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The author of these Sermons complies with the earnest requests of friends who heard them, and wished for their publication. He willingly has acceeded to these requests, in the hope that the deeply touching and interesting cause which he has pleaded in this city, may be thus more generally known and more largely aided, in both the Established Churches of these kingdoms. He preached these sermons somewhat more fully, but they are in substance given as delivered by him. May the Divine Spirit lead us, and all Christians, more and more to the mind of Christ for Zion, and to the spirit of that blessed Apostle who could testify, “my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.”
19 RUTLAND STREET, EDINBURGH,
May 23, 1839.
The restoration of the kingdom to Israel, and our present
duties to be witnesses for Christ.
Acts i. 7, 8. “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or
the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power (icurez), but ye shall receive power (durapeer) after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
The subject on which our Lord is speaking is the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. He is answering the last inquiry which his Church put to him while here on earth. When they were come together they asked of him, saying, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
This was a subject of intense interest to every believer of the Old Testament, and to every attentive disciple of our Lord's public ministry. He had again and again alluded to it. He had given a prayer with reference to it-thy kingdom come —and in his last forty days on earth he had been speaking of the things pertaining to it. No wonder then that the disciples agreed with one mind to ask him when this kingdom should be restored.
The answer of our Lord is full of instruction to us as well as to them. It is also specially applicable to us on this sacred festival, when we commemorate the first outpouring of the spirit on the Christian Church.
Let us consider,
1. THE ANSWER GIVEN TO THE INQUIRY OF THE DISCIPLES.
It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his
It seems very darkening to their hopes and deadening to their wishes at first sight, very discouraging and discomforting; but let us see if we cannot gather, as we often may, from apparently dark sentences much profitable light and instruction.
darkness shews us that he could not mean merely a spiritual kingdom; that was already begun-that was set up in power on the day of Pentecost—that he had often described as subsisting and consisting of tares and wheat, good fishes and bad. There was no reason to inquire when this kingdom should be restored, nor to withhold from them the fact of the time and season of its commencement.
The inquiry and the answer, then, relate to another form of that kingdom yet unestablished.
We may observe next, that our Lord does not in the least deny the fact that the kingdom would be restored to Israel. He had been instructing them forty days in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and he had been opening their understanding to understand the Scriptures, they could not have made then so gross a mistake as still to have kept, what, in case no kingdom was to be restored to Israel, would have been a visionary notion; nor would he have at such a time left them in such an error.
Again, the words the Father hath put in his own power the times and seasons when the kingdom shall be restored to Israel, assuredly imply that the kingdom shall be restored. Our Lord by them encourages the expectation and strengthens their hope of the ultimate restoration of the desired kingdom.
And this corresponds to his whole previous ministry and to the whole tenor of the prophetic word.
You may just mark a similar mode of reply to the sons of Zebedee. When they came to him, “Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire;" and when he asked, “What would ye that I should do for you?" they reply, “Grant unto us that we may sit, the one on thy right hand and the other on thy left in thy kingdom.” He answers there too, “Ye know not what ye ask," tells them of the sufferings to be gone through, and that the right and left hand seats will be given to those prepared of his Father. We see the wisdom of this reply, and we shall find similar wisdom in the present case.
The great hopes that our Lord had all along held out, were the kingdom of heaven. From that early promise, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,' up to the time when he assured the apostles that he had appointed to them a kingdom, and that they should “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The hopes which he continually held out had a reference to this kingdom.
The prophetic word of the Old Testament brings it before us from Genesis, till we come to the clear and full light of the chronological prophecies of Daniel.
Without here entering further into the nature of this kingdom, it is clear that the Scriptures predict a pre-eminence to Israel, under the immediate sovereignty of Christ, as a blessing to the whole earth. (Isa. ii. Ix. Ixi.; Jer. xxxi.; Ezek. xxxvii. xlviii.; Zech. xiv.; Luke i. 32, 33.)
Our Lord then did not intend to check the hopes of this kingdom, but he does manifestly check their curiosity as to the time when it should take place. It is not for you to know the time or the seasons. He withheld the time.
I would notice why he withheld the time, and why he told them that it was put in the Father's power.
WHY DID HE WITHHOLD THE TIME?
Look back. You stand on the eminence of eighteen centuries. See what these centuries have been. Generation after generation, apostles, martyrs, fathers, confessors, and reformers, have lived and died. Mark all the conflicts through which the early Christians attained their triumphs—their labours, sufferings, persecutions, and martyrdoms. Go on to the rise of Popery and Mahomedanism,—see the dark ages,-mark the struggles of infant Protestantism and its subsequent decay,– look at the present spread of infidelity among professedly Christian nations. Had the Apostles been told all this must previously take place,-all this corruption must spread over the world,—0 what needless despondency and heart-sinkings must have overwhelmed them! Eighteen hundred years of deferred expectation,-eighteen hundred years of Israel's dispersion and desolation,-eighteen hundred years yet to remain of the Gentile monarchies,--and eighteen hundred years the treading under foot of Jerusalem: with that wisdom and love which marks all his providence to his Church, this dark scene was kept back!
Why also did he tell them that the time and seasons WERE PUT IN THE FATHER'S POWER?
It seems to point out the entire filial confidence they might have in the paternal wisdom and love of all the Divine arrangements.
It seems also to point out that the Father himself will take into his own hands the overthrow of all obstructions to this kingdom. Thus it is said, in the 110th Psalm, “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
It is not merely the Almighty power of a Mediator to save, but the Almighty power of the Father that is engaged to subjugate all enemies to Christ.
It points out also a prolonged time of delay: it was not for the good of the Church to know it then. This view concurs with other similar statements.
You remember what our Lord says, speaking of the time when they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with power and great glory. He declares, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” It was a hidden mystery
- not given to the Son to reveal; and the lesson was, “Take ye heed, watch and
know not when the time is." By the Son not knowing, we are clearly taught that he had a real human mind, as well as a real human body. As man, his Divine omniscience was no more put forth than his Almighty power. But as time rolled on, farther light was to be given on this point.
In the prophecies of Daniel, we find that he was directed to shut up the vision, for it shall be for many days. He was also afterwards told to "shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” And this was repeated—“Go thy way, Daniel; for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
And when farther light was thrown by the Book of Revelation on the mysterious and wonderful predictions of Daniel, we read that this was accomplished, because the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, had prevailed to take the book and loose the seven seals thereof."
In the close of the Book of Revelation, therefore, we have the very reverse of the direction given to Daniel: Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand.”
It would appear, then, that our Lord told his Apostles that the times were put in his Father's power to intimate a prolonged season of waiting, and that, therefore, it was not profitable for the Church then to know exactly how long that period would be.
Another reason seems to be this: Our God would never have his Church without the lively hope of the coming of Christ the second time, and the glory that should follow. It is a hope so purifying and heavenly,—so deadening our hearts to the world, --so filling us with joy and holy expectation, that it is one of the richest privileges of the Church of Christ. This great hope is the last lingering word of the sacred volume -“Surely I come quickly;" and its last recorded prayer corresponds to it-"Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.” That his Church then might have a waiting spirit for this day,- that expectation might be kept alive,-that all the benefits of a prepared, watchful, prayerful, desiring spirit, might be continued, and all the animation of hope, from age to age, fill the souls of