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church in one general Judgment. The millenarian believes rather in three judgments than in one; and he can allow no one of them to be universal and beyond appeal, since that would be to make the others a useless mockery. But it is remarkable, that in the very portion of Scripture, where he seeks for argument in favour of his several judgments, inspired wisdom appears to have provided most effectually against the error. The very position of our text is meant to assure us, that the Judgment will occur after the millennium and after the final apostasy. It is just as clearly shown, that this Judgment will be universal, embracing “the dead both small and great ; all that are in the sea, and all that are in the grave; all whose names are in the book of life, and all who are cast out into the lake of fire." But if this Judgment is to be universal, there can have been no previous judgment of the righteous or the wicked ; for this would be to revise a sentence which is irreversible, and to rejudge those who have already received their verdict.
The final remark which it may be necessary to make on the period of the Judgment, is, that it is unknown, and that it is not meant to be brought within the boundaries of our knowledge. The language of holy Scripture is very
decisive on this particular. The day of the Lord is to come “as a thief in the night,” when none expect it. The parable of the ten virgins is meant to convey the same assurance. Such is the profound secrecy with which it is attended, that it is not only hidden from man, but from the Son of man himself. And in this chapter, where we have a formal and prophetic account of the Judgment, and an assurance that it shall succeed the last apostasy, there is yet an interval between them, on the duration of which Scripture preserves an utter silence.
It is not pretended by those who venture to express themselves, in the silence of Scripture, that there is any direct and explicit information conveyed to us on the hour of Judgment. But, unhappily, they have a theory to maintain. They profess to have the means of determining exactly the period of the millennium; they fix the resurrection at its commencement and its close; they cannot disunite the resurrection from the Judgment; and hence they presume to conclude on the time of its occurrence. Yet there is but little harmony of opinion amongst those who profess to be competent to the determination. They make, as we have observed, the Judgment to synchronize with the millennium ; and that solemn day is conse
quently rendered the sport of all the various speculations on that perplexing subject. Some have declared it past; some, that it is in progress : some, that it will happen soon. And that those who look to it as future may clear their announcements of all obscurity, they have been tempted to declare the precise year in the present century in which it shall begin!
It is not merely with the temerity shown on this subject that we are offended. A more serious evil is, that it exerts an injurious practical influence. If the time is believed to be near, it leads to recklessness and frenzy; if to be distant, it administers to indifference and carnality; and, in every case, such speculations have a tendency to sacrifice the plain and the present for the curious and obscure. Too often, alas ! where these inquiries, in their incipient stage, have been commendable ; they have been found, if unwisely pursued, to end in abasement and shame. Instead of bowing humbly before the majesty of known and visible Truth, the individual has been tempted to flatter himself on discoveries revealed to no other eye. The conceits of the mind have been multiplied by morbid indulgence; the real purposes of life have been abandoned; every important view of religion has been eclipsed; the mind has been snared in its own devices; and he who ambitiously sought, by feeding on the knowledge of future good and evil, to be a god, ends in becoming greatly less than a man.
While we sicken over the follies of humanity, how refreshing is it to turn to the wisdom of sacred Scripture. There everything is revealed as we really need it. We admire the inspired writers equally when silent, as when entirely disclosing the mind of the Spirit. The great facts of our mortality, of the establishment of Messiah's kingdom, and of a final Judgment, are confirmed beyond a doubt ; while the precise points of time connected with their accomplishment are hidden from our sight. We know we must die; but we are ignorant of the time; that we may die daily. We are assured of the coming glory of Christ's kingdom; but we know not the particular methods and seasons of its advancement; that without any delay we may apply ourselves diligently to all eligible means. We are satisfied there will be a Judgment; we have no key to the period of its arrival ; that we may not be occupied in adjusting events and dates, but filled with the one thrilling fact, that as surely as we have a rational being, we must render a final account of the “ deeds done in the body.”
It is to be hoped, that these remarks will not be so misconstrued as to lead any to the conclusion, that they are meant to be unfavourable to just and earnest inquiry into the will and word of God. They are applied to those extravagances which it has been painfully necessary to notice. We are to be reminded, that it is alike criminal to seek to know what God has wisely concealed, as to remain ignorant of what he has graciously disclosed. Especially we are to know, that the study of holy Scripture is meant to be a moral exercise-a test of our dispositions; that we may approach it with caution, humility, and prayer. For want of such temper many have been snared in their application to truth itself. “For judgment,” said the essential Truth, “am I come into the world, that they who see not, might see, and that they who see might be made blind.” How many who began by believing too much, have ended in believing nothing!
II. Let us now glance at the CIRCUMstances of the Judgment, as they affect the present view of our subject.
Generally, it is to be understood that the sacred descriptions supplied to us of this awful event, are open to a figurative and not a literal