Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843): Consider The Apostle And High Priest Of Our Profession

Consider The Apostle And High Priest


Our Profession
Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Sermon II

Consider The Apostle And High Priest Of Our Profession

“Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” HEB. 3:1.

WHEN a traveller passes very rapidly through a country, the eye has no time to rest upon the different objects in it, so that, when he comes to the end of his journey, no distinct impressions have been made upon his mind,—he has only a confused notion of the country through which he has travelled.

This explains how it is that death, judgment, eternity, make so little impression upon most men’s minds. Most people never stop to think, but hurry on through life, and find themselves in eternity before they have once put the question, “What must I do to be saved?” More souls are lost through want of consideration than in any other way.

The reason why men are not awakened and made anxious for their souls is, that the devil never gives them time to consider. Therefore God cries, Stop, poor sinner, stop and think. Consider your ways. “Oh that you were wise, that you understood this, that you considered your latter end!” And, again He cries, “Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”

In the same way does the devil try to make the children of God doubt if there be a Providence. He hurries them away to the shop and market. Lose no time, he says, but make money. Therefore God cries, Stop, poor sinner, stop and think; and Jesus says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; consider the ravens, which have neither storehouse nor barn.”

In the same way does the devil try to make the children of God live uncomfortable and unholy lives. He beguiles them away from simply looking to Jesus: he hurries them away to look at a thousand other things, as he led Peter, walking on the sea, to look round at the waves. But God says, Look here, consider the Apostle and High Priest of your profession; look unto me and be ye saved; run your race, looking unto Jesus; consider Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.

I. Believers should live in daily consideration of the greatness and glory of Christ

(1.) There was once a time when time was not,—when there was no earth, neither sun, nor moon, nor star; a time when you might have wandered through all space, and never found a resting-place to the sole of your foot,—when you would have found no creatures anywhere, but God everywhere,—when there were no angels with golden harps hymning celestial praises, but God alone was all in all.

Ques.—Where was Jesus then? Ans.—He was with God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” He was near to God, and in perfect happiness there. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. Then I was by Him as one brought up with Him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before Him.” He was in the bosom of God: “The only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father.” He was in perfect glory there: “O Father, glorify Thou me with thyself, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was!”

Ques.—What was Jesus then? Ans.—He was God. The Word was with God, and “was God.” He was equal with the Father. “He thought it no robbery to be equal with God.” He was rich. “He was the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.”

Now, brethren, could I lift you away to that time when God was alone from all eternity; could I have shown you the glory of Jesus then,—how He dwelt in the bosom of the Father, and was daily his delight; and could I have told you, “That is the glorious Being who is to undertake the cause of poor lost sinners,—that is He who is going to put himself in their room and stead, to suffer all they should suffer, and obey all they should obey,—consider Jesus, look long and earnestly, weigh every consideration in the balance of the soundest judgment,—consider his rank, his nearness, his dearness to God the Father,—consider his power, his glory, his equality to God the Father in everything,—consider, and say do you think you would entrust your case to Him? do you think He would be a sufficient Saviour?”—oh, brethren, would not every soul cry out, He is enough—I want no other Saviour?

(2.) Again, there was a time when this world sprang into being,—when the sun began to shine, and earth and seas began to smile. There was a time when myriads of happy angels springing into being, first spread their wings, doing his commandments,—when the morning stare sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.

Ques.—What was Jesus doing then? Ans.—“Without Him was not anything made that was made.” “By Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.” Oh, brethren, could I lift you away back to that wonderful day, and show you Jesus calling all the angels into being, hanging the earth upon nothing;—could you have heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Let there be light, and there was light;”—and could I have told you, “That is He who is yet to undertake for sinners; consider Him, and see if you think He will be a sufficient Saviour; look long and earnestly;”—good news, good news for sinners, if this mighty Being undertake for us!—I can as little doubt the sureness and completeness of my salvation as I can doubt the sureness of the solid earth beneath my feet.

(3.) But the work of creation is long since passed. Jesus has been upon our earth. And now He is not here—He is risen. Eighteen hundred years and more have passed since Christ was upon the earth.

Ques.—Where is Jesus now? Ans.—“He is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He is upon the throne with God in his glorified body, and his throne is for ever. A sceptre is put into his hand—a sceptre of righteousness, and the oil of gladness is poured over Him. All power is given to Him in heaven and on earth.

Oh, brethren, could you and I pass this day through these heavens, and see what is now going on in the sanctuary above,—could you see what the child of God now sees who died last night,—could you see the Lamb with the scars of his five deep wounds in the very midst of the throne, surrounded by all the redeemed, every one having harps and golden vials full of odours,—could you see the many angels round about the throne, whose number is ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, all singing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain,”—and were one of these angels to tell you, “This is He that undertook the cause of lost sinners; He undertook to bear their curse and to do their obedience; He undertook to be the second Adam,—the man in their stead; and lo! there He is upon the throne of heaven;—consider Him,—look long and earnestly upon his wounds—upon his glory,—and tell me, do you think it would be safe to trust Him? do you think his sufferings and obedience will have been enough?”—Yes, yes, every soul exclaims, Lord, it is enough! Lord, stay thy hand! Show me no more, for I can bear no more. Oh, rather let me ever stand and gaze upon the almighty, all-worthy, all-divine Saviour, till my soul drink in complete assurance that his work undertaken for sinners is a finished work! Yes, though the sins of all the world were on my one wicked head, still I could not doubt that his work is complete, and that I am quite safe when I believe in Him.

I would now plead with believers.—Some of you have really been brought by God to believe in Jesus. Yet you have no abiding peace, and very little growing in holiness. Why is this? It is because your eye is fixed anywhere but on Christ. You are so busy looking at books, or looking at men, or looking at the world, that you have no time, no heart, for looking at Christ.

No wonder you have little peace and joy in believing. No wonder you live so inconsistent and unholy a life. Change your plan. Consider the greatness and glory of Christ, who has undertaken all in the stead of sinners, and you would find it quite impossible to walk in darkness, or to walk in sin. Oh what mean, despicable thoughts you have of the glorious Immanuel! Lift your eyes from your own bosom, downcast believer,—look upon Jesus. It is good to consider your ways, but it is far better to consider Christ.

I would now invite anxious souls.—Anxious soul! have you understood all the glory of Christ? Have you understood that He undertook for guilty sinners? And do you doubt if He be a sufficient Saviour? Oh, what mean views you have of Christ if you dare not risk your soul upon Him!

Objection.—I do not doubt that Christ has suffered and done quite enough, but I fear it was for others, and not for me. If I were sure it was for me, I would be quite happy. Ans.—It is nowhere said in the Bible that Christ died for this sinner or that sinner. If you are waiting till you find your own name in the Bible, you will wait for ever. But it is said a few verses before that, “He tasted death for every man;” and again, “He is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” Not that all men are saved by Him. Ah! no; the most never come to Jesus, and are lost; but this shows that any sinner may come, even the chief of sinners, and take Christ as his own Saviour. Come you then, anxious soul; say you, He is my refuge and my fortress; and then, be anxious, if you can.

II. Consider Christ as the Apostle or Messenger of God The word apostle means messenger,—one ordained and sent on a particular embassy. Now Christ is an Apostle, for God ordained mid sent Him into the world.

In the Old Testament, the name by which He is oftenest called is the Angel of the Lord, or the Messenger of the Covenant. He is called God’s Elect, chosen for the work; He is called God’s Servant; He is called the Messiah, or the Christ, or the Anointed, because God anointed Him and sent Him to the work. In the New Testament, over and over again Christ calls himself the Sent of God. “As Thou hast sent me into the world, so have I sent them into the world, that the world may know that Thou hast sent me.” “And these have known that Thou hast sent me.” All this shows plainly that it is not the Son alone who is interested in the saving of poor sinners, but the Father also. “The Father sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

Objection.—True, Christ is a great and glorious Saviour, and able to accomplish anything to save poor sinners; but perhaps God the Father may not agree to pour out his wrath upon his Son, or to accept of his Son as a surety in our stead. Ans.—Look here, Christ is the Apostle of God. It is as much God the Father’s work, as it is Christ’s work. It occupied as much of the heart of God as ever it did of the heart of Christ. God loved the world as much and truly as ever Christ loved the world. God gave his Son, as much as Christ gave himself for us. So God the Holy Spirit is as much interested in it as the Father and Son. God gave his Son,—the Spirit anointed Him and dwelt in Him without measure. At his baptism God acknowledged Him for his beloved Son,—the Holy Spirit came on Him like a dove.

Oh! brethren, could I lift you away to the eternity that is past,—could I bring you into the council of the Eternal Three; and as it was once said, “Let us make man,” could I let you hear the word, “Let us save man,”—could I show you how God from all eternity designed his Son to undertake for poor sinners; how it was the very plan and the bottommost desire of the heart of the Father that Jesus should come into the world, and do and die in the stead of sinners; how the Holy Spirit breathed sweetest incense, and dropped like holiest oil upon the head of the descending Saviour,—could I show you the intense interest with which the eye of God followed Jesus through his whole course of sorrow and suffering and death,—could I show you the anxious haste with which God rolled away the stone from the sepulchre while it was yet dark, for He would not leave his soul in hell, neither suffer his Holy One to see corruption,—could I show you the ecstasies of love and joy that beat in the bosom of the infinite God when Jesus ascended to his Father and our Father; how He welcomed Him with a fulness of kindness and grace which God alone could give, and God alone could receive, saying, “Thou art my Son, this day have I ‘begotten Thee; Thou art indeed worthy to be called my Son; never till this day wast Thou so worthy to be called mine; thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; sit Thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool;”—O sinner, will you ever doubt any more whether God the Father be seeking thy salvation,—whether the heart of Christ and of his Father be the same in this one grand controversy? O believer, consider this apostle of God,—meditate on these things,—look and look again, until your peace be like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea,—till the breathing of your soul be, Abba, Father!

III. Consider Christ as the High Priest of our profession

The duty of the high priest was twofold: 1st, to make Atonement; 2nd, to make Intercession.

When the high priest slew the goat at the altar of burnt offerings, he did it in presence of all the people, to make atonement for them. They all stood around, gazing and considering their high priest; and when he gathered the blood into the golden basin, and put on the white garments, and passed away from their sight within the veil, their eye followed him, till the mysterious curtain hid him from their sight. But even then the heart of the believing Jew followed him still. Now he is drawing near to God for us; now he is sprinkling the blood seven times before the mercy-seat, saying, Let this blood be instead of our blood; now he is praying for us.

Brethren, let us also consider our great High Priest.

(1.) Consider Him making Atonement.—You cannot look at Him on the cross as the disciples did; you cannot see the blood streaming from his five deep wounds; you cannot see Him shedding his blood that the blood of sinners might not be shed. Yet still, if God spare us, you may see bread broken and wine poured out,—a living picture of the dying Saviour. Now, brethren, the atonement has been made, Christ has died, his sufferings are all past. And how is it that you do not enjoy peace?

It is because you do not consider. “Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.” Consider,—has Jesus died in the stead of guilty sinners, and do you heartily consent to take Jesus to be the man in your stead? then, you do not need to die. Oh, happy believer, rejoice evermore! Live within sight of Calvary, and you will live within sight of glory; and, oh, rejoice in the happy ordinance that sets a broken Saviour so plainly before you!

(2.) Consider Christ as making Intercession.—When Christ ascended from the Mount of Olives, and passed through these heavens, carrying his bloody wounds into the presence of God,—and when his disciples had gazed after Him, till a cloud received Him out of their sight,—we are told that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. What! are they joyful at parting with their blessed Master? When He told them He was to leave them, sorrow filled their hearts, and He had to argue with them and comfort them, saying, “Let not your heart be troubled; it is expedient for you that I go away.” How, then, are they changed? Jesus has left them, and they are filled with joy. Oh! here is the secret,—they knew that Christ was now going into the presence of God for them, that their great High Priest was now entering within the veil to make intercession for them.

Now, believer, would you share in the great joy of the disciples? Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus. He is above yon clouds, and above yon sky. Oh that you would stand gazing up into heaven, not with the bodily eye, but with the eye of faith! Oh, what a wonderful thing the eye of faith is! It sees beyond the stars, it pierces to the throne of God, and there it looks on the face of Jesus making intercession for us, whom having not seen we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Oh! if you would live thus, what sweet peace would fill your bosom! And how many droppings of the Spirit would come down on you in answer to the Saviour’s prayer! Oh! how your face would shine like Stephen; and the poor blind world would see that there is a joy which the world cannot give, and the world cannot take away,—a heaven upon earth!

DUNDEE, 1836.


John Newton (1725-1807): On the Inward Witness to the Ground and Reality of Faith

On the Inward Witness to the Ground and Reality of Faith
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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LNW: Corrected several typographical errors from previous post.

Letter VIII

On the Inward Witness to the Ground and Reality of Faith

I readily offer you my thoughts on 1 John v. 10. “He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself;” though, perhaps, you will think I am writing a sermon, rather than a letter. If we believe in the Son of God, whatever trials we may meet with in the present life, our best concerns are safe, and our happiness is sure. If we do not, whatever else we have, or seem to have, we are in a state of condemnation; and, living and dying so, must perish. Thousands, it is to be feared, persuade themselves that they are believers, though they cannot stand the test of Scripture. And there are many real believers, who, through the prevalence of remaining unbelief, and the temptations of Satan, form hard conclusions against themselves, though the Scripture speaks peace to them. But how does this correspond with the passage before us, which asserts universally, “He that believeth, hath the witness in himself?” for can a man have the witness in himself, and yet not know it? It may be answered, the evidence, in its own nature, is sufficient and infallible; but we are very apt, when we would form a judgment of ourselves, to superadd rules and marks of trial, which are not given us, (for that purpose,) in the Bible. That the word and Spirit of God do witness for his children, is a point in which many are agreed, who are far from being agreed as to the nature and manner of that witness. It is, therefore, very desirable, rightly to understand the evidence by which we are to judge whether we are believers or not.

The importance and truth of the Gospel-salvation is witnessed to in heaven, by “the Father, the Word, and the Spirit.” It is witnessed to on earth, by “the Spirit, the water, and the blood,” ver. 7, 8. The Spirit, in ver. 8. (I apprehend,) denotes a divine light in the understanding, communicated by the Spirit of God, enabling the soul to perceive and approve the truth. The water seems to intend the powerful influence of this knowledge and light in the work of sanctification. And the blood, the application of the blood of Jesus to the conscience, relieving it from guilt and fear, and imparting a “peace which passes all understanding.” And he that believeth hath this united testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, not by hearsay only, but in himself. According to the measure of his faith, (for faith has various degrees,) he has a living proof that the witness is true, by the effects wrought in his own heart.

These things, which God has joined together, are too often attempted to be separated. Attempts of this kind have been a principal source and cause of most of the dangerous errors and mistakes which are to be found amongst professors of religion. Some say much concerning the Spirit; and lay claim to an inward light, whereby they think they know the things of God. Others lay great stress upon the water; maintaining a regular conversation, abstaining from the defilements of the world, and aiming at a mastery over their natural desires and tempers; but neither the one nor the other appear to be duly sensible of the value of the blood of atonement, as the sole ground of their acceptance, and the spring of their life and strength. Others, again, are all for the blood; can speak much of Jesus, and his blood and righteousness; though it does not appear that they are truly, spiritually enlightened, to perceive the beauty and harmony of Gospel-truths, or that they pay a due regard to that “holiness without which no man can see the Lord.” But Jesus came, not by water only, or by blood only, but by water and blood; and the Spirit bears witness to both, because the Spirit is truth. The water alone affords but a cold starched form of godliness, destitute of that enlivening power which is derived from a knowledge of the preciousness of Jesus, as the Lamb that was slain. And if any talk of the blood without the water, they do but turn the grace of God into licentiousness: so, likewise, to pretend to the Spirit, and at the same time to have low thoughts of Jesus, is a delusion and vanity; for the true Spirit testifies and takes of his glory, and presents it to the soul. But the real believer receives the united testimony, and has the witness in himself that he does so.

