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CHAPTER XII.

THE NATURE OF THE DAY OF JUDGMENT SUPPOSED TO AF

FORD AN OBJECTION AGAINST THE PRE-MILLENIAL
COMING OF CHRIST.

Our object in this chapter, is to meet an objection commonly urged against the doctrine of Christ's coming to judgment before the Millenium, as well as to correct the practical mistake or error in relation to the great day of final retribution, out of which it grows.

It is a very prevalent opinion, that the day of judg. ment, if not a day of twenty-four hours' length, is nevertheless a very short period, during which a strictly judicial process is to be conducted ; and that for this purpose, all mankind, both the righteous and the wicked, are to be simultaneously congregated before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, to hear the sentence of approbation or condemnation, to be then pronounced by the great Judge of quick and dead. Such is the general account given of it in discourses by those who have undertaken to describe the appalling scenes of the last great day.

This general notion of the day of judgment, is sustained by references to various passages of Scripture, which, it is thought, imply evidently the universal promiscuous congregation of the living and of the dead at the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ. Of course, it is objected, if such be the process of judgment, it is altogether inconsistent with the idea of Christ's coming to raise the dead, and to change the living bodies of his saints, to destroy Popery and the anti-Christian na tions, and to extend the government of Heaven over any remnants of the nations that may yet be left in the flesh.

It is admitted that while the general result of a judgment to come, may be the same according to these differing views, yet are they entirely inconsistent with each other, when regarded as a description of the process of that judgment. It becomes us then to make our appeal directly to the word of God; and to examine candidly, carefully, and solemnly, what He has said on this subject. His testimony is our sole guide and umpire here.

In making this appeal to the scriptural account of the day of judgment, we remark as preliminary

That it must be borne in mind, and will unquestionably be at once admitted, by every intelligent reader of the Sacred Scriptures, that all the different accounts of the day of judgment, given in the Sacred Scriptures, must harmonize with each other.

These accounts are very numerous and various,some of them incidental and some extended, --some delivered by one inspired writer and some by another, involving, as a whole, abundant allusions, but not in every minute particular identically the same. This should not be accounted strange. It is in fact the most natural thing imaginable. It is impossible for different persons, who have witnessed the same complicated series of events, to give a description of them, in every minute particular, precisely the same. One will give prominence to this class of events, another to that some will omit incidents deemed unimportant, while others will detail them :

-some will be more graphic and comprehensive than others, and yet all will agree as to the general outline and results. It is just so in the prophetic descriptions given us of the day of judgment. It is therefore manifestly improper for us, to single out the description, as given by any one writer, and assume it to be the grand and leading view, according to which we must judge of all the rest. All are but parts of one great whole, and it behoves us so to ponder and place the different facts, that they shall all harmonize with each other. This requires labor and study; and especially to have our minds divested of any preconceived notions. The facts must be admitted, just as stated by the writer, so far as his testimony goes ; and must also be viewed in connection with the specific design which he had in communicating them.

It is the easiest thing imaginable to excite suspicions, and to make false impressions, in relation to the testimony of a witness, by taking it out of the immediate connection, and viewing it, either entirely apart from the circumstances to which it refers, or in the light of others never contemplated by him. These things are well enough understood, by those accustomed to examine and weigh the import of testimony. We claim, on this subject, the application of the same general principles and rules, admitted to be appropriate and deserving of attention in matters of ordinary interest.

Following these principles we find that the sacred writers crowd together an immense variety of incidents and events; denominate and designate the period during which they occur, by different titles, as that day,” “the day of the Lord,” “the day of judgment," "the great day of God," and the like. Hence we remark :

2. That neither the usage of speech common among

a very

the prophets, nor the specific character of their descriptions of the day of judgment, requires us to believe, that the phrase designates a day of twenty-four hours or even

short space. . Sometimes the word day is used prophetically, to designate a year, as by Daniel, Ezekiel, and others. At other times it is used to denote an indefinite period of time, a dispensation-a long series of years possessing the same general characteristics.

Christ called the period of his personal ministry, "a day” lamenting that the Jews had not known in that their day the things which make for their peace.* The whole period of the children of Israel's forty years' journey in the wilderness, was called a day -the day of temptation, and the apostles called the Gospel dispensation a day, saying, “now is the accepted time, and to-day is the day of salvation."

Isaiah and others of the prophets, but especially the former, use the emphatic phrase, “In that day," to denote the period of the judgment, though not according to the popular idea; but, on the contrary, in such way as to show that it was regarded as a season or dispensation during which many wonderful events were to transpire in the world.

With these preliminary remarks, we are prepared to appeal to the laws and to testimony, on the subject of the great day of judgment.

One of the most common and striking portions of the Sacred Scriptures referred to, which, it is objected, conflicts with the idea of Christ's pre-millenial coming to judgment, is the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, the parable of the sheep and goats. In this context, it is contended, there is manifestly a descrip

Luke, 19. 42.

| Heb. 3. 13, 15.

I 2 Cor. 6. 2.

tion of the great day of final retribution, the post-millenial judgment, for the Judge, the Son of Man, is viewed as seated on his throne of glory, all nations, and ail the holy angels with him, as gathered before him, the sheep and the goats as separated, and sentence pronounced on each according to their deeds.

In reply to this objection, we admit and feel the obligation to adhere strictly and fully to the words of Christ, and in doing so we remark

1. That the Saviour evidently does not so immediately intend to give a description of judicial processes in the judgment scenes, as of certain circumstances connected with his coming.

In Matthew he asserts the general fact of his coming with his holy angels and the gathering of his elect. :

“ And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of Heaven to the other."*

These events, he states, shall occur after the appearance of certain signs which he details.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from Heaven, and the powers of the Heavens shall be shaken.”+

The appearance of these signs should as certainly foretoken his coming, as the budding of the fig-tree does the approach of summer.

This idea he illus. trates in the parable of the fig-tree. * Matt. 24. 30–31.

† Matt. 24. 29.

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