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their commencement could be certainly ascertained, there would still be another obscurity, as to whether they were to be taken in sequence, or one involving others. Nay, even if this were overcome, and we knew both their commencement and that they were to be taken in sequence, yet, still, we could not date the advent with precision, for the Lord says, The last days shall be shortened; and we no where read how much.
In entering upon this subject, therefore, I altogether disclaim every attempt to fix the period of the world's history, at which the second advent of our Lord is to take place. I earnestly press this point on your attention, because I am persuaded that much injury has been done to a good cause, by vain endeavours to determine the precise time. But I beseech you, my brethren, in giving your attention to it, to discriminate between the importance of the subject itself, and the zeal (in this particular indiscreet) of those warm and faithful defenders of it, who have so far mistaken their office.
2.—Another aspect under which we may consider the time, is relatively to other events. On this point we have much light. The event which in this connection is of most importance, is the establishment of that glorious period of blessedness which is predicted to take place over all the earth, when the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of God, and of his Christ; when men shall learn war no more, but beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; when all shall know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest, when they shall not hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain,- for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas. Such a period, you are well aware, is plainly and repeatedly predicted. Now I wish to shew you, that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will precede and usher in, that glorious state of blessedness on earth.
It will precede it,-for at the time of the Lord's coming, the earth, instead of being in a millennial state of holiness, and happiness, and harmony, will be in a state resembling the wide-spread wickedness of the days of Noah and of Lot. This is precise and plain as you learn from the 17th chapter of St. Luke: “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man: they did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, also, as it was in the days of Lot: they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all: even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” You have
a further corroboration in the Epistle to the Thessalonians. "Yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night; for when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.” Now if the world is to be as it was in the days of Noah, or as the cities of the plain in the days of Lot, in a state of ease, peace, and fancied security, until suddenly the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with the voice of an archangel and the trump of God; then it appears, that instead of coming when the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord, namely, at the end of, or during, that period of blessedness; he comes at the beginning, and while the earth with its inhabitants are in the condition in which you see them: for at this present time, the world is as it was in the days of Noah, they eat, they drink, they plant, they build, they marry, and are given in marriage, —they do not care for God, they do not trouble themselves about his appearing. “Where is the promise of his coming?" say they, the scoffers of the last time; "for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” “Be not afraid,” they continue, strengthening themselves in their reckless disregard of the word of God;" “be not afraid, there is no danger; we are doing no more than others have done before us, for centuries. And as to this second coming of Jesus Christ, it is only the interpretation of intemperate enthusiasts. There is no such thing to be apprehended." Thus, as the associates of Noah made light of the threatening of the approaching deluge; and the sons-in-law of Lot treated as idle tales his warning of impending destruction: so it is the essential characteristic of the world now, practically to despise as an idle tale, the plainest sayings of the word of God, respecting the coming and kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They are saying, peace and safety, promising themselves stability, and enjoying their idols. “Their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures: their land is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots.” Their land also is full of amusements, and the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operations of his hands.” Therefore, behold, the day of the Lord of Hosts shall come suddenly upon them, and the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of Hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low; and upon all the cedars
of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.*
The force of this argument, however, is lost upon some minds, or at least weakened in some degree, by an idea collected from the 20th chapter of Revelations, the 7th verse: “When the thousand years are expired," namely, the thousand years of
, blessedness previously described—“Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle; the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” The objection is this: here is a description of wickedness again, at the end of that period of blessedness; and therefore, the world might then be, in consequence of that reviving wickedness, in a state similar to that of the times of Noah and of Lot, and then is the time of the coming of the Lord; so that although Christ should not come till after the period of blessedness, yet, still he might find the world in a state of wickedness when he does come. Now, in reply to this, I observe:—first, that the passage does not describe such a state as that of the world in the days of Noah and Lot, a state of planting, and building, marrying, and giving in marriage; or, as it is described in the Epistle to the Thessalonians, a state of fancied peace, and safety, and carelessness about God; but, on the contrary, a state of conflict just commenced, which is soon put an end to by the immediate power of God. Therefore there is no ground for the supposition that the world will then go back aga
back again to a condition of carelessness and ease, similar to its present state, or its state in the days of Noah and Lot. Furthermore, supposing the passage did imply this; supposing it did afford foundation for saying that the world subsequent to the Millennium would be in that condition; still the objection would not hold good against our argument; for I proceed to shew you, not only that the world shall be in a wicked state at the coming of the Lord, but that it shall continue in such a state till the Lord come.
