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God: Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries ; yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come.”
God's purposes were not to fail : and those who failed to be teachers of righteousness in their own land, were nevertheless to “blossom and bud and fill the face of the world with fruit.” To this end our forefathers—for we distinctly believe in the Israelitish descent of the AngloSaxons-have been led to fulfil in a measure at least, the preparation for this glorious result; and British people-among whom we must include the Americans—up to this very date, have been chiefly instrumental in gathering out of the world the elect rulers for that great multitude to be seen hereafter as the nations," who shall walk in the light of the Holy City Jerusalem, revealed to us as “coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.”
But nationally, we have largely failed in our duty. Nationally, it may be said of us," and their fear toward Me is taught by doctrines of men." We have not delighted in quoting Scripture, as we have rejoiced in quoting classic authors. We have not referred to it in our National Governmental Departments, nor quoted its principles, as such, in documents addressed to Foreign Governments : nor appealed to that sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
Consequently we have failed, and must fail to establish lasting peace.
We have joined affinity with those who during centuries bave filled the battle fields of Europe and Turkey with the slain.
We with them have lately in a most especial manner "feared the sword "- fearing lest the Eastern Question should awaken universal continental wars.
And therefore, although from other prophecies we deem that Britain will emerge triumphant before the last end, we have reason to fear that we shall be “judged in a measure, and not go wholly unpunished.”
But there is much of mystery and difficulty in the nine verses under consideration.
We British are mainly Israelites by descent: but Israelites are also to be found scattered among other nations.
Therefore, God having special regard to such everywhere, does as it were speak of the nations shortly to be judged as if all were Israelites : and yet His Word particularises Israelites, who are to be brought out and delivered into the hands of strangers, and judged on the border of Israel.
The mystery here is very involved; but we may understand it better when we see the Jewish Israelites, and with them even other Israelites, brought out of many people and restored to the literal Jerusalem, as described in Ezekiel xxii. 18-22,: gathered into that city, which is doomed to be the furnace of God's wrath, before the descent from heaven of the Lord of Hosts, our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ.
CITAPTER THE FOURTH.
Thus far we have been led, in general, and also particular modern interpretations of ancient prophecies; but we are now compelled to face & most direct personal matter of application, while we read the 13th verse of the eleventh chapter of the prophecies of Ezekiel.
“ And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah (“the flight of the Lord,' apud Cruden) the son of Benaiah died.”
We shrink from the direct application of the name “ Pelatiah ;" but we have already been led up to it when considering the first verse of this chapter, which shows a vision of “five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people." And we found after the method of interpretation given to us and in due sequence of events, that the Congress of Berlin was typified in that vision: a congress of world-wide importance ; presided over by Prince Bismarck, and attended also by Prince Gortchakoff ; the former 64 and the latter 80
age. How then are we to apply this awful prophecy ? It is most painful to attempt it.
But let us endeavour to state facts; and adhering to these, allow them to point conclusions which seem to be almost inevitable.
What is the prophetic ont-look of the present ?
The Lord who is the Lord of Hosts, has, so to speak, withdrawn “from the cherub whereupon He was ;” and accommodating language to human infirmity, has gone up to the threshold of His House. He has comparatively-comparatively only-commenced to cause the power of the Gentiles to cease; and has commenced His return in judgment first, and mercy afterwards, to the whole house of Israel.
And what is the state of Europe and Turkey ? but one of seething preparations for that shaking of all things which God foretold, when saying, by the mouth of St. Paul the Apostle in his epistle to the Hebrews: “Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven."
Now the preparations are physical, social, and religious.
The Lord hath opened His armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of His indignation as exemplified through the modern science of destruction.
He has suffered a vast progress of undermining socialism, tending to make men “as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things that have no ruler over them.”
And while the fall of the temporal power of the Papacy has been effected through the cravings of mankind after mere political liberty : that power in its quasi-spiritual aspect is preparing to say, and seemingly will yet be allowed to say, “ I sit a queen (although no longer a king), and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.”
