Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

vileges, are fully set forth. In this last—of the sheep and goats-rising still in width and majesty, our Lord presents the final and universal judgment, and its simple and solemn test, the possession or want of works of charity, the fruits of faith, and that living faith which works by love. Two opposite mistakes are to be guarded against-one which refers the whole to the close, and the other to the beginning, of the millennium. First, of the former, as more general. There is no notice whatever of any millennium previous to this judgment, nor indeed any room for it. From the desolation, (xxiv. 15,) and the time of great tribulation, (ver. 21,) to the appearing of the sign of the Son of Man, (ver. 30,) and the gathering of the elect to his presence, (ver. 31; 2 Thess. ii. 1,) throughout these parables, to this last of judgment, all continues without interval or pause. Without violence to the whole, we cannot interpose a millennium of rest. Again, all included in this judgment, are tried on the ground of their treatment of Christ, suffering in the person of others. But, during the millennium, those sufferings are ended. Christ, whether in letter or spirit, is then confessedly reigning, and not suffering. The judgment, then, can only include those who have lived [291] before that time. Others, to escape from this error, have been led to assign the whole to the judgment of the quick at our Lord's coming. But the received interpretation seems here much more natural and just, so far as it refers to the final judgment of the dead in the great day of the Lord. The living nations are not, then, all gathered outwardly before Christ, (Isa. lxvi. 19,) and the sentence then inflicted on the rebellious, is death, and not final judgment. Isa. Ixvi. 16; xxxiv. 2. Rev. xix. 21. The full power and spiritual glory of the parable seems thus to be obscured. The true and full view seems to be that which makes it include the resurrection of the just at the beginning, and the unjust at the close of the millennial day. It is thus parallel with the whole of Rev. xx., which is only a fuller account of the same judgment. The gathering of all the nations before the Judge, appears, by comparing other scriptures, to denote the resurrection. “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Death is separation from his presence—the resurrection, a recall to that presence. And thus, even the second death, as following a resurrection, is said to be "in the presence of the Lamb.” Rev. xiv. 10. This gathering answers, then, to Psalm i. 5; 1. 5. 2 Thess. ji. 1, and to the Apostle's statement—"As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order, (or company,) Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end.” Thus our Lord declares, that "He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats. Mingled in the dust by death, wherein one event happeneth to all, they that are Christ's shall rise at his coming; and the separation [292) is the blessedness and holiness of the first resurrection. But for the purpose of clearly enforcing the great issues of judgment, our Lord brings into close contrast the acts of the morning and evening (to use Mede's words, founded on scripture, Psalm lxix. 14. Zech. xiv. 7,) of that great judgmentday. Further details would only have broken the solemn impression of the truth, taught in this account of the last judgment. We are not to expect the same truths in every part of the word of God; different parts have distinct objects, it is enough that all its truths are in harmony. It is so here. The work of acquittal and mercy, which is our Lord's delight, is first in order; afterwards follows the sentence of wrath, which is his strange work: and as scripture everywhere assigns the coming of our Lord to the beginning of the time of blessedness, while the giving up of the kingdom is at the close of the millennium, and thus fixes the millennium to be that day of the Lord in which he will judge the world in righteousness, we follow the current of God's word, as well as the deep instincts of a heart and conscience renewed in love after the image of Christ, in assigning the sentence of reward and mercy, to the morning, and the sentence of condemnation and wrath, to the evening, of that great and terrible day. (Mede, Ep. 66, p. 141.)*

* This view seems confirmed by the distinction, usually overlooked, between the grounds of acceptance and condemnation. The words on the former are, "inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren;" in the latter simply, "inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these.. Does not this omission, which cannot be without a cause, suggest strongly, that in the latter case the words refer to the wicked themselves? And may we not thus learn, that each company as it stands separately before the Judge, contains within itself the full test of its acceptance and its rejection, the righteous in their own mutual and brotherly love, the wicked in their own mutual hatefulness and haired? (Titus iii. 3. Prov. viii. 36. Luke xvi. 28.) The word these recurring v. 46, confirms this idea. And if so, what a solemn and deep view it gives, even on the judgment itself, of the love of Christ our Saviour, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. The Son of Man, the express image of his heavenly Father, who sendeth rain on the just and the unjust-has taken our nature upon him, and is Lord of all, both good and bad; so that neglect of any human being, He regards as the neglect of himself. The course of judgment will thus be a growing exhibition of his love, first to the righteous, the brethren of Christ, and then even to the unbelieving, who know not God, (2 Thess. i.) as the God of love; and will thus intensely display the holy, gracious, and glorious perfections of Jehovah our Saviour. And let none conceive that the parable in general, or the above view of the closing sentence, either infringes on the freeness of salvation, or sets up a deceitful standard of mere outward benevolence. It is "the day in which God will judge the secrets of the hearts by Christ Jesus.” And the common test lies in those living works of charity which can flow only, and flow necessarily,