The mystery of iniquity which worked in the Apostles' time, and which has manifested itself still more since, is described
* Isaiah ii, and v.
under its last form as the man of sin, as continuing to work till it is banished and destroyed by the brightness of the Lord's coming,* consequently there shall be no interval between the time of the Apostle and the coming of our Lord, during which, the mystery of iniquity shall not be at work, and no Millennium, therefore, between the creation of the world and the second coming of Christ. This agrees with the parable of the tares, Matt. xiii. 24: “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say unto the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” Our Lord's interpretation is in the 37th verse. “He that sowed the good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world:" the word translated sworld” here, is not the same as in the other verse: it is acar in the former it was Koopoo, signifying the whole planet, whereas this [cm] signifies the age or dispensation:t the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Let him hear and understand, that the children of the devil, the tares; and the children of God, the wheat; are both growing together till the harvest; and at the harvest, the Lord appears with his angels, the reapers; so that there shall be no period previous to his coming, in which there shall be an unmixed holy converted world, clear of tares. That is, there
* 2 Thess. ii.
+ The field is ó Koonloo, the world—38. The harvest is OUVTEAIA TOU dvos, the winding up of the age-39.
shall be no Millennium before Christ comes; Christ will usher it in when he comes, but there must be mixture until then,children of the kingdom, and children of the wicked one.
This view is further confirmed, by the revealed design of this present dispensation, which is to convert sinners out of the world. Read in the Acts of the Apostles,* how James interpreted Peter's embassy, namely, that the object was not to convert the world, but
to take a people out of the world from among the Gentiles. To this agrees the history of the Church, which has not been holding ground in the parts of the world where she has gone.
God has taken out a people, and the candlestick has been removed. Where are the seven churches of Asia? Where are the congregations that were in Corinth
? and in Carthage? Christianity took her people out, and then departed. Her course has resembled the emigrations of a pilgrim, rather than the acquisitions of a conqueror; because her object was not universal conversion, but the saving an elect church, the members of Christ's mystical body, to reign with him in righteousness over the new earth. This argument I put with all sincerity and fairness: I am not conscious of evading the point in any way: 0 no, my brethren, my object is not to make out an apparent case, by a wilfully ex-parte statement, but honestly to declare to you, what in my soul I believe to be the truth of God.
The argument thus put is strong: I have found and felt it so in conversation with persons of different views.
II.-Driven to the conviction, that these passages of Scripture, descriptive of the Lord's coming, must find their fulfilment at the commencement of the Millennium: the mind prepossessed against the subject, has recourse to another objection, and argues that the event, called in these passages the coming of the Lord, cannot mean his personal coming. It is impossible, continues the objector, to believe that our Lord himself will really stand, upon his feet, on the Mount of Olives, or reign over the Jewish nation, literally in person at Jerusalem; and who can believe, that with our Lord Jesus Christ himself personally reigning upon the earth, wickedness in any shape could again break out? Oh, no, it cannot be a personal coming: it must be some important movement of Providence over the nations, in figurative language called his coming.
Consider this objection. Let us for a moment grant the supposition that it is only a providential movement, and then, I ask, where is his personal coming revealed in all the Bible? where is there a passage left that predicts his personal coming? and surely that cardinal point of Christian truth, the coming of
* Chap. xv.