The Blessed Hope

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The Creation Concept

Contents

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Rev. David Brown, D.D. (1803-1897), was Professor of Theology at Free Church College, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1857-1887, and was elected principal in 1876. He served as moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church in 1885. He is remembered as one of three editors of the popular Commentary, Critical, Experimental, and Practical, on the Old and New Testaments (6 vols., Glasgow, 1864-70); the other editors were R. Jamieson and A. R. Fausset. Brown contributed the sections on the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistle to the Romans.

In 1870, Brown authored a series of articles for The Christian, a weekly newspaper published in London, on The Blessed Hope, in which he presented his defense of the Post-millennial view of prophecy. The Historical or Protestant view had been previously explained in a series of articles written by P. H. Gosse, and Futurist view was supported by Rev. Richard Chester.

THE BLESSED HOPE.—I

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

From The Christian, 10 Nov. 1870.

It is not without reluctance that I have agreed to contribute a few short papers on the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and on Prophecy, so far as it bears on this subject. I am growingly averse to controversy with those to whom I am more closely united by the “love of His Appearing,” than separated by diversity of judgment as to what that great event will involve. And though it has been most properly stipulated that the papers on this subject which appear here “shall not assume a controversial character,” I can scarcely hope to state the views which I hold, and the grounds on which they rest, without at least seeming to be, what I would fain not be— controversial.

In the papers of both the preceding writers, a good deal of advocacy, in addition to the bare statement of their views, has been deemed, I observe, admissible, and I hardly see how it can be avoided. If, then, I follow to some extent the same example, and in as good a spirit, I hope I may not be thought treading on forbidden ground.

On the events which are to precede the Second Advent, there is no necessary difference between the two preceding writers and myself. In point of fact, I suppose I agree in the main principles of what in these papers is called the “Presentist” or more usually the “Historical” scheme, as opposed to “Futurism”—which, as a scheme of prophetic interpretation, I believe to be untenable, and to cut deep into sound principles of Biblical interpretation. But however this may be, while the esteemed writers who have preceded me differ from each other only about the events which lie on this side of the Second Advent, my difference from both of them has to do exclusively with the events which lie on the other side of “that Blessed Hope.” At the same time, that I might not be thought indifferent to the questions to which the preceding papers relate, and perhaps disappoint some who might expect me to give my mind upon them, I had intended to throw into a longish footnote the substance of what I had been led to gather from prophetic Scripture of the predicted fortunes of the Church of Christ up to the Millennial period. But after proceeding so far with this as to convince myself that no justice could be done to it in a mere note without inconveniently lengthening it, besides drawing off the attention, at the very outset, from the great subject which was to form the burden of these papers, I resolved to leave all that I have to say on premillennial prophecy to a closing paper, if that shall seem the most suitable form in which to state what, in my judgment, is merely subordinate.

Need I premise that I believe in a Second Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, as personal and as palpable as the first? I fear I must. For premillenial writers and platform speakers are continually claiming exclusively the faith of the Second Advent, and not a few of them would be astonished to be told that we believe it as well as they. Why will such not do us the justice to believe that we hold the Church to be “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” awaiting at His Second Appearing the consummation of the nuptials? —and that, just as no bride worthy of the name would let herself be for ever put off with messages, or letters, or presents—assuring her how constantly she was thought of, and howmuch she was loved—in the absence of her beloved, so neither can the Church, nor any believer worthy of the name, be contented, in the personal absence of Christ, with even the most blissful seals of His love, and the richest experience of His spiritual presence; nay, rather, that it is just at those too rare seasons of spiritual nearness that she longs most ardently to be personally “presented as a chaste virgin to Christ.” At the same time, I cannot deny that the Church’s attitude for many an age has given too much plausibility to the supposition that she is not looking for Christ in Person at all. Our going to Christ has been practically substituted for His coming to us; and some good people are heard occasionally asking, “Isn’t it all one?” To whatever cause this may be traceable, should the groundless charge that those who cannot take in the premillennial view are not expecting Christ in Person at all, rouse them to look better into their faith and hope, I for one will rejoice more in this misrepresentation or misapprehension than complain of its injustice. It is not enough to believe what the New Testament teaches: we must hold it in its revealed relations, its revealed proportions, its revealed forms. Nor is it the truth regarding the Second Advent only which suffers from the substitution of traditional for scriptural modes of viewing and expressing it. All those truths which circle around the Second Advent are thereby more or less distorted. “Risen with Christ,” the life of believers is now “hid with Christ in God”—within the veil; “but when Christ, who is their life, shall appear,” they are cheered with the assurance that “they also shall appear with Him in glory.” “Having the firstfruits of the Spirit,” they groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their body.” Thus all their present exercises and expectations take shape—according to New Testament teaehing—from “that blessed hope” of their Lord’s appearing.

Yet even this may be over-driven, and not unfrequently is so, by those who are so carried away with one view of this great truth as to refuse to look at any other. There are those who condemn all “desire to depart and to be with Christ,” insisting “that the only legitimate “desire” is for Christ to come to us. But we have not so learned Christ, nor had the great apostle—if it was he who wrote Phil. i. 23, and if it was he who wrote 2 Cor. v. 8.

One word more at present. Though my purpose in these papers is to state why I believe that the Second Advent will not be premillennial, it is not the date of “that Blessed Hope” which has chief interest for me: it is the character and issues of it. It is no interest of mine, nor of any who “love His appearing,” to throw the date of it a day further back than Scripture demands. “With the great Augustine (in a letter bearing on this subject), I can say to those who think His Personal Coming nearer than I do, “If I am wrong, I am transportingly wrong; but if you are wrong, you are woefully wrong. If you win, ’tis my gain: if I win, I won’t say you lose; but we have high authority for saying that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick.”

THE BLESSED HOPE.—II.

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

The Christian, 17 Nov. 1870.

The essential principle of the “premillennial” theory of the Second Advent—as the phrase itself implies—is, that there is to be a thousand years’ reign of Christ and his risen and changed saints upon earth, over a world peopled by men still in the flesh, under all the conditions of a mortal state, “eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage.” The reigning ones consist of all dead saints, raised to life, together with all saints who, being found alive at Christ’s coming, shall be instantaneously changed into a resurrection-state, and caught np together with the risen ones to meet the Lord in the air, to appear with Him in glory as one company, and with Christ take the rule of the earth for a thousand years. Those reigned over will consist of Jews (converted by the sight of Jesus in His glory, as held now probably by all premillennialists, and re-established in their own land) and of Gentiles—then, for the most part, total strangers to Christ, but to be gradually brought into believing subjection to Him, just as now, through the Gospel and the operation of the Holy Ghost. It is possible that I have put more into this statement than is essential to premillennialism, and that among those who hold this some slight difference may obtain in their mode of conceiving the subordinate features of it. But the one thing which I have in view throughout the following papers is that feature of the system which certainly is its essence—namely, that after Christ comes the second time in the glory of His Father, there will continue a world peopled with men still in the flesh, and under all the conditions of mortality, over whom He is to reign, along with all who have been His saints up to that time, risen from the dead, or changed into a resurrection-state, for a thousand years.

In inquiring whether this expectation is sustained by Scripture, our first question must be, What are the scriptural characteristics of Christ’s Second Coming? And here I must, at the very outset, lay down the principle by which I myself am guided, and which, whether attended to or not, must commend itself to every candid student of Scripture as sound and scriptural. It is that the Old Testament must be interpreted by the New, the dark by the light, and figurative by naked statements. To lay down so obvious a canon of interpretation would be superfluous, were it not so continually and systematically reversed in practice, and were I not convinced that it needs but a faithful adherence to it to set at rest some of the most important differences among Christians on this great subject.

What, then, are the scriptural characteristics of Christ’s Second Appearing? I answer—

The Second Advent will be attended by events which preclude any mortal state thereafter, and consequently any millennial reign over mortal men here below.

The following are some of these :—

I. The simultaneous resurrection and eternal judgment of the righteous and the wicked.

By simultaneous I mean, not that the resurrection and judgment of the righteous will not at all precede those of the wicked, but that tho period for both will be one and the same; in proof of which, I confine myself to such passages of the New Testament as seem to speak for themselves.

“There cometh an hour [1] [said the Judge Himself] in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good [2] unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil [3] unto the resurrection of judgment” (meaning here, as in our Authorized Version, “damnation”—John v. 28, 29). If this does not proclaim (1) that the whole of both classes are to hear His voice, and come forth at one and the same time, in the sense explained; (2) that they will come forth to be judged; (3) that it will be a judgment of each individual according to his works; (4) that it will be one transaction, issuing in “life” and “damnation” to the two classes respectively; and (5) that this issue will be final;—if, I say, all this is not announced here by the Judge Himself, I despair of understanding the teaching of the New Testament on any subject. But if this be so, of course it puts an end to the theory of a millennial reign after His coming, over a world of mortal men.

But let us hear the Judge again, in the parable of the Tares and the Wheat. “As the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend [or 'occasion stumbling'], and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. xiii. 40—43). Observe here, first, the time—”the end of the world,” or, as some prefer to render it, “the end of the age.” For reasons which will be found in the footnote, I think our Authorized Version here gives the preferable rendering; [4] but it is of no consequence to my argument, since all agree that the time denoted by this phrase is that of the Second Advent. What, then, does the Judge say will then take place? When “the children of the wicked one are cast into a furnace of fire, where shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth; then,” says He, “shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of their Father;” in other words, these two great events shall be simultaneous, as in their very nature they are personal and final. The resurrection could not have been brought into this parable without incongruity, the figure employed in it being simply tho gathering out of a field its good and bad products respectively. But that this is implied will be manifest, I think, if it is observed that in all the seven parables of this chapter the “kingdom” stretches from the commencement to the close of the sowing-time of the Gospel upon earth—small at first, as a grain of mustard-seed, but eventually overshadowing the earth. As the whole product of the gospel net is brought to shore at last, so in the sown field its whole produce is gathered and disposed of in one judicial transaction—in other words, all of both classes, righteous and wicked, and whether alive at His coming or raised from the dead for that end, are disposed of personally and finally in one august judicial transaction.

Again, “Not every one that saith unto Me,” as a professed disciple, “Lord, Lord, shall,” in that day, “enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? etc. And then will I profess (or ‘declare’) unto them, I never knew you. Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. vii. 21—23). At what time, then, the Judge shall say to his own from the throne of His glory, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, into the kingdom prepared for you,” He will at the same time say to those who professed that they knew Him but in works denied Him, “Depart from Me; I never knew you.” And was this meant to apply only to such as should be alive at His coming? Was it not uttered before the vast crowds that heard Him as a learning to themselves? If it was, then it must embrace in its awful sweep all of both classes, whether then living or dead raised—summoned alike before His great white throne ‘to take the punishment or prize from His unerring hand.’

The same two classes reappear, I think, beyond reasonable doubt, thrice in Matt. xxv.: in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins; in the parable of the talents (the two faithful traders with their lord’s money, and the one unfaithful servant being summoned and dealt with together on his return); and in the picture of the sheep and the goats assembled together, and together arranged on the right and left hand of the Judge, with the subsequent incomparable description of the way in which both classes of men are to be disposed of in one and the same august transaction—the time the same, and the issues in both cases final—”And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life everlasting.” [5]

Such is the teaching of Him from whose lips shall go forth the weal or the woe, the blessing or the blighting, of each soul for eternity. And if, as I read it, it tells us that at his Second Appearing all are to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, and all to be then disposed of personally, finally, eternally, of course it follows that any millennial reign of Christ and risen saints over mortal saints, or men in mortal and corruptible bodies at all, is out of the question; the whole mortal state being then at an end.