To have the witness in ourselves, is to have the truths that are declared in the Scripture revealed in our hearts. This brings an experimental conviction, which may be safely depended on, “that we have received the grace of God in truth.” A man born blind may believe that the sun is bright upon the testimony of another; but if he should obtain his sight, he would have the witness in himself. Believing springs from a sense and perception of the truths of the Gospel; and whoever hath this spiritual perception is a believer. He has the witness in himself. He has received the Spirit; his understanding is enlightened, whereby he sees things to be as they are described in the word of God, respecting his own state by sin, and the utter impossibility of his obtaining relief by any other means than those proposed in the Gospel. These things are hidden from us by nature. He has likewise received the blood. The knowledge of sin, and its demerits, if alone, would drive us to despair; but by the same light of the Spirit, Jesus is apprehended as a suitable and all-sufficient Saviour. All that is declared concerning his person, offices, love, sufferings, and obedience, is understood and approved. Here the wounded and weary soul finds healing and rest. Then the Apostle’s language is adopted, “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” He has likewise received the water, considered as the emblem of sanctification. To a believer, all that the Scripture teaches concerning the nature, beauty, and necessity of holiness, as a living principle in the heart, carries conviction and evidence. A deliverance from the power, as well as from the guilt of sin, appears to be an important and essential part of salvation. He sets his original and his proper happiness, that nothing less than communion with God, and conformity to him, is worth his pursuit. And therefore he can say, “My soul thirsteth for thee; I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” In a word, his judgment and his choice are formed upon a new spiritual taste, derived from the written word, and correspondent with it, as the musical ear is adapted to relish harmony: so that what God has forbidden, appears hateful; what he has commanded, necessary; what he has promised, desirable; and what he has revealed, glorious. Whoever has these perceptions, has the witness in himself, that he has been taught of God, and believes in his Son.

If you think this explanation is agreeable to the Scripture, you will be satisfied that the witness spoken of in this passage, is very different from what some persons understand it to be. It is not an impulse, or strong persuasion, impressed upon us in a way of which we can give no account, that “we are the children of God,” and that our sins are freely forgiven; nor is the powerful application of a particular text of Scripture necessary to produce it: neither is it always connected with a very lively sensible comfort. These things in some persons and instances, may accompany the witness or testimony we are speaking of, but do not properly belong to it: and they may be, and often have been, counterfeited. But what I have described is inimitable and infallible; it is indubitably, as the magicians confessed of the miracles of Moses, the finger of God, as certainly the effect of his divine power as the creation of the world. It is true, many who have this witness, walk in darkness, and are harassed with many doubts and perplexities, concerning their state: but this is not because the witness is not sufficient to give them satisfaction, but because they do not account it so: being misled by the influence of self-will and a legal spirit, they overlook this evidence as too simple, and expect something extraordinary; at least they think they cannot be right, unless they are led in the same way in which the Lord has been pleased to lead others with whom they may have conversed. But the Lord, the Spirit, is sovereign and free in his operations; and though he gives to all who are the subjects of his grace, the same views of sin, of themselves, and of the Saviour; yet, with respect to the circumstantials of his work, there is, as in the features of our faces, such an amazing variety, that perhaps no two persons can be found whose experiences have been exactly alike: but as the Apostle says, That “he that believeth,” that is, whosoever believeth, (without exception,) “has this witness in himself;” it must consequently arise from what is common to them all, and not from what is peculiar to a few.

Before I conclude, I would make two or three observations. In the first place, I think it is plain, that the supposition of a real believer’s living in sin, or taking encouragement from the Gospel so to do, is destitute of the least foundation in truth, and can proceed only from an ignorance of the subject. Sin is the burden under which he groans; and he would account nothing short of a deliverance from it worthy the name of salvation. A principal part of his evidence that he is a believer, arises from that abhorrence of sin which he habitually feels. It is true, sin still dwelleth in him; but he loathes and resists it: upon this account he is in a state of continual warfare; if he was not so, he could not have the witness in himself, that he is born of God.

Again: From hence arises a solid evidence, that the Scripture is indeed the word of God, because it so exactly describes what is exemplified in the experience of all who are subjects of a work of grace. While we are in a natural state, it is to us as a sealed book: though we can read it, and perhaps assent to the facts, we can no more understand our own concernments in what we read, than if it was written in an unknown tongue. But when the mind is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Scripture addresses us as it were by name, explains every difficulty under which we laboured, and proposes an adequate and effectual remedy for the relief of all our wants and fears.

Lastly, It follows, that the hope of a believer is built upon a foundation that cannot be shaken, though it may and will be assaulted. It does not depend upon occasional and changeable frames, upon any that is precarious and questionable, but upon a correspondence and agreement with the written word. Nor does this agreement depend upon a train of laboured arguments and deductions, but is self-evident, as light is to the eye, to every person who has a real participation of the grace of God. It is equally suited to all capacities; by this the unlearned are enabled to know their election of God, and “to rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.” And the wisest, if destitute of this perception, though they may be masters of all the external evidences of Christianity, and able to combat the cavils of infidels, can see no real beauty in the truths of the Gospel, nor derive any solid comfort from them.

I have only sent you a few hasty hints: it would be easy to enlarge; but I sat down, not to write a book, but a letter. Nay this inward witness preside with power in our hearts, to animate our hopes, and to mortify our corruptions!

I am, &c.

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): Kept by the Power of God

Kept by the Power of God
Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Kept by the power of God

1 Peter 1: 5

ARE there any believers here who are afraid that they will some day bring disgrace on their profession? Let them study these words. ‘Kept’ is the whole history of a believer’s life. It tells us we are very weak, for we need to be kept; but, at the same time, it is a most comforting word, for it tells us we are worth keeping. God counts us a treasure worth keeping. It has wonderful power to give energy to believers. Rightly viewed, it bears on the interests of holiness in a wonderful manner. There may be ups and downs in the degrees of our faith and of our love, but we cannot be lost, for we are ‘kept by the power of God.’ The word throws emphasis on the mighty power that grasps us and keeps us; it is ‘garrisoned by the power of God.’ It is God’s own power that encompasses us. None shall pluck us out of His hand.

What from Christ the soul can sever,

Bound by everlasting bands?

Once in Him, in Him for ever,

Thus the eternal covenant stands.

None can pluck us from the Strength of Israel’s hands.

I. We are kept by the power of God.

We are in the arms of omniscience and omnipotence, for it is literally ‘kept in the power of God.’ We are lying upon that power, and we need it all. The power of the devil is tremendous, the power of the world is tremendous. Its current often carries us away. No wonder if we sometimes say, ‘I shall one day perish.’ We are ‘kept by the power of God.’ If you want to know the workings of that power, read Eph. 1:19-23. What a defence! better than ten legions of angels; and yet we have that too. But Jude says, ‘Keep yourselves.’ We are to keep ourselves, but how? ‘By faith.’ God keeps us by making us keep ourselves ‘by faith.’

II. We are kept by faith.

God’s part is to put forth His power; our part is to put forth faith. God enables us to have faith, and He keeps it in us continually, and not all the power of hell can pluck that faith out of our heart. It never decays. We get power continually from God to go on believing from day to day. Our faith will not vanish. It may grow weaker, but it will not disappear. If we give way to unbelief we are letting go our hold of the chain that fastens us to the omnipotent arm. Faith implies that our eye is daily looking to the Cross of Christ – not looking to our feet, not looking about at what might terrify us, but ‘looking unto Jesus.’ We think of the righteousness He gives us, every day. We think of the blood shed to put away our sin, every day. We think of the new and living way opened to us by Christ, every day. Faith is always looking, not only to the work of Christ, but to His Person. ‘He ever liveth to make intercession for us.’ He lives to keep His vine and water it every moment. All the way along we may say–

‘There is life for a look at the Crucified One’ – new life, every day. We are on the battlefield still, but we may sing ‘God is our refuge and our strength.’

When sickness comes we may feel ready to fail, but He will keep us. When death comes we may not be able to think at all, but it does not matter. He will keep us. Preparation for death is almost an imagination. A believer does not prepare for death at all. Christ does it for him. The believer prepares for life. Beware only of slipping back. If you begin to think about yourself, about your frame of mind, about your cares, you may slip; but you will not fall. He who restored Peter will restore you. The fishermen in Brittany have a prayer they use when their boats are going out: ‘O our God, keep us, for our boat is very small, and the ocean is very wide.’ We shall be ‘kept’ till the salvation is revealed, and that may be at any moment. It is all ready – like a statue all complete, only waiting to be unveiled. God will keep us till then for our inheritance. He will not have an unlet house in New Jerusalem, no mansion where the grass grows before the door. Each mansion is reserved for some one. Our inheritance is ‘reserved in heaven for us.

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889): PRE-MILLENNIAL ADVENT 1/2


Prophetical Landmarks: Chap. VII
Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
Copyright: Public Domain

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This is purely a question of interpretation. The order in which events are to occur must depend entirely on God’s eternal arrangements; and our knowledge of that order must depend upon our right understanding of what God has written in his Word concerning it. Man’s theories cannot aid us here; nay, they may hinder us much. Let us listen to the voice of God. Let us calmly and simply interpret his Word, throwing aside all bias, and being willing to learn of Him alone.

How often have human systems’ perverted the spiritual judgment, and unfitted us for listening to what the Spirit saith unto the Churches ! How often have systems been used as an instrument for corrupting the simple Word, and explaining away its natural meaning ! And how often, when departing from the plain sense of the words, has our only reason been, that if interpreted thus, they would be irreconcilable with our system. Had system not been in the way, the simpler view of the passage would undoubtedly have been acquiesced in. This abuse of system needs to be guarded against, and nowhere more than in the present discussion. Our appeal is directly to the Word of God.

In more than one of the previous chapters I have had occasion to touch upon the proof of the pre-millennial Advent; but I now wish to take up the question directly, and by itself. It is impossible for me to adduce here the hundredth part of the proofs on this point, which lie scattered over the whole of Scripture. I shall content myself with a few, selected according to the best of my judgment. The Lord himself give me the needed wisdom to set forth his truth, that opposers may be convinced, and inquirers satisfied! It is no idle matter of speculation or curiosity. It is one of infinite moment to the Church of Christ, and one of awful interest to a heedless, unready world.

I. Isaiah xxxiv.—I have noticed elsewhere the 24th chapter of this Prophet, and shown how completely it establishes the pre-millennial Advent. I might call attention to very many of the predictions of this book, which have such special reference to the last days, but I must limit myself.

This chapter (34th) commences with a summons to all the nations of the earth, announcing to them that the great day of God’s wrath had come. At the third verse there is a description of the terrible slaughter. Then, in the fourth, we have a picture which cannot be mistaken,—

All the host of heaven shall be dissolved;

The heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll.

All their host shall fall down,

As the leaf falleth from off the vine,—

As a falling fig from the fig-tree.

This passage is very easily identified. It so corresponds in word and figure with Christ’s description of his coming, and with Peter’s description of the day of the Lord, that it is impossible not to conclude that it is the same day, and the same desolation that is alluded to. Indeed, this is one of the strongest passages which prophecy contains regarding that crisis of vengeance and despair. If it admits of being explained away, so as to mean nothing but mere natural disasters, such as the overthrow of kingdoms and the calamities of nations, then in truth it might be shown that there is no such day of judgment at all, as we have been accustomed to expect. All that is written of the coming of the Lord, and the accompanying terrors of that day, may be turned into figures signifying nothing but national overthrow and slaughter.

Taking, however, this passage in its obvious meaning, until a good reason can be shown why we should use it in a non-natural sense, let us mark what follows. In this day of the Lord,—this day of the dissolution of heaven and convulsion of earth,—the awful doom of the adversaries of Jehovah and his people is foretold,—the utter desolation of the people and the land. This occupies the remainder of the chapter; and then comes the glowing picture of millennial blessedness,—“the times of the restitution of all things.” “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” I need not quote the rest. It is obviously the conclusion of the whole prophetic burden, and shows us very distinctly the order of events. The millennial scene of the 35th chapter succeeds the Advent scene of the 34th. In other words, the millennium follows the coming of the Lord.*

* Lowth, in his notes upon this chapter, states the connexion thus. His interpretation is given in very general terms, but it is very explicit as to the order and connexion of events:—“These two chapters make one distinct prophecy: an entire, regular, and beautiful poem, consisting of two parts; the first containing a denunciation of Divine vengeance against the enemies of the people or Church of God; the second, describing the flourishing state of the Church of God, Consequent upon the execution of these judgments. . . . . It seems reasonable to suppose with many learned expositors, that this prophecy has a farther view to events still future,—to some great revolution to be effected in later times, antecedent to that more perfect state of the kingdom of God upon earth, and serving to introduce it”—Lowth’s Isaiah, p. 296.

II. Isaiah lxv. l7—25.—The former part of this chapter describes the apostasy and punishment of Israel—the state in which they have been for many generations, and still are. At the close of the 16th verse, the Prophet very briefly adverts to the time when these “troubles shall be forgotten;” and then he proceeds to tell us the time and circumstances at large, and to give the reason why all the past shall be remembered no more:—

            For, behold!

            I create new heavens and a new earth:

            And the former shall not be remembered nor come into mind,

            But be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create.

            For, behold I

            I create Jerusalem a rejoicing,

            And her people a joy.

Now, here again we have an inspired interpreter to guide us. The Apostle Peter quotes this very passage in his Second Epistle :—“We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.” And in the 21st chapter of the Apocalypse, the same language is used. In Peter and in the Revelation, there can be no doubt that the new heavens and earth are literal. Indeed, I do not suppose that any one denies this. Moreover, they evidently are not “created” until the second coming of the Lord. And if so, then we can be at no loss to discover the meaning of Isaiah’s words, which are the basis of all the others. They cannot refer to the first, but to the second coming of Christ. Nay, what follows in the chapter proves this. For none of the blessed events predicted in the succeeding verses have yet been accomplished. They are still future. Jerusalem has not been delivered from her weeping. Longevity has not yet been restored to man. “The wolf and the lamb have not yet fed together.” Nor has the time come when “they shall not hurt nor destroy in God’s holy mountain.” These are things for whose accomplishment we still wait. They are to come to pass in the day when Jehovah “creates new heavens and a new earth.” The advent of Christ must then precede the millennium. The proof stands thus. Here is a passage which first describes the creation of new heavens and a new earth; and then the latter-day glory, Jerusalem rebuilt, Israel restored, the restitution of all things. But the Apostle Peter tells us that these new heavens are to be created in the day of Christ’s second coming, and therefore it is plain the millennial state must succeed the Advent.

III. Daniel vii—Here we have a description of the four successive Gentile empires, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Macedonian, and Roman. These extend over “the times of the Gentiles,” when Jerusalem was to be trodden down by them. During the existence of the fourth empire, the little horn or Antichristian power, is seen to arise. Now while this empire and the little horn which “came up,” were still flourishing, we read, “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 there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him, his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away.” In these words we have the second coming of the Lord predicted. The Ianguage is such as cannot be mistaken. But besides we have an inspired interpreter here also,-our Lord himself, who quotes these very words, “then shall they see THE SON or MAN come In THE CLOUDS or HEAVEN;” and, when answering the high priest’s adjuration, he again uses these words, Caiaphas at once understood the reference to the words of Scripture, and accused him of blasphemy for applying them to himself. The links in this chain of reasoning are thus very clear and simple. Daniel predicts that the Son of man was to come and receive his kingdom, while the little horn and the Roman empire were still in being ; nay, that he was to come in order to destroy both of these and to set up his kingdom. Our Lord quotes these words of Daniel, and applies them to his Second Advent. If so, there cannot possibly be a Millennium before Christ comes; nay it is expressly declared that the kingdom is to be given to the saints at his coming, not before it. There are other allusions in the New Testament to this passage in Daniel, such as, Rev. i. 7, “Behold, he cometh with clouds;” all of them confirming the application of the prophecy to Christ’s second coming. Indeed it seems difficult to imagine how it can be applied to anything else. What reason can be given for departing from the simple meaning of the words?

IV. Daniel xii. — The eleventh and twelfth chapters of Daniel are one continuous prophecy. The former chapter begins with a prediction of Xerxes, King of Persia, and carries us downwards to the last Antichrist, whose destruction is announced in the concluding verse. Then the twelfth chapter begins with predicting Israel’s “time of trouble ;” a time of trouble “such as never was since there was a nation” and also their deliverance from it by “Michael the Great Prince.” Then it is added, “And many of them that sleep in the dust shall awake.” Here then we have the downfall of Antichrist, the deliverance of Israel, and the resurrection, all placed side by side with each other. The inference from this is surely plain enough. There can be no Millennium before the destruction of Antichrist, or the deliverance of Israel, or the resurrection. Now we are sure that the last of these three events, at least, is at the coming of the Lord, and hence we conclude that the Advent must be before the Millennium. We do not see how this can be evaded save by denying that the second verse refers to the resurrection. But this we hardly think will be attempted by any.

V. Joel iii.—Twice over in this chapter God proclaims his purpose of gathering the nations together into the valley of Jehoshaphat, there to sit in judgment upon them. He speaks of this as the time of the harvest and of the vintage, and we know the harvest is “the end of the age.” (Matt. xiii. 39.) He speaks also of the “multitudes,” assembled for judgment in the valley of decision. He speaks too of “the sun and the moon being darkened and the stars withdrawing their shining.” He tells us also, that in that day “the heavens and the earth shall shake.” Now every one of these expressions is quoted in the New Testament, and applied to the time of the second coming. As to the harvest our Lord tells us, that in that day “the Son of man shall send forth his angels and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and them that do iniquity.” (Matt. Xiii. 41.) And this is at his advent. As to the multitudes assembled in the valley of decision, our Lord also thus speaks of that day of “decision” or separation. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” (Matt. xxv. 31.) As to the signs in the sun and moon, I need add nothing to what I have quoted in other parts. As to “the shaking of the heavens and earth,” we have the authority of Paul for referring it to the last crisis, as we shall immediately see. And thus it is manifest that it is of the second coming of the Lord with its attendant signs and judgments that God is here speaking by the mouth of his prophet Joel. Keeping this in mind let us mark what follows. “So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion my holy mountain; then shall Jerusalem be holy, and then shall no strangers pass through her any more.” For the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, and she is no more trodden down by the foot of the stranger. Then it is added: “and it shall come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” Such is Joel’s picture of Jerusalem in the day when her walls shall be rebuilded, and of Judea in the time when her former fruitfulness and plenty shall be restored, or rather multiplied sevenfold. Is not this the millennial state? Yet it is after, not before the coming of the Lord, as the passage most plainly shows.

VI. Haggai ii.—This chapter contains a prediction of the universal shakings which are to lead to the final stablishing of all things. “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land ; and I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” And again, v. 21, “I will shake the heavens and the earth ; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen ; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them ; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.” This prophecy has never yet been fulfilled. It was not so at the First Advent, because that period, instead of being one of shakings was a time of universal peace. The kingdoms of the earth underwent no change at all. The heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land have suffered as yet no convulsion, but continue firm and stable. Peace, not war ; calm, not commotion, heralded the Saviour’s Advent. Besides, we have the testimony of the Apostle Paul, that in his days it was unfulfilled, “Whose voice then (at Sinai) shook the earth, but now he hath promised, saying, yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.” The shaking is to be somewhat like the former one, but far more terrible and universal. He contrasts the then and the now ; the hath shaken with the hath promised. Then He actually shook the earth, but now, at this present time, we have his promise that he will shake it again, and not the earth only, but also heaven. How distinctly he tells us that at the time he wrote there was a promise of a future shaking. Of course that could have nothing to do with the First Advent. But there are numerous predictions of earthquakes, and convulsions in connexion with the Second Advent. These are too many to be cited here. I suppose no one will question this.

Let me farther observe that it is after this mighty and universal commotion that the Desire of all Nations is to come. The shaking of all things is to precede and prepare the way for his arrival. And after this, comes the promised “glory” (verse 7) and the promised “peace” (verse 9), Jehovah at the same time as it were putting in his claim to the precious things of earth, the silver and the gold to be used by him as he shall see t (verse 8.). Then, as if to give us the loftiest anticipations of coming grandeur, he tells us that great as was the glory of the former temple, over whose fallen beauty the ancient men of Israel wept, yet far greater shall be the glory of the future house, of which he gives the promise; or rather as it should be rendered, “great shall be the glory of this house, the latter glory more than the former glory,” for the comparison is not between a first and a second temple, but between a first and a second glory, as is evident from the third verse of the chapter, where we read, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory, and how do ye see it now.” And from this we see that all the temples, beginning with Solomon’s, are considered as one, even though they had been levelled and rebuilt. There have been three temples, Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s, Herod’s, but all these are regarded as but one house. This promise of glory is a theme often sung by prophets, “I will glorify the house of my glory,” says Isaiah; and there are many such visions of future grandeur, which I need not quote. They all concur in predicting the glory of the house and the people of God in the latter day, when Mount Zion shall be the joy of the whole earth, and Jerusalem the city of the great King. There is “peace,” however, as well as glory promised, after these convulsions, and after the arrival of the Desire of all Nations. This peace has not yet been given to any land or city or nation of our troubled earth. But there shall be “peace” upon Israel, and “peace” over all the hills and valleys of this earth. After the tempest comes the calm ; after midnight comes the morn ; after wars and rumours of wars comes the day of universal peace.

Very distinct then is the order of the events here set forth to us by the prophet Haggai. There is first the universal shaking, and “the removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” Then there is the arrival of Messiah. Then there are the times of the restitution of all things, the glory and the peace of the millennial reign.

VII. Zechariah xiv.—The whole of this chapter points forward to “the day of the Lord,” and the events which are to follow it. I do not lay any stress upon the expression, “day of the Lord,” though in the original it is different from and stronger than many similar ones. I do not say that this term itself can determine the time here spoken of to be that of the Advent. It is on what follows that I lean for fixing this.

The second verse predicts a siege of Jerusalem, and paints it very minutely. This cannot be the siege by Titus nor any other that has yet taken place, for the description is totally unlike anything that has yet befallen the city ; so totally unlike, that it must refer to something yet to come. In the midst of this siege, when the nations are gathered against the city, the Lord appears for its deliverance. “Then shall the Lord go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.” To make this more specific and to point it out to us as really the Advent, it is added, “his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east ; and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof towards the east and towards the west ; and there shall be a very great valley, and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south: . . . AND THE LORD MY GOD SHALL COME AND ALL THE SAINTS WITH THEE.” What can this be but the Second Advent?

“Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints.” If this do not describe the Advent, what language can do it I There is nowhere in all Scripture a more minute and explicit statement regarding the Advent ; and if this do not mean the Advent, how shall others mean it?*

*So thought John Bunyan, who thus writes in one of his works :—“ The Quakers are deceivers,because they persuade souls not to believe, that that man that was crucified and rose again, flesh and bones, (Luke xxiv. 38—40) shall so come again, that very man in the clouds of heaven to judgment, as he went away—and at the very same time shall raise up all the men and women out of their graves, and cause them to come to the Valley of Jehoshaphat—because there will He, that very man, sit to judge all the Heathen round about. “I say, they strive to beat souls OE from believing this, though it be the truth of God witnessed by the Scripture, Joel iii. ll, 12, as also Acts i. 10, 11, ‘This same Jesus which is taken from you into heaven shall so come (mark, the very same), in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,’ ‘ and his feet shall stand in that day (the day of his second coming) upon the Mount of Olives.’ Where is that? Not within thee! but that which is without Jerusalem, before it, on the east side.”—“A Vindication of Gospel Truths opened according to the Scriptures,” Works, vol. v., p. 486.

What reason can be given for not accepting the plain sense of the words ? Why seek another ? Ought we not to abide by the natural meaning of the passage unless it can be proved that the non-natural is the proper one? Taking the passage then as predictive of the Advent, let us mark what follows that event. After mentioning the struggle between light and darkness which was then to take place, it is added, “It shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them towards the former sea (Dead Sea), and half of them towards the binder sea (the Mediterranean): in summer and in winter shall it be. AND THE LORD SHALL BE KING OVER ALL THE EARTH; in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name one : and the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, and it shall be lifted up and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate, unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner-gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s wine-presses. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.” I need quote no more. The whole chapter from the eighth verse onward is descriptive of millennial glory and the blessedness of Messiah’s reign. Let the whole of this remarkable prediction be read in succession from the commencement of the chapter, and I do not see it possible to avoid the conclusion that the Advent must precede the Millennium.

VIII. Luke xxi. 24.—“Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Now, what follows the fulfillment of these times ?—the Advent ; for it is added that “then there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars . . . . and then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” No one doubts that our times are the times of the Gentiles,—-the times of Israel’s down-treading. When are these to end ? At the coming of the Lord—not before. Gentile tyranny and Jewish suffering are to continue till the Lord shall come. How, then, can the millennium be before the coming? Surely, during it, the Gentile will not tyrannize, nor the Jew be trodden down: and if so, then the millennium must succeed that advent which is to put an end to this misery and oppression; to dethrone these abusers of their kingly power, and to exalt Israel to honour among the nations.

Besides the proof derived from this verse, the whole chapter in which it occurs is a testimony to the pre-millennial Advent. In it and in the corresponding chapters of the other evangelists, our Lord is enumerating the signs of his coming. He points to not a few, and on the ground of these he says, WATCH,—“When ye see these things come to pass, then know that your redemption draweth nigh.” Now, had the millennium preceded the Advent, could he failed to have alluded to it ? Would it not have been by far the most prominent, the most striking, the most incontestable sign of his coming ? It would truly have been the sign of signs, which no man could mistake. If a thousand years’ blessedness on earth were to be the forerunner of his Advent, why does he not point to this sign as by far the most notable of them all? What reason can be conceived for its not being remembered among the many others, except that it was to follow, not to precede, the appearing of the Lord ? The only answer I have heard to this is, that the millennial state will not be so very different from the present as to make it a notable sign at all. The binding of Satan is said to mean his having somewhat less influence than he has at present, and “the people being all righteous” is called an oriental figure. To this I have no other answer to give than a repetition of the innumerable passages which most broadly and most brightly declare the very opposite. Are these rich visions of glory upon earth a mere shadow ? Is the Word of God to be thus tampered with and diluted? I cannot but think that there are few who have any real reverence for Scripture that would allow themselves to be so blinded by system as to adopt such principles of interpretation. It is sad that men should deny the literal reign of Christ on earth, but it is matter of yet more solemn sadness, that Christians should be found, who, in carrying out their spiritualizing theory, should have landed themselves in so meagre, so barren a vision of the future. What, though it should save their system, and harmonize its parts ? Is that a sufficient reason for representing the glory of the latter age as a mere improvement and expansion of what is good in the present day ? When God tells us that Satan is to be bound, does that mean that he is not to be bound, but still to roam at large ? Impossible! Incredible!*

* “I look upon the language of Scripture as the simplest, truest, most reasonable language of all that has ever been uttered.” ” The Epistle of the Hebrews,” &c., by F. D. Maurice, M.A., p. xxxviii. A work deserving study; masculine all over.

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889): PRE-MILLENNIAL ADVENT 2/2


Prophetical Landmarks: Chap. VII
Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
Copyright: Public Domain

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When God presents to us prophetic pictures of universal holiness, as the very scenes that are yet to gladden the earth, heaping figure upon figure to exalt our conceptions of the universality of millennial peace, does he really mean us to understand that these were exaggerations—mere eastern figures, from which we must make large deductions, in order to arrive at the truth? The prophetic scene is certainly very glorious—will the real scene only be an improvement upon what we see around us every day? I would not be severe; nor would I use the language of unkindness, but I should be speaking untruly and unfaithfully if I did not say that I regard such dilutions of Scripture with astonishment and alarm. First, we are asked to believe in a millennium without Christ in person, and then, as if that were not enough, millennial blessedness must be stripped of all its glory, and reduced to a shadow or a spectre!

IX. Acts iii. 20, 21.—“And he shall send Jesus, which before has been preached unto you; whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Here it is distinctly asserted that Christ is to remain in heaven until “the times of restitution of all things,” and then he is to be “sent.” The “times of restitution of all things” and the “times of refreshing” explain each other, for they obviously refer to the same period, a period which is to be introduced by Christ in person. This is the natural meaning of the passage.

It is objected to this that the expression “times of restitution,” &c., means “times of the fulfilling of all things which God hath spoken of by the mouth of all his holy prophets.” On this I remark, that this is not the meaning of the word as given in any dictionary. There it is said to mean “the bringing back of things to their former state.” And this surely ought to weigh with us. But let us see how it is used in Scripture. The noun itself occurs nowhere else either in the Old or New Testament; but the kindred verb is found frequently, and means invariably to “restore,” not to “fulfill,” as, for instance, Matt. xii. 13, “It was restored whole like as the other;” xvii. ll, “Elias must first come and restore all things;” Acts i. 6, “Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” or, turn to the Old Testament, Jer. xvi. 15, “I will bring them again into their land;” Ezek. xvi. 55, “They shall be restored as at the beginning.” These instances are quite sufficient to show the meaning of the word. It is no doubtful meaning; it is the uniform one of all the passages where it occurs. It never means to fulfill—there are other words for that in frequent use throughout Scripture. Our translation is, in truth, the exactest that could be given; all our former English translators, Wicliff, Tyndale, Cranmer, &c., give the very same sense; and thus Calvin expounds the passage. After translating the words as we do “the times of restoring;” he remarks, “If at this time we see many things confused in the World, let this hope refresh us, that Christ shall once come that he may restore all things.” How can anything, .then, be more explicit? And, looking at these words alone, though no others were to be found, may we not (to use the words of Bishop Horne) “expect Christ’s second Advent to restore all things, to judge the world, and to begin his glorious reign?”

X. Rom. viii. 19-423.—Here creation is spoken of as being made “subject to vanity,” and lying under a curse, evidently the curse which was pronounced against it for man’s transgression. It “groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” But there is a promise of deliverance,—a deliverance which is evidently the same as the “restitution of all things,” or the millennial state of blessedness. .Now, the Apostle tells us (ver. 23) that this is to take place at “ the redemption of the body,” that is, the resurrection, which we know is to be at the coming of the Lord. Thus creation is represented as looking forward for its restoration to that very time to which the saints are looking forward,—the resurrection and he Advent. That event is to bring deliverance to them and to the whole creation. Mr. Haldane, in his “Commentary” on this Epistle, brings out the meaning very forcibly and at great length. He shows that it can have no meaning but the one given above. Thus he writes:—“The Apostle means to say that the creation, which, on account of the sin of man, has by the sentence of God been subjected to vanity, shall be rescued from the present degraded condition under which it groans; and according to the hope held out to it, is longing to participate with the sons of God in that freedom from vanity into which it shall at length be introduced, partaking with them in their future and glorious deliverance from all evil.”*

* Vol. ii., p. 285.

Thus it is declared that the creation is to go on groaning and travailing, with the curse weighing it down and sterilizing its soil, until Christ shall come to make all things new. Must not the Advent, then, necessarily come before the millennium?

XI. 2 Thess. ii. }—8.—In both of these Epistles the coming of the Lord is continually referred to, and upon it the whole emphasis and meaning of the Second Epistle rests. Let us gather out the different allusions to it which are scattered through these Epistles.

l. “To wait for his Son from heaven.”—1 These. i. 10.

2. “What is‘ our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming.”—ii. 19.

3. “To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”—iii. 13.*

* This passage has been quoted to prove that, after Christ comes, conversion cannot go on upon the earth, for all his saints are to come with him. I confess I am surprised at the stress laid upon the word all, as if it necessarily meant every one. But passing from this, let me observe, that when Christ is said to come with all his saints, it must of course mean all who are saints at the time when he comes. It can mean nothing more. It cannot, of course, mean that he is to come with those who shall be saints after he comes. That is an absurdity. And if this passage simply means all who are or have been saints up to the time of his coming, it of course settles nothing as to future conversions. That must be determined by other passages. To determine it by this is an entire begging of the question. There are many direct texts which prove that there are to be conversions after he has come. But I do not enter on this here.

4. “We which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent (or go before) them that are asleep: for the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”—iv. 15—17.

5. “Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”—v. 2.

6. “I pray God that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—v. 23.

7. “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 admired in all them that believe.”—2 Thess. i. 7, 10.

8. “We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him.”—ii. l.

9. “As that the DAY or CHRIST is at hand.”—ii. 2.

10. “THAT DAY shall not come unless there come a falling away first.”—ii. 3.

11. “Then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming.”—ii. 8.

12. “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.”—iii. 5.

