“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book,” Rev. 22:18, 19.
The existing circumstances of the Church of God seem to call upon those who earnestly desire its welfare, not to hold back from expressing that which may, in any way, tend to the strengthening of faith and healing those divisions which, while they destroy charity, and the fellowship one with another that is proper to walking in the light, weaken the testimony which is held out to the unconverted, or to the inquirer, of the everlasting truth of God. It appears to me that, on the subject of prophecy (divisions on which now shame godliness), both those who hold and those who strenuously oppose views, which, for convenience’ sake, we may call Millenarian, are deeply culpable. Many have written on one side and the other ignorant of each other’s views, and precipitate and unwarranted in their inferences from them; and, while those who hold the views of prophecy, which have occasioned the controversy, have indulged in language utterly inconsistent with the spirit of their Master, those who are unconvinced by them, though charging this exclusively on the Millenarians, are themselves, it appears to me, in no way free from blame. Superciliousness, distrust, and animosity, not perhaps so distinctly expressed, because new views are generally the most active and forward, but quite as evil in their character and spirit, have marked their conduct and language; while those who sought instruction, and to whom the others were debtors for it, have been hindered, perplexed, and repelled in their inquiries by the selfish precipitancy of the one and presuming ignorance of many connected with them, and the uncandid uninquiring rejection and denouncement of the other. There is no one at all observant of what is now existing, and interested in the strengthening of humble souls, but must feel the culpable responsibility in which many leaders of the professing church are involved.
There are some observations I would make on these subjects, being convinced of the extreme precipitancy in which many have written upon them; and I think that in such a time (though I am persuaded the purposes of God will eventually result, and His glory be manifested in our weakness), there should be a disposition to try more maturely the soundness of our views and statements alleged to be from Scripture, before truth and the value of the sacred Scriptures themselves are brought into question, perplexity, and disgrace, by the presumptuous and hasty pursuit, not of scriptural truth, but of our own untried thoughts, given out to a greedy public, glad of novelty, which has no requisition of sanctification attached to it, and ready to neglect their own souls for unfounded and idle speculations.
On the other hand, it is equally certain that the Scriptures of God have not been written to no purpose; that, as His provision for His saints, the prophetic like all other parts of them have a sanctifying, strengthening and directing influence. What God thought it worth while to order and arrange, as ministering to the ends of His glory and man’s participation in it, and to reveal (that is, to communicate, to man), as that in which He is concerned, must be surely worth while for man to inquire into and be informed of; and they seem guilty of presumption who would arraign the value and importance of what God thought fit to reveal. The fact of God’s revelation to one who knows what God is (in a word, to a believer) is demonstrative evidence of its vast importance and his interest in it; and when it comes from God to man, is man to say it is not of importance?
These truly are the themes which have called forth most the admiration and praise of those who have seen God in them; nor can any one believe rightly in His saving love, who is not deeply interested in the manner by which its results are accomplished. The argument that prophecy is only available as an evidence of revelation after its fulfilment, not to reason upon general grounds, seems to have little weight. All the prophecies testify of facts which require a certain line of conduct, at or previous to their fulfilment; and though they are evidence of themselves as a revelation, and of the value of the prophesied fact, there are few instances of this being of importance after their fulfilment. Besides, many of them unequivocally relate to the closing period of the world; and it would be hard to say of what avail these could be for the purpose stated. And further, almost all which are considered as fulfilled prophecies by those who use this argument, were expressly delivered as testimonies to the consciences of men immediately concerned in them, previously to their fulfilments. Will any one say, that the directions of our Lord to His disciples were of no interest, and not important to be understood previous to the destruction of Jerusalem, and merely that that destruction might accredit His testimony? Were Jeremiah’s urgent remonstrances and warnings not to be inquired into before the Chaldeans took the city; and shall it be said that the solemn testimony to Israel put them under no responsibility, but were useless declamations, till the kings of Assyria had been the means of burying them in yet unveiled oblivion? There seems to be something of infidelity in all this. Or do they argue that God is less concerned in the Church now, or that the Lord now will not do good, neither will He do evil? Besides, they leave, arguing in the present time, a large scope of prophecy unfulfilled, which manifestly cannot be of any direct avail subsequent to its fulfilment; and yet they would afford us no assignable cause why it has been revealed at all.
But they say it does not tend to sanctification. But man is not a judge of this; he would still be sanctifying the Church his own way. I am persuaded that God never revealed anything without a sanctifying purpose; for His nature is holy, His purpose holiness; and I believe the sober and holy study of the word of God, as such, in His fear, will concentrate the affections upon Him, separate from the world, and give enlarged views of His kingdom, wisdom, and glory, peculiarly calculated to sink in our estimation this world—its glory, its strength; and to fix our minds on the Lamb’s glory. There is in fact in these objections a tendency to depreciate the purposes of God in Scripture, to preserve the importance of man’s little sphere of views.
On the other hand, the extreme precipitancy with which the subject has been taken up has led—which has given occasion to this part of the charge—to unjust estimate of the use, and value, and seasonable application of those truths. Men have sought to please themselves, instead of edifying themselves or their neighbours. Let men either inquire humbly, or use God’s word to God’s purposes, or else refrain from seeking to affect the minds of others. Loquacity or forwardness on religious subjects is a great hindrance to real edification. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God,” as those who have something to say on God’s behalf, or else use the modesty which becomes those who only seek for truth. One other complaint is to be made against those who oppose these views, and it is a serious one. Instead of weighing what has been advanced by others in the spirit of serious inquiry, separating the chaff from the wheat, and willing to see the use which God might make of their brethren’s testimony; jealous of the tone which they assumed, and hurt by their charges against them, they irritably threw the whole of their views overboard, without inquiring what the scripture itself said upon the subject; and then, to justify themselves, endeavoured all they could to shew, in the darkest colours, every part of the system, and bring up reasons against the whole. But if there be any truth in these things, they are defrauding themselves, and it is a poor compensation to prove their brethren wrong.
In many things, alas! we are divided enough—enough exposed to the enemy not to be opposed to one another in our very hopes. Surely they should give some just sense, if they think those to whom they are opposed in the wrong. For my own part, if I were bound to receive all that has been said by the Millenarians, I would reject the whole system; but their views and statements weigh with me not one feather. But this does not hinder me from inquiring by the teaching of the same Spirit (which in measure, I believe, directed them) what God has with infinite graciousness revealed to me concerning His dealings with the Church.
