THE TIMES AND ITS DUTIES.*
ROMANS xiii. 12.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
(* The three following lectures on "The Times," "The Truth," and "Visions of Ezekiel," were written some years ago; and are but sketches of the subjects on which they treat. The author had neither time nor health to re-write them. And although the manner and style of them are not as good as the author and editor would desire; yet they contain so much plain, old-fashioned truth, that we have concluded to give them to the public, in the expectation that they will exert a salutary influence. ED.)
THE apostle in the context exhorts his Roman brethren to good works, to a holy life in conformity with the law, - the royal law, which teaches us to love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. He then gives the text as one of the most prominent reasons why we should conform to the requisitions of the law: because the night is far spent, and the day is at hand.
I shall, therefore, in explaining the text,
I. SHOW WHAT THE APOSTLE MEANS BY "NIGHT AND DAY."
II. SHOW THE PROPRIETY OF HIS ADMONITION, "CAST OFF THE WORKS OF DARKNESS."
III. ATTEND TO HIS EXHORTATION, "LET US PUT ON THE ARMOR OF LIGHT."
I. EXPLAIN THE TERMS NIGHT AND DAY.
Night and day are used in this passage to illustrate a moral or spiritual idea, which the apostle wished to communicate to his brethren at Rome, and through them to us. 1. Night, in the natural world, is that portion of time in which the face of the natural sun is hid from us, or that part of our earth on which we dwell, in accordance with certain infallible laws of nature, such as light and the vivifying influence of the sun, or the revolution of our earth upon its axis. 2. Night in the moral world is like night in the natural. God is the fountain of all light, life, and holiness, and without his vivifying influence we are heft to grope our way in moral darkness. We cannot see things clearly, but we stumble upon the dark mountains of infidelity and doubt. This great Sun of light, life, and holiness, is governed by as immutable laws as the natural sun, yes, and ten thousand times stronger, and more stable; because natural laws may change, "heaven and earth may pass away," but not one jot or tittle of his word or law shall ever fail. One of these unchangeable laws is, that God cannot look upon sin with the least allowance. Witness the withdrawal of his countenance from Adam in the garden when he sinned, and the beginning of the night spoken of in our text. Adam, like the natural world, turned from God, and all was darkness. He broke the holy law - "thou shalt not sin," and he and all his posterity became involved in a moral night, with only now and then some glimmering star, some Abel, Enoch, Noah, some patriarchs and prophets - or a changing moon, the church, to shed a glimmer upon this moral night, that may haply lead us to a blessed hope of the glorious appearing of the Son of Man. The ancient prophets and apostles all prophesied of the glory that should follow; these were stars in the night of moral darkness. The church, which Christ in his flesh set up in the world, has sometimes, like the moon at its stated seasons, shown her full round face, and has given strong evidence that there was a sun, although hid from the immediate view of the world, and that she looked, by faith at least, upon the glorious Sun of Righteousness. At other times she has been veiled in a cloud or smoke of error, which rose from the bottomless pit. Sometimes she has been made gory by the persecutions which have assailed her; for the faithful have waded through trials, changes, afflictions, and death. Yet one thing have they all shown by these things, that this is not their continuing city; but that they seek one to come, whose builder and maker is God. But the apostle says in our text that this night (of moral darkness) is far spent, and the day is at hand; which brings us to consider,
Second, what we may understand the apostle as meaning by Day. Natural day flows immediately from light, or the great luminary of the heavens, the sun. Just so the moral day. Wherever God by his immediate presence dwells, and light, life and righteousness are enjoyed, there is day. The gospel is sometimes compared to the sun and light, and where and when that is enjoyed, it is sometimes called day, as in Zech. xiv. 7, 8. Ps. xcv. 7: "To-day, if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Heb. iii. 7.
But that the apostle did not mean this gospel day, is evident from the text immediately preceding: "For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." For the night is far spent, &c.; strongly expressing it to be future. Now if it meant the gospel day, why did the apostle call the time in which he wrote night? Surely if ever the gospel shined in our world, it was in the apostles' days. Then, before the antichristian beast, and the smoke out of the bottomless pit, arose on the earth, and darkened the sun, and filled the world with corrupt sentiments, and the minds of men with heretical principles, before the obnoxious vapors of the doctrine of devils filled the moral air, and the moon was turned to blood, and the stars fell to the earth, this day must have been, or we must look for it in the future.
That the apostle does not mean the gospel day, is evident, also, from the fact that he gives instructions to the Roman Christians how to obtain the gospel armor, which was to be as light to them during this night of moral darkness; for if it had been day, their armor of light would be of no more use than a candle at noon.
Again. The day spoken of cannot mean death; for death is nowhere in scripture called day, but the reverse. "The night cometh, when no man can work." John ix. 4. Then I know not what day the apostle alludes to, unless he has reference to the great day when "Christ shall come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." That this day is what the apostle meant, is evident, - 1. Because it is a day of salvation, as he says in the context - "For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed," and "he comes the second time without sin unto salvation." Again, "I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." "To the end he may stablish your hearts unblamable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." It is evident that he means this day, also, because the Sun of Righteousness will then live and dwell on the earth, and he shall be the light thereof. See Mal. iv. 2: "But unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet, in the day that I shall do thus, saith the Lord of hosts." Again, in Psalm lxviii. 18: "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Zech. ii. 10: "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord, and many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee." Again, Rev. xxi. 3: "And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." This is the day, my brethren, which the apostle Paul alludes to in our text; and if he could say eighteen hundred years ago, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand," surely, my brethren, we may say now he standeth at the door. And I do most solemnly believe that the day of the Lord is near, yes, very near. "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness." This brings us to our second head, - to show,
II. THE PROPRIETY OF THE ADMONITION, "CAST OFF THE WORKS OF DARKNESS."
What then is meant by works of darkness? In the first place, it is an abhorrence of light, for fear our sins will be brought to light or made manifest. "We love darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil." These characters may be known by their anxiety to destroy the main principles of the word of God. Sin, in their view, is nothing more than a misfortune; salvation is only the good deeds of man; Christ is only a man that set good examples; atonement is only the forgiveness of our Adamic sin; and punishment is only the evils of life! They always are very uneasy, and often angry, if future punishment is mentioned. And we may know they are wrong; "for anger rests only in the bosom of fools."
Again, there is another class who work the works of darkness. These are those who are ignorant of the righteousness of God, and go about (as the apostle says) to establish their own righteousness. These may be known by their complainings; nobody is right but themselves; they are always justifying their own ways and condemning others; they will ever be framing some plausible excuse for neglect of any duty, and condemning others for the merest trifle. They are strange characters. You may preach to them of their crimes, and they will give it to their neighbor; you may admonish them, and they regard it not. They are so completely shrouded
in their mantle of selfishness, that nothing makes any impression upon them. Preach law - they have kept it; preach gospel - they need it not; preach duty - they will throw in your face a host of excuses. Their coat of mail is like the hide of Leviathan, no arrow can pierce it, and I have thought that nothing but the trump of God will ever awake them. Well did Christ say to such characters, "O generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?"
There is another class whom the apostle calls "worldly-minded sinners," who "work the works of darkness." These may be known by their anxiety for the world, and their disregard to all the means of salvation. Visit them, and their whole mind is on the world: they can talk freely and flippantly of their farms, their silver, their cattle, and sheep; but not one word about salvation. They can go into a long detail of their plans to gain property, but talk to them of the plan of salvation and it will be very insipid and dry. The week is spent in hoarding up treasures, and the Sabbath in counting their silver and casting their accounts. They never visit the house of God without some worldly motive in view. They search their accounts oftener than their Bibles; they study more how to obtain the world than eternal life. In one word, they are glued to the present evil world, and when the day shall come, they will, with the rich man, lift up their eyes, being in torment.
There is still another class, and they are those who seek for the honors of this world, more than to honor God, having men's persons in admiration. In their works of darkness you may discover them; they are deceitful, their words are smooth as oil, and with their lips they use deceit. They flatter but to destroy; they deceive but to betray; they pretend to be friendly to all, yet are friends only to themselves. They never talk plain or open-hearted, but always wound in private. There is no meanness which they will not stoop to do, to obtain their end. Solomon says, "He that knoweth and dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him, when he speaketh fair, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be showed before the whole congregation." "But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." Rev. xxi. 8. If these things are so, then surely the apostle has done well to admonish us to "put off these works of darkness;" - and oh, my hearers, we should do well, yes, we should be wise, and that too for ourselves, to obey the injunction of the apostle, "for the night is far spent, the day is at hand, when every man's works will be tried so as by fire."
III. WE WILL NOW EXAMINE THE APOSTLE'S EXHORTATION, "LET US PUT ON THE ARMOR OF LIGHT."
The Christian in this night of darkness and error is compared to a soldier on guard in the night, and in time of war; and how apt and instructing is the allusion. In the night, on guard, a soldier must have his armor all on; he must not lie down; he must keep awake, not sleep, stand at his post; he must watch the approach of the enemy, hail the approach of a friend, understand the use of his armor, have in readiness the watchwords of the camp; and he will watch for the dawn of the morning with as much anxiety as a bride for the return of the bridegroom. Just so with a Christian in this night of moral darkness. He is called to watch, and to have on the armor of light. He must stand up, and having done all, must stand. He too must keep awake, as says the prophet, Isa. li. 17: "Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem." He must not sleep, as Paul says, 1 Thes. v. 6: "Therefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober." He must watch his enemies, both outward and inward; he must hail and rejoice over one sinner that repenteth; he must learn and understand the use of his spiritual armor; he must be ready with the word at all times, so that he may give the reason of his hope with meekness and fear. And if he is a good soldier in Christ, he will watch for the dawn of the morning when the Captain of his salvation shall come the second time without sin unto salvation; when his enemies will all be slain, and the shout of victory be heard by all the righteous dead, and the last loud blast of the trump of God shall proclaim universal peace in the kingdom of Christ.
Then how happy will that soldier of the cross be whom, when his Lord comes, he shall find with his whole armor of light on. So doing, "stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." The truth will make you free. It will strengthen you to combat error; it is all-powerful, for God is truth; and he hath all power in heaven and earth. You will never be afraid that your cause will not prevail; for truth is mighty and will prevail. You will never want to use carnal weapons, for the holiness of truth will forbid the thought. And that man who resorts to carnal weapons to support his cause, may depend upon it he is not on truth. "And having on the breastplate of righteousness." This, too, is the armor of God prepared for us by Christ himself. This righteousness will give us confidence, that we shall not be afraid to front all enemies, even death itself, knowing that in him and by his robe we shall be justified from all things wherein the law could not justify; for we, being weak in the flesh, could not justify ourselves by the works of the law, but Christ becoming the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, we, therefore, may have confidence, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us; and such need not be ashamed before him at his coming. "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." This teaches us that we must walk after the example of John, who prepared a people made ready for the Lord, and Christ, who fulfilled all righteousness. How necessary, my brethren, that our walk be found according to the examples of Christ and the apostles, that our feet may be shod with the gospel of peace, that we may be ready to enter in through the gate into the city.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked." This is an important part of the armor. Faith is able to carry us through all the trials of life. By faith we receive and enjoy all the rich promises of God. By faith we live upon his word, as the children of Israel lived on manna in the wilderness. By faith we please God; by faith we believe in the day spoken of in our text; and through faith we shall be able to subdue kingdoms, work righteousness, obtain promises, stop the mouths of lions, quench the violence of fire; in one word, come off conquerors through him who hath loved us.