Let us next hear His inspired apostles, limiting ourselves still to such passages as seem the plainest, and least disputable.

“The times of this ignorance (said Paul to the Pagan philosophers of Athens) God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent; because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom fie hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts xvii. 30, 31). Observe here (1) the strict universality of this judgment; it is a judgment of “the world.” What this means is put beyond doubt both by what precedes and by what follows. “The times of this ignorance,” during which the whole world outside the pale of Judaism lapsed into idolatry, “God winked at”—”suffering all nations in times past to walk in their own ways” (Acts xiv. 16); but now that this is at an end, God will no longer tolerate such departure from Him, but “now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world,” giving assurance of this “unto all men, in that He hath raised from the dead that Man whom He hath ordained” to be their Judge. Now since this was uttered as a warning to his Athenian auditors not to trifle with the message he was bringing them, surely “the world,” which the apostle says is to be “judged,” must have been meant to include themselves; in other words, that it would be a judgment, not of the living only, still less of saints only, but of “all men everywhere.” Observe (2) the character of this judgment—personal and final: “God hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness.” Mark (3) the definite time at which all this is to be done—He “hath appointed a day” for this transaction. [6]

Again, “After thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou (unbelieving Jew) treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient continuance in well-doing, etc. (that is, the righteous), eternal life; but unto them that do not obey the truth, etc. (the wicked), tribulation and anguish… in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom. ii. 5—16). Here again we have (1) the character of the judgment—personal (“every man according to his deeds,” yea, “the secrets of men”), and universal (embracing not only the receivers and rejecters of Christ together, but the heathen, who never had the Gospel to receive or reject—”the Gentiles which have not the “written law,” but have it “written in their hearts”). Mark (2) the time when all these classes are to meet, and be judged together—”in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” This the apostle calls emphatically “his gospel,” that is, the great circle of truths which he everywhere preached, carrying in the bosom of its message of grace the vengeance awaiting all the rejecters of it. And all this will be, according to his representation of it, one unbroken transaction.

“Wherefore we labour that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For 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 they be good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord we persuade men” (2 Cor. v. 9—11). If this does not proclaim that genuine and false-hearted Christians are to appear together, and that the personal, righteous, final judgment of both classes is to be one transaction. I must repeat that I despair of making sense of anything that the New Testament says on this or on any other subject.

One other similar passage, which seems to speak for itself, I may quote: “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven, [7] with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and on them [another class] that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in them that believed [8] in that day” (2 Thess. i. 6—10). In what conceivable language could one hope to convey more clearly, variously, and emphatically than is here done these great truths—that the “tribulation” awaiting the persecutors, and the “rest” of the persecuted saints will be awarded to both at the same time; that this will be “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire”; that He will then “take vengeance both on the heathen, who know not God,” and on those who, though they have heard it, “obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and more particularly that they are to be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He shall come to bo glorified in His saints, and admired in all that believed,” even “in that day”? Now since this was written to cheer the persecuted Thessalonians with the assurance of a final “rest” along with himself (“rest with us”), of course it must mean that they would rise to receive it, just as their persecutors would rise to receive at the same time “the tribulation to be recompensed to them.”

The only other passage I might refer to on this head is the grand resurrection chapter, 1 Cor. xv. But as it may come up again under another head, I will pass from it at present with this one remark—that though it treats only of the resurrection of believers, because what the apostle had to say of it would apply only to them, premillennial brethren should beware of inferring from this that the righteous only are to rise at what time the trumpet shall sound. For annihilationists argue from exactly the same premises, and on just as good ground, that the righteous only are to rise at all—the wicked being punished by ceasing to exist. [8]

Thus, then, I read the New Testament; and so reading it, I find the whole ground for a millennial reign over a world of mortal men, after Christ’s Second glorious Appearing, swept from under my feet; mortality being brought to an end by the Second Advent, the judgment of the world then taking place, and “these going away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”

Notes & References

1.  ***.

2. ***.

3. ***.

4. Two words are used in the Now Testament for “world”— the one (***) pointing to its external “order and beauty;” the other (***) viewing it as conditioned by “time.” And since space and time are the two notions under which we speak of all things here below, it comes to pass that the same things arc both “seen and temporal,” and the world” itself may bo denoted quite as correctly by the word which points to its time divisions, as by the other word. Certainly it is so in Heb. xi. 3: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed (***) by the word of God”—meaning, not the ages or dispensations, but the palpable universe (compare Psa. xxxiii. 6)—”so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Manifestly, it is created objects which are here meant, and in this sense the best critics understand the word in the parable of the Tares. Dean Alford, for example, though premillennial in his views, so renders it in his “Revision” of the Authorized Version.

5. It is beside the purpose of these papers to go into detailed examination of other interpretations of the passages above quoted; else it would not be difficult. I believe, to show that the attempt to make the judgment of Matt. xxv. to be a temporal judgment—a judgment of “nations” as nations, not of individuals, and for time, not eternity—is excessively harsh, not to say intolerable; further, that the perspective theory of Mr. Birks, by which two events, separated by a thousand years, are here understood to be seen at a distance as one event, is against the plain sense of the whole three pictures; and once more, that any view of the parable of the virgins which would limit “the wise’ class to the expectants of a premillennial advent (which I should have thought no one would have ventured on, did I not hear and read it from sensible people), and which would make even “the foolish” to mean unready believers, not to be finally shut out from Christ—is what they incur very serious responsibility, I think, who broach and maintain.

6. But since “a day” is an indefinite time, which may last a thousand years as well as twenty-four hours, why (it is asked) may not the judgment of the righteous take place at the beginning, and that of the wicked at the end of it? Of course, whatever length of time the judgment may take, so long will its “day” last. But let me ask any reverential and impartial student of the New Testament whether such a heterogeneous set of things as are expected to occur from first to last can be legitimately brought within the limits of this “day”—the resurrection of the dead, and the change of the living, to meet the Lord in the air; a visible descent of these to the earth, to reign over the converted and pestered Jews and over the Christianized Gentiles, all walking by faith in the midst of sight, for a thousand years; and then the resurrection and judgment of all the wicked dead—let me put it, I say, to candid readers whether the words, “He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world,” can be so understood as to include all these heterogeneous things without violence to the natural meaning of language.

7. Literally, “in” or ” at the revelation of the Lord Jesus,” etc.

8. *** is the true reading; the received reading (***) has next to no support.


THE BLESSED HOPE.—III.

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

The Christian, 24 Nov. 1870.

I Proposed to specify some events attending the Second Advent which preclude any mortal state thereafter, and consequently any millennial reign after the Second Advent over mortal men here below. In my last paper I dwelt at some length on one of these, but one which, if made good, is, I believe, decisive of the whole question—’the simultaneous resurrection and eternal judgment of the righteous and the wicked at the coming of Christ.’ I now proceed to a second—

2. The all-involving, all-dissolving conflagration which is to signalize “that day,” and the new heavens and new earthby which it is to be followed.

Three passages will suffice on this point.

“But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word [1] are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to youward. [2] not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief;  [3] in the which tho heavens shall pass away with a rushing noise, and the elements burning with fire shall be dissolved, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming [4] of the day of God, by reason [or 'by virtue'] of which [5] the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements burning with fire shall melt? But according to His promise we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. iii. 7, 10—13).

“And I saw a great white throne and Him that sat thereon, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea” (Rev. xx. 11; xxi. 1).

I cannot conceive anything in Scripture more decisive against the possibility of a millennial reign over a race of mortal men after Christ’s Second Coming than the first of these passages. Let me entreat that it may be looked at with an impartial eye. Three ways have been suggested for getting rid of what would seem its obvious sense.

(1.) So to reduce the conflagration here announced as to leave the earth after it very much as it was before it. This is done by representing the scene of its action as limited to what is termed the prophetic “earth,” or Papal Christendom. [6] But what impartial reader does not at once see the violence which this does to the plainest language? The apostle meant to rebuke that spirit of scepticism which even then was creeping in among professed Christians—a scepticism now too well known, whose language was: ‘You are always talking to us of a fiery judgment which at the coming of Christ is to sweep away the world of the ungodly: but where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. Will not tomorrow, then, be as this day, and more abundant?’ It is not true (replies the apostle) that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. Ye ought to know, on the contrary (but of this ye are wilfully ignorant) that by a special provision in the earth’s constitution “the world that then was (***) being overflowed with water perished,” and with it “the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet. ii. 5). Even so “the heavens and the earth which are now are by the same word (that provided for the perdition of ungodly men by water) kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment,” etc. The universality of both catastrophes is thus expressed as emphatically as it could be; and least of all is there any hint here of the Papal or Roman earth being alone intended, or in place at all. Observe, next, the nature and extent of tnis conflagration. ‘It is long of coming’ (said the sceptics). ‘So it is (replies the apostle); but Heaven’s arithmetic is not like ours. With the Lord millenniums are as days and days as millenniums. His “slackness” is not impotence, but mercy—that none may perish, but all come to repentanfie. But the day of the Lord will come, and come as a thief. And then, as the world before the flood found it vain to fly to the tops of the highest mountains—for they also were submerged— so shall there not be a spot on the globe where the ungodly shall be safe, nor the thickest covering which the devouring element shall not pierce through. For then, the (sublunary and visible) heavens shall pass away with a rushing noise, and the elements, penetrated through and through by fire, shall be dissolved, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.’ Whatever is here meant by “the elements,” it must be something the “dissolution” of which will incapacitate human beings as at present constituted, from subsisting for a moment; and much more will this be physically impossible, if the “heavens,” the “elements,” the “earth,” and its “works” are all “burned up.” But hear further: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be?” etc. Is this the Roman, the Papal earth? Is not the very question strange?” Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God (Is not that the one “great and dreadful day” for all?) by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved (he had said that before, but he repeats it), and the elements, burning with fire, shall melt.” I leave these expressions to speak for themselves. If they do not to the reader express such a total destruction as would make it physically impossible for mortals to abide and survive it, I am sure that no other language would express it. So that supposing the apostle meant to convey that, he could not have succeeded, since all the language available for that purpose is held not to express it.

A few words now on the other two passages: “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there teas found no place for them…. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and there was no more sea.” That this is the same “dissolution” of “the heavens and the earth that are now” as that of Peter, is beyond all reasonable doubt, since in both cases the sequel is the same—”the new heavens and the new earth.” So all-involving and all-dissolving is the conflagration, as described by Peter, that the great majority of the Lutheran divines of the seventeenth century, and with them some able critics since, and even premillennialists (as Mr. Tyso), take it to mean a total annihilation of substance as well as form; while the Reformed divines of the Continent, and such Scottish divines as had occasion to touch on the subject, [7] contended, and with great force of argument, that so far from the annihilation of our physical system, in its primary character, being here expressed, the reverse is rather conveyed—the dissolution merely of its present physical constitution, and its reconstitution under new and higher laws. And, so far as Scripture throws any light upon the subject, I think these last are in the right. But with this my present papers have nothing to do.

