« PreviousContinue »
also that one of its meanings belongs to the present time; it relates to Christ's church or kingdom in this world: but besides this, there is a higher and more awful view to be taken of it—it looks forward to the coming of Christ in the last and final judgment. The same may be said of the parable of the marriage supper : my opponent has noticed but one of its applications; he, moreover, has failed to note a circumstance connected with it, of very great consequence; I allude to the case of the man "who had not on a wedding garment." Why was this overlooked? Did my opponent find it too hard for his ingenuity? "And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding-garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him, into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat. xxii. 11— 13.) From this we learn the important truth, that except we in this life attain a preparation for heaven, we shall have no admission to that blissful abode hereafter.
My opponent has very plausibly disposed of the argument raised on the fact, that the same Greek term is employed to qualify both the life of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked; but unfortunately for his cause, whilst his sophistry was employed in disproving the endless duration of the latter, it at the same time disproved that of the former. Eternal life must end if eternal punishment shall! This one consequence of his reasoning is sufficient for its refutation: he professes to believe in endless happiness beyond the grave; I defy him to bring forward any warrant for it from the scriptures, in stronger or more unequivocal terms than are therein applied to future punishment.
I sincerely thank my friend for the conciseness and explicitness of his objections, it shall not be the fault of my will if my replies are not equally concise and explicit. 1st.-He grants the grammatical correctness of the criticism on the text, which makes nations (not individuals) the parties arraignod and separated in the
judgment that it foretells; yet he thinks Christ could not have designed what his language fairly means! This, in effect, is to accuse him of not having known how to express his meaning! Nations, too, he tells us, are not punished, as such, for their wickedness. He certainly has not learned this from the bible, for it teaches not only that "the wicked shall be turned into hell," but also," and all the nations that forget God." Not the bible alone, but all history informs us that there is such a thing as national guilt, and that this is sure to draw down national punishment. 2nd. I must prove, he thinks, in order to made good my application of this passage, that "the devil and his angels" of which it speaks, are not fallen spiritual beings; and that the "everlasting fire prepared" for them, is not the fire of a hell beyond the bounds of earth. Nay, I think it does not fairly fall to my part to prove this; it is all assumed as fact by popular theologians, it is their business to make it good by substantial evidence. As to the idea of lapsed spirits from heaven, called devils, it is too ridiculous for sober consideration: my opponent must admit that the different terms so rendered often refer to beings and things of this earth: I contend that they always do, (if we may except the terms relating to demons—a popular heathen superstition, which supposed that the souls of deceased persons wandered about the earth, and entered into men and women, causing disease, madness, &c.: the Jews in our saviour's time had adopted this chimera,) hence we read of deaf devils, dumb devils, lunatic devils, leprous devils, etc. Seven devils were cast out of Mary Magdalene. One poor fellow who applied to Christ for relief supposed himself possessed of a legion of them, (a whole battalion,) and when these were exorcised and permitted to enter into a herd of pigs, they affected the pigs with a species of madness (not hydrophobia, certainly) which caused them to run down a declivity into the sea. Most usually, however, these terms are used with reference to human adversaries. Christ once called Judas a devil, and Peter he termed Satan: it is therefore not unreasonable to understand "the devil and his angels" to mean the chief enemy of Christ's gospel, and his agents or instruments: and the "fire prepared" for them to mean, the terrible retributions with which they were soon to be visited. We are told in Revelations of a war in heaven, "Michael and his angels fought
against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels." Blind indeed must be the mind, to which it is not evident from the whole connexion, that "heaven" here means the church, and "the dragon and his angels" the enemies of the gospel, acting under some great leader! for the same account speaks of a woman in heaven, who brought forth a man child, and who fled into the wilderness from the persecutions of the dragon (all this in heaven, mid you!) which vomited forth water after her, “and the earth helped the woman," etc. On which highly figurative account (so manifestly relating to the church, its conflicts and final triumph) is erected the edifice of monstrous absurdity about a pitched fight, which took place between contending armies of angels before time began! That these crude notions are even yet common amongst Christians is evidence that the sacred volume has been studied to but little purpose.*
