Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

of a judicial infatuation, a kind of sealing up of the spiritual senses, they had entirely overlooked, or perverted by the most outrageous glosses, that whole class of predictions which spake of the necessary antecedent "sufferings" of the Messiah, and fixed their eye entirely on "the glory that should follow." They were transported with the view of their expected Shiloh, as a mighty conqueror "lifting up the head;" but they could not see him "stooping to drink of the brook by the way," in the deep abasement of his lowly life and his ignominious passion. Their gross and carnal minds could have been easily intoxicated by such a representation of his glory as that given by John in the Apocalypse, when he saw heaven opened, and the incarnate Word borne upon a white horse, the emblem of victory, his head crowned with many crowns, his vesture dipped in blood, and his retinue composed of the white-robed armies of heaven following him in shining myriads, as he moved onward to the overthrow of his enemies, and to the assumption of his promised œcumenical empire; while at the same time, when they actually saw the Son of David entering Jerusalem in humble style, and approaching his temple amidst the hosannas of the multitude, they had no eyes to perceive in this scene the fulfilment of the prophet's words: "Tell ye the daughter of Zion, behold thy king cometh unto thee meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt, the foal of an ass."

If such then was the radical and ruinous error of the Jews; if from this cause, when the Saviour of men came to his own, his own received him not, but hid as it were their faces from him; it may be questioned whether our danger at the present day is not directly the reverse of this, viz. that of applying what is said of his first coming to his second, or in supposing that the prophecies which foretel the latter, are fulfilled in a spiritual coming of the power of his religion, and the more general extension of his kingdom on earth. That the expression "the coming of Christ," may in one or two instances have this import, is probable; but that in its primary and predominant sense it implies a real, personal, visible and glorious appearance of the Son of God, called in the Scriptures his "revelation from heaven," has been all along the faith of the church, and we see not how it can admit of doubt, as long as the following passages form a part of holy writ: "Ye men of Israel, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken

from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." "Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him." With such plain declarations as these before us, it is easy to see that the interpretation of this phrase, the Second Coming, given by bishop Hind in his Lectures on Prophecy, is to be received with especial caution. "It may be proper to observe, that the second advent of the Messiah is not, like the first, confined to one single and precise period, but is gradual and successive. This distinction is founded in the reason of the thing. He could only come, in person, at one limited time. (Why?) He comes in his power and providence, through all rough all ages of the church. His first coming was then over when he expired on the cross. His second commenced with his resurrection, and will continue to the end of the world. So that this last coming of Jesus is to be understood of his spirit and kingdom; which is not one act of sovereignty exerted at once, but a state or constitution of government subsisting through a long tract of time, unfolding itself by just degrees, and coming as oft as the conductor of it thinks fit to interpose by any signal acts of his administration." (Lect. on Proph. p. 102.) In opposition to this spiritualizing view of the subject, we would refer the reader to bishop Horsley's masterly sermons on our Lord's prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, and would beg his attention to the following remarks of Mr Fry, the title of whose work stands at the head of this article, on the prophecy of Enoch, mentioned by Jude: "Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all," &c.

"This unquestionably has no relation to the first advent. That was an errand of mercy, and not of judgment. The preserver of the prophecy is our expounder, that the particular objects of this judgment were 'the mockery in the last time.' The reader is requested carefully to bear in mind the contents and circumstances of this very ancient prophecy, since we shall often have occasion, as we proceed, to refer to it. It clearly ascertains that in the most ancient times, the church possessed a prediction that the Lord would come with his holy ones, to execute judgment upon an apostate race of men that should be on the earth in the last da It is certain, from the same exposition, that the sending of the flood upon the world of the ungodly in the days of Noah, fulfilled not this prediction. Taught by this, we should be very careful in our con

sideration of subsequent scriptures, how we apply to any remarkable visitation of Providence, the awful and tremendous prognostication, The Lord cometh.' Not the destruction of a world, with whatever agencies of angelic powers effected, had fulfilled Enoch's prediction of the Lord's coming, with his holy myriads, to execute judgment."