[293] The order of the words in ver. 46 has been thought to oppose the above view. A little reflection will shew that supposing that view to be just, the continuity is really less broken than it would be if the two clauses were inverted. Besides, there is a relief to the solemn truth, by presenting last the [294] blessedness of the righteous. But perhaps a simple comparison with Rev. xx. and xxi. supplies the fullest answer. We have first the reward of the first resurrection, answering to 33—40; then the judgment (Rev. xx. 12. Isaiah xl. xlii.;) and sentence of the unrighteous, its execution (Rev. xx. 15, and 46,) and then, finally, the completed blessedness of the righteous, (Rev. xxi. 3, 4,) when every trace of the curse is done away, and their eyes can rest on a redeemed universe.

Let not, however, differences of opinion;- let not the obscurity of unfulfilled prophecy, or the impossibility of conceiving how it can take place, stumble any mind Some of the prophecies, which, before fulfilment, were dark, apparently contradictory, and of impracticable accomplishment, were, in the fulfilment, harmoniously and exactly realized; and so we may be sure it will be in this glorious hope of the church. * It stands clearly and brightly displayed in the pages of the Bible; and no part of it shall fail. Nor have any events that have yet

from a lively faith, just as the tree is known by its fruits. That faith in the grace of the judge, is weak at least, if not suspicious, which desires exemption from his judgment. Or if it seem hard to any to conceive the Lord's condemnation of the wicked to rest on his love towards them, as his creatures, the words of Luther may weigh with them—"The love which flows out of a pure heart is of this nature-God has commanded me that I should pour out my love towards my neighbour, and favour all, whether they be friends or enemies; even as our heavenly Father does, who causes his Sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and thus does good, especially to those by whom He is blasphemed day and night. And again, He giveth rain to the grateful and yngrateful. And from what motive? From that pure love with which his heart so fully abounds. And this is called true, divine, right, and perfect love, which passes no one by to choose out another, but embraces all alike. The other love proceeds from a heart that seeks only its own, and is full of the love, not of others, but of itself.” (See Luther's Select Works, vol. i. p. 519.) The testimony of one who held so distinctly God's special love and electing grace, may clearly shew us that this view does not set aside these doctrines.

* Bishop Horsley has manifested THE WISDOM and LOVING-KINDNESS of that obscurity in which prophecy is veiled till fulfilled. He shews, that if prophecy be really of divine original, a part of the contrivance must be a mysterious disguise, by which the events of remote futurity, (such at least as depend on the free actious of men) are kept in a measure concealed. "Hence it follows that whatever private information the prophet might enjoy, the Spirit would never permit him to disclose the ultimate intent and particular meaning of the prophecy in the bare terms of the prediction.” The conduct of our Lord towards the Apostles may illustrate this observation. He conversed with his disciples during the forty days that he was upon earth respecting the kingdom of God; but very little of those conversations are recorded. They might be needful for the Apostles themselves; but were not to be revealed to ihe church at large, except in the obscurer form given in the book of Revelation.

taken place in the general hope of the church, at all corresponded to the nature and blessedness of the Millennium set [295] before us in the 20th of Revelation, or the general prosperity of Christ's kingdom set forth throughout the holy scriptures.

