Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

really possessing the Spirit of Christ; (see Rom. viii. 9.) so that when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, they are proved to have no root in themselves, and immediately they are offended. Mark iv. 17. And this renders it a matter of such great importance to the ministers of God, that they should, as before observed, endeavour to prepare their hearers to be partakers of the sufferings of Christ, knowing "that if we suffer with him we shall also reign with him; if we deny him he also will deny us, (2 Tim. ii. 12.) They cannot be wrong in taking to them the whole armour of God, and preparing to withstand in the evil day, even though no evil day overtake them;—they cannot err in watching for Christ; for whether he come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants." Luke xii. 38. But, if they should be found not watching, and unprepared, for the evil day, then they may perhaps fall away altogether;—their minister will certainly suffer loss;—and well for him after all will it be, if their blood be not laid at his door!

But it may be that they also may be saved, yet so as by fire; for “many shall also be purified, and made white and tried," &c. (Dan. xii. 10.)-being overtaken by the affliction in different degrees; so that by their portion of suffering, their works will be in some degree made manifest. The warnings and threatenings delivered to the seven churches of Asia, if viewed as referring to the crisis of trouble (see page 90.) are remarkable in this point of view.* Some are to be tried by tribulation only ten days, (Rev. ii. 10.) Some are to be cast into great tribulation except they repent, (ver. 22.) by which means, saith the Lord, “all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth-the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you ACCORDING TO YOUR WORKS.” And some he threatens, that because they do not watch, he will come upon them “as a thief, and they shall not know what hour he will come upon them.”

Rev. iii. 3. On the other hand the Lord promises to some, that he will put on them no other burden” than that they have experienced, (Rev. ii. 24.) and to others, that he will keep them from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell on the earth, (Rev. ii. 10.) These judge themselves, and therefore escape being judged of God. i Cor. xi. 31.

* Whatever prophetical reference or accommodation to intermediate periods may be made of Rev. ii. and iii. (which I am not going to dispute,) I conceive that the messages to the seven churches of Asia are specially intended to set forth the circumstances of the whole professing Church of Christ in the last days, wbich, in its different sections, denominations, and classes of professors, will assume all the different aspects therein described; and that the admonitions and promises contained in ihe messages to them, are especially intended for the benefit and direction of believers, in those days.

It is manifest, however, that the preceding rule of judgment cannot apply to thousands whose lot has fallen in times of quiet to the church, and who nevertheless have not brought forth fruit abundantly, and have been supine and lukewarm, not to say carnal in spirit. And though it might determine, in regard to those living in times of tribulation, the measure in which they might receive chastening, or be exempted from it, it would be quite inadequate as a rule for determining the measure of reward. This can only be done (so far as I can perceive) “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ:” (Rom. ii. 16.) for then he will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness,”--those actions which though perpetrated in secret, have not escaped his all-seeing eye; and then will He “make manifest the counsels of the . hearts,” those inward motives and principles which have led men to perform various actions; yea, those inward workings of sin, probably, which have been habitually entertained, though the actual commission of the sin has been prevented. 1 Cor. iv. 5. The apostle plainly declares this in other scriptures, and includes himself as one, who expected to have the secrets of his own heart made manifest. To the Romans he declares-"We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;” and in the two following verses he takes occasion, from the scripture which saith, “Every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God," to conclude-So then, every one of us shall give account of himself unto God!” Rom. xiv. 10–12. To the Corinthians also he declares, that he labours continually to be accepted of God, from a conviction, that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad." 2 Cor. v. 9, 10. And thus in Jeremiah it is declared; I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to EVERY MAN according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.Jer. xvii. 10.And Solomon saith, “that God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.Eccles. xii. 14.

It is also urged against this view of the subject, that it is incompatible with the future happiness of God's people to have the secrets of their hearts exposed; and that it is written: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?—it is God that justifieth.” Rom. viii. 33. Yes—it is God that justifieth: or they must altogether perish from his presence. He will suffer none to condemn them if he has previously jus

man

tified them in the Spirit; (1 Cor. vi. 11.) but it must nevertheless be remembered, that only those who are walking after the Spirit have the assurance that they are delivered from condemnation. Rom. viii. 1. "Without holiness no shall see the Lord;” (Heb. xii. 14.) and well would it be for multitudes of heartless worldly professors, who are evangelized in head and not sanctified in spirit, did they only keep in view that they must give account to a holy and jealous God, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, and that “for every idle word which men shall speak, of the same shall they give account in the day of judgment.” Matt. xii. 36.

