The Gbeat Tribulation

" Suppose I had proved to you to demonstration, that 1867 were to close this present era* Some will say, Oh! then we had better not insure our lives —we had better not take leases—we had better do nothing, but fling everything off, and let society go to ruin. I say, no. "What is the Lord's command ?—" Occupy till I come." What is the condition of the people when he comes ?—" Two shall be grinding in a mill ; the one shall be taken," i.e. one a Christian, " and the other left." What does that teach i^s 1 That our duties are determined by God's plain precepts ; they are not to be modified by any of His prophecies, however clear. The prophecy I read for comfort—the precept I read for direction. And, therefore, when people say, we act inconsistently—as it was said not very long ago by caricaturists and others in the papers—that, because I took the lease of a house, therefore I did not believe these conclusions. I answer, that if I thought it icould be for my interest or advantage, or the advantage of my family, I would take a house for a hundred years' lease to-morrow. I have nothing to do with prophecy in determining my duties—they are to be determined by God's precepts, and by common sense ; and if I believed 1867 were to end the present economy of things, I should have my hand equally busy in my work. I would bid the soldier appear in the ranks, the merchant in his counting-house, the senator in the parliament—every man at his post; for the post of duty is always the place

* Compare Lect. siv, p. 165, and Lect. xxvii, p. 317,—" the end of this present Christian dispensation,"—with Rev. xiv, G; and Matt, xxiv, 14, with Rom. x, 18, Coloss. i, 6-23,—proclaiming the gospel of the apostolie be Christ's everlasting gospel.

tin fePty b<diitiil;'ti< >ns of aagry of swfcrty bef«w God, and in-tfre sight of quarrels."* all mankind. But whilst our hands should be at duty, our hearts should be more than ever in heaven."

" And who can possibly regret the probable nearness of such a consummation ? What will it be ? The end of sin—the emancipation of the oppressed —the extinction of war—the return of earth's ancient glory—the restoration of all the blessedness we have lost—a peace that passeth understanding—no more quarrels, no more misapprehensions, no more sins, no more sorrows.

Instead of dreading the advent of so glorious an epoch, with all our hearts we should pray, as from the heart I do, ' Come, Lord Jesus; yea, come quick-

The beautiful conclusion of this* quotation will insure for it a ready response of approval from every Christian heart.

But we nevertheless cannot conceal from the conviction of our understanding that it concludes a strong appeal to the blind and deadly passions of conflicting zeal in the cause of Christianity, instead of teaching men to seek in common the healing thereof in Christ, through prayer for that unity of spirit which is the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Great as are the political evils of the Papal system, by the corrupting influence of its traditions on the spirit of our Christian religion, the Romish Church numbers amongst her sons many who worship God with a simplicity of spiritual and truthful devotion no less practically honouring to God than that of our purer Protestant form of faith.

I question seriously whether we can consistently couple our fear of God with good will to man, when, in favour of Protestantism, we preach up a workUy crusade against the Papacy, teaching simple-minded men to believe that with the fall thereof, every form of sin will cease, every malady of human corruption be healed, and every tear of human sorrow be dried up after 1867, if only the destruction of the Papacy can be realised by that time.

Such a spirit of prophecy (if heeded) would be more likely to cherish in Protestants themselves that serious and deadly distem per cfi[ the soul, whicBnakes it ofttimes most blind to ift^^M defects, when most keen-sighted to and intolerant of that which is wrong in others.

If the temporal kingdom of the Papacy should this year be made to cease for ever, as the Jewish church of the Apostolic age was (under God's judgment thereon through the agency of man) made to cease from building for itself a temporal kingdom of exclusive privileges, to the prejudice of a truthful and spiritual worshipping God in Christ by all flesh (John iv, 21-27), the cause of Christianity would still not exist before men, without let or hinderance of other corrupting influences. For so long as man's spirit of life is doomed to exist on earth within a frail and mortal tabernacle, he is in spirit doomed to sustain a contest with the sinful influences of his carnal will, Rom. vii, 24.

Like man's mortal body, all political combinations of worldly power, however righteously grafted on the everlasting and truthful basis of Christianity, are liable to mutations of form, from the imperfect character of their own human element—1 Cor. iii, 12-23.

The everlasting promises of Jewish prophecy, in their relation to Messiah's kingdom (as the kingdom of God's new covenant with Israel in the day of his second deliverance from Babylon, as restored in temporal form by Cyrus, though still remaining to be confirmed of God before men by the gift of the Holy Ghost— Jerem. xxxi, 31-40, with Heb. viii, 7-13), pertained not to the city and sanctuary of man's rebuilding; for their destruction again forms the whole burden of Jewish prophecy. The desolation predicted in Dan. ix, 27 ; xii, 7, 11, 12, was the " utter destruction " of Zech. xiv, 11, compared with Matt, xxiv, 21.

