« PreviousContinue »
we have the most exact means of determining the duration of this present age, during which the church was to continue of good and bad inseparably intermingled : it is until the first resurrection, as it is emphatically “ the resurrection, the one from among the dead.” Till that event this
age endureth; and with that event the age to come beginneth. Accordingly, we find, in the xxth of the Apocalypse, that after Antichrist is destroyed and Satan cast out, the first resurrection, or that from among the dead, immediately proceedeth. Now, in the Epistle to the Ephesians (ii. 2) it is said, that wicked men
walk according to the age of this world ; according to the prince of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience." Not, therefore, until this prince of the power of the air is cast out, doth the age of this world conclude. Till then, therefore, when another Ruler and another Prince, even Christ, obtaineth the dominion, we believe that Satan will use the Gospel-call in order to multiply his delusions, and permit, yea, encourage, his generation, to mingle themselves with the children of light. Till then, the devil will sow the Lord's fields with tares ; till then, the Lord will permit the tares to grow beside the wheat; till then, the children of this age shall be wiser to deceive, than the children of light to detect them.
In one word, till then it is the purpose and prophecy of God that the same enclosure, the same sacred pale of faith and ordinances, should contain men of
There is just one other parable to which I will make reference in order to establish this same conclusion, which is that of the Marriage of the King's Son, recorded in the xxiid of Matthew, and spoken to the very intent of teaching this great truth, which the Lord addeth as its moral, “ Many are called, but few chosen.” The marriage supper of the Lamb, for which the bride maketh herself ready, is at the end of this age and the beginning of the age to come (Rev. xix. 9); and this parable represents to us the state of the church at, or immediately before, that time. At supper-time, saith Luke," he sent his servants say
to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are now ready." Those that were bidden are those that had received and accepted the call of the Gospel, those within the net of the kingdom, the many who are called. And how received they the King's message? “ They made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm and another to his merchandize; and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them." Such is the character of the
are called at the time of the going forth of the summons, that the marriage of the Lamb is come (Rev. xix, 7): all, or almost all, in a state of apostasy and rebellion against the voice of their King ; insomuch that he is stirred up to take summary vengeance upon
NO. 1.-VOL. I.
them and their wicked inventions: and he sendeth forth other servants to the highways and hedges, and from the refuse of the people furnisheth the supper-table of his Son ; and thus that word, so frequently in his mouth, is fulfilled, “ Many are called, but few are chosen.” Now, though some may be inclined to interpret this parable as not referring to the eve of the age to come or the end of this age, but rather to understand it of a constant and ever-present feature and law of the kingdom-namely, that it is to draw its wedding guests from publicans and sinners and harlots, and to attract not many noble, not many wise, not many rich, who, though outwardly and professedly pertaining to it, are not of it in spirit and in truth-still, this interpretation will make no difference with respect to our conclusion, that the church containeth in its bosom multitudes who are not the friends but the enemies of the King and of the King's loyal
But that this constant feature of the church, which we have now established from so many passages in the Gospels, shall be especially characteristic of it at the time of the Lord's advent, is put beyond all question by the continual declaration of the day of his coming as a day of exceeding great wickedness in the . church, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. For that this wickedness is in his professing church, and no where else, is manifest from this circumstance, that those who are taken in that day to himself are taken from beside those that are left. Two are grinding at the mill, the one is taken and the other left; two are sleeping in a bed, the one is taken and the other left; two are in the field, the one is taken from the judgment and the other is left. Now those who are taken, every one will allow, are the saints gathered unto Christ; and, seeing those they are taken from amongst remain for judgment, it is manifest that the church in that day, after yielding forth the saints of Godthe wheat, or children of the kingdom ; the good fish, stored for the Father's use—the church, thus bereaved of its salt, thus deprived of the children of light, remaineth to endure a judgment which hath its parallel only in that of the Flood and of Sodom. Moreover, after that solemn discourse (Luke xvii.) from which we have taken these particulars, the Lord addeth a parable, to encourage the elect under the hardships which for long and long they were destined to endure; and, after giving them assurance that if they ceased not to pray they would not fail of righteous judgment in the end, he addeth a most mournful presentiment of the failure and diminution, if not the utter falling away, of their faith ; saying (Luke xviii. 8), “ Nevertheless, when the Son of Man, cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?”-that is, faith in things to come, faith in things not seen: for faith which is not prospective is not the faith of the Gospel, which is
defined to be “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Let these proofs derived from the Gospel, drawn from the words of Christ himself, the great Head of the church, suffice to prove, 1st, That it was the purpose and prophecy of God from the beginning, that the Christian church-those, to wit, who received the Gospel of the kingdom and submitted themselves to the test of discipleship, which is baptism-should consist of all kinds of men; children of the wicked one, as well as children of the kingdom. 2dly, That these children of the wicked one should be so much the more numerous and the more powerful part of the church, as to hide effectually the true believers, and make the chosen ever to be the few, the heirs of the kingdom ever to be a little flock. 3dly, That the number, and the power, and the bitterness of these hypocrites and pretenders should increase toward the time of the end, and not diminish, as is ignorantly supposed by many. Lastly, That from these false brethren in the church, rather than from the unbelievers out of it, the sufferings and persecutions promised to all his people were to be fulfilled.
