« AnteriorContinuar »
ing destruction is not meant! Having thus noticed Mr. B.'s reasons, I have one or two difficulties to state affecting his interpretations. The Jews are not mentioned in the whole epistle. Then, there is no evidence that at the time of the writing of this epistle, the Thessalonians experienced their persecutions mainly from the Jews. It is far from being probable that a little handful of Jews, in that province so distant from Palestine, afforded the church so much annoyance as to receive such a notice in this epistle, as their persecutors. And then the assumption that the Christians in all parts of the world were to receive such a glorious rest, when Jerusalem should be destroyed—that that event was followed by a grand and eternal jubilee to the church in every province, is glaringly contrary to fact. We look in vain to the history of that age, for any such luminous days to the church, as seem to figure in the fancy of Mr. B. It is certain that only sixteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem, Nero commenced his infernal persecutions, which spread as far as the Roman power, and lasted as long as his life, which ended only two years before that event. And only eleven years after that event, Domitian, whose hostility was second only to Nero's, assumed the imperial power. And surely, nothing took place in the interval answering to the descriptions of the text. Another difficulty : It was a rest with us with Paul, who was dead long before Jerusalem was destroyed. And so in the ordinary course of nature, a considerable portion of the Thessalonians must have been dead also. All then that Mr. B. has said to the contrary notwithstanding, the church may look forward to that rest which remaineth for the people of God, and the wicked be assured of an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power, ministered by the same hand that consummates the rest of the righteous.
2 Tim. 4: 6. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand; I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day, and not to
me only, but to all them that love his appearing. Who that had never read Mr. B. would dream of this passage, referring to the scenes of Jerusalem's destruction ? But there are some matters which need explaining before we are convinced. This was said by Paul in immediate prospect of death, which would show that the crown laid up for him was a crown to be receive ed after death. If a dying man were heard to speak of a recompense laid up for him, we should understand him as expecting it after death. Then we want evidence, as in the last paragraph, that Jerusalem's destruction was a scene of such triumph to the church—such a heaven upon earth. The Saviour speaks of it as a day of consternation and flight. And the facts answered to the prophecy-It was a day of “fleeing to the mountains,” when even christians aped with their lives, leaving as it were their garments behind for haste and consternation, and found a refuge in a little town by the name of Pella. This is the day which Mr. B.'s imagination transforms into a glorious Jubilee, a universal rest. And then Paul did not live to be crowned upon that day, nor did he expect to ; for nearly twenty years before it he pronounced himself as even now ready to be offered. But Mr. B. nothing daunted by such a difficulty, will have us believe, that though dead long before, Paul was crowned at this time. He says, “We have seen it stated somewhere in the course of our reading that, it was common to crown the dead victor [in the ancient games) with his crown the same as if he had been alive. It is certain, Adam in his Roman Antiquities, p. 472. speaking of their funeral rites says, 'the couch was sometimes decked with leaves and flowers, the bedstead of ivory, and if the deceased had received a a crown for his bravery, it was now placed on his head."" Now it is somewhat strange that the man who quotes Greek and Hebrew so profusely when there is no occasion for it, should send us to “ somewhere in the course of his reading" for a fact so novel, and for one on which so much depends. That a crown should be used in funeral rites as one of the trappings by which a corpse was laid out in state, in remembrance of some achievements, by which a man's life had been signalized,
iš a matter familiar to every tyro. But it happens that the text before us has no allusion to funeral rites—but to the exercises of the Grecian games; and Mr. B. perhaps would have given the world some instruction if he had told us where he read, that in games which consisted in wrestling and running races, (for these were not gladiatorial exercises) men were wont to be killed and he who was killed in a race could be the victor -and then such victors crowned after they were killed: and, after having admitted all this, we want to know in what fact consisted the crowning of Paul at the time of Jerusalem's destruction. What fact then transpired fit to be the basis of such a representation, what remembrance was made of the apostle of the Gentiles by any of the parties concerned in that tragedy? And then, admitting that his memory was some way honored there, could that be a crown laid up for him, the desire of which goes out with such a gush of emotion as is expressed in the text? Was Paul such an ambitious aspirant for posthumous fame?
