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confounding terms in natural and extreme opposition ? If the earth were really restored to a paradisaical state, should we call it a new state, or an old and original state revived ? Do we speak of the body, transformed on the morning of the resurrection, as a new body, or as the old and identical body glorified ?
But apart from this apparent contradiction, we think the proposed construction is not at all necessary to the right explication of the Scripture. It is uttered by Isaiah, Peter, and John; and a comparison of the passages may greatly assist us in its elucidation. The apostle Peter used it in connexion with some things which are “ hard to be understood ;” and he especially refers to it, as to a promise already on record. Considerable perplexity has arisen on this allusion, from the difficulty of fixing on the particular promise referred to. To us it appears, that it was not the design of the apostle to point to any one special promise, so much as to refer to that great predominant assurance, which is the spirit of all the promises — that Messiah should possess a kingdom, and that his subjects should be raised to a state of spiritual blessedness and glory. This is, evidently, the character of the first promise made to man on his fall. This promise was afterwards enlarged, and received all the sanctions of a covenant, to Abraham. It regarded him as the father of a twofold offspring, that which was natural, and that which was spiritual. To his natural seed, the land of Canaan was promised; while to his spiritual seed, a spiritual inheritance of rest and joy was promised, of which the earthly Canaan was only the visible type. It is to this spiritual offspring that the promise is at successive periods renewed; and this is done for the purpose of enlarging their perceptions and assuring their faith in the certainty and glory of the spiritual inheritance. If the apostle, then, has an allusion to this promise, there is nothing in it to favour a material construction. On the contrary, the heavenly country promised is put in continued contrast with the earthly Canaan.
Again, if it shall be thought that the apostle is merely quoting from Isaiah, the construction should be spiritual and not material. Nothing can be plainer than that the prophet uses it only in this sense. He is depicting the blessed change which should be realized by the introduction of the Gospel dispensation. The express words are, “ Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth ;” on which words he becomes his own expositor. “But be ye glad,” he says, “ in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy.”
There can be no pretension here to suppose that the prophet is foretelling the formation of a material earth and heavens. It is not even within the scope of his theme. The creation he predicts is, that Jerusalem, the prophetic name of the whole church, shall become a rejoicing, and her people a joy; that this happy state of the church is to be connected with the new dispensation ; and this change in the religious economy of the church is figuratively expressed by“ a new earth and new heavens.”
Such imagery is common to the inspired writers when describing the same subject. The apostle Paul, when speaking of the influence of the Gospel on the individual, calls it a “new creation,” in which “old things have passed away, and all things are become new.” And, when referring to the abrogation of the Jewish economy and the establishment of the Christian dispensation, he names the Deity as saying, “ Yet once more I shake not the earth only,” as at the giving of the law," but heaven also. And this word yet once more signifieth the removal of those things that are shaken,” the civil and religious economy of the Jews, “ that those things which cannot be shaken,” the kingdom of Christ,“ may reIt may be objected, that the passage as quoted by Peter could not apply to the opening of the Christian dispensation, even if it is admitted that Isaiah certainly used it with that application ; since he wrote under the Christian economy, and described a yet future and distant period. But if such language was employed by Isaiah and Paul to describe the commencement of the new dispensation, may not the apostle Peter be considered with much propriety to apply it to its consummation? It is to be recollected, that the economy of mercy has two grand periods; the one identical with the first advent of Christ, and the other identical with his second advent. And if at his first coming, when he released his church from the worldly ordinances of the Mosaic worship, he was said “ to create new heavens and a new earth,” with how much greater force may such language be applied to that period, when he shall come to dissolve the world itself, and to introduce his redeemed family into a state of spiritual and endless glory?
* See the Rev. W. Orme's Sermon on the Christian Dispensation.
Much reliance has been placed on the use of the important passage under examination in the Apocalypse. We are not, however, unwilling to assert, that a just attention to that entire portion of Scripture will decidedly support the view of the passage which we are
attempting to illustrate. The Evangelist, like the apostle Peter, is describing the condition of the church when the Judgment is past, the world dissolved, and time no more. In vision he has pictured before him a new earth and new heavens—the descent of the new Jerusalem-its dimensions, its inhabitants and its glory. Now, from the marked unity of this description one thing is apparent to all that we must receive it either as a literal or as a figurative representation. But he would be a dreamer of vain dreams indeed who should advocate the literal acceptation. We should then have, the earth without sea; and the heavens without sun, moon or stars; a material world lighted by a spiritual glory; a material city, built in heaven, gently descending to find its place on earth; with a thousand other nameless incongruities. In fact, the literal sense is impossible. It degrades the subject, and is contrary to all that we know of the nature of things.
But if the figurative sense is received, all is plain and congruous and beautiful. The particular passage harmonizes with the previous use of it; the imagery, no longer mistaken for the things themselves, rises into its natural propriety and sublimity; and the external objects of nature, which are the representatives