"And take the helmet of salvation." This is our hope, and the evidence of this only can be obtained by our diligence in the calling, and by our love for the Author of our salvation. How do we know that we are in a state of salvation? Answer. By our hope. And how do we know our hope is a good one? By its being founded on the grace of God, and not on our works. Then the speaker, say you, has contradicted himself, for he has just told us that hope was obtained by our diligence, and that part suited his belief exactly. You have mistaken me; I did not say our hope was obtained by our diligence; but the evidence of its being a good one. Will not smoke ascend, and will not water run down? If you have a good hope, you have a good heart, and from that heart will proceed good fruits.
Again; "The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." This, being our only rule of life, and the only means of trying the Spirit, may be truly compared to a sword, for it cuts off all false rules, doctrines, spirits, and leaves nothing but "thus saith the Lord." And here, again, we may try ourselves: In every trial do we fly to the word of God for direction? Do we square our lives by its rules? Is this word our law-book, our director? And, like David, can we say, "How love I thy law?"
"Praying always with all prayer, and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." These constitute the whole armor of light, or of God, as the apostle calls it in Eph. vi. 13. Here again is another rule to try ourselves by. Is prayer a solemn, an interesting, and soul-reviving duty? Do we in trials, in afflictions, in joy and sorrow, in light and darkness, in coldness and warmth, find peace, comfort, consolation, and reconciliation in this duty? Or do we pray to be seen of men, or to stop the gnawings of a guilty conscience; or do we neglect this weapon altogether? Let God and our own consciences decide - and let us decide quickly, and justly - for the "day is at hand which will try every man's work, whether it be good or evil." - "Let us, then, put on the whole armor of light."
1. By our subject we learn that the night of sin, error, darkness, and every evil work, is almost spent.
2. The day is near when all these things will be brought to light, and every evil work will receive a just recompense of reward.
3. We are admonished to cast off the works of darkness. And,
4. We are exhorted to put on the armor of light.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
JOHN xviii. 38.
Pilate saith unto him, What is Truth?
IN this question by Pilate, we have the same thing presented which all mankind are professedly seeking after; yet with as little desire, perhaps, to know, believe, or practise the truth, as the individual who asked the question.
Pilate was noted for his depravity, wickedness, and crime; and when he had asked the question, went out, without waiting for a reply, and did that which he knew was wickedly wrong. For he said to the Jews, "I find in him no fault at all;" and yet he released unto them a murderer, and took Jesus and scourged him, crowned him with thorns, mocked and smote him, and said unto the Jews, "Take ye him and crucify him, for I find no fault in him." Just so at the present day: we find many inquirers after truth, but few who are willing to hear, and fewer still who are willing to practise it.
I. I shall, in this discourse, endeavor to show some things that are true; although in this question a field is open which neither you or I could fully explore, even with the talents of the highest seraph, or the ability of an elect angel. Yet, by divine permission, we may look within the door, and see so much, and only so much, as Christ came to witness unto us. For he says, "For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." We may, then, safely inquire "What is truth?"
1. God is true. This maybe known by his works. Look into yourselves; see the order of your bodily system, the flow of blood, the heaving of the lungs; see, too, the activity of thought, the affections of the soul, the acuteness of feeling; every department of the mind, every function of the body acting in unison with its fellow; no jarring, while in health, but every motion and emotion true to the original cause as the needle to the pole. Can these laws by which we are governed in the body be thus true, and He who created them be untrue? No.
Look at the vegetable world. See the regular system of all the plants of the earth, each springing forth in its season, growing, budding, blossoming, bearing fruit, yielding its seed after its kind, and each seed containing elements of further increase, and so on, until figures would fail to multiply the number of likes contained in every seed. All true to the laws of the vegetable world - can this be true, and He who clothes the field with its verdure not be true? Never.
Look again at the heavens. See the systems of the planetary world. See suns innumerable, each the centre of a system, and all the planets moving in their respective orbits around these suns, keeping their proper distances, observing regular times, and so true that revolutions unnumbered may pass off without the variation of a moment. Do not all these things show that He who spake them into existence must be truth?
When, in short, we view the regular laws of nature, and behold all things, both animate and inanimate, obeying those laws, and man, though a rebel, compelled to yield to them, so that he cannot by any physical force evade or nullify the acts of the Almighty, are we not irresistibly led to conclude, that God is true - true to himself, true to his own laws, true to his own word and will, and that he does manifestly declare that he will be true in his moral government? This leads us to show,
II. THAT THE WORD OF GOD IS TRUTH.
That the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, is hardly a disputable point at the present day. Yet there are a few heaven-daring sceptics who do sneeringly insinuate that it is only the work of man. And we would not wish to deny that there are many, very many, who deny parts of the word, and by so doing nullify, or endeavor to nullify, so much as does not suit their carnal appetite or moral taste of things. Some do away the divinity of Christ, others the office or work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, others the depravity of the natural heart; and so on, to the several other parts of the word. Some deny the historical, and some the prophetical; some dispute the doctrines, and some the precepts. But I am to show that the word of God, embraced in the Old and New Testaments, is true.
1. It is true, because those books give the only rational account of creation.
2. It is true, because they give the best code of laws in our world.
3. It is true. They tell of events to come with a certainty that silences all caviling.
4. It is true. They describe the character of man, the thoughts and intents of the heart.
5. It is true. There is a general harmony through the whole. In every page, in every book, we find the same important pillars of truth. We find the same God, the same Savior, the same Spirit, described. We see human character unfolded with entire harmony and truth; and the two opposite states of man, the righteous and the wicked, from Abel and Cain, down to the judgment of the great day, clearly brought to view. In every book we find the same promises to the one, and the same curses denounced upon the other. And, although these writers lived in different ages of the world, and about sixteen hundred years apart, from the first writer to the last; although there were between forty and fifty of them, in every grade of life, from the king on his throne to the poor fisherman; yet their enemies have not been able to show any discrepancy, or disagreement, that is not easily reconciled.
These things show that God is the author of his word. "And holy men (from the king to the peasant) spake as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit." Again; the historical part of the word of God is true. All the contemporary profane historians agree in supporting some parts, and collectively prove the whole; and many monuments of antiquity, still standing, are an additional weight of testimony. The evidences of the flood, of the cities of the plain, of Babylon, Jerusalem, and the monuments of Egypt, all show that the writers lived in the several ages in which they professed to write; and if their writings had not been true, how easily would their enemies have detected them. And surely no one will pretend that the writers of the sacred books had no opposers. Had Moses none? See Egypt, then in her glory; see the Moabites, the Ammonites, Edomites, and all the nations of the land of Judea. Had Joshua, Samuel, David, no enemies? Yes; for there was war all the days of these writers. Had the prophets no enemies? Yes - in their own kings. See the history of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and of all the smaller prophets. Would not the kings and rulers among the Jews have confuted the writings of these men, if it had been in their power, for they were all against them? Yes, yes. But God preserved his word; for it was truth.
In the apostles' days, - had they no enemies? There were Jews and Gentiles, all opposed to those wild fanatics and visionary fools, as they were called, who wrote the New Testament, - " to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness." All the erudition and wisdom of the pagan government of Rome, that mistress of the world, embracing the most learned people in the whole earth, worshipping in all manner of ways, having and professing to have a knowledge of all the gods many and lords many then known, and altars erected in every city and kingdom in their empire, with their gods and goddesses, priests and priestesses, kings, generals, heroes, soldiers, and people, all combined to destroy the Bible; and yet how vain was the attempt. It stood; "for truth is mighty and will prevail." The fishermen's Bible hath stood the shock.
Look at the infidels of France in modern times. A government which shook the kingdoms of Europe, and made Egypt and Asia quail, bent all her energy and power to destroy the Bible. Her learned men, her great men, her mighty men, did all that men could, - and what did they do? They opened the eyes of the world. For after three years and a half, during which time the Bible was a dead letter in France, anarchy, murder, and blood filled the kingdom with horror, terror, and dismay; so that the infidels and deists themselves prayed for the restoration of the christian religion - the precepts of the Bible. And the two witnesses, the Old and New Testaments, arose in a cloud, and have been sent to every nation, in every clime, and are now witnessing in every language.
By these events, the truth of the prophecies of the Bible has been tested. John, in Rev. xi. 5, 6, says, "And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies. And if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters (people) to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will."
How truly were these texts fulfilled on infidel France! Where are her infidel writers? "Devoured and slain" in the same Revolution which they said would revolutionize the christian world and destroy the Bible. Where are the millions of deists who filled France in the days of her Revolution? And the millions more in every nation in Europe andAmerica? They are "turned to blood," or "smitten with a curse." There are but few left, and that "remnant was affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven." Once, our cities, our villages and hamlets, were full of deists. But now, where are they? None, none, to raise their puny arm against the Lord and his Anointed.
But, my brethren, there is one more battle, and then the mystery of God will be finished. The enemies of truth have one weapon yet. They wield it now; they begin to shout the victory. It is to pervert the word of God, and wrest its meaning: to change the truth into a lie. This will be the last struggle. Here the enemies of the truth will fall to rise no more forever; for "truth is mighty and will prevail." "Which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ: to him be glory, both now and forever. Amen." So says Peter; and it is a solemn admonition to us, in this last day. Let us not pervert or wrest the scriptures from their own simple meaning. The word of God must be its own expositor. It is a chain of truth which cannot be broken without doing despite to the Spirit of God by whom it was indicted.
III. WHAT DOES THE WORD TEACH US?
1. It teaches that God is the Creator of all things both which are in heaven and on earth. It teaches that we must be created anew in Christ Jesus: yet some say we create ourselves by good works.
2. It teaches that Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh: the mighty God, the everlasting Father. Yet some tell us he is but man.
3. It teaches that the Holy Spirit is sent down from God, as a sanctifier and reprover, to lead our minds into truth, and to regenerate the heart. Yet some deny his office totally, and some in part.
4. The word teaches that we are elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. See 1 Pet. i. 2: "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied." And yet there are many, very many, who profess to be Christians, who deny this doctrine.
5. The word teaches that "we are kept by the mighty power of God through faith unto salvation. Yet some say we keep ourselves. "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish." Yet some at this day say they can perish.
6. The Bible says the wicked shall be driven into hell, punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, shall go away into everlasting punishment. Yet, say some, everlasting has an end. "But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and ALL liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." And yet many say, you shall not surely die.
This is a fearful day, my brethren. It seems the devil has come down unto us, knowing that he hath but a short time. The lo-heres and lo-theres gather upon us thick as a cloud. Some pervert the doctrine of the gospel, and some the precept; some resist the power, and some pervert the ordinances. Let us, then, take heed unto the truth; for the truth shall make us free.
Let us often ask the question, "What is truth?" and let us be sure we believe, practise, and teach it. For what good will deception or false sentiments do us in the coming storm; when the fire of God's wrath will try every man's work, and when truth only will stand in the day of judgment? "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but not one jot or tittle of my word shall fail." "For the great day of his wrath is come, and who will be able to stand?" AMEN.
THE VISIONS OF EZEKIEL.
EZEK. xii. 27.
Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off.
EVER since man fell from the state of innocence and obedience in which he was created and placed in the garden of Eden, he has been prone to hide from God, and to cover iniquity in his bosom, rather than to confess his crimes and forsake his transgressions, as the law of gratitude would dictate, and the gospel of Jesus Christ require. When man sinned, all the malignant passions of the evil spirit entered the citadel of his heart, and reigned predominant over his soul.* (* See Eph. ii. 2. 2Tim. ii. 26.) Hatred, which like a goad urges him on to his own destruction, is ever rankling in his breast, and, mad with rage, he plunges forward like an angry horse in the day of battle, to trample under foot the Being he abhors, the law he dislikes, and even the offers of mercy and peace which he detests. Malice deliberately influencing his mind, like a deep flowing river, presses him onward to plot all kind of mischief against him whom he ought in his soul to admire and respect, and likewise against those who may love, or be loved, by the object of his malicious spite. (Rom. iii. 10-18. i. 21-32.)
This can only account for the ferocious persecution which has followed the people of God in all ages, and among all nations, from the days of Cain and Abel to the present time. If man had been only possessed of hatred without malice, he would not have persecuted, he would only have shunned the society of him he detested; but malice pursues the object with an untiring zeal, which will never yield, even in death itself. For in hell they lift up their eyes, (with a malicious spite against the throne, and him who sitteth upon it,) being in torment. Show me a man, or WOMAN if you please, who has malice against a neighbor, and I will show you one whose tongue will never tire, whose feet will never be weary. Neither the torrents nor the blasts, the rains nor the snows, darkness nor light, will ever prevent them from spreading their malicious lies, to injure their neighbor's character. They will visit the couch of the sick, or the bed of the dying, to whisper the often-told, malignant tale. They will put on the visage of sanctity itself, and visit the sanctuary of God, where holy men and women meet to praise and pray, in order to drop their poison into the ear of some unwary listener. They will creep into houses to lead captive silly women, as says the apostle. They will separate very friends - they will destroy the peace of families, the prosperity of Zion. Such are the servants of Satan.
Envy is another base and sordid passion of fallen man. How mean, how selfish, how despicable is that soul that looks with envy on those above it, that cannot be at ease when others are blessed, that rests only in the woes of others. Vexation and disappointment are the lot of its inheritance. "Envy," says Solomon, "is the rottenness of the bones." The envious man is his own tormentor. Job says "envy slayeth the silly one."
But unbelief, that worst of all sins, that final, soul-destroying sin, which makes man an infidel, and sinks him down to dwell in endless woe, where hope and joy, and every grace that gives to life a blessing, are gone, forever gone - which distrusts the word of God given for the soul's salvation; discards the promises, although supported by the oath of God; and hinders the work of God, though Christ himself be engaged in it; - what shall we say of this climax of all sins?
Christ himself could not do many mighty works in his own country, and among his own kin, because of their unbelief. Unbelief caused the destruction of the Israelites in the wilderness; they did not rely on the word of God, his promises they rejected, his precepts despised, his providence disregarded, and murmured against his government; therefore they were consumed in the wilderness. Unbelief will eventually prove the condemnation of the wicked. For the unbelieving, says John, shall have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death. This then, of all the evils of the human heart, brings most destructive consequences. For all that Christ has done for the salvation of sinful man cannot save an unbeliever, and all that God has done, by sending his Son, and revealing his will, his word, his grace, and proving the truth thereof by a cloud of incontestable witnesses, showing man his fallen state, his need of salvation, the certainty of condemnation, placing before him the highest motives to happiness and glory, presenting the most deplorable condition of the finally impenitent, exciting the rational mind to virtue and holiness by the promise of great and lasting rewards, threatening the incorrigible with just and heavy judgments here, and in the world to come eternal banishment from all good; - all this will not effect his salvation; the unbeliever is an unbeliever still. Nothing, no motives, no threatenings, no rewards can move him. He remains unchanged. Yet there is one way and one only by which the unbelieving heart can be changed. And blessed be the name of God, he alone was able to discover the way and execute the plan. Infinite knowledge could devise, and creative power could do the work. You must be born again - created in Christ Jesus unto good works. All other ways were tried with the people to whom our text is addressed, "the house of Israel." Their fathers had been called and separated from all the families of the earth, they had been preserved by miracles, and delivered from their powerful foes by the more powerful arm of the Almighty. They had been fed and clothed by the liberal hand of him who called them sons. He condescended to converse with some of them as a man converses with his friend, face to face. He wrote the constitution of their laws with his own finger on tables of stone. He gave his precepts to Moses, and sanctioned them on mount Sinai by his voice. He divided to Israel by lot, and appointed their portion in a land flowing with milk and honey. He drove his enemies before them, and gave them peace in all their borders. He established his ordinances among them, and his holiness filled their temple at Jerusalem. He promised them a Messiah in the seed of Abraham to sit upon the throne of David. Yet after all they were rebellious still, as the prophet says in the context.
With these preliminary remarks, I now come,
I. TO ILLUSTRATE THE VISION; the vision which they treated with so much neglect, and said it was yet "for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off."
The visions which Ezekiel had seen you will find in the first chapter of Ezekiel, and then again the eighth to the tenth inclusive. In these visions, which agree, are represented the glory of God in the revelation of the gospel, which would be revealed in Christ between the two cherubims, the Old and New Testaments; the setting up of the spiritual kingdom, and destruction of the Jewish hierarchy; the different situations or times in the gospel day, through which this kingdom would pass; and the completion of the same, and destruction of the world and all the abominations of the earth. It is very evident to those who will read these visions of Ezekiel, that the principal design of God was to warn the Jews of the heavy judgments which he was about to bring upon their city and nation, for their gross sins, their dreadful abominations, and idolatrous departure from the living God, and through them also to warn us of our approaching danger, under similar circumstances. For what happened to them "happened unto them for ensamples, (or types,) and they are written for our admonition, on whom the end of the world is come," as saith the apostle, 1 Cor. x. 11.
The first and second chapters of Ezekiel give us the vision which he first saw. The four living creatures, having the faces of a lion, man, ox and eagle, are the same as John saw, Revelations fourth and fifth chapters, and, as we are there taught, are those who are redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, including the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The lion represents the church in the apostles' age, when they went forth bold as lions, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world. The ox represents the church in a state of subjection and persecution, under the Roman emperors Nero, Domitian, and others, when they were delivered unto the slaughter and were made slaves by the Roman power. The face of a man denotes that state under which the church lived in the days of Constantine and his successors, when the kingdoms of the world, represented in prophecy by beasts, were more or less under the control of the church and her ambitious clergy, as beasts are under the rule of man; and when the church united with the state, and became haughty, imperious, and proud, like a man. The face of an eagle represents the church in the state when antichrist began to persecute and devour the true children of God, and her divine Master gave her two wings of an eagle, that she might fly unto the place in the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, to be nourished 1260 days, or time, times and a half: thus giving us the four principal features of the church as she has appeared to the world since her establishment on the earth. The wheels denote the government of God. The outer or outside wheel is his general government with the world, and the kingdoms thereof, in which the church now moves. The inner wheel is the government of God over his church while in this state, under the control or power of the kingdoms of the world, and shows us that God has a people, a remnant, in the world, children of the kingdom, invisible perhaps to us, but known unto God from the creation, as all his works were; "For we have this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his." Yet they grow with the tares, and will grow with them, as our Savior said, until the harvest, or end of the world: when they, that is, his people, will be gathered from among all people, where they have been scattered during the dark and cloudy day of persecution, tribulation, and distress.
But God, rich in mercy towards those who believe, has by the prophets and apostles opened the door of his future dealings, so that we can look into the times yet to come, and discover some of that glory which his children will inherit at the revelation of Jesus Christ, to comfort and console those who believe, under their trials and afflictions, and to animate and excite those who are dilatory and negligent in his cause to more faithfulness and perseverance in the way.
Not only has our heavenly Father opened the doors of futurity to his children, but to those also who are yet in a state of nature, that they might believe. He has, by his word, by the mouth of his prophets, and by Jesus Christ and the apostles, taught them the awful destruction that awaits the finally impenitent. David says, "The wicked shall he turned into hell," Psalm ix. 17, and prays, "Let them go down quick into hell." lv. 15. Isaiah, speaking of the wicked worshippers of Babylon, says, "Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell." Isaiah xiv. 15. Christ says, "Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matt. x. 28. Again, "How can ye escape the damnation of hell?" Matt. xxiii. 33.
In 2 Peter iii. 7: "But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." And "these shall go away into everlasting punishment." Matt. xxv. 46. "And they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." John v. 29. Surely God could not have talked more plainly; and, indeed, what language could have been used, so that wicked men would not have perverted and wrested it? They themselves cannot give us any language which would have expressed the idea to their satisfaction. Peter says, "Which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. Ye, therefore, brethren, seeing that ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness." 2 Peter iii. 16, 17.
I have endeavored to show you some of the things which God has revealed to his servants the prophets in visions; and it now remains for me to show some of those excuses which the Jews made, to evade the force and truth of Ezekiel's prophecy.
II. I SHALL SHOW THAT PEOPLE AT THE PRESENT DAY ARE MAKING THE SAME EXCUSES AND PLEAS AS THEN.
1. The Jews said "the vision was for many days to come." You will readily see why they put off the vision for many days. It was that they might have more time to accomplish their own wicked purposes, to execute their own avaricious plans. They were engaged, in Ezekiel's days, in idolatry to an alarming degree. The people were embracing some of the most dangerous errors that ever crept into the Jewish church. It had become very fashionable to be prophets, or teachers. Whether this was because such persons received great salaries, or because their trade was called honorable, or because it was an easy life, and they were too indolent to get a living by labor, we may not be able exactly to tell. But some things we can tell: Ezekiel has recorded them. They are compared to foxes. Ezek. xiii. 4: "O Israel, thy prophets are like foxes in the deserts." They were cunning, sly, and deceitful. They were too indolent to study the word of God, and bring out things new and old; therefore they prophesied out of their own hearts, or stole, perhaps, the writings of others, as the Lord accuses them in the 2d and 3d verses. In the 5th verse, "Ye have not gone up into the gap, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel." When trials came into the church and breaches were made in her walls, they fled and left the people of God in affliction, and did not, by their instruction, prepare them "to stand in the battle, in the day of the Lord." They preached or prophesied that which was not in the word of God. See chapter xiii. 6 to 8. They prophesied that which suited the carnal ear, always ready to cry peace, even where the Lord had not spoken peace. See verse 10. Read Ezekiel xiii. 19 to the end. They conspired together, like a roaring lion ravening for the prey. They devoured souls, and hunted for treasures and precious things; they caused many to mourn among the people of God. They violated the law of God, and polluted holy things, by making no difference between the clean and unclean. They shed blood and destroyed souls to get dishonest gain. They daubed with untempered mortar, and formed creeds and ceremonies which God had not commanded. They fed themselves on the fat of the land, and clothed themselves with the finest wool; but the flock they did not feed. The diseased they did not strengthen, neither healed that which was sick. They bound not up the broken in heart, nor brought back the wandering. They sought not for those which were lost; but with force and cruelty they ruled over them. See Ezek. xxii. 25 to 29, and xxxiv. 1 to 6, inclusive.
