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factory to my own mind. It is then I think clear, that there is to be a literal conflagration: and it is equally clear that it will be premillennial; for, according to 2 Pet. iii. it is to be the means of renovating the earth, and producing the new heavens and the new earth, to be enjoyed during that period; which was the opinion generally entertained by the millenarian fathers and by the reformers.* It is nevertheless questioned what will be the process of this burning, (viz. whether all at once, or by gradual eruptions of volcanic matter,) and to what extent it will take place. Some have considered that only the city and immediate territory of Rome was to be burned; among whom are many Jewish writers, who ground their opinion on Isaiah xxxiv. 6—10, interpreting Idumea as mystically signifying Rome. The object of this fiery visitation however is evidently very remote from that of renewing or regenerating that territory: it is to set it forth, after the examples of Sodom and Gomorrah, as an awful memorial to the people who shall dwell in the flesh during the millennium; for which purpose it is to lie waste, and its smoke continually to ascend. Others conceive that the whole of what they call the prophetic earth, meaning the Roman empire in its utmost limits, will be visited with fire. And others again think it is to be confined to the region of Palestine in its utmost limits. All these different hypotheses seem to arise from the difficulty of conceiving how there shall be men and animals left surviving, notwithstanding the burning;-a difficulty which we may safely leave with our God to unravel in due time. It would have been quite as difficult to have conceived in the days of Noah,when navigation was as yet unknown, and none had ever constructed a ship or boat,-how men and animals could be saved from a universal deluge. And yet the Lord marvellously accomplished it, and doubtless he will again show, that nothing is too hard for him.
4. There remains one other point for consideration, and that is, the ju ment according to works which will take place upon the righteous.
(1.) It is questionable again as regards this matter, where and at what period, this judgment will take place: and this is another of the points which I feel myself unable at present to treat of with full confidence. Some conceive that the righteous will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air previous to the vials of wrath being poured out; and that whilst there they will be judged according to their works, and then descend with the Lord. This period, however, of their translation appears to be too early to be consistent with their coming out of the tribulation itself; for there are numerous passages, especially in the Psalms, which plainly evince that the church passes into deep waters in those days, and cries to the Lord from out of them. The opinion, however, does not seem altogether erroneous; for if we allow that there are to be different stages and gradations in these judgments (as, for example, those which involve the fall of Babylon and the cities of the nations, and those which effect the destruction of the infidel Beast, which is first made the chief instrument of destroying Babylon;*) we may then readily understand how the saints may be implicated in the first portion of them, and yet be caught up previous to the battle of Armageddon. It is whilst they are in the air with Christ, that according to Mr. Cuninghame, and others, they are to be marshalled “in their various orders and degrees of glory and dominion.”+ And it is after this judgment of works, (as I apprehend,) wheresoever it take place, that the saints come forth “with the praises of God in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute the judgment written;" (see page 163.) and they form most probably those "armies in heaven," which, when Christ comes forth in righteousness to judge and make war,”_"with a sharp sword going out of his mouth, that with it he should smite the nations,” _“follow him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." Rev. xix. 11-15.
* Some have argued that the conflagration cannot be until the annihilation of the world, on the ground that the action of fire would render the soil unfit for the use of man. This is arguing in ignorance of the real facts of the case even at present; for unfruitful land is now often pared and burned to produce a soil; and the soil formed by triturated lava is excellent. But the proper reply to this objection is, first, that there is no sufficient proof that the earth will ever be destroyed, but only renewed; and secondly, that Peter declares that renewal will be by the dissolving of its elements through fervent heat. There is a very able essay on this subject in Dr. Holmes's "Resurrection Revealed." See the Appendix to the revised edition, p. 301.
(2.) It is however of vast importance for the mind of the believer to be persuaded, that he is himself to undergo a judgment. However we may hesitate as to the where and when, we have no ground for questioning the actual fact itself; though it has nevertheless come to pass, that the fact is questioned, and considered by some to be at variance with the doctrines
* Compare Rev: xvii. 12, 13, with verses 16, 17, and note also verses 20, 21, of chap. xix.
+ If I correctly understand the observations which Mr. Cuninghame has made on this subject in two or three places of his recent edition of the Apocalypse, he considers that the church will be involved in the tribulation, and yet be caught up out of the midst of it. (See pages 54, 359, 491, and their context.) I concur with him in the main, but do not clearly see how he can consider the next event which the church has now to look for is the translation of the saints. For this supposes the fiery trial to the saints to be already past; which I cannot think to be the case, but rather look for that event as the next in order which is to befall the church.
of grace. But it is as plainly declared in the scriptures, that God will render to every man ACCORDING to his deeds, as it is insisted, that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. Both truths are declared by the same Apostle, and in the same Epistle (Rom. ii. 5, 6, and iii. 20.) Our Lord tells us, "that when the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels, then he shall reward every man according to his works.” Matt. xvi. 27. He sets forth a distinction of reward in the parable of the pounds, where one of the faithful has authority assigned him over ten cities, and another over five cities; (Luke xix. 17, 19) in which place there seems to be an allusion also to the precise nature of the respective glory of the saints, which will consist in dominion and authority over the nations. And the Lord further distinguishes between a prophet's (or minister's) reward, and a righteous man's reward; shewing also that it is possible for any disciple to receive both the one and the other; (Matt. x. 41) and that every thing done for him,even to the giving a cup of cold water to a disciple, because he belongs to Christ,-shall have its proportionate reward. In like manner St. Paul teaches us, “that he which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully;” (2 Cor. ix. 6) and that “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap:” (Gal. vi. 7) nothing of which can be literally true, unless there shall be a distinction hereafter in the judgment according to works: and then we can understand how a man may be continually "laying up for himself treasure in heaven;" (Matt. vi. 20;) -why he should be exhorted to be always abounding in the work of the Lord; viz. forasmuch as we know that our labour is not in vain in the Lord; (1 Cor. xv. 38)—and why again we should be admonished “to look to ourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 2 John 8.
