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In the first instance all will appear going on as usual, in peace and security. As when the flood came in the days of Noah, and the burning in the time of Lot, they will be giving their chief concern to buying and selling, building and planting, marrying and giving in marriage. The three angels, in the vision to Zechariah, report of a period apparently preceding this time: "We have walked to and fro through the earth, and behold-all the earth sitteth still and is at rest. "u "But when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." The most striking figures are made use of to show, how sudden and unexpected the Advent and Judgment will be to such: e. g. "the pangs of labour"-"as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth unto the west"-"as a snare upon the nations;" and "as a thief in the night:" just as in Pharaoh's time, the destroying angel went out at midnight, and a cry of distress was heard from the king on the throne to the captive in the dungeon. Up to the moment of his coming, men will be refusing to look at prophecy, and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming?"x"
Of the righteous, however, we are expressly told, that the day of the Lord shall not overtake them as a thief in the night: they will be looking out for the Saviour's approach, satisfied, from the signs of the times, that their redemption draweth nigh. They will apparently witness the tribulation, and it will be cut short for their sakes; but they will be spared in it. Consider first what David says of the righteous-"that in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him."a So in another place-"In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion-in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me -he shall set me upon a rock." Psalm xxxvii. is throughout to this point, but especially verses 34, 38-40: "Wait on the Lord, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off thou shalt see it-The transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off: but the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord, he is their strength in the time of trouble; and the Lord shall help them and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked and save them, because they trust in him." Again in Psalm xlv. "God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble: therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the
t Matt. xxiv. 38. v. 3. w Ex. xii. 29.
a Ps. xxxii. 6.
Zech. i. Compare v. 11 and vv. 18–21.
Ps. xxvii. 5.
v 1 Thess. Luke xxi. 28.
mountains shake with the swelling thereof." Isaiah says of the Lord's people-"They shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest, and the city shall be low in a low place." And again, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee," (an exhortation to prayer, Matt. vi.) "hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For behold the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity-the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."d
There is also a remarkable prophecy in Jeremiah xxx. 4-9, concerning Israel and Judah at this time. "These (he says) are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the Lord: we have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now and see, whether a man doth travail with child? Wherefore do I see a woman in travail, Alas! for that day is
every man with his hands on his loins, as and all faces are turned into paleness? great, so that none is like it. It is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: but they shall serve the Lord their God and David their King, whom I will raise up unto them."
The next promise I shall notice is Joel iii. 16. After describing the time of trouble, he adds: "The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem, and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of His people and the strength of the children of Israel." I shall only quote one more from Zephaniah, because it shows again the suitableness of prayer at this time: "Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment: seek righteousness, seek meekness:-it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger. 99
I do not consider arguments derived from types as suited to lay at the foundation of a doctrine; but when we have direct testimony, similar to that which I have brought forward, they are very important collateral evidence. The analogy then of the types clearly confirms the testimony adduced. The deliverance, for example, of Noah at the flood; from which some argue, that (as the ark rose above the waters of the deluge, so in the fiery deluge,) the Church will rise to meet the Lord in
c Isa. xxxii. 18, 19. d Isa. xxvi. 20, 21.
the air, whilst the conflagration is going on below. The deliverance also of Lot at the destruction of the cities of the plain, set forth as a special example of the vengeance of eternal fire. The Exodus from Egypt again typifies a way of salvation for the people, at the very time when their enemies shall be overthrown. The proceeding of Jehu,f in the destruction of the whole of the worshippers of Baal, just at the moment when they thought their cause was most prosperous; and the previous careful exclusion from among them of the worshippers of Jehovah, I take to be another type. The well known escape of the christians to Pella at the destruction of Jerusalem may also be instanced; and many other events.
To believers therefore I would say-yet, not I, but the Lord "WATCH ye, therefore, and PRAY always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." Luke xxi. 36.
The State of Separate Spirits.
