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When they cease to sin they will cease to die ; when their ungodliness is turned away, the effects of it must also be turned away. When sin is taken away, death cannot abide; death itself must die. The sins of Jacob receive the wages of death in common with the race of Adam; but when the work is not done the wages will not be paid; where sin does not work, death cannot slay; where sin is taken away, death cannot tarry; sin and death can never be separated. Of course, the Deliverer having taken away the sins of his chosen, they must be in eternal life; they cannot die any more.
"For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins." (Rom. xi. 27.) Whoever removes the cause, removes also the effect. A fever prevents our appetite; whatever removes the fever tends to restore the appetite. Gravity causes heavy bodies to sink in water and to fall suddenly to the earth; take away their gravity, and they float on the wave, or fly in the air wherever the wind drives them. The cause being removed, the effect ceases invariably. When God takes away their sins from Jacob, it will not be done partially, for all Israel are to be saved; and when their sins are wholly taken away, they will be changed instantly, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trump shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 1 Cor. xv. 52. What can their fulness, their perfection of character, be, "but life from the dead,” to die no more forever? What a pleroma is here! It is nothing "but life from the dead;" for "we that are alive and remain
unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them that are asleep;" (Thess. iv. 15;) for all Israel shall be saved and caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. When their sins are taken away they will be changed, and they will tend upward toward their Lord as the Spirit moves them: gravity not more certainly than iniquity holding corruptible man down to this clod of earth.
"The time is fulfilled." (Mark i. 15.) That time which was fulfilled was a time ended, a time that gave way to another time, the time of the law to the time of the gospel. An hour fulfilled is a full hour; and the pleroma or fulness of the hour being come in, there is the end of it; that hour cannot continue beyond its fulness; it must give place to another. The pleroma or fulness of a man is in stature when he ceases to grow; in strength, when his energies have ceased to increase; and in time, when his time runs out and he gives up his spirit. So the pleroma or fulness of the Gentiles is in number when they cease to increase; in faith, when they cease to be converted; and in time, when their time runs out. The fulness of a thing being come in, no more of that thing can come in. The fulness of a basket being come in, the basket is full. The fulness of the harvest being come in, no more will be gathered this year. And the fulness of the Gentiles being come in, it is impossible that any more should come in ; otherwise fulness is not fulness, or that which is fulfilled has not come to pass; which is a perfect absurdity.
The fulness of a thing is a certain quantity,
definite and not indefinite, fixed and not left to chance fixed by the law of the land in the matter of weights and measures; fixed in the motions and gravity of the heavenly bodies by the divine law; fixed in the times and seasons of the deluge, the law and the gospel, and by no means left at random. In the set time the flood came, in the appointed time Messiah was cut off, and in the end of time is the great day of the Lord, when the Israelites will have attained to their fulness or perfection of character by their Deliverer's taking away their sins; and the Gentiles' pleroma will have come in by the conversion among them of all that are heirs of the great salvation, and of all that are necessary to complete the temple of the Lord's body.
The fulness of the Gentiles, therefore, seems to "be come in" when no more Gentiles can come in; otherwise fulness is not fulness, whether it refers to their manner, time, or number, or these all together. When the pleroma of the Gentiles is in, the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and they that are not gathered unto the Lord's granary will never be. Now is the day of salvation, now is the harvest season; these are the times of the Gentiles, this is the gospel summer: but when the pleroma of the Gentiles is once in, the harvest is over, the gospel dispensation is ended, and a new dispensation begins, whether it be in this world or the world to come.
The pleroma of the Jews and also of the Gentiles would seem to occur at the same time, in the end of time. Many of the most devout among the Jews now, as in all past ages of their dispersion, are looking for their restoration in
the coming of Messiah and the resurrection of their holy dead. Our fulness is in Christ, and in none other is the fulness of the Jews and also of the Gentiles. This pleroma will appear and be complete when Christ appears; and we shall see him as he is, and be like him. This appears to be the fulness of the true Israel, when the fulness of the Gentiles has been gathered into the house of Jacob, and the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High.
Many suppose the fulness of the Jews and of the Gentiles indicative of a state of things in time. Others suppose it to be indicative of a mixed state of men in carnal and of men in spiritual bodies, some risen from the dead and others doomed to die. Yet others suppose it to be indicative of that state in which the saints judge the world, to come in the new heavens and the new earth. (Compare 1 Cor. vi. 'with 2 Peter iii.) Much may be said for and against each of these different suppositions. With the first our reflections are not reconcilable; of the second they admit; and in the third they take delight. W.
These texts, 2 Peter iii. 12, 13, "being so express, there is but one way left to elude the force of them; and that is by turning the renovation of the world into an allegory, and making the
new heavens and new earth to be allegorical heavens and earth, not real and material, as ours are. This is a bold attempt of some modern authors. There are allegories, no doubt, in Scripture; but we are not to allegorize Scripture without some warrant, either from an apostolical interpretation, or from the necessity of the matter; and I do not know how they can pretend to either of these, in this case. However, we will examine whether they are or can be turned into an allegory, according to the best rules of interpretation. The question is, whether the new heavens and earth here promised are to be real and material heavens and earth, or only figurative and allegorical. The general rule of interpreta⚫tion is, not to recede from the literal sense unless there be a necessity from the subject-matter; such a necessity as makes a literal interpretation absurd. But where is that necessity in this case? Cannot God make new heavens and a new earth as easily as he made the old ones? Is his strength decayed? No necessity can be pretended of leaving the literal sense upon an incapacity of the subject-matter.
"The second rule to determine an interpretato be literal or allegorical, is the use of the same words or phrase in the context, and the signification of them there. Let us then examine our case according to this rule. St. Peter had used the same phrase of heavens and earth twice before in the same chapter: the old heavens and earth, ver. 5; the present heavens and earth, ver. 7; and now he uses it again, ver. 13, the new heavens and earth. Have we not then reason to suppose that he takes it here in the same sense