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years are as one day, has seen fit by these declarations to awaken men through every age to watchfulness and waiting for these awful events, the day and hour of which no man knoweth.
And how much more force does this sense give to the passages in which such expressions occur. subject of Christ's preaching, the sum of what the Son of God had to deliver to man was, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand: Repent; for that glorious state of things in which God alone shall be King, is now approaching: the time is fulfilled" g-the last dispensation is begun, and you know not how soon that glorious state may burst upon you, in which nothing that defileth, not a soul that doeth iniquity and hath not repented of his evil deeds, shall be able to stand for a moment, but shall be punished with everlasting destruction from before the presence of God. How sublime and awful this message-how worthy of Him who delivered it-worthy indeed of all men to be received!
But let us see the interpretation commonly put upon such passages. I will quote Matthew Henry's exposition of the same message, as delivered by John the Baptist. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at "hand:' the Gospel dispensation of 'the covenant of grace, the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all 'believers by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a kingdom of which Christ is the Sovereign and we must be the willing, loyal subjects of it. It is a kingdom of heaven, not of this world; a spiritual kingdom-its original from heaven, its tendency ⚫ to heaven. John preached this as at hand then it was at the door; 'to us it is come, by the pouring out
of the Spirit and the full exhibition of the riches of Gospel grace.
Now (1) this is a great induce'ment to us to repent. There is nothing like the consideration of Di‹ vine grace, to break the heart both for sin and from sin. That is evangelical repentance, which flows from a sight of Christ, from a sense of his love, and the hopes of pardon and forgiveness through I him. Kindness in conquering, abused kindness, humbling and melting. What a wretch was I 'to sin against such grace, against the law and love of such a king'dom. (2) It is a great encouragement to us to repent; Repent,
for your sins shall be pardoned upon your repentance. Return "to God in a way of duty, and he will, through Christ, return to you in a way of mercy.' The proclamation of pardon discovers and fetches in the malefactor who 'before fled and absconded. Thus are we drawn to it with the cords of a man and the bands of love." Matthew Henry on Matt. iii, 2.
Now this may be all most true and most important: but how is it to be got from the text? It is as though a man should say within himself, John, and our Saviour after him, preached the same Gospel as the Apostles that followed them; so I must make this sentence of theirs, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,' to include the doctrines and motives set forth in the New Testament generally.” But where is the force and meaning of the very words which we are told they used? Merged and lost in generalities and far fetched inferences. Would any man upon earth, reading the mere words of the text, ever have the inducements and arguments of Matthew Henry conveyed
f Matt. iv. 17. 8 Mark i, 15.
by it to his mind, unless he had first learnt the commentary by heart Not to mention, that all this renders the text quite inapplicable to ourselves, and to all who have lived since the days when Christ was upon earth. For to us the kingdom of heaven is not at hand, but is come; as Henry himself expressly says. So that, on his own shewing, he must have confounded and explained away the text: for he makes it contain arguments and inducements applicable to ourselves; whereas St. John's argument, the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” no longer applies to us; as Henry himself tells us.
But we proceed to some other passages which may seem to present difficulties.
Matt. xxi, 43. "Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits 'thereof." I do not see more difficulty here in adopting the literal sense of the kingdom of God," than in taking it to mean the Gospel or Gospel dispensation. The Gospel has not been taken from the Jews; they have lived in the midst of Gospel light: but their eyes have been blinded, that they could not discern it; so that the knowledge of its privileges and a participation in its blessings is what they have been deprived of, while these things have been granted to others. In like manner we would interpret the text;—that all participation in the blessedness of the kingdom of God, the reign of the Messiah, shall be taken from them and given to others, who shall bring forth the fruits thereof. What these fruits are, the Apostle tells us in Rom. xiv, 17— "For the kingdom of God is not
́ meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Doubtless these fruits are produced in a measure under the preaching of the Gospel now; but in the kingdom of God they will be perfected. The kingdom of God is the end and perfection of the Gospel dispensation: so that it is not to be wondered at, that in many passages where it is mentioned it may admit the sense of the Gospel or Gospel dispensation; as in some of our Lord's parables, and in 1 Cor. iv, 20, &c. But let us never lose sight of the plain literal meaning of the words of Scripture. I mean not to say, that this expression is never used metaphorically, or in a lower sense; but let its true and full meaning be ever borne in mind.