The prophet Isaiah, in describing the same characters, says, "His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs, which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand. They all look to their own way, every one for his gain from his quarter." Isa. lvi. 10 and 11.
If any man, pretending to be a preacher of the gospel, at this day, should preach to us in as plain and forcible a manner as Ezekiel did to the prophets of his time, should we be apt to apply the word so preached to ourselves? No. Perhaps we should say, - he is prophesying of many days yet to come, or of times that are afar off.
2. The people in that day were guilty, as God by Ezekiel charges them, of setting up idols in their hearts, and putting the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face. See Ezekiel xiv. 3.
The idols which they set up in their hearts were these very prophets which Ezekiel had before described; for, instead of searching the word of God for their faith and practice, they set up their false prophets as their lawgivers, and their construction of the word as their best rule. These were their stumbling-blocks which the children of Israel stumbled over into iniquity, and instead of going to God to inquire of him concerning their principles and duty, they go to these false prophets to inquire; and God says he will suffer them to be deluded, and prophet and people will be caught in a net together of their own making.
3. They had rebelled against the Lord, and were stiff-hearted; they kept not his statutes, and despised his judgments; they regarded not his commands, and kept not the holy Sabbath. They changed the ordinances of his house, and committed whoredom by their communion with idols. They defiled the sanctuary of God, by admitting the profane and unclean within the sacred place. They set up altars in every high place, and did not humble themselves before God. They were proud and haughty of spirit, and regarded not the wants of the poor and needy. They had much respect for those of high birth, while the low and base-born were treated with total neglect. For the proverb, "Because the fathers have eaten sour grapes, the children's teeth are set on edge," had been much used in Israel at that day.
4. They had got to themselves itching ears, being more pleased with the musical voice of their teachers than with the truth. They looked more for an orator than they did for a true prophet. Eze. xxxiii. 30-32. Yes. The Lord says to Ezekiel, "The children of thy people still are talking against thee, by the walls and in the doors of their houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth of the Lord; and they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear thy words, but they do them not." These are some of the abominations of the children of Israel, and for these things Ezekiel was sent to them, and was commanded to denounce sore and heavy judgments upon them, to wit, pestilence, famine, war, and captivity. And what was the effect? Why, all the effect it had was to make them say, "The vision he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off." They dare not deny the vision itself, for this would have been too barefaced, or perhaps Ezekiel had given them too much evidence of his being a true prophet. Yet they could avoid the conclusion, the evil consequences, as they vainly thought, or could excuse themselves from repenting then, for he prophesied of times that are afar off, say they; and perhaps some of them might have fixed on 2428 years afterward for these judgments to be poured out upon the world, which would bring it down to the very day in which we live. I shall now show,
III. THAT THE PROPHECY OF EZEKIEL APPLIES TO US IN THIS DAY AS WELL AS TO THE JEWS.
Men in all ages of the world are, and have been, the same. The natural man among the Jews was governed by the same selfish, worldly, unholy principles, as the natural man among the Gentiles. And the spiritual man among them was led by the same Spirit, governed by the same principle of love to God and love for his fellows, as you, my brethren, if you are what you profess to be. Therefore, there can be no reason shown why God will not deal with us as with them, under similar circumstances. For the scripture is of no private interpretation, but is given as a rule for all.
The same promises that were given to believing Abraham, are also given to a believer now; only we live nearer the consummation of the promise than our father Abraham did. It is the same river of life, on the banks of which we live, that issued, ankle deep, from the garden of Eden, in the days of our first parents; only we can swim in it. It is the same gospel that was given to Adam in the promise of the "seed of the woman," as we enjoy in the revelation of Jesus Christ our Savior; only we live in a more brilliant display of that gospel. And the same law which Adam our head broke, we his children have broken, though under more aggravating circumstances. The same curse denounced against Adam for sin, has been poured upon us to this day; only in a greater degree, because we sin against greater light. Then, can there be a reasonable argument produced, why the woes denounced against Israel may not, eventually, be poured upon us, for like offences? No. God is the same, his justice is the same, his mercy, his long-suffering is the same; therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed.
And one thing more - men make the same excuses, the same pleas, now as in the days of Ezekiel. Tell them of the judgments of God being poured out upon those that are hirelings in the church, those who feed themselves and not the flock; those who come in with sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravening wolves; those who preach smooth things, and cry peace, peace, when there is no peace; those who change the ordinances of God's house and teach the doctrine of men; those who build up creeds and plaster them over with man's wisdom and reasoning, - and when you refer them to Ezekiel for proof, what will be their answer? The vision which he saw was fulfilled many days past, and the time that he prophesied of is far back.
The only difference between our excuse and that of the Jews, is - they cast the blame and judgments forward many days, upon us; and we throw it many days back, upon them. And thus we put off the evil day a great while yet to come, or place it on our fathers' shoulders a great way back. There is a sect calling themselves believers in the word of God, that originated in the garden of Eden, and have been laboring to convince men that there will be no judgment day. They tell you it was past a long while ago; and therefore they cry peace; but let one of their fellow-creatures owe them a trifling sum, say one hundred pence, if you please, and if he is unable or unwilling to pay, they are as fond of a day of judgment as other men. They claim that which they deny to God, the right to judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath appointed, even Jesus Christ.
Again; if we show that God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world, and refer to the prophets as proof; if by the most simple and plain testimony we point out the time when that day will take place, what will be the common reply? I ask not for the answer of infidels, but of those who pretend to believe in the word of God. They will tell you "that the vision which the prophet saw is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off."
Again. Tell men that they ought to repent and believe in God to the saving of their souls, and they will retort that there is time enough yet, there are many days to come; and so they will put far off the day of repentance. Tell them death may cut them off in an unexpected moment, and then it will be too late to make preparation; and, like the Jews, they will answer you that death "is for many days to come," and "the time is far off."
But propose to men any worldly advantage, any gratification of their carnal desires, and they are all anxiety to obtain it; nothing will prevent their pursuing the object with indefatigable industry. Rain or snow, cold or wet, naked or clothed, they press towards their object; they will go without sleep or refreshment to obtain this or that gratification.
But present to them eternal riches laid up in heaven for the willing and obedient, and call on them to perform any of the duties God requires of them, and they are ready with a host of excuses. Ask them to go to the sanctuary. It looks like rain. Ask them to go to the prayer meeting. They have no time. Ask them to come to the conference room. It is too dark. Invite them to an assembly of saints. They have no clothes fit to wear. Tell them of a crucified Savior, they are so dull. Speak of the great supper which he has provided for them, and they have no appetite. Ask them if they know he is coming soon to receive them to himself. We have paid no attention to that subject. Ask them if they expect to enter into his rest? We hope to. What is the ground of your hope, my dear friend? If you love him not now, how can you expect to love him hereafter? If you can sacrifice nothing in this life, how can you expect to receive the benefits of that sacrifice which cost the Son of God a life of poverty, deprivation, and distress? which cost him groans and tears and blood in the garden? which cost him mockings, tauntings, and scourging in Pilate's judgment hall? which cost him sweat, and blood, and death on the cross? Think, my brethren, Oh! think of the passion of Christ; and if that will not move you to a more active and diligent life in his cause, then you may safely conclude you have no lot nor part in that glorious hope which he hath laid up for all those who love his appearing.
1. We are taught by our subject that man is naturally prone to put far off the evil day, especially death and the judgment day.
2. We learn that those who make excuses, to exonerate themselves from their duties to God, ought to inquire if the same excuses prevent them from the active duties of the world.
3. We may conclude, that as the righteous judgments of God, threatened upon the Jews, were literally accomplished; so will they, and in an unexpected hour, overtake us.
4. We learn, my brother professors, that if our love is not as strong for Christ as for the world, we are wolves in sheep's clothing, and ought to be alarmed for our future state.
THE HARVEST OF THE WORLD.
REV. xiv. 16.
And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
THAT the word of God informs us of a harvest after the gospel day, or at the closing up of the gospel period, I think no one, who believes in the Scriptures, can deny. Here, then, I hope to meet my brethren of different sects on one common ground, while I attempt to explain the fourteenth chapter of Revelations. I shall inquire,
I. WHO IT IS THAT SAT ON THE CLOUD AND ORDERED THE EARTH TO BE REAPED.
II. SHOW THE SEVERAL FRUITS OF THE EARTH WHICH ARE GATHERED IN OR DESTROYED AT THE HARVEST, AND THE MANNER OF THE HARVEST.
I. THEN I AM TO SHOW WHO IT IS THAT SITS UPON THE CLOUD AND ORDERS THE HARVEST. It must be the Lord Jesus Christ. See verse 14: "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle."
The first description is "a white cloud." This is the same cloud as was seen when Christ was transfigured on the mount. Matt. xvii. 5: "While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." Which, according to Peter, denotes the glory of God. 2 Pet. i. 17: "For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
The second description is, "one sat like unto the Son of man." This agrees with Dan. vii. 13: "I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him." Matt. xxvi. 64: "Jesus saith unto him, thou hast said: nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
The third description is, "having on his head a golden crown." Ps. xxi. 3: "For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness; thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head." Heb. ii. 9: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
The fourth description is, "and in his hand a sharp sickle." Joel iii. 12, 13, 14: "Let the heathen he wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat:
for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision." In all these passages it is evident that by "Son of man" is meant the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. I SHALL SHOW WHAT IS MEANT BY THE HARVEST, THE SEVERAL FRUITS OF THE EARTH, AND THE MANNER OF GATHERING IN THE FRUITS, TOGETHER WITH THE DESTRUCTION OF THE VINE.
What is the meaning of the harvest? It has two plain meanings. One is the cutting off of life, the other is the end of the world. In our text it undoubtedly means the end of the world; for "the earth was reaped." What may we understand by the several fruits of the earth? 1. They are those precious seeds which are useful to God or man. The children of the promise are counted for the seed, that is, the children of faith. This is of two kinds, - the first fruits, which means small children, which are cut off by death in early life, being the first fruits to God and the Lamb. The second are those who are dead to sin, and made alive to holiness, through faith in the name of Jesus and the word of God; their end is eternal life, and they, in due time, or in the end of the world, are gathered into the garner of God. The last fruits, or the harvest of the vine, is the final destruction of the wicked from the earth, by death, or such sore and heavy judgments as God may appoint at the end of the world, to remove the wicked far from the earth, separate the goats from the sheep, the tares from the wheat, and destroy the curse from the earth.
The chapter of Revelation now under consideration, gives us a description of the harvest of the world in these three different ways. From the first to fifth verses inclusive, we have a description of the first fruits, i.e. children not arrived to the age of accountability. Rev. xiv. 1: "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Zion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." We in this verse have an account of the whole number of infants saved by the number 144,000, it being a perfect or square, showing, in my opinion, that all those who die in infancy are saved; this having reference to the whole class, up to a certain age, best known to God. Verse 2: "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps;" showing us the occupation of this happy class in heaven. Verse 3: "And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts and the elders; and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth." This verse shows who they are, first, by the song which no man could learn - it is known only to infants: for man must sing redemption from actual transgression and sin; infants only from pollution and death, inherited from their first parent. The class that stood before the four beasts and the elders do not belong to them, and never did belong to the church on earth; for the "four beasts and four and twenty elders" constitute the whole body of the church on earth. See Rev. v. 8, 9. These "were redeemed from the earth," not through faith in them, nor have they "golden vials full of odors, which are prayers of saints." Verse 4: "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins." They did not sin after the similitude of Adam's transgression, for he was tempted of the woman, and did eat. "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth." They have followed him in death up to immortal glory, where they sing a song which you nor I, dear reader, can ever learn, for Jesus was their guardian, and took them home. "These were redeemed from among men." It does not say they were men; but "redeemed from among men," being the children of men, and "being the first fruits unto God and to the Lamb." They dropped into death, or were ripe in early life, like the first fruit under the law; they were given to Christ as a part of his reward for his death and sufferings. "Suffer little children to come unto me," says Christ; "for of such is the kingdom of heaven;" not like such, but "of such." Verse 5: "And in their mouth was found no guile;" never was any guile found there, "for they are without fault before the throne of God." Happy, happy infants! you never, never knowingly or wilfully disobeyed a holy God, or crucified or put to shame the blessed Child or Son of God. Weep no more, mothers; your infants are without fault before the throne of God. "Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy." What land, and what enemy? I answer, from the land of the graves, and the last enemy, death. "And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border." Jer. xxxi. 16, 17: "Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border." See to it, mothers, that you weep no more for your infants, but weep for yourselves; secure to yourselves that blessed hope which will secure an interest in the first resurrection, where the dead, small and great, shall stand before God. This will be the border of those who have hope in their end, and this will be the border of all infants, for they are blessed and holy, without fault before the throne of God. Ps. lxxxviii. 54: "And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased." This is the border of the glorious sanctuary which God pitched and not man. These are harvested by death and brought into the garner in early life; not being wilful transgressors, they have no need of repentance, and they could not exercise faith. They are the first fruits of the harvest.
The second fruit. Rev. xiv. 6: "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred; and tongue, and people." In this verse we have an account how the second crop is harvested by the gospel, sent to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, and those who hear and believe may and will be harvested for eternal life. Verse 7: "Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." This verse contains the new song, sung by those who are brought in by the gospel. Verse 8: "And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
This verse shows the downfall of the papal power, or mystical Babylon, which was fulfilled in 1798, when she lost her power to rule over the kings of the earth. Rev. xvii. 18: "And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." The first angel in the 6th verse represents the sending out of missionaries and Bibles into every part of the world, which began about 1798. The second angel is the messenger of God, denouncing the judgments of God upon mystical Babylon. Verse 9: "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand," - the third angel, which follows the others, is the same as the "midnight cry," giving due notice to the world of the near approach of the judgment day. He has already sounded the alarm, "saying with a loud voice." This has sounded from every part of God's moral vineyard; some in Asia, many in Europe, and multitudes in America, are now sounding the alarm to the world given in verses 10 and 11: "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." These verses describe the same events as the last vial of God's wrath, and the scene which will take place at the coming of the Lord Jesus, with all his saints, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. Why start so, my Universal brother? What aileth thee? You used a bad word. What word, my dear sir? Everlasting destruction. Is it not scripture? Yes. But God doth not mean what he says. Ah! ah! my brother, let me tell you one solemn truth: if your conscience had not been alarming you, and if its thunders had not brought conviction to your mind, you would not thus have started; for words are harmless things. Oh, be warned, my dear sir; let conscience speak, and you will no longer cry "peace and safety, when sudden destruction cometh." Verse 12: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." While the saints have been tantalized, scoffed at, ridiculed and persecuted, they have had patience, they continued to keep the commands of God, and have believed in the testimony of Jesus. "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Verse 13: "And I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." In this verse the blessings of those who die in the faith of Jesus are clearly brought to view: "they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them." They will be rewarded according to their works. Verse 14: "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle." The Son of man is now discovered sitting on the throne of his glory, crowned with a pure crown of righteousness and truth; having all power to gather the remnant of his people, to reap the last harvest of the wheat, and tread the wine-press of the wrath of God. Verse 15: "And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. God commands, by his angel, the earth to be reaped; that is, the last of the servants of God to be sealed. We are now living in this last sealing time: the singular means and measures that have been used, the great blessings that have attended these means, the meetings of days, answering to the Jewish feast of tabernacles in time of harvest, the rain of grace that has descended upon these protracted efforts, the withholding of the rain from those churches who would not keep the feast of the tabernacles. Zech. xiv. 16-19: "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles."
The extraordinary spread of the Bible, the conversion of the inhabitants of the islands of the sea, the numerous societies which have arisen within a few years for moral and universal reform; all go far to prove to me that we are living in the time when the angel has "thrust in his sickle on the earth," and many who are now alive will, no doubt, live to see this angel's work done - "and the earth was reaped." The door of mercy will then close forever, and the next angel will come forth to use as extraordinary means to reap the vine of the earth as were used to reap the wheat. Verses 17, 18: "And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe." Another angel having power over fire; but as he cannot exercise his power to cleanse the world by fire until the third angel has reaped the vine, he therefore cries "with a loud cry to him that had a sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe." Verses 19, 20: "And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. And the wine-press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine-press even unto the horses' bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs."
This last harvest is the great battle of God Almighty, when the wicked of the earth will be cut off by famine, pestilence, and the sword; "for with these three will God plead with all flesh, and the slain of the Lord shall be many." The whole vine of the earth will be gathered, and cast into the wine-press of the wrath of God. This is the last cup of the indignation of God, poured upon the kingdoms of the earth. Here the kingdoms of the earth, spoken of in Daniel's vision, will be broken to pieces, and carried away like the chaff of the summer threshing floor, and no place found for them. Then Ps. ii. 9 will be fulfilled: "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth."
Ezekiel xxxviii. 19-23 shall then be fulfilled: "For in my jealousy, and in the fire of my wrath, have I spoken. Surely, in that day, there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence; and the mountains (meaning kingdoms) shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him, throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God; every man's sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against him (Gog, meaning the wicked or persecuting world) with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone."
Again, Ezekiel xxxix. 17-20: "And, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God: Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves and come, gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice, that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, (pretended christian kingdoms,) that ye may eat flesh and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice, which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and all men of war, saith the Lord God." These prophecies of Ezekiel, I am confident, are only to be fulfilled after the gospel harvest, and at the time of the harvest of the vine, when God will be sanctified - all nations on the earth will see him, and every tongue confess, and every knee shall bow, when "his glory shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
All who believe that the harvest of the world is this mundane system, must and will acknowledge, that in the description given in this chapter there is not the least allusion to a reign of a thousand years of great happiness and prosperity before the harvest, before the wine-press is trodden without the city. "O no," says the modern millenarian, "we do not profess to believe that the wicked kingdoms, and kings, and wicked men, will be permitted to lord it over God's people then; but we believe that the battle of the kings, and the harvest of the vine, the destruction of war, for 'the nations will learn war no more,' must be before our millennium!" Very well, brethren; I ask, what is meant by these words, "and the earth was reaped?" Mr. Cambell says, in his Illustrations of Prophecy, page 378, "As the vintage succeeds the harvest in the course of nature, so it is subsequent to it in the prophecy, and will be by far the most terrible. The figure of a harvest is frequently used to denote the gathering of the righteous, but the vintage seldom, if ever, in the Bible." What does Bro. Cambell mean? He means that the gathering of the saints is before the destruction of the wicked, in plain English; or it is a "vagary;" and has no meaning. Then, page 380, he says, "This will be the gathering of the clusters of the wicked for the great battle preceding (before) the reign of the saints." Then, speaking of this reign, page 409, he says, "The SOUL of eminent piety - will live and reign in the persons of Christians during the thousand years, not the bodies of the dead." But what does brother Cambell mean? say you. There appears to be some darkness in his Illustrations. True; but you never read one of those writers in your life, who did not leave you in greater darkness than before you read their illustrations. Mr. Cambell is the most fortunate of any of their writers, and is deserving of most praise. Why? Because he has said very little on this reign before the resurrection; and if he had quoted all the Scripture, as he has, and then said that little less, his illustrations would have been excellent. But as it is, we hope it will do little or no harm.
But what does he mean? say you. I answer. He, in the first quotation, acknowledges that the first harvest is the gathering of the saints, then afterwards comes the harvest of the vine, which is the destruction of the wicked. Then the SOUL of piety will live and reign in the persons of saints (or Christians) during the thousand years, not in dead bodies. No, nobody can for a moment suppose that a "SOUL of eminent piety can live in a dead body a thousand years." But where does he get his knowledge of this "SOUL?" I suppose he gets his account from Rev. xx. 4. John says, "And I saw the souls" (Bro. Cambell says "he saw the soul") "of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands." Bro. Cambell has improved much upon John; he says, "of eminent piety." What a great improvement is this! Beheading, witness, word of God, worship, beast, image, mark, forehead, hands, all, all left out. John further says, "and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Bro. Cambell says, "will live and reign in the persons of Christians during the thousand years." Christ, through John, says, "This is the first resurrection." Bro. Cambell says, "Not the bodies of the dead." Here, my dear reader, is a specimen of your teachers, that are so highly applauded by all the popes and cardinals in the land. Why? Because he has out-done the pope himself. The pope has made new laws; but Bro. Cambell has in this exposition made new scripture!
Christ says, "The harvest is the end of the world." Cambell and Smith tell us that the world will not end until more than a thousand years after the harvest. Christ says, "Let the tares and the wheat grow together until the harvest." Bro. Cambell says, "The wheat shall grow a thousand years after the tares are harvested and burned," that is, if you and I can understand him. What a plain contradiction between our Savior and these popular writers of the present day. The world, and the proud pharisees, my dear reader, love their own. Anything that will put off the evil day, and "cry peace and safety," will be accepted by our bigoted editors and worldly-minded priests. But, my dear friends, study for yourselves, be sure you get the mind and will of God. Lay your foundation sure. Let no man deceive you by any means. Many who say, Lord, Lord, shall not be able to enter in; but those, and those only, which do the will of our Heavenly Father, shall have right to the tree of life and enter through the gates into the city. Do not, my impenitent friends, delay the salvation of your souls until the harvest of the gospel is past; and then, in the end have it to say, as said the prophet Jeremiah, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." AMEN.
