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but the fourth a real personal appearance ; that these different comings are frequently spoken of in scripture ; and that, although the coming of Christ to destroy Jerusalem, and to establish his everlasting kingdom, be represented by the apostles as then at hand, no passage from their writings can be produced, in which his personal appearance to judge the world is said, or even insinuated, to be at hand.* The truth is, if the different comings of Christ are distinguished as they ought to be, we shall find that the apostles have spoken of each of them according to truth ; and that the opinion which infidels are so eager in maintaining, and which some Christians have unadvisedly espoused, to the great discredit of the inspiration of the apostles,t as if they believed the day of judgment was to happen in their lifetime, hath not the least foundation in scripture.”
[It cannot be necessary here to repeat the argument on pp. 101 – 106. Still two or three questions suggest themselves, which will perhaps occur to other readers of Dr. Macknight, as well as to myself.
1. Is it wonderful that readers of the Bible should fail to distinguish “ different comings” which the Bible itself never distinguishes; and which, though“ frequently spoken of in scripture,” are spoken of throughout as one and the same?
2. After assigning to the three first comings (which must of course be first served) all the passages which are applicable to them even upon Dr. Macknight's own principles of interpretation, will any be found remaining for the fourth coming; and shall we not be forced to believe in this, if we believe in it at all, merely upon the authority of tradition, and that, possibly, a tradition founded wholly upon misinterpretation? Or is it the duty of the interpreter to exercise a careful economy as he goes along, and be sure, at all events, to save proof-texts enough for the fourth coming ?
3. Is it not gratuitous toil, to construct a complicated and cum
* Certainly none in which the contrary is said, or even insinuated. † But see p. 149.
brous theory of four comings to account for expressions in the Bible, which are as easily explained by a single coming ? Does not this seem like the Ptolemaic theory of the universe compared with the Copernican? Is it not better, let me ask, to allow the little earth of our theological notions to revolve about the great sun of Scripture, than to require sun, moon, and stars, all to revolve, by a complicated system of various and opposite movements, direct and retrograde, around our own diminutive planet? What if it be ours ? Must sun, moon, and stars, all make obeisance to us, as to Joseph in his dream? Nay; rather, “ let God be true, but every man a liar."')
[The following extracts, from writers who will not be suspected of any want of orthodoxy, and one of whom I am happy to count among my personal friends, for the most part met my eye only in season for the printer to add them here.]
A. ONLY ONE FUTURE COMING OF CHRIST TAUGHT IN
THE NEW TESTAMENT.
From a “ Historical Sketch of Opinions concerning the Second Coming
of Christ,” by Rev. NATHANIEL Bouton, in the Congregational Journal, Oct. 25, 1849.
“ Similar to the foregoing have been the opinions advanced on this subject within our own time. The noted Edward Irving, of London, believed in the personal and visible reign of Christ, and preached that it was near at hand. He claimed also for himself and followers the gift of tongues and power of miracles. Others still more confident have assumed to fix the year and day when Christ would come in his glory to destroy the wicked, to raise the righteous dead, and to establish his personal reign upon the earth. While others still, without fixing the period of the advent, profess to believe that it is nigh, even at the door ; — that the wicked will then all be destroyed; the earth burnt up or renovated ; the martyrs, if not all the righteous dead, be raised to life, which is the first resurrection ;' and then, as some hold, Christ will reign spiritually and invisibly ; or, as others, visibly and in person with his saints, a thousand years.
“ But where, in all the Scriptures, is there one word to warrant such sentiments ? The New Testament teaches but one future coming of Christ, which is his second and final coming, to raise all the dead, and to judge the world of mankind. Not a single passage in the New Testament teaches that Christ will ever again come to our world to reside ; much less that he will make it his abode a thousand years, and reign over his saints visibly and in person. Not a passage intimates the time, either the day, the year, or the century, when he will so come. But again and again, we are told that the time is unknown. How presumptuous then for ignorant and short-sighted mortals to pry into the secrets of the Almighty ; to enter into calculations about the end of all things, which angels would not dare to do. When from dark and mysterious prophetic numbers a conclusion is arrived at that the Son of God is coming, the wicked to be destroyed, and saints to reign with him on earth; then the terrible effect of such presumption is revealed either in wild fanaticism, in the neglect of the ordinary duties of life, in mental gloom and madness, or often in hardened defiance and blasphemous infidelity.”
B. FIGURATIVE OR SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION.
[In some passages in the Scriptures speaking of a resurrection of the dead, a figurative or spiritual interpretation is quite familiar, if not unavoidable. Of this class are the following :
Ezek. xxxvii. 1, “ The hand of the Lord was upon me, and
carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones. (2) And caused me to pass by them round about : and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and lo, they were very dry. (3) And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? and I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. (4) Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 0 ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. (5) Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: (6) And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live ; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. (7) So I prophesied as I was commanded : and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. (8) And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above : but there was no breath in them. (9) Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. (10) So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. (11) Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost : we are cut off for our parts. (12) Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. (13) And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, (14) And shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land : then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.”
Isa. xxvi. 19, “ Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust : for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. (20) Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee : hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. (21) For behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity : the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."
John v. 25, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live."
Eph. ii. 1, " And you hath he quickened [brought to life), who were dead in trespasses and sins. ... (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, (5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; (by grace ye are saved ;) (6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.”
Col. ii. 12, “ Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. ... (iii. 1) If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”
Rev. xx. 4, “ And I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands ; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (5)... This is the first resurrection. (6) Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection : on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
In like manner, some both of the Jewish Rabbins and of Christian interpreters have explained figuratively the very express language in Dan. xii. 2 ; - a passage which has been more appealed to than any other in the Old Testament, in support of the doctrine of a literal resurrection; and upon which, more than any other, the representations in the New Testament relating to this subject appear to have been based. Of the following extracts, the first may serve as an example of interpretation by double sense, and the others of simple figurative interpretation.]