In Mark x, 15, (and the parallel passage Luke xviii, 17,) mention is made of "receiving the kingdom of God as a little child," where we might surely suppose that "receiving the Gospel" was intended: yet it follows immediately, that whosa does not so receive it shall not enter therein; clearly showing that a place or state is meant.
One other passage only I shall notice, which your Correspondent has already made some observations upon: it is Luke, xvii, 20, 21. “ And ⚫ when He was demanded of the Pharisees, When the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said: The kingdom of God cometh ' not with observation; (marg: with outward shew ;) neither shall they say, Lo here, or Lo there! for be'hold, the kingdom of God is within you." Now we are not to interpret one text so that it be repugnant to another and since there are several texts, which speak of " seeing"
*On Matt. iv, 17, where Christ himself preaches the same thing, he says, that "the kingdom of heaven was not reckoned to be fully come, till the pouring out of the Spirit after Christ's ascension."
ON THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
the kingdom of God, " entering therein, sitting down in it," &c. it is clear that there must be some other meaning of the kingdom of God, besides that in which it is said to be within a man. This other meaning is the literal meaning of the very words themselves; a meaning which is perfectly well adapted to most places in which the phrase occurs. Let us see then, whether this single text may not easily and without any violence be so interpreted, as to prevent its clashing with
Our Saviour is addressing Pharisees, covetous and ambitious men, looking to the kingdom of God as a state of temporal and earthly grandeur, in which they, as the children of Abraham, should occupy the highest and foremost places. tells them therefore, that they were altogether mistaken in their expectations; that the kingdom of God would not possess this vain earthly pomp; (it will possess glory indeed,h but not of the kind which they imagined;) that in their present state it was for them to look within, to see that the kingdom of God was established there; for that without its fruits there (righteousness, peace, love and childlike humility) they could never hope to enter into the future glorious kingdom of Christ and of God. And with this interpretation the rest of the chapter perfectly agrees. Christ immediately turns to his disciples and, with this conversation fresh before them, begins to speak of that his appearing, which was to usher in the kingdom of which the Pharisees had such mistaken ideas, and for which they were so little prepared. He tells them not to go after or follow those who should say
h 1 Thess. ii, 12.
Since writing the above, I have noticed another passage which may seem to present difficulty, Matt. xii, 28; "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” Yet this was spoken in the very same year in which the kingdom of God was declared by our Saviour to be at hand, and the disciples were taught and to pray, thy kingdom come : nothing surely had occurred in the interval from which it could be understood, that the kingdom, in that It was spoken also a year or two before the other instances already quoted, in which a parable was spoken to some who thought that the kingdom should immediately appear. The expression must therefore be here used, not in its original and full sense; but, as in some cases already referred to, for that dispensation which should issue in the kingdom of God.
sense, was now come.
i Luke xvii, 20—30.
The claim recently made by certain individuals in Scotland and London to a supernatural Gift of Tongues, is a subject well worthy the attentive consideration of the
christian community. The subject naturally divides itself into two objects for investigation: the first is, whether the gift of tongues, as originally conferred at the day of Pentecost, was a gift to the church in perpetuity; and if so, secondly, whether the claims of these persons, are really manifestations of its revival. To the first of these only I shall now direct my attention.