Germany in the war of 1870 illustrated the first of these—the progress of physical force aided by novel arms of precision. The second has lately set forth by assassinations, the fearful progress of its principles. And thirdly, the reported inclination of Prince Bismarck to compromise with the Papacy, tells of the fearful power yet remaining in Romanism.
That Prince as by the Record of June 14th, 1878, has been said to have tampered with Socialism, endeavouring in 1867 to use the lower classes against the middle orders; owing his election at Elberfeld Barmen, to the votes of the Socialists, but now he tampers with Romanism, a fearful sign.* For his namo, apud Cruden, if he be Pelatiah, signifies, " the flight of the Lord," which again points to the Lord having left the Gentiles to their own devices; while the great overflow of the
* At the close of July, 1879, he compromises with the Papacy !
Euphrates having been materially checked in the drying up of the Turkish empire,- the way of the return of the kings of the East has been commenced, and will soon now be fully entered upon.
We venture to say no more on the date of this writing—the 5th of September, 1878 - concerning the purport of the 13th verse of the eleventh chapter of Ezekiel.
But turn with a sigh of relief to the glorious promises made in the conclusion of that chapter, which details blessings yet in store for God's people Israel, saying, “they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
At the close of the whole vision, it is written, verse 22: “ Then did the cherubim lift up their wings, and the wheels beside them; and the glory of the God of Israel over them above."
We hazard the interpretation, that the Eastern Question will for the present close with the withdrawal of the armies and the fleets which are around Constantinople.
God's special glory of power is also removed thence; " And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city." For the glory of the Lord is to be made manifest in the government of the Holy Land, and even in Jerusalem the literal city; when the Lord of Hosts having "come down to fight for Mount Zion and for the hill thereof; as birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver ; passing over He will preserve.”
The closing two verses of the eleventh chapter read as follows; and with them we bring this essay to a close.
Only premising that "them of the captivity" applies to Israelites, and venturing to express a fervent hope that we, who see Ezekiel's visions fulfilling in our days, may have grace given to us for Jesus Christ's sake to reflect upon them, and find that they have an influence over our hearts and lives, as well as our opinions.
These are the closing verses.
“Afterwards the Spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity.
“ So the vision that I had seen went up from me.
“ Then I spake unto them of the captivity all the things that the Lord had showed me."
Wimbledon, September 5th, 1879.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO THE DEAD. “For this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to inen in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” i Pet, iv. (. A N outline of two remarkable discourses by Canon Farrar, on“ Future
Life," appeared in The Christian World for November 23rd, 1877. In the first of these sermons, Dr. Farrar took for his text the passage at the head of this article, and proceeded to discourse on “the future punishment of the ungodly," which he did in his usual most eloquent manner. Like a vast and growing number of English preachers, both
Churchmen and Dissenters, the learned Canon has discarded the Augustinian doctrine of eternal torment, yet holds fast by the Platonic dogma of the immortality of the soul, and, by consequence, holds out the hope of salvation in the future life for those who die impenitent in the present one. What may be the moral effect of such preaching time will show; but that multitudes should become its admirers need not be wondered when Dr. Farrar is the preacher. The impassioned eloquence with which he denounces and hurls from him the “representations of a doctrine so horrible that every nerve and fibre of our intellectual, moral, and spiritual life revolts at it," is overwhelming ; and, on the other hand, how pleasingly attractive is the assertion that “neither in Scripture nor anywhere, is there anything to prove that the fate of any man is at death irrevocably determined.”
Liko Mr. Baldwin Brown, Dr. Farrar “could not speak dogmatically on the other side. He could not preach the certainty of what was called Universalism—that all would finally be saved. Neither could he accept the spreading belief in conditional immortality. His belief was fixed upon the living God, and his answer to the question, What is the fate of dead sinners ? was, with Thomas Erskine, that we are lost here as much as there, and that Christ came to seek and to save the lost. His hope was that the vast majority of the lost would at length be found.”
