« AnteriorContinuar »
This, we think, will be, to instruct and lead the various sects and divisions of the churches of God, to a full understanding of, and entire reconciliation with, all that regards their real interests and happiness in his worship and service; and this both public and social,-in righteousness and true holiness; and so, in a more literal sense, “turning the heart of the fathers to the children,” &c. See Luke 1. 17.
Compare Matt. xv11. 10–12, with Mark ix. 11–13.
“The belief that Elijah was personally to appear again,” Mr. Brooks observes, “was almost universal among the early Fathers, as may be seen in the treatise on this subject by Dr. John Alsted, translated by Burton.”
And Mr. Fry conceives that“ the ministry of Elijah is to be a dispensation which concerns mainly Israel and their land."
“ The mission of John the Baptist preceding the First Advent, prefigured and symbolized this, and many of the children of Israel did he turn unto the Lord his God.' But the general rejection of the meek and lowly Saviour, and his betrayal and murder at that time, brought a curse and not a blessing upon the land, under which it lies to this day. But still Elijah shall come first 'before the great and dreadful day, and restore all things,' shall bring back the hearts of parents and children together, and arrange the survivors of Israel, a people prepared for their appearing Messiah, as Moses arranged them at Mount Sinai, when Jehovah descended, and the people entered into the first covenant. And this, I believe, to be the times of the restitution of all things,' mentioned Acts 11. 20, 21.”*
* Fry's Observations, &c. p. 21.
THE SECOND ADVENT OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Serious and important as are the preceding subjects of which we have treated, they must yield to the magnitude and solemnity of that which is now to occupy our attention. When the Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself in our nature, it was expressly to restore us to his own glorious image. He satisfied Divine justice, expiating the guilt of sin, and thus averting our punishment by a suffering life, and by a most cruel and ignominious death. But before his departure, he assured his people that they should enjoy his presence through the Holy Spirit, even to the end of the world, (the present dispensation, which he calls but "a little while;" that then he would “come again and receive them unto himself,” “that they might behold his glory which he had with the Father before the foundation of the world;"—and that he would reward them, and unite them with him in “his kingdom and reign,” restoring all things to, their original purity and excellence. Then will his attributes of justice and mercy be triumphantly displayed to an admiring universe.
Thus we find, that the consolations of the Holy Spirit, would be necessary for the support of his suffering people until his RETURN; which hope of revisiting them he tendered as most calculated to animate them for the propagation of the truth, and to uphold them during their adherence to it, whether in life or in death.
Our Lord opened the ancient prophecies to his immediate followers, as they were able to comprehend them. He expounded unto the two disciples, on their way to Emmaus, “ in all the Scriptures concerning himself;"—perhaps, partly embracing those which were unfulfilled, as those which were accomplished in him; partly perhaps in connexion with those afterwards delivered in the Gospel, and whose gradual developement should prove a constant earnest of his re-appearance. These speedily commenced with the persecutions of his flock,—the punishment and dispersion of the Jewish nation,—the rise of the grand apostacy, &c.; —which, together with a multitude of others, have been all infallible attestations of the divinity of his mission, the certainty of his resurrection, his omnipotent guidance and government of his church, and finally, of the world.
It must be admitted, that the hour of death is calculated to exclude every other consideration than that of the unseen world into which we are about to enter, and the subsequent coming of our Lord. But we conceive that by no other consideration can our spiritual life be so well maintained and advanced as by the latter; and further, that this hope can be vivid only in proportion to our contemplation of its comparatively near approach. Let us endeavour to instance this in ordinary life. Had we the assurance that we should shortly see and embrace a dear friend whom we esteem and love beyond all earthly connexions, but whose absence we had endured for many years, we should proportionally rejoice; our hearts would overflow with delight at the thoughts of his presence and continuance with us: but if informed after this, that we might expect to see him only towards the close of a long life, our feelings would be damped, our pleasurable sensations would subside, and, ere long, we might become callous to his return. Such is the effect of a prospect too distant; and which is no more than a faithful representation of what results from the view of the Redeemer's Advent, when imagined to take place after more than a thousand years. It is impossible but that his children, if they entertain any just conceptions of their Saviour, can otherwise than "love" and long for “his appearing, and that quickly," as he has himself announced ;-at once to relieve them from the temptations of Satan, the grievous burden of sin, and to introduce them unto the abundant joy of his presence and glory. Correct and habitual views, therefore, of the nature and importance of our Lord's Second Advent are at all times best calculated to console and cheer his followers. Shall we not say with the apostle John, in reply to Christ's assurance, to this effect, “Even so, come Lord Jesus ?"*
But objectors may observe, that " as the souls of God's children enter into a paradisiacal state after death, why should they be so solicitous for the near approach of the Lord's Advent?” We reply, that they possess no competent knowledge of the state of their souls after death, no positive objects on which to fix their hopes; whereas the union of their glorified souls and bodies at the resurrection must constitute a more perfect paradise ; when they “ shall see Christ as he is,”-in his glory ;-Him on whom their highest hopes have been fixed;—with whom they have been spiritually upheld, and in whose likeness they shall be.*
* “How very few either of pious ministers or laymen do really comfort the afflicted with the words of the apostle in 1 Thess. iv. 13—18. Though the instruction is so plain and express, and the time of the saints' re-appearance sa much nearer, the generality do nevertheless view this passage “ as a dead letter, and prefer to offer consolation of human suggestion.”—Abdiel's Essays.
It was towards the close of the third and beginning of the fourth centuries, that Papal influence caused the doctrine of Christ's prémillennial Advent to be rejected: it was merged in the final judgment. And thus, when they admitted a Millennium at all, it was an imaginary one of ecclesiastical supremacy and worldly pomp. Consequently, this was one of the deepest wounds which was ever inflicted on the vitality of the church. She no longer perceived that her militant state in the wilderness was to continue till the reappearing of her Lord, and that the nations opposed to her spiritual glory were to be ruled by him “with a rod of iron” before she could be exalted as a “bride” to “the marriage-supper of the Lamb." This corrupt church was easily led by Satan to admit of other intercessors than Christ,—to adopt other means of reconciliation with God, —and to invent modes of reconciliation with sin too; till at length she became the chief persecutor of Christ's "little flock.” By this mournful example we perceive the great danger of discarding so important a doctrine of revelation.
“ Afterwards the doctrine” (of Christ's Millennial reign) “grew into disrepute for various reasons. Both Jewish and Christian writers have debased it with a mixture of fables ; they have described the kingdom of Christ more as a sensual than a spiritual kingdom; and thereby they have not only exposed themselves, but, what is infinitely worse, the
* Bishop Hurd observes, “ The same oracles which attest the first coming of Christ, as if impatient to be confined to so narrow bounds, overflow as it were into the future and expatiate on the principal facts of his second coming. By this divine artifice, if I may so speak, the two dispensations, the Jewish and the Christian, are closely tied together, or rather compacted together, into one harmonious system. The events which both these prophetic schemes point out, are so distributed through all time, as to furnish successively to the several ages of the world the means of a fresh and still growing conviction.”