Well, it is after such a conflagration that the Millennial kingdom is to be set up on the earth, if it is to be after the Second Advent. Let us, then, see what that will oblige us to believe. First, it supposes that a whole world-ful of mortal men are to be kept alive while “the earth and the works that are therein” are burned; that while “the heavens are dissolving and passing away with a rushing noiee, and the elements are melting with fervent heat (everything whereon the feet may stand disappearing, and the very air which is the breath of man’s life, as should seem, exhausted), still a whole race of mortals, living through it all, and surviving it, is thereafter to people the earth. To reconcile us to this, we are reminded of Noah and his family preserved in the ark during the flood, and of the three Hebrew youths unhurt in Nebuchadnezzar’s burning fiery furnace, and then asked if God could not preserve a whole world as well as three, unhurt in the fire. No doubt He could. But the question is not what God could do. The question is, Where is it said, or even hinted, that He is to do it? Even if there were nothing else against the applicability of the cases alleged to that of the conflagration, this surely ought to suffice —that the preservation of Noah is expressly ascribed to the fact that “he only was found righteous in that generation;” while the preservation of the three Hebrew youths was in reward of their noble fidelity, and in answer to their believing prayers: whereas, according to the premillennial view, the faithful who shall be found alive at Christ’s coming, are to be caught up in the clouds before He comes, to meet the Lord in the air and come with Him, while of the rest, the unbelieving Jews are to be converted by the sight of Him in the clouds; and the vast world of Gentiles, then total strangers to Christ, are to be brought gradually to faith in Him, and willing subjection to Him. To tell us of the possibility of all this is hardly enough. Surely it is not too much to demand some evidence that it it to be. And where is it? Will such passages as Isa. xxiv. and xxxiv. be appealed to? He who sees in such pictures of extensive convulsion and devastation anything to warrant the expectation that a whole race of mortals are to live in the midst of a blazing world, and come out of it unhurt to people the earth thereafter—is not likely to be influenced by anything that I, at least, can say.

But when this is credited, something harder yet has to be digested. For though we have seen that at the coming of Christ the earth and the works that are therein are to bo burned up, lo! we find that during the millennial reign the earth has undergone no physical change whatever. All its geographical and topographical features remain precisely as they were. In Palestine, for example, Mount Zion is there as before, and “Jerusalem is builded on her own heap, even in Jerusalem.” The seas are there too, as heretofore (the Mediterranean and the Salt Sea), Assyria and Egypt, Elam and Shinar, Pathros and Cush, Hamath, and the islands of the sea, Engedi and Eneglaim, and “the way of Hethlon as men go to Zedad,” and Gilead and Jordan, and the waters of strife at Kadesh (Ezek. xlvii.); in fact, every place just where and as it was. Nay, the meteorological features of the countries remain precisely the same. For the nations that come not up to Jerusalem to worship, upon them is to be no rain; but whereas, “the family of Egypt have no rain” (their land being watered by the bounteous Nile), they are to be visited with a plague of their own (Zech. xiv.). Now, what are we to make of this? It will not do, I submit, to say, ‘This is just one of the difficulties which the events themselves must be left to solve.’ For the difficulty of believing that a thing is to be and not to be at one and the same time —that “all these things shall be dissolved” (2 Pet. iii. 11), and that none of these things shall be dissolved, but everything remain just where, what, and as it was—when, let me ask, will this “difficulty” be solved?

So hard are these things to digest that two other suggestions for obviating the difficulty have been proposed—

(2.) Admitting that the conflagration is to be as universal and all-dissolving as. Peter makes it, and consequently that there can be no millennium after it,
it has been thought that by placing the conflagration at the end of the thousand years, instead of the beginning, it would still be brought within the limits of “the day of the Lord,” with whom “one day is as a thousand years.”  [8]

Surely the weakness of this suggestion is too obvious to need any reply. One thing, however, should not be overlooked by those who may be disposed to lean towards it—that in the only place where the definite period of a thousand years is mentioned at all (Rev. xx.), we find the end to be outside the thousand years’ period altogether, and at the close of the “little season ” which is to succeed it (which, relatively to a thousand years, may very well be supposed to extend to a century or two). Thus, even according to their own showing, the conflagration if deferred to the end of the millennium, cannot, with any propriety of language, be said to take place “in,” or “at the day of the Lord.” [9]

One more suggestion for obviating the difficulty remains to be mentioned—

(3.) By breaking up the conflagration into two or more partial combustions—no one of them greatly disturbing the existing state of things, but as a whole accomplishing the change predicted in Peter—it has been thought that the difficulty might be got rid of. One suggests that there may be a partial fire at the beginning of the millennial day, and another at the end. [10] Another suggests that there may be a gradual eruption of volcanic matter, which, like the paring and burning process in agriculture, may only render the new earth more fruitful; and the rather, as we know that triturated lava makes excellent soil. [11] I will not waste precious space on such suggestions. If they do not refute themselves, I am not likely to succeed in doing it.

I have thus given reasons for thinking that the premillennial theory cannot possibly live in presence of the three passages I have quoted, in their plain and obvious sense. I have tried all the ways of explaining the Conflagration announced in Peter, which have been proposed for obviating the difficulty which it creates to those who believe that there will be a millennial reign over mortal men on thia earth after the Second Advent; and whether they have stood the test of that examination I leave my readers to judge—only trusting that I have said nothing justly offensive to those who differ from me.

Notes & References

1. I retain here the reading of our Authorized Version (with Lachmann and Tischendorf, in his eighth edition), in preference to that adopted by Tregelles—”by His word” (that is, ***, of the received text).

2. This is plainly the true reading here; and so read all critical editors.

3.The words, “in the night,” wanting in the oldest MSS., seem to have crept in here from 1 Thess. v. 2, and are omitted by all critical editors.

4. These words may also be rendered “hastening on” (and so Scholefield, Green, Alford, and others). Bat it seems to me that the idea intended is that of our Authorized Verson, though that ‘mental anticipation and eager stretching out of the neck towards an expected and desired event’ naturally suggests the idea of hastening on the event itself.

5.  ***. (But, as Winer says, “the ground or motive, end the means, are in themselves very nearly akin.”—Gramm. of N. T. Greek, Ed. Moulton, 1870, p. 498.)

6. So Mr. Elliott, Mr. Birks, Mr. Andrew Bonar.

7. As Durham “on the Revelation,” and Brown (of Wamphray) “on the Romans.”

8. So Mr. Burgh, etc.

9. Strange, too, that those who say that no fixed period of a thousand years can take place before the Second Advent without destroying all the uncertainty which is designed to hang around that event, that is to come as a thief in the night, should themselves place a fixed period of a thousand years before that conflagration, which is to prove “the perdition of ungodly men.”

10. So Mr. Bickersteth.

11. So Mr. Brooks.


THE BLESSED HOPE.—IV.

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

From The Christian, 1 Dec. 1870.

One more characteristic of the Second Advent will complete what I have to say on this head.

3. In the New Testament the Second Coming of Christ is held forth everywhere as the point of transition from Salvation to Judgment, from Faith to Sight, from Grace to Glory, from Probation to Decision, from the Temporal to the Eternal.

This proposition, I am convinced, has but to be read to command immediate, entire, and general consent; nor would it be doubted, I think, but for the theory with which it conflicts. Can a single passage be named which does not represent the Second Coming of Christ as future to those whom it addresses—whether sinners, to warn them of “the wrath to come,” or saints, whose whole attitude is summed up in “looking for that blessed hope”? Can one passage be named which unmistakeably speaks either of sinners or of saints living on the earth in mortal bodies after Christ’s Coming—the one to be urged to flee to Christ for salvation, the other to be stimulated to live by faith and in the hope of some yet future glory? Every one knows that there is no such passage, but that its whole strain is this:—”Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven;” We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord we persuade men;” “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come;” “It is a righteous thing to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven;” To them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation;” “Who shall give account to Him hat is ready to judge the quick and the dead;” “The day of the Lord will come as a thief;” “Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God” “Abide in Him, that when He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming;” “We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is;” “The crown of righteousness which the Lord shall give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” “Behold He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him;” “Behold I come quickly even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

All true, it will be said; but these and fifty more passages, being addressed to those who live on, this side of the Second Advent could speak of that great event only as future. But the New Testament knows of no other sinners, and no other saints, than those living on this side of the Second Advent, and so has not a word to say either to them or of them. Its whole language of warning or encouragement, of fear or hope, points forward—never once backward.

But let us now suppose that it were otherwise, and that a whole human race will be found to have survived in the flesh and on the earth, the Second Coming of Christ and the world-wide Conflagration—what then? Here we get into a confusion, out of which I, at least, cannot find my way, by the help of all the books that have been written to expound it. This mortal race have, it seems, to be converted and brought to Christ in the ordinary way—that is, after two such events as the Lord Jesus descending from heaven in the glory of His Father and of the holy angels, and their coming through a blazing world. Then, they either see—or do not see—the Lord descend. “Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him,” we are told. But somehow it seems to be thought that this only means every eye in Christendom—or rather European Christendom—and that the vast human race outside of that pale will be totally ignorant of the fact, and require to be informed of it by preachers sent to them. Well, let us suppose even that. But are the preachers to make use of the New Testament as their book of instruction, warning, encouragement, direction? Will it do for that purpose? It may tell them of His first coming to “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself;” but will it tell them that “to them that look for Him He will appear the second time unto salvation”? It will not and cannot. Will it tell any who seem disposed to reject their message of that “day of the Lord which is to come as a thief in the night”? It will not and cannot. Will it cheer believers with the assurance that “when He shall appear they shall be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is?” It will not and cannot. ‘What is to become of us?’ will believers then ask, but they will oak in vain. ‘Are we to undergo a resurrection, either individually or collectively, to eternal and heavenly glory?’ On that the New Testament will give them no light; for every passage that speaks of the resurrection of the saints refers, according to this theory, to premillennial saints, and will have been exhausted upon them. ‘Or are we individually to disappear, we know not whither, but to be as a race destined to populate the earth in the ordinary way for ever and ever in the flesh—”continuing (as one of the most esteemed writers on this subject expresses it) a seed to serve God in successive generations of the eternal state!” [1] Surely the force of a theory can no further go in the direction of all that is harsh—might I add without offence, revolting.

But there are other incongruities that meet us as we try to find footing on this theory of the millennial reign. Those who live during the thousand years seem to be in a state which is neither faith nor sight, but such a mixture of both as the New Testament knows nothing whatever of. Nay, its whole strain and phraseology so contrast the period of faith and that of sight, the period of salvation and that of judgment, the period of grace and that of glory, that after the coming of Christ is past—which in the New Testament separates them—one sees not how a race preached to after that event can adjust their own position to almost any part of it. Baptism—the gate of visible entrance to the Church now—is at an end; for in the very institution of it our Lord says, “Lo, I am with you (in the discharge of all parts of the ministerial commission) oven unto the end of the world”—which all parties understand to mean only until His Second Coming. The Lord’s Supper is at an end; for “as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord’s death till He come”— which shows that its observance was contemplated as exclusively on this side of the Advent. I mention these things, however, only as exemplifications of the entire New Testament point of view; and I close what I have to state upon this feature of the case by saying, that as I read the New Testament, it not only never contemplates a race of men in flesh and blood on the other side of the Second Advent, and makes no provision for such, but in its deepest features and most current phraseology is unsuited to the use of such a race.

In my next paper I will inquire into the scriptural view of the millennial state.

Notes and References

1. Mr. Bickerstith.


THE BLESSED HOPE.—V.

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

The Christian, 15 Dec. 1870.

