Page images

this, I merely mean to set before the reader the impression which this consideration, combined with others, makes upon my own mind; leading me to suppose, there will not be any period, and far less one of a thousand years, of universal holiness in every part of the earth.—Sixth. I am led to conceive, that the prophecy contained in Rev. xx. 1—7, is not intended to foretell a period of universal holiness, from considering the declaration in 2 Pet. iii. 3, 4 concerning the scoffers, who shall come in the last days, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? The impression upon my own mind is, that the last days, signify the latter days of the Gospel, the time preceding his second coming. It appears to me, that the commencement, continuance, and ending of a period of a thousand years of universal holiness, would be so exactly defined, and so universally seen and acknowledged, that it would remove every shadow of ground for such scoffs. (1) If we suppose these scoffers to come before this period of the thousand years, the answer would be most obvious and immediate-"You have not a vestige of reason to scoff about any delay in the performance of the promise of his coming; since he has expressly declared, his coming will not take place till after the period of a thousand years of universal holiness in every part of the earth, and this period has not even commenced as yet.” (2) Or if we suppose these scoffers to arise after this period of a thousand years were passed, and during the little season foretold in Rev. xx. 7-10 (though the possibility of such scoffing taking place on such grounds after such a period is scarcely conceivable, as already observed,) yet here also the answer of the saints would be most simple and obvious— Your scoffings will soon be completely silenced, for his coming must be very near; since the period of the thousand years of universal holiness has passed away, as you yourselves must allow; and we are now in the subsequent period, which we know will be but a short one; and, therefore, all will soon be over, and he will come.' It appears, therefore, to me that these scoffers could scarcely arise, or any perplexity of mind be occasioned to the saints by their

scoffings (as is, I conceive, intimated in 2 Pet. iii. 8), if Rev. xx. foretold any such period of universal holiness, concerning which all the Lord's people must agree after it was past, even if they did not in their expectations of it before it began. When, therefore, I combine all these considerations together, the impression and conviction of my own mind is, not only that in Rev. xx. 3—7 the Holy Ghost does not signify any period under the Gospel during which every species of influence of Satan will be entirely restrained, and universal holiness will prevail; but that he does not foretell any such period in those passages in the Old Testament to which I have referred, or in any other.

Second. I would now endeavour to lay before the reader the view which I have been led to take of those passages in the Old Testament to which I have referred, and of many others of the same kind. I conceive, therefore, that they refer to the calling in of the Gentiles at the first coming of Christ. I would begin by obserying, that it appears to me that we have much lost sight of two things connected with this subject; namely, the mystery of the thing itself; and the great calling in of the Gentiles, which actually took place in the first ages of Christianity.-- First, As to the mystery of the calling in of the Gentiles. To my own mind there would now appear, at first sight, to be no mystery in the subject at all, nothing peculiar in the calling in of sinners from among the Gentiles any more than from among the Jews ; especially as in our days the religion of Christ, as it were, exists only among Gentiles. The lapse of eighteen hundred years has, I conceive, obliterated the mystery of this from our minds; and hence we naturally form no idea that such passages in the Old Testament, as those to which I have alluded, can refer to the calling in of the Gentiles, an event which to us appears to have nothing peculiar or mysterious in it. In addition to this, we are so accustomed to include every human being in such expressions as the world, all flesh, all men, &c., that we are naturally led to interpret passages in which such expressions occur, as referring to every human being. Let me, however, observe,