As the fact of a second advent of some kind is universally admitted, the nature and the time of this advent are the only points susceptible of controversy. Presuming that the foregoing remarks and quotations sufficiently establish the doctrine of a personal and visible coming of the Son of God at some period of future time, it becomes a point of ineffable interest to ascertain what light the scriptures afford us towards giving the era of this stupendous event. We are far from deeming such inquiries either presumptuous or profitless. On the contrary, we ask no higher or plainer warrant for the most prying researches into the "times and seasons" of the great occurrences of prophecy, than the example of the prophets themselves. They "searched diligently what, or what manner of time*, the spirit which was in them did signify when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." The apostle in these words doubtless had present to his thoughts the case of Daniel, chaxii. who discovered such an intense anxiety to know the time when the prophetical "wonders" declared to him should be accomplished. "And I heard, but I understood not; then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things ?" Now we see not why this spirit of scrutiny is not as lawful in the readers of the sacred volume as in its writers. We are aware that it is not unfrequently regarded as a species of impiety to attempt to determine the mysterious era of the second advent, or of the end of the world. The rebuke given by Christ to his disciples after his resurrection is supposed to amount to a solemn

* A recurrence to the original of this passage, (1 Pet. i. 11.) will show that its true import, as gathered from the English translation, is liable to be misapprehended. Ἐρευνωντες εις τίνα (καιρὸν), ἢ ποῖον καιρὸν, ἐδήλου τὸ πνεῦμα --"searching diligently what (precise) time, (chronologically), or what kind of time (characteristically), the spirit which was in them did signify." Prophetic times were predicted both by express specifications of dates, and also by peculiar distinguishing signs. Both these were the objects of the solicitous search of the prophets.

.

interdict of all similar inquiries. And if this be deemed insufficient, we are referred to another declaration of the Saviour, as proof of the utter futility of all such attempts; "but of that day, and that hour, knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." But are we to consider this assertion as holding true at the present time? Was not this nescience of the Son of God done away at or after the resurrection? As the Apocalypse is called "the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him to show to his servants things that must shortly come to pass," are we not hereby taught that a vast influx of prophetic illumination was now imparted to his human mind, in virtue of which the disclosures of that book have been given to the church? Now, when it is considered that the Apocalypse contains the series of the great providential events which are to occur through the tracts of ages, quite down to that epoch of the second advent and the day of judgment, and that many intermediate events have precise periods assigned them, it is fair to infer that this grandest event of all is also indubitably known to the appointed Judge of the world. If, then, with the Apocalypse for their guide, the servants of God are able chronologically to locate any of the preceding great occurrences leading to the final advent, why may they not come somewhere near to the proper date of that also? For such is the peculiar structure of that prophecy, that the same data which enable us to determine any one link in the chain, direct us also, with tolerable exactness, to the end of the chain itself. But let us here be understood. We set up no plea in behalf of any attempts to fix definitely to a month or year the date of so momentous an event as the one in question. All we would say is, that we may come sufficiently near in our computations for all the practical purposes of warning, watchfulness, and preparation. And he that shall pitch within a century of the truth, may in this matter account his error but moderate.

The investigation of the subject becomes important from the fact, that the doctrine of the Saviour's second coming is inseparably connected with the great cognate doctrines of the resurrection, the judgment, and the millennium. The determination of the era of the one goes far towards fixing the periods of the others; so that this inquiry connects itself at once with all that is sublime and glorious in

our hopes, and all that is appalling in our fears; with the greatest developments of time, and with the retributions of eternity.

The subject is accordingly exciting a growing interest at the present day. The work of Mr Fry is but one of many which have, within a few years, issued from the press in England, reviving and reasserting the ancient millennarian theory; not however in the offensive forms in which it was held by some of its advocates in former days, and which drew upon it the odium of the wise and sober, but in its more spiritual and primitive aspects. We say this ancient tenet has been recently revived-for although there have long been, both in that country and in this, individuals who have embraced this doctrine, especially since the days of the pious and learned Mede, its greatest modern advocate, yet it is but recently that it has excited the attention it now occupies, or has enlisted in the discussion so many of the learned and venerated names of the present age*. The doctrine however has not been advanced without encountering a keen opposition. It is at this moment a theme of animated controversy with our trans-atlantic brethren, and the limited circulation in this country of their polemical tracts, is probably the reason that so little has been heard of the dispute in our own peaceful borders.

We have no wish to import a foreign controversy, as such; and were the present a matter of mere local and temporary interest, like a thousand ephemeral questions agitated in different sections of the church, we should leave it, with the test and corporation acts, or the civil disabilities of English dissenters, to be argued by the parties concerned, and adjudicated by their own authorities. But such is not the character of the present discussion. It is one of universal

The estimation in which Mede is held as an expositor, by competent judges, will appear from the following testimonies.

"The book (the Apocalypse) was on the point of being given up as utterly impenetrable; when a SUBLIME GENIUS arose in the beginning of the last century, and surprised the learned world with that great desideratum, A Key to the Revelations. This extraordinary person was JOSEPH MEDE." (Hurd's Lect. on Proph. p. 258.)

Mr Faber, in his late work entitled "The Calendar of Prophecy," has adopted the following as one of his mottoes, "haud mediocriter in re prophetica se profecisse putet cui MEDUS valde placebit."

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »