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defined to be “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Let these proofs derived from the Gospel, drawn from the words of Christ himself, the great Head of the church, suffice to prove, 1st, That it was the purpose and prophecy of God from the beginning, that the Christian church-those, to wit, who received the Gospel of the kingdom and submitted themselves to the test of discipleship, which is baptism-should consist of all kinds of men; children of the wicked one, as well as children of the kingdom. 2dly, That these children of the wicked one should be so much the more numerous and the more powerful part of the church, as to hide effectually the true believers, and make the chosen ever to be the few, the heirs of the kingdom ever to be a little flock. 3dly, That the number, and the power, and the bitterness of these hypocrites and pretenders should increase toward the time of the end, and not diminish, as is ignorantly supposed by many. Lastly, That from these false brethren in the church, rather than from the unbelievers out of it, the sufferings and persecutions promised to all his people were to be fulfilled.
REVIEWS AND MISCELLANIES.
THE LAST DAYS : A DISCOURSE ON THE EVIL CHARACTER OF THESE OUR TIMES,
&c. BY THE REV, EDWARD IRVING.
We shall not be accused of making a very unreasonable postulate in requesting to be allowed to assume that there is to be a point in the evolution of time when the present Christian dispensation will cease to be such as it is. We would prefer proving even this to taking it for granted, but that we are anxious not to waste time upon any thing on which discussion may be waved ; and we are aware of the necessity of going into the full proof of other topics, which must occupy a considerable portion of attention. At the outset of our career as journalists, we think it advisable to risk wearying our readers by appearing unnecessarily prolix upon fundamental positions, rather than to assume any point which the catholic church of the Lord Jesus Christ shall not be ready fully to concede; so that we might find ourselves, in a later period of our labours, obliged to recur to first principles which have never been fully demonstrated by us.
It being assumed, then, that the present Christian dispensation is to come to an end, another very interesting point arisesnamely, in what way it is to end. But this point we wave for the present.
Let it end, however, when and how it may, it is obvious that in the days immediately preceding its termination it will be competent, to all who shall see fit to deny that that event is approaching, to call upon all who maintain the affirmative of the proposition, for proof of their assertion. The proof must be derived from three sources : first, from chronology; secondly, from the accomplishment of predictions; thirdly, from the signs of the times. To trust to any one of these, irrespective of the other two, can only lead to error. None of them admit of geometrical proof; and therefore all and each are disputable. In proportion as time rolls on, so do we hourly come nearer to the predicted end; and therefore it might be supposed, that in the same measure were the grounds of difference diminished. But this, unfortunately, is not the case : for, as the boy who cried “Wolf!” in the fable, was not believed when at length the wolf did really come; so have the repeated expectations of individuals at various periods, of the end of the world arriving in their days, given rise to a suspicion in the mind of many pious persons, whenever their attention is called to the subject, that this is only a repetition of the false alarm which has been so often sounded.
The signs of the times is the very last point to which we should wish to direct the attention of any student of prophecy. In so saying, however, we are fully aware that our blessed Lord denounced as hypocrites and false professors those in his days who did not perceive the signs then in the world; and we are ready to concede, that an inaptitude to read the signs of the present day arises entirely from the low state of faith into which the church has fallen. But our remark is made in reference to this low state; and it is to call her out of this low state that we have commenced our present labours ; and therefore we must accommodate ourselves to her weakness, and do all that in us lies with affectionate solicitude to invigorate her on the elements of prophetical subjects, in the hopes that she will thereby be enabled to rise and read the signs for herself: for, until a fact be believed, no sign of that fact can be perceived.
A work, therefore, on the signs of the times, must be particularly liable both to be misunderstood by those who, although honest, are ignorant; and to be misrepresented by others, who are not only ignorant, but dishonest also : and since it is the very last branch of the subject of unfulfilled prophecy which we should have deliberately brought before the attention of the church, we certainly should not have reviewed this volume of Mr. Irving's in our first Number, had it not been for two other
reviews of it which have appeared in the Eclectic, and in the Evangelical Magazine. Our object in reviewing it, therefore, is not solely on account of the merit or demerit of the work itself; nor even on account of the important subject on which it treats; but from its connection with the opinions of a large body of Christian brethren, of whose sentiments these journals are the authorized
organs. Names are of little importance, either to sensible people, or to those who are in earnest about the substance of any subject under discussion, provided the ideas they are intended to convey are accurately defined, and borne in mind. We are induced to make this observation, because we shall have occasion, in the course of our remarks, to speak of what is called “ the religious world,” as if we ourselves were not of it. Now we beg it to be distinctly understood, that we are of the religious worldthat is, we profess the creed which it professes, and support all the benevolent institutions it supports: and if we find fault with any of its principles or practices, we hold ourselves, as members of it, guilty also, and do therefore repent ourselves of the same; —and, that under the name of the religious world we believe to be included a larger portion of the Lord's people than is to be found under any other term comprising a body equally numerous.
