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Becoud Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE TRUTH CONCERNING THE BLESSED HOPE OF THE
ALL Christian men believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is again to appear on this globe at some time, and in some way or other, and differ only as to the mode and circumstances of His advent. It is not easy to gather the opinions of men who have not formed any very definitely, or expressed them with perspicuity, and therefore, the statement of such opinions must be liable to manifold errors; but the most common notion seems to be, that some day or other, without the smallest previous warning to any one, there will be a flash of lightning in the sky, when the Lord will be seen in the clouds with the angels; that at the same time fire will proceed out of the earth, and burn up this globe, so that it shall cease to exist, and be annihilated, as though it had never been created; and that the saints shall be taken up into the clouds, there to remain praising God for ever. The thought of this day alarms those who entertain this idea, and the promise to live for ever, doing nothing but praying and singing psalms, has no great attractions, and so none of this class of persons wish the day of the Lord to come. Moreover, they think that the Jews are first to be restored to their own land, and all the heathen converted to Christianity; and as they see no signs, either of the one or of the other, the subject has no practical effect, and gives them little concern, for they are thoroughly convinced that these things will never come to pass during their lives.
Another class believe in what they call a spiritual coming, but their words convey no more accurate meaning than those of the former class, so that it is impossible to pronounce certainly what the idea is that lurks remotely behind them. This ambiguity of expression implies either ambiguity of thought, or a habit of so expressing themselves, as to be able to extract more meanings than one, according as either is attacked. So far as the terms are intelligible, they seem to signify some mystical operation upon the spirits of men, making them all good; by which word mystical, however, is only intended an operation, without any prescribed means adapted to that end; destroying all evil passions in them, so that strong men shall not oppress weak men any more; labourers shall receive wages sufficient for their sustenance, whether their masters can afford to pay them or not; and men in power, whether in Church or State, shall not tyrannize over those below them; that this change in the dispositions of men shall be acknowledged to be produced by the Spirit of Christ; and thus He shall be said to have come in the hearts of His people; that then these good people are to go to the Jews and to the heathen, who are gradually to become good too; and then the world is to be burned up, and the good people are to go and live in the clouds, and the wicked are to go and live in flames of fire.
There is a third class of persons, who, from the perusal of the works of Bishop Horsley, Mr. Faber, Mr. Cuninghame, and Mr. Frere, believe the second advent with something more of definiteness, but who are still far from being clear and accurate. The subject is necessarily as obscure as was the subject of the first advent, before that event took place; an obscurity, indeed, so great, that there does not seem to have been a single person prepared for it, except by supernatural and personal address to each individual—such, for example, as Zechariah, Anna, John, Elizabeth, Joseph, the blessed Virgin, the Shepherds, and the Magi, all of whom had special revelations. All the classes above referred to have a set of words wrenched from the Bible, which they suppose justify their notions; and as by a similar process any opinion may be supported, and all heresies are defended, if we adopt the same plan we shall be sure to fall into an equal, though it may be an opposite error. Their error arises, not from the words they have taken, but from omitting many other words also; and our safety can only be found in taking a combined view of the whole.
It is admitted on all hands, that the period or event which closes the present system, or fabric of Christendom, is called indifferently the day of judgment, the day of the Lord, the second advent, &c., &c. A day is a period of time, which, be it of twenty-four hours or any longer duration, has its morning, its meridian, and its evening. It is needless to stop to show that more events are declared to occur in that day than can be brought forth in the course of twenty-four