Here; then, are no fewer than twelve passages in which the coming of the Lord is spoken of; and this in two brief Epistles, or eight chapters in all. The Thessalonians could attach but one meaning to all these various allusions, and would never think of understanding them in different senses, and with reference to different events. Besides, we know as an historical fact, that they really did so. Before the Apostle wrote, they doubtless, like all the early saints, were looking for the Lord’s coming. His First Epistle confirmed them in this, and awakened yet more fervent expectations. They were now filled with one thought,—the immediate Advent. Some one, either belonging to themselves or some other Church, took advantage of this, and wrote an epistle in the name of Paul, foretelling the instant appearing of the Lord. They were thus “shaken in mind, and troubled.” On receiving intelligence of their excited state, the Apostle wrote his Second Epistle, to allay this agitation. In correcting their error, he takes for granted that they were right in waiting for Christ, and also, that when he spoke in his First Epistle of the Advent, he really meant Christ’s literal, visible, and personal coming. What, then, was the error which he corrected? That they were to be so sure of his coming instantaneously, that they might throw aside their business and look up to heaven, expecting him every moment to descend.*

* Or rather, we should say their error was that the day of the Lord “had arrived,” for this is the meaning of Momma. See Rom. viii. 38,—“ Neither things present, nor things to come;” m’ru menu at». mm See also 1 Cor. iii. 22; vii. 26; Gal. i. 4; Hob. ix. 9.

To correct this, he tells them of an event which was to occur before the Advent—the rising of Antichrist. But this is all. This apostasy was already in action; it was to go on and exalt itself; and then, when this Man of Sin had reached the very pride and pitch of his grandeur, the Lord was to come and smite him to the dust.

Thus it is very plain that the destruction of Antichrist and the Lord’s Advent must be simultaneous, for He comes in order to destroy him. The apostasy began in the apostles’ days. It has been growing and spreading ever since. It is to increase in greatness, “wearing out the saints of the Most High;” writing the name of blasphemy upon men’s foreheads and hands; prevailing upon all the world to worship and to wonder after it. Then, when seated most proudly upon the throne of iniquity, the Lord shall descend from heaven and destroy this destroyer of the earth. How, then, can the millennium be before the Advent? If the. Lord comes to slay the Man of Sin, he must also come to begin the millennial glory.

But must the “coming of the Lord” mean his personal appearing here? I think it undoubtedly must. What was it that the Thessalonians were looking for? The literal Advent. Then, by that Advent, Antichrist was to be destroyed. What event was it that was agitating them, and which the Apostle tells them was “not to come” till there “should come a falling away?” The literal Advent. Then it must of necessity be that very Advent which was to take place as soon as the falling away had come to pass. Otherwise, how unmeaning the Apostle’s argument! When Paul wrote to the Roman Church that he intended to visit them, only he must first go up to Jerusalem with the contribution for the poor saints, did he not mean that when this errand was discharged, he, the same Paul, would visit them in person? Would the postponement of the visit alter the personality, transmuting it from a real into a spiritual visit? In like manner, does the fact of an interval being to take place before the Advent, alter the character of the Advent at the close of the interval, so that that which was understood to be a literal thing before the interval, must evaporate into a spiritual thing on account of that interval having elapsed? The Thessalonians imagined that there was to be no interval at all, but that the Lord was to come forthwith. The Apostle tells them that there was to be an interval, but that, as soon as that was over, that very same event, and not another of a different kind, would happen, which they had been looking for. Surely this is plain enough.

But will the words not admit of a spiritual interpretation? May the words not be so explained as to do away with the allusion to the literal Advent? The attempt has been made to spiritualize them. Another sense has been given, which is certainly not the natural, but the non-natural. Whether it can stand, we shall see.

What, then, is the expression which requires to be spiritualized? It is literally “the epiphany of his presence.” *

* I do not think it needful to quote the Greek, as I am not writing a critical treatise; but if any one will carefully consult the original, he will find the above statements not only verified, but mightily confirmed. I might establish what is advanced here by reference to the ablest critics; but I merely quote two, as a specimen of the rest. Schoettgen thus translates the expression, “ The Advent of Christ, which shall refulgently strike every eye, and whose majesty and glorious splendour no one shall be able to deny.”—Hore Hebraice, in loc., p. 846.—Again, Kiittner paraphrases it, “ The Advent of Messiah, illustrious by its splendour and majesty.”-—Hypomnema!ain Nov. Test, in loc., p. 465.

The two words, “epiphany” and “presence,” are frequently used separately, to denote the literal Advent; and surely when they both occur together, we are warranted in considering the expression as one of the strongest that could have been used to denote the literal coming. This double term is certainly the strongest which occurs in these Epistles, and seems used, of purpose, by the Apostle, to prevent the possibility of its being explained away. There are twelve references to the coming in these Epistles,—eleven are admitted by all to mean the literal coming. Yet all these eleven are weaker than the one in controversy, which is the twelfth. Is it not, then, most unaccountable, that the weaker should be interpreted literally, and the very strongest of all explained away? The eleven weaker words are taken naturally; but the twelfth, which is the strongest, must be taken unnaturally! Surely there is some bias warping the judgment here.

But farther; the word “epiphany” occurs just six times in the New Testament. In one of these it refers to the first coming, which we know to be literal In four others, it is conceded by all, to point to the literal second coming. The sixth is the passage in question, and it is stronger than any of the five. They are as follows:—

]. “Until the APPEARING of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Tim. vi. l4.

2. “Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His APPEARING and His kingdom.”—-2Tim. iv. 1.

3. “To all them that love his APPEARING.”—2 Tim. iv. 8.

4. Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.”—Titus ii. 13.

A little above we asked, Why, out of twelve passages, all apparently having the same meaning, make that one which is the strongest and least liable to suspicion, an exception to the rest? So, here we ask, Why, out of six distinct passages, in which the same word occurs, make that which (by being coupled with another) is the strongest, an exception to the rest? Why spiritualize the strongest, and leave the weakest to stand as it is? It may, no doubt, obstruct or dislocate your system; but will you allow that to be a sufficient reason for putting a non-natural sense upon the word?

In reply, it is said, that the word “coming” is used spiritually in the ninth verse of this very chapter. In reference to this, I crave attention to the following remarks:—

1. This argument, even when conceded, amounts only to a “may be,” and a “may be” set in opposition to the strongest “must be” that I can conceive. What I have already advanced appears to me to amount to a positive and irresistible “must be.” Of what force, then, is a mere “may be” in opposition to this I” What critic can be content to found his hermeneutics upon so precarious a basis?

2. Because, though a weaker expression may be spiritualized, it does not follow that a much stronger one may be, far less must be, dealt with in the same way: because a general term is ambiguous, that is no reason for a particular and explicit one being equally so; yet this is the meaning of the objection!

3. Because the terms are not convertible, which they would be if this argument be valid. If the “brightness of his coming” be applicable to Antichrist equally with Christ, then there would be some force in the objection to our statements. But if this be inadmissible, the objection breaks down. How can we argue thus,—the word coming is applied spiritually to Antichrist, therefore the words “brightness of his coming” (which cannot be used in reference to Antichrist), may be applied spiritually to Christ? If the words were synonymous, I could understand the argument, but when they are not so, I confess I cannot. If a+b=b, and convertible with b, then whatever b represents, a+b may represent; but if a+b be much larger than b, and not convertible, then it is absurd in me to say, because I have discovered that b represents a certain sum, therefore a+b must represent the same.

4. Our objector seems to forget that he believes in a literal Advent of Christ as well as we, however far we may be asunder as to the time of it, whereas his reasoning proceeds on the supposition that the Advent of Christ is no more a literal Advent than that of Antichrist. His syllogism halts grievously. It should run thus: “The word coming, when applied  to Antichrist, cannot be literal, because there is no literal Advent of Antichrist; therefore, the same word, when applied to Christ, cannot be literal, because there is no literal Advent of Christ.” Though Antichrist’s “coming” may not be personal, and therefore we may be at liberty to spiritualize the word, is that any reason for saying that we are at liberty to spiritualize that word (or, rather, a far stronger one) as applied to Christ, when we do believe in his literal coming at some time or other? The reason why the liberty was taken of spiritualizing it in the case of Antichrist was, that we believed he was not to come personally at all. Had we acknowledged a personal coming in this case, we should not have felt ourselves at liberty to do this. Why, then, can we feel at liberty to spiritualize the word, as referring to Christ, when our reason for spiritualizing no longer exists? The figurative sense may be admissible in the case of him who is to come spiritually, but is that a reason for saying that it is admissible also in the case of him who is yet to come literally and personally?

5. Of whatever strength this objection may be to those who deny a personal Antichrist, it has no force at all to those who believe in his personality. Now, though I cannot agree with some, either of the ancient, or others of the very recent, theories on the subject of a personal Antichrist, yet I confess I do believe that the great Antichristian system is to have an individual Head or King. This Head or King is frequently prophesied of both in the Old and New Testaments. He is the representative of the whole vast body of iniquity .with which the earth is to be overspread. And, as the head or representative of that body, I so far, at least, recognise his literal personality. And if so, then the objection I have been refuting, though entitled to What weight it may have with a denier of Antichrist’s personality, has no point or strength at all with a believer in that personality. It may be, perhaps, used as an argumentum ad hominem, but it can be nothing more.

Thus I have endeavoured to fix the interpretation of this passage. I have given, what appears to me, very strong and ample reasons for taking it in its natural sense; it remains for others to produce their strong reasons for understanding it in its non-natural sense. They ought, however, to be prepared, not only to show reasons why it may be, but why it must be or ought to be, so explained. Surely, if their system be strong and coherent, it will be able to abandon mere negative ground, and advance to something more positive and aggressive in the matter of Scripture interpretation, by which alone the question between us can be finally decided.

XII. 2 Peter iii. 1-13.—The argument from this passage, in favour of a pre-millennial Advent, I have already stated. It is simply this, that the “last days,” which had begun in the time of the apostles, were, to go on, abounding more and more in wickedness, scoffing, apostasy, and atheism, till suddenly broken in upon by the coming of the day of the Lord. I do not mean, however, to repeat what I have advanced. I wish merely to notice objections.

The chief objection is somewhat of this nature: “This universal conflagration must so burn up and destroy every living thing upon the earth’s surface, that it is impossible to believe that men can come forth out of it to people the earth, as Millennarians believe. On this let me observe,—

This is no answer at all to our argument. It does not touch the difficulty. It may prove that there can be no millennium at all, but what else can it prove? I adduce it to show that wherever the millennium be placed, it cannot be between this time and the Advent. The objection may very aptly be used to prove. that the millennium in which we believe is an impossibility,—but how can it answer our argument that any millennium between this and the coming is an impossibility if those words of the apostle be true. It may compel us to alter our ideas of the nature of the millennium, but not of the time and place it occupies.

The truth is, that the passage presents difficulties to both parties; and it would be well that, with this concession made, they should sit calmly down to consider it. The Anti-millennarian has to answer the question, How can you, with such a passage before you, believe that there can be a millennium before the Advent? The Mllennarian has to solve this other difficulty, How can you believe that men can exist in the midst of such wide-wasting fire, and come out of it to inhabit the earth? Leaving the former to escape from his dilemma as he can, I shall try to help the latter out of his; and, in doing so, I remark that this prediction of the apostle is not an isolated passage, but one of a large class, all referring to the same time. I take the first specimen of these from the Apocalypse. Under the sixth seal a desolation equal to that predicted by Peter is described. What can be stronger than this? “I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, l0, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as the sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scrowl when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.” (Rev. vi. 12—14.) Yet after this we find men inhabiting the earth. Again, at the pouring out of the seventh vial we read, “Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found;” yet after this we find men still upon the earth, who have passed through this universal earthquake. Again we read in Isaiah as follows: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of} his fierce anger. And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up.” (Isaiah xiii. 9—14.) Can any intimation of destruction be stronger than this? Yet immediately after it we find men inhabiting the earth, who have come out of it. Again take the 24th chapter of the same prophet. I need not quote it, for I have done so in another place, but I ask can any destruction be more complete and more universal in the widest and most unrestricted sense? It is not conflagration only, but convulsion, earthquake, dissolution, and every form of most thorough destruction.*

* I would notice here that many of the expressions here are precisely the same as in Peter,—only they are repeated and heightened, and magnified by the prophet far beyond those of the apostle.

There is not in all Scripture such a picture of entire, consuming desolation and passing away, as there is here. Every wasteful element is introduced. Every annihilating power is brought to bear upon the earth as if for the purpose of making clean away with it and its inhabitants. Yet out of all this men come forth to dwell upon the face of the earth, after this universal earthquake and conflagration have passed away.

I shall not quote other passages, though they are not a few. I give these as specimens. Now I ask our objectors what they make of these passages? I point to these pictures of terrific wide-sweeping ruin, fire and earthquake, lightning and hurricane, all mingled together. I point to the plain statements which follow, as to men surviving these infinite catastrophes. And I ask, if you do not stumble at these nor count them difficulties, why stumble at another of the same kind, and pronounce it insuperable? Before you ask me to reconcile Peter with my system, I ask you to reconcile Isaiah with yours. The difficulty exists. It exists in both systems. Both, then, are equally concerned to adjust or remove it. If it be solved against us; if it be found that we cannot account for such a state of things; then our theory of the Millennium must of course break down, but our first position remains unassailed, that let the nature of the Millennium be what it may, its place cannot be between us and the appearing of the Lord. No solution of the difficulty touches that position; and that is all we adduce the passage to establish.

But besides this, there are, I think, allusions to this very difficulty in Scripture, and to the true solution of it. The Church, we are told, is to be taken up out of the midst of that fiery desolation and lodged in the CLOUD with Jesus, safe from the wasting fire. But even though they remained, could they not be as safe in the midst of it as was Noah amid the swelling billows of the flood; or, as the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace? Israel also, or at least a remnant, is secured from harm. To this there are many allusions in Isaiah, “Come my people, enter into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, until the indignation be overpast.” And “I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth,” (Isa. Ii. 16,) i.e., “I will secure thee, O Israel, from evil, while I am engaged in preparing the new heavens and earth, so that those calamities which are then to befall the earth, shall not come nigh thee.” As to the heathen remnant which shall survive that day, I do not find such express promises of preservation; yet as they are spoken of as “the heathen that are left,” so it is probable that some method of preservation will be afforded them. And What is to hinder Him who built the heavens and earth from preserving for himself a remnant to re-people the globe when the fiery deluge shall have passed away? Can he not provide a shelter for as many or as few as he shall please to deliver? Is any thing too hard for Him? Is his hand shortened that it cannot save? The only question is, has he so purposed and declared? If so, nothing shall hinder it,—fire, nor storm, nor earthquake, nor the terrible hail which “is reserved for the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war.” *

* Job xxxviii. 23.

XIII. 1 John ii. 18.—“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” I notice this passage in proceeding onwards, but I do not dwell upon it, as I have already taken out of it the argument which it contains. It states that the last time was come, that the mark of this time was the prevalence of antichrists, whose power was to increase, as we have seen, until the Lord come. There is no room then for inserting the Millennium between the close of this time of evil, and the Advent.

XIV. Rev. xviii. and xix. — The eighteenth chapter describes the greatness and the ruin of Babylon, very minutely and very terribly. And how does it close? With the marriage supper of the Lamb. No sooner is the doom of Babylon secured and her smoke seen ascending, than the ALLELUIA of the Bride begins, and she sits down with the Bridegroom at the marriage supper. Now as all admit that the marriage supper is not till the Advent and the resurrection, I do not see how it is possible to escape the conclusion that there can be no Millennium till then. Where is there room for it between the fall of Babylon and the marriage supper?

I had marked other passages to be adduced as proofs of the pre-millennial Advent, but I have prolonged the discussion on some of the above to such an extent that I must set them aside. Those already dwelt upon are sufficient. Each of them singly might be enough to determine the question, how much more the cumulative demonstration afforded by the whole together. They are not mere negative proofs; intended to overthrow an adversary, they are all positive, designed to build up a system. Would that our objectors would take this more excellent way!

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892): Victory Over Sin

Victory Over Sin
Andrew Bonar (1810-1892)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Victory Over Sin

There is a plant called Samphire, which grows only on cliffs near the sea. But though it grows near the salt waves, yet it is never found on any part of a cliff which is not above the reach of the tide. On one occasion, a party of ship wrecked sailors, flung ashore, were struggling up the face of precipitous rocks, afraid of the advancing tide overtaking them, when one of their number lighted upon a plant of samphire, growing luxuriantly. Instantly he raised a shout of joy, assuring his companions by this token that they were now in safety. The sea might come near this spot, and perhaps cast up its spray, but would never be found reaching it. Such is the position of a soul in Christ; justified and united to Him, the person may be in full sight still of the world’s threatening and angry waves; but he is perfectly safe, and cannot be overwhelmed. Paul says of all Christians: “Ye are risen with Christ” (Colossians iii. 1). We are not only at peace with God; but besides, “He hath raised us up together with Christ, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians ii. 6).