The words “ last days” and “ latter days ” occur frequently in the Old Testament, and signify, literally, “ in futurity of the
:” . loose and undefined ; and the precise period to which it relates, or in which the events foretold to take place in that period shall actually come to pass, must be gathered either from the immediate context, or from some parallel passage; for the words themselves give no definite signification. As an example of this, Gen. xlix. I may be cited, where certain blessings are promised by Jacob to come to his sons " in the futurity of days.” These blessings might have come to the identical twelve individuals to whom he addressed the words, or they might have occurred to any of their posterity during the last 3700 years, or they may be yet to be produced from the womb of time, for any thing that the words themselves, taken by themselves, express to the contrary
In other places, where the expression occurs in the Old Testament, they are equally indefinite in themselves : but for the most part, and unless they are limited by the context, it may be laid down as a general proposition, subject of course to particular exceptions, that they refer to some period subsequent to the incarnation of Jehovah. Bishop Horsley observes upon Hosea, that that prophet speaks of no event which occurs between the two advents of our Lord ; and in almost all the Prophets, the
circumstances attendant upon both advents are so blended, that it would be impossible, without having seen the accomplishment of those which belonged to the first, to separate them from those which appertain exclusively to the second. The Jewish commentators give, as the meaning of the words “in the futurity of days, .” “In the days of Messiah the King."
In the New Testament there are four different words used to denote portions of time: and these likewise are often used indiscriminately; so that the precise period to which they relate is to be gathered either from their immediate context, or from parallel passages : these words are ημερα, ωρα, καιρος, and The calling in of the Gentiles to the privileges of the knowledge of the true God, and the casting out of the Israelites during the whole of that time, was but very darkly shadowed forth, and enigmatically expressed, during the Jewish dispensation. It follows, therefore, that if the general time of that event was obscure, the subdivisions of that period must have been still more obscure; and, in fact, they are rarely touched upon by the Prophets at all. Our Lord first distinctly revealed by his own mouth, that the kingdom of heaven was about to be taken from the nation of the Jews, and transferred to another nation: and in a subsequent part of his ministry he informed his disciples that the period of the triumph of the abomination of desolation, or trampling the holy nation under foot, which he characterizes by the term “ the great tribulation," was to be of as long duration as that period called “the times of the Gentiles.”
The next further subdivision which is given us, is in the Epistles of the Apostles : and this brings us down to the two addressed to Tiniothy; in the second of which the passage occurs from which Mr. Irving has taken the subject of his Discourses. In these two Epistles the Apostle describes two different apostasies which were to try the faith of the church, and of which he gives very detailed characteristics: the one, he says,
is to take place vsepois kaipois, “ in the latter times;” the other to arise coxarais nuspaus," in the last days.” Both these predictions are ushered in by the Apostle with very peculiar solemnity In the first he says, " The Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall apostatize from the faith; giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron ; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats,” &c. It is well known to all scholars, that the da poves, demons, were the intermediate agents between the heathen gods and men ; and that the worship of dead men and women by the Papists is exactly similar, in every particular, to that Greek and Roman idolatry: and as no apostasy, which enjoined celibacy and abstinence from meat, has ever arisen in the Christian church but
the Papacy, the identity of the Apostle's description with that apostasy cannot admit of any doubt. The particular years, indeed, from whence the rise of this apostasy is to be dated-the true chronology of these latter times—is a point which must be ascertained upon other grounds, and from other Scriptures ; and as it is not material to the discussion in hand to ascertain this very accurately, any of the dates which are ordinarily assigned to that event will suffice.
In the year following that in which the Apostle wrote this First Epistle, he wrote the Second to Timothy; and it is supposed to be the last he ever did write. Its whole character and tone is more solemn and earnest than the preceding : he seems to have his immediate departure from this scene, to enter into the joy of his Lord, pressing upon his soul : he has the day of the Lord so present to his mind, that he alludes to it twice in the first chapter, without naming it, or describing it otherwise than as kar' etoxny, “The day ;” and he consoles himself, in ch. ii. 11, for all his sufferings, with the remembrance that, having suffered, he "shall also reign with” his Lord. “Of these things” he charges Timothy to put his hearers in remembrance; and particularly censures some who maintained that “ the resurrection was past already,” (as certain preachers do now,) declaring that the first resurrection means regeneration. He then proceeds to give another prophecy: “ This know also, that in the last days, Ev çoxaTaic muepais, perilous times shall come: for men shall be, 1, lovers of their own selves; 2, covetous; 3, boasters; 4, proud; 6, blasphemers ; 6, disobedient to parents; 7, unthankful; 8, unholy; 9, without natural affection ; 10, truce-breakers ; 11, false accusers ; 12, incontinent; 13, fierce; 14, despisers of those that are good ; 15, traitors ; 16, heady, high-minded ; 17, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; 18, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” The Apostle further describes these persons as creeping into houses, to procure disciples among silly women; and withstanding the truth in those who preach it, as the Egyptian magicians withstood Moses: that these evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse ; that the way to oppose them is by all Scripture, which is to be preached, for that they would not endure sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, heap to themselves teachers. After which solemn warning, the Apostle turns, for his own consolation and support under the prospect of such perilous times, to the day when the Lord shall come, and give to all who love his appearing a crown of righteousness.
Mr. Irving shews these characteristics fulfilled in the following circumstances : -Selfishness ; in the want of a catholic spirit and love for the church as one body. Covelousness ; over-trading and love of gain, as much in religious tradesmen and societies