In the three preceding papers I have pointed out three several New Testament characteristics of the Second Advent which seem to me quite incompatible with a Millennial state on earth—in the ordinary sense of that phrase—after it. I now proceed to inquire what light the New Testament throws upon the glory of the Latter Day—confining myself, as before, to those passages which seem the plainest and least disputable.

1. All ritual distinctions between Jew and Gentile are by the Gospel for ever abolished.

If this proposition can be made good, the whole premillennial theory of the state of the earth during the millennium must be baseless:—I mean, the expectation of ‘a restored temple at Jerusalem, with a restored Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices, with altars as before of burnt-offering and of incense, and a holy of holies, the converted and restored Jewish nation reconstituted under this ceremonial system, and by it ritually separated from the uncircumcised Gentile world, who are to be permitted and required to come up from year to year to Jerusalem to keep one, at least, of the restored festivals—the feast of tabernacles—but shall have no access to the consecrated parts, and take no part in the peculiar services of the circumcised nation.’ It is not a great many years since the premillennial expectation was so far from including all this, that only those few who were reckoned ultra-literalists expected anything of the kind; and good Increase Mather (father of the well-known Cotton Mather), as a premillennialist, wrote a book in favour of the literal restoration of Israel, in which he uses these memorable words:—”The truth is, that Christ by His coming abolished the ceremonial law, and nailed it to His cross, and buried it in His grave. And a most loathsome work do they perform, both to God and man, that dig up the ceremonies out of that grave where Jesus Christ buried them above sixteen hundred years ago.” Such, however, is the force of consistency, that the principles of interpretation on which the premillennial theory has come to be vindicated and explained have gradually brought nearly all who now hold it to maintain it in that very form which I have expressed; and therefore, that I may not beat the air, I shall have respect to that particular form of it in what follows, though my object is simply to state what I myself find in the New Testament on this subject. In so doing, I will, as above stated, confine myself to the plainest and least disputable passages—beginning with the teaching of our Lord Himself.

Under the ancient economy one spot was Divinely appointed for the ceremonial, sacrificial services of the covenant people. This was Mount Zion in Jerusalem, on which, was erected the temple, with its altar of sacrifice without and its altar of incense within, which none but the officiating priests were permitted to approach; the worshipping Israelites occupying an outside position, though within sight of what was going on (Luke i. 8—10), while heathen proselytes—who abounded as the Gospel era drew near, and many of whom came up to worship at the festivals—were permitted to occupy a position outside their more favoured Jewish brethren at the hours of public service. The woman of Samaria, whose people affirmed that their temple on Gerizim was the divinely appointed spot, and not Jerusalem, referred the question to our Lord in these terms: “Our (Samaritan) fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Hear now the pregnant answer of our Lord: “Woman, believe Me, there cometh an hour when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. Ye worship what ye know not; we worship what we know; for salvation, is of the Jews. But there cometh an hour, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeketh such worshippers” (John iv. 20—23).

Of course it was lawful under the Jewish economy to worship God anywhere; and it was done in secret, done in households, done in every synagogue on the Sabbath-day. The one question was about the appointed, consecrated spot for temple-worship, and priestly oblation, and all ceremonial ordinances. On this question our Lord is most explicit with the woman of Samaria, ‘Ye are wrong in all your worship, and the Jews are wholly right: of your worship you can give no good account; ours at Jerusalem has all a Divine warrant, on which we can take an intelligent stand; for the salvation which God has in store for men is to issue from the Jews, and with them as its Divinely-chosen depositories are all the ceremonial prefigurations of it for which alone a temple has been reared.’ But our Lord, instead of stopping here, gives the woman to know that the whole question would speedily be superseded. For when He says that already the hour was come when neither at the one spot nor at the other should men worship the Father, He means beyond doubt to say that all temple worship, and consequently the temple itself, and of course the priesthood, and the whole sanctity of places and persons and rites—were to be done away. And what was to take their place? The “worship of the Father, in spirit and truth —’spiritual,’ as opposed to ‘ritual,’ and ‘true,’ as opposed to legal shadows. Wherever and by whomsoever this worship shall be presented to the Father—north or south, or east or west, in gorgeous temples, in humble barns, or under the open canopy of heaven, by sea or land, by congregated multitudes or by “two or three gathered together”—it will come up before Him as incense, even as the evening sacrifice. And am I to believe that this sublime and spiritual worship is once more to be wrapt up in. an elaborate ritualistic service at Jerusalem, of which the Divinely-appointed celebrants are to be the restored Aaronic priesthood, and the outside participants the covenant-people, while “the uncircumcised and (ceremonially) unclean Gentile world, though full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, are to be strictly excluded—though they, it seems, are required to be on certain occasions at the holy city, to pay homage to the God of restored Israel, and under them, of the whole earth?

But from the Lord Himself, let us now pass to His apostles.

The Galatian churches had been imposed on by “certain men,” who “came down from Judaea, and taught the brethren, that except they were circumcised after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved” (Acts xv. 1); and this was urged so plausibly, that those who for their father in the faith “would, if possible, have plucked out their own eyes,” came almost to view him as “their enemy, because he told them the truth.” In his Epistle to them, what does he say of the system they were doating on? “After that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye back again, to the weak and beggarly elements (poor, or sorry rudiments) whereunto ye desire again to he in bondage? Ye observe days and months, and seasons and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain ” (Gal. iv. 8—12). The Galatian converts had been Gentile idolaters: but instead of exposing the absurdity of Gentiles desiring to be Judaized in order to salvation, he identifies them with the Church of God, which had received from God himself the Levitical system (on the principle stated in chap. iii. 26—29), but which had by the Gospel been happily relieved of that yoke, “which neither they nor their fathers had been able to bear;” and his question is, How comes it that ye “desire again to be in bondage” to such a system? And am I to believe that any apostle of Christ would have ventured to speak of this system as “weak and beggarly rudiments”—to desire the continuance or restoration of which is to desire a state of “bondage”—if after all it is to be reimposed in all its splendour, and the exhibition of which at a re-erected temple, as the appointed meeting place of Christ after His Second Appearing with His restored Israel, is to constitute the chief glory of the millennial era? In another part of the same Epistle he speaks of these legal trammels as educational restraints during the minority of the Church—as “tutors and’ governors,” until “the heir,” destined to be “Lord of all,” should come of age, and as his “schoolmaster, to bring him to Christ. But now that faith is come (he says), ye are no longer under a schoolmaster” (iii. 24, 25). And am I to understand by this, merely that the schoolmaster’s occupation is gone for the present, but only to be resumed and to constitute a prime part of the glory of the millennial era?

The same view of the Jewish peculiarities is given to the Ephesians. In the cross, the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile was broken down—not to put the Jews out, but to let the Gentiles in, to a Church relieved of the separative system—whereby they are “both one” in Christ Jesus (ii. 13, 14). And what is this but another way of saying what our Lord said to the woman of Samaria, that all ritual separation between the two is now at an end?

To the Colossians he writes in the same strain: “Blotting out the handwriting in ordinances [1] that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. . . . Let no man then judge you in respect of eating and drinking, or in the matter of a festival, or new moons, or sabbaths, which are a shadow of the things that were to come, hut the body is of Christ. . . . Wherefore if ye died with Christ, from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?” (Col. ii. 14,16, 17, 20.) Here again, these Colossian Gentiles are identified, as believers, with the Church which had once received from God Himself those very ordinances;” and reminding them that in the cross of Christ they had been “taken out of the way,” as mere “shadows” of which “Christ” was the “body” or substance, He asks them why, if they had “died with Christ from these rudiments of the world,” they allowed themselves still to be “subject” to them. And is thisone of the greatest effects of Christ’s deathone day to cease? Is thereto come a time when that which the cross “took out of the way” is to reappear and resume its place at Jerusalem, under the very eye, and in the manifested presence, of the glorified Redeemer of men from it?

But the most decisive of all statements on this subject are to be found in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There we read (1) that “the Levitical priesthood” would not have been set aside “if perfection” had been by it—by which the apostle means the “purgation of the conscience” (x. 1, 2)—nor would there have been in that case any “need that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek (vii. 11). But (2) “the priesthood being (thus) changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law, for He of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to a different tribe, from which no man hath given attendance at the altar. . . . For there is verily a disannulling of the foregoing commandment, [2] for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof;” and this weakness and unprofitableness of the law is explained in the very next verse to mean that it “made nothing perfect,” and that it is only by “the bringing in of a better hope that we draw nigh to God:”—in other words, the law only exhibited and dramatically performed the drawing nigh of sinners to God, on the gorgeous stage of the Levitical institutions, but never availed to bring one sinner really nigh to God, because the blood of bulls and of goats could not take away the sin that shuts men out from God, and there was no other blood for sinners then. But (3) the Aaronic priesthood was set aside, not only because their office was unavailing for the one great object of a priesthood, but because it was a mortal priesthood, “not suffered to continue by reason of death,” and so the office passed from father to son from age to age; whereas “this Priest, because He continueth ever, hath His priesthood untransferable,– and so is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him (that is, to save to the last soul that shall need salvation at His hands), seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (vii.). Coming next to the covenant form of his question with those who seemed ready to go back to Judaism, he says (4) that “had the first covenant been faultless no place would have been Bought for a second.” But, “finding fault with them,” He expressly promised to “make a now covenant” with them. Now, “in that He saith, ‘a new covenant,’ He hath made the first old. But that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (viii.). And is it conceivable that the whole ritual system should be represented as “decaying, antiquated, and evanescent,” if it was to be only temporarily set aside, to be brought back, with only a few changes, to more than its pristine splendour? If such expectations, or anything in the least like them, are not in the teeth of all that the apostle says on the subject of the temple service, he has used language which it was at least very difficult not to misunderstand—language which, in point of fact, the whole Church, with hardly any exception worth noticing until now, has misunderstood. But I have yet to notice (5) by far the most important disclosure on this subject in the Epistle before us.—”For the law having (only) a shadow of the good things that were to come, and not the very image (or reality) of the things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make them that draw near  [3] perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered t because that the worshippers, once purged, should have had no more conscience of sins.” But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bolls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore, when He cometh (prophetically) into the world, He saith (in Ps. xl.), “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body didst Thou prepare me. In whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hadst no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I am come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do Thy will, O God. . . . He taketh away the first (Aaron and his beasts), that He may establish the second (the doing of His will, in this body of mine which He hath prepared me), by the which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (x.). The great truth here written as with a sunbeam is, that “the worshippers once purged,” the Levitical sacrifices, as a matter of course, “ceased to be offered.” The apostle does not lay this down as a truth to be received on his authority, but appeals to his readers whether it was not obvious that “then” the offering of them behoved to “cease.” If, then, they are ever restored by Divine authority on earth, one of two things would seem irresistibly to follow:—Either the offering of them from year to year continually will proclaim that though Christ’s blood has been shed and sprinkled on their conscience, the worshippers have Not been purged by it, and their conscience of sins still remains; Or, the Apostle’s statement is untrue and misleading.