REVIEWS AND MISCELLANIES.
THE LAST DAYS : A DISCOURSE ON THE EVIL CHARACTER
OF THESE OUR TIMES, &c. BY THE REV. EDWARD IRVING.
We shall not be accused of making a very unreasonable postulate in requesting to be allowed to assume that there is to be a point in the evolution of time when the present Christian dispensation will cease to be such as it is. We would prefer proving even this to taking it for granted, but that we are anxious not to waste time upon any thing on which discussion may be waved ; and we are aware of the necessity of going into the full proof of other topics, which must occupy a considerable portion of attention. At the outset of our career as journalists, we think it advisable to risk wearying our readers by appearing unnecessarily prolix upon fundamental positions, rather than to assume any point which the catholic church of the Lord Jesus Christ shall not be ready fully to concede; so that we might find ourselves, in a later period of our labours, obliged to recur to first principles which have never been fully demonstrated by us.
It being assumed, then, that the present Christian dispensation is to come to an end, another very interesting point arisesnamely, in what way it is to end. But this point we wave for the present. Let it end, however, when and how it may, it is obvious that in the days immediately preceding its termination it will be competent, to all who shall see fit to deny that that event is approaching, to call upon all who maintain the affirmative of the proposition, for proof of their assertion. The proof must be derived from three sources: first, from chronology; secondly, from the accomplishment of predictions; thirdly, from the signs of the times. To trust to any one of these, irrespective of the other two, can only lead to error. None of them admit of geometrical proof; and therefore all and each.. are disputable. In proportion as time rolls on, so do we hourly come nearer to the predicted end; and therefore it might be supposed, that in the same measure were the grounds of difference diminished. But this, unfortunately, is not the case : for, as the boy who cried “ Wolf!” in the fable, was not believed when at length the wolf did really come; so have the repeated expectations of individuals at various periods, of the end of the world arriving in their days,given rise to a suspicion in the mind of many pious persons, whenever their attention is called to the subject, that this is only a repetition of the false alarm which has been so often sounded.
The signs of the times is the very last point to which we should wish to direct the attention of any student of prophecy. In so saying, however, we are fully aware that our blessed Lord denounced as hypocrites and false professors those in his days who did not perceive the signs then in the world; and we are ready to concede, that an inaptitude to read the signs of the present day arises entirely from the low state of faith into which the church has fallen. But our remark is made in reference to this low state; and it is to call her out of this low state that we have commenced our present labours; and therefore we must accommodate ourselves to her weakness, and do all that in us lies with affectionate solicitude to invigorate her on the elements of prophetical subjects, in the hopes that she will thereby be enabled to rise and read the signs for herself: for, until a fact be believed, no sign of that fact can be perceived.
A work, therefore, on the signs of the times, must be particularly liable both to be misunderstood by those who, although honest, are ignorant; and to be misrepresented by others, who are not only ignorant, but dishonest also : and since it is the very last branch of the subject of unfulfilled prophecy which we should have deliberately brought before the attention of the church, we certainly should not have reviewed this volume of Mr. Irving's in our first Number, had it not been for two other reviews of it which have appeared in the Eclectic, and in the Evangelical Magazine. Our object in reviewing it, therefore, is not solely on account of the merit or demerit of the work itself; nor even on account of the important subject on which it treats; but from its connection with the opinions of a large body of Christian brethren, of whose sentiments these journals are the authorized organs.
Names are of little importance, either to sensible people, or to those who are in earnest about the substance of any subject under discussion, provided the ideas they are intended to convey are accurately defined, and borne in mind. We are induced to make this observation, because we shall have occasion, in the course of our remarks, to speak of what is called “the religious world,” as if we ourselves were not of it. Now we beg it to be distinctly understood, that we are of the religious worldthat is, we profess the creed which it professes, and support all the benevolent institutions it supports: and if we find fault with any of its principles or practices, we hold ourselves, as members of it, guilty also, and do therefore repent ourselves of the same; -and, that under the name of the religious world we believe to be included a larger portion of the Lord's people than is to be found under any other : term comprising a body equally
The words “last days” and “ latter days” occur frequently in the Old Testament, and signify, literally, " in futurity of the
" 7. loose and undefined ; and the precise period to which it relates, or in which the events foretold to take place in that period shall actually come to pass, must be gathered either from the immediate context, or from some parallel passage: for the words themselves give no definite signification. As an example of this, Gen. xlix. I. may be cited, where certain blessings are promised by Jacob to come to his sons “in the futurity of days.” These blessings might have come to the identical twelve individuals to whom he addressed the words, or they might have occurred to any of their posterity during the last 3700 years, or they may be yet to be produced from the womb of time, for any thing that the words themselves, taken by themselves, express to the contrary:
In other places, where the expression occurs in the Old Testament, they are equally indefinite in themselves: but for the most part, and unless they are limited by the context, it may be laid down as a general proposition, subject of course to particular exceptions, that they refer to some period subsequent to the incarnation of Jehovah. Bishop Horsley observes upon Hosea, that that prophet speaks of no event which occurs between the two advents of our Lord; and in almost all the Prophets, the