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have seen Him go into heaven." And Paul says, “ The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven ;” and “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven.”
If this be not a literal coming in His own proper person, the Bible deceives us, and language is useless, for the Bible positively says this in words which no grammarian in the world could make plainer or more to the point. It is to trifle with our understanding and to grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom these words were inbreathed, to say that they are mystical or metaphorical, and are not to be taken literally.
2. We see before us the resurrection of the righteous dead at the time of the Lord's advent. Marvellous scene, glorious prospect, wonderful result of the August Presence, the dead in Christ rising up victors over death, incorruptible, glorious, sharing the likeness and immortality of their illustrious Head, and to remain so for ever! This is a tempting subject for grateful reflections on happy re-unions, and Divine compensations for the crushing afflictions, and bitter griefs, and heart-rending separations of the mortal state ; but we may not now indulge in such holy luxuries; enough for us to know that our joy shall be full, and that we shall ever be with the Lord ! But one or two remarks are necessary to give doctrinal coherence to the subject. We need hardly ask a Christian thinker which picture gives him most intellectual pleasure-glorified ghosts in the world of spirits, or glorified men in the world to come, when Christ will see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied ? I do not suggest our preferences as any rule of action for God; but I insist upon the proposition that God's rule of action, as revealed in Scripture-taking the words in their literal and therefore true
-commends itself to sanctified intellect as every way better than that which has the patronage of either metaphysical or metaphorical theology. Now the idea of men, perfect, immortalised men, animated by the spirit of Christ, that is to say, men in spiritual bodies, ruling over the world under the Supreme Ruler, is sublimely grand. It rings home upon the heart and mind a note of triumphant gladness and perfect victory. It shows us God's original idea of manhood absolutely realised—Divine manhood, man in the likeness of Christ, who is the express image of God. The resurrection of “the body " is not a doctrine of Scripture, the frame animated by blood returns to its original dust. It has served its purpose
appears no more. But the resurrection of “ the dead " is, and God preserves the identity of individuals, and when Christ comes the body of every saint will be animated by the spirit of Christ. This is the resurrection revealed in Scripture.
3. We hope for the removal of the curse from creation. Shall we look for a few seconds on the dismal picture which the hand of history has painted, for the purpose of deepening our gratitude to Him who has gilded its upper lines with glory, the herald and the guarantee of the magnificent deliverance in reserve for the groaning
creation ? The depth and extent of the calamity prove the resources of the transcendent mercy which rolls it back and leaves blessing and joy in its place. The appalling darkness of the long and tempestuous night makes us “ wish for the day" and hail its
* dawn with a sense of unutterable relief and thankfulness. And the fact that all efforts of moralists, philosophers, philanthropists, governments, and churches have failed even to touch the chronic disease that preys upon the very heart of the world should make us turn with eagerness to God's prescription for the agonised sufferer.
Very early in the pages of the Bible, just after we have repeatedly heard God pronouncing the works of His hands very good, and just after we have seen the first pair of human kind placed in a garden of delights, we are startled by these awful words from the Holy One : “ And unto Adam He said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns, also, and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken ; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
There is the sentence of the righteous Judge from whose award there is no appeal; and that it has taken effect the mournful experience of nearly six thousand years too fully proves. From the shock then given to creation it has trembled ever since. The shudder at its centre has flashed to its circumference. No continent or island has escaped. It is a fallen world, whose foundations are out of course, all whose inhabitants are exposed to pain and smitten with mortality, and whose history is a long record of lamentation, mourning, and woe. Man disobeyed God. Herein lay the cause of the disaster. Sin plucked the key-stone from the glorious arch which connected Paradise with Heaven, and man's house lay in ruins about him.
The legacy of woe has been transmitted to the race. “The earth, also, is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; bocause they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance,
roken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate.” Moral guilt and mental and physical suffering have characterised all generations. War, famine, pestilence-words of dread significance-enter largely into the history of the world. And the lower animals are not only subjected to suffering in consequence of their connection with man, but they prey upon each other, thus distributing the confusion and the terror through the earth, the ocean, and the air. The jungle and the forest have their deadly reptiles and ferocious beasts; and man, the dethroned monarch of a splendid kingdom, has constantly to defend himself as best he may against thousands of enemies-insect, reptile, and quadruped -as if the instinct of animated nature had discovered the cause of its sufferings, and led it to exact vengeance of man. Nor is this all. The material earth utters its groan and its protest. Here we have the arid desert that scorches the traveller and refuses him & drop of water to cool his tongue; and if he escape death from the agonies of thirst, the awful sand-storm or the fatal sunstroke may be at hand. There we have the pestilential swamp dealing out disease and death by its poisonous malaria. Here we have the earthquake opening its granite jaws and devouring doomed cities with their shrieking inhabitants, without respect to character, age, or position. Saint and sinner, the hoary-headed man and the sweet little child, the large-hearted patriot and the pest of society, are indiscriminately buried alive in that horrible sepulchre. There we have the irresistible hurricane splitting into fragments, as if in mere sport, the strongest ships, and strewing the ocean with the bodies of the dead. And here we have the swelling flood which covers the standing crop and sweeps it to destruction; and there the long-continued drought, until the heaven is as iron and the earth as brass, and there is no food for man or beast.