First. The calling in of the Gentiles is spoken of as a great mystery in the New Testament; a mystery which had been hidden from ages and generations, and which could not, I conceive, be understood until the ceremonial law, which was the middle wall of partition, and the main source of enmity between Jew and Gentile, was done away by the death of Christ (Eph. ii. 14,15). That this was a mystery, appears to me to be plainly declared (1) in the Epistle to the Ephesians. The Apostle, in addressing the church at Ephesus, chiefly consisting of Gentile converts (Eph. iii. 1), declares that this, which he calls the mystery, was made known to him by immediate revelation (ver. 3); and explains it as referring to the calling in of the Gentiles, and their union in one body with the Jews: “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ: which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel” (Eph. iii.4–6). We may also observe that this forms one part of what is represented as the great mystery of godliness, “ And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness : God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. iii. 16). Here the preaching of God unto the Gentiles, and his being believed on in the world, that is, among men in general, as contradistinguished from his being believed on only in one nation, the Jews, is declared to be as truly a constituent part of the great mystery of godliness, as that he was manifest in the flesh. Such, then, are the declarations given in the New Testament concerning the mysteriousness of this point; and in agreement with this, we find not merely that the Jews in general disbelieved, and hated the idea of the calling in of the Gentiles; (compare Acts xxii. 21), but that the Apostles themselves were very slow of heart to understand and believe it, however expressly it had been foretold in the Old Testament. To remove Peter's scruples, and to explain this mystery to him, previous to the admission of the first Gentile converts, Cornelius and his household, into the church of Christ, the Lord vouchsafed a special vision to him in reference to this very point (Acts x. 9–16). In this vision a great sheet was let down from heaven, enclosing not merely the clean four-footed beasts, such as lambs, kids, oxen, but wild beasts also and creeping things. From considering the special object of the vision, I conceive that the Gentiles were prefigured by the wild beasts and creeping things, in agreement with the light in which they appear to have been regarded by the Jews: who seem to have considered themselves as clean, like the lambs, kids, oxen ; and the Gentiles as unclean, like the wild beasts, and creeping things. The vision, therefore, of a sheet let down from heaven, and containing all these animals bound up together in one bundle, seems intended to intimate that Jew and Gentile were henceforth to be regarded as united and bound up together in one common church by the bond of heavenly union and by the cords of the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Second. Another point of which we have, I concelve, greatly lost sight, after the lapse of eighteen hundred years, is the great calling in both of Jews and Gentiles, which actually took place in the period immediately following the first coming of Christ. Acts iii. 41, and iv. 4, and v. 14, and vi. 7, and ix. 31, 32, 35, 42, and xi. 19–21, and xii. 24, all shew the wonderful blessing which attended the preaching of the Gospel among the Jews, so that many tens of thousands of believing Jews were assembled in Jerusalem alone, at the feast of Pentecost, as appears from Acts xxi. 20, and xx. 16: Thou seest how 'many tens of thousands (uvprades) of Jews there are (that is, now assembled in Jerusalem) which believe.

With regard to the blessing among the Gentiles, we collect from the Acts that numerous and flourishing churches of Gentile converts were early formed in almost every part of Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy; so that the Apostle, in writing to the Colossians, says, that the Gospel had come unto, and borne fruit in all the world (Col. i. 6).

Having called the reader's attention to these two points; namely, (1) the mystery connected with the calling in of the Gentiles, and their union with the Jews in the one church of Christ : and (2) the wonderful blessing which actually attended the preaching of the Gospel in the period immediately after Christ's first


coming) both of which points appear to me to be much lost sight of at this distance of time), I would advert to some of those passages in the Old Testament, which formerly led me to expect that there would be a period, during which every human being would be brought to the knowledge of Christ. Thus in Isai. vi. 3, a period is foretold when the whole earth would be full of the glory of the Lord. The question respecting this passage appears to me to be this : Are we to understand it of individuals, as foretelling that every individual human being would know the Lord; or of nations, as referring to the extension of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord among the nations of the earth in general, instead of its being .confined, as it had hitherto been, to one nation only, the Jews. I am led to conceive the latter to be the real meaning of the prophecy; because there appears to me to be a key to this interpretation supplied in the Scriptures themselves, For, first, John xii. 39–41 refers this prophecy to the manifestation of Christ at his first coming. Secondly, in Acts xxviii. 25—28 the Apostle Paul, in preaching to the Jews at Rome, applies vers, 9, 10 of this chapter, to the national rejection of the salvation of God by the Jews; and infers from it, the sending the Gospel to the Gentiles, and their receiving it. Thirdly, I find the same expression, all the earth, or the whole earth, occurring in Rom. x. 18, as quoted from the sixth Psalm, in order to prove that the Gentiles were to hear the Gospel of Christ; and all the earth, or the whole earth (Gr.), is used expressly to signify this. In agreement with this, the moving, or shaking, of the posts of the temple (Isai. vi. 4), appears to me to have been figurative of the doing away of the temple and the ceremonial law; while the house being filled (not with a cloud, as in Exod. xl. 34; 1 Kings viii. 10-12, but) with smoke, which is set forth as a token of anger

in Jehovah's presence (Psa. xviii. 7, 8), may be intended to represent, that the time signified would be a time of the Lord's wrath upon the Jews. In proof of this, let the reader consider carefully Rev, xv. 7, 8. And the connexion in which ver. 4 stands with ver. 3, appears to me to imply that the time of the calling in of the Gentiles, as signified in ver. 3, was to be the same as that of the doing away of the temple and cere

« PreviousContinue »