Is there any escape from one or other of these conclusions? The one reply to this question that I know of is this: ‘”We cannot get over the last eight chapters of Ezekiel, which predict in the plainest terms the restoration of the Levitical system at Jerusalem; but then, it is not as propitiatory, but merely as commemorative sacrifices, that we expect them to be restored.’ This, in fact, is what all who contend that they are to be restored must hold; for no Christian supposes that the sacrifice of Christ has not completely put away sin, or even if it had not, that “the blood of bulls and of goats” could add anything to its efficacy. And is it come to this, that the sacrifice of Christ is one day to be commemorated by that of a beast? Who can endure the thought? Is there one against whose best Christian feelings, the very idea, when first broached to him, does not rasp? I must here beg to be excused for so speaking against what so many excellent Christians are now making up their minds to, and writing to defend; for my feelings will not admit of any softer language, and I am not writing to attack anything; I am only stating my own convictions—as I consented with some reluctance to do—and in so doing, stating how I come to be shut up to them, unable even to look at the opposite view on this branch of the subject. [4]

But on what ground is it alleged that the restored sacrifices are not to be propitiatory, but only commemorative? If I must interpret the last eight chapters of Ezekiel so literally as to be forced to expect all that it predicts to be literally set up, what entitles me to convert all the names which in the Old Testament denote propitiatory sacrifices into sacrifices which are not propitiatory at all, but merely commemorative? On this subject the Duke of Manchester—though an ardent premillennialist, but who could not endure the restoration of animal sacrifices—writes in his “Finished Mystery,” with a clearness and a force which I cannot equal. I have room only for a sentence or two. “The sacrifices mentioned by Ezekiel are those very ones which are done away by Christ. In Ezekiel there is provision for slaying the sin-offering and the trespass-offering (xl. 39)… Again, there is mention made of the bullock whose body was to be burnt without the sanctuary (xliii. 21), which the apostle applies to Christ’s sufferings without the gate, and to the necessity which there was for those who would enjoy the benefits to be derived from Christ of going without the pale of Jewish ordinances; while those who continue in the use of the ceremonial law have ‘no right’ to partake of Christ (Heb. xiii. 10—18) … Perhaps the advocates for the restoration of sacrifices would say, they are to be commemorative or eucharistic. I say this view appears more objectionable than the spiritual hypothesis, because that only evades Scripture, this opposes it. For the object of these sacrifices is expressly declared—they are for him that erreth, and they are to reconcile, to cleanse, and to purge (xlv. 20; xliii. 20; xlvi. 20). If they were intended as euoharistic, they would not be called ‘sins ‘ and ‘trespasses’; they would rather be called ‘peace’ and ‘thank-offerings’; but we have these mentioned also (xlv. 17, margin), and distinct from the ‘sin’ and ‘burnt-offerings.’ I think it possible that the prophecy of Ezekiel may in part become the occasion of those Jews who reject the Messiah having recourse to those ‘beggarly elements’; and I think it a subject of very grave consideration whether we Christians may not be a stumbling-block in the way of the Jews, by admitting that the restoration of sacrifices, after they have been done away in Christ, can be in accordance with the will of God. …. To think now of re-establishing any sacrifices which must be done away in Christ, would be utterly unsuitable to the Church; it would be turning again to the weak and beggarly elements; therefore all that portion of Ezekiel’s vision which refers to them, to use the apostle’s expression, must have grown old.” [5]

How this vision of Ezekiel is interpreted by the Duke of Manchester, and what view is to be taken of this whole subject of the future restoration of the Jews, of their relation to the converted Gentile world, and kindred topics, I must reserve for another paper.

Notes and References

1. ***.

2. ***.

3. ***.

4. We are accustomed to say to Romanists that their doctrine of the mass as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins both of the living and the dead, is dishonouring to the perfection of the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all; to which the answer of intelligent Romanists is that they understand the whole expiatory virtue of their sacrifice to lie in, and be derived from, the one offering of Christ, of which theirs is but a palpable exhibition and commemoration. And what difference is there in principle between this view and that of the advocates of future animal sacrifice on a restored altar at Jerusalem—save that the former is the more refined, and the latter decidedly the coarser conception?

5. “Finished Mystery,” pp. 253, etc.


THE BLESSED HOPE.—VI.

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

The Christian, 22 Dec. 1870.

In my last paper I stated at some length why, with the New Testament in my hand, I could not possibly believe that a Levitical temple, under Divine direction, is yet to rise at Jerusalem, and the very priesthood of Aaron to be restored, and the blood of animal sacrifices to flow during all the millennial era, and be one of the prime glories of that bright period. And I fortified my own conclusions by an extract from the “Finished Mystery” of the Duke of Manchester, who, though one of the most decided premillennialists of his day, and one of the closest students of the letter of prophetic Scripture, could not endure this way of understanding the last eight chapters of Ezekiel, and held that either the New Testament must be discarded, or that expectation be wholly abandoned. How his grace himself understood those difficult chapters, on the literal sense of which most, or nearly all, premillennialists now take their stand, I promised to state in my next paper; but to save space, and not to be led away by it from the proper subject of this paper, I must throw it into a footnote, though somewhat long. [1]

But I promised next to state in this paper what I judge the future of the Jewish nation is to be according to the Scriptures, taking my stand, as before, on the New Testament.

1. The national conversion of Israel it explicitly predicted in the New Testament.

I think I could show that this is referred to as a settled truth in Matt, xxiii. 39; in Luke xxi. 24; in Acts i. 6, 7, and iii. 19; and in 2 Cor. iii. 15, 16. But I will confine myself to Rom. xi., the great seat of the doctrine. The substance of what this chapter teaches is, that the rejection of Israel under the Gospel is neither total nor final. It is not total; for “even at this present time [of rejection] there is a remnant according to the election of grace”: nor is it final; for a time is coming when “all Israel shall be saved.” This is so clearly what is here taught, that the wonder is how any intelligent and impartial student of the chapter should doubt it. My own belief is, that it would be at once admitted, were it not that the national conversion of Israel is seen to involve their national restoration to the promised land, and that this is thought to involve the restoration of the temple services at Jerusalem. But how do those who deny all these things understand this statement, “So all Israel shall be saved”? They confound and identify the “remnant” of believing Israelites which “even at this present time” there is, and has been all along since their rejection, with the “all Israel” who are “yet to be saved,” and tell us that the nation, as such, having accomplished all for which they were separated at the first, nothing more is meant from beginning to end of the chapter than that individual Jews shall, like sinners of the Gentiles, from time to time receive the Gospel, and so be absorbed and lost, as Jews, in the saved Church. I will not waste time and space in refuting this. Enough to say, that as an interpretation of this chapter, it puts a sense upon it to which almost every verse of it and its whole strain is directly opposed.

2. The New Testament sends us back to the Old, and specially to the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant, as our primary warrant for expecting the recovery of “all Israel.”

“And so (reasons the apostle) all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. xi. 2(3—29). Here the apostle—instead of giving it on his own authority that “all Israel shall be saved”—carries his appeal to two of the prophets, Isaiah (lix. 20) and Jeremiah (xxxi. 31—34), giving the substance rather than the very words of their prophecies. When he says, “They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes,” he can mean nothing else than that the bulk and body of the nation—now out of covenant, and even in their unbelieving state—are “beloved” of God because of their lineal descent from and oneness in covenant with “the fathers,” with whom God originally established his covenant. How different a view does this give of the Abrahamic covenant from that of those who deny the permanent national standing of Israel. It was for purely temporal purposes, they say, that Abraham and his natural seed were chosen; purposes which were all accomplished on the completion of Christ’s work and the opening of the new economy. As it was in connection with these temporary purposes that the land was conferred upon them, and without it they could not have been attained, so when the object was gained, the grant of the land ceased, the covenant-standing of the nation came to an end—and the grace of the covenant—of which Abraham and his natural seed were but the temporary depositaries and trustees—alone remains, to flow from age to age through the blood of the covenant to all the spiritual seed of Abraham, whether Jew or Gentile. But, in direct opposition to this, the apostle tells us not only that the national standing of Israel has not ceased, but that they are, even in their unbelieving, outcast, scattered condition, dear to God by reason of their ancestral connection with the patriarchal father of the covenant. And lest it should be thought (as the late Dr. Arnold did) that this is merely a lingering fondness (so to speak) for the children of one with whom God made special arrangements, now at an end, the apostle expressly says, “For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance,” and therefore unrecalled. He cannot mean that the gifts to and the calling of elect individuals are without repentance; for how would that have proved that the Israelitish nation, even under the Gospel and abiding still in unbelief, is dear to God for their fathers’ sakes? No, it is the irrevocableness of the Abrahamic covenant in all its articles that the apostle is here urging. Nor is it this only which we learn here— we get besides a great principle of Old Testament interpretation established by apostolic authority. Those who deny that the Old Testament has anything to say of Israel nationally after Christ tell us that the terms, “Jacob,” “Israel,” etc., can have no reference, under the Gospel, to the natural Israel, who are thenceforward either lost or swallowed up in the Christian Church, and that such terms must therefore be understood of the Gospel Church. But if so, the apostle’s proofs from Isaiah and Jeremiah are inconclusive; for he proves from what those two prophets say of “Jacob” in the future that the literal Israel is still in covenant-standing, and “beloved for the fathers’ sakes.”

3. The people and the land of Israel are so connected in the plainest prophecies of the Old Testament, that whatever literality and perpetuity are ascribed to the one must, on all strict principles of interpretation, belong to the other also.

To begin with the Abrahamic covenant itself, as made and successively renewed to the patriarch himself and to Jacob (Gen. xii. 1—3; xvii. 3—8 ; xxii. 17,18; xxviii. 12—14). It is essentially a covenant of promise, and the promises are three: (1) “The Land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed”; (2) “And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth; (3) “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Well, of the three articles of this covenant, the apostle pronounces two to be still in as full force as the day they went out of God’s mouth. First, the “seed”; that is, the natural seed of Abraham: they “are beloved for the fathers’ sakes,” and this because “the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance,” and this even during their present unbelieving and outcast condition. Second, the grace, or spiritual blessing of the covenant (“I will make an everlasting covenant with thee, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee”) is still in store for them against the day when “there shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” Since, then, two of the three articles of this Abrahamic covenant are at this day in as full force as ever they were, is it reasonable to say that the only remaining one—the land—has lost its force under the Gospel? [2]

In Lev. xxvi., Moses gives the people one of those prophetic sketches of their future history, in the way of warning and encouragement, which form the basis, and constitute, in fact, the substance of all that is to be found in the later prophets as respects the literal Israel. No doubt the judgments there threatened and the mercies there promised are both held forth conditionally“if they should walk contrary unto Him, and not hearken unto Him,” and, on the other -hand, “if they shall confess their iniquity.” But since the conditions are turned, as in other places, into absolute announcements of what was to take place, the conditional forms of expression are plainly employed as the fitting language of warning against defection and encouragement to repentance; just as tho apostle says of the rejected Jews, “They, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in, for God is able to graff them in, while yet He is in no doubt that this it to be the happy issue, for he says, “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” With these explanations, then, observe the closing announcements of this chapter: “If they shall confess their iniquity…. if, then, their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember my covenant with Jacob …. and Isaac …. and Abraham, and I will remember the land,” etc. It is impossible to deny that the remembrance of the covenant here, and the remembrance of the land go together. And as to the time referred to, can “their latter end” in this prophecy mean only or even chiefly their return from Babylon, considering that at this very moment the Jews are smarting under another, more judgment-like and of far longer continuance, than that of Babylon? Moreover, when we read in this prophecy that God will yet “remember the covenant of their ancestors,” while the apostle assures us, speaking expressly of the standing of the nation, that the gifts and “the calling of God are without repentance,” who can well doubt that it is their final in-bringing—when God “shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” once for all—which is contemplated in both? But if so, the question about the land would seem to be settled, for the same terms are applied to it as to the people. In the covenant they stand or fall together. [3]

Deut. xxxii. is another of those prophetic sketches of the fortunes of Israel, poured forth in song. I will refer only to the last verse of the song; and I do this because, though its sense is clear enough of itself, the apostle’s quotation of it fixes the sense in which he reads it: “Rejoice, 0 ye Gentiles with His people for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will…. be merciful unto His land, and to His people.” In Rom. xv., the apostle quotes the first clause of this verse, as one of four proofs from the Old Testament of the union of Jews and Gentiles in Christ under the Gospel—”And again He saith [namely, in this place of Deuteronomy] Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with His people” (Rom. xv. 10). Now what people? Surely the same “people” who are expressly distinguished from the Gentiles in this verse; and since “His land” and “His people” are thus indissolubly united in this prediction, as both equally the Lord’s, it follows that the “mercy” promised to the land, being “without repentance,” must be yet to come.