Any one who understands this union to Christ will see at once what a blessed plan it is, formed by the God of holiness, for giving a sinner victory over sin. If Lazarus be raised out of his tomb, he shall certainly be found no longer lying amid worms and rottenness, and the cold damps of the sepulchre, but walking in Bethany, in converse with living men. And so, says Paul in Colossians iii. 1-4: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him, in glory. MORTIFY THEREFORE YOUR MEMBERS WHICH ARE UPON THE EARTH;” fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry! What resolutions cannot do, what vows and prayers have failed to accomplish, what self-denial and mortification and crosses have never succeeded in giving you, this plan of God at once attains, this union to Christ. The sinner is led by the Holy Spirit to know and believe in the Lord Jesus, and, in the very moment of believing on Him, becomes one with Him. Forthwith begins a heavenly partnership: Christ and the soul share together; Christ giving to the soul out of His fulness all manner of grace, as occasion requires.

But, fellow-sinner, you must not suppose that the mere assenting to this truth as a doctrine will give you the results. You must have real experience in regard to believing in Jesus. Come and try the personal application of it to your soul. Lean on Christ for yourself, and thus be you yourself united to Him. Doctrine must be turned into experience. Have you read of the process by which iron is turned into steel? You will see a great crucible, with its enormous mass of iron, subjected to intense heat, till it seems a mass of glowing fire. But all that might cool down, and would be only iron after all, if there were not poured into it a small quantity of a liquid, which alters every particle of its chemical constitution, and then it becomes steel. Has such a change taken place in your case: the turning the iron into steel? ―doctrine into experience?

We speak much of Christianity and Christians; but union to Christ by faith is the root of all; and faith is as much Christ’s hold of us, as ours of Him. It implies our hold of the truth; but it also implies that the Spirit of truth from Christ has taken hold of us. Baptism speaks, in a figure, of souls being saved in this way of union to the Lord: for the baptized one is represented as “baptized into Him.” The Lord’s Supper proclaims in another form this great truth of union to the Lord. And thus we are brought to ask all who profess to be Christ’s such questions as the following:

I. To what does union to Christ call you?

It calls you to make heavenly things your business. “If ye be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God” (Colossians iii. 1). Seek such things, pursue after them, make a business of them. The word is one that implies the soul’s fixed aim and employment, even as, Matthew vi. 33, “Seek the kingdom of God.” “The moment Christ rose,” says Bengel, “He was thinking of going upward” (John xx. 17); and so it should be with us who have risen with Him. The risen believer now carries on traffic with Him, seeking spiritual gains. He trades for an absent Lord as eagerly as ever he once traded for worldly gain. He is grieved at spiritual losses as deeply as he once was at losses in his business, when a ship was lost at sea, or a bank failed, or some speculation proved ruinous. On the other hand, he rejoices in spiritual gains: when, for example, the mist is cleared away from a truth, or when the excellency of some Scripture doctrine shines into his soul, or when he gets some fresh view of Christ, and some increase of faith, love, and hope. More specially still, he fixes his attention habitually upon Christ sitting at the right hand; for His being there tells so much about acceptance. His “sitting” declares that He has finished all His undertaking, and has no more toil to undergo. His sitting “at the right hand” declares the Father’s high approval, and delight, and honour. And so to this point he ever turns his eye, ―to this mountain of myrrh. And in truth he finds yet more there: he finds that by virtue of union to Christ he is himself, in a sense, there also, “sitting in heavenly places,” his toil done, his trials over, his victory won, himself altogether well-pleasing to the Father, and loved by the Father. The realization of this privilege has mighty power upon his soul; giving him wondrous liberty, helping his near communion, sending him forth to ever new and grateful service for One who so loves him.

It calls on you to disentangle your affection from earth. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians iii. 2). Make the things above your care; they are to be “the things which you mind,” in opposition to such men as those spoken of (Philippians iii. 19), who mind earthly things. You will not be content with making these things your business; you will have a taste and relish for them, a real delight in them. Many men pursue business with little liking for the thing itself, and are glad when it is over. Many an industrious and eager trader longs for rest and retirement. But the believer risen with Christ loves his business, his whole heart is in it. He “minds,” ―cares for, has affection for ―“not things on earth,” such as to be rich, great, noble, enjoy pleasure, nor even domestic comfort and personal ease. His chief end is not earthly prosperity, nor is his highest bliss a few more acres than other men; but it is things above which he relishes so heartily and unfeignedly. He is at home among “things above.” He is like the patriarchs, who left all they had in their native land, “seeking a better, that is, a heavenly country.” Such men mind God’s favour, God’s glory, God’s love. And hence, their children’s salvation is more to them than their aggrandisement in the world, and the conversion of souls than the news of mines of gold discovered and secured.

Do you bear the name of Christian? Is this, then, a fair account of you? Speak not of difficulties; for of course there are such in all pursuits; and here all alleged hindrances are swept out of the way by that word: “If ye be risen with Christ.” This word cuts the string, and the balloon ascends.

II. What does union to Christ ensure to you?

It ensures many things; but here are some. It ensures your getting life from Christ. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians iii. 3). You who are Christ’s died with Him, and in that hour your former life passed away. You had lived it out; it was for ever over, and you were loosed from all former things. You died. It was as if you had been carried to the New Earth at once, to live ever more there amidst its holy scenes; as if to you that day had come in which Christ says, “Behold I make all things new.” You became a “new creature,” part of a new creation, one with Christ, so that you lost your former separateness. And you found that, while you had lost your old life, there was new life laid up for you. “Life was hid for you with Christ in God.” You got the beginnings of a far better life than even unfallen Adam had, for you got life from Christ. Christ’s very life is yours; the very sap of the vine-tree for you the branch; the same resurrection-life, which the Spirit poured into the man Christ Jesus, was now yours also.

That holy power to love God and man, which was in Christ, you began to receive. That holy joy and full energy of delight in God’s favour, which on earth was Christ’s endowment, and ever is, became your portion. And you go on claiming every day a share in His stores of grace, a share in His holiness, a share in the Spirit’s manifold blessings. Light, life, likeness, all are yours, by gift.

The moment you believed, you were united to Christ; and that moment the stone was rolled off the mouth of the well; you began to get the new life, and you had it more or less ever since. But you have as yet only the beginnings of it. As when a father leaves for his son, while yet a minor, only a portion of the property, which is given out by some trustee; so you at present receive only in measure. “The life,” in all its fulness, “is hid with Christ;” that is, Christ has it, and Christ who has it is hid, or concealed like a hid treasure; but hid in God, in the bosom of the Father, so that all is safe and sure. It is hid, like the manna in the golden pot, within the holy of holies. It is there for safety, “as men lay up jewels in a place where the short arms of children cannot reach them,” says Samuel Rutherford; “for if it was in our keeping, it would soon be lost.” But all is kept for us, as 1 Peter i. 4 declares. It is “our life” (Colossians iii. 4), life which we have a claim to, stored up for us, intended for us. Yes, Christ is “our Life;” Christ is, so to speak, keeping Himself for us, and keeping for us the life abundantly which He purchased for us.

But again, this union to Christ ensures your appearing with Christ in glory. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory” (Colossians iii. 4). At present the believer, though one with Christ, lives outwardly as other men do: eating, drinking, sleeping, trading: he sows, he sails, he travels on railways, he goes to buy and sell, he reads news, he talks with his friends and children, ―all as other men. But all the while he has an interior life; he has a strong taste for spiritual things; he has desires toward God, which other men know not of; he yearns after God in Christ amid earth’s fairest scenes; he loves God in Christ beyond wife, or children, or parents, or possessions. “None of us liveth to himself” (Romans xiv. 7). And this life is preparing to bud forth fully into flower and fruit, whenever the present winter of earth has passed, and the Sun of righteousness arisen.

On the day when God’s time arrives for giving the larger fulness of the life to all who are members of Christ’s body ―on that day “Christ our life, shall appear.” The golden pot of manna, hidden long, shall be brought out of the Holy Place. He shall be fully in us, and we fully in Him. He shall appear who is “our Life” ―He on whom we nourish our souls ―who has life for us ―who is Himself the substance of that life; for (as one said) “Christ is a Christian’s life.” He shall appear, bringing this life to us; and this life, which He brings shall, at the same time, be the secret cause of “glory” to us; or, perhaps we should rather say, this life shall manifest its presence in us by our being forthwith invested with glory. As when a fountain gushes over, its waters make all round the margin green and flourishing; so, when our Life gushes into us our very bodies shall beam with glory. It was thus on the Transfiguration-hill with Christ Himself. The life in Him that evening ―the secret well of life ―suddenly overflowed, rising up to the brim; and see! what a body! yea, what garments even! And who could tell the joy of His soul in that hour, though He knew that sorrow was to return again to its channel, and fill up all its banks? Now, thus it shall be with us, ―ay, thus it shall be with us without any after return to sorrow, without any risk of the waters abating. Some weary day draws to its evening; we have wiped the sweat from our brow, and sighed over earth; we have groaned within ourselves, “Oh, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!” when lo! the sudden flash! It is the coming of the Son of man.

You may at times have envied Moses and Elias their blessed position, on either side of Jesus, appearing in glory (Luke ix. 31). But you yourself shall be as they: “Then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” Yes, as truly “with Him” as they were; as bright as they “in glory;” seeing Christ, talking with Christ, hearing the voice that proclaims, “This is My beloved Son!” O Master, O King of glory, our Life, appear! Come forth from that light inaccessible, to be ever with us! No need of three tabernacles; for Thy tabernacle shall be there, and all shall ever say, as the ages roll, “It is good to be here.” That will be the day, which accomplishes what many in the church of God have often sung:

“One look of Jesus as He is,

Shall strike all sin for ever dead.”

III. What does union to Christ ensure to you even now?

It enables us to overcome the world, and to renounce all sin; for the Spirit dwells in every believer. “MORTIFY THEREFORE your members which are upon the earth” (Colossians iii. 5). We do not yet and now overcome self, and the world, and Satan, in the manner we shall do when Christ appears, when (as old Sibbes triumphantly exclaims) “we shall trample down foes in glorious confusion!” But we, nevertheless, do overcome; for that strain is a true one:

“Neither passion nor pride thy cross can abide,

But melt in the fountain that flows from thy side.”

“MORTIFY therefore,” that is, make dead, reduce to a state of death as regards your practice of them, and care for them, ―“members which are on the earth;” your hands, eyes, feet, are not to meddle with “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness.” Whatever is yours belongs now to Christ, and is instinct with Christ’s Spirit; not merely ought to be, but really is so. Therefore, as men who are possessed of the power so to do ―as men who have the life within you, ready to be used ―control your members though they be still on the earth and in the presence of its objects. The fire is around you; but you have the supply of water beside you: make it play upon these flames, that they may not even singe a hair of your head. With your eye on things above, with your heart realizing your union to Christ, trample down the world and sin. In the power of your union to Christ, reckoning yourselves as one with Him, go forth and conquer. It is He that conquers. You go forth appealing to Him: “Lord, I am one with Thee: canst Thou be overcome?” In so doing, believers find lust sinks away, and passions grow cool, and covetousness relaxes its grasp; all tempting sin gives up its struggle for victory.

We might bring forward thousands of witnesses. Let us give the experience of one as a sample, ―the experience of one man who had yielded himself to sin and lust freely, and for long years. This man was led to listen to the gospel plan, under the preaching of Joseph Milner, the writer of the Church History. The text explained was 2 Corinthians v. 20, 21 ―reconciliation to God over Him who “was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” John Howard heard it ―was overcome; all the happiness he ever enjoyed before was felt by him to be no more like it than midnight darkness to the noonday sun. From that moment all his strong passions died away. The man who used to be shunned by all who cared for chastity and purity, felt himself suddenly delivered from the power of his lusts, so remarkably indeed that from that hour, he was no more overcome; nay, from that hour all was soberness and calmness of spirit. He used to say, that his enjoyment of God dried up the streams of sinful concupiscence, as it did long ago in the case of Augustine. And this is God’s way of holiness. Legalists, and moralists, and philosophers, all fail in reaching the seat of the evil ―the will and the desire; they lop the branches, but do not reach the root; they imprison the felon, but do not change his nature. To overcome evil within, St. Benedict rolled himself on thorns; St. Martin burnt his flesh with hot irons; St. Francis tumbled in snow; St. Bernard plunged himself in pools of freezing water. Even the great Pascal wore an iron girdle, full of sharp points, next his skin. All these overlooked, or understood not, the apostle’s inspired words, Mortify THEREFORE;” that is, conscious of your union to Christ, set about the mortifying of your members in the strength of this union, and in no other way. Think of union to Christ, and how it involves partnership with Him in His grace. Believing thus in Him is our victory: doing, resolving, suffering, give us no victory at all. The fear of hell and wrath will scarcely keep a man from one sin, and will never touch the heart.

Who of you then have, in time past, failed to triumph over your corruptions, and evil propensities? Who of you has never been able to master covetousness? or the world in any shape? Take the way of believing in Christ, and being thus in partnership with Him. Understand the blessed mystery of “rising with Christ,” and being seated with Him above; be graft into the vine, and get its sap. You have tried other means of health and strength; but now use this inspired direction, which has never failed. As Daniel and his fellows asked to be proved whether the water and the pulse they were nourished on would not turn out far more strengthening than all the king’s finest food and rarest wines, so we say to you, Prove it now for yourselves. And do not say, “I will wait for the Spirit;” for by that you mean, “I will wait on till I feel the Spirit at work.” This is a device of Satan to get you to go on in sin, and die in sin; for no man ever felt the Spirit at work directly. The Spirit works in silence. The soul learns the gospel way, and ponders it; muses on Christ, who died, and rose, and who calls on sinners, every one, to come and use his death and resurrection. And it is while the sinner is thus engaged before the cross, that the Holy Spirit works effectually, ―uniting him to Christ in the same moment that He leads him to Christ. And so the believing man becomes at once a conqueror!

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900): The Ten Virgins


Commentary on: The Ten Virgins
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)
Copyright: Public Domain

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“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil ,- for our lamps are gone out. But .the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And 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. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (MATT. xxv. 1-13.)

THE passage of Scripture before our eyes is one that deserves the close attention of all professing Christians. We ought to read it again and again, until we are thoroughly familiar with every sentence that it contains. It is a passage that concerns us all, whether ministers or people, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, old or young. It is a passage that can never be known too well.

These thirteen verses make ‘up one of the most solemn parables that our Lord Christ ever spoke; partly because of the time at which it was spoken, partly because of the matter which it contains.

As to the time, it was but a few days before our Lord’s Crucifixion. It was spoken within view of Gethsemane and Calvary, of the cross and the grave.

As to the matter, it stands as a beacon to the Church of Christ in‘ all ages. It is a witness against carelessness and slothfulness,—against apathy and indifference about religion,—and a witness of no uncertain sound. It cries to thoughtless sinners, “Awake!” It cries to true servants of Christ, “Watch!”

There are many trains of thought which this parable opens up, that I must of necessity leave alone. It would be foreign to my purpose to follow them out. I do not sit down to compose a learned commentary, but to write a simple practical address. I shall only clear my way by explaining two things, which otherwise might not be understood. And when I have done that, I shall keep to those main truths which it is most useful for us to know.

The marriage customs of the country where the parable was spoken, call for a few words of explanation. Marriages there generally took place in the evening. The bridegroom and his friends came in procession to the bride’s house after nightfall. The young women who were the bride’s friends were all assembled there, waiting for him. As soon as the lamps and torches, carried by the bridegroom’s party, were seen coming in the distance, these young women lighted their lamps, and went forth to meet him. Then, having formed one united party, they all returned together to the bride’s home. As soon as they arrived there they entered in, the doors were shut, the marriage ceremony went forward, and no one else was admitted. All these were familiar things to those who heard the Lord Jesus speak; and it is right and proper that you should have them in your mind’s eye while you read this parable.

The figures and emblems used in the parable also call for some explanation. I will give you my own view of their meaning. I may be wrong. I freer admit that they are not always interpreted exactly in the same way. But you have a right to have my opinion, and I will give it you shortly and decidedly.

I believe the parable to be a prophecy all the way through.

I believe the time spoken of in the parable, is the time when Christ shall return in person to this world, and a time yet to come. , The very first word, the word “then,” compared with the end of the twenty-fourth chapter, appears to me to settle that question.

I believe the ten virgins carrying lamps represent the whole body of professing Christians,—the visible Church of Christ.

I believe the Bridegroom represents our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

I take the wise virgins to be the true believers, the real disciples of Christ, the converted part of the visible Church.

I take the foolish to be the mere nominal Christians, the unconverted, the whole company of those who have no vital godliness?*

* “I am aware that Dean Alford does not take the view I have here stated. But his arguments do not satisfy me. My reasons will be found in my “Expository Thoughts on St. Matthew.” Most of the foreign Reformers and English Puritans maintain, as I do, that the foolish virgins represent the unconverted.

I take the lamps, which all alike carried, to be that mere outward profession of Christianity which every one possesses who has been baptized and has never formally renounced his baptism.

I take the oil, which some virgins had with their lamps, and others had not, to be the grace of the Holy Ghost—that “unction of the Holy One ” which is the mark of all true Christians.

I consider the coming of the Bridegroom to mean the second personal coming or advent of the Lord Christ, when He shall return in the clouds with glory.

I consider the going in to the marriage of the wise virgins, to mean the believers entrance into his full reward in the day of Christ’s appearing.

I consider the shutting out of the foolish virgins to mean the exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and glory of every soul whom He shall find unconverted at His second advent.

I offer these short explanations to your attention. I am not going to enter. into any unprofitable discussion about them. And without saying another word in the way of preface, I will at once go on to point out the great practical lessons which the parable of the ten virgins is meant to teach us.

I. Learn, first of all, that the visible Church of Christ will always be a mixed body till Christ comes again.

II. Learn, secondly, that the visible Church is always in danger of neglecting the doctrine of Christ’s second advent.

III. Learn, thirdly, that whenever Christ does come again, it will be a very sudden event.

IV. Learn, fourthly, that Christ’s second advent will make an immense change to all the members of the visible Church, both good and bad.

Reader, let me try to set each of these four truths plainly before you. If I can bring you, by God’s help, to see their vast importance, I believe I shall have done your soul an essential service.

I. Learn, rst of all, that the visible Church of Christ will always be a mixed body, till Christ comes again.

I can gather no other meaning from the beginning of the parable we are now considering. I there see wise and foo1ish virgins mingled together in one company,—virgins with oil, and virgins with no oil, all side by side And I see this state of things going on till the very moment the Bridegroom appears. I see all this, and I cannot avoid the conclusion that the visible Church will always be a mixed body till Jesus comes again. Its members will never be, all unbelievers: Christ will always have His witnesses. Its members will never be all believers: there will always be a vast proportion of formality, unbelief, hypocrisy, and false profession.

I frankly say that I can find no standing ground for the common opinion that the visible Church will gradually advance to a state of perfection—that it will become better and better, holier and holier, up to the very end,—and that little by little the whole body shall become full of light. I see no warrant of Scripture for believing that sin will gradually dwindle away in the earth, consume, melt, and disappear by inches, like the last snow-drift in spring. Nor yet do I see warrant for believing that holiness will gradually increase, like the banyan tree of the East, until it blossoms, blooms, and fills the face of the world with fruit. I know that thousands think in this way. All I say is, that I cannot see it in God’s Word.

I fully admit that the Gospel appears sometimes to make rapid progress in some countries; but that it ever does more than call out an elect people, I utterly deny. It never did more in the days of the Apostles. Out of all the cities that Paul visited, there is not the slightest proof that in any one the whole population became believers. It never has done more in any country, from the time of the Apostle down. to the present day. There never yet was a parish or congregation in any part of the world,—however favoured in the ministry it enjoyed—there never was one, I believe, in which all the people were converted. At all events, I never read or heard of it, and my belief is the thing never has been, and never will. I believe that now is the time of election, not of universal conversion. Now is the time for the gathering out of Christ’s little flock. The time of general obedience is yet to come.

I fully admit that missions are doing a great work among the heathen, and that schools and district-visiting are rescuing thousands from the devil at home. I do not undervalue these things. I would to God that all _ professing Christians would value them more. But men appear to me to forget that Gospel religion is often withering in one place while it is flourishing in another. They look at the progress of Christianity in the West of Europe. They forget how fearfully it has lost ground in the East. They point to the little flood-tide of Tinnevelly and Krishnaghur. They forget the tremendous ebb in North Africa, Egypt, and Asia Minor. And as for any signs that all the ends of the earth shall turn to the Lord, under the present order of things, there are none. God’s work is going forward, as it always has done. The Gospel is being preached- for a witness to every quarter of the globe. The elect are being brought to Christ one by one, and there is everything to encourage us to persevere. But more than this no missionary can report in any station in the world.

I long for the conversion of all mankind as much as anyone. But I believe it is utterly beyond the reach of any instrumentality that man possesses. I quite expect that ‘the earth will one day be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. But I believe that day will be in an entirely new dispensation: it will not be till after the Lord’s return. I would not hesitate to preach the Gospel, and offer Christ’s salvation to every man and woman alive; but that there always will be a vast amount of unbelief and wickedness until the second advent, I am fully persuaded. The Gospel-net may perhaps be spread far more widely than it has been-hitherto, but the angels shall nd abundance of bad sh in it as well as good, in the last day. The Gospel labourers may possibly be multiplied a thousand-fold, and I pray God it may be so; but however faithfully they may sow, a large proportion of tares will be found growing together with the wheat, at the time of harvest.

Reader, how is it with your own soul? Remember, that till the Lord Jesus Christ comes again there always will be wise and foolish in the Church. Now, which are you?

The wise are they who have that wisdom which the Holy Ghost alone can give. They know their own sinfulness. They know Christ as their own precious Saviour. They know how to walk and please God, and they act upon their knowledge. They look on life as a season of preparation for eternity,—not as an end, but as a way,—not as a harbour, but as a voyage,—not as a home, but as a journey,—not as their full age, but their time of school. Happy are they who know’ these things! The world may despise them, but they are the wise.

The foolish are they who are without spiritual knowledge. They neither know God, nor Christ, nor sin, nor their own hearts, nor the world, nor heaven, nor hell, nor the value of their souls as they ought. There is no folly like this. To expect wages after doing no work,—or prosperity after taking no pains,—or learning after neglecting books,—this is rank folly. But to expect heaven without faith in Christ,—or the kingdom of God without being born again,—or the crown of glory without the cross and a holy walk,—all this is greater folly still, and yet more common. Alas! for the folly of the world!

Reader, till the Lord Jesus Christ comes, there always will be some who have grace, and some who have not grace, in the visible Church. Now which are you? How is it with your own soul?

Some have nothing but the name of Christian: others have the reality. Some have only the outward profession of religion: others have the possession also. Some are content if they belong to the Church; others are never content, unless they are also united by faith to Christ. Some are satisfied if they have only the baptism of water: others are never satisfied unless they also feel within the baptism‘ of the Spirit, and the sprinkling of the blood of atonement. Some stop short in the form of Christianity: others never rest until they have also the substance.

Reader, the visible Church of Christ is made up of these two classes. There always have been such. There always will be such until the end. There must, no doubt, be borderers and waverers, whom man’s eye cannot make out, though God’s eye can. But gracious and graceless, wise and foolish, makeup the whole visible Church of Christ. You yourself are described and written down in this parable. You are either one of the wise virgins, or one of the foolish. You have either got the oil of grace, or you have got none. You are either a member of Christ, or a child of the devil. You are either travelling towards heaven, or towards hell. Never for a moment forget this. This is the point that concerns your soul. Whatever your opinion may be on other points, this is the one that you should never lose sight of. Let not the devil divert your attention from it. Say to yourself, as you read this parable, “I am spoken of here.”

II. Learn, secondly, that the visible Church is always in danger of neglecting the doctrine of Christ’s second advent.

I draw this truth from that solemn verse in the parable, “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” I am quite aware that many good men explain these words in a different way. But I dare not call any man master. I feel that I am set for the proclamation of that which my own conscience tells me is true, and I cannot be bound by the opinions of others. There are, such things as erroneous interpretations received by tradition, as well as false doctrines received ’by tradition, and against both I think we ought to be on our guard.

I do not believe that the words, “they all slumbered and slept,” mean the death of all, though many think so. To my mind such an interpretation is contrary to plain facts. All the professing Church will not be sleeping the sleep of death when Jesus comes again. St. Paul himself says in one place, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. xv. 51);—and in another, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up, to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thess. iv. 17.) Now the interpretation of which I speak involves a most awkward contradiction to these two plain texts.

I do not believe that the words were meant to teach us that the whole professing Church will get into a slumbering and sleeping state of soul, though many think so. I would not be misunderstood in saying this. I do not for a moment deny that the love of even the brightest Christians is very cold, and that neither their faith nor works are what they ought to be. All I mean to say is, that this is not the truth which appears to me to ‘be taught here. Such a view of the text seems to me to wipe away that broad line of distinction between believers and unbelievers, which, with all the short-comings of believers, undoubtedly does exist. Sleep is one of those very emblems which the Spirit has chosen to represent the state of the- unconverted man. “Awake, thou that sleepest,” He says, “and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” (Ephes. v. 14.)

But what does the verse mean? I believe that the words “all slumbered and slept,” are to be interpreted with a special regard to the great event on which the whole parable hinges;—even the second advent of Christ. And I believe our Lord’s meaning was simply this, that during the interval between His first and second advent, the whole Church, both believers and unbelievers, would get into a dull and dim-sighted state of soul about the blessed doctrine of His own personal return to earth.

And, reader, I say deliberately, that so far as my own judgment goes, there never was a saying of our Lord’s more thoroughly verified by the event. I say that of all doctrines of the Gospel, the one about which Christians have become most unlike the first Christians, in their sense of its true value, is the doctrine of Christ’s second advent. I am obliged to say this of all denominations of Protestants. I know not of any exception. In our view of man’s corruption, of justification by faith, of our need of the sanctifying work of the Spirit, of the sufficiency of Scripture,—upon these points I believe we should find that English believers were much of one mind with believers at Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, or Rome, in former times. But in our view of the second advent of Christ, I fear we should find there was a mighty difference between us and them, if our experience could be compared. I am afraid we should find that we fall woefully short of them in our estimate of its importance; that in our system of doctrine it is a star of the fifteenth magnitude, while in their’s it was one of the first In one word, we should discover, that compared to them in this matter, we slumber and sleep.

I must speak my mind on this subject, now that I am upon it. I do so most unwillingly. I do so at the risk of giving offence, and of rubbing against the prejudices of many Whom I love. But it is a cross I feel it a duty to take up. And speak I must.

I submit, then, that in the matter of Christ’s second coming and kingdom, the Church of Christ has not dealt fairly with the prophecies of the Old Testament. We have gone on far too long refusing to see that there are two personal advents of Christ spoken of in those prophecies,—an advent in humiliation, and an advent in glory,—an advent to suffer, and an advent to reign,—a personal advent to carry the cross, and a personal advent to wear the crown. We have been “slow of heart to believe ALL that the Prophets have written.” . (Luke xxiv. 25.) The Apostles went into one extreme: they stumbled at Christ’s sufferings. We have gone into the other extreme: we have stumbled at Christ’s glory. We have got into a confused habit of speaking 0f the kingdom of Christ as already set up amongst us, and have shut our eyes to the fact that the devil is still prince of this world, and served by the vast majority; and that our Lord, like David in Adullam, though anointed, is not yet set upon His throne. We have got into a vicious habit .of taking all the promises spiritually, and all the denunciations and threats literally. The denunciations against Babylon, and Nineveh, and Edom, and Tyre, and Egypt, and the rebellious Jews, we have been content to take literally and hand over to our neighbours. The blessings and promises of glory to Zion, Jerusalem, Jacob, and Israel, we have taken spiritually, and comfortably applied them to ourselves and the Church of Christ. To bring forward proofs of this would be waste of time. No man can hear many sermons, and read many commentaries, Without being aware that it is a fact.

Now I believe this to have been an unfair system of interpreting Scripture. I hold that the first and primary sense of every Old Testament promise as well as threat is the literal one,—and that Jacob means Jacob, Jerusalem means Jerusalem, Zion means Zion, and Israel means Israel, as much as Egypt means Egypt, and Babylon means Babylon. That primary sense, I believe, we have sadly lost sight of. We have adapted and accommodated to the Church of Christ the promises that were spoken by God to Israel and Zion. I do not mean to say that this accommodation is in no sense allowable. But I do mean to say that- the primary sense of every prophecy and promise in Old Testament prophecy was intended to have a literal fulfillment, and that this literal fulfillment has been far too much put aside and thrust into a corner. And by so doing I think we have exactly fulfilled our Lord’s words in the parable of the ten virgins,—we have proved that we are slumbering and sleeping about the second advent of Christ.

But I submit further, that in the interpretation of the New Testament, the Church of Christ has dealt almost as unfairly with our’ Lord’s second advent, as she has done in the interpretation of the Old Men have got into the habit of putting a strange sense upon many of those passages which speak of “the coming of the Son of Man,” or of the Lord’s “appearing.” And this habit has – been far too readily submitted to. Some tell us that the coming of the Son of Man often means death. No one can read the thousands of epitaphs in churchyards, in which some text about the coming of Christ is thrust in, and not perceive how wide-spread this view is. Some tell’ us that our Lord’s coming means the destruction of Jerusalem. This is a very common way of interpreting the expression. Many find the literal Jerusalem everywhere in New Testament prophecies, though, oddly enough, they refuse to see it in the Old Testament prophecies, and, like Aaron’s rod, they make it swallow up everything else. Some tell us that our Lord’s coming means the general judgment, and the end of all things. This is their one answer to all inquiries about things to come.

Now I believe that all these interpretations are entirely beside the mark. I have not the least desire to underrate the importance of such subjects as death and judgment. I willingly concede that the destruction of Jerusalem is typical of many things connected with our Lord’s second advent, and is spoken of in chapters where that mighty event is foretold. But I must express my own rm belief that the coming of Christ is one distinct thing, and that death, judgment, and the destruction of Jerusalem, are three other distinct things. And the wide acceptance which these strange interpretations have met with I hold to be one more proof that in the matter of Christ’s second advent the Church has long slumbered and slept.

The plain truth of Scripture I believe -to be as follows. When the number of the elect is accomplished, Christ will come again to this world with power and great glory. He will raise His saints, and gather them to Himself. He will punish with fearful judgments all who are found His enemies, and reward with glorious rewards all His believing people. He will take to Himself His great power, and reign, and establish an universal kingdom. He will gather the scattered tribes of Israel, and place them once more in their own land. As He came the first time in person, so He will come the second time in person. As He went away from earth visibly, so He will return visibly. As He literally rode upon an ass,—was literally sold for thirty pieces of silver,—had His hands and feet literally pierced—was numbered literally with the transgressors,—and had lets literally cast upon His raiment,—and all that Scripture might be fulfilled,—so also will He literally come, literally set up a kingdom, and literally reign over the earth, because the very same Scripture has said it shall be so.

The words of the angels, in the first of Acts, are plain and unmistakable: “This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts i. 11.) So also the words of the Apostle Peter: “The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts iii. 19-21.) So also the words of the Psalmist: “When the Lord shall build up Zion He shall appear in His glory.” (Ps. cii. 16.) So also the words of Zechariah: “The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” (Zech. xiv. 5.) So also the words of Isaiah: “The Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously.” (Isai. Xxiv. 23.) So also the words of Jeremiah: “I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord, and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.” “I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwelling-place; and the city shall be built on her own heap.” (Jer. xxx. 3, 18.) So also the words of Daniel: “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. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. vii. 13, 14.) All these texts are to my mind plain prophecies of Christ’s second coming and kingdom. All are yet without their accomplishment, and all shall yet be literally and exactly fulfilled.