THE FINAL JUDGMENT.
ACTS xvii. 31.
Because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness.
JUDGMENT is the sentence or decision of a judge, and implies that there is a right and wrong, good and evil. And in judging, it is always supposed that the judge will, in his judgment, bring to light the right and wrong, good and evil. And in judgment, too, it is expected to receive rewards and punishments, according to the law by which we are judged. There are many judgments spoken of in the Scriptures: but my object will not be to take you into all the different ways in which judgment is there used, but I shall endeavor to prove that God hath appointed a day of retribution, in which he will judge the world in equity and truth; those under the law he will judge by the law, and those under the gospel by the gospel.
I. I WILL PROVE THAT THERE IS A DAY APPOINTED FOR THE JUDGMENT OF THE WHOLE WORLD, AFTER THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.
Acts xvii. 31: "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead."
It is very evident that those who heard the apostle, understood him to assert, plainly, that there was a day of judgment appointed, in which all men that were dead would be raised and participate in it, as well as those who were alive. See what follows. Verse 32: "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." Again, Rom. ii. 16: "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." We see by this passage, that the day of judgment spoken of in this text is yet in the future; for every man knows that every secret thing is not yet brought to light. Luke viii. 17: "For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid that shall not be known and come abroad." Or, as Paul says, 1 Cor. iv. 5: "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God." What time? In the day appointed. And when? When the Lord shall come. Then shall every man who has done well have praise of God. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me."
Again, we are told, that Jesus Christ is to judge the quick (or the living) and the dead, at his appearing, and his kingdom. See Acts x. 42: "And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead." 2 Tim. iv. 1: "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." See also 1 Peter iv. 5: "Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." By these passages we are taught that there is a judgment after death, at the resurrection. You will permit me to bring another text, to prove that Christ will judge his people at his coming. Psalm 1. 3-6: "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, (that he may judge his people,) Gather my saints together unto me, those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. And the heavens shall declare his righteousness, for God is judge himself." This passage, if it prove anything, proves that when Christ comes to gather his elect, he will judge his people, and that all his saints will be there, both which are in heaven and on earth.
Again. Peter clearly shows that there is a day of judgment, when the world shall be cleansed by fire. 2 Peter iii. 7: "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." This text agrees with the fiftieth Psalm, and evidently refers to the same time, when Christ shall come; for he in the tenth verse says, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with great heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up." We learn by this passage, that it is the same time as Paul tells us in 1 Thess. iv. 15-18; also v. 1-4: "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 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. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." And in 2 Peter iii. 15, 16, we are assured by Peter that Paul "had written unto us concerning these things." Paul speaks of the same day of the Lord coming as a thief, &c., and says, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first."
Let these passages be sufficient to prove that God has revealed unto us the following truths: -
1. That he has appointed a day of judgment.
2. That the judgment follows the resurrection.
3. That his saints are raised and judged at the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. I WILL NOW SHOW HOW LONG THAT DAY WILL BE, AND WHEN THE WICKED WILL BE RAISED AND JUDGED.
1. This day of judgment is often called "the day of the Lord," as in Isaiah ii. 12: "For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low." Isaiah xiii. 9: "Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it." (Consult Isaiah xxxiv. 8. lxi. 2. lxiii. 4.) These passages all go to show, that, when Christ comes to recompense the controversy of Zion and reward his people, he will destroy the incorrigible, the proud, and wicked out of his kingdom. And we are clearly made to understand by the prophets and apostles, that this is to be done by literal fire. And Christ, in the parable of the tares and wheat, more than intimates the same thing. Malachi, in the fourth chapter of his prophecy, shows, as plain as words can make it, "that the proud and all that do wickedly shall be stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts; it shall leave them neither root nor branch." This day has not yet come, certainly, that all the proud and all that do wickedly are burnt up, not one of them left. We have too much evidence that there are such characters yet in the earth; and as the word all is said by our opponents to mean all, they, of course, to be consistent with themselves, will not deny the conclusion. "But unto you that fear my name, shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall."
This, to me, is a plain figure of the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the saints, the meeting of Christ in the air, and the security from the burning wrath of God when the proud and wicked are consumed. "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet, in the day I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts." It is evident, that the bodies of the wicked are now burnt, and are not raised, for they are ashes: this then must be a day between the destruction of the wicked and their resurrection. It is after the resurrection of the righteous, for they have gone forth from the dust and the grave to meet the sun of righteousness. They have received the last healing beams from Christ, in his second advent. Death is now conquered; for they now stand in their lot on the earth; they have feet, for they shall tread down the wicked "in that day." In what day? I answer, in the day of the Lord; in the day between the two resurrections, of the just and of the unjust. John says, Rev. xx. 5, 6: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." This is the day of the Lord, one thousand years. Is this day to be understood a literal or figurative thousand years? I answer, literal, for it is an explanation of a figure, rather than a figure. See 2 Peter iii. 8: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day;" that is, one day with the Lord is as a thousand years with us. It is evident that Peter is talking about this same judgment day, in the 7th verse; in the 8th and 9th verses he explains the length of the day, and gives a good reason why it is a thousand years, because God is long-suffering. Then, in the 10th verse, he goes on to describe the same day as spoken of in the 7th and 8th verses, there called judgment day; but in this 10th verse it is named the "day of the Lord."
2. When will the wicked be raised and judged? I answer, when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, Gog and Magog will come up on the surface of the earth. Gog and Magog signify the whole host of the wicked which have ever lived on the earth, the opposers of Christ, and the persecutors of the people of God. Ezekiel says Gog is the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, which mean the powers of this world, at the head of all their followers, an army like the sand of the sea-shore. Magog signifies dissolved Gog. They have once been dissolved, dust or ashes in the earth; but have now been raised. "The sea, death and hell have given up their dead." Then they are gathered around the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and are there judged, "every man according to their works;" and then the justice of God drives them from the earth into a lake of fire, where they are tormented day and night forever and ever. This is the second death. In order to get the proof of the things mentioned above, let the inquirer read the 20th chapter of Revelations. In that chapter, 1st verse, John is describing the second advent of Jesus Christ. The 2d and 3d verses give an account of his chaining Satan and casting him into the bottomless pit and shutting him up. The 4th verse gives an account of the resurrection of the saints, their judgment, and reign with Christ one thousand years. The 5th verse shows that the wicked dead will not live again until the thousand years are finished, and calls the above the first resurrection. The 6th verse speaks of the blessings of those who have part in the first resurrection. The 7th verse shows that when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be loosed from his prison. The 8th verse describes the acts of Satan, in deceiving the wicked host, that have now lived again on the earth, gathering them to battle, as he tells them, (but there is no battle,) and gives the number as the sand upon the sea-shore, implying the whole class of the wicked. The 9th verse tells us that this army went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city; which proves two things: First, that no saint is deceived; but they are all encamped in the city, and nothing that worketh abomination or maketh a lie can enter into the city. Therefore none can be deceived who have lived on the earth during the thousand years. Secondly, that the New Jerusalem is on the earth, and of course must have come down from heaven at the commencement of the thousand years: for we find it on the earth when the wicked compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city, where the wicked are judged by the saints, and by the justice of God are driven from the earth, represented by the figure of fire; and as shown in the 10th verse, the devil, the beast, and false prophet, are cast into the lake of fire, where they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever. This closes John's first account of the judgment. The 11th and 12th verses show the resurrection and judgment of the saints at the commencement of the thousand years, and are properly a review of the account given in the former part of the chapter.
The 13th, 14th, and 15th verses, are an account of the resurrection of the wicked; for "death and hell deliver up the dead which were in them," and they are judged every man according to their works, and the same persons cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
I shall now meet a few objections, raised by the opponents of a future judgment. First: they say this judgment was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem. To this I answer, that Christ says, Matt. xxiv. 29, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" - that is, after the destruction of Jerusalem, by their own showing, - "shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken." This evidently shows the gospel, or two witnesses, being clothed in sackcloth, the church in her wilderness state, and the fall of ministers from the purity of the gospel into antichristian abominations, and the shaking of the moral heavens by the doctrines of Papacy, called in the word of God "the doctrines of devils;" to accomplish which, according to Daniel and John, and the opinions of all commentators, will include a time or period of 1260 years. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." All this was to happen after the tribulation of those days; therefore could not have happened at the destruction of Jerusalem.
Paul, in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, speaking of the faith and patience of the saints in enduring persecution and tribulation, says, i. 5-10, "Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer; seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." It is evident that Paul in this place is speaking of the righteous judgment of God, the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven, the taking vengeance on all who know not God, both Jew and Gentile, and the punishing with everlasting destruction those who obey not the gospel, from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power; and this, too, when he comes to be glorified in his saints. This can have no reference particularly to the Jews, as it was written to the Gentile believers at Thessalonica; and must have reference to all that troubled or persecuted them, whether Jew or Gentile. Then, in the second chapter, he tells us, "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither
by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." And yet the objector says that it was near at hand. "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition: who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." This description of Paul agrees with Daniel's little horn, vii. 25: "And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end." Paul says, 8th verse, "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
By these quotations, we perceive that the coming of Christ was not at hand, and could not take place, as Paul reasons, until the man of sin should be revealed, the son of perdition, who should wear out the saints of the Most High 1260 years; and then should the Son of man be revealed, and destroy him by the brightness of his coming. No man can suppose that this time could have passed between Paul's epistle to his Thessalonian brethren and the destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore we conclude, from these facts, that the judgment must be in the future; for Daniel says, that at the end of all these things "the judgment shall sit;" and Paul says, that these persecutions and tribulations are a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God.
Another set of objectors say, "The judgment will not take place until we have enjoyed one thousand years of peace and prosperity, and the world be converted to God."
In reply to this objection, I would present the following text in Daniel, vii. 21, 22: "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High." Luke xvii. 26, Christ says: "And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 28: Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot, even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." Paul says, "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming." 2 Thess. ii. 8. Again, 2 Tim. iii. 1-5: "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 a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." 12th and 13th verses: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." John, in the 7th chapter of Revelations, when he saw the whole family of the redeemed out of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands, was inquired of by one of the elders, "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?" the answer was, "These are they which came out of great tribulation." This evidently shows us that there can possibly be no period of time in which the children of God will not suffer persecution or tribulation, till the end come. Consult also 2 Tim. iv. 1-8. Jas. v. 1-9. Jude 14-21.
Now, if this objection is valid, how can it be true that Daniel's little horn, and Paul's man of sin, can make war and prevail against the saints until the Ancient of days comes, and be "consumed only with the spirit of his mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of his coming?" How can it be true that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, if the whole world is to be converted, and universal peace pervade the earth for a thousand years? What kind of a millennium will that be, when evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, in the midst of perilous times, and all hell, as it were, is disgorged of its contents, and come up to the great battle of God Almighty? Or must these objectors be classed with those who cry "peace and safety," when "sudden destruction cometh?"