Heb. 9: 27. And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. The question before us is, whether there be a judgment after death. And what says the text ? Here I can most conveniently express Mr. B.'s views and my own in the form of a dialogue. Balfour. One would think it a premature conclusion, that the soul is to be judged after death unless it first be proved that man has a soul. Answer. Whether it be a man's soul or body that is judged, it is here asserted that after death is the judgment. B. But this is the only text that speaks of a judgment after death, while the vast importance of the subject required, (if there be a judgment after death) that these things should stand forth in large capitals. Ans. This is not the only text that speaks of a judgment after death, as we have seen. And if it were, one assertion of the Holy Ghost should convince and satisfy us. B. Will you tell us when this judgment takes place; immediately after death or at the resurrection ? Ans. It is both immediately after death and at the resurrection; in the first case in the man's own conscience, and in the other amid the public formalities of a general judgment. But suppose we could not tell; so much would be true as God's assertion can make it, That after death is the judgment. But pray, Mr. B. will you tell us what kind of judgment this is that comes after death ? B. Yes, you have it in this-Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return. That is, after the body is dead it is adjudged to turn to dust. Ans. Then we are finally lodged in the conclusion that the judgment means the decomposition of the body. The invention of man would never have hit on that idea, unless urged by strong necessity. But when we find an instance in any writer, sacred or profane, where the word has this meaning, it will be time to consider whether that is the meaning here. Till then, the plain meaning of the passage may be taken for the true meaning. It is appointed unto all men once to die and after this the judgment.
2 Peter 3: 7. But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. This passage Mr. B. also refers to the day of God's temporal vengeance on the Jews, because the dissolution of kingdoms is sometimes described by such figures as that of the dissolving of the heavens and earth. And he says, “If it should be contended that verses 7-12. describe the end of this material system, why not also contend that verse 13. promises a new material heaven and earth which are to succeed their dissolution. If the one is understood literally, so must the other. But it is universally allowed, that the new heavens and the new earth refer to the kingdom of the Messiah, which was to succeed the Jewish dispensation and was predicted in the Old Testament.” What does the man mean by this ? Does he not know that we contend, and does not he himself contend for a new material system to be occupied by the material bodies, which the saints will have after the resurrection. If man has no soul separate from material bodies, in this or the coming world, surely those bodies must have a material dwelling place. But when I hear him assert, that it is universally allowed that the phrase, new heavens and new earth, here refers to the kingdom of the Mesis not quoted or alluded to in the whole essay; and that, while in the first sentence of the essay he promises to refer to all the passages which contain the word “krino.” And to show that it was not the effect of inadvertance this same passage is commented upon in the discussion of other subjects but even there its bearings on this subject are not alluded to. If this be not an artifice to cover up the truth it is not easy to say what is.
It may not be out of place here to introduce two passages from the Old Testament. Eccl. 12: 14, For God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing whether it be good or whether it be evil. Whether this passage would also be referred to the destruction of Jerusalem if Mr. B. had undertaken to notice its bearings on the question, I cannot say. Certainly the readers of the book in Solomon's day had nothing to lead them to such an interpretation. The writer brings this in as the winding up of a description of the scenes of old age and of death. He does it in this impressive manner -Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, &c. Judgment here means an examination of conduct, a bringing to light of secret things, and deciding whether they be good or evil, But in all the experience of this world there is nothing that fits such language.
Dan. 12: 2, 3. And many of them (or the multitude of them) that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. So far as it affects the question before us, I am willing to grant what Mr. B. labors to prove of the first verse of this chapter, viz. that it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, though I do not believe it. But this granted, it by no means follows, as Mr. B. assumes, that the second and third verses relate to the same events. The verses describe one event that concludes a series of events prophetically described by Daniel, extending from his day onward to the close of this