« ZurückWeiter »
to its utmost perfection; which the little world, man, imitating, it shall likewise be freed from corruption and change. And so for man's sake, for whose use the great world was created, being at length renovated or made new, it shall put on a face that shall be far more pleasant and beautiful.”
When I first advanced these things, my assertion that the doctrine of the personal reign was revived at the Reformation, and held by some of the principal divines of that period, was presently attacked. This circumstance has rendered it needful, in order to prevent misapprehension, to explain,—that so far as the mere circumstance of the thousand years is concerned, the orthodox reformers disclaimed it, and were evidently alarmed at the term Chiliast or Millennarian, owing to the disrepute brought upon the name by the conduct of the Anabaptists of Germany. Following, therefore, Jerome and Eusebius, they supposed that what we call the Millennium commenced with Constantine. Thus the more avowed antagonists who afterwards sprung up, taking it from Grotius, referred to this period the binding of Satan and the reign of the saints: and this, notwithstanding the apostasy of Julian and the Arian and Popish persecutions (so foreign to the notion of a Millennium) came within those thousand years! Prideaux and Whitby try with all their might to reconcile these things with the circumstance of Satan being nevertheless bound in the bottomless pit! In this respect the doctrine has made a great and decided advance of late years; since modern opponents do now hold the thousand years or Millennium to be future. But mark the effect of this error upon the views of such men as Latimer, Bradford and others; for it is important as a clew to their real sentiments on this question. They held that the world would only last six thousand years; (taking no notice of the seventh thousand;) and that the final Restitution, the Advent of Christ, the manifestation of the Kingdom, and the Judgment, were all to take place at the end of that 6000 years. So that they were in fact looking for the coming of the Lord Jesus at that very period of time, at which the millennarians of the present day expect him. Observe how remarkably this appears in the following extracts from Latimer's third sermon on the Lord's prayer. Having spoken of a Parliament different from the parliaments of this world, to come at the last day;—"a parliament in which Christ will bear the rule and not men;"_"which the righteous pray for when they say, "Thy Kingdom come,' because they know that therein reformations of all things shall be had;"'he presently after has these words:-“Let us therefore have a desire that this day may come quickly; let us hasten God forward; let us cry unto him day and night, Most merciful
Father, thy Kingdom come.' St. Paul saith, "The Lord will not come till the swerving from faith cometh;' (2 Thess. ii. 3,) which thing is already done and past: Antichrist is known throughout all the world. Wherefore the day is not far off. Let us beware, for it will one day fall upon our heads. St. Peter saith, "The end of all things draweth very near.' St. Peter said so at his time: how much more shall we say so? For it is a long time since St. Peter spake these words. The world was ordained to endure (as all learned men affirm and prove it with Scripture) six thousand years. Now of that number there be passed 5552 years, so that there is no more left but 448. "And furthermore those days shall be shortened: it shall not be full six thousand years: the days shall be shortened for the elect's sake.' Therefore all those learned men, which without doubt God hath sent into this world in these latter days to give the world warning, all those men do gather out of Scripture, that the last day cannot be far off."*
I cannot forbear giving a few brief and scattered extracts from his sermons for the second Sunday in Advent. Having observed again, that the days before the Advent will be shortened, “so that peradventure (saith he) it may come in my days, old as I am, or in our children's days;" he goes on: “There will be great alterations at that day; there will be hurly burly, like as ye see when a man dieth, &c. There will be such alterations of the earth and the elements, they will lose their former nature and be endued with another nature. And then shall they see the Son of Man come in a cloud with power and great glory. Certain it is that he shall come to judge; but we cannot tell the time when he will come.” Then quoting i Thess. iv. to show that the living saints "shall be rapt up into the air and so meet Christ our Saviour,” he adds; "all those, I say, who be content to strive and fight with sin; these shall in such wise be taken up into the air and meet with Christ, and so shall come down with him again.".
pray God, that we may be of the number of those, which shall hear this joyful and most comfortable voice of Christ our Saviour when he will say, Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom which is prepared for you before the foundation of the world was laid.”—“That man or that woman that saith these words 'thy kingdom come,' with a faithful heart, no doubt desireth in very deed that God will come to judgment and amend all things in thIS WORLD, to pull down Satan that old serpent under our feet.”
* The Editor of a recent edition of Latimer's Sermons, Dr. Watkins, says in a note on this opinion of the world's duration for six thousand years only—“At the time of the Reformation this notion was very prevalent.”
III. The last objection to which I shall reply is, that although it may be admitted, that the doctrine is scriptural, it is not of a practical character, and therefore not profitable or to edification.
The first point to be determined, in order to refute this objection, is-In what does a satisfactory proof of the practical tendency of the doctrine consist. If I appeal to my own personal experience of its salutary influence, or to its stirring and edifying effects upon others, (either of which I can most conscientiously declare, there would not I fear be that confidence in the minds of many, as regards the integrity of the proof, which is essential to conviction. The most proper and unexceptionable mode is to turn to the Scriptures, and to notice what practical use the writers of the Bible, and of the New Testament especially, make of the subject. This it is my intention to perform, if God will, as I proceed to bring forward and support from Scripture the doctrine itself: until which even this mode would not be satisfactory; because some of the testimonies, which I shall hereafter adduce, might not at present be considered to the point. As regards therefore this one particular mode of considering the objection, I shall only premise, that I fearlessly challenge the production of a greater number of independent passages, practically applying any other Scripture doctrine or connected series of doctrines, than I can bring forward in behalf of those in question; and that if we are to judge of them by the frequency with which they are made the ground of exhortation, or by the variety of duties or graces which they specially call into exercise, they must be deemed among the most practical and highly important truths in the Bible. But I must for the present entreat the patience of the reader.