3rd. "I affirm," quoth my opponent, "that no such coming ?s is predicted in the text has ever yet transpired." Then, my friend, you affirm that Christ has proven a false prophet! for have I not furnished proof upon proof, that he positively declared it should take place within that generation, and within the lifetime of some of his auditors? Our friend's mistake, however, arises from the want of an acquaintance with the style of speaking then in general use: he understands every thing in a gross or literal sense; and so, as history relates nothing of the sun having been quenched-the stars having fallen—all nations having been actual
*I will give another text often referred to, that my readers may see on what questionable ground the popular doctrine of a devil is made to stand. "And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve, That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger is persecuted, and none hindereth. The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the fir-rees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us. Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we ? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!" Isaiah xiv. 3-12.) Here you have it, reader; here is that fallen angel that has so long been a bug-bear in christendom: but here we have him dead and buried, and therefore shorn of his power, as one would naturally suppose : he is said, however, to be capable of such a variety of metamorphoses, that it were well to keep a sharp look out for him nevertheless.
ly congregated together before some real and visible judgmentseat, it is clear, he thinks, that all this is yet to take place. Nor is he without company in this error; many erudite theologians of high title, and most reverend wig, have erred from the same cause. The sacred writers were much accustomed to the use of the figure called hyperbole; which consists in describing a subject in an exaggerated manner, employing very bold imagery. See, for example, Isaiah's account of the destruction of Babylon by the Medes. "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; they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.” (Isaiah xiii. 9-14.) This is the prediction of a mere temporal overthrow, but how glowingly described! The earth was to run away like a timid deer before the hunter! Now, to employ my friend's mode of reasoning here, I might argue that the destruction of Babylon is an event yet to take place; for the earth has not yet so run like a frightened sheep from its orbit, nor have the luminaries of heaven been extinguished. Truth is, that if we adopt this sort of logic we shall arrive at most marvelous and contradictory conclusions from different parts of the scriptures: and we should also be forcing upon them a meaning which they were never meant to bear. Our friend, by consulting the several commentators upon Mat. xxiv, and its parables, will find that even the most orthodox of them have been forced into concessions which favor my application. For example: Dr. Clarke, remarks that the coming of Christ" in his glory," may mean his spiritual presence in the preaching, and miracles, by which the gospel dispensation was
ushered in his "gathering before him all nations," may mean the assembling of the Jewish tribes on some festival occasion, (as was the case on the day of pentecost; and as was also the case (according to Josephus and others,) when Jerusalem was besieged by Titus Vespasian :) his "holy angels," may mean his apostles and other inspired evangelists; "the great sound of a trumpet," may ref o the preaching of the gospel, by which means the "elect were gathered together," or, in other words, believers were brought into his church or kingdom, etc. Such is a specimen of concessions made by commentators opposed to myself on the general question between us, and they are the more to be relied on for that very reason.
4th.-Let us now look at the three questions put to Christ by his disciples, as he sat upon the mount of Olives. First. "When shall these things be?" What things? Evidently, those of which he had been speaking, and these, by a reference to the context, you will perceive were the destruction of the city and the temple. On this point we are agreed. Proceed we then to the second. "And what shall be the sign of thy coming." What coming? Without doubt, his coming to execute these judgments upon that obstinate people. Third: "and of the end of the world ?" This, however, is not properly a third question, but merely a member of the second: “the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" (Tou alwvos) end of the age, or Mosaic economy: for the disciples understood that the destruction of the city and temple would close the Jewish dispensation, and usher in that of the Mesiah: hence they associate his coming to execute this destruction with the end of the Jewish age or state. St. Mark's account of the same matter clearly corroborates this view. "And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering, said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?" (Mark xiii. 1-4.) So also does St. Luke's. "And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly