HIS TREATMENT OF OPPONENTS--SPECIMENS OF HIS PREACHING--COLLOQUIAL, EXPOSTULATORY, EXPOSITORY, ETC.
"MR. MILLER did not consider that his reviewers always treated him and his arguments with the utmost fairness; and, in speaking of them, he sometimes retorted in terms of great severity. Considering his treatment, by the religious and secular press, and the contumely which was incessantly heaped on him, that he should, at times, manifest a degree of impatience, was more an occasion of regret than of surprise. Few men have been called to endure so great an amount of reproach as fell to his lot; and few could have endured it as he did. He was human, and shared in all the weaknesses common to humanity; but, whenever he failed to endure the smart of undeserved wounds with all the sweetness of gospel charity, no one more sincerely regretted it than he did; and his liability to err in this respect was with him a subject of many prayers and tears.
"His severity, however, was often richly merited; and he knew how to be severe, without being uncourteous. Those who used their learning to fritter away the plain meaning of Scripture, and to make it teach something which the common reader would never have perceived in it, merely for the purpose of opposing his conclusions--he had little inclination to spare.
"In speaking of the 8th chapter of Daniel, and the question, 'How long shall be the vision?' he says, 'The answer is, "Unto 2300 days."
"'But,' says the critic, it is 'evenings-mornings.'
"'No matter: all men seem to understand it days; for it is so translated in every language with which we are acquainted at the present day. Therefore, this can never be made plainer, if this compound Hebrew word should be criticised upon until the judgment shall set. I am sick of this continual harping upon words. Our learned critics are worse on the waters of truth than a school of sharks on the fishing-banks of the north, and they have made more infidels in our world than all the heathen mythology in existence. What word in revelation has not been turned, twisted, racked, wrested, distorted, demolished, and annihilated by these voracious harpies in human shape, until the public have become so bewildered they know not what to believe? "They have fouled the waters with their feet." I have always noticed where they tread the religious spirit is at a low ebb. It becomes cold, formal, and doubtful, at least. It is the mind of the Spirit we want, and God's word then becomes spirit and life unto us.
"'The words "evenings-mornings" convey to our mind the idea of days; thus this vision is 2300 days long,' says the reader.
"'Yes. But how can all this be?" says the inquiring mind. 'Can three kingdoms rise up and become great; from a small people become a strong nation; conquer all the nations of the earth, and then in its turn, be subdued and conquered by a kingdom still more fortunate; and so on through three successive kingdoms, and do this in little over six years? Impossible.
"'But God has said it, and I must believe. Now the only difficulty is in time.'
"'How can this be?'
"'Very well,' says the dear child of God; 'I remember me: God says I must "dig for the truth as for hid treasure." I will go to work, and, while I am digging, I will live by begging. Father in Heaven, I believe it is thy word; but I do not understand it; show me thy truth.'
"I had rather have one humble prayer of this kind, with an English Bible in my hand, than all the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Bro. S. ever knew.
"The child then takes the word day, and compares spiritual things with spiritual, to find what his Heavenly Father means by days in a figurative sense. The first text he lights upon is in Num. 14:34, 'each day for a year.'
"'May this not be it?' says the child.
"He takes hold of it by faith, carries it home, lays it up in his cell of sweets, richer than a lord, and again goes forth in search of more. He now lights upon Eze. 4:6: 'I have appointed thee each day for a year.' He is now rich in very deed--two jewels in one cell. He does not stop to criticize, like a Stuart, and query, and reason himself out of common sense and reason too; but, Abraham-like, he believes, and lays up his treasure at home.
"'I see,' says the child, 'this use of days was so ordained by my Father in two cases; and two witnesses are enough. But I am not certain that I have a right to use these jewels in this place. I will go and beg, and dig again.'
"In this excursion he lights on Daniel 9:23-27: 'Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people.'
"'Seventy weeks of what?' says the critic.
"'I do not care a fig,' says the believing child, 'whether you call it days or years: I know how long it was in fulfilling.'
"'Exactly four hundred and ninety years: from the decree given in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, four hundred and fifty-seven years before Christ, unto his death, thirty-three years after the birth of Christ, making exactly four hundred and ninety years, or seventy sevens of years of the vision.'
"Prof. Stuart having applied the days in Daniel 12 to the times of Antiochus, when the context shows that the resurrection will follow their termination, Mr. Miller said: 'Suppose Prof. Stuart had been a believing Jew, and lived in the time of Antiochus, and had been of the same mind he is now, or says he is, and one of his brother Jews had come along and prophesied or preached that the Jews were to be a scattered and a peeled people, dashed and scattered among all nations, more than two thousand years, then to come; and suppose the professor had been then an expounder of the law and the prophets, and was called upon to explain this text as being then fulfilled, what would he say to his brother Jew, the prophet? He would say, as any man must say by him:--
"'Sir, you are a false prophet; for God has told us plainly, in this very text, that, when this three and a half years are fulfilled under which we are now groaning, then our scattering or dashing will be accomplished--yes, and finished, too. So says the word. Therefore do you keep away from my flock of Pharisees, for I do not want my people excited by your false, alarming doctrine. Do you not see that, at the end of 1335 days, Daniel will stand in his lot? And do you not see, sir, that his standing in his lot means the resurrection? Read the first three verses of this chapter.'
"'Ah,' says the prophet, 'that does not mean the resurrection, but--'
"'But what?' says the professor.
"'Oh! I do not know--difficult to understand,' says the prophet.
"'I see,' says the professor, 'you are a Sadducee. You do not understand either the Hebrew or the Chaldaic, or the exegesis of the Scriptures. How dare you prophesy evil of this nation, when God hath spoken peace after these days? I say you are a Sadducee. I will have no fellowship with you. You must not come into my synagogue.
"Would not this be the natural result of such a case? I leave it for the reader to judge.
"Or, suppose that the professor was now in controversy with a Jew,--a Sadducee,--and was under the necessity of proving the doctrine of the resurrection by the Old Testament, would he not put into requisition this very text, and prove by the same a resurrection unto eternal life? And, if he did not believe such plain and positive proofs as these texts would be, would he not consider him a poor, blinded Sadducee? Let us be careful that our own mouths do not condemn us.
"If, then, these days can only end with the resurrection, it is impossible that these Scriptures can apply to Antiochus. And, as the rules which he has given us in his Hints are the same, in substance, which I was forced to adopt more than twenty years ago, I cannot believe that Antiochus Epiphanes is even hinted at from Daniel 11:14 to the end of the 12th chapter. And, if the prophecy does not belong to Antiochus, then he must acknowledge that the little horn can apply only to the papal power; and must agree with nearly all Protestant writers that 'time, times, and a half,' are, together with the other numbers in this chapter, to be understood in a symbolical sense.
"In writing, he sometimes indulged in a colloquial style. In the following he hints at an objection often urged against him, that he, being a farmer, should not presume to teach. He says:--
"As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the Son of man. They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until Noah entered into the ark. Methinks I can almost see the scenes of that day. See you not that elegant building yonder, near that ark of gopher-wood? That building was reared at a great expense, by the host, for the purpose of entertaining strangers who might come to visit that ark, and to ridicule and laugh at that old, white-headed man you see yonder pitching the ark. The host, you see, has become rich by the great gain he has made, from the furnishing of the workmen, citizens and strangers, with food and drink of the most costly kind. Look into the dining hall of that establishment. See the table loaded with all the delicate viands of the season. See those bottles filled with the sparkling juice of the grape. See the host at his door, beckoning to each passer-by to enter and regale himself. Hear the conversation between the host and the stranger guest who has just entered his mansion.
"Guest. What great building is that in yonder field, on that eminence?
"Host. That is called Noah's ark.
"Guest. But what use is he going to put it to? It seems to be built for sailing. Surely the old man does not expect to sail on dry land.
"Host. Yes; you are right. The old man says the world is coming to an end (Gen. 6:13), and he has prepared an ark to save himself and family; for all flesh will be destroyed by water, as he says.
"Guest. But how does he know this?
"Host. He says God told him.
"Guest. What kind of a man is he? He must be a great fanatic, I am thinking.
"Host. Why, yes; we think he is crazy a little; but you cannot discover it in anything else but his building that great ark, and neglecting his farm and other worldly matters. But what he has lost I have gained.
"Guest. A farmer, say you?--a farmer! Why did not God tell some of our 'mighty men, which are men of renown'? (Gen. 6:4.) A farmer, too! There is no truth in it. But do any believe him?
"Host. Believe him! No. We have other things to attend to, and cannot spend time to hear the old farmer. But we were all very much startled, no longer ago than yesterday; for the old man has been telling some that he had prepared rooms for the beasts of the field, and for the fowls of the air, and every creeping thing; and yesterday they came, two and two of every sort, and entered the ark, apparently of their own accord. (Gen. 7:8, 9.) This, you may be sure, startled us some; but the banquets and feasts of last night have dissipated the fears of all, and to-day things are as they should be.
"Guest. It is rather strange; yet it cannot be true. God will not destroy the world in the midst of this hilarity and glee, and in the hight of all these improvements at the present day. Much, much of the earth remains yet to be cultivated and inhabited. Our western wilderness is yet to be explored and settled. Then the world is yet in its infancy--not two thousand years old yet; and you know we have a tradition that the earth is to wax old like a garment. It cannot be true, what the old man tells you. I will warrant you the earth will stand many thousand years yet.
"Host. Look! look! there goes the old fool and his family now, I dare say, into the ark. I remember me now, the old man told us, four days ago, that, in seven days (Gen. 7:4-10), God would cause it to rain sufficient to destroy every living thing from the face of the earth. I shall have a chance to laugh at the old man four days hence. I told him to his face that, after his seven days were ended, he would be ashamed to preach any more, and we should have some quiet then.
"Guest. But do your priests let him preach in their congregations and societies?
"Host. Oh, no! by no means; that is, none that are called respectable, or of the higher class. Why, sir, they held a meeting last night at my banqueting house. After the cloth was removed, and while the wine was circulating freely, old Noah was the subject of the toast. And it would have done you good to have heard their sharp cuts and squibs; it caused a roar of laughter among the guests. See, yonder come some of them now. Let us go in, and enjoy another treat. (They go in.)
"Ah, said I, were these scenes acted before the flood, and will it be so in the end of the world? And will the generation of the righteous not pass off until they behold these things acted over again? So says our blessed Saviour, and so I believe.
"Then shall 'heaven and earth pass away.' The righteous will pass off to meet their Lord, and the wicked be consumed to cleanse the world. Then will the prophecy in this chapter be fulfilled, and 'the word of God will not pass away.'
"Prepare, ye servants of the Most High, to render up your stewardship. Ye scoffers, take warning; cease your revilings, your newspaper squibs, your bombast, your revelings, and your banquetings. And you, my dear reader, prepare! prepare! for lo!--
'He comes, he comes, the Judge severe;
The seventh trumpet speaks him near.'"
"The foregoing will also serve as a specimen of his mode, at times, of addressing an audience. At other times he was very earnest and solemn. In arguing that we must be beyond the end of the 1260 days of Daniel and John, from the fact that the church is not now in the wilderness, he said:--
"'Can we be mistaken in the fulfillment of this prophecy? Is the church now in the wilderness? And if you should respond, She is, I ask you, When, then, was she out? Not in the apostolic age; for she was not more free then than now. And then, let me inquire, where are your twelve hundred and sixty years? They can have no meaning. O Christian! I beg of you, believe in the word of God; do not, I pray you, discard time, any more than manner. Is it not selfishness in us to discard the set times which God has fixed, and not man? Where is our faith? Why are we so slow of heart to believe? Three times we have witnessed,--yes, in the lifetime of some of us,--the fulfillment of the "time, times, and a half," in the accomplishment of the "forty-two months," in the completion of the "twelve-hundred and three-score days," and yet, O God, we refuse to believe! Shame on that professor who will not open his eyes!
"'They tell us we cannot understand prophecy until it is fulfilled.
"'But here it is three times fulfilled in this day in which we live. What excuse have you now, O ye heralds of the cross? Ah! say you, that is your construction; we are not bound to follow your explanations. No, no! But for ages you and your fathers have been telling us that these prophecies were true; and you have told us that when they come to pass we should know what they meant; and, although ages on ages have rolled their rapid course, yet nothing has transpired, as you will own; and we, if we should search, and find, as we believe, the prophecies fulfilling, and tell our reasons, you then can taunt us with a skeptic argument,--"this is your construction," and then not dare to tell us what it means! Awake, awake, ye shepherds of the flock! Come, tell us why these things are not fulfilled. Deceive us not. You stand upon the walls, both night and day; then tell us what it means. We have a right to ask, "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" An answer we must have; or you must leave your towers. It will not do to answer us, "I am under no obligation to tell you."(1) Has Zion no better watchmen on her walls than this? Alas! alas! then we may sleep, and sleep, until the trumpet's dreadful blast shall shake our dusty beds, and the last angel raise his hand and swear "that time shall be no longer." Why are you thus negligent and remiss in duty? If I am not right in my construction of God's holy word, pray tell us what is truth, and make it look more plain,--and will we not believe? Thus you will cleanse your garments from our blood, and we must bear the shame. What time of night? Come, tell us plainly. There are portentous clouds hanging over our heads; we hear the murmurs of the fitful winds; we see sad omens of a dreadful storm; and where is our watchman's voice? Your silence gives us fears that we are betrayed. Awake! awake! Ye watchmen, to your post! It is no false alarm. There are judgments, heavy judgments, at the door. "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." How shall the fearful stand in that great day, when heaven and earth shall hear his mighty voice, and they that hear must come to judgment? Where will the unbelieving scoffer then appear? When God makes inquisition for the blood of souls, and when the under-shepherds stand, with their flocks, around the "great white throne," to have each motive, thought, word, act, and deed, brought out to light, before a gazing world, and tried by that unerring rule, "the word." I ask you, scorner, jester, scoffer, how will you appear? Stop, stop, and think, before you take a fatal leap, and jest away your soul!'
"In closing a discourse on the text, 'We shall reign on the earth,' he thus proceeds:--
"'We shall reign on the earth, says our text. Not under its present dispensation, but after it is cleansed by fire; after the wicked are destroyed by fire, as the antediluvians were by water; after the resurrection of the saints, and when Christ's prayer, taught to his disciples, shall be answered, "Thy will be done on earth, even as in Heaven." When the bride has made herself ready, and is married to the Bridegroom, he will then move her into the New Jerusalem state, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, where we shall reign with him forever and ever, on the new earth and in the new heavens. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." Then the whole earth "shall be full of his glory;" and then, as says the prophet, Isaiah 54:5, "For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called."
"'And then, my dear hearer, if you have had your heart broken off from sin; if you have by faith been united in spirit to the Lamb of God; if you have patiently endured tribulation and persecution for his name,--then you will live and reign with him on the earth, and this earth will be regenerated by fire and the power of God; the curse destroyed; sin, pain, crying, sorrow, and death, banished from the world, and mortality clothed upon by immortality, death swallowed up in victory. You will rise up in that general assembly, and, clapping your hands with joy, cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is now come." Then you will be in a situation to join the grand chorus, and sing the new song, saying, "Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth. . . Saying, with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." And all who meet in that grand assembly will be then heard to shout, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." And methinks I can now see every one who loves our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in this assembly rising upon their feet, and in one united prayer of faith, crying, "Come, Lord Jesus, O come quickly!"
"But you, O impenitent man or woman! where will you be then? When heaven shall resound with the mighty song, and distant realms shall echo back the sound, where, tell me, where will you be then? In hell! O think! In hell!--a dreadful word! Once more think! In hell! lifting up your eyes, being in torment. Stop, sinner; think! In hell! where shall be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Stop, sinner, stop; consider on your latter end. In hell! "where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." I entreat of you to think--in hell! I know you hate to hear the word. It sounds too harsh. There is no music in it. You say it grates upon the ear. But think, when it grates upon the soul, the conscience, and the ear, and not by sound only, but a dread reality, when there can be no respite, no cessation,(2) no deliverance, no hope! You will then think,--yes, of this warning, of a thousand others, perhaps of this hour, with many more that are lost,--yes, worse than lost,--that have been squandered in earthly, vain, and transitory mirth, have been abused; for there have been many hours the Spirit strove with you, and you prayed to be excused. There was an hour when conscience spake; but you stopped your ears and would not hear. There was a time when judgment and reason whispered; but you soon drowned their cry by calling in some aid against your own soul. To judgment and reason you have opposed will and wit, and said "in hell" was only in the grave. In this vain citadel, in this frail house of sand, you will build until the last seal is broken, the last trump will sound, the last woe be pronounced, and the last vial be poured upon the earth. Then, impenitent man or woman, you will awake in everlasting woe!
"'Be warned; repent; fly, fly for succor to the ark of God, to Jesus Christ, the Lamb that once was slain, that you might live; for he is worthy to receive all honor, power, and glory. Believe, and you shall live. Obey his word, his Spirit, his calls, his invitations; there is no time for delay; put it not off, I beg of you,--no, not for a moment. Do you want to join that heavenly choir, and sing the new song? Then come in God's appointed way; repent. Do you want a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens? Then join in heart and soul this happy people, whose God is the Lord. Do you want an interest in the New Jerusalem, the beloved city? Then set your face as a flint Zionward; become a pilgrim in the good old way. "Seek first the kingdom of Heaven," says Christ, "and then all these things shall be added unto you."'
"At other times his discourse was of the most mild and gentle kind. Thus, in speaking of the church of Christ under various circumstances, he says:--
"'In tracing her history from the patriarch Abraham to the present day, we find her variable as the wind, and changeable as the weather.
"'To-day, she is coming up out of the wilderness leaning on the arm of her Beloved; tomorrow, "like a young roe leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills."
"'Now she is seen among the trees of the woods; next in a palace of silver inclosed in boards of cedar.
"'There we saw her in the clefts of the rock; here we behold her in the broad way, in the streets of the great city.
"'Again we find her among the foxes of the desert; and anon we perceive her seeking Him whom her soul loveth.
"'She is asleep on her bed by night; and the same night the watch finds her in the city.
"'Behold her Lord knocking at the door for admittance, while she is too indolent to arise and let him in. The next moment she is opening to her Beloved, but he has withdrawn himself. At one time the voice of her Beloved, sounding over the hills and echoing among the mountains like the roar of distant thunder, has no impression; next, the soft whisper of love gains all her attention.
"'Here blows the rough north wind and strong south wind upon her spices, yet they put forth no fragrance. And there the lightest breeze makes her roses blossom, and all the air is perfume.
"'See her countenance to-day black as the tents of Kedar; and to-morrow comely as the daughters of Jerusalem, and fair as the purple curtains of Solomon. To-day she is "a garden barred, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;" to-morrow, "a garden open, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon." Now she is weak as a babe; a single watchman can "smite, wound, and take away her veil;" and then she is courageous and valiant, "terrible as an army with banners." To-day she is made to keep another's vineyard; to-morrow she is realizing a thousand pieces of silver from her own. She is truly a changeable being, carried about by the slightest circumstances."'
"The following extract from a discourse, is another specimen of this mode of address:--
"'Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord; his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.' Hosea 6:1-3.
"'The text to which I have directed your attention, in the above paragraph, is one of the richest and most interesting prophecies that was ever delivered to mortals by any prophet since the world began. Every word speaks, and is full of meaning; every sentence is a volume of instruction. No wisdom of man could communicate as much in as few words. It is a pearl of great price, lying deep in the waters of prophecy; it is a diamond, which will cut the film that covers the visual organ of the readers of God's word; it is a gem in the mountain of God's house, shining in the darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not. It puzzled the Pharisee, confounded the scribe, and perplexed the Sadducee. It has, and will continue to have, the same influence on similar characters until the end of time. The great men of the earth will not stoop to its light, because it lies too low. The small men of the earth will not pick it up, for fear of ridicule from those above them. And now, dear reader, I am afraid you will go and do likewise,--either treat it with contempt or ridicule. But you will find, if you will examine, that in it is contained,--
"'1. OUR DUTY TO GOD.
"'Come, let us return unto the Lord;' and, 'If we follow on to know the Lord.' Here is the whole duty of man, as clearly described as any crystal could make it. Repent, believe, and obey, are clearly inculcated. What better words could an orator make use of, to excite the minds of men to noble deeds of daring than are here used by the prophet? 'Come'--he invites--'let us'--he will go with them--'return.' Ah! what a word--return! Traveler, have you ever wandered far from home, in a cold, unfeeling world, among strangers, among robbers, enemies, thieves, and hard-hearted worldlings? Have you been sick and weak, wounded and torn, spoiled and robbed, smitten and cheated, hated and reviled, and this, too, for days, months, or years? Have you at last 'returned' to your family, your friends, your native land? Do you remember those familiar objects, as you returned--the way, the mountain, the hill, the valley, and the plain; the grove, the turn, the house, and the brook? Do you remember the tree, the rock, the barberry-bush, the gate and the post, the doorway and latch? "Oh, yes," say you; "I remember, too, my beating and palpitating heart, and the falling tear which I stopped to wipe away from my blanched cheek, while my hand was on the latch. I remember how I listened to hear the loved ones breathe, although it was then in the dark watches of the night."
"Thus tells the wanderer the tale of his 'return;' and in like manner could all the wandering sons of Zion speak of their 'return.' You, then, who have experienced these things, can realize the value of the word 'return.' And from my soul I pity the wanderer that never has returned 'unto the Lord;' to Him that loved us, to Him who died for us; more, vastly more, than mortal friends could ever do--he died. And so, say you, can fathers die for children, and mothers for their sons; children can give their lives, though rare the gift, to save the life of parents; husbands, and wives, and friends have fallen, to save each other from death. All this is true. But here is love greater than these; 'for while we were enemies Christ died for us.' Yea, more: he left his Father's presence, his glory, and that Heaven where angels dwell; where he, the brightest star in all the upper world, stood highest; where seraphim and cherubim in glory cast down their crowns, and worshiped at his feet. 'He became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.' Again: he bore our shame, and by his stripes we are healed. He was buffeted for our offenses, and despised by mortals, for whom he suffered in the flesh. He rose from death for our justification, and ascended on high, to intercede for sinners, and has sent down his Spirit to bring us wanderers home.
"'For he hath torn.' True, he suffers our sins to tear us, and those earthly powers, in whom we trust, to break our proud hearts, and, therefore, tears away our vain supports. He tears our affections from earthly things, that he may place them on a more enduring substance. He tears our hearts from idol gods, that he may place them on God supreme. He tears our soul from the body, that we may no longer live in the flesh to sin, but depart in the spirit, and be with Christ.
"'And he will heal us.' Yes, he will heal us from all our backslidings, and love us freely for his own name's sake. He will heal us from sin, by showing us its deadly nature. He will heal us from worldly affections, by placing our affections in Heaven. He will heal our hearts of idolatry, by the taking possession of them himself. He will heal us from death, by the resurrection from the grave.
"'He hath smitten.' God has so ordered, in his providence, that his children cannot have intercourse and association with men of the world, and with the kingdoms of this earth, but that persecution, or loss of Christian character, is sure to follow. The prophet is showing the present state of the church, while the tares and wheat are growing together. The children of God shall be smitten--meaning they shall be chastised, persecuted, ruled over. See the Roman power, from the days of their connection with the Jews until the present time, ruling over, persecuting, and trampling under foot the church of God. Our text is not only showing us our duty to God, but it teaches us the sufferings of the church, the dealings of God with her, and her final redemption; the first and second coming of her Lord; her final deliverance from death and all enemies, and her glorified reign.
"'And he will bind us up:' which is a promise of God, that, although the church should be torn and smitten, yet he would heal them, and bind them up. In due time he would gather them into one fold; he would bind up all their wounds, and heal them of all their maladies. He would visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquities with stripes; but his loving kindness he would not take from them.
"An extract from his lecture on the parable of the 'ten virgins,' will close these specimens. He thus gives his understanding of what is denoted by their 'trimming' their lamps:--
"'The world, for a number of years, have been trimming their lamps, and the wise and foolish have been engaged in translating the word of God into almost every language known to us upon the earth. Mr. Judson tells us that it has been translated into one hundred and fifty languages within thirty years; that is three times the number of all the translations known to us before. Then fourfold light has been shed among the nations, within the short period of the time above specified; and we are informed that a part, if not all, of the word of God is now given to all nations in their own language. This, surely, is setting the word of life in a conspicuous situation, that it may give light to all in the world. This has not been done by the exertions of Christians or professors only, but by the aid of all classes and societies of men. Kings have opened their coffers and favored those engaged in the work; nobles have used their influence, and have cast into the treasury of the Lord of their abundance; rich men have bestowed of their riches; and, in many cases, the miser has forgotten his parsimony, the poor have replenished the funds of the Lord's house, and the widow has cast in her mite. How easy to work the work of the Lord when the hearts of men are made willing by his power!
