Page images
PDF
EPUB

and new earth, wherein righteousness shall dwell for ever, and for which believers are taught to hope. The things which eye had not seen, nor ear heard, and which had not entered into the heart of man, God hath revealed to us by his Spirit, and given us to enjoy. But there are other things which are the objects of faith and hope that still remain, and which will cause all that is delightful and glorious in the most perfect state of this world to be in a great measure forgotten. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is.” We look for his second coming; that advent when he shall be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. When the mystery of providence shall be finished ; when the reign of sin and the triumphs of death shall cease for ever; when in bodies pure, spiritual, and perfect, the saints shall be conformed to the glorified person of the exalted Redeemer ; and in the prepared and longed-for inheritance shall enjoy the divine presence, which is fulness of joy and pleasure for evermore. Then, and not till then, shall the present dispensation pass away. While the earth shall endure, it will be the theatre of its administration, its discipline, and its conquests ; the closing scenes of nature shall not witness its decay, though they shall terminate its career: for the record of its principles and the charter of its hopes shall be consumed only in the funeral pile of the universe.

We look for no middle or intervening dispensation between that which we now enjoy and this eternal glory which is to follow: a state which, according to the description given of it by those who think they well understand its nature, corresponds neither with earth nor heaven ; possessing a great portion of the imperfection of the one, and a large portion of the blessedness of the other. Neither a state of sinfulness, nor a state of perfect purity. Not a condition of trial, and preparation, and yet not the state of final happiness. Neither a life of faith, nor a life of sight; but partly the one and partly the other. What is this but a spiritual Utopia ; a poetical reverie of well meaning but injudicious and fallible men ? It is unlike any thing which is to be found in the scriptures relative to the kingdom of Christ ; partaking more of the romancing of the sybil, than of the enlightened and purifying visions of the gospel.

At the hazard of being thought tedious, I cannot close the argument on the perpetuity of the present dispensation, without assigning two or three reasons, which, apart from all views of prophecy, fulfilled or unfulfilled, appear to me conclusive against the expectation of any

such state as that to which I have now adverted.

In the first place, the expectation of this state is founded on a false and most unscriptural assumption--that the kingdom of Christ has not yet come; that the Redeemer has not yet taken possession of his throne ; that he is exercising his prophetical and priestly offices; but not his kingly office: and that his reign among men is to be established, not by moral and spiritual means and the influence of his Spirit; but by miraculous demonstrations from heaven, and universal judgments on earth. Are we then to be told, that when John the Baptist preached “The kingdom of heaven is at hand;" and when Christ and his apostles proclaimed “the kingdom of God is nigh—is approachingis come-is among you;" that they meant, it shall come two thousand ages hence ? Is it so, that the reward of the Redeemer's work is all yet to come; that the Father has delayed to bestow upon him the glory which was promised, and for which he so anxiously prayed? When Jesus tells us, that all power in heaven and on earth is given to him; when Paul assures us, that he sat down at the right hand of the throne of the majesty on high; and John informs us that he beheld the Lamb in the midst of the throne, receiving the homage of the universe-are we to be told that all these things are still future?

In the face of intimations so plain and intelligible as these, should we allow ourselves to be juggled out of our faith and our common sense by a farrago of unintelligible dogmas, pretending to be founded on unfulfilled predictions ? A system which rests upon such assumptions for its foundation is subversive of the faith once delivered to the saints, and no better than “ the baseless fabric of a vision," which will, ere long, “ leave not a wreck behind."

In the second place, the present revelation is altogether unsuited to such a change in the state of the church and of the world as that adverted to. The New Testament scriptures * are clearly designed for creatures in a state of sinfulness and imperfection; who though renewed in the spirit of their minds, have not yet attained; who require the discipline of Providence to correct and mature their characters; whose circumstances are those of suffering and trial; who live by faith, not by sight; and whose chief consolations are those which are derived from things invisible and eternal. To perfected creatures, unconversant with sin, sorrow, and death, and enjoying the manifested presence of a glorified Redeemer, it is as clear as possible, the greater part of the existing revelation would be altogether inapplicable. Every change of dispensation that has hitherto occurred, has been attended by a change or an increase of the revealed will of heaven: so it must be again, to meet the new and unprecedented circumstances which it is alleged are to take place. But if we believe that the apostles and their testimony shall constitute the foundation of the church's faith, and the rule of her obedience till the final consummation, we shall be cautious how we admit this supposition, or any hypothesis which implies its necessity. I am aware this argument will go very little way with those who have already had many “ things revealed unto them,” and who would obviously have no objection to be considered the prophets of the new dispensation. But it must go far to quash their pretensions and theory with those who have no experience of the gift of prophecy themselves, and who have as little confidence in the vaticinations of modern seers.

In the third place, I regard the expectation of a terrestrial reign of the Saviour as the consummation of the present dispensation, and previous to the destruction of the world, as subversive of the proper hope of the gospel. That hope I consider, in few words, to be the resurrection of the dead, the second coming of our Lord to judge angels and men, and the perfect and eternal glorification of all his saints together with him. This has been the

« PreviousContinue »