I say “literally and exactly fulfilled,” and I say so advisedly. From the first day that I began to read the Bible with my heart, I have never been able to see these texts, and hundreds like them, in any other light. It always seemed to me that as we take literally the texts foretelling that the walls of Babylon shall be cast down, so we ought to take literally the texts fortelling that the walls of Zion shall be built up,—that as according to prophecy the Jews were literally scattered, so according to prophecy the Jews will be literally gathered,—and that as the least and minutest predictions were made good on the subject of our Lord’s coming to suffer, so the minutest predictions shall be made good which describe our Lord’s coming to reign. And I have long felt it is one of the greatest shortcomings of the Church of Christ that we ministers do not preach enough about this advent of Christ, and that private believers do not think enough about it. A few of us here and there receive the doctrine, and profess to love it; but the number of such persons is comparatively very small And, after all, we none of us live on it, feed on it, act on it, work from it, take comfort in it, as much as God intended us to do. In short, the Bridegroom tarries, and we all slumber and Sleep.

It proves nothing against the doctrine of Christ’s second coming and kingdom, that it has sometimes been fearfully abused. I should like to know what doctrine of the Gospel has not been abused. Salvation by grace has been made a pretext for licentiousness,—election, an excuse for all manner of unclean 1iving,—and justification by faith, a warrant for Antinomianism. But if men will draw wrong conclusions we are not therefore obliged to throw aside good principles. We do not give up the Gospel because of the outrageous conduct of the Anabaptists of Munster, or the extravagant assertions of Saltmarsh and William Huntingdon, or the strange proceedings of Jumpers and Shakers. And where is the fairness of telling us that we ought to reject the second advent of Christ because there were Fifth Monarchy Men in the days of the Commonwealth, and Irvingites and Millerites in our own time. Alas, men must be hard pressed for an argument when they have no better reasons than this!

It proves nothing against the second advent of Christ, that those who hold the doctrine differ among themselves on many particular points in prophecy. Such differences need never stumble any one who recollects that unity on great points is perfectly consistent with disagreement on small ones. Luther and Zuinglius differed widely in their views of the Lord’s Supper: yet who would think of saying that therefore Protestantism is all false? Fletcher and Toplady were both clergymen in the Church of England, but differed widely about Calvinism: yet where would be the sense of saying that all Evangelical religion was therefore untrue? In common fairness this ought to be remembered when people talk of the differences among those who study prophecy. It is possible for men to differ much as to the meaning they place on the symbols in the book of Revelation, and yet on the matter of Christ’s coming and kingdom they may be entirely and substantially agreed.

It proves nothing against the doctrine that it is encompassed with many difficulties. This I fully concede. The order of events connected with our Lord’s coming, and the manner of His kingdom when it is set up, are both deep subjects, and hard to be understood. But I firmly believe that the difficulties connected with any other system of interpreting unfulfilled prophecy, are just twice as many as those which are said to stand in our way. I believe too that the difficulties connected with our Lord’s second coming, are not half so many as those connected with His first, and that it was a far more improbable thing, “a priori,” that the Son of God should come to safer, than it is’ that He should come to reign. And, after all, what have we to do with the “how,” and “in what manner” prophecies are to be fulfilled? Is our miserable understanding of what is possible to be the. measure and limit of God’s dealings? The only question we have to do with is, “Has God said a thing?” If He has, we ought not to doubt it shall be done.

For myself, I can only give my own individual testimony; but the little I know experimentally of the doctrine of Christ’s second coming makes me regard it as most practical and precious, and makes me long to see it more generally received.

I find it a powerful spring and stimulates holy living,—a motive for patience, for moderation, for spiritual mindedness,—a test for the employment of time, and a gauge for all my actions: “Should I like my Lord to find me in this place—should I like Him to find me so doing?”

I find it the strongest argument for missionary work. The time is short. The Lord is at hand. The gathering out from all nations will soon be accomplished. The heralds and forerunners of the King will soon have proclaimed the Gospel in every nation. The night is far spent. The King will soon be here.

I find it the best answer to the infidel. He sneers at our churches and chapels, at our sermons and services, at our tracts and our schools. He points to the millions who care nothing for Christianity, after 1800 years of preaching. He asks me how I can account for it, if Christianity be true? I answer, It was never said that all the world would believe, and serve Christ under the present dispensation. I tell him the state of things he ridicules was actually foreseen, and the number of true Christians, it was predicted, would be few. But I tell him that Christ’s kingdom is yet to come; and that – though we see not yet all things put under Him, they will be so one day.

I find it the best argument with the Jew. If I do not take all the prophecy of Isaiah literally, I know not how I can persuade him that the fifty-third chapter is literally fulfilled. But if I do, I have a resting-place for my lever, which I know he cannot shake. How men can expect the Jews to see a Messiah coming to suffer in Old Testament prophecies if they do not themselves see in them a Messiah coming to reign, is past my understanding.

And now, is there any one among the readers of this address who cannot receive the doctrine of Christ’s second advent and kingdom? I invite that man to consider the subject calmly and dispassionately. Dismiss from your mind traditional interpretations. Separate the doctrine from the mistakes and blunders of many who hold it. Do not reject the foundation because of the wood, hay, and stubble which some have built upon it. Do not condemn it and cast it aside because of injudicious friends. Only examine the texts which speak of it, as calmly and fairly as you weigh texts in the Romish, Arian, or Socinian controversies, and I am hopeful as to the result on your mind. Alas, if texts of Scripture were always treated as unceremoniously as I have known texts to be treated by those who dislike the doctrine of Christ’s second advent, I should indeed tremble for the cause of truth!

Is there any one among the readers of this address who agrees with the principles I have tried to advocate? I beseech that man to endeavour to realize the second coming of- Christ more and more. Truly we feel it but little compared to what we ought to do, at the very best. Be gentle in argument with those that differ from you. Remember that a man may be mistaken on this subject, and yet be a holy child of God. It is not the slumbering on this subject that ruins souls, but the want of grace! Above all, avoid dogmatism and positiveness, and specially about symbolical pr0phecy. It is a sad truth, but a truth never to be forgotten, that none have injured the doctrine of the second coming so much as its overzealous friends.

III. Learn, in the third place, that whenever Christ does come again, it we’ll be a very sudden event.

I draw that truth from the verse in the parable which says, “At midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.”

I do not know when Christ will come again. I should think it most presumptuous if I said that I did. I am no prophet, though I love the subject of prophecy. I dislike all fixing of dates, and naming of years, and I believe it has done great harm. I only assert positively that Christ will come again one day to set up His kingdom on earth, and that whether the day be near, or whether it be far off, it will take the Church and the world exceedingly by surprise.

It will come on men suddenly. It will break on the world all at once. It will not have been talked over, prepared for, and looked forward to by everybody. It will awaken men’s minds like the cry of re at midnight. It will startle men’s hearts like a trumpet blown at their bedside in their first sleep. Like Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, they will know nothing till the very waters are upon them. Like Dathan, and Abiram, and their company, when the earth opened under them, the moment of their hearing the report of the visitation will be the same moment when they will see it with their eyes. Before they can recover their breath and know where they are, they shall find that-the Lord is come.

I suspect there is a vague notion floating in men’s minds that the present order of things will not end quite so suddenly. I suspect men cling to the idea that there will be a kind of Saturday night in the world,—a time when all will know the day of the Lord is near; a time when all will be able to cleanse their consciences, look out their wedding garments, shake off their earthly business, and prepare to meet their God. If any reader of this address has got such a notion into his head, I charge him to give it up for ever. If anything is clear in unfulfilled prophecy, this one fact seems clear,—that the Lord’s coming will be sudden, and take men by surprise. And any view of prophecy which destroys the possibility of its being sudden,—whether by interposing a vast number of events as yet to happen, or by placing the millennium between ourselves and the advent,—any such view appears to my mind to carry with it a fatal defect. Everything which is written in Scripture on this point confirms the truth, that Christ’s second coming will be sudden. “As a snare shall it come,” says one place.—“As a thief in the night,” says another.—“As the lightning,” says a third.—“In such an hour as ye think not,” says a fourth.—“When they shall say, Peace and safety,” says a fifth. (Luke xxi. 35; 1 Thess. v. 2; Luke xvii. 24; Matt. xxiv. 44:; l Thess. v. 3.)

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself uses two most striking comparisons when dwelling on this subject Both are most teaching, and both ought to raise in us solemn thoughts. In one He compares His coming to the days of Lot. In the days when Lot. fled from Sodom, the men of Sodom” were buying and selling, eating and drinking, planting and building. They thought of nothing but earthly things: they were entirely absorbed in them. They despised Lot’s warning. They mocked at his counsel. The sun rose on the earth as usual. All things were going on as they had done for hundreds of years. They saw no sign of danger. But now mark what our Lord says? “The same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained re and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” (Luke xvii. 28—30.)

In the other passage I allude to, our Lord compares His coining to the days of Noah. Do you remember how it was in Noah’s day? Stay a little, and let me remind you. When the flood- came on the earth in Noah’s time, there was no appearance beforehand of anything so awful being near. The days and nights were following each other in regular’ succession. The grass, and trees, and crops were growing as usual. The business of the world was going on. And though Noah preached continually of coming danger, and warned men to repent, no one believed what he. said. But at last, one day the rain began and did not cease: the waters rose and did not stop: the flood came, and swelled, and went on, and covered one thing after another; and all were drowned who were not in the ark. Now mark what our Lord says: “As it was in the Days of Noe, so shall it also be in the days of the Son of Man: they did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” (Luke xvii. 26, 27.) The flood took the world by surprise—so also will the coming of the Son of Man. In the midst of the world’s business, when everything is going on just as usual,—in such an hour as this the Lord Jesus Christ will return.

Reader, the suddenness of the Lord’s second advent is a truth that should lead every professing Christian to great searchings of heart. It should lead him to serious thought, both about himself and about the world.

Think for a moment how little the world is prepared for such an event. Look at the towns and cities of the earth, and think of them. Mark how most men are entirely absorbed in the things of time, and utterly engrossed with the business of their callings. Banks, counting-houses, shops, politics, law, medicine, commerce, railways, banquets, balls, theatres,—each and all are drinking up the hearts and souls of thousands, and thrusting out the things of God. Think what a fearful shock the sudden stoppage of all these things would be, the sudden stoppage which will be in the day of Christ’s appearing. If only one great house of business stops payment now, it makes a great sensation. What then shall be the crash when the whole machine of worldly affairs shall stand still at once? From money-counting and earthly scheming, from racing after riches and A wrangling about tries, to .be hurried away to meet the King of kings, how tremendous the change! From dancing and dressing, from opera-going and novel-reading, to be summoned away by the voice of the archangel and .the trump of God, how awful the transition! Yet remember, all this shall one day be.

Look at the rural parishes of such all and as ours, and think of them. See how the minds of the vast majority of their inhabitants are buried in farms and allotments, in cattle and corn, in rent and wages, in rates and tithes, in digging and sowing, in buying and selling, in planting and building. See how many there are who evidently care for nothing, and feel nothing, excepting the things of this world; who reek nothing whether their minister preaches law or Gospel, Christ or anti-christ, and would be utterly unconcerned if the Archbishop of Canterbury was turned out of Lambeth Palace, and the Pope of Rome put in his place. See how many there are of whom it can only be said that their bellies and their pockets are their gods. And then fancy the awful effect of a sudden call to meet the Lord Christ,—a call to a day of reckoning, in which the price of wheat and the rate of wages shall be nothing, and the Bible shall be the only rule of trial! And yet remember, all this shall one day be.

Reader, picture these things to your mind’s eye. Picture your own house, your own family, your own re-side. What will be found there? Picture, above all, your own feelings, your own state of mind. And then, remember, that this is the end towards which the world is hastening. There will be no long notice to quit. This is the way in which the world’s affairs will be wound up. This is an event which may possibly happen in your own .time. And surely you cannot avoid the conclusion that the second coming of Christ is no mere curious speculation. It is an event of vast practical importance to your own soul.

“Ah I” I can imagine some reader saying, “This is all foolishness, raving, and nonsense; this writer is beside himself. This is all extravagant fanaticism. Where is the likelihood, where is the probability of all this? The world is going on as it always did. The world will last my time.” Do not say so. Do not drive away the subj ect by such language as this. This is the way that men talked in the days of Noah and Lot, but what happened? They. found to their cost that Noah and Lot were right. Do not say so. The Apostle Peter foretold, eighteen hundred years ago, that men would talk in this way. “There shall come in the last day scoffers,” he tells us, “saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Pet. Iii. 3, 4.) Oh, do not fulfill his prophecy by your unbelief!

Where is the raving and fanaticism of the things which I have been saying? Show it to me if you can. I calmly assert that the present order of things will come to an end one day. Will any one deny that? Will any one tell me we are to go on as we do now for ever?—I calmly say that Christ’s second coming will be the end of the present order of things. I have said so because the Bible says it.—I have calmly said that Christ’s second coming will be a sudden event, whenever it may be, and may possibly be in our own time. I have said so, because thus and thus I find it written in the Word of God. If you do not like it, I am sorry for it. One thing only you must remember,—you are finding fault with the Bible, not with me.

IV. Learn, in the last place, that Christ’s second coming we’ll make an immense change to all members of the visible Church, both good and bad.

I draw this truth from the ‘concluding portion of the parable,—’from the discovery of the foolish virgins that their lamps were gone out,—from their anxious address to the wise, “Give us of your oil,”—from their vain knocking at the door when too late, crying, “Lord, Lord, open to us,”—from the happy admission of the wise who were found ready, in company with the bridegroom. Each and all of these points are full of food for thought. But I have neither time nor space to dwell upon them particularly. I can only take one single broad view of all. To all who have been baptized in the name of Christ,—converted or unconverted—believers or unbelievers,—holy or unholy,—godly or ungodly,—wise or foolish,—gracious or graceless,—to all the second advent of Christ will be an immense change.

It will be an immense change to the ungodly,—to all who are found mere nominal Christians,—a change both in their opinions and position.

All such persons, when Christ comes again, will see the value of real spiritual religion, if they never saw it before. They will do in effect what the parable describes under a figure—they will cry to the godly, “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.”

Who does not know, that, as things are now, spiritual religion never brings a man the world’s praise? It never has done, and it never does at this day. It entails on a man the world’s disapprobation,—the world’s persecution—the world’s mockery,—the World’s opposition,—the world’s ridicule, —the world’s sneers. The world will let a man serve the devil and go to hell quietly, and no one lifts a little finger to stop him, or says, “Be merciful to your soul” The world will never let a man serve Christ and go to heaven quietly, everybody cries, “Hold hard,” and does everything that can be done to keep him back.

Who has not heard of nicknames in plenty, bestowed on those who follow Christ, and try to be saved—Pietists, Puritans, Methodists, Fanatics, Enthusiasts, Calvinists, Ultra-religionists, the Saints, the Righteous overmuch, the Very Good People, and many more? Who does not know the petty family persecutions which often go on in private society in our day? Let a young person go to every ball, and opera, and race-course, and worldly party, and utterly neglect his soul, and no one interferes; no one says “Spare thyself,”—no one says “Take care: remember God, judgment, and eternity.” But let him only begin to read his Bible, and be diligent in prayer,—let him decline worldly amusements, and become particular in his employment of time,—let him seek an evangelical ministry, and live like an immortal being;—let him do this, I say, and all his friends and relations will probably be up in arms. “You are going too far. You need not be so very good. You are taking up extreme views.” This, in all probability, is the very least that such a person will hear. If a young woman, she will be marked and avoided by all her equals. If a young man, he will be set down by all who. know him, as weak, silly, and precise. In short, such a person will soon discover that there is no help from the world in the way to heaven, but plenty of help in the way to hell.

Alas, that it should be so: but so it is! These are ancient things. As it was in the days of Cain and Abel,—as it was in the days of Isaac and Ishmael, even so it is now. “They that are born after the flesh will persecute those that are born after the Spirit.” (Gal. iv. 29.) The Cross of Christ will always bring reproach with it. As the Jews hated Christ, so the world hates Christians. As the Head was bruised,»so also the members, will be. As contempt was poured on the Master, so it will be also on the disciples. In short, if a man will become a decided evangelical Christian, in the present order of things, he must “count the cost,” and make up his mind to lose the world’s favour. In a word, he must be content to. Be thought by many little better than a fool.

Reader, there will be an end of all this when Christ returns to this world. The light of that day will at length show everything in its true colours. The scales will fall from the poor worldling’s eyes. The value of the soul will ash on his astonished mind. The utter uselessness of a mere nominal Christianity will burst upon him like a thunder-storm. The blessedness of regeneration and faith in Christ, and a holy walk, will shine before him like “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres,” on the wall of the Babylonian palace. The veil will fall from his face. He will discover that the godly have been the wise, and that he has played the fool exceedingly. And just as Saul wanted Samuel when it was too late, and Belshazzar sent for Daniel when the kingdom was about to be taken from him, so will the ungodly turn to the very men they once mocked and despised, and cry to them, “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.”

