MATT. xxv. 1.
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
PARABLES are always given to illustrate some doctrine or subject which the speaker wishes to communicate, and is an easy or familiar manner of making his hearers or readers understand the subject, and receive a lasting impression. Nothing has so good an effect on the mind as to teach by parables moral precepts or spiritual truths. In this way we are taught by visible things, or familiar objects, to realize, in some measure, the truths and subjects presented. This was the manner Christ taught his disciples and followers, that their memories might the more easily retain, and be often refreshed, when they beheld any scene like the representation of the parable; and in this way, they might always keep in view the important truth that is likened to the parable. A parable, rightly applied and clearly understood, gives good instruction, and is a lasting illustration of the truth. But if we apply the parable wrong, if we put on a false construction, it will serve to lead us into an error, and blind us, instead of producing light,--as Christ said of the Pharisees, he spake to them in parables, that, "seeing, they might see and not perceive, and hearing, they might hear and not understand." Men often explain parables by fancy, to suit their own notions, without any evidence but their own ingenuity; and by this means there will be as many different explanations as there are ingenious men. But I dare not trifle thus with the word of God: if we cannot, by the word of God, explain, we had better leave the same as we find it, and not attempt what must only result in guess-work at last; but follow Scripture rule, and we cannot get far from the truth. Christ has given us rules by which to explain parables, by explaining some himself. The explanations given by Christ of the parable of the tares and the wheat, is a rule that will bear in about all cases. That he has given rules, is very evident in his answer to his disciples, when they asked him concerning his parables. Mark iv. 13, "And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? How, then, will ye know all parables?" That is, if ye understand how I explain this parable, you will know how to explain all others; but if you do not understand how I explain this, you cannot explain all others." This is the rule. Christ made all the prominent parts of a parable figures; such as the sower, Son of man; good seed, children of the kingdom; tares, children of the wicked one; harvest, end of the world; reapers, the angels; "as, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned, so shall it be in the end of the world," &c. Here is a sample; good seed, tares, harvest, and reapers, are figures representing other things, as we have shown. "But how," say you, "shall we always know what these figures represent?" I answer, By the explanation given in other parts of the Bible. For the word of God is its own expositor, or it can be of no manner of use to us; for if we have to apply to any other rule, to explain the Bible, then, the other rule would be tantamount, and have a precedence, and the Bible must fall of course. But it is not so. Then, to explain our subject, I shall,
I. Show what is meant by the figures used in the parable.
II. The time to which this parable is applicable, and,
III. Make an application of our subject.
I. I will explain the figures in the parable; and, 1st, "kingdom of heaven" means the gospel day, or circle of God's government under the gospel dispensation. This I shall prove by the word of God. Matt. iii. 1,2, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." That is, the gospel day is come. Again: "Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand." Luke xvi. 16, "The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached." That is, the gospel day commenced with John, since which time the gospel is preached.
"Ten virgins" means mankind in general, in a probationary state, liable to be wooed and betrothed to the Lord, under the gospel, and during the gospel day. See Isaiah lxii. 1-5, "For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." It is evident, by the second verse, that Gentiles and Jews are both included in this prophecy.
"Five wise virgins" is a figure of believers in God, or the children of the kingdom. Psalms xlv. 13, 14, "The king's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needle-work; the virgins, her companions that follow her, shall be brought unto thee." "That I might comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion." Lam. ii. 13.
"Five foolish" represents the unbelieving class of mankind, while in this probationary state, under the means of grace. This will be sufficiently proved by the following passages--Isa. xlvii. 1, "Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground; there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans." Jer. xlvi. 11, "O virgin, the daughter of Egypt: in vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured." These texts prove, beyond a doubt, that the wicked class of men are called virgins by the Scriptures.
"Lamps" is a figure of the word of God; for that only can tell us about the New Jerusalem; that only can inform us when Christ will come again to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The word of God is the means of moral light, to light our steps through moral darkness, up to the coming of the bridegroom to receive the bride unto himself. This I shall prove by the cxix. Psalm, 105, "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path." Also, Prov. vi. 23, "For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life."
"Oil" is a representation or emblem of faith; as oil produces light by burning, so does faith, in exercise by the fire of love, produce more light, and gives comfort in adversity, hope in darkness, love for the coming bridegroom; and the light of faith assists us to watch for his coming, and to know the time of night, and to go out to meet him: such are called the children of light, because they are believers, children of faith, "sons of oil." "Because of the savor of thy good ointments, thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the virgins love thee," Sol. Song, i. 2. "Faith works by love." See 1 John ii. 27, "But the anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you; and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." It is evident, that the anointing here, and elsewhere spoken of, means faith, faith in his name, &c.
"Vessels" represent the persons or mind that believes or disbelieves in the word of God, as in 1 Thess. iv. 4, "That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." Also, 2 Tim. ii. 21, "If any man, therefore, purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor."
"Bridegroom" is the figurative name for Christ; as the prophet Isaiah says, "And as a bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." And Christ says, "How can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, while the bridegroom is with them?" alluding to himself. This proves that Christ means himself, in person, by the bridegroom in the parable.
"The door was shut," implies the closing up of the mediatorial kingdom, and finishing the gospel period. I shall prove this by Luke xiii. 25-28, "When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know ye not whence ye are. Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunken in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
"Marriage" is the time when Christ shall come the second time without sin unto salvation; gather his elect from the four winds of heaven, where they have been scattered during the dark and cloudy day; when he comes to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe; when the bride hath made herself ready, and the marriage of the Lamb is come, then he will present her to his Father without spot or wrinkle, and there marry the bride before his Father and the holy angels; removes her into the New Jerusalem state, seats her upon the throne of his glory, where she will ever be with the Lord. When this takes place, the whole body will be present; the whole church must be there, not a member missing, not a finger out of joint. She will be perfect in beauty, all over glorious. See Rev. xix. 7-9, "Let us rejoice and be glad, and give honor to him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he said unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." Daniel says, "Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the 1335 days." John says, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." All these are at one and the same time; and how can we expect to be free from sorrow, mourning, and tears, until the bridegroom comes and moves us into the beloved city? Rev. xxi. 2-4, "And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them," &c.
"Midnight cry" is the watchmen, or some of them, who by the word of God discover the time as revealed, and immediately give the warning voice, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." This has been fulfilled in a most remarkable manner. One or two on every quarter of the globe have proclaimed the news, and agree in the time--Wolf, of Asia; Irwin, late of England; Mason, of Scotland; Davis, of South Carolina; and quite a number in this region are, or have been, giving the cry. And will not you all, my brethren, examine and see if these things are so, and trim your lamps, and be found ready?
"Trimming the lamps." You will recollect, my friends, that the word of God is the lamp. To trim a lamp is to make it give light, more light, and clearer light. In the first place, to translate the Bible would make it give light, in all languages into which it should be translated. Then, to send to or give every family in the known world a Bible would make the Bible give more light. And thirdly, to send out true servants of God who have made the Bible their study, and true teachers, who would teach the holy precepts and doctrines contained therein, and to employ many Sabbath school teachers, would in the hands of God be the means of its giving clearer light. This would be trimming the lamp; and so far as the foolish virgins assisted in translating the Scriptures, in sending them among all nations, and employing missionaries and teachers to teach mankind its principles, so far would they trim their lamp; but if they had no faith in it, their light would be darkness, and the lamp to them would go out. If the friend of the bridegroom should proclaim the approach of him whom they all expected, and should prove it ever so plain by the lamp, but having no faith, the lamp would go out; they would not be ready to enter in to the marriage supper, and the door would be shut. This is undoubtedly the meaning which Christ intends to convey in this parable. I shall, therefore, show,
II. The time this parable is applicable to.
In the chapter previous our Savior had answered three questions which his disciples had put to him on the mount of Olives, when they came to him privately, "saying, Tell us, when shall these things be?" That is, when Jerusalem should be levelled with the ground. "And what shall be the sign of thy coming?" That is, his second coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, as he had before informed them, which is yet future. "And of the end of the world," or, as some translate it, "end of the age," to which I am perfectly willing to agree; but what age? is the question. I answer, The gospel age, or the kingdom of heaven. See 14th verse, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." "The law and the prophets were until John, since which time the kingdom of heaven is preached." The Jewish economy is no where called the kingdom of heaven; but this expression belongs exclusively to the gospel; and of course any age in which the gospel or kingdom of heaven is preached can never be applied to the Jewish age. Any novice in Scripture interpretation must readily admit this. These were the questions proposed by the disciples to their divine Master, and were answered in the following manner: From the 4th to the 14th verses inclusive of the 24th chapter of Matthew, Christ informs his disciples of the troubles, trials, persecutions, and distress which they and his followers should suffer, down to the end of the gospel age. He also informs them by what means they must suffer--by false brethren, by deceit, by wars, rumors of wars, clashing of nations, earthquakes, afflictions, death, hatred, offences, betrayals, false prophets, coldness, iniquity, famines, and pestilence, and these to the end of the gospel age. From the 15th to the 22d inclusive he alludes to the destruction of Jerusalem, and particularly gives his followers warning of what they shall suffer, and informs them what to do at that time; he tells them what to pray for, and how to escape from the siege, and how to avoid certain consequences which must follow this great tribulation.
From the 23d to the 28th inclusive, he warns his disciples against the error that false teachers would promulgate, that Christ did or would come at the destruction of Jerusalem. He told them plainly to "believe it not," for his second coming would be as visible as the lightning, and then every man would be gathered to his own company; so there would be no room for deceit.
In the 29th verse he prophesies of the rise of anti-Christ, the darkness and fall of many into superstition and error, and the persecution of the true church. 30th and 31st verse, He gives a sign of his coming, the mourning of the tribes of the earth, and then speaks of his coming and what he will do. 32, Is the parable of the fig tree. 33, He enforces it by saying, "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the door." 34th and 35th verses, He gives his disciples a comfortable promise, which was to this amount, that his children should not be all destroyed from the earth. But "this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled." To prove the word generation is so used, I will refer you to Psalm xxii. 30, "A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation." 1 Peter ii. 9, "A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation." The word generation, in the Scriptures, when used in the singular, I believe almost invariably means the children of one parent; as the generation of Adam, children of Adam, chosen generation, children of God, generation of vipers, children of the devil. So Christ, talking to his children, and instructing them only, says, "This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." His kingdom shall not be destroyed nor given to another people.
36th verse, He informs his disciples that the day and hour of his coming is known only to God, has never been revealed, meaning day and hour only, whether at midnight, at cock crowing, or in the morning.
Verses 37-44, inclusive, He informs them that his coming will be like the deluge; unexpected to the wicked, as then. He tells them the manner; that he will separate the righteous from the wicked; one shall be taken and another left. He then gives them a charge to watch, and repeats, "they know not the hour." Christ illustrates his warning by the figure of the good man of the house, and then charges them to be also ready, as the good man would, if he knew in what watch the thief would come, showing us plainly that all true believers will know near the time, as Paul says, "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day shall overtake you as a thief."
From 45-47, he tell us of the faithful and wise servant who watches and gives warning of his coming, and speaks of the blessings that servant shall inherit when he comes and finds him so doing.
48-51, Christ gives us the marks of an evil servant: 1st mark, he will "say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming." He may not preach or speak against Christ's coming; no, he will only say it to himself. But he will not say he will never come; no, he will only think in his heart, "My Lord delayeth his coming." When he hears the voice of the faithful servant saying, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh," he will say nothing in public against it; no, not so bad as that. Neither will he say any thing in favor of the cry; but mutter in his heart, "My Lord delayeth his coming." The second mark, "And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants." It does not say he will beat and bruise his fellow-servants, or the faithful servant who watches and cries; but he shall begin to smite, &c., meaning he will begin the persecution, set others on, and himself he will keep back, in his heart deceitful. 3d mark, "And to eat and drink with the drunken." To eat and drink with the drunken--it does not say he gets drunk; no, it only says he eats and drinks with them that are so. By this I understand he fellowships with them, and is engaged in, and employs his time, his talents, his mind, to build up some popular and worldly object, which men of the world would be pleased in promoting. He courts popular applause; he seeks to please men more than God. "The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour he is not aware of. And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom." I think we cannot be mistaken in the application of this parable. "Then," that is, at the time when the wise servants are looking for and proclaiming his coming, and when the evil servant says in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming. Then, too, when he will come, and they that are ready go in to the marriage, and the door is shut. This must mean the time when Christ comes to judgment, for he cuts off the evil servant, and appoints him his portion, and shuts the door against the foolish virgins; and when they knock, he opens not, but tells them, I know you not.
Where, then, is the millennium? say some. After the judgment sits, and not before; after the bridegroom comes, and the beloved city is completed; when Christ shall move his saints home, and live and reign with them on the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. If there could have been a millennium before Christ should come and gather his saints into one body, it must be a very imperfect one. A part of the body in heaven, a part in the earth, and the remainder under the earth; separated, divided, wounded, and torn by enemies and death, absent from our head. No, it cannot be; if in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable. If we are to have a temporal millennium, why did not our Savior mention it on the mount of Olives, as preceding his coming? He did not, neither has any of the apostles; but all speak of troublous times, departure from the faith, iniquity abounding, and the love of many waxing cold in the latter days. Our parable, to which we are now attending, says, at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. "At midnight;" this teaches us that at the time of his coming there will be much apathy and darkness on this subject; that is the coming of the bridegroom. The parable implies the same. "For while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Can we not bear witness that this has been the true state of the church for a number of years past? The writers on the word of God have adopted in their creeds, that there would be a temporal millennium before Christ would come. I call it temporal, because they have all of them taught that it would be in this state of things, not in an immortal state, neither in a glorified state; and that Christians would have all kingdoms under their control; that is, in a temporal sense; and that they would be married and given in marriage, until the coming of Christ after this 1000 years, or, as some say, 360,000 years. This has been, and is yet, the prevailing opinion among our standard writers and great men. No wonder, Christ says, they will say in their hearts, My Lord delayeth his coming, and that the wise and foolish are all sleeping and slumbering on this important subject. For while we look for a temporal kingdom, behold, he cometh and destroys all that is perishable, all that is temporal, and erects upon these a new heaven and a new earth, which is immortal, and that fadeth not away, eternal in the heavens. I shall now,
III. Make an application of our subject. And,
1st. The time of the fulfilment of this parable is evidently come, in part at least. The world for a number of years have been trimming their lamps, and the wise and foolish have been engaged in translating the word of God into almost every language known unto us upon the earth. Mr. Judson tells us that it has been translated into one hundred and fifty languages within thirty years; that is, three times the number of all the translations known to us before. Then fourfold light has been shed among the nations, within the short period of the time above specified; and we are informed that a part if not all of the word of God is now given to all nations in their own language. This, surely, is setting the word of life in a conspicuous situation, that it may give light to all in the world. This has not been done by the exertions of Christians or professors only, but by the aid of all classes and societies of men. Kings have opened their coffers, and favored those engaged in the work; nobles have used their influence and have cast into the treasury of the treasury of the Lord of their abundance; rich men have bestowed of their riches; and in many cases the miser has forgot his parsimony, the poor have replenished the funds of the Lord's house, and the widow has cast in her mite. How easy to work the work of the Lord when the hearts of men are made willing by his power! But shall we forget those who have forsaken the land of their fathers, the home of their nativity, and have spent lonesome years of toil among strangers, yes, worse than strangers, among heathen idolaters, and the savage of the wilderness, in the cold regions of the north, and under the scorching rays of a vertical sun, among the suffocating sands of the desert, or in the pestilential atmosphere of India; who have risked their lives to learn a language, and prepare themselves to trim a lamp for those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death? No, we will not forget them; the prayers of thousands have ascended before the golden altar, morning and evening, on their behalf, and Israel's God has been their protector. Surely we may hope that these have oil in their lamps, who have sacrificed so much to bestow a lamp upon others. But remember, my brethren, the Lord he is God, and let him have all the glory. This is the time, and the same time that Gabriel informed Daniel, "many should run to and fro, and knowledge should increase." This, too, is the same time when the angel flying through the midst of heaven had the everlasting gospel to preach to them who dwelt upon the earth. Here are Christ's words fulfilled, where he says, "And the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
2dly. It is plain to any diligent observer of the signs of the times, that all the societies for moral reform in our world at the present day are parts of the fulfilment of the parable, giving more light. What of our Bible societies? Are not these trimming the lamp for millions of human beings? Thirty years past, more than three fourths of the families in what we call Christian lands were without the lamp of life, and now nearly all supplied. Many of those who sat in heathenish darkness then, are now rejoicing in the light of God's book. And much of this has been performed through the instrumentality of Bible societies, and not only through the agency of the church, but political men, men of the world, the great men, merchants of the earth and those who trade in ships, all who live under the influence of the gospel, the "kingdom of heaven," have engaged in the work. Will not the most skeptical acknowledge, that this society has succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectation of its most ardent advocates? And is not this strong circumstantial evidence that the Bridegroom is near, even at the door?
3d. The missionary societies of all sects and denominations, which have been established within forty years, have as far exceeded all former exertions of this kind as the overflowing Nile does the waters of the brook Kidron. See the missionary spirit extending from east to west, and from north to south, warming the breast of the philanthropist, giving life and vigor to the cold-hearted moralist, and animating and enlivening the social circle of the pious devotee. Every nation, from India to Oregon, from Kamtschatka to New Zealand, have been visited by these wise servants (as we hope) of the cross, proclaiming "the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God," carrying the lamp, the word of God in their hands, and oil, faith in God, in their hearts. All classes of men are engaged in this cause, from the gray hairs of old age down to the sprightly youth of ten years. Who, then, can doubt but that the virgins in this sense have and are trimming their lamps, and the bride is making herself ready? "Go ye out to meet him."
4th. The Sabbath schools and Bible classes are but a part of the fulfilment of the parable, yet clearly an evidence that the virgins are now trimming their lamps. This system of teaching the young and ignorant took its rise between forty and fifty years since, at the very time that the Christian world were praying, and ardently praying, for the coming of Christ, before that part of the Savior's prayer was forgotten, "Thy kingdom come." From a little fountain this stream of water has become a great river, and encompassed the whole land. Every quarter of the globe are drinking at this fountain or stream of knowledge, and the youth are taught to trim their lamps. And when the bridegroom shall come, may we not reasonably hope that the thousands of the young men and young women who have assisted in giving light to others, may be found having oil in their vessels, and their lamps trimmed and burning, and they looking and waiting for the coming of their Master, that when he comes they may rise to meet him in the air, with ten thousand of their pupils, who will sing the new song in the New Jerusalem forever and ever? Search diligently, my young friends, and see to it that ye believe in this word, "which is able to make you wise unto salvation."
5. Tract societies are of much use, and are an efficient means to help trim the lamps; like snuffers that take away the preventives to the light, so are tracts. They take away from the mind the prejudice that thousands have against reading the word of God. They remove those rooted and groundless opinions which many have that they cannot understand the Bible; they serve to excite the mind to this kind of reading; they enlighten the understanding into some scriptural truths; they are pioneers, in many instances, to conversion; they can be sent where the word of God cannot at first be received; in one word, they are the harbingers of light, the forerunners of the Bible. And in this, too, all men in this probationary state seem to be more or less engaged, from the king on the throne down to the poor peasant in the cottage, writing, printing, folding, transporting, paying, or reading, these silent little messengers of the virgins' lamp. "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps." Has not God's hand been seen in all this? Yes, glory be to him who hath disposed the hearts of men to work the work that God bids them, and to fulfil the blessed word which he hath given them. This institution took its rise about the same time with the Bible society.
6. Temperance societies. These serve one purpose in trimming the lamps and preparing the way for the virgins to go out and meet the Bridegroom. Our world, twenty years ago, might be called a world of fashionable drunkards; almost all men drank of the intoxicating bowl, and thought it no harm. But when the lamp began to dart its rays around our tabernacles, it was found by woful experience that those who drank of the poisonous cup were totally and wholly unprepared to receive the warning voice, or hear the midnight cry, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh." No, "they that were drunken, were drunken in the night," says the apostle. "Therefore let us watch and be sober." And Peter tells us, "But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." How foolish would it have been for a drunken man to be set on a watch, or a praying man to be found drunk! Therefore, in order that men might be in a suitable frame of mind to receive instruction at the close of this dispensation, and be in a situation to listen to the midnight cry, God ordered the virgins, and they arose and trimmed their lamps; and in all human probability thousands who would have met a drunkard's grave if this society had not arose, are now watching, with their lamps trimmed and burning, ready to meet the Bridegroom at his coming. Perhaps this temperance society is the virgins' last resort. The Judge stands at the door; go ye out to meet him. This society, like the others before mentioned, is a general thing, and all sects, denominations, and classes of men are engaged in it, and it has an important influence upon all men who are in this probationary state, and who may be termed, as in our text, "virgins." This society is of later origin than the others, and seems to be a rear guard to wake up a few stragglers which the other societies could not reach. And now, drunkards, is your time; Wisdom stands at the door and knocks; let go the intoxicating bowl, be sober, and hear the midnight cry, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh." For your souls' sake drink not another draught, lest he come and find you drunken, "and that day come upon you unawares, and find you sleeping." O, be wise, ye intemperate men, for they only went in to the marriage who were found ready, "and the door was shut." "Then came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not. Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh." "But the wise shall understand," says Daniel, xii. 10.
And now, my Christian friends, let me inquire, Are your lamps trimmed and burning? And have you oil in your vessels? Are you prepared for the coming Bridegroom? And are you awake to this important subject? What say you? If this parable, to which I have directed your minds, has reference to the last day and the coming of Christ; if the "virgins" has reference to all men in this probationary state, and dividing them into two classes, wise and foolish; if the "lamp" is the word of God, and "oil" means faith in his word, or grace in the heart, as some say,--then my conclusions are just, and the evidence is strong that we live at the end of the gospel kingdom, and upon the threshold of the glorified state of the righteous. Then examine your Bibles, and if you can as fairly prove any other exposition of this parable, as I have this, then believe yours, and time must settle the issue; but if you can find nothing in the Scriptures to controvert plainly my explanation, then believe, and prepare to go out to meet the Bridegroom; for behold he cometh. Awake, ye fathers and mothers in Zion; you have long looked and prayed for this day. Behold the signs! He is near, even at the door. And, ye children of God, lift up your heads and rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh. For these things have begun to come to pass. And ye, little lambs of the flock, remember Jesus has promised to carry you in his arms, and that he will come and take you to himself, that where he is there ye may be also. But remember, all of you, the wise had oil in their lamps, and they were trimmed and burning. Search deep; examine yourselves closely, be not deceived; and may the Spirit which searcheth all things, and knoweth what is in the mind of man, assist you.
But, my impenitent friends, what shall I say to you? Shall I say, as the master in the parable, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him"? Prepare to meet your Judge. Now he has given you a time for repentance; you have had a probationary season, and possibly now the sceptre of mercy is held out to you. Repent, or it will soon be said to you as Jeremiah said to the virgin, the daughter of Egypt, "In vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured;" or as in the parable, "I know you not." Have you no oil in your lamps? Delay not a moment; believe the gospel, and you will live; believe in the word of God; receive the love of the Bridegroom, and make no delay; for while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. O, think what must be the exercise of your minds when these things shall be real; when you will stand without and knock, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us. Again I ask, Will you repent, believe, and be saved? Are you determined to resist the truth until it is too late? Say, sinner, what think ye? "We will risk the consequence. We do not believe in your day you tell us of. The world is the same it always was; no change, nor ever will be; but if it should come, it will not this ten thousand years; not in our day, certainly. You do not believe yourself. If you did, we should call you a fool."
Are these your arguments, sinner? Yes. Well, if I had brought no more, no stronger arguments than these, I would not blame you for not believing, for not one of yours can you or have you supported with a particle of proof. They are mere assertions; your believing or not believing will not alter the designs of God. The antediluvians believed not. The citizens of the plain laughed at the folly of Lot. And where are they now? Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
LEVITICUS xxvi. 23, 24.
And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me, then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
WE are in the habit of reading the judgments and threatenings in the word of God, as denunciations against some other people but ourselves. We are very fond of throwing back upon the Jews what, upon the principle of equity and justice, would equally belong to us Gentiles. By this mode of reasoning, wicked, unbelieving idolaters, murderers, whoremongers, adulterers, and all liars, may and do resist the force of God's word, and flatter themselves, in their lustful career, that the judgment is past, and that they may go on in sin with impunity. But it is not only this abominable class of mankind who pervert the word of God to their own condemnation, but many of those who profess to be pious, and even teachers and expounders of the word, do take the same unholy ground, to limit the Holy One in his justice and judgment. And by this means they not only wrest the Scriptures to their own condemnation, but others, who follow their pernicious ways, are led into the same errors, and the way of truth is evil spoken of.
This manner of expounding Scripture has been used as the last resort against my appeals to the heart and consciences of sinners, to prepare to meet God in judgment. Let me use what passage I please in the Scriptures, whether in the Old or New Testament, these wicked, lustful flatterers of mankind, are ready, with a host of learned commentaries, to show that it was applied to the Jews, and to them only; and then taunt me with this witty saying--"What! you, an unlearned man, think to teach us, contrary to our great and learned commentators!" This, my friends, is the only argument that has ever been produced against my warnings, and proofs of God's near approach to judge the world in righteousness. And here, too, I pledge myself to show that many, and perhaps that, in many cases, a major part, of these commentators are on my side of the question. I know that, in the subject now about to be presented, this argument will be used--"O! that had reference to the Jews only;" and you will, like the wicked Jews, put far off the evil day, until you are caught in the snare, and perish in the pit. The Jews in the days of the prophets said, Ezek. xii. 27, "The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off." You see, in this sample given us of the Jews, that the same ungodly, wicked perverting, putting off on to others what belongs to us in the visions and threatenings of God against sin, was manifestly the character of the Jews in that day, as it is in ours. The difference is only circumstantial. They put it off a great while to come; we, a great while back. They cast it forward on to the backs of the Gentiles; we throw it back into the faces of the Jews. This is the wicked disposition of man in his natural state--self-righteous and self-justificatory. Therefore, use this weapon if you please; it will only discover to angels and men your true character, and God's justice in your condemnation. "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13. Yet we shall find some things, at least, true,--that the law of God and punishment for sin are the same in all ages, and will be the same in all eternity. If the sins of the old world brought the flood and destruction upon the ungodly, so will the sins of the present world, if committed in the same ungodly spirit, bring down similar judgments and destruction upon us. If Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain, were destroyed for their abuse of the blessings which God had given them, so shall we be destroyed for our abuse of similar ones. And if the Jews, for their pride, arrogance, self-sufficiency, idolatry, and departure from the known commands of God's house, were punished with the sword, pestilence, captivity and persecution; so, most assuredly, will the people of God, in every age, whether under Jews or Gentiles, suffer the like or similar judgments. This can be proved abundantly in all parts of the word of God, and in the history of the church in every age. And did we not pervert the word of God to support our sectarian principles, and to gratify our lustful appetites, we might foresee the consequence of apostasy from God, his laws and commands; as we can foresee the effects of any or all the laws of nature, with which we are so well acquainted. When leaves put forth we know that summer is nigh. When the wind blows long from the south we know it will bring rain. Just so true are all the moral laws of God. Sin will bring death, and pride must bring a fall. The laws of God's house are equally as permanent as the laws of nature; and grace or mercy, call it which you please, are founded upon the law of cause and effect as strong as the laws of adhesion and repulsion. Go where you will,--climb up to heaven, or dig into the depths of hell,--you will find an immovable, fixed, and an eternal law of cause and effect. Let a man love his Maker, obey his laws, and he is happy. Let him love self only, and disobey the laws and commands of God, and misery is the lot of his inheritance, although the world was at his command. Here, then, is the great secret, that mankind must be reformed, or they can never be happy; in one word, they must be born of the Spirit, or they cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The text is a prophecy of God himself, given to Moses, and by him revealed to the people; and is a part of those lively oracles which has been continued as binding upon us, who live under the gospel light, as upon them who lived in the days of the typical priesthood. It is a prophecy of what would happen to the people of God as a punishment for conduct therein specified. I shall, therefore, in explanation of our subject, show,
I. For what the people of God are punished;
II. Show how they are punished; and,
III. The time they will be punished.
I. First, then, we are to examine the cause of their punishment. The text tells us that it is because they "will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me;" that is, unto God.
1st. A perverse will. We should suppose that a man who has had his will subdued by the love and Spirit of God, could not be in possession of a will so diametrically opposed to the will of God. Yet history and facts show us plainly that it is so. David, a man after God's own heart, did perform, by his own will, that which was strictly forbidden in the law and commands of God. Peter, too, after his Lord told him he was every whit clean, and after he boldly asserted that, if all men should forsake Christ, he would not, immediately and willingly, as it is implied, cursed and swore, and said he knew not the man. I am aware that the theory of the present day is contrary to the idea that the Christian has two wills, carnal and spiritual; but, upon this theory, I cannot account for the idea of Christians being punished at all, either on the principle of justice or equity. Therefore I am constrained to believe that, in the heart of a Christian, there are two wills. Sometimes he is in subjection to the will of God, and enjoys the sweets of reconciliation; and again his own will governs and controls his acts, and he must feel the chastising rod of his heavenly Father for his wilful disobedience or neglect of his religious duty. It cannot be the will of God that his people "will not be reformed by him." Here is another idea conveyed in our text, which shows that the heart of a Christian is not wholly pure,--"will not be reformed by God;" showing the same independent spirit that our primitive father and mother did in the fall, "to be as gods." We cannot bear the idea of being dependent on God for our reformation. Let us have the power of doing it ourselves, and we will not reject it; but to say we are wholly dependent on God is a hard doctrine: we will not subscribe to such humiliating terms. How can we tell sinners to reform, if they cannot do it? "Where is my guilt? If I cannot reform myself, surely God would be unjust to condemn me for not doing what I cannot do." "And thus you argue, throwing all the blame upon God, when all that God has required in the text, is, that you should be willing that he should do the work of reformation for you. And surely God must be the best workman of the two. God says he punishes us, for "ye will not be reformed by me." This, my Christian friend, is our crime, for which the church has been and will be punished seven times. "And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things." What does God mean by "these things"? I answer, It is God does the work, and he means his people shall give him the glory; and when they have passed through the furnace of affliction, and when seven times has passed over them, as it did over Nebuchadnezzar, then will the church, like that proud monarch, learn that God rules in heaven and earth. But could we be willing to learn this lesson without this punishment, "by these things," that is, by the word of God, by the preached gospel, by the mercies of God, by blessings of heaven from above, by blessings of the earth beneath, by the love of God, by the death of Christ, by the ministry of angels, by the strivings of the Holy Spirit; in one word, by all the means of grace; if all these things could teach us that God was the Author and Finisher of our faith, and make us willing to be reformed by him,--then, indeed, he would not have punished us. But, alas! without chastisements we should be "bastards, and not sons." Therefore the cause why the Christian must be punished,--to subdue their proud, rebellious wills, to humble their haughty and selfish hearts. They must suffer all that wicked men or devils can heap upon them, they must fill up the measure of Christ's sufferings in his body, which is the church, in order to make them fit for heaven or happiness. They must, like gold, be seven times purified. As I have before said, all the mercies of God, and blessings of heaven and earth, could not save the church without the curse and punishment denounced in the word of God. And these, too, must be managed by that all-powerful Arm, the great Jehovah, who, by his wisdom and power, by his grace and rod, will make all things work for the good of his church, and will finally redound to his glory. And at last it will be said, "These have come through great tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
II. I am to show how they are punished.
1st. They are punished by their own deeds. David went with broken bones to his grave; and Peter, when his Lord looked upon him, went out and wept bitterly. Paul had a thorn in his flesh lest he should be exalted above measure. The Jews courted an alliance with Babylon, and by that means were led into bondage and captivity many years. They, contrary to God's express command, afterwards made a league with the Romans, and by them was their city and sanctuary destroyed, and their nation scattered to the four winds of heaven. The church, after the Christian era, courted the popular favor of the kings of the earth, and immediately suffered the ten persecutions. She afterwards sought for secular power for her bishops, and by the same power was driven into the wilderness, and passed through a thousand two hundred and sixty years of torture, darkness, and death. The church, recently, has been courting popularity from the world, raising up a learned ministry, worshipping at the shrine of ancient and modern philosophy; and already her ranks are broken, her piety on the wane, her efforts paralyzed, and infidelity gaining ground.
2d. By wicked and designing men. Let us remember how Balaam taught Balak to cast stumbling-blocks before the children of Israel. Witness the false prophets in the days of the kings of Israel; also the wicked and designing men in the days of Jeremiah and the prophets; and, finally, the division and subdivision by wicked men at the final destruction of Jerusalem. See some, also, in the apostles' days--"false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, 2 Cor. xi. 13; some, also, "who subverted whole houses, teaching things they ought not for filthy lucre's sake," Titus i. 11; others, who crept into houses, leading captive silly women laden with divers lusts; some, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men, bringing in damnable heresies, and denying the Lord that bought them. And from that day unto this, in every age, and in every church, division, wounds, and putrefying sores, have been experienced through false, wicked, and designing professors.
3d. The church has been punished by the kings and rulers of this world. There was a season, in the days of David and Solomon, and after her deliverance from Egyptian bondage under Moses and Joshua, and so on down to the days of Manasseh, when the church, the people of God, were governed by their own rulers and laws in a great measure. But since the days of Manasseh not a moment has she enjoyed of respite, but has been scattered among the kingdoms of the world, as Jeremiah the prophet has prophesied she would. Jer. xv. 4, "And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem." Here began the "scattering of the power of the holy people," and when seven times shall be accomplished, then all "these things" shall be finished; that is, the church will then have passed the ordeal of trial and chastisement. "Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen." "Wherefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers," 2 Chron. xxxiii. 9-12. We learn in this passage the cause and effect. The cause of their captivity was their errors and wicked conduct. The effect was their captivity to the kings of Babylon, and their humility in their affliction. And although Manasseh was restored to his kingdom again after his humiliation, yet the children of Judah and Jerusalem were never free from the Babylonish yoke again while the kingdom of Babylon stood, but had to pay them tribute until the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon, which was about one hundred and forty years after the first captivity in Babylon of Judah and Jerusalem. Then the Medes and Persians reigned over the Jews, and made them pay tribute, and put a yoke of bondage upon them, until Alexander the Grecian conquered them, about two hundred and two years afterwards; when the Grecians became the masters of Judea, and continued the yoke of bondage, carrying away into captivity many of the principal citizens of Jerusalem, and obliging them to pay tribute, and their young men to serve as soldiers in their armies; destroying their riches defiling their sanctuary, and compelling them to worship their gods, and sacrifice to their idols. This government lasted one hundred and seventy-seven years, when the Romans made the Grecian general Bacchides withdraw his army from Jerusalem, and never trouble the Jews any more, as Maccabees tells us in his first book, viii. 31, 32; also, ix. 1, 72, 73. This was one hundred and fifty-eight years before Christ; the Babylonians, Medes and Persians, and Grecians, having each in their turn ruled over and led into captivity, robbed and spoiled the children of Judah and Jerusalem, and scattered them among all the nations of the earth, as Moses and all the prophets had foretold; in all, from the captivity of Manasseh, five hundred and nineteen years.
No man can read this prophecy, from which our text is taken, and the other prophets who have spoken of these things, and understand them literally, and then read the history of the world, and compare them together carefully, and let reason decide, and be an infidel. It would be impossible. The devil knows this; and, therefore, he uses all the art he is master of to prevent those whom he wishes to destroy from reading the prophecies. He tells them they are dark and intricate. And if this argument succeeds it is well; he is sure of his prey. But if they reason on the subject, and say, "If God has revealed himself by the prophets, it must be for our good; and if God is wise, as all agree he is, if there is a God, then it must be in the best possible manner for man to understand. I will examine and see." He then tells them it is presumption to look into futurity. "If you succeed in discovering the things to come, it will only make you miserable." Should this temptation prevent you from reading and trying to understand, still he is sure of his prey. You "will not be reformed by these things." But suppose you let reason work, and think, "If God is speaking by his prophets to us, surely it would be sin not to hear; for he has a legal right to our ears and attention; and only if our equal speaks to us, on any good or interesting subject, it is a piece of ill manners not to listen. I will read and hear what God says by the mouth of his servants." Then the devil will tell you that it is a sealed book,--not to be understood until it is fulfilled. But reason will tell you, What God has given for our faith and hope cannot be sealed in this sense; for it would all be lost labor in the prophets of God, and perfect folly in the Giver; for the history itself would reveal it as soon and as well as the prophecy could. And, in that case, says reason, faith and hope would have no food; for, without prophecy, neither the one nor the other could be exercised; for in what we know, how can it be said we have faith? or, in what is past, how can it be said we hope for it? Then, if these temptations do not prevent you from reading and trying to understand the prophecies, Satan has one more weapon, and it is his last resort. "But," says the arch enemy, "if you are but prepared for happiness or heaven, it is no matter whether you understand prophecy or not." This secures and chains down the hypocrite and Pharisee forever; this is turning things upside down at once. For there never were hypocrites or Pharisees but what vainly imagined that they were, of all men, best prepared for heaven; and so they will neither try their faith, nor examine their hope, if they follow this temptation, until they awake in eternity, forever too late. While, on the other hand, there never were real children of God, but what considered themselves unfit for heaven, the vilest of the vile; and if they should take up with this device of Satan, they must finally end in despair; for they could gain no additional evidence of their faith or hope, only by a diligent study of God's prophetic word. So that I can boldly say, that reason itself would teach us that we ought to apply ourselves diligently and faithfully to try our faith by every word of God, and examine our hope in every possible way in searching deep into the revealed truths, whether promises or prophecies, that the day of vengeance may not overtake us unawares.
But not only the church under the Jewish dispensation must pass through her scenes of tribulation, but so, also, must the church under the gospel; for John saw not only the elect Jews in his vision of the glorified state, but also a great number, which no man could number, from among all nations and languages under heaven, "who had come through great tribulation, and who had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." And, again, it is also evident that, like the Jews, they must suffer persecution from the kings and rulers of the earth, and from spiritual wickedness in high places. For John "saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army," Rev. xix. 19. And Daniel saw the same beast "make war with the saints, and prevailed over them until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints' possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, "The fourth beast is the fourth kingdom upon earth," Dan. vii. 21-23, meaning the Roman kingdom.
We must also notice that, like the Jews, they must be scattered among all the nations of the earth; for here they are to have no continuing city, for they seek one which is to come, whose Builder and Maker is God," Hebrews xi. 10; that is, the New Jerusalem, which cometh down from God out of heaven. The proof I bring you that the church among the Gentiles were like the Jews, you will find in the prophecy of the high priest, when our Savior was crucified, John xi. 52, "And not for that nation only, (that is, the Jews,) but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." Also it is said, Mark xiv. 27, "smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." And when Christ comes to judge the saints, at the resurrection of the just, he sends his angels into the uttermost part of heaven, and gathers together his elect, who have been scattered by the kings and beasts of the earth during the dark and cloudy day of persecution, from his crucifixion to his second coming.
And if, in view of all that Christ, the prophets, and apostles, have said in relation to this subject, there is one doubt remaining on your mind as to the truth of these remarks, I beg of you to read but the past history of the church, and you cannot but acknowledge, that, thus far, it has been literally fulfilled. How soon after the Romans had crucified the Lord of glory, did they attack his church; and for nearly three hundred years the apostles and eminent servants of Christ suffered all the horrors of persecution by the authority of the Roman emperors and kings of the earth. They suffered in all manner of ways which the prophets had foretold they would--by the sword, by wild beasts, by flame, by captivity, and by spoil. This was almost constantly until the days of Constantine, who for a little season put a stop to these bloody scenes; but it was but short; for in the days of Julian the Apostate, it was renewed, and continued until the barbarians of the north overran Italy, and conquered the Roman empire. Then the church suffered the same trials under her new masters, the ten kings, until they were converted to the Christian faith, when she enjoyed another respite of about thirty years after the downfall of Paganism, and before the rise of Papacy, between the years A.D. 508 and 538. But now arose the little horn, (Papacy,) which was to make war against the saints, and prevail over them until the Ancient of days should come, and the judgment should sit. This little horn was to rule over the kings of the earth, a time, times, and a half, or 1260 years; all which has been accomplished to the letter.
III. I shall now show what is meant by "seven times," in the text.
1st. "Seven times," in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, was fulfilled in seven years. Nebuchadnezzar, for his pride and arrogancy against God, was driven among the beasts of the field, and was made to eat grass as oxen, until seven times passed over him, and until he learned that the Most High ruled in the kingdoms of men, and gave it to whomsoever he would. This being a matter of history, and as an allegory or sample to the people of God for their pride and arrogancy, in refusing to be reformed by God, and claiming the power and will to do these things themselves,--they, too, like Nebuchadnezzar, must be driven among the beasts of the field, (meaning the kingdoms of the world,) until they learn the sovereignty of God, and that he dispenses his favors to whomsoever he will. That, being a matter of history, and a sample only, was fulfilled in seven years; but this, being a prophecy, will only be fulfilled in seven prophetic times, which will be 7 times 360 years, which will make 2520 years; for one half of 7 times, that is, 3 times and a half, is called, in Rev. xii. 6, 1260 days, (fulfilled in so many years.) See also Rev. xii. 14. xiii. 5. Forty-two months is the one half of 2520, for twice 1260 is 2520. Therefore the sum and substance of the whole is, that the people of God would be among the beasts, or kings of the earth, seven times, which is 2520 years, one half of which time they would be under literal Babylon, which means the ruling kings of the earth, viz. 1260 years; and the other half under mystical Babylon, the mother of harlots, the abomination of the whole earth, 1260 years; making in all 2520 years. Therefore seven times would the people of God be punished for their sins, to fill up the measure of the sufferings of Christ, before they would be delivered from all their enemies, and come into possession of the glorified kingdom which was prepared for them from the foundation of the earth. And Ezekiel alludes to the same "seven times," Ezek. xxxix. 9, 10, "And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, Jerem. xv. 1-3, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, Jer. v. 14, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years; so that they shall take no wood out of the field, nor cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire; and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord God." Ezekiel here gives us to understand that, by means of the people of God being driven out of their cities, and by the word of God, they would be enabled to destroy or be destroying their enemies, and to spoil those who had been spoiling them, and rob those who had robbed them; and this, too, would take seven years, or 2520 days; and, Ezekiel being commanded to reckon each day for a year, iv. 4-6, then it would be 2520 years.
The proper question would now be, "When did those years begin?" I answer, They must have begun with the first captivity of the tribe of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, in Babylon; for all the prophets agree in this thing, that Babylon would be the kingdom which would carry the Jews into captivity. See Jeremiah xv. 4. "And I will cause them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem." Also let those who wish to read more on this subject, read Jeremiah, chapter 21st to the 29th, inclusive; and the prophecy of Ezekiel, from the beginning of the 1st chapter to the end of the 39th chapter; also the chapter in which is our text;--and we cannot for a moment doubt but that Babylon is the nation which was to make desolate Judah and Jerusalem.
Then, if Babylon was the nation which was to scatter the people of God, and this, too, in the days of Manasseh, I ask, When was this captivity? I answer, In the year 677 before Christ; see 2 Chron. xxxiii. 9-13; see also the Bible chronology of that event; this being the first captivity of Judah in Babylon. Then take 677 years, which were before Christ, from 2520 years, which includes the whole "seven times," or "seven years," prophetic, and the remainder will be 1843 after Christ; showing that the people of God will be gathered from among all nations, and the kingdom and greatness of the kingdom will be given to the saints of the Most High; mystical Babylon will be destroyed by the brightness of his coming; and sin, and suffering for sin, will be finished to those who look for his coming. "And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad," John xi. 51, 52.
Yes, dear hearer, to them that look for his appearing, Christ will come the second time without sin unto salvation. "And can it be possible," says the dear child of God, "that that day is so near as 1843? It is too good news for me to believe. Yet the evidence is very strong; it seems clear. I really believe I shall watch for it with a good deal of anxiety. And if it should not come, I shall, I feel now, be somewhat disappointed." Yes, I am satisfied, this is the language of every Christian heart.
"But," says another, "it is all visionary. I do not believe it. And if I had any idea that it would be so, I could not take another moment's comfort of my life. What, the judgment day within seven years?* I cannot bear the thought? I will drive such thoughts from my mind. To you, whoever you are, whether professor or non-professor, who in your heart think such thoughts as these, I have one word to say. Your standing is desperate indeed. I am bold to tell you, you love not Jesus. Every moment, then, you delay coming to God through Jesus Christ may be big with eternal consequences, even as the day of judgment, for aught you or I can tell. For instance, this may be the last moment the Holy Spirit will ever strive; it may be the last moment of reason; it may be the last moment of life; it may be the last moment of time; and you unprepared! O God, reform these blinded souls, "who will not be reformed by thee, nor by these things," or everlasting punishment will be their doom.
*These Lectures were first published in 1836.
SOLOMON'S SONG viii. 5.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?
THE text is a passage of divine inspiration, which strikes the mind of the hearer or reader with more than ordinary power and force; and is propounded by way of question, as though in the answer we might receive much instruction and useful knowledge. It is truly so; and may the Spirit of God assist us to gather honey from this beautiful flower from the wilderness. We find it in the Songs of Solomon, which are highly figurative and allegorical, and were when composed presented in poems or songs; but by reason of the translation they have come to us in prose.
Some have supposed, that when Solomon composed this Song, or Songs, they were composed for dramatical performances, either as preludes, interludes, or epilogues. But I am of opinion that it was composed for a prophetic song of Christ and his church. But be that as it may, they certainly do represent, in rich and beautiful figures, the character and love of Christ for his church; likewise, her character and love towards her divine Master, her connection to him, and her dependence upon him in this state of trial. That the church has been, and will be, in a state of trial as long as she remains imperfect, cannot be doubted by any man of common reflection, perception, or knowledge.
She has enjoyed her seasons of prosperity; and has been strongly tried in scenes of adversity. In tracing her history from the patriarch Abraham to the present day, we find her variable as the wind, and changeable as the weather.
To-day, she is coming up out of the wilderness leaning on the arm of her beloved; to-morrow, "like a young roe leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills."
Now she is seen among the trees of the woods; next in a palace of silver inclosed in boards of cedar.
There we saw her in the clefts of the rock; here we behold her in the broad way, in the streets of the great city.
Again we find her among the foxes of the desert; and anon we perceive her seeking him whom her soul loveth.
She is asleep on her bed by night; and the same night the watch finds her in the city.
Behold her Lord, knocking at the door for admittance, while she is too indolent to arise and let him in. The next moment she is opening to her beloved; but he had withdrawn himself. At one time the voice of her beloved sounding over the hills, and echoing among the mountains like the roar of distant thunder, has no impression; next the soft whisper of love gains all her attention.
Here blows the rough north wind and strong south wind upon her spices; yet they put forth no fragrancy. And there the lightest breeze makes her roses blossom, and all the air is perfume.
See her countenance to-day black as the tents of Kedar; and to-morrow comely as the daughters of Jerusalem, and fair as the purple curtains of Solomon. To-day she is "a garden barred, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;" to-morrow "a garden open, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon." Now she is weak as a babe; a single watchman can "smite, wound, and take away her vail;" and then she is courageous and valiant, "terrible as an army with banners." To-day she is made to keep another's vineyard; to-morrow she is realizing a thousand pieces of silver from her own. She is truly a changeable being, carried about by the slightest circumstances. This is the description of the church, as given to us in this Song of Solomon's. I shall therefore show in explanation of our subject,
I. What has been the general character of the church in the wilderness;
II. Her character when out of the wilderness; and, then,
III. Make an application of our subject, by showing in what state the church may be considered at the present time.
I. The church in the wilderness.
It appears by the word of God, that for some wise purpose, God has called his people into the wilderness state, time and again. 1st. Abraham was called to go out from the land of his fathers "into a strange land, not knowing whither he went; and he obeyed God, sojourning in the land of promise as in a strange country; dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." By this means, Abraham obtained the name of the Father of all them that believe. We learn by the history of Abraham, that the first seed of the church was called into the wilderness as a place of promise; where God took special care of them, saying to the kings and princes of this world, "Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." We see them supported and kept through all the trials of life; and, in the midst of idolatrous nations, among whom they sojourned, not one of them lost their faith, or became impure in their worship; but God was with them, preserving them in war, famine, and the heavy judgments of God upon the nations with whom they sojourned.
The next account we have of the church being called into the wilderness was in the days of Moses, when the children of Israel were delivered from Egyptian slavery, and brought out by the mighty and powerful hand of God into the wilderness, where she was fed, clothed, and shod by miracle, and preserved by manna from heaven, and flesh from the desert; where the cloud of his presence overshadowed them by day, and the pillar of fire by night. The angel of the covenant accompanied them through all the wilderness, "gave them drink as out of the great depths. He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers." "He made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. He led them on safely, so they feared not; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. He brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to the mountain his right hand had purchased. He cast out the heathen also before them, divided them an inheritance by line, and made the children of Israel to dwell in tents." Thus sang the sweet psalmist of Israel. And what could God have done more than he did for his people in the wilderness?
The next and last proof we have that God calls his people into the wilderness, you will find in Rev. xii. 6, 14, "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days."
"And to the woman were given two wings of an eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place, (take notice, the wilderness is here called "her place,") where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent;" that is, away from the power of the Roman beast, or power which is here called the serpent. The prophet Hosea, in his vision of the wilderness state of the church under the gospel dispensation, says, "Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her; and I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope, and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt," Hosea ii. 14, &c. We might quote you more of this prophecy, and show you how exactly every word has been literally fulfilled in time and manner, as John has told us in Revelation; but I have sufficiently proved that God has called his church into the wilderness, for purposes of good to the churches. I will now, 2dly, show what object God had in view, so far as he has revealed his object in his word, in calling his church into the wilderness. Moses says, Deut. viii. 16, 17, "Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end, lest you should say in your hearts, My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth."
Surely, my brethren, if we would read this passage and apply it home, we must see, unless we are wilfully blind, that if we are in the wilderness at this time, the object of God is lost upon us. We are not humble enough to believe that God is the Author and Finisher of our faith, or that salvation is of God. Are we not saying, not only in our hearts, but also in doctrine, words, and action, that we can do great things; our might, our wisdom, our hands, have gotten us this great wealth?
Do we not see our benevolence trumpeted forth in every publication of the present day, and our contributions spread far and wide? For what? To feed the hungry and clothe the naked? No, not literally, but mentally. Yes, and do we not see that instead of feeding the public mind with wholesome food, with the sincere milk of the word, we have almost surfeited them with our tarts and spices, until the public mind has become so heated, nothing satisfies unless it has been highly spiced with some agitated question to more inflame the public pulse. More than three quarters of all our contributions are used to bloat each other up in self-righteousness and pride; or to pull each other down, with our excited questions of right and wrong. The moral code which God gave to man for his happiness here and hereafter is demolished; and Judge Lynch is the order of the day, as well in morals as in our civil affairs. Where in the word of God are we commanded to have our gifts for charitable purposes published, either before or behind us, by a public gazette or a brazen-mouthed trumpet? Yet at the present day, we glory in our pride, and excuse ourselves in the manner of doing it; for the end, say we, justifies the means. Why, then, did not our Savior justify the Pharisees in the same means for the very same object--to make proselytes?
The wilderness then, under existing circumstances, is calculated as the best place to keep the church humble, teach her her dependence on God, and to give her a grateful heart. For there she mixes not with the world, there she is not wholly engaged after the riches, honors, wisdom, and fashions of this world. In the wilderness she depends more on the manna of God's word for her daily food; but in the great city, she seeks for the popular learning of the world, the vain philosophy of the ancients, or the wisdom of men. There God feeds her with spiritual bread, living water, and sincere milk of the word; but here she feeds on the old corn of the land; she mixes her wine with strong drink, until it sparkles in the cup; she pours out her milk as a drink-offering to her idols, and mingles the doctrine of God's word with the doctrines of devils. There she learns, by a rich experience, her dependence on her divine Master; here she forgets all his mercies, and ascribes all her blessings to her idol gods, or worship of her own hands.
There the daily presence of God prevents her worshipping the idols of the world, or following after the gods which are no gods; but here the presence of worldly objects draws her attention from the one living and true God; and she has lords many and gods many.
In the wilderness, the teachers in the church are more pure; there is nothing to tempt their cupidity, or foster their pride; they feed the flock of God instead of themselves; the church is not rich in worldly things to tempt the wolf or the fox to enter her folds. But among the citizens, she must expect, while man is wicked, that the false and designing teachers will rush into her ministry, to subserve their own interest, and draw off followers after them. In the wilderness, the church has but few temptations for the honors and emoluments of the political world, for she is nourished away from the face of this wily serpent, which has coiled his folds around the heart of many a professor of Jesus Christ, and destroyed all that piety of heart and life, which, separate from political strife, they once enjoyed.
Moses, speaking of the church in the wilderness, says, Deut. xxxii. 9-12, "For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him." If the above is a true description of God's care and protection of his people in the wilderness, surely this must be a desirable state for the church.
Isaiah, in his vision of the church in the wilderness, says, (xxxv. 1, 2,) "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God." If the church had been in the city, instead of beholding the glory of God, her eyes might have been dazzled with the glory of the world, and excellency of her great men, or with the gods of the men of the world; so that, while in this state of trial and temptation, while imperfection is found in the church, the wilderness is a place of greater security from inbred lust and outward foes.
Perhaps we have been in the habit of fixing in our minds quite a different idea of the wilderness state of the church, from what ideas I have given, or from what might be proved by the writings of the prophets and apostles. Examine for yourselves, and see.
II. We are to learn the character of the church when it may be said she is out of the wilderness.
1st. What does the church enjoy when she is out of the wilderness? I answer, She enjoys possessions, privileges, and laws among the kingdoms and political nations of the earth; kings are her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers, "They shall bow down to thee, with their face to the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet," says Isaiah, xlix. 23. That is, the church, when in this situation, receives the courtly smiles of the great, and the sycophantic cringing of the political demagogue. But let the church remember, although kings, queens, and great men of the world may bow down, court, and idolize her, and may descend to lick the dust from her feet, yet it is only to flatter and to betray; for their "faces" are not Zion-ward, but to the "earth." Their motives are earthly, devilish. It is a serpent still; they feed on the food of serpents, the dust of your feet. "They eat the sins of my people as they eat bread." Some suppose it will be a goodly time, when kings and queens will be fathers and mothers in Zion. But no, my brethren; the true church have but one father, which is God; and but one mother, which is not of this world, but she is the New Jerusalem, the mother of us all, which cometh down from above. Christ himself says, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me;" as much as if he had said, By and by the kings and princes of this world will come and court you; they will pretend to great friendship for you; they will offer to nurse, feed, and clothe you; but remember they have nothing in me. You must, if you wish to win the crown of glory, "contend against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places; for he hath nothing in me." Again, Daniel says, ii. 43, "They (the people of God) shall mingle themselves with the seed of men, (kings and queens, for fathers and mothers,) but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay." Let this suffice to show that it is the duty of the church of Christ to keep themselves unspotted from the world; to be separate, and touch not the unclean thing. What is the unclean thing? I answer, It is the policy of worldly governments; in one word, it is a political spirit; that spirit which is not peaceable, pure, easy to be entreated. Who, I ask, ever saw a political partisan have these fruits while prompted by that spirit? "First pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated." A political man, if he had any conscience, would blush with shame to claim these appellations. And where, in all the history of the church, from the days of the apostles until now, have kings, queens, or rulers of this world undertaken to nurse the church, and lord it over God's heritage, but that they have proved, in the end, a curse instead of a blessing? I am bold to say, Nowhere! And one thing more I am bold to say--That kind of morality which requires the aid of the political world to enforce it, is a harlot in disguise, and her path is the way to death; in her secret chambers you will find war, rapine, and murder, and in her train will be seen revenge, hatred, envy, and division. These are the temptations of the church when in the city of the nations.
2dly. What has been her character when in the city? Answer: When the Jews left the wilderness, and entered into Canaan, their manna, with which they had been fed while travelling in the wilderness, ceased, and they fed on the old corn of the land. This manna was a type of the spiritual food given by God to his children, while under his immediate control and care. See Rev. ii. 17. Old corn is a fit resemblance of the worldly rights, privileges, and possessions among the nations of the earth. The Jews, almost immediately after they took possession of the land of Canaan, began to mix themselves with the inhabitants around them, and became men pleasers, and a nation of idolaters; and the very things which Moses charged them against, became the common occurrences of the day; and on account of which God suffered their enemies to bring them into bondage, and, from a powerful people, that had made kings tremble even upon the report of them while in the wilderness, now became a weak and degraded people, a tributary nation, a band of slaves to their enemies; and the prophecy of Moses, Deuteronomy xxxii. 15-20, was literally accomplished in about twenty years after they took possession of their goodly land. "But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers (while in the wilderness) feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee." The word tells us, Judges ii. 11, 12, "The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim; and forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger." They dwelt among the Canaanites, and, as it is said, Judges iii. 6, "they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods."
This was the character and practice of the Jews, God's ancient covenant people. They ate, they drank, and rose up to play. They were proud, rebellious, and ungodly. They obeyed not the commands of God, and heeded not the warning voice of the Almighty. They regarded not the teaching of the true prophets, but followed in the train of the popular prophets of Baal. They persecuted and drove into the wilderness the true servants of Jehovah, while they fed, clothed, and schooled hundreds of the servants of Baalim. They became a stiff-necked and hard-hearted people to their own God, and bowed their necks, and were subservient to the nations and their gods around them. They forsook or demolished the altars erected for the worship of the true God, and erected under every green tree altars to Baalim and Ashtaroth. They waxed rich in corn, wine, and oil, yet were poor and scanty in their first fruits to God. They multiplied in cattle, silver, and gold, and forgot that it was God who gave them power to get wealth.
This, we must acknowledge, is the character of the Jews, as given unto us by the sacred historians. These were the people whom God had chosen out of all the nations of the earth, to be his peculiar people--a people who had seen and experienced the salvation of God in a most miraculous manner; from Egyptian bondage, from drought and famine in the wilderness, and from the power of the nations who sought to impede their progress, or hinder their possessing the promised land. They had enjoyed the visible presence of the angel of the covenant forty years in the wilderness. They had heard the audible voice of Jehovah on the mountain; they saw his power and glory on Sinai. Yet the next generation after Joshua, had become so deeply corrupted, by unbelief, ingratitude, and rebellion, that they gave all the glory to works of their own hands, and worshipped idols of stocks and stones.
This, you say, is a dark picture of man, and could not have applied to any other people but the Jews. I will agree that no other nation were, at that time, placed in like circumstances with them. But dark as the picture, and hideous as the detail, it is but a shadow of our day, a type of the Christian church in the times in which we live.
"Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?" The text does not tell us she is out of the wilderness, but coming out; as though in the wilderness, and while she is coming out, she leans upon her lord. Her affections were not yet contaminated by a love for the world, nor her faith weakened by her vanity and self-esteem. Thus was it with the Jews; and so has it been with the church in ages past. Then let me,
III. Make an application of our subject, by showing what may be considered the present state of the gospel church.
I believe all writers and commentators on the Apocalypse agree that the church of Christ has been in the wilderness more than twelve centuries past. Some have fixed the time of the church entering into her wilderness state as early as A.D. 534, when the great controversy between the orthodox and Arians, which, in the days of Justinian, shook the religious world into two great divisions, like the two "wings of an eagle," from the convulsions of which many of the true servants of God, or all of them, disgusted with the spirit shown by both of the contending parties, who both claimed and used the civil authority to exterminate or conquer their heterodox brethren, fled into the north-east part of Europe, away "from the face of the serpent,"--the emperors of the east, and the more powerful bishops of Rome--where for numbers of centuries they lived unknowing and unknown.
Other writers say that it was as late as A.D. 606, when the Pope, by the concessions of Phocas, obtained civil and ecclesiastical power, and that he came out publicly wearing two swords. Between these two points I believe all writers fix the time of the church entering into her wilderness state, "a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there 1260 days;" or, "to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent," Rev. xii. 6th and 14th verses, 1260 days being the same as time, times and a half--three years and a half, or 1260 prophetic days--which, according to my former proof, must mean 1260 years.
The question now remains to be settled, Where and when this wilderness state began, in order for us to understand the present state of the church.
And first, let us inquire, What are the Scripture marks of the beginning of this period? I answer, in the Apocalypse, xi. 2, "But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty-two months." This is the same time, three years and a half, or 1260 days, as before. Again, Rev. xiii. 4, 5, "And they worshipped the dragon, which gave power unto the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given him to continue forty and two months"--the very same time mentioned again. And we learn, by this passage, that this beast, which would persecute and drive into the wilderness the church, would receive his power from the dragon,--the same as in Rev. xii. 4, "stood before the woman, which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born,"--and must, of necessity, be the Roman power. See Rev. xvii. 12, 13. "And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power, as kings, one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast." This text plainly proves that the kings of the Roman power gave their power and authority to this beast, which was to drive into the wilderness the church, "and tread her under foot forty and two months."
We must look, then, for some law, passed by some Roman emperor, and sanctioned by the ten kings, (for they, too, had the same mind to give "their power and strength unto the beast," meaning, as I understand it, Rome Papal,) in order to find the commencement of the church in the wilderness.
We find that Justinian, emperor of Constantinople, formed a code of laws about A.D. 534, which were published and sanctioned, in the Western Empire at Rome, about four years afterwards; on which code of laws, the Pope has claimed his authority to rule over kings, and punish heretics with confiscation of their goods, imprisonment or torture of body, and even death; which laws continued in force until 1260 years afterwards, in the year 1798, when the French people, under General Bonaparte, abolished the laws, and constituted Italy a republic.
Then, in the year 1798, the church began to come up out of the wilderness. "What," says the objector, "has Bonaparte or the wars of France to do with the church coming out of the wilderness?" I answer, Much; for the same power that gave the anti-Christian beast his authority, must take it away. The political river Jordan must be parted asunder; the law of outlawry against the church must be abolished, before she could enjoy rights and privileges in the great city of nations. In this war, under the modern dragon, the emperor of the French, the barriers were broken down. And now, the church is permitted to exist in almost all kingdoms in the known world.
This is "coming up out of the wilderness," for she is now permitted to publish the gospel of her beloved among all nations. She can now translate his word into every language, and send his servants into every quarter of the globe. By this were the armies of Christ to conquer his enemies by the "sharp sword which proceedeth out of his mouth." And as the Jews overran and conquered a large share of the promised land, after they came out of the wilderness, even so, in these days, the church is extending her banners over a large share of the earth, the promised land of the Christian. See Psalm xxxvii. 22, 28, 29, and 34. Prov. ii. 21, 22. x. 30. Matt. v. 5. For the apostle Paul tells us, 1 Cor. x. 11, "Now all these things happened unto them for examples, (or types,) and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the world is come." It is very evident that the apostle, in this passage, is speaking of the travel of the children of Israel through the wilderness, and their entrance into the promised land, or their coming out of the wilderness, as a type or resemblance of the Christian church in these last days.
Therefore, we are allowed by the inspired apostles to use their journey and acts, to illustrate and show the present state of the church, if we can gain any instruction thereby.
The Jews had a promise that they should inherit the land of Canaan; the Christian, that he shall inherit the earth--"For the meek shall inherit the earth;" and "The kingdom, and greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High." The Jews used carnal weapons in their wars with the inhabitants; the church are commanded to use spiritual ones, to the pulling down of the strong-holds, &c. They were led by their temporal Joshua; the church, by her spiritual leader. The Jews conquered by sending out their chosen and expert men with the sword; the church has sent forth her chosen missionaries, expert men with the sword of the Spirit, which is the "word of God."
The Jews had great success in conquering their enemies when they first came out of the wilderness; even so the church has had her unexpected success in her missionary efforts. The Jews, within twenty years, became a proud, haughty, and an idolatrous people, ascribing all their success to their own power; and mingling themselves with the nations around them, they began to bow down to their gods, and worship Baalim, and Ashtaroth; just so, and in about the same time, since the cause of missions began to succeed, has the church become proud and haughty, publishing her donations upon the house-top, mixing her moral questions with the political partizans of the day, and courting the applause of men more than obeying the voice of God: she is preparing for a sudden overthrow, a signal defeat.
The church is evidently worshipping her god Baalim; her teachers are seeking to be called by great names, such as A. B., A. M., B. D., D. D., or Rev., &c; to lord it over each other, and to be called master. See the meaning of the word Baalim, idols, masters, false gods. It is equally as evident, that she is bowing herself to the god Ashtaroth, flocks, the sheep, riches.
Where, in the history of the church, can we find a time that the people called Christians were, apparently, engaged after the riches of this world as now? Then, the agreement, in almost every thing, between the Jews, when they came out of the wilderness, and the church at the present day, holds good, and proves clearly to me that the church is now out of the wilderness. If it is not so, When, I ask, since the apostles' days, has the church been out of the wilderness? Instead, then, of being in the wilderness only 1260 years, she evidently has been 1800 years in the wilderness; and this prophecy has failed, or has no meaning.
What greater privileges did the church ever enjoy than now? Were their privileges among the nations of the earth greater, even in the days of the Roman emperors, under the nursing care of Constantine and his sons? I answer, No. Then, surely, the church is now out of the wilderness, and has been nearly or quite forty years. If so, then the 1260 years of the reign of anti-Christ to give the court of the Gentiles to be trodden under foot have ended.
Then, the two witnesses, prophesying, clothed in sackcloth, 1260 years have ended. Then, also, has the civil power of the anti-Christian beast, to rule over the kings of the earth forty-two months, been taken from the beast.
Then, also, has the "time, times and a half," mentioned in Daniel vii. 25, and xii. 7, had its fulfilment, "to the end of these wonders." And now, the anti-Christian beast will no longer be able to deceive the nations with her false miracles, or make the kings of the earth acknowledge her power as supreme. They have eaten her flesh; they have made her drink her own blood; her great men have departed from her; they are casting dust on their heads, crying, "Alas! alas! that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come." "And when she shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished," Dan. xii. 7. This beast has but one more work to perform--"to scatter the power of the holy people; to divide, that she may conquer. It is the last gasp of the expiring monster; it is the dying struggle of the man of sin. And, for a little moment, they will succeed. For the church must be humbled; she has departed from her Lord, she has grown proud of her worldly connections, she has become haughty, and lording it over the heritage of the Lord. She must be divided. She is already. She must be scattered, shaken like grain in the winnowing-fan, that that which cannot be shaken may remain. She will be delivered when her Lord returns to the wedding, and sends forth his angels to gather his elect from the four winds of heaven, where they have been scattered in the dark and cloudy day. Then will he destroy the man of sin by the brightness of his coming. Then, too, will the little horn cease making war with the saints, and no longer prevail against them. The Ancient of days will come, and judgment will be given to the saints of the Most High; and the time will have come when the saints, in union with their spiritual Joshua, will enter into that eternal Sabbath of rest which remains for the people of God.
Nothing can be more clear, or self-evident, than that the church is combating the great natural and moral evils, which men in this state of sin are prone to commit. What shall we make of all these societies which the church have instituted since she came out of the wilderness, but so many attacks upon the enemies of the land?
The Bible society, instituted since 1798. This has proved a powerful weapon to expel the moral darkness from the mind of the unenlightened, to open the prison of the votaries of superstition, and to knock off the shackles of bigotry. We have seen, in our day, Deism humbled from a haughty tyrant to a cringing sycophant. We have seen Romanism, from a monarch ruling over the souls and bodies of men with an absolute sway, become a slave, a follower in the wake of Protestants, in publishing and circulating the Scriptures. The Deists, a few years since, had the control of nine tenths of all Europe; now, not a petty kingdom under their control: the Roman church, for centuries past the mistress of most of the kings of Europe, now a poor dependant on the breath of kings.
Our missionary societies have carried the banners of the cross where hope never smiled before, nor faith ever lighted the cheerless sky of the heathen's land. And we have seen nations hearing the word of God, and islands converted to the faith of the gospel of Christ.
Temperance societies. We have seen the attack upon intemperance, the Anakim of our world, and we have heard the shout of triumph from every quarter of the globe. Rapid, indeed, was the march to victory! Again, our moral reform societies, our Sabbath schools, Bible classes, &c. &c., are all so many attacks on moral evil, which have produced, in many cases, wonderful effects; so much so, that it has astonished even the projectors themselves.
These aggravated sins are falling before the all-conquering weapon of God's word, like the walls of Jericho before the blasts of the trumpets; and it will go on conquering and to conquer, until tyranny, oppression, and slavery, in every form, shall be destroyed. Perhaps nothing, at the present time, impedes the progress of these things so much as the popular spirit, the pride, and arrogance of the church herself. She is, more or less, courting the applause of the world. She is mingling her holy religion with the opinions and principles of men. She is proud and self-sufficient, doting upon her own works, and forgetting her dependence on God. If this should be the true state of the church, God may suffer tyrants to remain as a scourge to the church, "as a rod for the fool's back."
This was literally the case with the Jewish church, after she came out of the wilderness; and every appearance seems to betoken the like spirit in the church at the present day. O that we could be wise, and learn, by the example set us by the Jews, that pride and self-sufficiency are always before a fall!
I know the objector will say, How can it be true, that the church is spreading her banners over a large portion of the world, sending her missionaries and the Bible into every nook and corner of the habitable globe, conquering and to conquer; and, at the same time, growing more and more impure herself, becoming haughty, self-righteous, and ungrateful, corrupt and lukewarm in her faith and practice, idolatrous in her worship, and cold and indifferent to her first love? This, say they, is paradoxical.
I answer, Paradoxical as it may seem, it is no less true. Have I not shown that the Jews were thus paradoxical, when they entered the promised land? Do not the description Solomon hath given us of the church in his Songs, the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians and Galatians, and the history of the church in the days of Constantine, all go to show, that when the church has been most prospered in her worldly standing with the nations, with whom she may come in contact, she has the more deeply corrupted herself?
This does not argue that she ought not to spread her banners, send her missionaries, translate and circulate Bibles, educate the rising generation, establish her moral societies, and do all, and every work, which God in his word has commanded; but it argues that the church is imperfect, and that, in times of prosperity, she ought to consider,
1st. Her proneness to idolatry, her liability to self-righteousness, her excessive love for the world, the temptations on every hand.
2dly. She ought to consider that adversity is set over against prosperity, that her faith may be tried, her motives sifted, the body purified, and the sanctuary cleansed.
3d. She ought to consider that the designs of God will be accomplished, that the work must be executed, that all power centres in him; and, although the church may be proud, self-righteous, and deeply corrupted by unbelief and sin, yet God will eventually be glorified, his kingdom established, his will done in earth as in heaven; and the time is at hand, when the saints will possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
MATT. xvii. 3.
But can ye not discern the signs of the times?
OUR text is a question proposed by Christ to the Pharisees and Sadducees, at a time when they came to him, tempting him for a sign from heaven; and is a reproof upon them for their unbelief in the signs already given by the Old Testament writers, which they professed to believe, and which were actually fulfilling before their eyes, yet disregarded. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two of the most learned and popular sects among the Jews; many of them were scribes, lawyers, doctors, and teachers of the law; yet so perfectly blinded, that they could not or would not apply the most simple rules of interpretation to the law or prophets. They would apply the rules of common observation and common sense to the weather, but neither the one nor the other were used in understanding the Scriptures. They were well versed in the skill to tell the weather for the morrow, but had no skill in the promises, prophecies, and word of God. "When it is evening, ye say it will be fair weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, it will be foul weather to-day, for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites! ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not (by the same simple rule) discern the signs of the times?"
All the signs given in the word of God, concerning the first coming and person of the Messiah, were fulfilling before their eyes; yet they were demanding more and greater signs from heaven. Christ had, and was then performing miracles which no man on earth could perform, and they ascribed it to the power of Beelzebub. No evidence had or could be presented, which they were not ready to evade or deny; and yet they claimed all the learning, all the wisdom, and all the piety of that day. This was the character of those whom Christ calls hypocrites, and to whom he addresses the question, "But can ye not discern the signs of the times?" And happy would it have been for us, who live in this day of gospel light, when the gospel shines with greater effulgence than at any other period of time since the world began, if hypocrisy had died with the Pharisees and Sadducees; but it was not so. Any man, of common capacity of mind, who can divest himself of prejudice, or who will try to see the character of man as developed at the present day in matters of faith, will discover the same unbelief, the same disregard, the same taunting, tempting spirit, concerning the second coming of the Messiah, as the Pharisees and Sadducees manifested in their conduct and conversation with our blessed Redeemer. And the question may with equal propriety, and I fear with tenfold force, be put to us at this day, if Christ was here, as then. And I have much reason to fear, that many may be found among our great, learned, and teachers of divine things, who would receive from our divine Master the same reproof, were he as then a teacher among us. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall." I shall, then, in treating on this subject, use my text as a reproof to us.
I. I shall show a number of signs which the Jews had in that day, as evidences of Jesus being the true Messiah.
II. Show the signs that Jesus Christ, the prophets, and apostles have given us of his second coming, now fulfilling in this day in which we live.
Under my first head, the signs of Jesus being the true Messiah, were,
1. The universal peace at his birth. Of this Isaiah ii. 3, 4, had prophesied 760 years before, "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." This prophecy was accomplished at his birth. For the temple of Janus was shut the very year our Savior was born, which denoted universal peace; and this must have been known to the Jewish rulers. Also the doctrines of Jesus Christ taught that they should forgive and pray for their enemies, and learn war no more. "Peace on earth and good will to men," was sung by the heavenly band when they announced the birth of the Savior in the city of David.
2. The star that appeared and guided the wise men to the place of his nativity, prophesied of by Balaam, Num. xxiv. 17. "There shall come a star out of Jacob," &c.
3. A root out of Jesse. Isa. xi. 10, "In that day there shall be a root out of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek," &c. That he was a descendant of David was well known to the Jews, for they were very scrupulous in their genealogies, and from the fact that he was born in the city of David when his parents went up to be taxed where their names were enrolled.
4. Born of a virgin. Isa. vii. 14, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." This was evidently fulfilled.
5. At Bethlehem. Micah v. 2, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." This was fulfilled, according to their own showing, to the wise men from the east.
6. Herod slaying all the children in Bethlehem, from two years old and under, prophesied of by Jeremiah, xxxi. 15, "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachael weeping for her children," &c. This must have been known in all Judea.
7. Land forsaken of both of her kings. Isa. vii. 16, "For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings." Herod and his successor both died before Jesus was of the common age to refuse the evil and choose the good.
8. Called out of Egypt. Hosea xi. 1, "And called my son out of Egypt."
9. His forerunner John. Isa. xl. 3, "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." All Judea and Jerusalem went into the wilderness to John, and of course must have seen this sign.
10. Coming suddenly to his temple. Mal. iii. 1, "And the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple." For the fulfilment of this prophecy, read John vii. 11-14, "Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? Now about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught."
11. The gospel preached. Isa. lxi. 1, "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."
12. The covenant confirmed one week or seven years. Daniel ix. 27, "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." John preached three years and a half, and Christ three and a half.
13. The blind see. Isa. xlii. 7, "To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house."
14. The lame walk. Isaiah. xxxv. 6, "Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing."
15. The deaf hear. Isaiah xxxv. 5, "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped."
16. The dead are raised. Isaiah xxvi. 19, "And the earth shall cast out the dead."
17. His humility when on trial. Isaiah liii. 7, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted; yet he opened not his mouth. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."
18. The manner and circumstances of his death. Psalm xxii. 13-18, "They gaped upon me with their mouths as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out as water and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws, and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet; I may tell all my bones; they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." This Psalm was indited more than 1000 years before Christ's crucifixion, and yet every word had an exact and literal accomplishment in that transaction, and the Jews saw it.
19. His resurrection. Psalm xvi. 10, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."
20. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of pentecost. Joel ii. 28, "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." The apostle told them that this scripture was fulfilled at the day of pentecost, and this transaction was well known to the Jews.
21. The fulfilment of the seventy weeks spoken of by Daniel, ix. 24-27, which I have shown in a former lecture, was accomplished to a day. And the Jews well understood it; for Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to the Jews, "Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself, but being high priest that year he prophesied (or taught the prophecy in Daniel) that Jesus should die for that nation, and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." John xi. 49-52.
This evidence was well understood among the rulers of the Jews; yet notwithstanding all this scripture was fulfilled before their faces, and all these signs were actually accomplished in the short space of thirty-five years, and a cloud of witnesses testifying to all these facts, and they themselves had to consent that notable miracles had been done, they believed not. Well may you say, dear hearer, that they deserved wrath, and God was just in destroying their nation and place. But how is it with us? Do we believe in that word which we blame them for rejecting? Are we clear of the sin of unbelief? The Jews were looking for a temporal king and kingdom. And are not we looking for a temporal millennium--one in which the Christians will have the rule of the world? Let us see to it that we do not stumble at the same stumbling-stone; possibly we may have carnal notions as well as they. Therefore, let us inquire,
II. What signs are now fulfilling, which are given us by Christ, the prophets, or apostles, of his second coming and glorious reign? And,
1, Christ tells us, Matt. xxiv. 14, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness, and then shall the end come." Is not this sign already accomplished? Bible translated into more than 200 different languages; missionaries sent among all the nations known to us on the globe, and reformation succeeding reformation in every town, nook or corner in this land. The gospel has now spread over the four quarters of the globe. It began in Asia. In the apostles' days, that quarter was full of light. From thence it went into Africa; and, for a number of centuries, Africa stretched out her hands unto God. Europe, too, has had a long visitation of gospel blessings; and now America, the last quarter of the globe, is reaping a harvest of souls for the last day. The gospel, like the sun, arose in the east, and will set in the west.
2. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and last reign of grace. Daniel tells us, after Bonaparte should come to his end, and none should help him, xii. 1, "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people." This I have shown, in a former lecture, is the same angel that stood upon the waters of the river, clothed in linen, Daniel xii. 6; also the same angel that John saw, Rev. x. 1-6, standing, his right foot upon the sea, and his left upon the earth, and in his hand a little book open. This angel told John that he must "prophesy again before many people, and nations, and tongues, and kings;" meaning that the gospel must again be published, as it had been in the apostolic days. And then would this angel lift his hand to heaven, and swear by him that liveth forever and ever, that time should be no longer. Again, James says, v. 7, 8, "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." And now, can any man, who has any knowledge of the present times, deny that God has poured out his spirit, in a remarkable manner, for twenty years past? Has not the gospel been spread in as rapid and extensive a manner, as in the apostolic day? Has not opposition and persecution of the kings of the earth, of the woman that sitteth on many waters, the sea, been in a great measure kept in check and powerless, by some invisible power, some mighty arm, until the servants of God should be sealed, the latter rain of grace descend, and God's purposes completed concerning this latter day? Here, then, we have a clear and visible sign, that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.
3. "Many running to and fro." This is another important and evident sign of the end. Daniel xii. 4, "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro." Whether the prophet means to be understood, "many shall run to and fro" in a religious sense, or in a civil or temporal sense, or whether he means in both, is perfectly immaterial for my purpose. All must acknowledge, that this text is remarkably fulfilled in this day, in either point of view. If it means missionaries of the cross, no man can dispute the fulfilment. See the heralds of salvation crossing and re-crossing on every part of the habitable globe. If it means common travellers, or the rapid means of travel, still our text holds good, and the fulfilment obvious. No man, unless he is wilfully ignorant, can deny that this sign is not actually and literally fulfilled.
4. The great increase of knowledge given in the same text as above. "Even to the time of the end many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." View this in any point you please, whether theological or scientifical, it is literally true; in this day of invention and improvement, knowledge increases. What of the fifty different moral societies, which have become general in the Christian world? Is there no increase of knowledge in our Bible societies, Sabbath schools, tract societies, temperance societies, and a catalogue of others for moral reform? What can we say of all the inventions in the arts? What of all the improvements in science? In all this, is it not very evident that this sign is now fulfilling to the very letter?
5. The great increase of riches, and desire for laying up worldly treasures, as described by James v. 1-3, "Go to, now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you; your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten; your gold and your silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days." When, since the writer of this epistle was on our earth, has there been such an increase of gold and silver, and treasures of this life, as at this day? Our rich men are laying up their gold, silver, and treasures in abundance. But, as though this individual exertion for riches would not completely fulfil our text, they have entered into all manner of companies and monopolies, to "heap treasure together." When, in the history of the world, can there be shown so many banking institutions as now? When so much insurance capital as is heaped together at this day? Are not our rich men perfectly infatuated with stocks of all kinds? And monopoly is the order of the day; to grind down the poor, and heap treasure together for the last days. Can any man, who has any knowledge of these things, deny that this sign of the last days is not evidently accomplished? Go to, ye rich men, weep and howl, for your miseries are come upon you.
6. The unwillingness of men to hear sound doctrine, taught us by Paul, 2 Tim. iv. 1-4, "I charge thee, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom. For the time will come, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." My brethren, need I say one word on this passage? There is none of you so blind, but you see that this passage does actually describe the most fashionable preaching at the present day. How many thousand do run after that kind of preaching which is only relating fables, and that doctrine which gives all power to man?
7. Scoffers, saying, "Where is the promise of his coming?" as Peter informs us in his 2 Epistle, iii. 3, 4, "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." A right understanding of this text would show us, at once, that many of us, who fancy we are in the highway to heaven, are belonging to this class of scoffers. First, they walk after their own lusts; that is, after their own carnal notions concerning the coming of Christ. They say all things will continue as they were from the creation; they must have a temporal millennium; man must be married and given in marriage; the world will not be burnt, and, My Lord delayeth his coming, some say a thousand years, and some say 365,000 years, and all the moral change that takes place on our earth, will be performed by the agency of man. Therefore, many scoff and ridicule the idea, that Scripture tells us of the second coming of Christ, the manner, object, and time. And many are willingly ignorant will not hear or read on this subject.
