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ON THE ADVENT AND KINGDOM OF CHRIST,
AND THE EVENTS CONNECTED THEREWITH.
The Advent of Messiah.
If the reader will suspend his judgment, until I have gone through the whole series of essays which I am now bringing before him, he will find, that I do most unreservedly entertain the opinion, that the souls of believers do, immediately after death, enjoy a blessed and a conscious rest; and that they do visibly behold the Lord: but this is not the great promise of the Scriptures; this is not the glory which the New Testament holds up to believers: that glory (whether it refer to their throne, their crown, their inheritance, their degree, or their incorruptible body) is invariably deferred by the apostles until the coming of the Lord. I know not of
one scripture, which clearly and di rectly speaks of the believer as entering into his glory, or partaking of the promise, at death.
Neither do I mean to assert, that christians generally deny the advent, resurrection, &c. Distinct admissions of it may be found in most writers ; and a deferring also of what they call the complete reward and glory, until the period of the resurrection. What I mean to insist on is, that christians, in their ordinary expositions and discourse, make these truths subordinate, and the intermediate prospect of death pre-eminent; whereas the Scriptures make the advent and resurrection principal features, and death is only mentioned incidentally.
But to the proof: let us begin with St. Paul. In 1 Corinthians xv, he labours to shew, that, if there be no resurrection hereafter, our faith vain. But what force would there be in such an argument as this, if the believer entered into his reward at death? What need should we have, in such case, to trouble our heads about a future resurrection? Alas! it is wonderful to think how little practical influence this doctrine really has with the majority of professors! The thought of it does not give them one atom more of power, nor supply one additional motive, to mortify their sinful lusts.
Let us take another passage. I have preferred that in Corinthians, just considered, because it is plain and ex
plicit.* The object of the Apostle was to" shew them the mystery" of the resurrection; and therefore I must suppose he expounds it in as plain and literal a manner as possible. And we may hope for equal distinctness in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Thessalonians; for here he expressly instructs the disciples in regard to the state of those, who are dead in Christ; declaring, that he would not have them ignorant concerning them, and thus sorrow for their departure, as those persons sorrow, who never hope to see their dead again. Does he then comfort them with the assurance, that they are now in glory? Does he even say any thing about the living being presently with their departed friends in heaven? Not a word of the kind! though surely this were the very opportunity for such consolation, were it God's will, that the hearts of his people should be fixed on this truth. He gives them to understand that they shall see their friends again here, in this world; he reminds them that the resurrection of Jesus is the pledge of theirs; and that when the Lord comes, he will bring them with him.—“ I would not have you ig
norant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow 'not even as others, which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.' Then he goes on to assure them, that the promises are not for those only, who shall be alive at the coming of the Lord, but for the departed saints as well,that, when the Lord shall descend from heaven, the dead in Christ shall rise first.
The same thing is stated in the same way by the other apostles. St. James encourages not those to whom he writes with the hope of their reward at death; but exhorts them to be patient until the coming of the Lord.a St. Peter also tells his people, "when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory, that fadeth not away."b So St. John;
we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him."ct
These things are consistent, and to be expected, if the great recompense were generally believed to be deferred till the second appearing of Jesus Christ; and if it were the prize chiefly held up to view. We
* The Editor of the Record has disparaged the importance of the second advent, on the ground that St. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified; leaving us to infer, that the mere circumstance of the crucifixion, and the doctrine of the atonement, were all which he resolved to bring forward among them. It is not a little remarkable, that in this very Epistle he praises these same Corinthians, "because they came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ;" (chap. i, 7 ;)—he upraids them for not remembering, that the saints shall judge the world;" (chap. vi, 1, 2 ;)—and one whole chapter of it (one of the longest in the Testament, chap. xv,) is devoted to an exposition of the order and nature of the resurrection; concerning which he says, that if the dead are not to rise, then are they perished! (v. 18.) These passages prove beyond a reasonable question, that much more is involved in the preaching of a crucified Saviour, than the one single fact of the death of Jesus: were we to keep to this only, we must exclude regeneration, sanctification, election, the judgement, and many other topics, which (like the advent, and resurrection, and reign of the saints) though intimately connected with the atonement, may, nevertheless, be distinguished from it,
+ The personal retrospect and expectation of the two apostles, constituting, in some measure, their experience in the immediate prospect of death, has been handed down for us by the Holy Ghost. St. Paul says: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I c 1 John iii, 2.
a Jas. v, 7. b 1 Pet. v, 4.
shall in that case not only find it laid down in the New Testament as a doctrine of the apostles; but we shall perceive the primitive church in general to be affected with this view of the subject; and either speaking, or spoken of, as looking eagerly forward to such an event. There will be other marks of grace discernible; but this mark, at a time when I presume their hopes to have been bound up in the doctrine of his second appearance, and not in the rest entered into immediately after death,—this mark, I say, would then be an essential one; the want of it would imply the grossest ignorance of the prevailing tenets of the church; or the grossest unbelief of those which were perceived. This feature, however, pre-eminently marks the character of the scripture saints, as I shall evince by a few passages from the Epistles of St. Paul.
