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ments of the earthen vessel, and again to form them into a beauteous vase, than to find the Christian Church amid the hostile and contending " sections” into which that which stands as the ostensible witness for God is now divided. The passive clay would offer no resistance to the attempt; but, amid these potsherds warring with the potsherds of the earth, we find that not only does brother now go to war with brother, and that before the unbelievers, but brother is not ashamed to call in the unbeliever to aid in a war of extermination against the opposing interest of a rival church. Unity of opinion or union of interest alone appears to have power to bind up the disciples of Christ in lasting fellowship. But let us suppose the union of all these heterogeneous and jarring materials effected by some new and miraculous exhibition of divine power, would the church, as a whole, bear a more faithful testimony to the truth of God, than did Israel of old, when the seven thousand witnesses for Jehovah were but the hidden ones amid a nation given up to idolatry ?* if we are to judge from the witness given by the sections of the church against each other, and against themselves, we must admit that it would not.
The concurrent testimony of the Protestant Churches against the Romish communion is that of IDOLATRY. The witness of Bengel, the celebrated prelate of Wurtemburg, though written in the last
ntury, may represent the present Protestant Churches of Germany and France. “ Our church to speak generally is become in the collective body of its members so corrupt a mass, such a pernicious leaven, as is sufficient to infect the whole world. With the exception of the few who cherish within them a spark of divine life, the rest of us have all the faults of the heathen wild olive tree.” And for those sections of the church which may probably contain the largest proportion of sincere christians, let the title of a most popular work, answer, “ Mammon or Covetousness THE Sin of the Christian Church.” 6 Covetousness which is IDOLATRY."
The testimony to the power of mammon is indisputable; and like the sun it shines every where, but the testimony to the heavenly calling of Christians and to their being the legitimate successors of those whose “ citizenship was in heaven,” and who “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, is comparatively weak and inefficient.
*“What then must be the state of Christendom at large? Look at the Roman churches every where. While God has his faithful servants among them, their general state is summed up in one scriptural sentence, the mystery of iniquity. Look at the Greek and Eastern Churches; notwithstanding all God's judgments, their general state, with some blessed exceptions, is altogether dead, and awfully far from the faith and practice of the gospel. The Lutheran and Reformed Churches on the Continent have also, to a vast extent the mere form of godliness without the power. The state of Christian Churches in America, is even worse than that of the British Churches, as has been sufficiently demonstrated in the Essays on the Church.
“ It is clear then, humbling and affecting as it is, that the Gentile Churches have so fallen away from the faith of Christ, as to an awful extent to be concluded in unbelief.” (Rom. xi, 32).—Bickersteth's Dangers of the Church of Christ, p. 41.
But He at whose word the beautiful creation sprang forth to light and being from the ruins of chaos, can call forth light out of darkness now, and cause harmony to take the place of disorder and confusion in the Church. We know that such an expectation is very prevalent amongst Christians ; let us then turn to that more sure word of prophecy to which we do well that we take heed, and see what He who knoweth the end from the beginning declares on this subject--whether the church is indeed so broken and marred “that it cannot be made whole again.”
One thing is clearly legible amid the rubbish and desolation of this once beauteous temple, the voice of prophecy has spoken truth. The mystery of iniquity which began to work in the days of the apostles, has been since more fully developed, there has come a falling away,— characterised in terms of clear and lucid import, but the question which remains is whether there will be a restoration subsequent to and repairing the effects of this apostasy.
Let us examine first the words of our great Prophet, our High Priest whose lips ever “ kept knowledge.” We find him sitting on the Mount of Olives, and his disciples coming to him, and asking him privately - What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (or rather age aiwv) events, which they doubtless expected would be synchronous with the destruction of that temple which rose in proud magnificence before them, and of which our Lord had said, that one stone should not be left upon another. He proceeds to answer both questions under one head, and doubtless, though not correspondent in time, the events are so similar in point of attendant circumstances, that what is spoken of the one is also in measure applicable to the other.
We find here the characteristics of the last days of the age, to be not a church resplendent in pristine glory, not a converted world, not peace universally prevalent, but wars, rumours of wars, famines, pestilencies, earthquakes, the disciples of Jesus delivered up to be afflicted, to be killed and hated of all nations for his name's sake. 66 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
But is the end here spoken of really the close of the christian dispensation? The answer to this question is in the 29th and subsequent verses. “ Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken : and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven : and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” We afterwards find the assurance, that the coming of the Son of Man should be “ as the days of Noah," and a distinct intimation, that the return of the Lord would be at the time at which some of the servants were not looking for him, but smiting their fellow-servants, and eating and drinking with the drunken; and that the midnight cry should find the virgins asleep, and many of them without oil in their lamps.