In the 2d chap. of Joel we find a prophecy, which foretels the destruction of the Jews for their sins, and their subsequent restoration and blessedness; after which "they are no more to be made a reproach among the heathen," and " are never more to be ashamed:" a this must unquestionably be still a future event, as they are up to the present time, both ashamed" and a reproach." It is then said, and it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, and also upon the servants ' and upon the handmaidens in those days will I pour out my Spirit, and
I will shew wonders in the heavens
ON THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST.
restoration and and the blessedness foretold in the preceeding verses, then it must yet be a future thing; for the restoration and the blessedness are still future. But we are told by Peter, that the descent of the Spirit occurred in his day: we are therefore compelled to seek for another explanation of the passage; and I think Peter himself furnishes us with it: for in quoting the words of Joel he gives us the interpretation of the word "afterward" by substituting in its place in the last days." It would therefore appear to intimate, that it was to be at a future time, during another dispensation, after the then dispensation had run its course; then "will I pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, &c." It was called "the last days" in contradistinction to the former days; the spiritual dispensation, as opposed to the paradisaical, the antediluvian, the patriarchal and the Mosaical dispensations. This view, if correct, will throw light upon the whole prophecy and its alleged accomplishment in the Apostle's days; for if so, "the last days" comprehend the whole spiritual or christian dispensation; and the events foretold by Joel will be expected to characterize that whole period. We have its commencement marked by the descent of the Holy Ghost with power ; and its termination, by "the great and terrible day of the Lord," which unquestionably means the day of Christ's second coming. We are therefore still within the period termed the last days," and may properly expect the foretold characteristics of that period.
Now let us see what these features
a vv. 19, & 26, 27, ↳ v. 28. • Acts ii. * (
are, which shall distinguish this dispensation from the preceding ones. If we read the first four verses of Acts ii, we find the miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit endowing the disciples with the gift of tongues. When this was noised abroad, it attracted multitudes to witness the marvellous occurrence; which appeared to them so utterly unaccountable, -so contrary to their preconceived notions,—that they declared the men were drunk, being "filled with new wine." But what says St. Peter? These are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day; but this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, &c." Here he quotes the prophecy, substituting the last days" for afterward." He then makes a solemn appeal to them; reproaching them for their rejection of Christ and their continued hardness of heart; and concludes his address by urging them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost; for the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar of, even as many as the Lord our God 'shall call." d Here we see the Holy Ghost promised to the multitude who were addressed, if they would repent and be baptized; and I think it is clear, that this could not mean, simply the influences of the Spirit, (which is frequently contended for,) since these were not at the time the subject of discussion, or observation; but the Holy Ghost with power, as a miraculous gift; which in fact they then saw before them, enabling the disciples to speak with tongues, and the news of which had drawn all these people together.
Because the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have for many centuries
ceased to be exhibited in the Church, it has been customary to consider them, as only intended for the first establishment of Christianity; and to interpret this promise of the Holy Ghost as simply referring to its sanctifying influences upon men's minds : but this, I would submit, is rather begging the question, and assuming that which it would be difficult to prove. The multitude were not drawn together to witness the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, but his miraculous manifestations; and I can see no reason whatever for concluding, that "the Holy Ghost" in verse 4 is a different thing from "the Holy Ghost" in verse 38: I regard them as one and the same.
Now let us see to whom this promise is made. It is not simply to the apostles and disciples, as the introducers of a new dispensation to testify their divine mission; but to the multitude who had collected together to witness these extraordinary occurrences : "the promise is to you," says Peter;-and not only to them as the primitive church, but to their children;"--and not only to their children, as the next generation, but "to them that are afar off;" and not only to these as distant witnesses of the truth, but even to as many as the Lord our God shall call;" which calling of God, continuing to the end of the christian dispensation, carries this promise along with it till its termination at the day of Christ's appearing.
This view of the subject is further confirmed, if we observe that which is recorded in the 10th chapter of Acts; where the Holy Ghost fell on the assembly collected together in the house of Cornelius, and they spake with new tongues. Had this gift been intended as a seal or testimony, in order to convince others of their
d vv. 38, 39.