In Romans, the earnest expectation of the new creature is said to be waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God-groaning within itself and waiting for the redemption of the body." In Corinthians, as we have seen, he thanks God, "that they came behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ;"e and of the Thessalonians he says, that they turned from idols to serve the living and the true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven."f To the Philippians he thus
speaks of himself and them :— For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ."g In one passage, already in part quoted, the Apostle so decidedly makes loving the appearing of Christ a mark of grace, that he seems in a measure to limit the reward of righteousness to those only, who partake of this desire; “A crown (saith he) which the Lord shall give me at that day: and not to me only; but to all them that love his appearing."h A text in the Epistle to the Hebrews appears to make the same distinction and limitation: "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."i
e 1 Cor. i, 7.
We have much more to the same purport in the Epistles, especially in those of St. Paul, without insisting on numerous passages in the Gospels. Whether the Apostle speaks of himself, of his followers, or of both together, he still keeps holding forth to their view the end of this present dispensation; and he treats of it as though, in regard to the church, a succeeding generation might not be recognised. Is it to himself he refers?-His words are: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.m Is it them he
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." (2 Tim. iv, 6—8.) St. Peter, when admonished by the Lord," that he must shortly put off his fleshly tabernacle, thinks it proper to write an Epistle to the faithful, the whole burden of which is, to confirm them in the expectation, that these present heavens and earth shall be dissolved, as those in the days of Noah were, and again be succeeded by new heavens and a new earth ;-that he had followed no cunningly devised fable, when he made known to them the power and coming of the Lord; but had had a visible specimen of it, when he beheld the transfiguration on the mount;-and that apostate men would arise in the last days, treating the promise of his coming with scoff. (See the Second Epistle of Peter passim.) He finally confirms all by the testimony of St. Paul, who, (he says,) in all his Epistles, makes mention of these things,
d Rom. viii, 19, 23.
8 Chapter iii, 20,
f 1 Thess. i, 9, 10.
speaks of?" He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it, until the day of Jesus Christ."'n Does he include himself with them? then he says: "the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed; we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."o The greatest and most ordinary objects of religious interest and expectation are also deferred for their completion unto this time. Is it grace?--though given
now; still, as to its consummation, it is to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ."p Is it rest ?-it is "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels."q Is it salvation ?—it is" as ready to be revealed in the last time."r Finally, the Spirit and the Bride [the universal church and the Holy Ghost in them,] say, COME. And let him that heareth say, Come." He which testifieth these things, saith Surely I come quickly:" and one who was in the Spirit responds—“ Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus." Rev. xxii, 17, 20.
I shall now, by way of shewing the practical tendency of the second Advent, and the consequent importance of this truth to every christian who desires edification, bring forward some of those testimonies, to which I adverted in my former paper, when I pledged myself to shew the use which the writers of the New Testament make of it.
We have already seen that they apply it, as the legitimate source of consolation to those who mourn for the dead, "that they may not sorrow, as those who have no hope" of seeing their friends return.s We have likewise seen an apparent limitation of the reward to them that love his
o 1 Cor. xv,
s 1 Thess. iv, 13-18.
to the mortification of earthly lusts; When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory: mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness which is idolatry is idolatry;" &c. Col. iii, 4, 5.
The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us-that denying ungodli
Thess. iv, 17. P 1 Pet. i, 13. t 2 Tim. iv, 8; Heb. ix, 28,
to works of Mercy ;
When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall divide them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. from the foundation of the world: for
I was hungry, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in ; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me." Matt. XXV, 31-36.
to Watchfulness ;
Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken for in such an hour as ye think not up. Therefore, be ye also ready; the Son of Man cometh." xxiv, 42, 44.
Watch therefore: for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." Matt.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching." Luke xii, 35, 37.
“Behold I come as a thief: blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." Rev. xvi, 15. But ye brethren are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: ye are all the children of light and of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others: but let us watch and be sober." 1 Thess. v, 4, 6.
to Patience and Long-suffering; And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with