In regard however to the ultimate happiness of the saints, I conceive that they themselves, when delivered from their present infirmities and prejudices, will have so clear a view of the manifestation of the holiness and glory of God in all he does, that they will with humility and cheerfulness acquiesce in the reward, though they themselves may suffer loss, and begin with shame to take the lowest place. And it may

be asked, who and what is the very best Christian of the present day, that he should hope to enjoy an immunity, which neither prophets nor apostles have enjoyed before him? The failings of Abraham, Moses, David and others have been published through the world, and made notorious as the noon-day sun; and Peter's denial of his master is as universally known as the gospel which contains the account of it. Who then are we, that we should expect exemption? But the secrets of the heart cannot be hid; for at that time we shall know even as we are known.1 Cor. xiii. 12. And indeed were there no direct exposure of the secret deeds and thoughts of men in that day; -were the Lord only silently to distinguish among us and divide us; yet that very distinction itself would, in effect, amount to the same thing. We could not help concluding of him, who would be made to take a lower place than man's judgment would assign him, that there was some reason for it, though secret to us; only we should be left, in that case, to the darkness of surmise. But the Lord will choose "to be justified when he speaks, and clear when he judges." Psalm li. 4. Thus, then, some men's sins are open beforehand, going beforehand to judgment: and some they follow after. Likewise the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. 1 Tim. v. 24, 25.

We may well therefore exclaim, “What manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness!” Greatly to be considered is that exhortation of St. John: "And now little children abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him, at his

coming." i John ii. 28. If however we do abide in him, and his word abides in us, we need not fear as to the result: it is our Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom; and through grace he will present us holy, and unblameable, and unreproveuble* in his sight." Col. i. 22.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL, AND THE NEW JERUSALEM

DISPENSATION.

It has in these latter days been made a question, whether the posterity of Abraham, according to the flesh, shall be restored in their national character, as Jews or Israelites, to the land of their forefathers; or whether the numerous promises of Scripture, which have given rise to such an expectation, are not rather to be understood in a mystical sense, as having reference only to their ultimate conversion to the Christian faith, and their absorption into the Gentile Church. I view it as a modern question,t because with scarcely any exception the eminent fathers and expositors of the church have interpreted these promises as having respect to a literal or national restoration; and it was not till men, who were prejudiced against the millenarian principle of interpreting prophecy, came to see how the doctrine of a literal restoration could be successfully pressed against their views, that they applied their learning and ingenuity to the task of spiritualizing, or rather allegorizing, those passages of the word of God which in this respect conflict with their opinions.

Something has been already said upon this subject at pages 63 and 64 of this work; and a variety of ancient authors are there cited who have maintained in all ages the hope of a national restoration, though in other matters they had departed from the literal principle of exposition. It were easy to add to their number; but I shall content myself with bringing forward the testimony of Dr. Whitby, whose evidence on this head, as he was opposed to the millenarian system, is the less

* In Dr. Sayer Rudd's Essay on the Millennium, published in 1734, he endeavours to shew that many of the saints will be rebuked, at the Lord's coming.

+ Paul Burgensis denied their actual restoration. See Addit. to Nic de Lyra on Deut. 27 and Levitic. 26.

open to suspicion. On Romans xi., speaking of the hope of the conversion and restoration of the Jews, he says, “It hath been the constant doctrine of the Church of Christ, owned by the Greek and Latin fathers, and by ALL commentators I have met with on this place.”

The bearing of this subject upon the whole word of God, involving as it does the principle of interpretation by which the meaning of other important topics is to be ascertained, gives it a claim to the very serious regard of all who humbly desire to understand the whole counsel of God. For it is obvious, that unless some very decided and undeniable canon can be adduced for a contrary principle of expounding certain passages, common sense and common consistency will lead us to conclude, that the same analogy prevails throughout.

Besides this however, the question becomes of great interest and importance from the manner in which many

other

prophetical events are interwoven or connected with the restoration of Israel. The careful investigator of prophecy will discover that it has a bearing upon the Kingdom of Christ, the Judgment, the Resurrection, the Advent, and the future glory of the Church; and that it is absolutely necessary to be decided as to the nature of that restoration promised to Israel, before we can with any degree of confidence determine the real character of these events, or come to any satisfactory conclusion as to the times and seasons. Into the principle points therefore connected with this question we must now inquire.

1. Two things have been already brought forward in this work, which to my own mind would be decisive of the question. The one is, that the land of Palestine has been covenanted by the Lord to the patriarchs and to their posterity, to an extent and under circumstances far beyond anything which has been hitherto experienced; and we know that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance," or change of purpose,-a declaration made by the apostle with express reference to the question of Jewish restoration. Rom. xi. 29. The other is, that those things which have been predicted concerning the chastisement and sufferings of Israel, and also concerning some of the good things which the Lord hath spoken concerning them, have been most literally accomplished; and we are consequently bound to conclude, (without, as just observed, there be decided evidence to the contrary in the text,) that the

* The reader who is fond of authorities may nevertheless add to those men- . tioned at page 64, the names of Cyril, Gennadius, Haymo, Origen, Photius, Primasius, Theodoret and Theophylact

. Even such men as Erasmus held this opinion. So also Poole, Guyse, Locke, and Samuel Clarke. And among writers of the present age, opposed to the premillennial advent, there may be instanced Doddridge, Faber, Scott, Simeon, &c.

« AnteriorContinuar »