I confess I think the modern writers on prophecy justly chargeable with following their own thoughts hastily, and far too much removed from the control of Scripture. They have got some general view, perhaps sound, of God’s purpose. They take some text or prophecy as a starting point, pursue the suggestions of their own minds in connection with their general views previously adopted, but leave the results almost entirely untried by the direct testimony of the word, affording us theories, often enlarging when by a writer much imbued with Scripture, often of general soundness of view though replete with false statements: but, when not by such a writer, diverging into absurdities calculated to awaken the impatience of many and bring the truth of all into dishonour. In the meanwhile the Church is distracted. There is not a single writer whose writings I have seen (unless it be the author of one short inquiry) who is not chargeable with this fault. Some of the most confident really call for much reprobation. But good, I am persuaded, will grow out of it; and the very difficulties will call, under God’s Spirit, the attention of the faithful servant of God: and while the precipitancy of the others will be repressed by the distinct manifestation of the error into which it has led them and the calm statement of truth, they who have hitherto rejected even inquiry will yield themselves to much which they have scorned, and be humbled both to the acknowledgment of a common truth and the spiritual sincerity of many against whom they have been bitter, because they could not convince them, when in truth it was their own fault. I would call upon the servants of God to pray that He would guide and direct His church by His Spirit in these things in sober and subdued meekness, and it will surely be led into all truth. I shall take notice (with this feeling) of some things which seem to me illustrative of the unguarded, unscriptural statements many of which, I think, have dishonoured Scripture, and been spoken ignorantly: and I shall, secondly, propose some ground of inquiry, to those who have hitherto repudiated these views.
These views trench upon many habits in which religious teachers have for the most part been formed—many views in which they have long had their boast. No man likes to give up these: their relative consequence is lost; it is distinguishing to oppose them. “No man, having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new, for he saith, the old is better.” Many of the subjects mentioned in the foregoing pages are of themselves of deep interest, such as the use of prophecy generally, and materially affecting the present views of men upon the subject; but it has not been attempted to dwell upon them at length here: other occasions, or a better instrument, perhaps may draw them out into more useful and instructive relief. My object is unpretending and simple, and I pursue it at once: it has been some time on my mind, though withheld hitherto.
The observations on the “resurrection from among the dead” published in the Christian Examiner (sound in criticism, and temperate in spirit, and calculated to be useful) point out an instance of the extreme carelessness with which bold statements are made by Writers on these subjects: but having been there discussed, I omit it here.
There is an error of another kind, small in importance, perhaps, because of obvious correction, but illustrative of the way in which men inconsiderately make statements, when they fall in with their system, in the face of the simplest testimony of Scripture itself. In the third and fourth sermons on Daniel’s vision of the four beasts and of the Son of man, by Mr. Irving, Zephaniah is stated to have prophesied before the carrying away of Israel captive; and it is assumed that they carried the book of that prophet to Nineveh, whereby Nineveh would know of its threatened judgments. The prophet addressed Judah alone, and expressly states that he prophesied in the reign of Josiah (that is, about one hundred years after the carrying away of Israel captive). The reason of the statement is, to shew that God gave testimony to Nineveh and her king, before He judged them. He certainly had done so previously by Jonah. The idea is a very laudable one; but, running away with it, we have the following passage in page 92: “Yet God suffered not such a city to perish without witnesses, but raised certain of the captivity to the highest offices in his kingdom,” etc. “There can be no doubt, also, that the prophecies of Nahum and of Zephaniah, which almost solely concern the judgment upon Nineveh, and which were given before the captivity of Israel, were carried with the captives into Nineveh, and there more or less circulated amongst the Ninevites, and especially brought to the knowledge of the king himself; for God is very merciful,” etc. They say much of taking Scripture as it presents itself. Who could suppose that all that concerned Nineveh in the prophecy of Zephaniah was three verses, bringing it in amongst the many other countries which were to be destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar— the whole book being concerning him, Jerusalem, its present evil, and future hopes; and this, as we have said, a century after Israel was carried into captivity! We take it as shewing the extreme neglect of Scripture and even prophecy itself, the hurried pursuit of an object in the mind, something brought in at random to illustrate it, without any reference or mature weighing, whether it is really borne out by Scripture. I think the interpretation of Isaiah in the same page erroneous, and the occasion of the error the same: but as this might seem to involve interpretation, I do not say anything of it, though I think the case perfectly clear, and that the simple reading of prophecy will evince the total inapplicability of the alleged meaning. Another instance, upon which it is not proposed to dwell, but mentioned as occurring in the same book, is in a long dissertation to shew that the Greek empire was set up in order to give prevalence to the Greek language, which, though a collateral result, is, I think, a very confined view, and in itself exhibits the absorption of mind into its present idea, which I complain of as so injurious, and, in the case of Scripture, so very culpable; but it is there stated, that our Lord and His apostles always quote from the Septuagint. This is not the fact, as has been fully shewn.
Again, in the translator’s preliminary discourse to Ben-Ezra, we have (p. 55), “And to this effect I understand Rom. 8:1, ‘There is no condemnation’ (krisis, i.e. judgment),” etc. The word is katakrima without a single various reading in Wetstein or Griesbach. Doubtless he had in mind John 5:24, where it is krisis. If this were an isolated act of inadvertency, it might be well passed over; but it is evidence, and accumulated evidence, of great carelessness. And it is adduced on this account, that it is introduced by the author as determining the sense of an important passage, to which, at the time of stating it, it is evident, he could not have referred; not merely from the mistake itself, but because the whole passage (and this is the point I would urge) bears in a long train of argument upon subjects totally unconnected with the one upon which he is arguing, and in which krisis, in his view of it, would have no place or object. That which we advert to is not the casual mistake, but the drawing in a whole passage into a purpose beside its object, through absorption of mind, into one particular view.