It is objected by some, that the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard is opposed to this doctrine; who all receive equal wages, whether employed from the first hour or the eleventh. Matt. xx.
I apprehend that this parable chiefly respects the self-righteous spirit of the pharisees, who were jealous, both because those who had been previously as publicans and sinners, and likewise the Gentiles who had been ignorant of God, were, by the Gospel of Christ and the grace of the Lord, put upon the same level with themselves, who had sborne the burden and heat of the Mosaical dispensation. But be that as it may, there is nothing in this doctrine which really conflicts with that of justification by faith. It will readily be admitted, that none are accounted righteous before God on account of any merits or works of their own; and that whether they have yielded thirty sold or a hundred fold, all are equally justified freely, who are effectually called by the Spirit, at whatsoever period of life that call may have taken place. It will also be freely admitted, that the good works which they have wrought, and all the fruits of holiness they have exhibited, are not strictly their own, but are produced by the operation of the Spirit of God; and therefore that as the power is his, so also the glory;— yea, it will be at once conceded, that so far as we are concerned, we find the flesh continually hindering and defiling what is good, and our best righteousness but as filthy rags, needing the blood of sprinkling. To reward those works therefore which are the fruits of God's power in us, is only another act of mercy in the Lord; which agrees with the words of the Psalmist—"God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God: also that unto thee, O Lord, belongeth MERCY;- for thou renderest unto every man ACCORDING to his work.” Psalm. Ixii. 11, 12. The word according—"according to his work” or works, which occurs in several other places not yet quoted, clearly intimates that the reward, though of mercy, is nevertheless apportioned to the work wrought.
It matters not, then, in this view of the subject, at what period men are called by the grace of God;—whether it be in infancy, or at the eleventh hour, both are accepted, both are justified, and that freely, fully, and equally, through the precious blood of Christ, and they will condemn every tongue that riseth up in judgment against them. But do the selfdenial, and devotedness, and temper of the man, when he is called, signify nothing? Is there to be no difference between him who has fought a good fight, (2 Tim. iv. 7.) and him who is "scarcely saved, so as by fire?"_between the man who builds upon the only foundation, "gold, silver, precious stones, and him who builds wood, hay, stubble?” Yes: we are assured, as before noticed, that though the latter be saved "he shall suffer loss,” (1 Cor. iii. 15.) whereas the former will "receive a reward;” (ver. 14.) which statement appears to me incapable of rational explanation, except on the principle that some shall be great, and some least in the kingdom of God. Matt. y. 19.
(3.) The manner in which this part of the judgment will be conducted comes next under consideration. I conceive from what St. Paul says of the day that is to try every thing by fire,” which we have seen has reference to the period of tribulation, that many a "prophet” will suffer loss at that time, by many of his flock, in whom he has gloried, not being armed with the mind of Christ to endure suffering, and therefore not
really possessing the Spirit of Christ; (see Rom. viii. 9.) so that when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, they are proved to have no root in themselves, and immediately they are offended. Mark iv. 17. And this renders it a matter of such great importance to the ministers of God, that they should, as before observed, endeavour to prepare their hearers to be partakers of the sufferings of Christ, knowing "that if we suffer with him we shall also reign with him; if we deny him he also will deny us, (2 Tim. ii. 12.) They cannot be wrong in taking to them the whole armour of God, and preparing to withstand in the evil day, even though no evil day overtake them;--they cannot err in watching for Christ; for whether he come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants." Luke xii. 38. But, if they should be found not watching, and unprepared, for the evil day, then they may perhaps fall
away altogether;-their minister will certainly suffer loss;-and well for him after all will it be, if their blood be not laid at his door!
But it may be that they also may be saved, yet so as by fire; for “many shall also be purified, and made white and tried," &c. (Dan. xii. 10.)— being overtaken by the affliction in different degrees; so that by their portion of suffering, their works will be in some degree made manifest. The warnings and threatenings delivered to the seven churchés of Asia, if viewed as referring to the crisis of trouble (see page 90.) are remarkable in this point of view.* Some are to be tried by tribulation only ten days, (Rev. ii. 10.) Some are to be cast into great tribulation except they repent, (ver. 22.) by which means, saith the Lord, “all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you ACCORDING TO YOUR WORKS.”. And some he threatens, that because they do not watch, he will come upon them “as a thief, and they shall not know what hour he will come upon them.”
Rev. iii. 3. On the other hand the Lord promises to some, that he will put on them no other burden” than that they have experienced, (Rev. ii. 24.) and to others, that he will keep them from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell on the
* Whatever prophetical reference or accommodation to intermediate periods may be made of Rev. ii. and iii. (which I am not going to dispute,) Iconceive that the messages to the seven churches of Asia are specially intended to set forth the circumstances of the whole professing Church of Christ in the last days, which, in its different sections, denominations, and classes of professors, will assume all the different aspects therein described; and that the admonitions and promises contained in ihe messages to them, are especially intended for the benefit and direction of believers, in those days.