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Moses were to be abolished, and their master's kingdom was not a temporal but a spiritual dominion, in which all people, nations, and languages were to be governed, not by external force, but by the operation of truth upon their minds, through the preaching of the gospel.
Farther, that the apostles, by the coming of Christ, which they represented as at hand when they wrote their epistles, meant his coming to establish his spiritual kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, and not his coming to put an end to this mundane system, is evident from what Christ himself told them, Matt. xvi. 28, “There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.' And agreeably to this account of the coming of Christ and of the end of all things, I observe, that every passage of their epistles, in which the apostles have spoken of these things as at hand, may, with the greatest propriety, be interpreted of Christ's coming to establish his everlasting kingdom over all people, nations, and languages, by destroying Jerusalem, putting an end to the law of Moses, and spreading the gospel through the world. Thus, 1 Cor. x. 11, “These things
... are written for our admonition, upon whom tén râv aióvwv, the ends of the ages are come,' means the end of the age under the law, and the beginning of the age under the Messiah. Philip. iv. 5, · Let
your moderation be known to all men: the Lord is nigh ;' namely, to destroy the Jews, your greatest adversaries. Heb. ix. 26, But once επί συντελεία των αιώνων, , at the conclusion of the ages, (the Jewish Jubilees,) he hath been manifested to abolish sin-offering by the sacrifice of himself.' Heb. x. 25, ' Exhorting one another daily, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching :' the day of Christ's coming to destroy Jerusalem and the Jewish state. Ver. 37, ‘For yet a very little while, and he who is coming will come, and will not tarry.' James v. 7, 'Wherefore, be patient, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Ver. 8,
Be ye also patient : strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord (to destroy the Jews, your persecutors,) draweth nigh. Ver. 9, Behold, the Judge standeth before the door. 1 Pet. iv. 7, · The end of all things, (the end of Jerusalem and of the temple, and of all the Mosaic institutions,) hath approached. Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.' 1 John ii. 18, Young children, it is the last hour (of the Jewish state); and, as ye have heard (from Christ, in his prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem,) that the antichrist cometh, so now there are many antichrists; whence we know that it is the last hour (of the Jewish state).'
“ 2. There is another coming of Christ spoken of by the apostles, different likewise from his coming to judge the world, and to put an end to the present state of things ; namely, his coming to destroy the man of sin. 2 Thess. ii. 8,· Him the Lord will consume by the breath of his mouth, and will render ineffectual by the bright shining of his coming. This singular event, which will contribute greatly to the honor of God, and to the good of his church, being to be accomplished by a visible and extraordinary interposition of the power of Christ in the government of the world, is agreeably to the scripture style fitly called the coming of the Lord, and the bright shining of his coming. But this coming is nowhere in scripture said to be at hand.
“3. There is likewise a day or coming of Christ, spoken of by Paul, different from his coming to judgment, and from both the former comings; I mean, his releasing his people from their present trial, by death. 1 Cor. i. 8, · He also will confirm you until the end without accusation, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Philip. i. • He who hath begun in you a good work, will be completing it until the day of Jesus Christ.' 1 Thess. v. 23, “ May your whole person, the spirit, and the soul, and the body, be preserved unblamable unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' It is true, the release of Christ's servants from their present trial by death is ac
complished, for the most part, by no extraordinary display of his power : yet it is fitly enough called his day and coming; because by his appointment all men die, and by his power each is carried to his own place after death. Besides, his servants in particular, being put on their duty like soldiers, must remain at their several posts, till released by their commander; and when he releases them, he is fitly said to come for that purpose.
6 4. Besides all these, there is a day or coming of the Lord to judge the world, and to put an end to the present state of things. This coming Christ himself hath promised, Matt. xvi. 27, • The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels ; and then he shall reward every man according to his work.'* Now, this being a real personal appearing of Christ in the body, it is more properly than any other of his comings called the day and coming of Christ. And the purposes of it being more important than those of his other comings, the exertions of his power for accomplishing them will be most signal and glori
On that occasion, likewise, he will appear in far greater majesty than formerly. For whereas, during his first abode on earth, his dignity and perfections were in a great measure concealed under the veil of his human nature ; at his second coming, his glory as the image of the invisible God, and as having all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily, will be most illustriously displayed, by his raising the dead, judging the world, destroying the earth, punishing his enemies, and rewarding his servants. Hence this coming is, with great propriety, termed the revelation of Jesus Christ ; + and the day of his revelation, when he shall be glorified in his saints, and admired of all them that believe.'
Thus it appears, that when the apostles wrote, there were four comings of Christ to happen; three of them figurative,
* But see p. 139.
† But see p. 143.
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, 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
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