And in this place we cannot pass over, though it cannot be treated as a mistake, passages in this preface highly injurious to the work and honour of Christ, and in it, the just, holy, and influencing comfort of believing saints. It is alike indicative of the same hasty pursuit of a single idea. I shall quote but one concentrating sentence—but the observations will apply to the whole spirit shewn from p. 55-65 of this preface. The haste, the very culpable haste (for the promises and hopes of God’s people are not thus to be trifled with) is shewn in this. In evincing (the truth of which we do not now inquire into) that the resurrection at Christ’s coming is the substantive hope of the Church, he attempts this by throwing every cloud upon the hope of the dying Christian. “Death,” his words are, “is a parting, not a meeting; it is a sorrowful parting, not a joyful meeting; it is a parting in feebleness and helplessness to we know not whither—into a being we know not what.” This sentence is singularly unfortunate in its statements; and, indeed, Scripture and the hope of the gospel ought not to be thus made the slave of men’s momentary thoughts. “I have a desire,” says the apostle, “to depart and to be with Christ.” Death to the believer is not a parting but a meeting, if our central and supreme affections are with Christ. I am not questioning here, be it remembered, the hope of Christ’s coming, but Mr. Irving’s statements respecting death. Death is not a sorrowful parting, but a joyful meeting; for it does not become us to sorrow as those without hope. For why? —they that sleep in Jesus go to Jesus, and God brings them with Him. For indeed “he that liveth and believeth in Jesus shall never die.” If, indeed, he values earthly things more than Christ’s presence, then sorrow will accompany his death. But it is the proper distinction of Christianity to have neutralised that power of death which Mr. Irving is preaching; “for the sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law”; but both are dead to the believer in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour. It is a parting not in but with feebleness and helplessness, we know whither—that is, to Christ. If He be true, we know whither we go, and the way. As to “a being we know not what,” the Scripture affirms it of the state of the risen body, and of that only. “It does not yet appear,” saith the apostle, “what we shall be,” speaking expressly of that state. As to the promise, Mr. Irving is writing against his own opinions; for, if he hold that Christ will come again, he believes that He will bring His saints with Him, so that they which are alive and remain have no preference. He is indeed himself witness that Scripture is conclusive as to a paradise for the separated spirit; but he says we know not what it is. Is there nothing, then, in being with Christ the Saviour, who loved us and gave Himself for us—that hope that brightened the thoughts and quickened the expectations of many a dying and many a martyred saint? Is there nothing in being with Him, to throw holy influence and triumphant character on the relinquishment of this yet evil and Satan-deceived world? Sure I am, there was that in it which made Paul prefer death to life; for death was no death to him, but parting from trial to Christ, from perseverance through surrounding evil to that blessed presence, where all doubt, sorrow, and death would have passed away to him for ever. He had a desire to depart and be with Christ; he was not comforted only by the building of God made with hands; for he was always confident, desiring rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.
We must say that this is a most unholy mis-statement of Scripture, and destructive of that which is the glory and influential power, as well cf the resurrection of the saints, as of their present hopes; and that, if the Lord’s presence be not a paramount blessing, prevailing over death now, it never will be at the resurrection, or at any other time. It shews the folly of man in his thoughts; for, in attempting to shew the importance of his views above another’s, the sole thing which is of power in those very views and can alone realise them is undermined and destroyed, and this in the face of the fullest and most anxious statements of Scripture, and to the dishonour of Christ and the faith of the saints of God. Satan reigns by death; Christ has brought life and immortality to light by the gospel. And to argue from the circumstances of His death is folly; for it was because He so suffered, and (having overcome in full conflict with the very power under which it is here stated we rest) rose again into glory, that we have not that trial, that we are delivered and triumph, and that its power is past away towards us. The observations from the Apocalypse are a total misapprehension of its force. This might call for much and varied animadversion; but my object is not to condemn or accuse (God forbid that it should be!) but precisely the contrary. But these are the sort of statements which have awakened the impatience of observant Christians, and occasioned a natural, though indeed an unjust prejudice against the persons who hold those views they are urged in maintenance of, and a hasty rejection (still more foolish) of the views themselves. For in this they are making themselves servants to the unguarded precipitancy of others, not judges of it, and masters of the truths which they confound with so many mis-statements. In a word, they are allowing Satan to do just what he meant to do by the partial ignorance of inquiring men. But it must be confessed, it is a bold word to say, that when Christ said to the thief on the cross, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise” —that which made Paul always confident, giving him, upon the common faith of God’s people, a desire to depart—that what the Lord comforted and assured the thief with, and the apostle built on, was, “a day of death, from sight of which the soul shrinketh, and a void beyond it, so vacant and unintelligible, as not to be available for any distinct end of faith, hope, edification, or comfort.” “And this notion of blessedness with Christ, upon our leaving this tabernacle, is a vague notion which Satan hath substituted.” Christ substituted it as something nearer to the dying thief, when he proposed that on which the writer so much insists; and it was because it was a distant hope, and there would have been a vague void without this revelation, that we were given the assurance that that was revealed in great mercy, which is thus now thrown to the dogs. The hope of the individual is being with Christ; the hope of the church is His coming: doubtless the individual is deeply interested in this hope likewise. On the whole, throughout this preface, Christ’s present glory is not duly seen, nor its perception by the believer as manifested by Him, as it is not to the world.
But, perhaps, we are passing our subject. I shall therefore next take notice, merely with this view, of a commonly current work, “The Cry from the Desert,” in the hope that it may lead to a more accurate examination of Scripture itself, before any of the writings of men upon this subject are adopted or rejected. This is what I would press and urge upon every one: to apply themselves, for themselves, to the testimony of Scripture, to draw ideas simply and directly from this (and I can assure them, they will ever find them sanctifying ideas) but trust no man’s mind, whether millenarian or anti-millenarian; to use the scriptural rule— “to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good”; to adopt nothing unexamined, and to reject nothing unexamined, however weak it may be in its positions. If taken in itself, it may distract; if it lead to the examination of Scripture, it may prove the indirect source of abundant knowledge and grace.
It is not my object to enter generally upon the character of this tract. I dare say the writer’s mind aimed at more fully exhibiting the purposes of God; but by undue confidence, the result has been to overrun Scripture, and exhibit, as it appears to me, only his own weakness. It is this I would deprecate. The energy of new apprehensions, doubtless, is often valuable; but in man’s hands it often degenerates into the truthless and unprofitable display of crude conceptions of our own. Let us compare the following passages, after which we will enter into detail.
“I can readily conceive, however, that these accompaniments of the divinity, with all the attendant miracles with which the heavenly Jerusalem is surrounded, will never be exposed to the unsanctified gaze of any but the holy nation; and that, as I shall hereafter attempt to shew, only of its most holy and privileged orders. I cannot afford you a more simple or expressive illustration of this sacred seclusion of the heavenly city, than was afforded me in reading the very interesting narrative of Captain Hall’s visit to the Loo Choo Islands in the Eastern Ocean, about four or five hundred miles south of Japan; wherein he states, that although he anchored off their shores for several months, and during that time had, by dint of the most confiding overtures, and the most unwearied perseverance, contrived to establish a friendly intercourse with the natives, yet, neither persuasions, entreaties, nor threats, could ever induce them, in their most unguarded moments, to allow him, or any of his company, to make any approaches into the interior of the country, where the king’s palace was situated. Nay, so scrupulously jealous were they of Captain Hall’s inquiries relative to the king, his government, or even his private establishment and family, that they would never enter into conversation upon the subject, and scarcely mention his name. I can, therefore, easily picture to myself that the more immediate residence, the court of the King of the whole earth (to use an expression more familiar to our present conceptions), will be most sacredly guarded against the approach of any but the highly privileged nation; as it is written, ‘Nothing unholy or uncircumcised shall enter therein.’”