Coming now to the Prophets, I limit myself to the three following:—

Isa. xix. 23—25, seems to me decisive. That it refers to the latter day cannot surely admit of a doubt; and what says it? It predicts an intimate union between Egypt, Assyria, and Israel—powers at that time in perpetual jealousy and frequent hostility with each other, in the service of Jehovah and the enjoyment of His favour:—”In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve [God alone] with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the laud: whom the Lord of Hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.” Here, then, we have Israel described geographically as embosomed securely in the latter day between Assyria and Egypt in their own land, in equal enjoyment of the Divine favour, and exhibiting to the world a refreshing spectacle of the “brotherly covenant.” On any other view of it than that of their territorial restoration, I do not see how the latter part of this chapter is to be tolerably explained.

Jer. xxiii. 5—8, “Behold the days come …. that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall bo called, the Lord our Righteousness. Therefore, behold the days come…. that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth which brought up and led …. Israel …. from all countries whither I had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land.” That this restoration refers to a time subsequent to the coining of Christ, is plain, from its being preceded by so bright a promise of Christ himself; and I can read it only in one light, that of the ultimate restoration of Israel in Christ to dwell in their own land.

In Ezek. xxxvii., after the vision of the dry bones, the prediction runs thus: “Behold I will bring…. Israel from among the heathen, and…. bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel. Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their detestable things,…. but I will save them out of all their dwelling places wherein they have sinned; so shall they be my people, and I will be their God, and David my servant …. shall be their Prince for ever. Moreover, I will make …. an everlasting covenant with them,…. and will set my sanctuary among them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them And the Gentiles shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.” On this glorious prophecy I will simply ask the following questions of those who see not Scripture ground for expecting the literal restoration of Israel to their own land: —Are not Israel and the Gentiles distinguished here, and throughout all this chapter? and can even a tolerable sense he made out of it if applied to any but the natural seed of Abraham? If not, since God’s sanctuary is to be from and after the time here predicted, in the midst of them for evermore, and this in their own land, how is it possible, on any strict principles of interpretation, to get rid of the future restoration and permanent re-establishment of the Jews in the land of promise?

I dare say most readers of The Christian will think my labour in establishing this point rather superfluous, as they not only hold it, but can hardly understand how any one can doubt it. But as one-half, and even more, of all I have read in defence of this position is to me insufficient to prove it, and mixed up with much which I think untenable, I thought it desirable to state the grounds on which I think it can be unanswerably shown that this is as scriptural an expectation as it is delightful to cherish. The Lord hasten it in his time!

I must, however, reserve for another paper what I have to say on the relation of converted and restored Israel to the Gentile world in the latter day, and relative topics.

Notes & References

1. “I find in prophetic language sacrifices used figuratively, to denote prayer (Ps. cxli. 2); praise (Ps. liv. 6; Jer. xvii. 26; xxxiii. 11); thanksgiving (Ps. cvii. 22; cxvi. 17) ; joy (Ps. xxvii. 6; righteousness (Ps. iv. 6; li. 19); confession (Ps. lxvi. 13); contrition (Ps. li. 17); judgments (Isa. xxxiv. 6; xlvi. 10; Ezek. xxix. 17—19; Zeph. i. 7, 8). I find that some of the instances adduced by the advocates of literal sacrifices, if taken literally, would prove more than those advocates would admit, for they refer not to the Jews, but to the Gentiles; for example, Isa. xix. 21 [' The Egyptians in that day shall do sacrifice and oblation '], Isa. lvi. 7 [' The sons of the stranger will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people '], Mal. i. 11 [' From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same'—or from east to west, meaning over the whole world—'my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name and a pure meat offering, and my name shall be great among the Gentiles']. And when I find in the New Testament that believers are a royal priesthood (1 Pet. ii. 6, 9), and as priests partake of the altar (Heb. xiii. 10; 1 Cor. x. 16, 21), as priests offer spiritual sacrifices, whether of praise (Heb. xiii. 15) and good works (Heb. xiii. 13, 16; Phil. iv. 18), or whether of themselves, either in life or death (Rom. xii. 1; xv. 16 ; Phil. ii. 17; 2 Tim. iv. 6—I am induced to believe that the prophets refer to the spiritual and reasonable services indicated by the typical ordinances, rather than, the beggarly elements themselves.”  The rest of this passage is equally worthy of attention, but I have not room for it—nor for some remarks of my own which this whole topic suggests.

2. “What reasons (says Durham, of Glasgow, who lived during the days of the Commonwealth, and was no premillennialist) do plead for the Jews’ conversion do in some degree plead for a temporal restitution. Thus God’s electing to be His people, and making an everlasting covenant with them; the promise of their dwelling for ever in that land, which peculiarly was given to that race—in a more special manner, and by more singular rights and titles than any other in the world — is comprehended in that covenant. For it is not simply that He covenanted with them in a covenant of grace—for so hath he done with many others—but in a covenant with special promises, and grounds that make it a singular tie in those things beyond what others have: see Rom. xi. 28.”—(Commentary on Revelation, 410.)

3. “Neither (says Durham) can that promise made to Israel (Dent, xxx. 2—4, etc.), that whenever they should repent, the Lord would gather them from the nations whither they were scattered, and return them to their own land, be thought void and null after Christ’s coming, especially considering the general repentance and mourning which is to accompany their conversion. Therefore it would seem by that promise they may expect their own land, it being a part of God’s engagement to the natural seed of Abraham.”—(Comm. on Rev.)


THE BLESSED HOPE.—VII.

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

I have endeavoured to make good the following positions: 1. That all ritual distinctions are by the Gospel for ever abolished; 2. That, nevertheless, the national conversion of Israel is explicitly predicted in the New Testament; that in the New Testament we are referred back to the Old, and specially to the terms of the Abrahamic, Covenant, as our primary warrant for this expectation; and, 3. That the people and the land land are so connected in the plainest prophecies of the Old Testament, that whatever literality and perpetuity are ascribed to the one must, on all strict principles of interpretation, belong to the other. One or two other positions must here be added.

4. The connection uniformly held forth in Scripture between defection and dispersion, and between reconciliation and restoration, affords strong ground for expecting that their final conversion will be followed by a final restoration to their fatherland.

“Lord (says the Psalmist), Thou hast been favourable unto Thy Land; Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob: Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy People; Thou hast covered all their sins” (Psa. lxxxv. 1, 2).

“And (says the Lord by Jeremiah) I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon Mount Ephraim and Gilead. In those days and in that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there, shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I will pardon them whom I reserve” (Jer. 1. 19, 20). And again by Zechariah: “And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day; In that day, saith the Lord, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig-tree” (Zech. iii. 9, 10).

In these and many similar passages, the connection between pardon of the sin which drove them from the covenant-land and restoration to it stands out with striking prominence. Let any one, then, read in this light our Lord’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem; let him think, at the same time, whether Israel’s present dispersion is not to be traced to their having filled up the cup of all their previous iniquity by the darkest of all deeds, the crucifying of the Lord of glory, and the formal rejection thereafter of the Gospel offer “to the Jew first—whereby “the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost”—and then let him say whether it is not in beautiful keeping with all God’s past procedure with “the peculiar people,” that whenever this sin is “remembered no more,” the wondrous change should be marked by the ancient token of reconciliation—their return to the delightsome land.

The reader will observe the order in which I have placed reconciliation and restoration—the one as preceding the other. This will be thought to express the opinion that the Jews will not return at all to their own land until after their conversion. But it is not so. It is quite possible they may be induced to return of their own accord, and in their present unbelief—deluded by some groundless expectations. But that is very far from being the predicted and promised restoration; and I think I shall do a service to those who are looking for this sort of restoration, to show them that it is not what is held forth to faith and hope. The law of the Divine procedure in this matter has ever been—No dispersion save as the Divine way of marking the iniquity of foregoing defection; and no restoration but as the Divine token of reconciliation with a penitent and believing people. “Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it,…. and I scattered them, and they were dispersed through the countries.” But “from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you, .. . and ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ezek. xxxvi. 17,19, 25,28). There is not, so far as I remember, one passage in which, the promised Restoration is held forth by itself, or apart from the promised Reconciliation. I am not arguing that they will be converted in the countries of their dispersion, and then transported to Palestine. For aught I know, they may all be settled in Palestine ere they get the “new heart.” Not a few of them are there already; and, encouraged by colonization societies or political powers for their own ends, many thousands of them might, in a few years, be seen flocking thither. Some, in fact, think there is Scripture warrant for expecting that they will be re-settled in Palestine, with Jerusalem as of old for the metropolis of their nationality, and that they will there erect a temple, and set up in it their ancient worship, ere they look penitentially upon Him whom nationally they pierced. I confess I think the evidence for all this slender enough, and that some things look to me quite the opposite way. But even though it were so, this is not the predicted restoration. The only light in which the eventual Restoration of Israel is held forth in Scripture is as the Divine sequel and public seal of Reconciliation to the now contrite and converted nation.

What will be the character of this change? The best answer to this will be found in one of the richest Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament—Zech. xii. 10; xiii. 1. From this we gather (1) That there will be a glorious effusion of the Spirit upon the whole nation: “And I will pour upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (rulers as well as people) the Spirit of grace (to soften their hearts) and of supplications (to cry for mercy).” In this process afflictive dispensations will play an important instrumental part: “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; in all their affliction they will seek me early” (Hos. v. 15). And it should seem as if the call to “seek the Lord” would go through the nation, and meet with a general response; for it is immediately added: “Come, and let us return unto the Lord, for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us, and the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain upon the earth” (vi. 1 —3). The contrition here expressed is not more beautiful than the ingenuousness of it, and the calm confidence with which light is expected to arise in their felt darkness, and complete recovery anticipated. Their inward vision, thus clarified, they now see all things in a now light. The spirituality of their own Scriptures breaks upon them, chasing away their old narrow and carnal ideas; and the relief which is there held forth to the guilty, supplants their vague dreams of future exaltation. This is strikingly expressed by the man who, of all others, had passed through the deepest of these waters at the time of his conversion: “But their understandings were hardened; for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament, because it is done away [only] in Christ. [1] But even unto this day, when Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart. But what time it (that is, their heart) turneth to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Cor. iii. 14—16). In other words, Christ being the sole key of the Old Testament Scriptures, it is impossible that a Christ-rejecting nation can understand them; for they read and hear them with a veil upon their heart: but so soon as their heart shall turn to the Lord, the veil will have fallen off of itself, and the living oracles be full of life and fragrance, warmth and glory.

But the best of Zechariah’s great prophecy is yet to come. (“2.) In Jesus of Nazareth beholding now a pierced Messiah, by their own hands crucified and slain, their hearts will break with bitter but generous grief. “And they shall look on Me, whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” As He hung upon the cross, they looked—and mocked; now they “look—and mourn.” The glorious object is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; but the look—oh! how changed—from bitter derision to bitter distress. To what is this owing? “I will pour upon them (says the Lord) the Spirit of grace and of supplications, and they shall look and mourn.” O, yes, and is there one who has ever cast that heartbreaking look on Christ who will trace it to any other cause? What kind of look is it to be? It is an evangelical look. They shall mourn for Him (pierced by themselves); it is exceeding bitter—as for an only son, and for a firstborn; it is universal—”the land shall mourn, even all the families that remain;” it is domestic—”every family apart;” it is personal—”their wives apart.” What a mourning will that be!” He came unto His own (once), and His own received Him not;” but “at the second time Joseph shall be made known unto His brethren,” amid the astonishment and the tears of those who had evil entreated Him, “and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh shall hear the weeping.”

But the best of all, in this prophecy, is reserved for the last. (3.) In the fountain of that very blood which themselves did shed, they shall be washed at once from the guilt and from the slain of that and all their sins. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” Those words on the cross, “It is finished,” followed up by the expiring of the great sacrificial Life, opened the fountain, indeed, once for all. But to unbelief it is as good as shut unto this day. When, however, the eyes of the penitent nation are at length unveiled, they shall descry it open, and opened for them, begetting all the surprise of a new discovery; and as they come forth from it, “washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb,” methinks their mourning, if sweeter, will be yet keener—watering a free pardon with tears. “And the Lord will remove the iniquity of the land in one day.” What land? What but the land that is to “mourn,” as Zechariah says. O, yes, the land and the people will now be for ever identified. “Then will I remember my covenant with Abraham and I will remember the land.” He will be merciful to His land, and to His people. “Upon the land of my people shall come up briers and thorns…. until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high …. and then the wilderness shall be a fruitful field, and the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever.” “Neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.”

5. “What shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead”? (Rom. xi. 15).

Scattered as they now are among all nations under heaven, and the most inveterate enemies of the Lord Jesus, the reception of the whole family of Israel must needs be such a stupendous manifestation of the power of God upon the spirits of men, and of the efficacy of the Cross to break the stoutest hearts, as will kindle devout astonishment far and wide, and so change the dominant mode of thinking and feeling on all spiritual things, as to seem like nothing short of a resurrection from the dead. But in what respects? Then, the oldest nation existing shall be seen standing forth in a transformed character, and beautified with salvation! That emphatically truth-hating, mercy-spurning, prophet-killing, Christ-crucifying nation, hasting under the wings of Immanuel and finding glad shelter there—what a proclamation will that be to the wide world of mercy for the chief of sinners; as if a voice should go forth from the whole nation, saying everywhere, Come, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul! Can this fail to arrest an unthinking world, and send a thrill of transport through the Church of God! And what a voice will this be for the faithfulness of God, making those words to stand up in living exemplification for all future time—”The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance!”

Once more on this head:—

6. Israel will than stand forth before the world as the root, of which all other believing nations are but the branches— the parent-stem of that tree which is yet to cover the whole earth.

This definite relation is so clearly expressed once and again by the great apostle, that one should think there could be no mistake. Thus, addressing the Christian Gentile: “If some of the branches (of this Jewish tree) were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive-tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive-tree, boast not against the (broken-off) branches; but if thou do boast (forget not that) thou bearest not the root, but the root thee…. If thou wert cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted, contrary to nature, into a good olive-tree, how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Rom. xi. 17, 18, 24). In other words, the Gospel Church is not a new thing under the sun: historically and lineally, it is that very “Israel of God” (Gal. vi. 16) which came out of the loins of Jacob, went down and came up out of Egypt, wandered forty years in the wilderness, and then entered the promised land, gave birth in the fulness of time to the promised Messiah, after whose death, resurrection, ascension, and mission of the Spirit, it opened its bosom to receive its outcast Gentile brother to the fellowship of its own name, and the enjoyment of all its own nearness to God in Christ. The believing Jew has gone out from nothing, but the believing Gentile has come in to everything.

This new “Israel of God” may, at given times, contain very few of the natural Israel. The “remnant” of them, “according to the election of grace,” may at times be reduced to the very lowest. But even if there were but one—as if just “that the purpose of God according to election might stand”—that one would be the root, and all the rest, though embracing myriads of Gentiles, would be but the branches. If this be true, it furnishes us with the key—the only true key, I believe—to those prophetic pictures of the glory of Messiah’s kingdom, as covering the whole earth, where, if “Judah,” “Israel,” “Jacob,” “the people” of the covenant, etc., mean the mere nation of Abraham’s natural descendants, it would irresistibly follow that the whole world is yet to be Judaized and put under Judaic government (which fanatical Jews expect,but what Christian can endure?); whereas, if by these terms—wherever a contrast with the Gentiles does not fix down their application to the nation—we understand primarily the believing portion of Abraham’s natural seed, but along with them as many Gentiles as, “being Christ’s, are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. iii. 29), and so the Church of God in its enlarged Abrahamic character,—all, as it seems to me, will explain quite in harmony with the New Testament.

Let us hear the apostle to the Galatians:—”If ye (once Gentile idolaters) be Christ’s, then are ye”—saved? No; that is not the thought, true enough though it be, but “then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. iii. 29). Still more explicitly to the once Diana-worshipping Ephesians. So long as they were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise,” they were “far off. But now in Christ Jesus, ye who once were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. ii. 12, 13, 19). Of course, then, “the city of God,” to the citizenship of which they were admitted, must have existed before the middle wall of partition was broken down to let them in; and since the Gentiles were certainly not admitted to Judaism or Jewish nationality, if that “city of God” to which the Gentile believers were admitted was not the already existing Church of God, then were the Gentiles admitted to nothing, became “fellow-heirs” of nothing, and “of the same body” with those who were themselves no “body” at all to them as Gentiles?

I have put this as emphatically as I could, because, to my reading of the Bible in the light of the New Testament, no position is more unscriptural—none more distorting to all Biblical truth—than that the Church, in the proper sense of that term, had no existence till the day of Pentecost. And among other truths which this obscures and distorts, is that one which constitutes my present sixth position, now, I trust, sufficiently established—that Israel, as the original depositories and heirs of the Abrahamic promises, the elder brother and natural heir in the family of God, when converted and restored to the land of ancient promise, will be gladly recognized, devoutly honoured, and gratefully looked up to by the whole believing Gentile world, who will then feel, as never before, that “Salvation is of the Jews.”

Having stated some characteristics of the Second Advent which seem to me to preclude any millennium after it, I next proceeded to point out some of the characteristics of the millennial state, as I gather them in the light of the New Testament, Negatively, we have seen that all ritual distinctions between Jew and Gentile are by the Gospel forever abolished, and that the millennial state will not exhibit any ritual separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. But positively we have seen that the natural seed of Abraham, instead of having ceased from their covenant-existence and covenant-destiny under the Gospel, are still beloved for the fathers’ sake, and are destined to be both nationally converted and nationally restored to their own land, where they will be joyfully recognized and honoured by the whole believing world as the root of which they are but the branches, the elder brother in the great family of God, in whose past history of four thousand years’ duration—studded with Miracle and Prophecy, Retribution and Compassion unparalleled, will be seen “Mercy built up for ever, and Faithfulness established in the very heavens”! Nor is it natural that a people of such active life, of such quick intelligence, of such ubiquitous movements, of such linguistic capacities, of such aptitude to mix with all nationalities, while yet preserving their own, should allow these lessons of their past history and final recovery to be learnt only at a distance—themselves staying at home, as they have not for whole millenniums done before: May we not rather deem it probable that turning all their quick and restless habits to high account, their great business men, as they go from home in honourable traffic, will carry the light of their new character everywhere with them, and thus “the remnant of Jacob be in the midst of many peoples, as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, which tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men” (Micah v. 7).

Notes and References

1. The word here used is not the relative pronoun “which” [***]— requiring the supplement “which veil,” as in our Authorised Version—but the conjunction “because” [***], yielding the only natural sense without any supplement at all, though the sense becomes clearer by the supplement [only], as De Wette translates.


THE BLESSED HOPE.—VIII.

BY REV. DAVID BROWN, D.D.

The Christian 5 Jan 1871.

But I must hasten to notice, in the briefest form, some other characteristics of the Latter Day.

1. The conversion of the whole world to Christ. On this, happily, my premillennial friends and I are agreed. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the [bed of the] sea” (Isa. xi. 9). “Ask of Me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. ii. 8). “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness (wild, roving, savage tribes) shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust (in abject, even though unwilling, subjection). The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him” (Psa. lxxii. 8—11). “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kingdoms of the nations shall worship before thee: for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He is the Governor (or Ruler) among the nations. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat (of the great sacrificial feast) and worship; all they that go down to the dust (every mortal) shall bow before him” (Psa. xxii. 27—29). “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one” (Zech. xiv. 9). “And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world is become our Lord’s and his Christ’s, [1] and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. xi. 15). What prospects for the world are these! The darkness that covers large and densely peopled portions of the earth flying before the light of revealed truth, and not a spot of the inhabited globe that is not irradiated by the beams of the Sun of Righteousness; all the polytheisms of the Pagan nations, with their cruel, licentious, degrading rites and lying vanities utterly abolished, the Mohammedan imposture which has for ages held millions enslaved, obstinate Jewish unbelief, the sensuous pomposities and soul-destroying errors of Romanism, which have sat so long like an incubus on Christendom, with all that is deadly in heresy and infidelity—swept clean away, and “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism” for the whole world!

(2.) Universal peace, the universal ascendency of truth and righteousness in human affairs, and unparalleled temporal prosperity. “He shall judge between [2] the nations, and decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. ii. 4). “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them…. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the serpent s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover tho sea.” [3] “There was given to the Son of man dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples and nations and languages should serve Him. And judgment (or redress) was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom…. and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High” (Dan. vii. 14, 22, 27). “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God; and (I saw) such as had not worshipped the beast nor his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. xx. 4, 6). “We shall reign on the earth” (Rev. v. 10). “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy (the Church’s) children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth” (Ps. xlv. 16). I have neither time nor space to show that as all these predictions refer confessedly to the same time, so they refer to the same parties and the same kind of rule and reign—though I know well enough how differently this is viewed by my premillennial friends. The oppressed and at times almost extinguished Church, I understand, is to have persistency and triumph, and a glorious progeny of her own which shall yet so rule the earth, every country, every interest, every department of life—political and social as well as religious—”in the hands” and under the control of “the people of the saints of the Most High.” No wonder that if “godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is as well as of that which is to come,” “then shall the earth yield her increase, and God, even our own God, shall bless us.” When the millions upon millions squandered upon tear, upon intemperance, upon vice of every description, upon expensive superfluities in apparel and animal indulgences—are all saved and husbanded for nobler purposes; when science, enterprise, and wealth combined shall, with ever-growing success, develop the exhaustless resources of the earth; when the most remote parts of the earth shall be reached with such ease and rapidity as to seem but the suburban portions of one vast “city of God”; when the varied activities of a teeming population shall, under the benign influences of religion, be directed only to laudable ends; when peace, and love, and purity, and grace shall be the reigning characteristics, binding all mankind into one vast brotherhood, with “wisdom and knowledge for the stability of the times, and strength of salvation”—O what a contrast will that present to all that this world of ours has ever been before, from the fall downwards!

