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cannot, for it is sealed ; and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I am not learned, -and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.'* Seeing, then, that these foretold days of darkness are fallen upon us, in our too general departure from the sure word of prophecy, to give heed rather to the vain jangling of conflicting “ precepts” and traditions “of men,” it will be my object, in further remarks,
1. To show, from the Scriptures, what the only second coming, or coming again of Christ, is;
II. What other important and solemn events are to be witnessed by all at this only second coming of Christ; and,
III. What will be the condition of things on earth, till this coming of Christ at the resurrection and judgment of the great day.
RULES ON WHICH TO PROCEED. As a starting point, or fundamental principle of interpretation, it will be assumed, that, in the word of God, he always speaks literally when he foretells or describes things or events, which at first sight appear to be spiritual, infinite, or everlasting in their importance; that is, such prophecies do literally mean all which they literally express concerning those momentous matters; and are never to be trifled with, by an attempt to convert them into mere figures of things carnal, or infinitely less in their importance than they really signify when literally understood. And yet, to harmonize with this, and to make sense of the connection, temporal things and events are frequently interspersed in the midst of such prophecies, as " figures," " types,” or “shadows of things to come;" or things spiritual, infinite, and everlasting.t And thus the Lord practises, not to mystify the subject, but because we, in our dark bodies, can nevei obtain impressive views of those great and solemn realities, except by the assistance of these temporal things as figures more forcibly to represent them. As proposed,
I. In showing from the Scriptures what the only foretold second coming, or coming again, of Christ is, it may be proper, in the outset, to notice certain things or events, which by some are considered as Christ's foretold coming again, in which events, most surely, he never makes his appearance, or never himself comes.
* Isa. xxix. 11-13. Gal, iy. 24. Col. ii, 17. 1 Cor. x. 6, 11. See marginal readings,
1. NOT THE DEATH OF INDIVIDUALS.
The temporal death of individuals is not the foretold second coming of Christ. It is true, that in the dissolution of the body, individuals meet the Lord, and meet their doom for the future state; and though Christ may commission one of his angels to come and take away the soul at the death of the body; and though this may answer the same purpose to such individuals as the coming of Christ himself to do it; most certainly, after all, it is not his foretold coming again, any more than the chief magistrate of a nation comes or goes himself, when he rather remains at home, and sends a messenger to transact important business in his name. And why should temporal death be considered Christ's second coming now, since his first coming, any more than the same kind of death should be considered as his first coming, before he actually made his first appearance? And, indeed, it might seem to settle this point, that there is not one passage which either directly or indirectly mentions such an event as the invisible, secret, or spiritual coming of Christ the second time, to individuals or nations, for any purpose whatever, before his coming “ to judge all men at the last day.”
2. Not THE CONVERSION OF INDIVIDUALS.
The conversion of individuals to the faith of Jesus, by the Spirit and word of God, is not the repeated foretold second coming of Christ. Individuals were thus converted from the error of their ways before Christ's first coming ; and there is not even a human tradition which affirms that those conversions were either the first or second coming of Christ to the individuals then converted. And would not such traditions, if indeed to be found, be as much entitled to our faith, as those which now affirm that Christ really comes again to individuals at their conversion ?
3. Nor PERIODICAL AWAKENINGS.
The periodical awakenings of the church, or branches of it, are not Christ's second coming. There being no scripture authority for the tradition that Christ himself comes in such awakenings, it must seem as an act of presumption, and as doing violence to the prophecies of Christ's coming again, to explain them as having their fulfilment in a manner so unnaturally figurative, and without his real coming.
4. Not the CHRISTIAN CHURCH SET UP.
The setting up of the Christian church, or commencement of the "gospel dispensation," was not the promised return, or coming again, of the “Son of man in his kingdom.” The Bible certainly nowhere explains the return of Christ in this manner; neither does it even mention such an event 1 as the commencement of the gospel dispensation, nor the phrase, “gospel dispensation," nor the word, “dispensation,” except in a sense entirely different from what is meant by it in the present common human phrase, “gospel dispensation.” Neither does the Bible mention anything like "the setting up of the Christian church,” as an event to take place after Christ's ascension, which should not be "the church” which was with “ Moses in the wilderness,"* before her entering with Joshua into Canaan. And is it not difficult to conceive how the church now can be any more the kingdom of God " set up,'' with her King already come, and yet without the personal presence of even a human king, than the same church of God was his kingdom" set up," during the reign of David, when she had a king chosen of God, and a man after his own heart, and who was personally, for forty years, present with her, reigning over her, and in the name of the Lord wonderfully conquering her enemies? And yet that church was never called the kingdom of God. 5. Not The DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
The coming of the Roman army against Jerusalem, in the overthrow of the temple and city, was not the much and long foretold coming again of the Lord. When granted that the battle, siege, and overthrow of that occasion were in all respects as described in Josephus's history, we certainly have no other than human traditions as testimony for the belief, that this bloody siege of mere flesh and blood was the foretold second coming, or coming at all, of the Son of man in his kingdom. Moreover, the momentous events usually connected with the prophecies of Christ's coming again, are such as most surely never have been, and never can be, literally fulfilled, till, as the apostle says, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God.” And farther, we cannot interpret any of the express prophecies of Christ's glorious and terrible appearing, as being primarily a figure of the ravages of the Roman army against Jerusalem, except we virtually admit the most gross, absurd, and even monstrous principle of interpretation, viz., that spiritual, infinite, and everlasting things are used by the Almighty in his word as the mere types of things which are carnal, momentary, and trifling in the comparison. Such a principle as this naturally supposes the Holy Ghost as being immensely more interested with mere trifles than with the infinite realities of the judgment and day of the Lord's coming, and as directly aiming to engross the readers of the Bible rather in the same carnal trifles. But let us? rather interpret the prophecies literally, in all cases where they expressly announce the coming of the Lord, the coming of his kingdom, the great day of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment, &c., lest, by spiritualizing those momentous realities into mere insignificant things, we be found taking away from the word of God, and wresting the Scriptures to our own destruction.
*Acts vii. 38.
6. NOT IN A TEMPORAL MILLENNIUM.
Neither is the oft-foretold coming of the Lord with his kingdom, to be fulfilled in his yet future spiritual coming to reign in the hearts of all the nations of this world, “a thousand years," before his personal coming to judgment. As proof of what is here affirmed, it may be said, first, that the Scriptures contain no prophecy of such a thousand years to take place before Christ's actual coming with his kingdom to judgment; secondly, they do contain much apparent positive testimony against the coming to pass of such a thousand years before Christ himself shall come to judge the world; and, thirdly, if there were to be such a period of the saints' reign on the earth, with only the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, (as in all ages the saints have had more or less of it,) or in the personal absence of their blessed Lord, it would not fulfil the repeated express promises of his own coming again to reign with them, and they with him. Neither is there really such an expression in the Bible as that of Christ's reigning in the heart of individuals, though all of us may have used it many times to represent the spirit, grace, or temper of the heart, which is in the saints, and has been caused by the change they have experienced from the Spirit and word of the Lord. And what kind of a spirit, or how much of the true Spirit of Christ in the heart of individuals, would choose rather to reign on the earth a thousand years, in the personal absence of the rightful and blessed King, than to have him personally and gloriously present to reign with them? And sure Christ will be thus forever with his saints, at his foretold coming, at the resurrection, and in the creation of the earth and all things new. When he was personally present the first time, though in his humiliation, it was even exceeding sorrowful to his dear disciples to think of his being personally absent from them only for "a little while.” And should we be at all like them in our manifest feelings towards the same blessed Jesus, to anticipate the most enjoyment in the reign of ourselves or others on the earth, without the personal presence of the glorious“ King of saints” to reign also, “whose right it is ?”
In affirming, as already done, that the Scriptures contain no prophecy of any such thousand years to take place, before Christ's own coming to judgment, it is proper to say, that the "thousand years' reign" of saints in the first resurrection," sitting on “thrones," "judgment given unto them,” &c.,* is to come next after, rather than before, Christ's own coming to judgment, as the preceding fourteen verses of the same connection do most clearly and positively show; so that, of course, the period in that one instance called "a thousand years," as the reign of saints, must represent, or must be at least a part of, the period during which the whole body of God's elect will reign with Christ, and he with them, personally and gloriously, all seated upon their appointed and appropriate thrones, then in the "new earth,” or kingdom of God, to go no more out, or where "they shall reign forever and ever.”'f
In maintaining that the Scriptures do contain much positive testimony against there being any such thousand years for a part of the saints to reign spiritually with Christ in this world, and while still in the body and on probation, or before his personal coming “in flaming fire,” in the utter slaughter of all his enemies; a few particulars may be given briefly. (1.) According to Christ's own testimony on the subject of his “coming and the end of the world," "the end” will positively come just so soon as “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached” as "a witness to all nations.” I This then leaves no space for a thousand years, nor for one year of more time, after the gospel shall be so preached; and probably none will imagine that Christ will reign on the earth with his saints a thousand years, in any manner, before this completion of the gospel's being preached to all nations. (2.) “ The hour of God's "judgment” is to "come” directly, without space of time, at the full preaching of the “ everlasting gospel" "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people."'S This also affords no room for so long a period of peace on earth, after the nations shall have received the gospel, and before the actual "hour of his judgment.” (3.) The prophets of the Lord, with lips touched with a live coai” from his holy “altar," are to do this work, "until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.”|| Then, seeing that this waste and utter desolation of the earth of its inhabitants will not take place till Christ himself shall come to do it, and as the preaching of God's
* Rev. xx. 4-6.
Rev. xiv. 6, 7.