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OR, THE IRON AGE AND THE GOLDEN AGE.
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ALL are intensely desiring a glorious age, and stretching towards a coming man, whose commanding presence will be light and guidance. But it is necessary to range the waiting, trusting masses, under certain general heads, that our own camp may be defined, and our banners rendered visible.
I. The largest class is composed of men who have never been transformed by the Holy Spirit and everlasting truth of God. have no fellowship with the sufferings of Christ, and have not come under the power of his resurrection. They trust that commerce, unchained from the degradation of protective laws, will carry affluent measures of civilization from shore to shore, and twine a golden chain around the brotherhood of nations. They trust that Science and Polite Literature, will advance in communion, until the tribes and kindreds of the earth are enlightened, strengthened, and purified. Mental and Moral Philosophy no longer cloistered in Universities and Upper Circles, will with all its humanising and refining power, become the common heritage of the people. Thus the evil passions of our nature will be strangled or hushed into repose, and the earth delivered from the storms of lust, ambition, and revenge. We call this THE SATANIC MILLENNIUM-not that Science and Philosophy are evil in themselves, for they are in reality, elevating-but the scheme is without God. It proposes, as its object, the regeneration of society, and leaves out of the field of calculation the adequate instrumentality. Its ground-plan is utterly infidel. There is no mercy seat-no risen Saviour-no great High Priest and Mediator-no translation from death to life-no pardon, happiness, or immortality.
II. A second class have the conviction that Sunday Schools, Tract Societies, Missionary Societies,-in short, all the agencies in operation for the diffusion of truth as it is in Jesus, will be extended on a grand scale, and accompanied with opulent manifestation of the Divine Spirit-so that, rapidly, all nations and languages will become Christian, both in name and in power. All evil spirits will be cast out of humanity, and a Spiritual Millennium encompass with radiant wings, the converted millions of our race. We call this THE
HUMAN MILLENNIUM. Not that all the agencies are human, for the gospel certainly is not so-but because the scheme, as a whole, is human-there is neither divine authority, nor natural probability, to justify the project. That the result in contemplation will not be accomplished by the means relied upon, may be rendered clear, both from Revelation and the induction of Reason. Benevolent as the dream appears, it is so discordant to Prophecy, and the manifest tendencies of our humanity, that we must pronounce it, delusion. Nor is it harmless, for delusion must always operate according to its
III. There is a third, and a smaller, but an increasing class, looking for the Personal Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are convinced by analogies collected from the past-by Prophecy, and by the field of present experience, that while society is advancing in mental power, it is wandering farther from God. From the testimony of seers, in connexion with the signs of the times, they can forsee the gathering eclipse of the last midnight, which shall heavily brood over the world while the tragedies of hell are acting. They can discern no Morning Light till that unclouded day breaks in the East, by Personal illumination of God the Redeemer, coming with his Saints and Angels to smite with one mighty blow the infernal image, and establish his own eternal dominion. We call this THE DIVINE MILLENNIUM-the period and condition of latter-day glory and holiness--predicted by all the Prophets, and confirmed by all the Apostles.
SECTION II.-THE QUESTION OPENED.
Many wordy wars have agitated the world. Most of the controversies which have prevailed, have been protracted by the absence of clear statement and precise definition. A man with concentrative power, can generally bring two rival systems into contiguity, and in a short time distinguish between the divinity and the vapour. Not by a comparison run through all features and attributes, but by the examination of some principal one, which gives colour, expression, and meaning to all the rest. Let us try this work :
1. All professing Christians believe that there will come a Millennium,- -a glorious period and condition of rest and happiness. 2. All professing Christians believe that at some future time the Lord will be revealed upon the earth, will come to judgment and salvation.
3. The inquiry arising out of such premises is the following:Will the Lord come at the end or the beginning of the Millennium? Will he be revealed in his subduing splendour at the commencement or the close of this auspicious time? If he come at the beginning, then his reign is necessarily personal; if not until the end, then his
Now here we have the
reign upon earth will be spiritual. whole controversy in a nutshell, packed into a portable form for common handling and plain examination. It is this question we are about to examine after a few preliminaries.
First explanation. We will not disturb the terms Personal and Spiritual, which stand as distinctive formularies in representing opposing systems, but we must by moral necessity explain. Those. who selected the term "spiritual" to designate the reign of the Saviour by the universal diffusion of truth, perhaps intended to convey the idea, that a " Personal Reign" would not or could not be "Spiritual." If they designed such an impression, (and some of thein certainly did,) how wild and monstrous their conceptions! Surely the immediate presence of the Lord is not calculated to detract from the spirituality of his people. On their ground, what a strange place their own imagined heaven will be. For they expect the Lord, in his personal glory, will be enthroned among the re deemed. Yet if there be any radical opposition between his visible presence and our spiritual enjoyment, they should pray to have their spiritual reign for ever, that they may never enter the immediate presence-chamber of the glorious King.
