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CHAPTER XI.

THE COMING OF CHRIST PRE-MILLENIAL, OR PRIOR TO THE

DESTRUCTION OF POPERY.

The coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is the grand epoch of the world's redemption. It is the glorious hope both of saints on earth and saints in Heaven. It will be the hour of joy and triumph to the whole body of the redeemed, whether they shall be found in the flesh or out of the flesh. No wonder, therefore, that it was looked for by the prophets, apostles, and martyrs who died in the faith of his coming, with the most intense interest and ardor of desire. In like manner should it be by us.

The circumstance, however, of there being a shade of uncertainty thrown upon the time of his coming, has led many to think, that it is not so suitable a theme for awaking the attention of the mind, for exciting its fears, and for inducing a preparation for eternity, as the approach of death,--an event regarded as certainly much nearer, and virtually possessing all the importance of the other. It is worthy of remark, that the apostles did not so regard it; nor did they so write and preach. Their allusions to the death of this mortal body, are by no means frequent; and seldom, if ever, do they take their motives from it, for the purpose of awaking and exciting the fears of the wicked. On the contrary, their references to the per

sonal, visible coming of Jesus Christ are abundant; and their most powerful motives to repentance, and to a life of holiness, are drawn from it. So vividly and constantly was this great event before their minds, that they spoke of it as one by no means very remote; and they often made the impression on their hearers, that it might be witnessed by some of them, even before their death.

Such seems to have been the effect produced, upon the minds of some Christians at Thessalonica, by the language which Paul employed on this subject, in his first epistle to “the church of the Thessalonians.” In that epistle, he wrote expressly of the coming of Jesus Christ,-of its wondrous and appalling accompaniments-of the first resurrection, -of the rapture of the living saints,- of the sudden destruction which' should overtake the wicked-of the importance and necessity of great seriousness and watchfulness, lest they should be surprised by the unexpected occurrence of these scenes:

“ If we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air : and so we shall ever be with the Lord; but of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves, know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For 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. But ye, brethren,

are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.

Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day : we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober. *

In his second epistle, he again introduces the subject; but evidently to correct the unnecessary alarm and misapprehensions which had been produced in their minds. He tenderly cautions them, and endeavors to counteract the impression, that that great and dreadful day had already begun. “Now we beseech you,” says he, “ brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus, and by our gathering together unto him.” The preposition t translated “ by” does not refer to the motive he employed, but it means, after verbs of speaking, of, concerning, respecting. He refers to the subjects of his former epistle, which had excited their fears, viz. the coming of Christ, the first resurrection, the rapture of the saints, and their collection unto him in the air. On these points, he entreated them," that (they) be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.”I

The word here translated at hand, is not the same which Christ and John used, when they preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand,”The word they used, means drawing nigh, approaching :how near in its approach, however, must always be determined by attending to the subject and times referred to by the speaker,-the distance being relative.

1 Thess. 4. 14-17, and 5. 1-6. † Robinson's Translation of Wahl's Clav. Phil., art. útep, | 2 Thess. 2. 1, 2.

$ Matth. 3. 2; 4. 17. Η Ηγγίκε.

Thus, I may say, on the first day of the week, another Sabbath is approaching; and may use, on Saturday evening, the very same phrase ; but the remoteness or nearness of the period would, of

course,

and most naturally, be determined by the point of time at which I spoke, viewed in relation to the time past. So when Christ and John preached, that the kingdom of Heaven was approaching, they had reference to the period already past, during which the church had been expecting that kingdom. Four thousand years had rolled over the world, while this hope had been cherished by one generation after another. It was therefore just so much nearer in the days of Christ, than when it was first announced. Supposing that the period of his coming to judgment shall be, according to the traditions current in his day, at the commencement of the seventh millenary, at two thousand years from the time of his personal ministry, or sooner, he might, with great truth and important meaning, preach the kingdom of Heaven was approaching ;-two-thirds of the time of expectation having passed away. The word approaching, as Christ and John used it, does not necessarily mean, what our English phrase at hand does, i. e. a very short space, absolutely considered. Its import must be relatively understood. Compared with the period passed, the kingdom of Heaven was then certainly drawing nigh.

The word, however, which the apostle uses * in this place, and which is translated “is at hand,” does not mean approaching something near, but not yet present. Its import is not relative, like that which Christ and John used (nypixe), but absolute. It denotes actual interposition, establishment, collocation, or

* 2 Thess. 2. 2, ÈVEOTNKEV.

presence; * and the idea is that they should not be alarmed, as though that day had begun, was present then, which some were led to fear might be the case, from the fearful prodigies and sights in the heavens, and the horrible fate at that time clustering round Jerusalem.

The apostle cautions them against being deceived, and proceeds to tell them that a fearful apostasy should first take place, and the man of sin be revealed, whom he describes, “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling awayt first, and that Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he, as God,f (as a god,) sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is (a) God.

This description directs us at once to the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, the little horn which Daniel saw spring up among the ten horns on the head of the beast-the fourth universal or Roman Empire. It concerns us only to state the fact, that the Pope, we mean not any one individual, but the whole series of these ambitious and arrogant prelates, is the man of sin, the son of perdition, titles which the apostle has taken from the 7th, 9th and 10th Psalms, where “the wick

." "the enemy, “the man of the earth” that oppresseth, and his horrible fate, are clearly described and set forth.

Popery is a fearful apostasy. It is, in fact and form, a system of idolatry which has grown up in the church

ed one,

* See Rom. 8. 32. OUTE ÈVEOT Wraand neither things present." See also 1 Cor. 3. 22; 7. 26; Gal. 1. 4.See Robinson's Tr, of Wahl, art. éviotruc. + Η αποστασια- a-the apostasy.

1 Ως Θεο. §'Or

TI 8071 Osas.--2 Thess. 2.3, 4.

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