“And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit, to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; and had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: on the east, three gates; on the north, three gates; on the south, three gates; and on the west, three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper, and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Can anything more display or condemn the light spirit in which God’s purposes are taken up, than the contrast of these two passages? How blessed and full of blessing is the latter! how full of sanctifying and exalting truths and images! His friend, however, suggests the difficulty: “If this be so, how can the kings of the earth offer him their homage?” He replies, “I have anticipated this objection, as I find it written in Ezekiel, that the prince himself shall worship in the temple: that is, worship God the Father. And as I will undertake to prove to you, the temple can only be erected in earthly Jerusalem, I thence infer, that the Prince will likewise there give his audiences, on set days, to the kings of the earth, who shall hold their kingdoms there at his hand, and will there receive their gifts of fealty to their great Head.” But this merely proves what we are here animadverting upon—the entire neglect of scriptural statements, and loss of scriptural objects, and their power, in the hasty pursuit of our own thoughts. The writer had framed his system of the two cities over against each other in the holy oblation, and he had to solve the objection, which he does, so as to relieve his own system from it as stated, but proving utter neglect of Scripture. For, instead of going there to receive their homage, the scripture states that the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and honour unto it. I do not intend to pursue the comparison of the passages, for they are sufficiently obvious to the most unobservant; but I confess I pity the mind which could interpret the statement in the Revelation into a sort of box, in which the Lord was to be shut up to prevent anybody seeing Him; like a certain petty king whom Captain Hall went to visit. This may be immaterial; but I affirm that the scope of the statement, generally, is directly opposed to the scope and object of the testimony of God in the latter part of the Revelation, and flowing from simple ignorance of the intention, meaning, and principles of interpretation of the passage and book in which it is found. To make good this, I prefer to invite the minute comparison of others, than to introduce here my own, because my object is not to interpret but to comment on the neglect of scripture with which some pursue their own thoughts.
But besides the strange moral confusion as to the passage in the Revelation, and inconsistency too with the system the author affects (he must forgive me) to have gone so far into, his statement is entirely foreign from the passage in Ezekiel. The passages are these, Ezekiel 45:6, “And ye shall appoint the possession of the city five thousand broad, and five and twenty thousand long, over against the oblation of the holy portion; it shall be for the whole house of Israel.” Compare this simple statement with the infinite conjectures of the wandering mind of the writer of this tract. Again, Ezekiel 48:15, “and the five thousand that are left in the breadth over against the five and twenty thousand, shall be a profane place for the city, for dwelling, and for suburbs: and the city shall be in the midst thereof.” The whole division was to be profane for the city, etc. In a word, the east side was for the priests, the middle for the Levites next in order, the remaining five thousand was profane for the whole house of Israel, to have the city generally, its dwelling and suburbs. And this profane place (it is a simple mis-statement to say, that it was what was outside the city within this portion that was profane), this profane place which was the part farthest from the sanctuary, for the whole house of Israel is, we are told, the heavenly Jerusalem! It would be alike impossible and unprofitable to follow all the absurdities and direct contradictions to the text, which arise out of such statements. But there is great evil in them; they catch many that are unstable and unlearned, and lead the mind of any one who attends to them from following undistracted the purposes of Scripture itself. But it is painful, really, to dwell upon it. Let no man, however, think that he will be excused from looking daily for the Lord’s coming, because other men thus pursue their own errors. The Scripture is sent to them and to all.
It appears to me, that much of the crudeness of this pamphlet flows from ignorance of the true nature of the Gentile and Jewish dispensations. The throne of David and the throne of His glory are different things, doubtless; but let us see how this subject is pursued by the writer. “There must be,” says he, “two comings in judgment; one before, one after the millennium: one to sit on the throne of David, the other on the throne of His glory.” But His sitting on the throne of David is not His coming in judgment at all, but the consequence of His judgment of the Gentile nations. But, as proof of the distinction, he refers to the attendants of the Lord— “one,” says he, “with His own glory and His saints, the other with the holy angels, and His Father’s glory.” The passage of Scripture in which this is spoken of furnishes no such distinction. He says, coming with His saints in His own glory is the first coming—coming with the angels in His Father’s, the second; the first applying to judgment of antemillenarians. See Mark 8:38. I find, “Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Here, this so-called latter coming is expressly applied to those who have not owned Him during His humiliation; and the same observation may apply to Matthew 16:27. If it be alleged that this is at the raising of the rest of the dead, what shall we say to Luke 9:26? “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the angels.” And on the other hand, what shall we say, if we compare Jude, where He is said to come with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment on similar offenders? And not only does the voice of the archangel and the trump of God minister to the raising of the dead in Christ at what this statement would call His first coming, but we are expressly told, in the epistle to the Thessalonians, that, when He comes, according to their views (on which we say nothing), antemillennially, when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe, giving rest to those that have suffered with Him in His humiliation—the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. It appears to me, that this also flows from ignorance of the plan and scope of Scripture, i.e., of the counsels of God in Christ our common Lord. But it proves neglect of Scripture. On the whole, a greater confusion of Scripture, and substitution of human conjectures and supposition, can hardly be supposed, than the latter part of the tract.
But our only endeavour must be to obtain tangible portions of it for the purpose for which I write this. The writer proves, from Isaiah 65:25, that the curse continues in the land of Israel, because the judgment, it is said, shall rest on the serpent— “dust shall be the serpent’s meat.” And as John had said, that there should be no more curse, not speaking of the land of Judea, nor of any place (unless it comprehend all places), but abstractedly and absolutely, but that the throne of God and the Lamb should be in it, in applying this “no more curse” to the city (I do not say erroneously), he says it must apply to the portion of land which is outside the city, and not in it at all, i.e., that part which was for the Prince. For he perceives no impropriety in extending it out of the city. For this “no more curse “means only that there shall be curse still all over the world, except a little portion of land in Judea, which, however, is not within the city, where the curse is not to be. We may remark, too, if the Revelation of John be thus applied, the tract contradicts itself; for the throne of God and the Lamb has come upon earth before the third judgment of which he speaks and the city had the glory of God. And the throne of David and the throne of God are on the earth together; and the whole house of Israel have access to it.