8. "Perilous times," as described in 2 Tim. iii. 1-7, "This know, also, that, in the last days, perilous times shall come; for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
What better description of domestic and public society could we expect from the most close observer of private characters, domestic circles, and public societies of our times, than is here given? One would conclude, had he found this in any other book but the Bible, that it was a modern writer, well acquainted with the human heart, and the generations now on the earth.
9. "Departing from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." Thus Paul tells Timothy, 1 Epistle, iv. 1-3, "Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith," &c. This, we must acknowledge, has been, and is now fulfilling. The whole, almost, of the Christian world have departed, or changed their faith within fifteen years; seducing spirits are evidently at work; hypocrites are multiplying among us; Roman Catholics, Shakers, Pilgrims, Fanny Wright, Owen, and others forbid to marry. Roman Catholics, and many others among us, are teaching to abstain from meats and drinks, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
10. False teachers, making merchandise of the gospel. See 2 Peter ii. 1-3, "But there were false prophets, also, among the people; even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction; and many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of; and through covetousness shall they, with feigned words, make merchandise of you, whose judgment of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." The apostle then goes on to show, that, as it was in the days of Noah and Lot, so it would be in the days of these false teachers; one generation would not pass off before the judgment would overtake them, who make merchandise of the gospel, and like Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.
11. Jude gives us a sign, 4 to 19 verses, inclusive, "How they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts; these be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit." Some preachers deny the agency of the Spirit in regeneration.
12. Christ gives a sign in Luke xxi. 25-28, "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and, upon the earth, distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking for those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh.
13. Christ gives another sign in Matt. xxiv. 23, 24, "Then, if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not; for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." There can be no doubt of this sign being fulfilled.
14. The fulfilment of the parable of the ten virgins--the midnight cry has gone forth from every quarter of God's moral vineyard, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh." The world has been, and are now, "trimming their lamps;" witness the Bible translated into all languages; the Bible societies sending Bibles to every nation and family on the earth, the Sabbath schools and Bible classes studying its sacred precepts.
15. The scattering of the holy people and division of sects, as prophesied of by Daniel, xii. 7, "And when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished." This prophecy is now fulfilling in a remarkable manner. Not one sect, who profess holiness, but are divided and subdivided into contending schisms, and that, too, within twenty years.
16. The division of the political world, as prophesied of by John, Rev. xvi. 12-16, "And I saw three unclean spirits, like frogs, come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet, for they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty"--and 19th verse, "And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell." That these spirits are political, is evident, from the fact that they come out of the mouth of the dragon, (kings,) and beast, (Catholic,) false prophet, (Mahometan,) and unclean, signifying they are not holy things. This prophecy is now accomplishing. What nation, within our knowledge, is not already divided into three political parties? None, which is in any way known to your speaker.
17. The church has fulfilled her 1260 years in the wilderness, spoken of in Rev. xii. 6. 14, "And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." These days were evidently accomplished in 1798, since which time the Protestant church has enjoyed privileges even in the city of nations, the Roman empire; and, according to Daniel, forty-five years will complete the whole plan of redemption.
18. The two witnesses prove that the 1260 years are ended; for it is evident that the Old and New Testament are not now hid nor kept from the common people, but have arisen from their dead state, and are now performing the office God designed they should, conveying light to the world. They are not clothed in sackcloth, but, through the missionaries of the cross, and Bible societies, are testifying to the world of Christ and his second coming.
19. The civil power of anti-Christ is destroyed, and the 1260 years, in which she was to rule over kings, and tread the church under foot, was completed in 1798, when the French army took the Pope a prisoner, and erected Italy into a republic; since which time the Pope has exercised but little or no power over kings, or the Protestant church, and she is evidently sinking by the weight of her own corruptions.
20. It is very evident that the sixth trumpet has sounded, and the 391 years will be completed in 1839, when the seventh trumpet will begin to sound, and the mystery of God will be finished, all that he hath declared to his servants the prophets. If the fall of the Eastern Empire at Constantinople was included in the sixth trumpet, which all the principal commentators, whom I have consulted, agree in, and that trumpet was prepared to sound an hour, a day, a month, and a year, which makes, according to the reckoning of time in John's prophecy, 391 years and 15 days, then the sixth trumpet is almost finished. The whole appearance strengthens this exposition of the text; for the power of the Turks has diminished more rapidly within fifteen years, than any politician, however anxious he could have been for the event, could have anticipated.
21. The opening of the sixth seal, revealed in the 6th and 7th chapters of Revelation, was opened in the French revolution, and carries us through a sealing time unto the opening of the seventh seal, which ushers us before the judgment seat of God. No one can deny but that, since the revolution in France, a sealing time has passed; many have been born into the spiritual kingdom of Christ, more than has ever been known, in the same period of time, since the apostles' days. This seal, then, is evidently opened, and is a strong evidence that the book of life will soon be opened, and the dead will be judged out of the things written in the books.
22. The sixth vial was poured out about the year 1822, when the Ottoman power began to be dried up. This is an important sign that we are on the brink of the judgment day. Rev. xvii. 12, "And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the waters thereof were dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." This preparation is for the last great battle, which will take place at the pouring out of the seventh vial, in the year 1839 or 40. At the pouring out of the seventh vial, a voice from the throne will pronounce the word, It is done. The kingdoms of the earth and governments of the world will be carried away, and their places not found. Every writer, of any note, will and have applied this vial to the Turkish government, and of course must acknowledge that this vial is poured out, for the power of the Turkish government is but little more than a name, and the strength of the Ottoman power dried up.
23. Another evidence is Daniel's resurrection at the end of the 1335 days. This evidence is very plain and evident, for Daniel says, xii. 11-13, "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." This cannot be the Jewish sacrifice; for if so, then it must have been fulfilled about five hundred years past; and as no event took place then which would warrant us in so understanding it, I can see no rational objection to understand this daily sacrifice to mean Pagan rites and sacrifices, which was the original beast of which the abomination of desolation was only an image, and, as I have shown in a former lecture, was to continue six hundred and sixty-six years; and as Paul tells us, that when he was taken out of the way, the man of sin would be revealed, agreeing in language with Daniel. I think the proof is strong that from the taking away of Pagan worship, A.D. 508, to the end of the Papal civil power, would be 1290 years, which would end in the year 1798, and thus agree with all of John's numbers in Revelation. And then Daniel says, or the angel to Daniel, "Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days." Thus add 1335 to 508, will bring us down to the year A.D. 1843. "But go thou thy way till the end be, for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." And "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection." Then Daniel will stand in his lot, and Job will stand on the earth in the latter day.
24. Daniel's vision of 2300 days long. I have in some former lectures shown clearly that Daniel's vision concerning the four great monarchies which were or were to come, included the whole history of the world, so far as God saw fit to reveal it, down to the judgment day, and the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds. I then showed that the question was asked, how long should be this vision. The answer was given--2300 days. I then proved that days were to be counted years, by the command of God, by the example of Jacob, and by the fulfilment of a part of the vision. I then showed you when this vision began by the angel Gabriel's own declaration, who was commanded to instruct Daniel into the vision. According to this instruction I showed you that 490 years were accomplished of this vision, to a day, at the crucifixion of Christ, both events happening on the 12th day of the first month, 490 years apart. And then I inquired, that if 490 years of 2300 was fulfilled when our Savior was crucified, how much of the vision remained after his death. I answered, 1810 years. I then inquired, what year after his birth that would be; and the answer was, in the year 1843. I then begged the privilege, and do now, for any person to show me any failure of proof on this point, or where, possibly, according to Scripture, there may be a failure in the calculation I have made on this vision. I have not yet, by seventeen years study, been able to discover where I might fail.
Lastly. Another sign of the last day you will find given by Paul, 1 Thess. v. 2, 3, "For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." Compare 2 Pet. ii. 17-22.
The doctrine of peace and safety, and that there is no punishment in the future state, had but few or no advocates until very recently. I am not certain but the first preacher of this soul-destroying doctrine is now living; and they now boast of their multitudes of followers and advocates. There have been, in past ages, a few who preached the doctrine of the restoration of all men, after a suitable punishment in hell; but to modern Universalists belongs the invention of preaching "peace and safety when sudden destruction cometh." If this sign is not fulfilled in the preachers of this order at this time, I ask, How can it be fulfilled? and what must the doctrine of those be who preach "peace and safety"? Surely, no human being can invent a doctrine so full of (promised) "peace and safety" to the wicked as this; and no other denomination on our globe ever have opposed the doctrine of the coming of Christ, the judgment day, and future punishments, but the modern Universalists; and if this is the doctrine that Paul had reference to in our text, as, I am fully satisfied, every candid and religious mind must and will allow, then we may reasonably suppose "sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape."
Therefore, my dear reader, I shall now, with a few closing remarks, leave you to your own reflections.
The Jews had twenty-one signs in the Scriptures given them of the first coming and person of Jesus Christ; yet many rejected him as an impostor. You say, if you had lived in that day, you would have believed; and you in your hearts condemn them as a hardened race of unbelievers; and notwithstanding their great pretence to piety, you say they were justly denounced by our Savior as a generation of vipers and a band of hypocrites. But, my hearers, be careful your own hearts do not condemn you for your unbelief in the signs which the prophets, Christ, and the apostles have given you as tokens of his second coming and the judgment day. I have brought from the word of God twenty-five signs of his second coming, end of the world, and judgment day, and all apparently fulfilled within the age of many present, or fulfilling now before your eyes. And do you believe? Many of you profess to be pious; many of you say, Lord, Lord! But do you believe his word? Are you willing to risk your life, your character, your all, on his word? or are you fearful and unbelieving? Now is the time to try men's souls. Now, if you wish to be sure, examine closely, and see whether your faith will stand in the day of trial which is coming; yes, has already come, in a thousand ways, to draw you from the gospel of Christ to another new gospel, which is not the gospel of God. "Can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Let me give you one rule by which you may know a false doctrine. They may have many good things in their creeds, they may be very plausible in their arguments, and after all deceive you. But examine them closely, and you will find they will deny, ridicule, or try to do away some prominent doctrine of the Bible, such as the divinity of Christ, his second coming, office of the Holy Spirit, eternal punishment, doctrine of grace, election, conviction for sin, regeneration, repentance, or faith. And when you hear or see them make light or scoff at any thing of this kind in the word of God, go not after them, nor bid them God speed. "Can ye not discern the signs of the times?"
And to you, impenitent friend, God has at all times given you warning of his approaching judgments. If you repent, believe his word, and break off your sins by righteousness, he is faithful and just to forgive you your sins. Why not take warning by the past? Is there no example for you? Look at the antediluvian world, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, Babylon, Jerusalem, and the once enlightened Asia, now worse than in heathenish darkness. Will God punish nations, and not individuals? This cannot be, for nations are composed of individuals; and God is just, for he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness. "Can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Will God's word fail of being accomplished? Can you show a single instance? Why not listen, then, to the warnings and admonitions, to the calls and invitations, to the examples and precepts contained therein? "Can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Will God cut off the unbelieving Pharisee for not discerning the signs of the times, and let you, with twofold more light, go free? No: how can ye escape, if you neglect this great salvation? Watch, then, "the signs of the times." I say, Watch.
The author wishes to state that Lecture VIII. in this work was written twelve years since; and that the authorities he then consulted fixed the rise of the Turkish empire at 1298. He is now satisfied, by the examination of other authorities on the subject, that the foundation of that empire was laid in 1299. Hence the things mentioned in Lecture VII. (p. 109,) relative to persecutions, &c., and to the coming of the third woe, as mentioned in Lecture XIII. (p. 202,) which he supposed would take place in 1839, according to the first computation, will not be realized until the year 1840.
EXPOSITION OF MILLER'S CHART
CHRONOLOGY OF THE WORLD, AND OF THE PROPHETIC PERIODS.
☞ See Chart, at the end of the book.
* The critical student will readily observe the different periods in this Exposition, marked on the twelve Spaces of the Chart, so that we have no need to make distinct reference to them in every period described.