Ezra ii, 63, and Neh. vi, 65, pointed to a time when the work, commenced by Cyrus in temporal form, as predicted (Isaiah xliv, 28), should be to the comfort of the spirits of all flesh, confirmed of God by the gift of the Holy Ghost, raising the comforted thereof above the dominion of sin in their hearts, when tempted thereto in the flesh ; and delivering them from the sorrows of the heathen when left to sorrow in the world " without hope," under any humanly irremediable trouble of their mortal life.

This gift of the comforter (to those who shall be found waiting for him in righteousness before God, and good will to man) is perpetually realising on earth—in the brightness of a pure spirit, and in the power of divine justiee and merey everlastingly reconciled in Christ—the promise that " unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."— Ileb. ix, 28.

This is the spirit of the interpretation which Scripture fairly, compared with Scripture, unhesitatiugly demands for the words of Jeremiah xxxi, 38—"The eity shall be built to the Lord" (compare v. 40 with Psalm exxvii, 1), " It shall not be plucked up nor thrown clown any more for ever." These words were never intended to apply to any material structure of brick or stone to be raised by man.

But to return to the dangerous inconsistency of Dr Cumming's words, when predicting the end of the world for 1864 (or for 1867), he neutralised the ambiguity of his expressions in other respects by the awfully deeided tone of these words in 1853—" The very ground on which we stand will soon be ealeined by the last fire," &e.

Any simple-minded man would here believe that he meant unquestionably the eomplete physical destruction of this earth by fire ; yet no simple-minded man could or would give him eredit for the belief in his own statement thus interpreted, on hearing him affirm, at the same time, that he would, if he thought it for the interest of himself or family, take a house for a hundred years' lease on the morrow after asserting his belief in an almost instant dissolution of the earth, and, of course, of his new- worldly investment thereon, by fire.

The distinction between precepts and propheeies is an unintentional sophism. The propheeies of God are republications of his precepts in combination with promised merey on obedienee, and the eurse of the threatened judgment on disobedience; and in this form, Christ's " everlasting gospel " is Jewish proplieey generalised, and made of universal application, until the object of all God's prophecies shall have been fulfilled, and therefore proplieey made to eease by the law of Christ (Galat. vi, 2), as that of charity. (1 Cor. (xiii, 8) which never faileth, being itself the consummation of God's purposed merey towards unregenerate man through the agency of his regenerate brethren. For it is thus only that they themselves have been redeemed in Christ from the condemnation of death in the flesh to-life eternal, having spiritual communion with God on earth as in heaven.

Dr Cumming's hypothetical investment of his money upon worldly security, could only be consistent with his belief, in the circninstances of the case, by making it one of a spiritual instead of temporal prospect for the return of gain. By saying, as the time is thus short, instead of making certain investments for my own personal and worldly advantage, I will devote the substance wherewith God has blessed me to uphold his cause, and for the good of my fellow beings in these last days of their earthly need, knowing that my labour will not be in vain, if T am thus found at my post, in the hour of my visitation.

If by " the close of our present (¡economy" Lord Carlisle means only (in the language of a devout and Christian statesman) that the events of our own day are multiplying, with such unmistakeable clearness and irresistible power, the historical evidence of God's temporal providence as the God of Abraham, and Governor in all the earth, being so truly King of Kings, that it will shortly become impossible for kings to establish an enduring throne (in reliance only on an arm of flesh to support politically a balance of power amongst the nations of European Christendom), they are the words of a righteous and true prophetic spirit. But there is a " school of the prophets"* which is ever predicting " the end of this dispensation." In regard to this phrase, if they do not mean "the end of the Christian dispensation" (as I do not think they can), it is essential that they should give the limitation of an intelligible significance to their words, that they become not to the less educated part of their Christian brethren as the blind leading the blind, until both fall into the ditch.

The only plausible signification, to my mind, is, that the phrase represents the expectations of that " school of the prophets" which, denying that the kingdom has ever been restored to Israel, as promised in the Jewish scriptures, and looking for that event in a form harmonising with its own traditional prejudices, regards it as an event associated with the overthrow of our Christian dispensation, regarded merely as the dispensation of an exclusively Gentile Christianity. If such be their meaning, it needs only to be stated clearly to be rejected without hesitation, as an error undermining the very foundations of Christianity itself. The Mosaic theocracy was in truth a shadowy or typical dispensation of Christianity (1 Cor. x, 4, 11), conditionally established to the Jews in connection

* See under this heading an article reprinted from The Times of Nov. 1859.

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