Again, the writer states, “that the Gentiles, which are to have their lot in the land of Israel, are those who are expecting the Lord’s personal coming,” etc.; and that he does apply their being changed to giving them a long life during the millennium. But he does not apply the coming, on which they are to receive that change, to the first coming; i.e., before the millennium, or at least, when they are to be caught up into the air. That is, in order to satisfy his view of the Gentiles who are to live in the land of Israel, he think that he and his friends are to be the favoured persons, but as Paul says, that “we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord “are to be caught up; and, as he wishes not to be then ever with the Lord, but to live in Judea or the land of Israel, he settles that this means two comings, and the catching up must belong to the latter, and the change does not mean from corruption to incorruption, but merely from a short life to a long one. “For,” says he, “if not, where else are we to get people to bring the Jews home? Wicked Gentiles would not do it.” In the first place, it appears that the Jews are brought home before the appearing of the Lord; in the next, why not? Cannot the Lord make any nation minister to the deliverance of His favoured people, whatever their own objects and state may be? And such seems to be the very tenor of prophecy—that is shall be an imposed service; and the writer and his friends must leave it to those whom God chooses.
But let us compare Paul’s statements. There are two prominent ones—one in i Corinthians 15, the other 1 Thessalonians 4. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
0 death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” How refreshing is it to turn to Scripture! The force of this is, I think, too evident to need comment.
We shall all be changed though we all do not sleep (1 Cor. 15:51), i.e. we, who are not asleep, shall be changed. There is a necessary common result to be produced on all, in order to their entrance into the kingdom of God; we shall be changed alike and equally, though we shall not all sleep. We who do not sleep shall yet be changed. Not to enter further here on this deeply interesting passage, I turn to
1 Thessalonians 4:13: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” We, says the apostle, are not to account ourselves better off than those that sleep, as if we should see and meet the Lord and not they. “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord”; that is, that when Christ shall come, the dead in Christ shall rise first, before we are caught up, and then we, the living who remain, shall be caught up together with them. In the English there might, perhaps, be an argument on the force of the word ‘together,’ but as placed in the Greek there can be none. The catching up of the saints is not spoken of in connection with the destruction of death, as the writer states. The substance of 1 Corinthians 15 applies to believers only. There is, therefore, no ground of difficulty from the existence of death during the millennium, as to the application of the above cited passage. And it is remarkable that in the next page, the language of it is put into the mouths of the risen saints, as spoken on the day of the first resurrection, to which in this page the writer says it is wholly inapplicable, because death remains. In fact, it appears to me a confusion of the Jewish and Gentile dispensations—the hinge upon which the subject and the understanding of Scripture turns. Here I complain not of error, but of a neglect of the substantive force of the direct testimonies of the word of God, to meet the views drawn from elsewhere and pursued in the mind beyond the testimony of the place itself; and of consequences being adduced as necessary, according to man’s mind, other scripture being made subservient to these, instead of stopping at the direct testimony, till other passages give additional light, or, at least, connecting deductions by these passages admitted in their own force. This is alone a great hindrance to knowledge, and practically setting up men’s thoughts (ignorant, foolish man!) above the word of God.
This book is, indeed, a sample of the evil likely to attend upon what is valuable in these inquiries, from crude thoughts untried by Scripture, attached to opinions urged as new to the credit of the writer, which are now familiar to everybody, without any new development of the mind of God in the Scriptures, and assuming a title pretending to speak from God, while it speaks only from man, and that crudely, and does not apply the great facts of these revelations to the correction and improvement of men; but instead of that, uses the notions of them to exalt the holders of them into the only favourites of heaven—thinking everybody is scorning them, whereas, in fact, they are becoming worldly, through their popularity and self-complacency. It is not the inquiry into these subjects I deprecate; but men’s imposing upon others conclusions not drawn, but distracting others, from the scriptural statements of the same truths. I am free to confess that I find the records of God full of consolation, enlarging instruction, holy and sanctifying exhortation, and warning. What God has revealed to man must be the saints’ delight to know, and must sanctify them more wholly, because it reveals more of the character of God. His revealing it is itself witness of its purpose and (blessed for ever be His name!) so has He in the Lord Jesus identified Himself with man, that there is nothing of His acts that He does not reveal by His servants the prophets. Yea, all the things that He does in the Lord He makes a common subject with His people for His sake. Nay, all that He has is now largely opened; even the store-house of His eternal wisdom, and glory, and purpose in the Son is now opened and declared by the revelation of the Spirit, as the scripture, in many places, testifies to our joy and comfort. Who shall shut it up?—Who dares to do it? Rather let us open our mouth wide that He may fill it. But let no man mix or dissolve the streams of life by strange introductions of human mixture. Truth is the instrument of holiness; and error and weakness, to say no more, of moral conduct will ever be found to attend each other. I say, seek the truth: I say, let not men crudely impose unsound thoughts and distract the church.
One subject yet remains on which I shall shortly touch. In a deeply interesting and, I think, profitable and timely sermon of Mr. Irving’s, I found the following passage on false accusers. After stating that it meant the spirit of accusation generally, he says, in the “Last Days,” p. 204, “It may therefore be laid down as a general principle of doctrine, that as the law of Christian life is love, so the law of Christian life when love is rejected or maltreated is forbearance, forgiveness, blessing, and intercession with God. As the office of the Christian Church on earth, is to preach, and to minister the grace of God unto all men; so also is it her office to make continual intercession before God for those who reject His offered grace, and trample under foot the blood of His covenant. And, of these two functions, the, ministry of free grace, and the ministry of intercession for free grace rejected, if I were asked which is the more important, I would answer they are equally important to the integrity of love and the demonstration of divine grace; but of the two, that which is the highest and noblest exercise of love is surely intercession for him who hath spurned our love.”