In the meanwhile I do not think the objection,—that a doctrine (admitted to be scriptural) is not profitable,—at all consistent, nor fit to be advanced by persons professing to receive the Scriptures as divinely inspired: and I must here therefore beg to submit four short observations, for the candid consideration of the reader.
1. First, it is plainly written, that "ALL Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable, &c.”p It is affronting to the Deity to suppose, that he would reveal anything to the Church, which is not calculated to edify it; or which individual members of it may wilfully neglect, without great damage to their souls. Some points are indeed more prominent than others; and there are some also, which we may justly call “first principles of the doctrine of Christ:'q but because I
P2 Tim. iii. 16. 9 Heb, vi. 1,
acknowledge the foundation stone to be that on which a building rests, can I therefore safely wrench a principal stone or timber from the breast work of that building? The doctrines of Scripture are so essential to each other, that, if one be removed, some other loses its utility also. For example, John the Baptist preaches the necessity of repentance, that we may flee from the wrath to come." No one will deny repentance to be a fundamental: but make men indifferent in regard to the wrath to come, (which is prophetic, and on which John grounds his call to repentance,) and you remove from multitudes the most powerful motive to it. * Another class of persons is perhaps led to repentance by a view of the goodness of God: so that it is impossible for any man to say, what may be profitable or not, or what most profitable, to others; nor indeed how far the cordial reception of a truth may conduce to the salvation of his own soul.
2. Secondly, I observe, that, presuming the millennarian doctrines to be scriptural, that system which deprives them of the degree of importance, (whatsoever it may be,) which the Word of God hath assigned to them, must be so far wrong: and whatsoever is wrong in doctrine must be to that extent mischievous in practice, however plausible. It may be that individuals are notwithstanding saved: but its pernicious effects upon the generality of hearers, and to a great degree apon real believers, are nevertheless incalculable.
3. Thirdly, I notice, that men cannot, from the very nature of the thing, judge of the practical tendency of a doctrine, until they have first embraced it and experienced its power.
Till then they either regard it with indifference, or they decidedly oppose it as dangerous and liable to abuse. Many, for example, conceive the doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law to be unfavourable to holiness; and that the preferable course is, to keep it in the back-ground and insist on the moral duties. And many imagine again, that to preach the need of the Spirit's aid for every good thought and word and work, is calculated to paralyze the exertions of men, and to deaden the motives to personal diligence. And how much greater a number of professors cannot conceive of the doctrine
* I call repentance here fundamental in reference to Heb. vi. 1, 2, where it is applied together with the resurrection and eternal judgment, as among the incipient essentials of christianity; but as far as its relative importance when compared with the wrath to come is considered, if we keep strictly to figurative propriety, that on which the call to repentance is grounded is rather of the two the fundamental doctrine; and, according therefore to metaphorical consistency, the revelation, that there is wrath to come, supersedes in importance the call to repentance and fruits meet for it.
Luke üi. 7, 8. • Rom. ii. 4.
of election, that it is full of sweet comfort to godly persons;"_"that it doth greatly establish and confirm the faith of eternal salvation;"--and that it doth fervently kindle their love towards God." Yet many, I am persuaded, of those, who object to the doctrines of the Millennium, because they cannot see their practical use, would deny to the last the reasonableness of objecting to those other doctrines on the same ground.
4. Lastly, I would earnestly caution my christian brethren to pause before they take up this objection: for I cannot but consider it to be among the symptoms of that leaven of infidelity, which prevails among so many professors in these awful days, that the practical use of a scripture doctrine is by many demanded, before they will seriously entertain it. It is thus that the authority of Scripture is first degraded and then undermined. Men do not recognise that chief and all important feature of the Bible,—that it is not the word of men, but THE WORD OF GOD. I am sure that all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity would be horrified at the thought of turning away from his personal instruction, and telling him to his face that his sayings were hard or unprofitable: and yet, when men deliberately make light of portions of his acknowledged Word, or consider themselves entitled to neglect it, they do in effect “turn away from him that speaketh from heaven;" and they betray that their minds are not brought into that implicit subjection to divine truth, which they profess.
On the Second Advent.
It happens, in regard to some of the more important subjects of prophecy, (at least it has been my own case,) that we have not so much to learn as to unlearn. The traditions of men have, in some respects, rendered void the Word of God: and it may be useful, if I previously endeavour to show, in · respect to one important doctrine, how much at variance the opinions of many christians are with the mind of the Spirit. I advert to the Second Advent of the Lord Jesus with his saints; which, instead of occupying the place assigned to it by the New Testament, has been superseded by an unscriptural mode of calling upon sinners to repent because death is at hand; and exhorting believers with a promise of entering into their glory immediately after their decease. If the reader will suspend his judgment, until I have gone