« EelmineJätka »
ved to the time of the fulfilment of these predictions, the more completely did the hope and desire of His coming die away.
And it is also remarkable, that with the decay of the church's belief in this glorious doctrine, did her teachers cease to inculcate His coming as a motive to duty; till at length what the apostles evidently regarded as the most powerful persuasive to holiness, and the most consolatory doctrine to the suffering and bereaved, seemed to have wholly lost its efficacy, and was seldom referred to with this design,
* In the present day there are many who even apply the predictions of the coming of Christ and of the day of the Lord, to the time of death. This, Dr. Hamilton (p. 254,) endeavours to justify. Quoting 1 Thes. v. 1–4, and with it citing 2 Pet. iii. 4, 10, 12, (for what purpose we cannot perceive, unless he means also to apply the passing away of the heavens to the day of death!) he applies them to the decease of “every individual in that and in every succeeding age.” The ground on which he takes this application may be made equally applicable to almost every passage predicting the glorious coming of Christ. The apostle says, “ But YE, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake YOU as a thief," and from the personal nature of this and other addresses, the Doctor infers that “ the day of the Lord” is the day of death. But before adopting such a principle of interpretation, let us observe the consequences of its application. The great apostle of the Gentiles, addressing the church ai Corinth concerning the observance of the Lord's Supper, reminds them that Jesus said unto His disciples, “ This do YE as oft as TE drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death TILL HE COME." 1 Cor. xi. 25, 26. From this would Dr. H. infer that any of the twelve, or any individual of the Corinthian church living when the apostie wrote, and whom he immediately addressed, should continue to show forth the Saviour's death until His Return? Or would he deny that the “TE” applied to the church in all ages " till He come?” Again, was it not the literal advent of Christ to which the same apostle referred when he blessed the Lord that the believing Thessalonians had “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son FROM HEAVEN"? 1 Thess. i. 9, 10. And, to refer to the passage cited by the Doctor, is it not the day of the literal coming of Christ of which the apostle Peter speaks, when he exhorts those to whom he wrote to be “ LOOKING FOR, and HASTING UNTO the Coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved"? 2 Pet. iii. 12. So Paul, again speaking of the resurrection and glorification of the saints at Christ's coming, says, « The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds.” 1 Thess. iv. 17, and 1 Cor. xv. 51, 52. Is there any passage which speaks of the coming of Christ that contains a more direct or personal address than these? Yet, they cvidently refer to the Saviour's Personal Return.
-the hopes of believers in such cases, being directed to the day of their death.
The cause of this departure from apostolic example may, perhaps, on examination, be found in the distance at which systematic theology has latterly placed the Coming of the Lord. The apostles uniformly urged
the Church as an event so sudden and unexpected, that believers were not allowed to lose sight of it as an event which might possibly be realized in their own day. Thus, when the apostle would remove the premature apprehensions of the church at Thessalonica he does not say, they had no reason for pertubation, as many centuries must elapse before the coming of Christ. He beseeches them, (2 Thess. ii. 2,) that they " be not SOON shaken in mind or be troubled." But by placing His coming after the Millennium, we render it certain to every one that he must long before have been gathered to his fathers since 1000 years must assuredly intervene.
It is a common objection to the doctrine of Christ's personal reign on earth that it is unnecessary, since He can as easily accomplish all His purposes while in hea
Far be it from us to say a single word to detract from the omnipotence of Jesus. But our present inquiry is not what He could have done, but what he designs to do. The only means by which a knowledge of this can be obtained is by an examination of the revelation of His will. This we have shown has left no room for speculation on the necessity or expediency of His pre
His word is explicit, and we are not at liberty to doubt the wisdom of His purposes. It is true, that, in the Scriptures of truth, there are many things perplexing and astounding to human reason. The finite mind can ill comprehend the deep things of God. It is but little of His ways that we can know. But the doctrine maintained is perfectly comprehensible, as well as glorifying to the Saviour. The objection of Christ's personal reign being unnecessary, can therefore have no weight against an appeal to the law and to the testimony. Our being unable to see the necessity for any doctrine, or even its being in opposition to our ideas of
the nature and fitness of things, cannot be urged against what God has revealed. The very character of true faith is to believe. Nothing could have been more opposed to carnal reason than the command given to Abraham while he dwelt at Beersheba, to go up to a certain mount in the land of Moriah, and there to offer up Isaac for a burnt-offering. Isaac was Abraham's son, his only and beloved son, and the heir of promise. The father might therefore have reasoned against such a command not merely as unnecessary but as unnatural, and altogether incompatible with the fulfilment of the promise of God, that in Isaac should his seed be called. But Abraham “accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead,” conferred not with flesh and blood, but “stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son." For this, he received the honourable appellation of “ the Father of the faithful.” But if faith thus obey God's command, even when against reason, is there no ground to question the genuineness of that which would set itself against the plainnest testimony, because we perceive not the necessity of what God has promised ?