What shall we say after this, when we consider their own writings? They have come forward to the bar of public opinion (see “False Accuser,” pp. 208-10), and avowedly descended to fight their accusers on their own ground by public accusation. I feel unwillingly entirely to detail here the language and statements of the article on the Theology of the Periodical Journals. I think Mr. Malan right, and I think Mr. Erskine (though in many respects useful, and that extensively) is entirely wrong, if judged properly by Scripture, and wrong for pursuing his own thoughts without just subjection to Scripture, conceiving them new, when many, very many, have held them faithfully without mistake. I am not an advocate of the religious world; but neither can I attach myself to those who becoming, in fact, an isolated corner of the religious world, and setting up for the best and soundest part of it, fall into at least the same faults which they reprobate in no very courteous terms. They charge the editors of some journal with ignorance of their trade (no very courteous expression); but, while doing this, they should not have misstated the expressions of Erskine, in a way, too, which shew them either falsifiers, or else ignorant of the great principles on which their trade (if they will have it so) turned. Mr. Erskine, they say, wishes to state this highly important fact, namely, that by the incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity, the whole creation (i.e., limiting the word ‘creation ‘to this planet and the beings who inhabit it) is become beneficially interested in the work of Christ. This is certainly a very obscure and unintelligible proposition, and not Erskine’s, nor representing his views. This fact, they say, he expresses by saying, “that the world is pardoned by the incarnation of Christ.” But the proposition attributed to Mr. Erskine, whencesoever drawn, is not so expressed by him. He says that “All are pardoned— believers are a little flock.” If he had said the world was pardoned (though I should have thought it an error) properly understood, I could have made an allowance for obscurity of expression; but he says all, i.e. all men, are pardoned; and on this the whole argument of the Morning Watch depends. The Reviewer was occupied with his own views, but there is not the slightest ground in Mr. Erskine’s book for the position he takes. Righteousness is a scriptural as well as conventional term: I do not recollect that Mr. Erskine ever touches upon this, or uses the word. Scripture does; and this renders his whole view defective, however excellent as an individual.
But the Morning Watch, prepossessed with its own views, and willing to have Mr. Erskine as a client or ally, has wholly passed by the whole question raised on his book, and not stated his assertions truly but as partisans, and stands itself on a level with the worst conduct of those it accuses. They themselves shall be witnesses. “The editors,” they say, i.e., journals opposed to their views, “having refused to debate the subjects like scholars, like gentlemen, or Christians, have chosen their own ground, namely, that of personal claim to public confidence; and into that arena of their own selecting, we must descend after them.” And so indeed they have, and I sorrow for it, for I doubt not they would much edify the church; but they have to learn that Satan can use their weakness, as well as that of their offending brethren. “And what shall we say then, if the church, forgetful of Christ’s office of intercessor, and of her own high vocation to continue the same in the midst of an offending world, should take upon herself the office of accuser, and retaliate the injuries which she receiveth, instead of meekly bearing and being willing to forgive them? What if the church forget, even among themselves, the offices of neutral forbearance and forgiveness, and rage towards one another with even more bitterness and cruelty than those who care for none of those things? What if the writings the most religious should be the most vindictive, and the society the most religious should be the society most full of judgment and accusation? Then were it not a proof that God’s ordinances were changed, that His light was hidden under a bushel, that the salt hath lost its savour, and that the name of God was blasphemed amongst the heathen because of His people, and that the last days were come, and that destruction was about to begin at His own house.”
But having closed this part (painfully imposed) of my subject, I turn to the more grateful part—proposing some questions, and making some observations, in the hope that it may lead some to consider topics, which, when calmly and scripturally considered, I am persuaded lead to sanctification and the edification of those that are gathered. All truth must be so: the simple question is—is this God’s revealed truth or not? If it be, it is worse than idle to say it is not calculated to sanctify. In fact, I do not understand the meaning of this. It is a charge against God, the revealer; and comes ill from those who have been combating justly upon opposite grounds the abominable fraud the Roman Catholic priests had perpetrated in keeping away the Scripture, the words of God generally. Is it that they are to be the judges of what, and how much, instead of the others?
We would ask then, first, why did God reveal all these things, if they are not fully to be inquired into? This I admit, that the statements of the same general truths are of different use and application, and the eagerness of those especially interested in prophecy, and the hasty taking up of the subject by many going beyond their measure, has introduced a very unseasonable misuse of prophetic subjects. But I must add the indiscriminate opposition of others has given great occasion to it. Thus the fact that there will be a separation of judgment between the just and the unjust, is one which concerns man as man, and may be addressed to every soul, and especially to those wholly ignorant of divine things, and the unconverted; while the manner in which the Lord will do it, His peculiar favour and timely interposition for His people— all these, as shewn in His dealings, belong to those from whom, as His suffering people, He will not hide the thing that He will do, who share in it by faith as friends of God, strangers with Him, and whose support it is.
But the question has been raised as to the facts revealed; nor have all, perhaps, judged rightly as to the use to be made of them. But their general debate has been forced by the non-reception of them by many who have a name in the Church under the low state in which we all stand. This was, perhaps, to be looked for; and the testimony of the manner even of judgment, calculated to awaken many out of sleep.
Next, I would ask, if the spread of Bibles and missionary exertions is to produce, by itself, the millennium, what is the meaning of unclean spirits like frogs gathering all the kings of the earth and of the world to battle to be destroyed, and that then Satan was to be bound, and the thousand years commence? Again, they will admit, that these operations are effectual through the agency of the Spirit of God as a substitute for Christ. What distinction does the scripture mean by Christ’s reigning upon the earth (His kingdom of this world), and the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory? If we suffer with Him (as we do, while we are actuated by the Spirit of God in the midst of a carnal world) we shall also reign with Him. This, evidently, is a state of things essentially distinct from His reigning, as they conceive now; for it is a time of suffering. It cannot mean in heaven, or after the end of all, for then the Son will have delivered up the kingdom. And if they say it is by the prevalence of righteousness in the millennium, though that would be hard to shew, how would that affect us according to their view who before then are dead? Besides, are all the wicked to be converted? Is temptation to be removed? No outpouring of the Spirit does this. Are all to be regenerate? For according to their views, the operation of the Spirit is still the only instrument. How is the Spirit now only an earnest till the redemption of the purchased possession, if He be then the only operating agent? But it will, perhaps, be said to be heaven. We have seen its characteristics are inconsistent with that. Is Christ, in a word, to have any other share in the triumph of the church than He has now, when the Spirit is His substitute? And let me here ask as to one point on which many feel so strong difficulties: Is there anything inconsistent, if there be a period when the church shall be triumphant, and the saints partaking of the full joy appropriate to the prevalence of their principles by a complete change in the state of the world? for this must be admitted (or there could not be the change from suffering to triumph) that those who have been long suffering for the same principles, who have borne tribulation and sorrow, while that was the portion of those who loved Christ, should also share with their Lord in the hour when what they had so ardently suffered for should be accomplished? Such is my idea of the first resurrection.