But as there will be a complete change in the feelings of the ungodly, in the day of Christ’s second advent, so will there also be a complete change in their position. Hope, the plank to which they now cling, and on which they generally depend to the very last,—hope will be entirely taken away in that awful day. They will seek A salvation with earnestness, but not be able to find it. They will run hither and thither in a vain search for the oil of grace. They will knock loudly at the door of mercy, and get no answer. They will cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” but all to no purpose. They will discover to their sorrow that opportunities once let slip can never be regained, and that the notion of universal mercy always to be obtained, is a mere delusion of the devil.

Who does not know that thousands are urged to pray and repent now, who never attempt it? They mean to try one day perhaps. Like Felix, they hope for a convenient season. They fancy it will never be too late to seek the Lord. But there is a time coming when prayer shall be heard no longer, and repentance shall be unavailing. There is a time when the door by which Manasseh and Saul the persecutor entered, shall be shut and opened no more. There is a time when the fountain in which Magdalene, and John Newton, and thousands of others were washed and made clean, shall be sealed for ever. There is a time when men shall know the folly of sin, but like Judas too late for repentance,—when they shall desire to enter the promised land, but like Israel at Kadesh not be able,—when they shall see the value of God’s favour and covenant blessing, but like Esau when they can no longer possess it,—when they shall believe every jot and tittle of God’s revealed Word, but like the miserable devils only to tremble.

Yes, reader, men may come to this, and many will come to this in the day of Christ’s appearing. They will ask and not receive! They will seek and not find. They will knock and the door shall not be opened to them. Alas, indeed, that so it should be. Woe to the man who puts off seeking his manna till the Lord’s day of return Like Israel of old, he will find none—Woe to the man who goes to buy oil when he ought to be burning it! Like the foolish virgins, he will nd himself shut out from the marriage supper of the Lamb—Oh, that professing Christians would consider these things! Oh, that they would remember the words of our Lord have yet to be fulfilled, “When once the Master of the house is risen up, and bath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity.” (Luke xiii. 25—27.)

But as Christ’s second coming will be a mighty change to the ungodly,so Will it also be a mighty change to the godly.

They shall at length be freed from everything which now mars their comfort. “The door shall be shut.” Against the ery darts of Satan,—against the loathsome weakness of the flesh which now clings to them,—-against the unkind world which now misrepresents and misunderstands them,—against the doubts and fears which now so often darken their path, —against the weariness which now clogs their best efforts to serve the Lord,—against coldness and deadness,—against shortcomings and backslidings,—against all these the door shall be shut for ever. Not one single Canaanite shall be found in the land. They shall no longer be vexed by temptation, persecuted by the world, warred against by the devil. Their conflict shall all be over. Their strife with the flesh shall for ever cease. The armour of God, which they have so long worn, shall at length be laid aside. They shall be where there is no Satan, no sorrow, and no sin. Ah, reader, the second Eden shall be far better than the first. In the first Eden the door was not shut; our joy – was but for a moment. But, blessed be God, in the second Eden the Lord shall “shut us in.”

And as the godly shall enjoy a freedom from all evil in the day of Christ’s appearing, so shall they also enjoy the presence of all good. They shall go in with the Bridegroom to the marriage. They shall be for ever in the company of Christ, and go out no more. Faith shall then be swallowed up in sight. Hope shall become certainty. Knowledge shall at – length be perfect. Prayer shall be turned into praise. Desires shall receive their full accomplishment. Hunger and thirst after conformity to Christ’s image shall at length be satisfied. The thought of parting shall not spoil the pleasure of meeting. The company of saints shall be enjoyed without hurry and distraction. The family of Abraham shall no more feel temptations; nor the family of Job, afflictions; nor the family of David, household bereavements; nor the family of Paul, thorns in the flesh; nor the family of Lazarus, poverty and sores. Every tear shall be wiped away in that day. It is the time when the Lord shall say, “I make all things new.”

Oh, reader, if God’s children find joy and peace in believing even now; what tongue shall tell their feelings when they behold the King in His beauty! If the report of the land that is far off has been sweet to them in the wilderness, what pen shall describe their happiness, when they see it with their own eyes?—If it has cheered them now and then to meet two or three like-minded in this evil world, how their hearts will burn within them when they see a multitude that no man can number, the least defects of each purged away, and not one false brother in the list!—If the narrow way has been a way of pleasantness to the scattered few who have travelled it with their poor frail bodies, how precious shall their rest seem in the day of gathering together, when they shall have a glorious body like their Lord’s!—Then shall we understand the meaning of the text, “ In Thy presence is fulness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm xvi. 11.) Then shall we experience the truth of that beautiful hymn, which says,—

“Let me be with Thee where Thou art,

My Saviour, my eternal rest;

Then only shall this longing heart

Be fully and for ever blest.

Let me be with Thee where Thou art,

Thy unveil’d glory to behold;

Then only shall this wand’ring heart

Cease to be false to Thee, and cold.

Let me be with Thee where Thou art,

Where none can die, where none remove;

There neither death nor life shall part

Me from Thy presence and Thy love.”

Is there a man or woman among the readers of this address who ever laughs at true religion? Is there one who persecutes and ridicules vital godliness in others, and dares to talk of people being over-particular, and righteous over-much? Oh, beware what you are doing! Again I say, beware! You may live to think very differently. You may live to alter your opinion, but perhaps too late. Ah, reader, there is a day before us all when there will be no infidels! No: not one! There is a day when the disciples of Paine, and Voltaire, and Emerson, shall call on the rocks to fall on them, and on the hills to cover them. Before the throne of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is the Lord. Remember that day, and beware.

Is there among the readers of this address some dear child of God, who is mocked and despised for the Gospel’s sake, and feels as if he stood alone 2 Take comfort. Be patient. “Wait a little longer.” Your turn shall yet come. When the spies returned from searching Canaan, men talked of stoning Caleb and Joshua, because they brought a good report of the land. A few days passed away, and all the assembly confessed that they alone had been right. Strive to be like them. Follow the Lord fully, as they did, and sooner or later all men shall confess that you did well. Never, never be afraid of going too far. Never, never be afraid of being too holy. Never, never . be ashamed of desiring to go to heaven, and of seeking to have a great crown. Millions will lament in the day of Christ’s return, because they have not got religion enough: not one will be heard to say that he has got too much. Take comfort. Press on.

And now, reader, it only remains for me to close this paper by three words of application, which seem to me to arise naturally out of the parable of which I have been writing. I heartily pray God to bless them to your soul, and to make them words in season.

1. My first word of application shall be a question. I take the parable of the ten virgins as my warrant, and I address that question to every one of my readers. I ask you, “Are you ready?” Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, “They that were ready went in with the bridegroom to the marriage:” they that were ready, and none else. Now here, in the sight of God, I ask each and every reader, Is this your case? Are you ready?

I do not ask whether you are a Churchman, and make a profession of religion—I do not ask whether you attend an evangelical ministry, and like evangelical people, and can talk of evangelical subjects, and read evangelical tracts and books. All this is the surface of Christianity. All this costs little, and may be easily attained. I want to search your heart more thoroughly, and probe your conscience more deeply. I want to know whether you have been born again, and whether you have got the Holy Ghost dwelling in your soul.» I want. to know whether you have any oil in your vessel while you carry the lamp of profession and whether you are ready to _ meet the bridegroom—ready for Christ’s return to the earth. I want to know, if the Lord should come this week, whether you could lift up your head with joy, and say, “This is our God; we have waited for Him; let us be glad, and rejoice in His salvation.” These things I want to know, and this is what I mean when I say, “Are you ready?”

“Ah!” I can imagine some saying, “this is asking far too much. To be ready for Christ’s appearing! this is far too high a standard. This is extravagance. There would be no living in the world at this rate. This is a hard saying. Who can hear it?”—I cannot help it. I believe this 18 the standard of the Bible. I believe this is the standard Paul sets before us when he says the Thessalonians were “waiting for the Son of God from heaven,” and the Corinthians “waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 These. i. 10; 1 Cor. i. 7.) And surely this is the standard Peter sets before us, when he speaks of “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter iii; 12.) I believe it is a mark, that every true believer should be continually aiming at, —to live so as to be ever ready to meet Christ. God forbid that I should place the standard of Christian practice a hair’s breadth higher than the level at which the Bible places it. But God forbid that I should ever put it a hair’s breadth lower. If I do, what right have I to say that the Bible is my rule of faith?

I want to disqualify no man for usefulness upon earth. I require no man to become a hermit, and cease to serve his generation. I call on no man to leave his lawful calling, and neglect his earthly affairs. But I do call on every one to live like one who expects Christ to return, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, —to live like a pilgrim and a stranger, ever. looking unto Jesus,—to live like a good servant, with his loins girded, and his lamp burning—to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, with his heart packed up and ready to be gone. This is readiness. This is preparation. And is this too much to ask? I say unhesitatingly that it is not.

Now, reader, are. you ready in this way? If not, I should like to know what good your religion does you. What is it all but a burdensome form? What is it but a mere temporary cloak that will not wear beyond this world? Truly a religion that does not make a man ready for every thing,—for death, for judgment, for the second advent, for the resurrection,—such a religion may well be looked on with suspicion. Reader, if your religion does not make you ready for anything, you may depend the sooner it is changed the better.

2. My second word of application shall be an invitation. I address it to everyone who feels in his conscience that he has no grace in his heart,—to everyone who feels that the character of the foolish virgins is his own. To every such person I give an invitation this day, in my Master’s name. I invite you “to awake and flee to Christ.”

Reader, if you are a man of this sort, you know that all within you is wrong in the sight of God. Nothing can be said more true about you than that you are asleep, asleep not merely about the doctrine of Christ’s second advent, but about everything that concerns your soul. You are wide awake perhaps about temporal things. You read the newspapers, it may be, and are mighty in the “Times.” You have your head stored with earthly wisdom and useful knowledge. But you have no heartfelt sense of sin, no peace or friendship with God, no experimental acquaintance with Christ, no delight in the Bible and prayer. And yet you are a sinner, a dying sinner, an immortal sinner, a sinner going to meet Christ, a sinner going to be judged. What, I would put it to your conscience as an honest man, what is all this but being asleep?

How long is this .to go on? When do you mean to arise and live as if you had a soul? When will you cease to hear. as one who hears not? When will you give up running after shadows, and seek something substantial? When will you throw off the mockery of a religion which cannot satisfy, cannot comfort, cannot sanctify, cannot save, and will not bear a calm examination? When will you give up having a faith which does not influence your practice,—having a book which you say is God’s Word, but treat as if it was not,—having the name of Christian, but knowing nothing of Christ? Oh! reader, when, when shall it once he?

Why not this very year? Why not this very day? Why not at once awake and call upon your God, and resolve that you will sleep no longer? I set before you an open door. I set before you Jesus Christ the Saviour, who died to make atonement for sinners,—-Jesus who is able to save to the uttermost,—Jesus willing to receive. The hand that was nailed to the cross is held out to you in mercy—The eye that wept over Jerusalem is looking on you with pity. The voice that has said ‘to many wanderers, “Thy sins are forgiven,” is saying to you, “Come to Me.” Go to Jesus first and foremost, if you would know what step to take. Think ‘not to wait for repentance, and faith, and a new heart, but go to Him just as you are. Go to Him in prayer, and cry, “Lord save me, or I perish. I am weary of sleeping; I would fain sleep no longer.” Oh! awake, thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light.

Sun, moon, and stars are all witnessing against you: they continue according to God’s ordinances, and you are ever transgressing them. The grass, the birds, the very worms of the earth are all witnessing against you: they ll their place in creation, and you do not. Sabbaths and ordinances are continually witnessing against you: they are ever proclaiming that there is a God and a judgment, and you are living as if there were none. The tears and prayers of godly relations are witnessing against you: others are sorrowfully thinking you have a soul, though you seem to forget it. The very grave-stones that you see every week are witnessing against you: they are silently witnessing that life is uncertain, time is short, the resurrection is yet to come, the Lord is at hand. All, all are saying, Awake, awake, awake! Oh! Reader, the time past may surely suffice you to have slept Awake to be wise. Awake to be safe. Awake to be happy. Awake, and sleep no more.

3. My last word of application shall be an exhortation to all true believers, -to all who have the oil of grace in their hearts, and have ed for pardon to the blood of the Lamb. I draw it from the words of the Lord Jesus at the end of the parable. I exhort you earnestly “to watch.”

I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ’s appearing. Search your own hearts. Find out the things which most frequently interrupt your communion with Christ, and cause fogs to rise between you and the sun. Mark these things, and know them, and against them ever watch and be on your guard.

Watch against sin of every kind and description. Think not to say of any sin whatever, “Ah! that is one of the things that I shall never do.” I tell you there is no possible sin too abominable for the very best of us all to commit. Remember David and Uriah. The. spirit may . be sometimes very willing, but the flesh is always very weak. You are yet in the body. Watch and pray.

Watch against doubts and unbelief as to the complete acceptance of your soul, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus finished the work He came to do: —do not tell Him that He did not. The Lord Jesus. paid your debts in full:—do not tell Him that you think He left you to pay part. The Lord Jesus promises eternal life to every sinner that comes to Him:—do not tell Him, even while you are coming, that you think He lies. Alas, for our unbelief In Christ you are like Noah in the ark, and Lot in Zoar,—nothing can harm you. The earth may be burned up with re at the Lord’s appearing, but not a hair of your head shall perish. Doubt it not. Pray for more faith. Watch and pray.

Watch against inconsistency of walk, and conformity to the world. Watch against sins of temper and of tongue. These are the kind of things that grieve the Spirit of God, and make His witness within us faint and low. Watch and pray.

Watch against the leaven of false doctrine. Remember that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. Remember that had money is never marked bad, or else it would never pass. Be very jealous for the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Do not put up with a grain of error merely for the sake of a pound of truth. Do not tolerate a little false doctrine one bit more than you would a little sin. Oh, reader, remember this caution! watch and pray.

Watch against slothfulness about the Bible and private prayer. There is nothing so spiritual but we may at last do it formally. Most backslidings begin in the closet. When a tree is snapped in two by a high wind, we generally find there had been some long hidden decay. Oh, watch and pray!

Watch against bitterness and uncharitableness towards others. A little love is more valuable than many gifts. Be eagle-eyed in seeing the good that is in your brethren, and dim-sighted as the mole about the evil. Let your memory be a strong box for their graces, but a sieve for their faults. Watch and pray.

Watch. against pride and self-conceit. Peter said at first, “ Though all men deny Thee, yet will not I.” And presently he fell. Pride is the high road to a fall. Watch and pray.

Watch against the sins of. Galatia, Ephesus, and Laodicea. Believers may run well for a season, then lose their first love, and then become lukewarm. Watch and pray.

Watch not least against the sin of Jehu. A man may have great zeal to all appearance, and yet have very bad motives. It is a much easier thing to oppose Anti-Christ than to follow Christ. It is one thing to protest against error, it is quite another thing to love the truth. So watch and pray.

Oh, my believing readers, let us all watch more than we have done! Let us watch more every year that we live. Let us watch, that we may not be startled when the Lord appears.

Let us watch for the world’s sake. We are the books they chiefly read. They mark our ways far more than we think. Let us aim to be plainly-written epistles of Christ.

Let us watch for our own sakes. As our walk is, so will be our peace. As our conformity to Christ’s mind, so will be our sense of Christ’s atoning blood. If a man will not walk in the full light of the sun, how can he expect to be warm.

And, above all, let us watch for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. Let us live as if His glory was concerned in our behaviour. Let us live as if every slip and fall was a reflection on the honour of our King. Let us live as if every allowed sin was one more thorn in His head,—one more nail in His feet,—one more spear in His side. Oh, let us exercise a godly jealousy over thoughts, words, and actions;—over motives, manners, and walk. Never, never let us fear being too strict. Never, never let us think we can watch too much. Leigh Richmond’s dying words were very solemn. Few believers were ever more useful in their day and generation. Of few can it be said so truly, that he “being dead yet speaketh.” But what did he say to one who stood by, while he lay dying?—