And now, kind reader, let me warn you to prepare for a future judgment. I know the Universalist priest will laugh and scoff at the word prepare; but let them laugh and jeer, their race is short; for when men cry "peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh, and they shall not escape." Be warned, then; prepare to meet your God in judgment. The Holy Spirit whispers in your mind, a judgment. The word of God reads plain, "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness;" and this, too, after the resurrection, as the hearers then understood the apostle Paul. See Acts xvii. 31, 32: "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter." The apostle Paul, and all true ministers from that day to this, have preached a judgment to come, after the resurrection of the dead. Your consciences have always been a monitor unto you, until they became seared by false teachers and vain theories of men. Your judgment and reason are well convinced that in this life equal justice is not distributed to all alike, which is an evident token to you that there is a judgment to come, in the which God will reward the virtuous and punish the vicious.
If all these evidences will not lead us to a preparation for that great and notable day of the Lord, I ask, what will? What can God do more? He has come by his Spirit, his word, his servants, and with your conscience and reason, all combining to make you believe and live with reference to that day. Why do you linger, sinner, on the brink of eternal ruin? What evidence have you got that all will be well? The demon of darkness tells you "that you shall not die;" the Universalist minister tells you that all will be saved, prepared or unprepared, and that there is no judgment in a future state; and the desire of your own heart says, time enough yet. Which, I ask, will finally succeed? Will the Spirit of God, will the word of God have any influence upon you? I beg of you, dear reader, read and judge for yourselves - think and act for eternity; do not put off a preparation which is of vast importance, if there be a judgment day in a future state. When the kingdoms of this world shall pass away like chaff, when error shall vanish like the smoke, and man shall stand before his Maker, uncovered from all hypocrisy, naked of all deceit, exposed in thought, word and deed, see as he is seen, and know as he is known, - will you be able to stand? Will you be found in heaven? AMEN.
THE GREAT SABBATH.
EZEK. xx. 12.
Moreover, also, I gave them my sabbaths to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.
THIS text is but a recapitulation of one in Exodus xxxi. 13, and is repeated again by the prophet Ezekiel in verse 20. You will take notice that it is a sign between God and the children of Israel forever. See Exod. xxxi. 17: "It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed." It is also a perpetual covenant: see verse 16. Now I want you should observe, that this sabbath was the seventh day sabbath. God calls it "my sabbath ," and shows his reason why: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed." He engrafted it then into the decalogue, and it was written upon both tables of testimony, showing clearly that it would be binding under the gospel, as well as under the law. See verse 18: "And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God." And its being contained in the ten commands, written by the finger of God, on both tables of the testimony, graven on stone, to be a sign forever, and a perpetual covenant, proves, in my opinion, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it is as binding upon the christian church as upon the Jewish, and in the same manner, and for the same reasons. "Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord." This was the manner.
I. WE SHALL INQUIRE WHETHER THE SEVENTH OR THE FIRST DAY Of THE WEEK OUGHT TO BE KEPT AS A SABBATH.
I say the first; for two reasons. One is Christ's resurrection, and his often meeting with his disciples afterwards on that day. This, with the example of the apostles, is strong evidence that the proper creation sabbath to man came on the first day of the week. For Adam must have rested on the first day after his creation, he being the last work of God, and then God rested. Adam must have rested on the first day of his life, and thus you will see that to Adam it was the first day of the week; for it would not be reasonable to suppose that Adam began to reckon time before he was created. He certainly could not be able to work six days before the first sabbath. And thus with the second Adam; the first day of the week he arose and lived. And we find by the Bible and by history, that the first day of the week was ever afterwards observed as a day of worship.
Again; another reason I give is, that the sabbath is a sign of the rest which remains for the people of God. And to me it is very evident that this rest must be after the resurrection of the saints, and not before; and of course the saints' rest will be the beginning of time in the new heavens and new earth, as the creation sabbath was the beginning of time with Adam. For Adam rested with God after He had finished his work; so, in the new creation, the church will rest with her Head when he has finished his work and made all things new. To Christ it will be the seventh day; for he will have been six thousand years creating his bride; that is, to the time she is perfected, and pronounced good, or sanctified, as it is said in our text; but to man in his perfect state it will be the first day. Now those who believe in a temporal millennium, or the seventh thousand years, wherein Christ will do more work than he has in six thousand years before, are very inconsistent with the Bible and themselves. They are inconsistent with the Bible; for that says, "Six days shalt thou do thy work; but the seventh is a day of rest, holy to the LORD." Can any one believe that Christ in his work will not keep his Father's law? No, not one jot or tittle of that law shall fail, which was written by the finger of God upon the two tables of testimony. But be not ignorant, brethren, that one day with the LORD is as a thousand years with you, and a thousand years with you is one day with the LORD. You think Christ is slack concerning this law of the sabbath, because he has thus worked almost six thousand years. You think he will always be working to redeem sinners. True, he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is the reason why Christ has chosen the longest days, as given in the Scriptures, for his working days. And, Oh! sinner, do you know that the last hour of the sixth day is almost run out, and you have not come to repentance yet? But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night; for when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, and they shall not escape.
Who says peace and safety? Must I be plain with you, my friend? Yes, yes, I must, or I shall meet my Master's frown. Of this class are all those who tell men that they need not look for that day of rest until Christ converts the whole world; for certainly, if the world were converted, it would be no harm to say peace and safety. For all men to be Christians, and live as such too, I think would make peace and safety, truly. Those, then, cry peace and safety, who say all men will be converted before that day. Those, too, who believe all mankind will enter into that rest, and preach this doctrine to sinners, are deceiving souls, and will meet with destruction. Those who cry peace and safety, either by saying that "my Lord delays his coming," or that all men will be saved, without any reference to their character in this life, are both alike deceiving souls.
Again; those who believe in a temporal millennium ought to keep the seventh day of the week, instead of the first, to be consistent with themselves; for there must be a similarity between our sabbath and the day of rest, or it is not a sign! "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." Do you understand the argument, my dear reader? I say the sabbath, with God, was the seventh day; but with man, it was the first day, as is evident by the account of the creation; for the sabbath was the first day which man enjoyed in time: even so the sabbath is the seventh day with the Lord, with Christ; but with the church in the new creation it will be the first day. Creation opened to man by a sabbath; so will eternity open to man by a sabbath. As man began time with a sabbath, so also will man, in the new creation, begin eternity by the keeping of a sabbath; for it is a "sign," says our text. Thus, the first day of the week is a sabbath for man. I will now,
II. SHOW HOW AND IN WHAT WAY THE SABBATH IS A SIGN, AND WHAT IT IS A SIGN OF.
1. It is a sign, because God has given it to us expressly for that purpose. See our text: "To be a sign between me and them;" that is, between God and the children of Israel. Now another question will evidently arise: Who are the children of Israel? I answer, while the first covenant was standing they were the children of Jacob, descendants of the twelve tribes; but that covenant they broke: see Lev. xxvi. 2,15; also Deut. xxxi. 10-16. This covenant was broken, as Moses had foretold. Then Jesus Christ brought in a new covenant, which continued the sign of the sabbath, and prepared another people, by writing his law upon their hearts. These now are the true Israel; for the changing of the subjects never did, nor ever can, change the moral law of God. Therefore Paul argues the circumcision of the heart, and says that "they are not all Israel which are of Israel, neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called; that is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." Now if the children of God are the true Israel, and if the sabbath was given as a sign forever, and a perpetual covenant, I ask, how can it be abolished while there is one Israelite remaining to claim the promise? You have evidently noticed, that all the difficulties on the sabbath question among Christians have arisen from the foolish, judaizing notion, that Israel meant only the literal Jew. But when we understand Israel to mean the people of God, the difficulties, every man must acknowledge, all vanish at once.
I say, and I believe I am supported by the Bible, that the moral law was never given to the Jews as a people exclusively, but they were for a season the keepers of it in charge. And through them the law, oracles, and testimony, have been handed down to us: see Paul's clear reasoning in Romans, second, third, and fourth chapters, on that point. Then says the objector, we are under the same obligation to keep the sabbaths of weeks, months and years, as the Jews were. No, sir; you will observe that these were not included in the decalogue; they were attachments, added by reason of transgression, until the seed should come, to whom the promise of one eternal day, or sabbath of rest, was made. "Therefore there remaineth a keeping of a sabbath to the people of God." Only one kind of sabbath was given to Adam, and one only remains for us. See Hosea ii. 11: "I will cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts." All the Jewish sabbaths did cease, when Christ nailed them to his cross. Col. ii. 14-17: "Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." These were properly called Jewish sabbaths. Hosea says, "her sabbaths." But the sabbath of which we are speaking, God calls "my sabbath." Here is a clear distinction between the creation sabbath and the ceremonial. The one is perpetual; the others were merely shadows of good things to come, and are limited in Christ. The sabbath which remains is to be kept on the first day of every week, as a perpetual sign that, when Christ shall have finished the work of redemption, we shall enter into that rest which remains for the people of God, which will be an eternal rest.
2. It is a sign, because no servile labor is to be performed in it. "Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work." This is a sign that our work for time, and for eternity, must be done here; no work of preparation in the great sabbath, and certainly there is no work nor device in the grave, whither thou goest. Then we are taught to have our work done, and well done, while in life. Paul certainly intimates as much as this, Heb. iv. 11: "Let us labor, therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." Some say that this rest means natural death. How can that be Paul's meaning? Would he exhort us to murder ourselves? Moreover, does not Paul tell us, in verse 6, that "they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief?" And is unbelief a preservation from natural death? Who can believe this? This certainly shows most conclusively that our present state is a probationary one, and that we are here forming characters for eternity. It teaches us, too, that Christ will have finished his work of redemption before the great sabbath, and that the new heavens and the new earth will have been finished before this day will commence. Heb. iv. 11: "Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." For Christ must finish his work, as the Father did his, before the great sabbath.