I believe that Christ also (who unquestionably has a distinct kingdom from the Father, though, of course, it is God’s kingdom) will put forth His power for the removal of evil; that Satan will be hindered from deceiving the world; that it will cease to be a season of tribulation and sorrow and trial, and that instead of the thorn shall come up the myrtle, and that there shall be a complete enjoyment of the blessings which are the church’s inheritance; that this will be upon earth (the Jews being restored, the temporal promises being ever theirs, not the Gentiles’; but that these shall enjoy the common blessing with them, as companions in this universal joy). When Christ’s kingdom shall have by His power prevailed over evil, those of the Gentile dispensation who have been faithful in the time of trial, shall (the dead being raised, and the living changed) be partakers (reigning with Christ) of the common blessing. Death, whose power in their bodies they had to suffer in their day, being perfectly overcome, as to them they will be as the angels of God in heaven; being counted worthy to obtain that age. There will necessarily be no separation between those who are thus partakers of the blessings, and those who are God’s on earth. During this period there will be therefore no trial: before they are admitted into the heavenly state, Satan is loosed again, and the trial proceeds by temptation. In a word, the millennium may be considered as a restoration of Paradise under the second Adam,2 the restoration of communion between earth and heaven so long interrupted (Christ having destroyed them that destroy the earth). I would suggest, too, that the instrument by which the work is to be accomplished cannot mean the dispersion of scriptural truth. It is not the sword of the Spirit, but one proceeding out of the mouth of Christ, sitting on a triumphal horse, wherewith He should smite the nations. It is treading the vintage of God’s wrath. It is a destruction which will give seven years’ firing from the weapons cast away. It is an invitation of all the fowls of the air to feast upon the sacrifice which God Almighty was about to make; a taking to Him His great power and reigning; a time when, God’s judgment being in the earth, the inhabitants of the world would learn righteousness: and it was by these judgments that the heathen were to be converted. We take the broadest points, because the others may be said to involve interpretation, though to us they are equally plain and perhaps more deeply interesting.
Again, if we consider the stone which became a mountain and filled the whole earth, it was upon smiting the image, and making it become as the chaff of the summer threshing-floor, so that the wind carried them away and no place was found for them. This is evidently by destructive and dissolving judgments, analogous to the character of its objects (to wit, the Gentile dispensation, and power); and it was by no ordinary providential instrumentality, for it was a stone cut out as without hands. Further, it was not by the progressive growth of anything, that other obstructing principles passed away; but some extrinsic power, not of or in the image yet analogous in the nature of its operation, and yet turning out to be the fulness of the Lord’s power suddenly appearing to destroy the image at the end of its time; and after the image was totally dissolved, it then became a mountain and filled the whole earth. “In the days of these kings,” saith the Spirit, “the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”
Let not an anxiety for missionary objects hinder the acceptance of the truth. For no strong motive for missionary exertion exists with the antimillenarians, as with those who believe God’s judgments are presently coming; for that belief urges them to special labour for the gathering in of God’s elect to the knowledge of the refuge, before the scourge sweeps the earth, to preserve them that have believed. If the reading of Griesbach be right, the distinction of the earthly kingdom is put beyond controversy; at any rate the testimony of a reign of Christ’s power (distinct from the operation of the Spirit alone) is surely too prominent an object in the scripture to be overlooked. One remark I would make; and it is one which struck my own mind long before the detail of millennial views opened themselves to it. There is not an epistle in the New Testament in which the coming of the Lord Jesus is not made the prominent object of the faith and hope of believers, for which they were to wait; and, observe, which characterises distinctively those who should partake of His salvation. Now the expectation of it is put out of view and depreciated really as much as possible. It was a deliverance here that the church expected, so much so that the Thessalonians seemed to have considered those who died before it came to have failed in obtaining it. It was to be a time of rest by the appearing of Jesus Christ removing the persecutors and ungodly; and now it is thrown aside, because it is connected with that which is confessedly the rest of the Church. It is also that of which Peter speaks: he says there is sensible evidence directing the church so to look for it. “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we have declared unto you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” And this could be revealed as a day-star in their hearts.
I would remark here that the students of unfulfilled prophecy are too apt, I think, to overlook the present power of the Lord’s resurrection, and thus give a handle to the objections of, I must say, the adversaries to the coming of the Lord Jesus. To the apostles and the saints who judge justly, the apprehension of His glory was the evidence of both, nor can they be separated without injury to the truth and misapprehension of the counsels of God.
This is what is doing too much now, and it is a great evil and greatly opposed to Scripture. We ask then, is the church to look to the coming of Christ as the prominent object of faith, or is it not? And why? What do the Scriptures teach us in this respect? Do they or do they not teach us that the happiness of the earth is to be brought about by the special intervention of God in judgment? Is His coming one calculated to quicken their faith—to make them zealous and constant for Him in their labour here—to separate them from their attachment to this present evil world—to lead them to be practically holy in this, where Christ is to visit them, instead of making death a sort of practical sanctifier, as some do?
Another subject is the restoration of the Jews to their own land. The calm and judicious Lowth, in a day when nothing but the force of Scripture influenced him, could not withhold assent from the directness of the testimonies to this. I shall advert merely to some testimonies respecting this point, scattered through all Scripture, as it appears to me, and resting on the whole plan of God’s dispensed purposes. Zechariah prophesied after the restoration from Babylon. Let the promises in chapter 10 be weighed, in which He declares that He will bring Judah and Ephraim again to place them, and break down the pride of Assyria, etc. This evidently must refer to some period to come, nor can any figurative interpretation of it be given which the language does not repel. We may remark, also, the special promises in Hosea to Ephraim or Israel as distinct from Judah—promises never yet fulfilled. But let us hear Amos: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” It is manifest that nothing can meet this promise but a restoration not yet fulfilled.
So Zephaniah 3:14, “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: and to Sion, Let not thine hands be slack. The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. I will gather them that are sorrowful for the solemn assembly, who are of thee, to whom the reproach of it was a burden. Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame. At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for
1 will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.” Ezekiel 34:27, and Isaiah 49 are not less strong; but I refrain from commenting on them, as they would lead to general inquiry and interpretation. And my own conviction is, that the return of Judah was but for the accomplishment of the promises relative to our Lord’s first coming; and that, in the broad sense, Israel has been in captivity from Babylon until now: this, however, I do not press. Doubt has been started, on this subject, whether Israel was not corporately restored with Judah. The burden of proof evidently rests with those who say he was. But the Lord seems carefully to have secured the negative by the repeated use of Benjamin and Judah, as those specifically who were the restored people. The only ground which is alleged directly to this point, is Ezra 2:59: “And these were they which went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel.”