There are various minuter points on which there does not appear to be the same light, which there is respecting the fact of a first resurrection: as whether there be a visible

appearance, and visible reign of Christ and his saints, or an order in the resurrection of the righteous, (Dan. xii. 3; 1 Cor. xv. 23), and whether there be an earlier and special resurrection of those who have suffered for Christ, (Rom. viii. 17; 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12; Rev. xx. 4; Phil. iii. 10, 11;) or whether, (as seems from Rev. xi. 18,) all the servants and saints' of Christ, small and great, have their reward together; and on the general conflagration, it does not appear decisively, from any thing in St. Peter's account, in what part of that day of judgment, (2 Peter iii. 7.) the day of the Lord, which is as a thousand years, (2 Peter iii. 8,) it may take place: or whether there may not be, as some have supposed, a partial fire at the beginning, (2 Thess. i. 7, 8; Rev. xix. 20,) and another more complete at the close of that day. (Rev. xx. 9.) About the order of events foretold, and in what part of that order the new heavens and the new earth will take place, there is much of that obscurity in which unfulfilled events are purposely left. *

[296] The 19th chapter of Revelation reveals heaven opened, and our Lord explicitly and by name, on the white horse, coming personally to our earth! He comes to take vengeance on his enemies, and it is here foretold in terms similar to those which had been predicted before by Isaiah Ixiii. The white horse revealed (ch. vi. 2) in the first seal has no such rider; but points out the first providential triumph of the church: (comp. Zech. vi. 2-5.) His people are as his goodly horse in the day of battle. (Zech. x. 3.) We have in Rev. vi. 2. the church of God in its militant state of purity and conquest.

* The author has on every account felt it to be his duty, as far as he had opportunity to weigh the objections made against the præmillenial Advent and first resurrection, by Hall, Whitby, Vitringa, Faber, Hamilton, Gipps, &c. and difficulties which have arisen in his own mind, and he cannot but give his testimony that there is no plain scriptural argument which he can consider as conclusive, against the personal Advent of Christ, before the millennium and the resurrection of the saints at his coming. Many of those which have been judged to be objections, do in truth, tend, in his opinion, when carefully weighed, to confirm this sentiment; other objections only relate to peculiar views of individuals. It appears to him, that we have too much disregarded on the point, the sentiments of the early fathers, which were valuable and worthy of attention, renouncing, however, what was merely carnal either in the views, or reputed views, of some of them. The general answers which have been given to Whitby, by Rudd, Fleming, &c. and the writings of Mede, Cuninghame, Abdiel's Essays, Begg, Anderson, Greswell and others, contain answers to the objections, that make it unnecessary for him to enter farther into the controversy.

We have in Rev. xix. 11, the “King of kings, and Lord of Lords," distinctly named, and going forth at the head of his armies, to the overthrow of all his enemies.

A few GENERAL REMARKS on the passage in REVELATION, chapter xx. will now be added.

The passage alone reveals expressly the exact period of 1000 years, separating the first resurrection of the righteous from the resurrection of the wicked, and so marks more distinctly the pause between the work of mercy and judgment, but it is only one among many for the doctrine of the reign of the saints.

In the first three verses of the chapter all is simple narrative, excepting the key, the chain, and the dragon. The dragon is explained to mean the [297] devil; and authority and power is given to one of God's ministering spirits to bind this prince of darkness and seal him within the bottomless pit, his own proper abode. Those who believe the general testimony of God's word concerning angels and evil spirits can have no difficulty here.

In v. 4, two symbols only pass before the Apostle's eye. (Operous) thrones and (tuxas) souls. The throne, the seat of kings, admits of no vague application to the peace, purity, and enlargement of the church, but is the plain emblem of judicial majesty and kingly power, exhibiting a glorious economy of righteous judgment and royal dominion.” This accords with innumerable testimonies both of the Old and New Testament, (Dan. vii. 18, 27; xii. 1; Psalm xlix. 14; cxlix.; 2 Thess. i. 6—19; Isaiah xxiv. 21; xxvi. 21; xxvii. l; Luke xxii. 29;) testifying of a visible and glorious dominion of righteousness, to be set up on this earth.

The persons seated on these thrones are those armies of heaven mentioned in the former chapter, who, clothed in white garments, have followed the Lamb to the marriage supper, and now share in his kingdom, and those who are called to join this general assembly and church of the first-born. Judgment, which denotes receiving or dispensing rewards or punishments, is given to them. (Psalm 1xxii. 1; Isaiah xxxii. 1; Psalm cxlix.) This word has no uncertain meaning, but speaks of the faithful, true, and righteous judgment, (Rev. xix. 11; xi. 18; vi. 11; 2 Thess. i. 5—7,) in God's graciously giving reward to his servants, who has suffered for his name, and exalting the meek and martyred, to the office of kingly authority and righteous dominion. [298] It is to wrest the judgment of the poor in their cause, (Exodus xxiii. 6,) to pervert this promise

« НазадПродовжити »