3. It is a sign that we shall know him, see him, and live with him. For the text tells us, "I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them." If you will take the pains to examine the places in scripture where this phrase is used, "that they may know that I am the Lord," you will find it generally refers to a time when God has wrought or will work out some great deliverance for his people: such as their deliverance out of Egyptian bondage, as in Exodus vi. 7, and viii. 22, 23; feeding them in the wilderness with quails and manna, Exodus xvi. 12; delivering them from the host of the Syrians, 1 Kings xx. 28; destruction of idolaters from among his people, as in Ezek. vi. 7, 13; when they are brought into judgment for their abominations, Ezek. vii. 4, 9; destruction of false teachers, Ezek. xiii. 9-23. xiv. 8; purging out the wicked rebels from among the children of God, Ezek. xx. 38; the final deliverance of the people of God in the end of the world, Ezek. xxxiv. 22-31. xxxviii. 22, 23; the Lord sanctifying his people and dwelling among them forever, Exod. xxix. 43-46. Ezek. xxxvii. 23-28. And our text plainly declares, that it is a sign of their sanctification, when they will all know him. And by the New Testament we are referred to the second coming of Christ as the time when these things will take place; 1 John iii. 2 : "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." Then we shall not be wholly sanctified until he comes, and then we shall he like him, and see him as he is. We shall certainly know him then. Job says, "In my flesh shall I see God." David says, Ps. xvii. 15, "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness." Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Paul says, 1 Cor. xiii. 12, "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now we know in part, but then shall I know even as I am known." Now we see through signs "darkly," and "then face to face;" we shall have no need of signs, no need of our present sabbaths, or any other memorial; for we shall be with him. As long as the sign is given, and kept by us, so long we may be satisfied that the thing signified has not come; and if the sabbath is not a sign of the day of glory, what is it a sign of? Not of the gospel day; for that has already come, and we continue the sign. This certainly would be inconsistent. Paul tells us, that "when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." Not of a temporal millennium, for in that, if there ever is one, which I do not believe, they will have to "work," and keep the "sign." For I believe all who advocate the doctrine of a temporal millennium, which they call spiritual, believe we shall have a weekly sabbath as the nations do now. Of course, then, the sign must allude to that happy period when Christ will come in all his glory, gather his scattered sheep, deliver them from the bondage of death, destroy the host of the wicked from among them, burn up the idols out of the land, punish and banish from his church and people all false prophets and teachers, cleanse his chosen ones from all their abominations and filthiness, judge them in righteousness, present them sanctified before his Father, form them into a glorified kingdom, enter with them into the eternal rest, and live with them, and reign over them forever.
4. I shall now show that the sabbath is a sign of the TIME. I beg of you, my dear reader, not to let your prejudice against my saying anything about time cause you to throw down the book and read no further. I pray you, do not judge before you read. "Hear, and then judge," is an excellent maxim. Many a man has lost his life by not reading - Julius Caesar, Henry Fourth, &c. It is even possible that your eternal life may be at stake; or the life of some of your relatives or friends may hang upon your conduct, even in this thing. Your example may prevent others from reading, who might possibly, if they should read, be convinced, get ready, enter into life, and be happy. It may be your companion, or child, or some other dear friend who is looking up to you for example. Do nothing that may cause your heart to ache in a coming day.
I shall show that the sabbath, which God has given to us as a sign, does indicate the time of the great sabbath of rest, which the apostle Paul exhorts us to labor to enter into. You will perceive, Ex. xxxi. 17, that "it is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed." God gives us a reason why it is a sign - because he was six days making heaven and earth, and rested on the seventh. Paul has given us a comment on this very text, in Heb. third and fourth chapters. He shows us in these chapters that there is a day of rest, or keeping of the sabbath, to the people of God; and that it was not fulfilled by the children of Israel going into Canaan. We should conclude, by the apostle's manner of reasoning, that he was contending against some persons who believed the sabbaths had their fulfilment and end, like the manna, when the children of Israel entered the land of Canaan; for it is very evident that it was in the days of Paul as it is with us now. Some then contended that the sabbaths given by God to Moses, in the wilderness, were ended when Joshua led the people into the promised land. Paul confutes them by showing that David afterwards spake of this sabbath as being limited to another day. Our anti-sabbatarians argue that the sabbaths ended with Christ's crucifixion. And now may I not use the weapons which Paul has put into my hands against these anti-sabbatarians? for Paul says, thirty years after Christ's death, "There remaineth, therefore, a keeping of a sabbath to the people of God." Now,
if sabbaths had been done away, Paul would not have spoken of a sabbath remaining. It is also evident, by the next verse, that Paul means to show us that time is also prefigured in this keeping of a sabbath which remains. He says, "For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his." In this text, there is, at the first view, a little ambiguity. Either Paul is continuing his argument, by showing that if Christ had entered into his rest, as you suppose, he might have said to the opposers of a sabbath, then "he has ceased from his labors, as God did from his." Or Paul may mean, that Jesus Christ had finished his personal work on earth, and was now entered into his glory as a forerunner for us; not that we can suppose that the work of salvation, of which Jesus Christ is the author, was finished when Christ ascended into heaven; for he is yet an advocate for us; as the apostle tells us, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." And this certainly is a work which we hope is not yet finished. Now which will you choose? Either the sabbath must continue, or else the work of salvation by Jesus Christ is finished; for when the sabbath ended as a sign, then Christ's work must have ended, to agree with the figure "as God did from his." But one thing is certain, and that is, as God created the old heavens and earth in six days, and rested on the seventh, so, in like manner, will Christ be six days creating the new heavens and earth, and then he will rest from his labors. This is the inference we must draw from Paul's expression in the text we are examining. If, then, the work of redemption and salvation must be completed in six days, what can those days mean?
There are three kinds of days mentioned in the Bible: 1. The natural day, which is twenty-four hours. 2. The prophetic day, which is a year with us. See Ezek. iv. 5, 6: "For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year." 3. The day of the Lord, which is as a thousand years with us. See 2 Pet. iii. 8, 10: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." These are the only ways in which the Bible uses the word day, denoting any given or regular period of time. The first is measured by the revolution of the earth on its axis, and is known by day and night. The second is measured by the revolution of the earth around the sun, in its orbit, and is known by the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, and winter. The third is the Lord's day, which cannot be measured by the life of any one man, no man, in this world, ever having lived out one of these days: it cannot properly be called by any other name than "the Lord's day." Peter tells us expressly not to be ignorant of this one thing, that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years. What does Peter mean by this expression? It would seem by his charge that he meant something of importance for us to know: "Beloved, be not ignorant." Very well, Peter, we listen to you, we are all attention, we will try not to be ignorant: but of what? "Of this one thing." Only one thing; we will try hard to understand you, Peter; we think we can learn one thing. But what is this one thing? Here steps in one of our wise-heads, and says, "Peter, let me explain your meaning to this inquirer; let me answer his question; I can do it to a charm." The inquirer then turns his attention to Wise-head, and says, "Pray, sir, tell me what this one thing is?" "This is it, that one day, twenty-four hours, is as long with God as a thousand years." "But," says the inquirer, "sir, I am ignorant yet; I cannot understand how twenty-four hours is as long as 365,000 times that. If this is true, then numbers and mathematics are not true, and I am all abaft." Another wiseacre now steps up and says, "Let me explain, sir." The inquirer turns round to Wiseacre - "Well, sir, what say you this one thing is?" "I say, Peter tells you that God does not count time at all; with him is one forever now; no beginning of days nor end of years." "You have made it more dark still; I cannot conceive how God does not count time at all, and yet tells us of one day and a thousand years. How could he tell us that he was six days making the heavens and the earth? How could he measure all the events spoken of in the prophets, and specify the time to the self-same day? What did he mean by saying, 'In the fulness of time, God sent forth his Son?' How can he appoint a day in which he will judge the world? I am ignorant how things may be, and not be, at one and the same time. Who gave the sun its decree, and the moon its time of changing, and fixed its revolution in the heavens? Who gave the earth its diurnal motion, and marked the circle of its annual pathway so complete? He that made the day and night can number them in his wisdom. He that made time can surely number the seasons at his will. He that numbers our months can tell our days to a hair's breadth. I am ignorant how God does not count time, when such a cloud of witnesses daily testify to the contrary." Our inquirer now turns to Peter, and asks, "What is this one thing of which we ought not to be ignorant, brother Peter?" Peter answers, "That one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Now I understand you, Peter; it is plain enough. Let me illustrate the meaning of these words by an example. Suppose I am talking with my neighbor about the President elect, General Harrison. I say, he will have two days to rule these United States. "What do you mean?" says my neighbor. I answer, "Beloved neighbor, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the President as four years, and four years as one day." Now, I ask, who would not understand me? The smallest intellect would understand me to mean that General Harrison would be elected the second time, and have two periods, of four years each, to rule over these United States. Why, then, not understand Peter, whose language is as simple and plain? Ah! many would if it were not for wise-heads and wise-acres, who draw our attention from Peter, take the words out of his mouth, put in some ambiguous words of their own, clothe the scripture in sackcloth, multiply words without knowledge, confuse and confound our thoughts, so that we hardly know what to think, till, in our confusion, we throw down our Bibles in disgust, become almost sceptics, and lose the whole force of truth and relish for the Bible.
Peter, in this chapter, is talking about the judgment day, and the perdition of ungodly men. He then tells us how long that day shall be, charges us not to be ignorant that it is a thousand years, gives a plain reason why a day of the Lord is a thousand years long - because he is long-suffering towards men, not willing that any should perish, but rather they would come to repentance. Peter next informs us that the day of the Lord, which he has just told us is as a thousand years, will come upon us - and how? As a thief in the night: the heavens shall pass away with a great noise; the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works therein shall be burnt up. Then, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Who, let me now inquire, can believe that this great work will be performed in the holy sabbath of eternal rest? How can Christ do all his work in six days, and yet perform all this in or after the seventh? What is the seventh day? It is a holy day. Peter says, "wherein dwelleth righteousness." It is the day of the Lord, and the day of God. And Peter says "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God." Therefore, it is evident that Peter means to be understood, that the destruction of ungodly men, the burning of the works of men, the passing away of the heavens, melting of the elements, and making the new heavens and new earth, are all performed before this holy sabbath, rather than afterwards, as our modern millenarians hold. If, then, Jesus Christ does his work in six days, and rests from all his labors on the seventh, when may we expect this great event to take place? I answer - if a thousand years is one day with the Lord, as I think I have proved, then six thousand years from the first creation the new one must be formed: "For in six days God made the heavens and the earth, and rested on the seventh." Mason Good, in his "Book of Nature," supposes that the earth was six thousand years in forming: if so, then here would be another proof that I am right concerning a thousand years being a day with the Lord. And, moreover, if Christ worked after the example of his Father, and rested, as God rested from his labors, then the seventh thousand years would be a sabbath of rest for Christ and his people.
To arrive at a nearer conclusion of the whole matter, we shall now consult the age of the world. It is a well-known fact that chronological writers disagree much as to the present age. The Chinese make it about 25,000 years; the Hindoos about 14,000; the Romans about 6550. The Pentateuch, or Samaritan copy of the five books of Moses, makes it about 5648. The Septuagint copy of the Old Testament makes it 6254. The Hebrew Bible, from which ours is principally taken, makes the age of the world, as calculated by Usher, 5844. Some others have varied from Usher's calculation. The reader will find, accompanying this volume,* (* Dissertation on Prophetic Chronology, page 40.) a chronology, made, as it is believed, from the Bible, having very clear evidence of every period of time given from the creation to Christ, which makes our present year, from the creation of Adam, 5997. If this should be the true era of the world, then we live within three or four years of the great sabbath of rest. You are under obligation to examine for yourselves. Whether any one of the above calculations concerning the age of the world is right, no man can, in my opinion, possibly determine with entire certainty. But I have never seen any chronology with so few difficulties to my mind as the one here presented. Compare, and read, and labor to enter into that rest which remains for the people of God. Every sabbath we enjoy here ought to remind us of the great sabbath to which we shall shortly come. Every trial we have here to endure should remind us that the days of our labor will soon be past, and our work finished and sealed up for eternity. Strive, then, to enter into that rest; and know, O man! that this is the time to prepare to meet God and our Savior in rest. AMEN.
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