"'But shall we forget those who have forsaken the land of their fathers, the home of their nativity, and have spent lonesome years of toil among strangers,--yes, worse than strangers,--among heathen idolaters, and the savages of the wilderness, in the cold regions of the north, and under the scorching rays of a vertical sun, among the suffocating sands of the desert, or in the pestilential atmosphere of India; who have risked their lives to learn a language, and prepare themselves to trim a lamp for those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death? No, we will not forget them; the prayers of thousands have ascended before the golden altar, morning and evening, on their behalf, and Israel's God has been their protector. Surely we may hope that these have oil in their lamps, who have sacrificed so much to bestow a lamp upon others. But remember, my brethren, the Lord he is God, and let him have all the glory. This is the time, and the same time that Gabriel informed Daniel, 'Many should run to and fro, and knowledge should increase.' This, too, is the same time when the angel flying through the midst of heaven had the everlasting gospel to preach to them who dwelt upon the earth. Here are Christ's words fulfilled where he says, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
"'2d. It is plain, to any diligent observer of the signs of the times, that all the societies for moral reform in our world at the present day are parts of the fulfillment of the parable, giving more light. What of our Bible societies? Are not these trimming the lamp for millions of human beings? Thirty years past, more than three-fourths of the families in what we call Christian lands were without the lamp of life, and now nearly all are supplied. Many of those who sat in heathenish darkness then are now rejoicing in the light of God's book. And much of this has been performed through the instrumentality of Bible societies; and not only through the agency of the church, but political men, men of the world, the great men, merchants of the earth, and those who trade in ships, all who live under the influence of the gospel,--the 'kingdom of Heaven,--have engaged in the work. Will not the most skeptical acknowledge that this society has succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectation of its most ardent advocates? And is not this strong circumstantial evidence that the Bridegroom is near, even at the door?
"'3d. The missionary societies, of all sects and denominations, which have been established within forty years, have as far exceeded all former exertions of this kind as the overflowing Nile does the waters of the brook Kidron. See the missionary spirit extending from east to west, and from north to south, warming the breast of the philanthropist, giving life and vigor to the cold-hearted moralist, and animating and enlivening the social circle of the pious devotee. Every nation from India to Oregon, from Kamtschatka to New Zealand, has been visited by these wise servants (as we hope) of the cross, proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God, carrying the lamp, the word of God, in their hands, and oil, faith in God, in their hearts. All classes of men are engaged in this cause, from the gray hairs of old age down to the sprightly youth of ten years. Who, then, can doubt but that the virgins, in this sense, have and are trimming their lamps, and the bride is making herself ready? Go ye out to meet him.
"'4th. The Sabbath-schools and Bible-classes are but a part of the fulfillment of the parable, yet clearly an evidence that the virgins are now trimming their lamps. This system of teaching the young and ignorant took its rise between forty and fifty years since, at the very time that the Christian world were praying, and ardently praying, for the coming of Christ, before that part of the Saviour's prayer was forgotten, "Thy kingdom come." From a little fountain this stream of water has become a great river, and encompassed the whole land. Every quarter of the globe is drinking at this fountain or stream of knowledge, and the youth are taught to trim their lamps. And when the Bridegroom shall come, may we not reasonably hope that the thousands of the young men and young women, who have assisted in giving light to others, may be found having oil in their vessels, and their lamps trimmed and burning, and they looking and waiting for the coming of their Master, that when he comes they may rise to meet him in the air, with ten thousand of their pupils, who will sing the new song in the New Jerusalem forever and ever? Search diligently, my young friends, and see to it that ye believe in this word, which is able to make you wise unto salvation.
"'5th. Tract societies are of much use, and are an efficient means to help to trim the lamps. Like snuffers that take away the preventives to the light, so are tracts, They take away from the mind the prejudice that thousands have against reading the word of God; they remove those rooted and groundless opinions, which many have, that they cannot understand the Bible; they serve to excite the mind to this kind of reading; they enlighten the understanding in some scriptural truths; they are pioneers, in many instances, to conversion; they can be sent where the word of God cannot at first be received; in one word, they are the harbingers of light, the forerunners of the Bible. And in this, too, all men in this probationary state seem to be more or less engaged, from the king on the throne, down to the poor peasant in the cottage, writing, printing, folding, transporting, paying, or reading, those silent little messengers of the virgins' lamp. 'Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.' Has not God's hand been seen in all this? And glory be to Him who hath disposed the hearts of men to work the work that God bids them, and to fulfill the blessed word which he hath given them. This institution took its rise about the same time with the Bible society.
