scripture plainly declare all this must happen before the looked for, longed for, reign of peace begins ? Then, slight not the warning of the Lord, « Behold, I come as a thief : blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame." And once again, in the Apostle's words, I say, “ Despise not prophecyings : Prove all things ; hold fast that which is good.”
ON THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
Wuen a treatise is offered to the public, some apology is necessary, at a period in which writing is so much indulged. This treatise contains a disquisition on a neglected Scripture truth ; and should it be found to set forth that truth, it will not be written in vain. The author cannot plead that the few friends to whom the manuscript has been submitted, have encouraged the publication; one, according to the old advice, recommending that it should be kept " nine years ;” and another suggesting, that, should the hypothesis that is maintained prove correct-namely, that the soul, on quitting the body, remains in the heart of the earth till the resurrection-it is a subject devoid of interest to any one excepting the writer. A third and more plausible objection was offered. That the great day of the Lord is “near, near and hasteth greatly:" that we all know that at the second and glorious advent of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the resurrection of the just will take place : the interval of time, supposing we die this day, must be short between death and the resurrection: it seems scarcely worth investigation ; for we know that those who sleep in Jesus, God will bring with him.”
These objections we can answer thus :-To the one who recommends the delay of nine years, we reply, As the times hasten so must we, and be prompt in whatever we do; for, besides this, “our life is but a vapour,” “ our days are swifter than a post: ” nine days, still less nine years, may not be granted us. To those who may agree with the second objector, and say, Of what use is this discussion? we put a question in our turn: Is the statement made in the following pages to be found in the Scripture of truth? If so-and we believe this to be the case, or the
following pages would never have been written, far less submitted to the public-can a believer seriously maintain that any truth which is found in the volume of inspiration is unworthy of investigation ? We trust not, and that those who argue so will, on further searching into the subject, as it is here set forth, be induced to receive the statement.
We will now consider the third and last objection, that the shortness of the duration of the middle or intermediate state prevents the subject from becoming an object of interest. We reply, That the times and seasons hath God put in his own power : we admit, that, on comparing the signs of the times with the word of God, it does indeed appear that soon, very soon, “time will be no longer : ” still, this is no valid argument against the discussion in question. To each individual the inquiry is of the greatest possible interest. “ It is appointed unto all men once to die.” À moment, and the world's blown up to thee, the sun is darkness, and the stars are dust.
The precise time of the second and glorious advent of Christ is not revealed, for “ of that day and that hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son; but the Father.” It appears to us to be at the doors, but a longer interval may intervene than we are aware of. One calculation we can make with more accuracy: “ The days of our years are threescore years and ten, and if, by reason of strength, they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we flee away.” Instead of threescore years and ten, how few attain to half a century! Our breath is in our nostrils ; " our days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle.” Absolutely ignorant when we rise in the morning if we shall live to lie down at night : when we lie down to sleep, uncertain if we shall again see the light of the sun: liable at any moment to be summoned somewhere, and quit all we have ever seen or known ; and yet - what an anomaly !--cold and uninterested as to our new abode ! In this earth, if we are invited to spend but a few days with one at whose house we never before visited, we generally take care to collect every particular as to the situation of the residence; and shall we refuse to learn, from the blessed word of God, where he hath himself placed the “house appointed for all living ?” To this abode we must all come, excepting those who are alive and remain at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is of this abode we write. To those who object to the words “ elect” and “reprobate,” used in the following discourse, we can only say, that as they are the words of Holy Writ, and no invention of man, when writing on Scripture subjects it is not easy to avoid using Scripture language. A learned Doctor of Divinity, in his late edition of a valuable work of one of the Fathers, observes, that,