Now all this, which is but the merest hint at a great and mysterious whole, cries with a voice which cannot be mistaken that the curse has been diffused through creation ; and in addition to this there is the dreadful fact that the world lieth in the Wicked One. A malignant spirit of untiring energy in evil, Satan, the deceiver, the adversary, is not yet cast down from the heights and shut up in the prison, but is active in malicious efforts to frustrate the work of the Redeemer, and to seduce men to destruction. Society is full of his deeds; the world is full of his temples; the majority of the race are led captive by him at his will. A world of which all this can be said on the dark side of its story-although it has a bright side too of marvellous splendour-surely stands alone in the uni
It seems to have gathered to itself, by some mysterious attraction, all the possible elements of good and evil, and to form the glory and shame of the universe.
What then is its destiny? For the reason that God has given us protests against the possibility of this state of things continuing always in the world, which has the peerless glory of being the birthplace of Jesus Christ. That single fact is the assurance of a splendid future. An end of some sort must close the battle of sixty centuries. The conflict between light and darkness, truth
. and falsehood, the blessing and the curse, must come to an end. On this subject, through the kindness of God, we are not left to the flickering gleams of speculation, but have the steady light of revelation to gladden our hearts. Gazing at the entire matter, we ask with an illustrious prophet, “ O, my Lord, what shall be the end of these things ?” For it is impossible that any disciple of Christ, having the honour of his Master and the welfare of his fellow men at heart, can rest satisfied without some positive divine assurance
that order shall supersede this chaos, and harmony take the place of this discord.
The order, the harmony, the terrestrial paradise for which we look will be realised as beneficent results of the coming of the Lord. The prophetic Scriptures glow with the glory of these events. The deliverance of creation from its groanings depends upon the manifestation of the sons of God, and that depends upon the second advent of Christ. With all respect to our brethren who teach that the gospel is intended to convert the world, and that our Lord and theirs will not return until after a thousand years of world-wide Christianity, it is manifest that no diffusion of the word of salvation can extract the curse from the earth and bring in the blissful years described in the poems of the Hebrew bards. The holiest among the sons of men, those who are most nearly conformed to the image of Christ, have no immunity from suffering and sorrow in consequence of that fact.
No extent of holiness over the earth, no intensity of consecration to the adorable Saviour on the part of its inhabitants, can deliver from pain, decay, and death. No state of spirituality, however high, can turn the desert into a fruitful field, purify the pestilential swamp, extract the malaria from the soil, tame the lion and the panther, make the poisonous adder a harmless plaything for the little child, and cast down Satan from the heights. It is not in the nature of personal piety to heal the waters of the dead sea, to plant grass with reeds and rushes in the habitation of dragons, to send fertilising rivers through barren deserts, and to cause the fir-tree and the myrtle-tree to come up instead of the thorn and briar. Agency must correspond with the nature of the work to be done. But there is no correspondence between the belief of the gospel and the performance of the physical marvels to which these prophecies point.
But our friends tell us that these predictions are to be spiritually understood ; they are highly poetic metaphors of what the transforming power of the gospel, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, will effect. The lion, and the bear, and the asp, and the cockatrice mean wild and wicked men converted to Christ; the healing of the Dead Sea is by the waters of the gospel ; and the fruitfulness of the desert is abundance of grace; and so on of all the rest, a perfect labyrinth of mysticism out of which it is difficult to find the way. But let us accept this canon of interpretation, and see whereto it leads. Why, death remains exercising his old supremacy, the curse continues in all its original severity; the burning desert, the barren soil, the unhealthy region, the earthquake, the tempest, all play their engines of destruction on hapless man for another weary thousand years. The roar of the lion, the hiss of the serpent, and the rattle of the snake still curdle the blood of the traveller. The living saints suffer pain and sorrow as at present, and the dead in Christ lie in their graves during the whole of the protracted period. The curse is unrepealed, Satan is still the prince of the power of the air, the lower animals still suffer, and all creation still groans to be delivered from its bondage of vanity and corruption.
Such are the melancholy consequences of the principle of interpretation which I have accepted for the moment for the purpose of judging it by its issues. If bears, and lions, and reptiles, and deserts, and stagnant waters, and briers, and thorns, all mean men, those who say so must abide by the consequences, and admit that during the whole of their ecclesiastical millennium, the evil under which creation suffers shall not be removed. If all the exquisite predictions of deliverance for the animal creation and the earth, which shed such glory on the pages of the seers of Israel and Judah, and bring such a revenue of praise to Him who cares for the beast of the earth and the bird of the air, be only poetical images of what is to be done for man, then there is not a vestige of prophecy left that gives a word of hope for the material world and the ten thousand tribes of animated beings that live and suffer on its surface. Not one of the prophets has opened his mouth for the dumb, and the splendours of that glorious oracle, the eighth of Romans, vanish into cold mist and darkness, blotting from the firmament of revelation the world-wide paradise that is to be the happy scene of blessing under the sceptre of the Son of Man for a thousand years.
“ The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope ; because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body.” No, we cannot afford to part with “ that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."
Lastly, before us is a cleansed and happy universe, without sin or suffering, whilst God is satisfied with the perfect issues of His wisdom and love. Christ must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last of the long list is death. When that is destroyed there can be no sin, for that is the wages of sin; and if no sin, of course no suffering, so that the pitiless dogma of eternal torment is not only incredible and unscriptural, but actually impossible ! “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death neither sorrow, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.”
This is the magnificent conclusion of the eternal purpose respect