"'6th. Temperance societies. These serve one purpose in trimming the lamps and preparing the way for the virgins to go out and meet the Bridegroom. Our world, twenty years ago, might be called a world of fashionable drunkards; almost all men drank of the intoxicating bowl, and thought it no harm. But when the lamp began to dart its rays around our tabernacles, it was found by woful experience that those who drank of the poisonous cup were totally and wholly unprepared to receive the warning voice, or to hear the midnight cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" No, "they that were drunken were drunken in the night," says the apostle. "Therefore let us watch and be sober." And Peter tells us, "But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer." How foolish would it have been for a drunken man to be set on a watch, or a praying man to be found drunk! Therefore, in order that men might be in a suitable frame of mind to receive instruction at the close of this dispensation, and be in a situation to listen to the midnight cry, God ordered the virgins, and they arose and trimmed their lamps; and in all human probability thousands, who would have met a drunkard's grave if this society had not arose, are now watching, with their lamps trimmed and burning, ready to meet the Bridegroom at his coming. Perhaps this temperance society is the virgins' last resort. The Judge stands at the door; go ye out to meet him. This society, like the others before mentioned, is a general thing, and all sects, denominations, and classes of men, are engaged in it, and it has an important influence upon all men who are in this probationary state, and who may be termed, as in our text, "virgins." This society is of later origin than the others, and seems to be a rear-guard to wake up a few stragglers which the other societies could not reach. And now, drunkards, is your time; Wisdom stands at the door and knocks; let go the intoxicating bowl; be sober, and hear the midnight cry, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!" For your souls' sake drink not another draught, lest he come and find you drunken, "and that day come upon you unawares and find you sleeping." Oh, be wise, ye intemperate men! for they only went into the marriage who were found ready, "and the door was shut." "Then came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not. Watch, therefore, for ye neither know the day nor the hour when the Son of man cometh." "But the wise shall understand," says Daniel, 12:10.
"'And now, my Christian friends, let me inquire, Are your lamps trimmed and burning? And have you oil in your vessels? And are you prepared for the coming Bridegroom? And are you awake to this important subject? What say you? If this parable, to which I have directed your minds, has reference to the last day and the coming of Christ; if the "virgins" have reference to all men in the probationary state, and dividing them into two classes, wise and foolish; if the "lamp" is the word of God, and "oil" means faith in his word, or grace in the heart, as some say, then my conclusions are just, and the evidence is strong that we live at the end of the gospel kingdom, and upon the threshold of the glorified state of the righteous. Then examine your Bibles, and if you can more fairly prove any other exposition of this parable than I have this, then believe yours, and time must settle the issue; but if you can find nothing in the Scriptures to controvert plainly my explanation, then believe, and prepare to meet the Bridegroom; for, behold, he cometh, Awake! ye fathers and mothers in Zion! ye have long looked and prayed for this day. Behold the signs! He is near, even at the door. And, ye children of God, lift up your heads and rejoice, for your redemption draweth nigh. For these things have begun to come to pass. And, ye little lambs of the flock, remember, Jesus has promised to carry you in his arms, and that he will come and take you to himself, that where he is there ye may be also. But remember, all of you, the wise had oil in their lamps, and they were trimmed and burning. Search deep; examine yourselves closely; be not deceived; and may the Spirit, which searcheth all things, and knoweth what is in the mind of man, assist you.
"'But, my impenitent friends, what shall I say to you? Shall I say, as the Master in the parable, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out to to meet him"? Prepare to meet your Judge. Now he has given you a time for repentance; you have a probationary season, and possibly now the scepter of mercy is held out to you. Repent, or it will soon be said to you, as Jeremiah said to the virgin, the daughter of Egypt, "In vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured;" or, as in the parable, "I know you not." Have you no oil in your lamps? Delay not a moment; believe the gospel, and you will live; believe the word of God; receive the love of the Bridegroom, and make no delay; for while they went to buy, the Bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Oh, think what must be the exercise of your minds when these things shall be real; when you will stand without and knock, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" Again I ask, Will you repent, believe, and be saved? Are you determined to resist the truth until it is too late? Say, sinner, what think ye?
"'We will risk the consequence. We do not believe in your day you tell us of. The world is the same it always was,--no change, nor ever will be; but if it should come, it will not this ten thousand years,--not in our day, certainly. You do not believe yourself. If you did, we should call you a fool.'
"'Are these your arguments, sinner?'
"'Well, if I had brought no more, no stronger arguments than these, I would not blame you for not believing, for not one of yours can you or have you supported with a particle of proof. They are mere assertions; your believing or not believing will not alter the designs of God. The antediluvians believed not. The citizens of the plain laughed at the folly of Lot. And where are they now? Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.'
(1) Dowling's Reply to Miller.
(2) It will be evident to the reader that Mr. Miller held the doctrine of endless misery in a local hell at the time he gave this discourse. In fact, there is no evidence that he changed his views on the immortality question to the time of his death. His writings and his labors give evidence that his mind was not called to the investigation of the subject, it being fully occupied with the great second advent question. The discussion of the immortality theme among the Adventists seems to have been left to younger men at a later period. J. W.
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