No circumstance connected with modern theology has more affected me with surprise, than the vague and unsatisfactory notions entertained by most respecting the present and future conditions of the dead. In its first aspect, so far as our own individual happiness is concerned, it appears to be the object of all others in divine revelation of most intense interest, and most calculated to engage the inquiry of intelligent mortals: and indeed there are few persons that are not led by the ordinary afflictions or sympathies of life to entertain the subject at some period of their existence, however transiently; and there are few ministers, in the habit of encouraging religious conversation, who are not repeatedly assailed by inquiries on this head. Yet how many preachers and writers treat the topic with hesitation, or mere conjecture; not seeming to have any decided scripture testimony on which to base their hopes; as if they rather wished their sentiments to be true, than that they have a decided assurance that they are so. The conclusion to which this has led me is, that Christians in general, owing to erroneous views concerning the resurrection state and the kingdom of glory, have likewise fallen into error in regard to some important circumstances respecting the present and future con
e Jude v. 7. 12 Kings x. 25.
ditions of the dead. And it is remarkable, that they commonly speak with the greater degree of confidence concerning the state of separate spirits, which is really an obscure point, and respecting which but little is revealed; whilst in regard to that other state, which is declared to be "life and immortality brought to light," and concerning which we have abundant revelation, they are inclined to discourage inquiry, as though it were altogether hopeless.
I trust I write not these things in a spirit of arrogancy; for I am deeply sensible that I have myself been precisely in this state, at a time when I was nevertheless desirous to ascertain and to communicate the truth: but I think it due to those holy doctrines which I advocate, to avow that it was only in proportion as their glorious light broke in upon my understanding that I was enabled to apprehend these other truths with any clearness.
As these Essays are chiefly intended to set forth the future condition of believers, I might have been justified in passing over the mention of the intermediate state: but as I consider it important, when advancing opinions opposed to the notions of many pious christians, not to let it be supposed that I entertain sentiments which I entirely reject, I shall preface my inquiry into the resurrection state, by a notice of the state of separate spirits-i. e. of the state of souls after death.
I shall therefore endeavour to prove, 1st, that the dead in Christ are in a state of consciousness, in the fullest sense of the term; and 2ndly, that they are in a state of holy enjoyment, superior to any experienced upon earth.*
I. That the spirit is in a state of unconsciousness is argued by some from the circumstance, that death is described in Scripture as a sleep, and that the dead are said to awake and arise from it. I doubt whether more be meant by such expressions than a figure, seeing that the very same phrases are applied by the Psalmist to God:-"Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, &c. "'a The same writers scout, as "idle," the notion of such Scriptures having respect only to the body; nevertheless all these Scriptures are ambiguous in regard to their applicability
a Ps. xliv. 23; and see also lxxiii. 20; 1xxviii. 65. b See Morning Watch, Vol. II. p. 382.
*I do not think it needful to dwell formally upon an opinion, held by Socinians, that at death the soul is annihilated. We may refute them with this text (if they will receive it)-"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him, which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." For were the soul annihilated at death, its destruction would be placed within the power of man; so that he who killed the body would as certainly annihilate the soul: when therefore it is stated, that men are not able to kill the soul, even though they kill the body, it is clear that bodily death does not annihilate the soul.
to the spirit; whilst Psalm xvi. 9 (My flesh shall rest in hope,") appears quite unequivocal as respects the body: and therefore I feel justified, when the context does not determine the point, in limiting all doubtful instances to the body likewise.
I apprehend Romans viii. 10, 11, to be referable to this subject: "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness; but if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal body by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Here observe that the body is condemned to death, whilst the spirit is redeemed from it; and yet it is said, that the body shall hereafter be likewise quickened: but where in the meanwhile is the eminent distinction between the body being dead and the spirit life, unless it be that in the intermediate state the body sleeps, whilst the spirit enjoys a living consciousness?
It is objected by some, that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus the latter is represented as lying in Abraham's bosom; and that as he is not made to speak, he must be in a state of repose, and consequently of unconsciousness. This objection, however, arises from not understanding what is meant, in the Eastern style, by lying in the bosom of any; which was with them the place of favour and distinction. Thus the apostle John is described as lying in the Saviour's bosom; and thus the Jews, before the time of Christ, said of the righteous dead that they were gone to the bosom of Adam, and the bosom of Abraham; and, after Christ, believers were said to lie in the bosom of Christ. Besides, the rich man is evidently conscious and does converse; it must therefore be his body only that slept; and shall we say that the damned enjoy a consciousness which the righteous do not?
II. This point, the consciousness of the spirit in the intermediate state, will be more fully established when we consider secondly, that the dead are in a state of holy enjoyment, superior to what they experienced when on earth: for that which proves the latter point, does more eminently confirm the former.
St. Paul declares, "that for him to live is Christ, and to die is gain." I have carefully attended to the arguments which would explain this text otherwise;-viz. that the Apostle here overleaps the intermediate state, as of no account, and refers his gain by death to the resurrection; but I cannot at all concur with this view. Surely death would, in the meanwhile, be a loss to the man, who could say, when living, "To me to live is Christ;" unless that conscious union with Christ were still con