But I must sum up all I have to say on this head with one other, and far the brightest, characteristic of the Latter Day:—

(3.) Unexampled spiritual power and glory. Under this general expression I include copious effusions of the Spirit, saving conversion on a scale hitherto unparalleled, ecclesiastical unity and peace and prosperity, shining ordinances, bright tokens of the Lord’s presence with His people, as well in their secular as in their sacred occupations. On this head it is needless to quote passages, because every description of the fruit of Christ’s sufferings, of the gift of the Spirit, of the conquests of grace, of such Divine manifestations as make places of worship, whether in the open air or under cover, “none other than the house of God and the very gale of heaven,” and of the light and life and purity and joy thence resulting, will then be realized to an extent before unknown, and as yet hard even to conceive. Let us only suppose that what President Edwards describes as the state of the little town of Northampton (New England) during the Revival which visited it under his ministry—and, blessed be God, not a little of the same thing has, during the last thirteen years, been witnessed not only in America, but in Ireland, Scotland, England, and even elsewhere—to spread from town to town, from country to country, from continent to continent; place after place catching the blessed gales of the Spirit, and the “spices” of a universal garden of the Lord “flowing out”: what a world would this of ours then be! My space, I regret, obliges me to throw into a footnote a long extract from the “Narrative” of that distinguished man, which I take to be more speaking than all else I have written or can write on this point. [4] The worthy author calls this, as he well might, “a very extraordinary dispensation of Providence.” But what if it should yet become “a very ordinary dispensation?” God (says he) went in many respects out of and much beyond His usual and ordinary way.” But should even this, in the Latter Day, become “His usual and ordinary way,” what will then be His “very extraordinary dispensations of Providence,” those exceedings of His ordinary Self, when He “goes out of and much beyond” this? Indeed, without some such procedure, how are those glorious results to come to pass which are foretold in such terms as these—”Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isa. lxii. 8). “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation; I the Lord will hasten it in its time” (lx. 22).

That this will be an absolutely sinless state is not, however, to be for a moment supposed, and those who say so in their books—and do it in varied forms—confine themselves to such generalities as tend only to hide from themselves and their readers the immense and insuperable difficulties which it involves. That there should be sin at all in “the new heavens and new earth wherein (by emphatic contrast with the present) dwelleth righteousness”—who can endure to think of? What! Is human depravity utterly gone in that whole world of “men in the flesh” who are expected to people the earth after Christ comes, and to constitute the subjects of the millennial kingdom? Surely, that will not be alleged. But if not, who can say that that notwithstanding, there will still be no sin on the earth? In vain are such passages held up as proving it, “Thy people shall be all righteous” (Isa. lx. 21); nor can I imagine any intelligent student of the Bible building on such general announcements of the universal righteousness of the Latter Day as proof of its absolute sinlessness. No; but this we are led to expect, that such will be the prevalence and power of vital religion, that “all iniquity will hide its head,” and “feign submission.”

But the question of questions yet remains: Granted that all this and much more will characterize the Latter Day—is it to precede or is it to follow the Second Advent? Those who have read what I have written in the foregoing papers on the Scriptural character of the Second Advent will anticipate my answer at least to this question, that if those characteristics are scriptural, no such millennium—in fact, no millennium at all—is possible after the Second Advent; and as I most earnestly believe that there is to be such a period, and characterized as I have endeavoured to describe, my belief, of course, is, that it will precede the Second Advent, but that this belief does not in the least interfere with the duty and privilege of “loving His appearing,” and “waiting” for it in the patience of hope. At the close of this my last, and already long enough paper, I am not going to argue this point; but I may be permitted to indicate, in a sentence or two, some considerations which I think are worthy to be pondered by those who “tremble at the word of the Lord.”

I find in the New Testament a work to be done and changes to be wrought on the face of the Church and of society between the two Advents which seem to me very conclusive on the point in question. “Go make disciples of [5] all nations, baptizing them, etc.; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.” [6] However unable the primitive Christians might be to guess the duration of the interval between this commission and the Lord’s return, surely it is beyond all conception that any sensible Christian could imagine that “all nations” might be discipled, baptized, and brought under Christ’s laws, either in his own lifetime, or within the largest space of time which some would allow for possibly “expecting” His appearing? But that is not all, nor the principal thing for which I quoted the words. If it proclaims one truth more clearly than another, that truth surely is this, that the only universal evangelization which the world is ever to see is ordained to take place before the Second Advent. I have never seen a tolerable answer to this; and under my own feet I find it a rock that cannot be moved.

Take again the seven parables of the “kingdom” in Matt. xiii. In that of the Tares and Wheat, while the field is “the world,” the seeds of a kingdom are to be sown in it which, when they spring up, will be found to consist of genuine and false-hearted subjects of Christ, under one visible name; both are to grow together “until the harvest;” and “the harvest is the end of the world,” when “the righteous are to shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The same truth precisely is taught in the parable of the Net cast into the sea. So in the parables of the Mustard-seed, and the Leaven—holding forth the progressive character of the kingdom, from the first sowing of the small seed and the insertion of the Leaven, till the Tree overshadows “the world” and the Leaven has wrought itself into tho texture of all human life and society, leavening at length the whole mass. While this proclaims to mo most clearly that all the universal evangelization which the world is ever to see is to be completed ere “the end of the world” arrive—in other words, ere Christ comes again—it also bespeaks such a length of interval between the two events as the most sanguine of the early Christians, intelligently studying it, could never imagine would terminate in his own or in many lifetimes, nor within any such space of time as would make ” waiting” for Christ’s appearing possible, according to some now-a-days.

Again, let the following passages be weighed in this light: “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke xxi. 24). “Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. xi. 25, 26). “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ? … It is not for you to know the times and the seasons (for such events); bat ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and (instead of the kingdom taking up your thoughts ‘at this time) ye shall be witnesses unto me both at Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts i. 6—8)—all indicating what protracted work had to be done before the end.

Then, though we are constantly taught to “watch” for Christ, as faithful servants for the return of an absent Master, we are just clearly taught that “the kingdom of God was “not” immediately to appear (Luke xix. 11, etc.), that the Lord is to be away “a long time” (Matt. xxv. 19); and that the Bridegroom is to “tarry” so unexpectedly long, as to set the wise as well as the foolish virgins to sleep (Matt. xxv. 5). The parable of the Importunate Widow is intended expressly to inculcate perseverance in prayerful expectation of the “Judge,” to redress all the widowed Church’s wrongs, which perseverance will be all but worn out by his protracted absence, insomuch that “when the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith (that He is coming at all) in the earth?” (Luke xviii. 1—8).

But I find I must here stop, not only short of much that I had to say, but even without that winding up which I had fondly hoped for time and space to give. Had this been practicable, I humbly think I could have made my readers see that some things which I fear have worn too controversial an air in these papers, were neither designed to bear down upon any of those from whom I differ on this subject, nor are fitted to produce one unpleasant feeling towards those brethren. In particular, I could have wished to show how, in many respects, I come nearer to them than may appear from the preceding papers. Their “Blessed Hope” is mine— the “glorious Appearing” of the Lord Himself. No millennium, however bright—no spiritual presence, however transporting—can make up for the want of this, or do other than quicken the desire for this. Risen with Christ, believers are taught to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; but It is only when Christ, who is their Life, shall appear, that they expect to appear also with Him in glory. And they so love His appearing, that at times they are ready to say, “Why tarry the wheels of His chariot?” But they remember that in destroying the works of the devil, He has much to do before that, which has a glory of its own. He has to “overturn, overturn, overturn, till He come, whose right it is” to reign without a rival here below, and His will has to be done on earth as it is in heaven. He has to show how universally and how gloriously the Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation,” to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, but also to the Gentile. Yes, I expect the conversion of the world by no other agencies than those already in existence—the Word in the hands of the Spirit; but these, aided by innumerable concurring and converging providences; such as convulsive judgments in Church and State, shaking all things that are shakeable, “that those things which cannot be shaken may remain;” and along with these, vast and varied preparations for the blessed and gracious change among the nations wearied out by lying vanities, and ever-increasing openings of the world itself for the coming change. But even at its longest, brightest, best state, this Latter Day is to set in darkness and daring rebellion on the part of vast multitudes who had only “feigned subjection,” and who, when ” the glory” has waned, will come out in their true colours, and be finally and for ever overwhelmed only when ready to carry all before them. And then— “Behold He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him “; and for that blessed time I wait, saying, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.” Long the interval may seem to hope; but there is such a thing as the “patience of hope,” which learns, in some small measure, to calculate according to the arithmetic of heaven, and feel that in prospect of this blessed event, “a thousand years are as one day”!

Notes & References

1. ***. Such is unquestionably the true and sublime reading of this verse. The received reading, with the plural “kingdoms,” has hardly any good support.

2. ***.

3. I print “for” in this last clause in italics to show that since the conversion of all the wild boasts into tame animals, and the most venomous into harmless creatures, is made to arise from the universal prevalence of “the knowledge of the Lord,” these foregoing expressions must needs be (as Prebendary Lowth says, in his “Commentary on the Prophets”), “metaphorical.” I might add to this, that to interpret “in all my holy mountain” literally—as meaning ‘all that insignificant elevation called Mount Zion,’ and make the quiet of that petty rising ground to arise from, “the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” is so exceedingly puerile, that one cannot but stand amazed at the tenacious consistency in rigid literalism which would go through with it even here.

4. Presently upon this, a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and ages; the noise among the dry bones waxed louder and louder; all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things was soon thrown by; all the conversation in all companies, and upon all occasions, was about these things only, unless what was necessary for carrying on their ordinary secular business. They seemed to follow their worldly business more as a part of their duty, than from any disposition they had to it. The only thing in their view was to get to the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it: the engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid; it appeared in their very countenances. The work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more; souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day, for many months together, might be seen evident instances of sinners brought out of darkness into marvellous light, and delivered out of a horrible pit and from the miry clay, and set upon a rock, with a new song of praise to God in their mouths. This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious attraction in the town, so that in the spring and summer following, in the year 1745, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God; it was never so full of love and joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families, on account of salvation being brought to them; parents rejoicing over their children as being new-born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The goings of God were then seen in His sanctuary; God’s day was a delight, and His Tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful; the congregation was alive in God’s service. In all companies, on other days, on whatever occasions persons met, Christ was to be heard and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ. The gloriousness of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, His glorious work in the conversion of a soul, the truth and certainty of the great things of the Word of God, etc. Those amongst us that had been formerly converted were greatly enlivened and renewed with fresh and extraordinary visitations of the spirit of God. Strangers were generally surprised to find things so much beyond what they had heard, and were wont to tell others that the state of the town could not be conceived of by those that had not seen it. This seems to have been a very extraordinary dispensation of Providence God has in many respects gone out of, and much beyond, His usual and ordinary way. The work in this town, and some others about us, has been extraordinary on account of the universality of it, affecting all sorts of persons, sober and vicious, high and low, rich and poor, wise and unwise. A loose, careless person could scarcely find another in the whole neighbourhood; and if there was anyone that seemed to remain senseless or unconcerned, it would be spoken of as a strange thing.”— (“Narrative of the Revival of Religion In New England” pp. 65—69, 74. Collins, 1829.)

5. ***.

6. See a former note on this phrase …, showing that, however rendered, all are agreed as to the time meant by it, namely, the period of Christ’s Second Coming.