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HEBREWS ix. 28.
Unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.
HAVING, in two former discourses, treated of the first advent of our Saviour, and of its main object, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, his own express declarations, and the general tenor of Scripture, namely, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; and having entered generally into the consideration of his second coming to judge the world; there remains only to be examined what the Scriptures reveal to us more particularly concerning that awful event, and to conclude with such reflections as the whole subject will naturally suggest.
But first, it will be expedient to premise a few words in explanation of the terms of the text, unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time unto salvation. It is
observable, that believers only seem to be mentioned here; and of them only such as shall be saved. But it must, nevertheless, be understood, that all persons, without exception, will be the objects of this second advent: because the Scripture speaks of no other real future advent, than that when our Saviour will reward every man according to his works. It is also said, that he will appear without sin. It is not, perhaps, easy to determine, why these words were inserted by the apostle. At our Lord's first coming, when he took our nature upon him, we are told that he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. And it seems quite unnecessary to say, that when he shall come in his divine nature only, it would be with that qualification. The best, if not the only explanation of it, that I have met with, is this; that the word here translated sin, signifies also a sin-offering; and that the apostle's meaning, therefore, is, that at our Saviour's next appearance, it will be without making another sin-offering of himself: according to his declaration in the next chapter, that, if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.
It might be necessary to impress this circumstance upon the converted Jews, whose minds were so accustomed to the doctrine of sacrifice for sins, and who can hardly be supposed, at that time, to have formed correct ideas of the nature of the second advent of our Saviour.
As the language of Jesus upon this topic is very similar to that of the prophet Daniel, we can hardly err in supposing it to have been predicted by the latter in this passage: I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. Our Lord seems evidently to have alluded to this upon several occasions. In the sixteenth chapter of St. Matthew, he says, The Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his angels, and then shall he reward every man according to his works. But he adds, there be some standing here,
which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom: upon which I shall have to observe hereafter. His more explicit declaration of his future coming to judgment, without any reference to the then existing generation, is contained in the twenty-fifth chapter of the same Evangelist. When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And after describing the grounds of his judgment to be the respective good or evil conduct of these two great divisions of mankind, he concludes, that the one shall go into everlasting punishment, but the other into life eternal.
That, by his second coming, must be understood his actual re-appearance upon earth, seems clear from his own words, as reported by St. John: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also: which accords with that well-known prediction of Job, which I think it is impossible to
understand (as Bp. Warburton does1) to refer only to his expectation of a temporal deliverance I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand, at the latter day, upon the earth; and though, after my skin, worms destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. To these texts, I will only add the declaration of the two angels, at the time of our Saviour's ascension, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles; Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner, as ye have seen him go into heaven. The clear doctrine of Scripture I take, therefore, to be this, that our Saviour will certainly appear upon earth a second time; but that the period of that event is left wholly uncertain: according to his own cautionary injunction, Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
But how are we to reconcile this with the passage already quoted, where he speaks of his coming, whilst some who heard him were still living; and many others of a similar kind? Such as this of St. Paul to the Philip
1 Divine Legation of Moses, vol. v. p. 371.