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through the crowd that now was the world to end, and the day of judgment to begin; and at this followed a general consternation in the whole assembly, and all men forgot the business they were met about, and betook themselves to their prayers. The judge, however, was not a whit affected, and went on with the business of the court in his ordinary manner."* The inference I would draw from this anecdote is, that a Christian will deem the fulfilment of known duty to be the best attitude in which to meet his God. He will stand as a sentinel at his post, expecting the Captain of his salvation to appear suddenly before him.
I cannot here refrain from a single remark upon the duty incumbent upon the Christian, to unite with every zealous effort to spread the gospel through the world. For although I think it plain that the restoration of the Jews, and the advent of the Lord, will precede the conversion of the world by the wondrous effusion of the Holy Spirit, yet, as the Lord specially directed his gospel to be proclaimed to all nations as a witness, and as duty is at all times ours, and events are God's, we are called upon to make the most strenuous efforts to sustain the mission of heralds to the world, and the diffusion of the Scriptures among the nations. It is likewise a cheerful stimulus to present activity, to remember that human agency will even ultimately be employed in this great work of mercy to the earth. It is therefore quite consistent with the miraculous view of the millennium given above, to associate with it the widest cooperation of mortal agents. Every Bible scattered among the heathen, every school erected in the wilderness, every voice of Christianity addressed to the idolatrous and the ignorant, is one link in that chain of providential preparation, which, while it now encircles the hearts of all the elect of God, will ultimately bind in hallowed allegiance the innumerable tribes of the family of man. Would to God then that Christian zeal were yet more fervid, Christian effort more unwearied, Christian liberality to the wants and sorrows of the world more munificent and unrestrained! It was a direct reference to the victory over sin and death, associated with the first resurrection to eternal life, which drew forth from the Apostle that noble and practical exclamation, (1 Cor. xv. 58.) “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.”
5. The last practical result to which I shall refer in connexion with the second advent, is to be found in the more definite view which it imparts of our aclual relationship to our Lord
* Wordsworth's Biography, vol. vi. p. 85.
Jesus Christ. This remark will harmonize with all the statements of the preceding inquiry. It is the subject interwoven with every part of revealed truth. As the Lord Jesus, we hail his glad approach to wind up the great work of eternal salvation. But as the Second Adam, the Head of human nature, the Ruler in Zion, the Governor among the nations, he is little recognized. Perhaps the dread of Socinianism has induced the Christian Church to fix too exclusively her eye upon his divine nature; but every truth of God is important, and the connexion of Christ with the earth, while it will ultimately wither the blasphemous hopes of Socinianism, will glorify the condition of his people, and render the earth a beauteous scene of rectitude, and joy, and peace. This truth, I repeat, appears to me to be the true key to all the promises; to be the pole star of human hope; the just interpreter of the INCARNATION; the final issue of creative power; the noblest work of the Eternal Spirit; the mightiest triumph of the Father's love.
In bringing to a close this short inquiry into the prospects of the future, I am deeply conscious of the very imperfect delineation of the subject which I have afforded to those who may have perused the foregoing pages. They comprise, indeed, a very faint outline of the prophetic topics to which they refer. I can only regard them as notices which abler minds may perhaps be induced to use, and to extend into an examina ion in some degree more worthy of the exalted themes upon which they touch.
I humbly submit the result to him who has emphatically said, “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” I am unable to lay down the pen without recording one or two suggestions on the study of the subjects to which these pages allude.
1. The unholy use of prophecy in the periods in which some have attempted its elucidation, has more or less cast a shade of suspicion over the subjects to which they have directed the attention of mankind.
The earthliness of interpretation employed in the early centuries of the Church, and the proud turbulence of political interpretation in the more recent periods of our own history, have
gone far to render the very name of the millennial reign a sound which vibrates harshly upon the ear.
Yet the presence of a counterfeit implies the value of an original coin; and the false glosses of the earthly and the turbulent may stand in connexion with important and essential truth. To examine into the future with reverence, solemnity, sobriety, and humility of mind, is therefore a lesson which the errors of the past may well prevail to teach.
2. The eager desire to leave no difficulty unremoved, and no obscurity of promise unexplained, may likewise induce a hastiness of minute interpretation which shall expose the developments of Providence to the scorn and irreverent sarcasm of the ungodly. Hence caution and diffidence should be our guides in the pursuit of the knowledge of the mind and will of God.
