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and he was so active in his exertions for others, that one night, on recollecting that he had done no benefit to any one in the course of the day, he exclaimed with sorrow, “ I have lost a day.”
Titus, as emperor, seems to have been an example of a ruler using rightly the power given to him : for, notwithstanding his benevolence, he was a “terror to evil-doers ;” and it is even said, the criminals who had escaped punishment in the former reign now received the due reward of their deeds : and he carefully silenced all mischievous persons, false witnesses, and disturbers of the public peace.
It was in the first year of the reign of Titus, on the twentyfourth of August, A. D. 79, that the most tremendous eruption of the volcano of Mount Vesuvius took place; on which occasion the two large towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii were completely overwhelmed. Pliny, commander of the Roman fleet in the Adriatic, took a boat and went to the place of danger, from which everyone was trying to escape ; for his curiosity to observe the progress of the eruption overcame every other feeling. But he stayed too long; and he was suffocated by the sulphureous vapours in the midst of his observations. This extraordinary man had pursued his favourite studies with such ardour, notwithstanding the toils of a military life, that he had one hundred and sixty volumes of original notes on various authors; and thirty books of the “ Natural History” which he compiled still exist. These were preserved by his nephew Pliny, surnamed the Younger, of whom we shall speak again. It was he who found the body of the naturalist, on searching for it, three days afterwards. It was not till A.D. 1713, that the towns so suddenly buried in the earth were accidentally discovered. Some labourers digging for water found some remains which led to further examination ; and Herculaneum and Pompeii were found almost in their original state, many feet underground. As the streets and houses, with all their contents, were found just as they existed so many centuries before, we can have a certain knowledge of the fashions of those times : but this is far less instructive than the example, given to us, of destruction as sudden as that of Sodom and Gomorrah; for in these Roman cities people were about their daily work just as usual, and employed in their different pursuits as we may be at this hour. And so we are assured, in
CLOSE OF THE REIGN OF TITUS.
Scripture, it will be in the day of the Lord's coming, which cannot be far distant from us (Matth. xxiv. 40).
In A.D. 80, a great fire took place at Rome, which destroyed the Capitol, or temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, with other public buildings. In order to repair this loss, an edict was passed, that the annual tribute which all the Jews had been accustomed to pay in support of their temple worship, should be raised for this purpose. They were thus instrumental in rebuilding an idol temple whilst their own lay in ruins : and this increased the bitter feeling of degradation and their desire to recover their independence.
In the reign of Titus, his general, Agricola, became master of South Britain, and began seriously to attempt the civilization of the natives. Their rude dwellings were gradually exchanged for substantial houses : temples and even theatres were built, and the dress and manners of their conquerors in some measure imitated. The sons of the chiefs were taught the Latin tongue, and instructed in the arts; so that, in the course of time, the civilized islanders began to consider the Romans as their friends. On account of the successes of Agricola, the senate saluted Titus with the title of Imperator, which was the usual compliment after a victory, and which he had received fourteen times before. This empty honour afforded him a very brief pleasure; for he was taken ill shortly afterwards in the great amphitheatre, which he had caused to be built for the public entertainment. Some thought it was a fever, others suspected he had been poisoned by his wicked brother Domitian. In his dying hours he declared there was only one action of his life that he regretted; and it was afterwards generally supposed he meant the nomination of Domitian as his successor, A.D. 81. In looking back through his history, how many things must the historian view with painful regret, and even with wonder that the conscience of a heathen was not affected by the remembrance. But it is too frequently supposed that former excesses, and especially the sins of youth, are covered by improvement of conduct in later life. Alas! how different are the thoughts of man from the thoughts of God. It is only those who have learnt to measure themselves, not by others, but by God's standard of righteousness and true holiness, that can feel no covering for sin will do but that which he has himself provided in his well-beloved Son; and even those who can rejoice in this
THE PRESENT DISPENSATION.
great salvation will be ready to confess in their dying hours, as an eminent Christian once did
“ Life's one blot in every page,
Childhood, youth, and riper age."
THE PRESENT DISPENSATION. CONTRAST BETWEEN THE JEWISH
AND CHRISTIAN DISPENSATIONS.—THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.-OUTLINES OF THE EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS, TO THE CORINTHIANS, TO THE ROMANS, AND TO THE
EPHESIANS.- LAST EPISTLES OF PETER, PAUL, AND JUDE. THROUGH the whole course of our history we have been tracing the goodness of the Creator, and the failure of the creature in every position. Man failed in the garden of Eden: and in the favoured circumstances of Israel, kings, priests, prophets, and people proved again and again that in the flesh dwelleth no good thing. The national rejection of the Gospel put an end to the national blessings of the Jews; and their peculiar dispensation completely ended at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple : for, according to the law, the sacrifices could not be offered anywhere but in that appointed place. It is not my present object to touch upon their future national repentance or restoration. I wish rather to point out to you the character of the New Dispensation, commonly called the Christian dispensation, which will exist till the Lord's second appearing.