But not only is this doctrine opposed as unnecessary it is also decried as degrading.* This objection can have little weight when brought to bear against the reign of Him whose love for our fallen race brought Him from the mansions of heavenly bliss under very different circumstances, being subjected to the insults of men, and under the hiding of His Father's countenance;
66 who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and
* It is not a little surprising, that, in the very page in which Mr. Mason reprobates this doctrine as one that would bring Christ “from His glory above to an ignominious dwelling among men,” he confesses of the Old Testament predictions and promises that “ many expressions are found in them 80 sublime and glorious, as constrain us to apply them in their highest sense to the heavenly state.” (Gentiles' Fulness, p. 195.) But, instead of thus misapplying the predictions concerning the Millennium, we ought rather to be constrained to believe that they truly refer to a period when the tabernacle of God shall dwell with men, and “when the Lord shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.”
him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man' He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”
6 But now we see not yet all things put under Him." Phil. Ü. 6--10. Heb. ii. 8. His sufferings were endured only for the glory that should follow an increase of which would result from His personal reign on earth. It is generally esteemed an enhancement of the honour to which an individual attains, that he is honoured in the very place where formerly he was despised. To this principle of our nature the Scriptures make frequent appeal. Speaking of the exaltation of Israel, the Lord says, “I will get them praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame.” Zeph. iii
. 19. • And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” Hos. i. 10. If this be an honour to God's ancient people, may it not be also considered a greater degree of exaltation to the Saviour that the scene of his sufferings should be that of His triumph!--that the same earth should behold the exaltation of Him of whose living agonies and accursed death it is said in figure to have been an unwilling witness? Is there any degradation in His having exchanged the crown of thorns for one of glory? that instead of the reed of insult He should there wield the sceptre of universal sovereignty ?—and that where He was hailed King, in derision, He should be acknowledged the sole and rightful Lord? To this very honour there seems a special reference in the following passage: “ Behold my servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and be extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee, (his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men) SO shall he sprinkle many nations ; the kings shall shut their mouths at him.” Is. lii. 13-15.
There is another beautiful allusion by the same prophet to the relation between his humiliation and exaltation : "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities, THEREFORE will I divide Him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, BECAUSE He hath poured out His soul unto death." Is. liii. 11, 12. Instead, therefore, of being degrading, the doctrine of Christ's triumph being enjoyed where His sufferings were endured, is not only clearly revealed, but is in full accordance with the dić. tates of reason, as enhancing his glory.
Some who are willing to admit the strength of scriptural evidence produced, may, however, be ready to suppose the Coming of Christ and the commencement of the Millennium still at a great distance, as few of the nations of the earth have yet been converted, and past experience does not warrant the hope of the Gospel's being speedily received by them. Were there any promise that it should be universally accepted before the coming of the Lord, human probability must have given place to the assurance of faith—the power and the faithfulness of God being received as sufficient pledge for the certainty of the fulfilment of His promise. It would indeed have been a pleasing prospect for Christian philanthropy, that so glorious a transformation should be so soon effected by the mild persuasive of the love of Christ. And we are bound to thank God for what success He has been pleased to bestow on Missionary operations,—the present extent and anticipated increase of which must afford the purest delight to all rightly exercised Christians. They rejoice in their success for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, feeling themselves under the highest obligations to promote their interests. But there is reason to fear that in our ardour for the work too sanguine expectations have been entertained of the result. The Millennium, it is supposed by many, will be the gracious result of the mere preaching of the gospel, and the present aspect of the world has rendered some doubtful if the commencement of that happy era can be near at hand.