All this looks very unlike such a restoration of the church, and such a conversion of the world as we are often led by the pulpit and the press to anticipate. “When the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith in the earth ?” It is an inquiry full of awful meaning, and entirely in accordance with these delineations of the coming future. Such are also the descriptions of the closing scenes of this dispensation as given in the rest of the New Testament, all without exception portraying them in characters of gloom and darkness : such are the following;
1 Tim. iv. I. “ Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils ; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron ; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.”
2 Tim. iii. “ This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness” (professing christians), but denying the power thereof.
2 Pet. iii. 3. “ There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation,"
Jude 17. “ Beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken be
fore of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.”
These are dark descriptions; but do they apply to the whole period of the dispensation up to the coming of the Lord, that is, to the end of the age; or is there an interval of general prosperity, restoration and blessing. We find in the second chapter of the 1st John, “ Little children it is the last time : and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; WHEREBY we know that it is the last time."
The spirit of antichrist, in this passage, is given us by the Holy Ghost, as characteristic of the last time, and even at that time there were many antichrists; but we read further, that before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the gathering of the saints unto him, “there shall come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not that when I was yet with you I told you these things ? and now ye know what withholdeth that He might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of of iniquity doth already work : only He who now letteth will let, until He be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming...and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie : that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This is sufficiently explicit: the mystery of iniquity did already work in the Apostolic age, and this was to increase into more ungodliness; and finally antichrist, embodying the principles of evil, is destroyed, when the Lord comes in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those who know not God-leaving no interval of general blessing between the Apostolic age and the coming of the Lord. This is the concurrent testimony of the whole New Testament Scripture, and these dark outlines are filled up with appalling distinctness in the book of 66 The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”
In the eleventh of Romans, we have very plainly set before us the Jewish branches of the olive tree broken off and cast away for their unbelief —the Gentile churches taken out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and graffed into the olive tree: and the Holy Ghost thus warns that very church which has so fatally fallen away, from the true position of these branches: “ Thou wilt say, then, The branches were broken off,
that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity, but toward thee, goodness, IF THOU CONTINUE IN HIS
OTHERWISE THOU ALSO SHALT BE CUT OFF." If the branches of the wild olive tree, thus graffed in, have continued in the Lord's goodness, all that has been said is inapplicable to it. If not, what remains ? 66 Otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
Where, then, is the ground for believing that the disorder and desolation in the professing church are to be remedied by the diffusion of gospel truth, or by a pentecostal effusion of the Spirit ? We cannot find one promise to this effect in the New Testament, but, on the contrary, direct testimony against this hope ; and there is no analogy in the course of God's previous dealings with his creatures to lead us to suppose the church will be restored to all its original purity, and lustre, and unity. Jehovah has, in the riches of his grace, and through the infinite resources of his wisdom, brought in fresh and abounding blessing after every fresh instance of man's failure, but never by bringing that which has failed back to its original position. Our first parents were placed in Eden, They fell, and this fall brought forth into the view of admiring worlds, that first promise, which inclosed in itself, as in a bud not yet expanded, the substance of all the treasuries of covenant grace, which were hidden in the bosom of the ever blessed God; but did He bring them back into Eden? No; they were destined to tread a thorny pilgrimage through a cursed earth, to the valley of the shadow of death: beyond which faith opened a better Eden-a more enduring Paradise.
The same principle may be traced through the various circumstances narrated in the inspired records. Backsliding Israel was thus restored, and again the temple was rebuilt, but did she again behold in it the Shekinah? No; this glorious manifestution of the Divine presence departed from among them until He came, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” “He came unto his own, but his own received him not;" and the hour of darkness arrived, the crowning sin of Judah and Jerusalem was perpetrated; and their house was left unto them desolate. “ Because of unbelief they were broken off.”
Then there sprang from the tomb of Jesus, as from the corn of wheat which had fallen into the ground and died, and which was thenceforth to bear much fruit, the Christian church, risen with him and made partaker of the power of his resurrection, of life connected with their risen Lord, and of a heavenly calling. Jesus ascending on high led captivity