God is not now dealing with a particular nation, and suffering other nations to be ignorant, or giving them up to a reprobate mind because they do not like to retain the knowledge of Him (Acts xvii. 30; Rom. i. 28). On the contrary, that particular nation, even Israel, is blinded (Acts xxviii. 26-27; Rom. xi, 25) and salvation is now proclaimed to the Gentiles, that is, to all nations. God is gathering a great multitude, which no man can number, out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues : and for this purpose the Gospel will be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations, before the end of the dispensation comes. Another grand distinction between the two dispensations is, that whereas the obedience of Israel secured outward honour and prosperity in the world (see
CONTRAST BETWEEN THE JEWISH
Deut. xxviii. 1-14), the obedience of the Church brings persecution and outward trial (2 Tim. ii. 12). It is plain that in a national church, as that of Israel, the profession would raise no opposition if all were faithful : but, on the contrary, where the church is an election that is gathered out of a nation, as in the present dispensation, there will be opposition, if all are faithful to their calling. Hence the continual instruction of the Lord and His apostles-the prospect of tribulation and persecution always set before the disciples of Christ the marked contrast always drawn between them and the world.
In the history of the Church we shall find this difference and the consequent persecution continue, till it so far declines as to have fellowship with the world, and to exchange its frowns for its smiles.
In tracing this decline, we shall again learn the often repeated lesson of the failure of the creature under all circumstances : and we must also observe, that the greater the blessing, the more striking is the failure under it. It might have been supposed that, even if man failed to walk uprightly in the very presence of the Lord upon earth, and the darkness was made more manifest by the bright shining of the Light from above, yet when the Holy Ghost came down from heaven, and the bodies of the believers in Jesus became his temple (John xiv. 17; 1 Cor. vi. 15—19), as the members of Christ, there could have been no failure. But this supposition is fully disproved by the whole history of the Church. Paul, who knew more, perhaps, of the power of the in-dwelling Spirit and of union with the risen Lord than any one besides, plainly says, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” This, rightly understood, will explain all that would otherwise appear unaccountable in the history of the Church of God; and it is this that makes the believer in Jesus look forward with such joy to that day when he shall enjoy the redemption of his body as well as that of his soul (Rom. viii. 23), when he shall be like Jesus, seeing him as he is (1 John ïïi. 2).
In considering the two dispensations, we must also remember that the Jews were to be the witnesses, or representatives of God upon earth, according to the manner in which he had at that time revealed himself in the Law; and Christians, on the other hand, were to be the witnesses or representatives of Him as he revealed himself in the Gospel.
AND CHRISTIAN DISPENSATIONS.
In order to bring one example of this, and the most simple that occurs to me, I refer you to Luke ix. 54–56. Christ had been rejected by some of the Samaritans; and his disciples asked if they should command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, as Elijah did; but he rebuked them, saying, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them. And they went to another village.” Thus, that which was according to the spirit of the Jewish dispensation, when God was trying by the law whether man would obey or not, was not according to the spirit of the Christian dispensation ; in other terms, the spirit of the grace of God. And as the spirit was different so would be the position and the circumstances. The witnesses of Jehovah, as He manifested himself upon the mount in thunderings and lightnings, in great power and glory, might, if they were faithful, execute His judgments and be a powerful and glorious people upon earth : but His witnesses, as he mani. fested himself on the cross, would, if they were faithful, show forth his grace, and be a weak, despised, and rejected people upon earth. But, alas! as we traced the unfaithfulness of the former, so we shall have to trace that of the latter through the whole course of the dispensation ; though not so apparently in either case at the commencement.
As there is no church history which can be entirely depended on, beyond that given in the New Testament, it will be more important to dwell a little upon that, as the only safe guide.*
The Lord himself, in his parable of the wheat and the tares (Matth. xiii.) gave his people no room to expect that the world would be filled with the children of God, or that the things which offend and the evil-doers would be rooted out before the end of the world (literally, the age). On the contrary, he tells us that the children of the kingdom and the children of the wicked one will be scattered through the world till the end. The serpent who had wrought such mischief in the garden of Eden, was equally busy in the Lord's spiritual garden among the children of God. The enemy introduced his children and his doctrines whilst men slept : there was a want of watchfulness in
* Whilst preparing this for the press, a pamphlet has been put into my hands, entitled, “The First Five Centuries of the Church, or the Early Fathers no Safe Guides." By Baptist W. Noel, M.A. Of this I have taken advantage in the following pages.