On the unscriptural character and deleterious tendencies of such teaching, it is not our intention at present to dwell. What we now call attention to is the attempt to sustain it by the Apostle Peter's words, when he For this cause was the gospel prea ched to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
In the report of Dr. Farrar's sermon, referred to, there is no appearance of his having made any further use of his text, than as a motto for his discourse, yet there is no doubt but that he held the words as sustaining his "hope;" and so would his hearers. We know also that the words of the apostle have been often quoted in support of the idea that those who die impenitent have the gospel preached to them in the unseen world. This text, indeed, and that about the preaching to the spirits in prison, are the chief, if not the only, scriptures brought forth as direct, evidence of the doctrine in question. How far the apostle's language regarding the preaching to the spirits in prison, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, is from sustaining this idea we have already pointed out; and we shall presently see the sorry straits to which the advocates of an evangelising of the dead are driven, when they rest their doctrine on the passage before us.
It has been declared by the most learned expositors to be very hard to be understood. Macknight says it is “one of the darkest passages in the New Testament;" Doddridge, that it “must be confessed to be extremely difficult;" Bloomfield, that " the sense is here obscure;" Dr. Adam Clarke, that “there are as many different translations of this verse and comments on it, as there are translators and commentaries ;” and Dr. John Brown, that “it would serve little purpose to state the various attempts which interpreters have made to extort an apposite meaning out of these words. Their number, and the extravagance
of some of them, clearly show that the passage is hard to be understood.''
The latter writer merely gives what appears to him the probable meaning of the passage in the following paraphrase : "For this end was the gospel preached to you when spiritually dead, that believing it, ye should abandon sin and follow holiness; and, having gained its object, the result has been that ye are persecuted in your external circumstances, your body, your reputation, your outward condition, by men; but you are happy in your mind, in all your spiritual relations and circumstances, in God." (Expository Discourses, First Peter, vol. i. p. 466.)
The context, however, does not seem to us to favour the idea that the apostle's reference was to those who had been “spiritually dead," but to believers of the gospel who were bodily dead at the time he was writing. Such is the view given of the apostle's meaning by John Panton Ham, in his Generations Gathered and Gathering, p. 127 : “ The gospel was preached in the lifetime of those who are now dead; and to them for this cause, namely, that although they must be judged in the flesh after the manner of men—that is, although they must experience the common lot of man, which is to die—yet that they might live according to God in the spirit—that is, that they might, notwithstanding, be made alive again in a spiritual existence, namely, resurrectionwhen Christ shall be ready to judge the quick and the dead.”
To the same effect writes Mr. J. C. M.Causland, M.A. (On the Intermediate State, pp. 69, 70): “ There is not in these words the slightest ground for the notion which has been too rashly built upon them, that the dead' here spoken of were preached to in the intermediate state. They were called 'dead' by the apostle, because they were so at the time of his inditing this epistle, but they were alive when the gospel was preached to them. There is, at least, nothing in the language inconsistent with this position, while the supposing them to have been dead when preached to, contradicts the uniform testimony of the word respecting the disembodied state, and therefore cannot be maintained. There is no difficulty connected with the explanation here proposed, as it agrees with the testimony of Scripture which the other views oppose, and has thus a fair claim on our assent. The meaning of the latter part of the passage seems to be, that they were, according to the penalty denounced against sin, subjected to death in the flesh, but should yet, according to the provision of God, in Christ, • live in the spirit,' i.e., in the spiritual body, just mentioned, in the former of which the believer is 'judged 'to temporal death, while in the latter he will be introduced to eternal life. In fact, the natural life, of which they were deprived by death, is to be succeeded by the spiritual life of the resurrection."
The application of the passage suggested by Mr. M'Causland, seems to me very probable ; it agrees entirely with the whole scope of the context, and with the whole testimony of Scripture. Only I am more inclined to Dr. Brown's understanding of the phrase "judged according to men in the flesh," as being equal to "judged by men"-put to death by persecutors; and in like manner regard the phrase " live according to God in the spirit” as referring to the divine agency by which they