« FöregåendeFortsätt »
earth, (Rev. iii. 10.) These judge themselves, and therefore escape being judged of God. i Cor. xi. 31.
It is manifest, however, that the preceding rule of judgment cannot apply to thousands whose lot has fallen in times of quiet to the church, and who nevertheless have not brought forth fruit abundantly, and have been supine and lukewarm, not to say carnal in spirit. And though it might determine, in regard to those living in times of tribulation, the measure in which they might receive chastening, or be exempted from it, it would be quite inadequate as a rule for determining the measure of reward. This can only be done (so far as I can perceive) “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ:” (Rom. ii. 16.) for then she will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness,"—those actions which though perpetrated in secret, have not escaped his all-seeing eye; and then will He “make manifest the counsels of the hearts,”--those inward motives and principles which have led men to perform various actions; yea, those inward workings of sin, probably, which have been habitually entertained, though the actual commission of the sin has been prevented. 1 Cor. iv. 5. The apostle plainly declares this in other scriptures, and includes himself as one, who expected to have the secrets of his own heart made manifest. To the Romans he declares—“We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;" and in the two following verses he takes occasion, from the scripture which saith, “Every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God," to conclude-CS6 then, every one of us shall give account of himself unto God!" Rom. xiv. 10-12. To the Corinthians also he declares, that he labours continually to be accepted of God, from a conviction, that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad.” 2 Cor. v. 9, 10. And thus in Jeremiah it is declared; I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to EVERY MAN according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Jer. xvii. 10. "And Solomon saith, “that God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Eccles. xii. 14.
It is also urged against this view of the subject, that it is incompatible with the future happiness of God's people to have the secrets of their hearts exposed; and that it is written: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?-it is God that justifieth.” Rom. viii. 33. Yes—it is God that justifieth: or they must altogether perish from his presence. He will suffer none to condemn them if he has previously jus
tified them in the Spirit; (1 Cor. vi. 11.) but it must nevertheless be remembered, that only those who are walking after the Spirit have the assurance that they are delivered from condemnation. Rom. viii. 1. 6.Without holiness no shall see the Lord;" (Heb. xii. 14.) and well would it be for multitudes of heartless worldly professors, who are evangelized in head and not sanctified in spirit, did they only keep in view that they must give account to a holy and jealous God, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins, and that "for every idle word which men shall speak, of the same shall they give account in the day of judgment.” Matt. xii. 36.
In regard however to the ultimate happiness of the saints, I conceive that they themselves, when delivered from their present infirmities and prejudices, will have so clear a view of the manifestation of the holiness and glory of God in all he does, that they will with humility and cheerfulness acquiesce in the reward, though they themselves may suffer loss, and begin with shame to take the lowest place. And it may be asked, who and what is the very best Christian of the present day, that he should hope to enjoy an immunity, which neither prophets nor apostles have enjoyed before him? The failings of Abraham, Moses, David and others have been published through the world, and made notorious as the noon-day sun; and Peter's denial of his master is as universally known as the gospel which contains the account of it.
Who then are we, that we should expect exemption? But the secrets of the heart cannot be hid; for at that time swe shall know even as we are known." 1 Cor. xiii. 12. And indeed were there no direct exposure of the secret deeds and thoughts of men in that day;--were the Lord only silently to distinguish among us and divide us; yet that very distinction itself would, in effect, amount to the same thing. We could not help concluding of him, who would be made to take a lower place than man's judgment would assign him, that there was some reason for it, though secret to us; only we should be left, in that case, to the darkness of surmise. But the Lord will choose "to be justified when he speaks, and clear when he judges.” Psalm li. 4. Thus, then, some men's sins are open beforehand, going beforehand to judgment: and some they follow after. Likewise the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid. 1 Tim. v. 24, 25. We
e may well therefore exclaim, “What manner of persons ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness!" Greatly to be considered is that exhortation of St. John: “And now little children abide in him, that when he shall
appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him, at his coming." 1 John ii. 28. If however we do abide in him, and his word abides in us, we need not fear as to the result: it is our Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom; and through grace he will present us holy, and unblameable, and unreproveuble* in his sight.” Col. i. 22.
THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL, AND THE NEW JERUSALEM
It has in these latter days been made a question, whether the posterity of Abraham, according to the flesh, shall be restored in their national character, as Jews or Israelites, to the land of their forefathers; or whether the numerous promises of Scripture, which have given rise to such an expectation, are not rather to be understood in a mystical sense, as having reference only to their ultimate conversion to the Christian faith, and their absorption into the Gentile Church. I view it as a modern question,t because with scarcely any exception the eminent fathers and expositors of the church have interpreted these promises as having respect to a literal or national restoration; and it was not till men, who were prejudiced against the millenarian principle of interpreting prophecy, came to see how the doctrine of a literal restoration could be successfully pressed against their views, that they applied their learning and ingenuity to the task of spiritualizing, or rather allegorizing, those passages of the word of God which in this respect conflict with their opinions.
Something has been already said upon this subject at pages 63 and 64 of this work; and a variety of ancient authors are there cited who have maintained in all ages the hope of a na. tional restoration, though in other matters they had departed from the literal principle of exposition. It were easy to add to their number; but I shall content myself with bringing forward the testimony of Dr. Whitby, whose evidence on this head, as he was opposed to the millenarian system, is the less open to suspicion. On Romans xi., speaking of the hope of the conversion and restoration of the Jews, he says, “It hath been the constant doctrine of the Church of Christ, owned by the Greek and Latin fathers, and by All commentators I have met with on this place.”
* In Dr. Sayer Rudd's Essay on the Millennium, published in 1734, he endeavours to 'shew that many of the saints will be rebuked, at the Lord's coming
† Paul Burgensis denied their actual restoration. See Addit. to Nic de Lyra on Deut. 27 and Levitic. 26.
The bearing of this subject upon the whole word of God, involving as it does the principle of interpretation by which the meaning of other important topics is to be ascertained, gives it a claim to the very serious regard of all who humbly desire to understand the whole counsel of God. For it is obvious, that unless some very decided and undeniable canon can be adduced for a contrary principle of expounding certain passages, common sense and common consistency will lead us to conclude, that the same analogy prevails throughout.
Besides this however, the question becomes of great interest and importance from the manner in which many other prophetical events are interwoven or connected with the restoration of Israel. The careful investigator of prophecy will discover that it has a bearing upon the Kingdom of Christ, the Judgment, the Resurrection, the Advent, and the future glory of the Church; and that it is absolutely necessary to be decided as to the nature of that restoration promised to Israel, before we can with any degree of confidence determine the real character of these events, or come to any satisfactory conclusion as to the times and seasons. Into the principle points therefore connected with this question we must now inquire.
1. Two things have been already brought forward in this work, which to my own mind would be decisive of the question. The one is, that the land of Palestine has been covenanted by the Lord to the patriarchs and to their posterity, to an extent and under circumstances far beyond anything which has been hitherto experienced; and we know that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance," or change of purpose,-a declaration made by the apostle with express reference to the question of Jewish restoration. Rom. xi. 29. The other is, that those things which have been predicted concerning the chastisement and sufferings of Israel, and also concerning some of the good things which the Lord hath spoken concerning them, have been most literally accomplished; and we are consequently bound to conclude, (without, as just observed, there be decided evidence to the contrary in the text,) that the blessings still in reserve for them, when their warfare shall be accomplished, will have a similar literal fulfilment.*
* The reader who is fond of authorities may nevertheless add to those mentioned at page 64, the names of Cyril, Gennadius, Haymo, Origen, Photius, Primasius, Theodoret and Theophylact. Even such men as Erasmus held this opinion. So also Poole, Guyse, Locke, and Samuel Clarke. And among writers of the present age, opposed to the premillennial advent, there may be instanced Doddridge, Faber, Scott, Simeon, &c.
The first sight of the matter would indeed seem to indicate, that some of the blessings promised to Israel must have respect to them especially in their national character; “and which, (as Mr. Begg has justly observed,t) from their very nature can by no means be applied to any Gentile race. For example, how can all those allusions in the promises to a gathering and return from a previous ejectment and scattering among the nations refer to Gentiles? What again have the allusions to the two kingdoms of Judah and Ephraim,--to their re-establishment and final incorporation,—to do with the concerns of the Gentile church? And how can promises, which respect the future extension of their territory, and the exact specification of its limits and boundaries and divisions and allotments, be applied to any inheritance of the saints in the supernal heaven, without losing sight of those very details on which the correctness of an interpretation principally depend?
Some writers however have concluded, that the promises of national restoration to the Jews were fulfilled at the time of their return from the Babylonish captivity, when the city was rebuilt and the second temple erected. It is not denied that a portion of Israel did then return to the land of their fathers; but an examination of some of the texts bearing on this subject will demonstrate, that certain circumstances in those prophecies received no accomplishment at all at that period;-that those particulars, which are pointed to as fulfilled, were only very inadequately fulfilled, when compared with the terms of the prophecy;—and that the events which followed that restoration do not at all correspond with those which it is predicted shall accompany or immediately ensue on the restoration here contended for, as yet to come to pass.
(1.) The first to which attention is requested is Deut. xxx. Mr. Begg, in the work before noticed, says on this chapter;“The prediction is most extensive. It embraces the whole period of Israel's history till the present and future times," &c. The Babylonish captivity is not however overlooked. It is foretold in a preceding part of this remarkable prophetic narrative in terms sufficiently distinctive: “The Lord shall bring thee and thy king, which thou shalt set over thee, unto a
* The reader is requested to refer back to page 99.
# Some modern expositors have indeed discovered that the two tribes are a type of established churches; and the ten tribes of the dissenting congregations. We apprehend the Dissenters themselves will never assent to a general application of this interpretation; for the Voluntary Principle discussion might in that case very soon be settled.