As to Anna the prophetess, and many other passages adverted to, none prove—many go to disprove—the corporate restoration of Israel to their own land. Their individual junction to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin goes as nothing to prove their corporate geographical restoration, but the contrary. If, therefore, there be any promises to this effect, they remain to be fulfilled. In fact, this was nothing more than happened to them in the days of Hezekiah, and related to religious fidelity, not temporal restoration by God; and so throughout: the passages may be found in Prideaux, under the proper date. This, however, is merely a collateral point, though I think a plain one. If there be a direct testimony that Israel shall be planted again in their own land, and never plucked up, it is plain it has never been fulfilled. The more the extended prophecies on this subject are considered, the more will it be found connected with the promises of God in the latter day as regards the blessings of the church, and the circumstances which attend it.
Nor, indeed, is it apparent how the former verses of Deuteronomy 30 can be fulfilled without it, nor without the excision of the Gentiles as a body, which is another inquiry we would make. Is there not a time of the Gentiles which is to be fulfilled, when blindness will depart from Israel? and is there not then in this chapter an explicit promise of their restoration? But is it not expressly stated, as Paul left it in conditional assertion, that the Gentiles would be cut off, that God would plead against all nations? Is not the apostasy of the Gentile church as plainly stated as possible, and its consequences? Men say that this applies to Popery; but it is called “the vine of the earth,” a figure well known in Scripture, as importing the dispensation of the church generally. And the unclean spirits who are to gather the kings of the earth, do not gather them against the Lamb by the instrumentality of Popery only, but of the love of power and atheism. Popery is statedly merely one of those principles which are to be the instruments of bringing men to judgment.
“They answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” If these things be so, there will be a direct manifestation of Christ, of the judicial power of the Lamb, quite distinct from any of the present expectations of those who reject the study of prophecy. When John saw heaven opened and beheld a white horse, and He that sat upon him called Faithful and True, and in righteousness doth He judge and make war—when he saw the Person and glory of the Word of God, it was the revelation of something wholly different from the secret operations of the Spirit of God; and it was something characteristically different from previous providential judgments. These had been hail, and thunder, and lightning, and earthquakes; but this was a manifestation of Him who had been long hid behind instruments, who had governed the world as one that apparently suffered His church to grow up and spring He knew not how, because the harvest of the earth was ripe. The ordained government of the earth and the operation of the Spirit of God was that by which He has ruled the church hitherto; therefore it was a suffering church. Now He was Himself manifested in His power, and therefore the church became triumphant.
No one can read the Revelation without perceiving the intended contrast, so to call it, nor other prophecies without seeing how the whole system of God’s dispensations arrange themselves round this great fact. The Son manifested to tread the winepress of wrath is not the Spirit subduing willing souls by the gospel. The operation, everywhere given, of the gospel, is the gathering out of souls before the wrath come, nor is there a testimony of, nor the revelation of the universal spread of the knowledge of the Lord, as far as my recollection serves me, which is not directly accompanied by, or rather conversant about, the judgments of an adverse power, or the declaration of the special blessings to the house of Israel, whose receiving shall be as life from the dead. I would here just shortly refer to Psalms 72, 108, and the consecutive Psalms from 91-100. To those who may be interested in the inquiry, Malachi 2:3 may also be consulted and recur again to the prophecy of the stone cut out without hands, and Daniel 7.
There are many passages more fully opening the subject, but perhaps not so strongly leading a previously unconvinced mind, as these. It would have been my own delight (oh, how much more so!) to have rather followed, in inquiry, the opening of Scripture as to the ways and promises of God as our God. Oh, high and holy place! unworthy we, utterly, to have it, enjoying the confidence, because the mercy, of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. I mean not of myself, but with the brethren in the Lord. But they have forced upon me the necessity of other inquiries. In the suggestions I have made to them, I have only put the questions in the broadest terms, on which Scripture throws a glare of light, which, as far as I can see, cannot be struggled with, if we pursue our common attainments, walking by the same rule, and minding the same thing; if in anything we be differently minded, God will reveal this also unto us. Let me beseech the brethren to be thus minded. Let me beseech those who yet stand out against these truths, to inquire for themselves, to lay them to heart, to submit themselves to the word, not to throw scorn (I pray them to forgive me for thus speaking) on any part of the testimony of God before they have inquired the purpose of it and their own concern in it. Are they not every way debtors to do this? Let those whose minds are open, pursue, with humble desire, inquiry into the Lord’s mind. We are surely all interested in knowing that. Let us pursue it as learners in the fear of God, not as speculators; as those who see that God is great in His glory and righteous in His judgments, and one that judgeth the earth and holdeth the waters in the hollow of His hand. The Lord has revealed much, all that man can comprehend; and it belongs to us and to our children, that we may keep the sayings of His book. There are those, doubtless, who will please themselves, and not seek the church’s good; but such shall bear their burden, whoever they be. In many things we all offend. I pray God to give His grace to bear one another’s burden, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Oh, blessed time, when the church should care one for another, as fellow-sufferers or fellow-heirs, as He did, who needed none of their sympathy, or had but little of it when needed, and who knew no want, no necessity but the necessity of love. May we be found labouring in this spirit when He shall return! Oh, may His people be perfected in Him, one and all! His grace and the knowledge of His glory be with them in every place. And to Him be praise and dominion and glory according to His Father’s will. Amen.
The writer, believing that in the rapid accumulation of inquiry he could add but little new to the investigation of this subject, has refrained from trespassing upon others. In truth, he finds more pleasure in the discovering of the ways of God which feed the soul, than in struggling to convince others of them. He would only press subjection to Scripture on the one side and on the other: but if occasion seem to call, he will, with gladness, resume the subject, in communion with the church. In the meanwhile he begs to propose three questions on another subject, if any may undertake to answer them.
Does it not appear from Scripture that all persons who went out to preach the gospel to unconverted persons, went out unsent by the apostles, or any other minister in the church of God, led only by their knowledge of the great atonement, or the direct appointment of the Spirit?
Is there any instance of the apostles, or other ministers in the church, ever having sent out any person for the purpose of preaching to unconverted persons?
Is not such mission (looking at it as an authority to do so) inconsistent, essentially, with the nature and possibility of their testimony?
1 Dublin, 1829.
2 This expression is inaccurate. It is by redemption and power, not by innocence. Moreover, Satan will be bound.