3. The future ought ever to be associated with the present in our minds; and the ordinary duties of society to claim our perpetual regard. We ought carefully to watch against a disproportionate pursuit of prophetic inquiries. It was well said by an ancient author, that "one duty ought never to be stained by the blood of another."
4. The views of the future as connected with the approaching advent of Jesus Christ are serious and even appalling. Prayer, submission, and patience, will be our appropriate guides along the pathways of this inquiry. To no subject does levity and rashness so little belong as to the study of prophecy. The winding up of the Christian scheme is amidst the tempest and the earthquake. The days of evil may be “shortened for the elect's sake," but they are still to be days of terrific evil. “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” It were vain,” says a living writer, “it were vain to seek to escape from the conditions of our place in the dominions of God. A mind of wandering and melancholy thought, impatient of the grievous realities of our state, may at some moments almost breathe the wish that we had been a different race of beings, in another dwelling-place than this, and appointed on a different service to the Almighty. In vain! Here still we are to pass the first part of our existence, in a world where it is impossible to be at peace, because there has come into it a mortal enemy to all that live in it. Amidst the darkness that veils from us the state of the universe, we would willingly be persuaded that this our world may be the only region (except that of penal justice) where the cause of evil is permitted to maintain a contest. Here, perhaps, may be almost its last encampment, where its prolonged power of hostility may be suffered in order to give a protracted display of the manner of its appointed destruction. Here our lot is cast on a ground so awfully pre
occupied—a calamitous distinction! but yet a sublime one, if thus we may render to the eternal King a service of a more arduous kind than it is possible to the inhabitants of any other world than this to render him; and if thus we may be trained through devotion and conformity to the celestial chief in this warfare, to the final attainment of what he has promised in so many illustrious forms, to him that overcometh. We shall soon leave the region where so much is in rebellion against our God. But we shall go where all that pass from our world must present themselves as from battle, or be denied to mingle in the eternal joys and triumphs of the conquerors?"*
The justness of these sentiments it were useless to remark. It becomes the student of prophecy to stand upon his watchtower as in the presence of his God, and to abide at his post in the quietness of faith, and in the seriousness of conflict. cheer him, however, to anticipate the dawn of a bright and perpetual day, in the very scene over which the gloom of night has so long brooded. It may cheer him to listen for the voice which shall shortly tell him, “Behold all things are become new."
5. The last observation which I would make, and which I desire to impress deeply upon my own mind, and upon the minds of others, in connexion with the foregoing subject, is the equal importance of personal godliness under every mode of prophetic interpretation which our judgment may respectively prefer.
The personal and visible reign of Christ can be shared by those alone who are conformed to his spiritual character. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” There is an eternal harmony in the works and dispensations of God. The harvest accords with the seed which has been sown. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting."
In the contemplation of the future, this observation is of the greatest importance. Without this abiding recollection, prophecy may become to us as a fable; a mere picture to the imaginative; a scheme to the curious; a coherent plan to a moral architect; and yet a delusion to a polluted heart. If the reign of Christ be not first within our renewed souls, we shall never share it in a renewed world. If he legislate not over our passions and our affections, we shall never bear rule in the regions of his rescued earth. If God the Holy Ghost regenerate not
* Vide Foster's Essay on Popular Ignorance, &c. p. 544.
our hearts, He will never regenerate our bodies. Our conformity to Christ must be entire. We must first be crucified ere we can be glorified. His sceptre must be in our hearts ere his crown can rest upon our heads.
"Oh loved, but not enough-tho' dearer far
"My soul! rest happy in thy low estate,
“Confess him righteous in his just decrees,
To those whose mental associations accord with these views of the spiritual victories of Christ, his visible and coming glory will be an influential theme of meditation and joy. Amidst the conflicts of inward corruption, the pangs of disease, the groans of oppression; amidst the tears of the suffering, the mistakes of the ignorant, and the blasphemies of the proud; the spiritual mind will anticipate a glorious though still terrestrial state, in which evil will have no place, and happiness be exposed to no temptation; in which mind mingling with mind, and enlarging its knowledge under every new facility for truth, will yield itself up "to those intellectual revelations, to that everlasting sun-light of the soul," in which the truly wise will enjoy the presence of their Lord through the.periods of a blissful eternity.
* Vide Translations of M. Guion by Cowper.