Second explanation. In such an inquiry as the one before us, we have no necessity to examine all the scripture evidence on the subject. This course would swell the work enormously for no essential purpose. That evidence which amounts to proof is not to be estimated by magnitude but by conclusiveness. All the statements of the Holy Spirit are in strict harmony with each other; therefore one passage in which the mind of the Spirit can be distinctly apprehended, is as good as an hundred. We shall, therefore, proceed with testimonies, not judging them by their number and bulk, but by their clearness and relevancy.
SECTION III.—THE QUESTION ARGUED.
"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." Matt. xiii.
There is one peculiarity connected with this parable, which claims
emphatic notice. In the room of being left to frame our own conceptions by natural sagacity, working with common instruments, we have a Divine Commentator. The disciples were evidently deeply moved by the parable, and after the multitude dispersed, sought in privacy a full exposition. We rejoice, then, to have the great infallible Teacher, furnishing the exposition and application of
his own oracles :
“He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world (age); and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of the world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Verse 37 -43.
1. We dwellers in the dust, encompassed with infirmities and sins, have very dim and partial views on the malignity of evil which the world presents. Beings who remain in original grandeur, in unfallen rectitude and purity, must look with profound anguish and pain, on the existence and progress of insurrection against God. Hence the holy angels, in their jealousy for the glory of their Creator, and the honour of eternal truth, desired a commission of vengeance or retribution. If their prayer had been granted, they would have made a spiritual reign at once, by exterminating all the tares-by destroying all the ungodly. But the purpose of God concerning the world, was not ripe for accomplishment. In that stage, the messengers of vindication might have rooted up the wheat also. Time was demanded for the great experiment of humanity-men and nations unfolding themselves before God under the dominion of all systems and principles.
2. "Let both grow together until the harvest." The longsuffering of God must have a termination, and the grapes of the earth be gathered and cast into the winepress. The fields of human fruit, whether they wave in gold beneath the wind of heaven, or blacken in corruption with blights from hell, must be reaped and garuered. Harvest time is manifestly the period when the glorious Son of God appears in royal state at the end of the age. The point of emphasis for our argument is this-the false and the true-the righteous and the wicked-the tares and the wheat-are not to be separated till harvest. This leaves no room in space or time for the spiritual reign, because while such contiguity continues, it cannot be established—and the separation is not to be made until the Lord appears in person. By consequence, there can be no Millennium,
or latter-day glory, until the King is revealed in person. Beautifully do the closing words of his exposition harmonise with such conclusion:-" Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
3. It is painful to find commentators (especially in established churches,) obscuring the brightness of this connexion by talking about the gospel net gathering all classes, and the impossibility of separating the pure from the vile in the church of God. “The field is the world," not the church. It would indeed be dreadful, if we were to let both grow together in the congregation of the Lord. All the tests of character and statutes of discipline. given by inspired men, would wear the stamp of folly. The living temple, no longer splendid with gold, silver, and precious stones, would be a dead, deserted, ruinous pile-shattered by northern blast-its crannies stuffed with wood, hay, and stubble-its passages haunted with ghosts of darkness and misery.
CONTEMPLATED from a proper point, and through the lights of human history, the Jewish Institution, to the eye of intelligence, cannot fail to appear marvellously peculiar, unique, and extraordinary. Transfused through its whole essence, and deeply engraved upon its whole exterior, are numerous and striking indications of infinite benevolence and humanity, as well as of a Divine wisdom and understanding. The deep interest in man, and unfeigned respect for his proper dignity and happiness, no less than its singularly adumbrative and prophetic intimations, demonstrate its certain emanation from the Creator and moral Governor of the world. To originate from an old man, born some four centuries after the flood, many nations, amongst which was one significantly different in almost every chapter and verse of its history from all other nations, and that for thousands of years, is astonishing enough; but to hide in that nation the germ of every human blessing, and to inspire its rites and usages with visions and revelations of eternal providence as connected with human destiny, so that the shadow of every substantive existence of future good should precede its development, is unquestionably miraculous and divine.
At present we confine our reflections to its sacred times, as connected with human redemption. In the first place, then, it ought to be noted in general terms that every week had a Sabbath-every moon, a feast, and every year, three splendid anniversaries.
Tisri, the first month of the civil year, but the seventh of the sacred or ecclesiastic year, commenced with the FEAST OF TRUMPETS: so that the new year was always introduced by sound of trumpet, echoing