« AnteriorContinua »
ern the nations upon earth.And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come
ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways,
we will walk in his paths ; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people : and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not 'lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. As the rain cometh down, and the snown from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater ; 80 shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth ; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and shall be led forth with peace : the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree : and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
There are some, who, by refining on the spirituality of Christ's kingdom, have concluded that things will always continue much the same as they are now ; and that to understand these prophecies as denoting a general spread of the gospel over the various nations of the earth, would be holding with national establishments of religion, and symbolizing with the Jews in their expectation of a worldly kingdom! If these persons be capable of deriving happiness from such opinions, we need not envy them; por can we be surprised at their feeling no more interest in the con. version of sinners, and taking no more pains to accomplish it, than they have hitherto done. If there be any symbolizing with the carnal Jews on either side, it would seem to consist in that selfish spirit which would confine the gospel to those who already possess it, forbidding 18, in a manner, tospeak to the Gentiles that they may
be saved. I have no wish to decide, how far the mind of a Christian may be perverted by the infatuating influence of hypothesis, nor how far he may be suffered to pervert the word of God in supporting it; but of this I am satisfied, that such notions are in their very essence,
antichristian. Taking the foregoing passages in their simple and obvious meaning, they manifestly predict things which, hitherto, have had no accomplishment, or at most only a partial one. The earth has not yet been full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters couer the sea. God's saving health has not yet been so known among all nations, as for all the people to form a kind of chorus in his praise. It is not as yet, that Christ, as the head of a spiritual kingdom, judges and overns the nations upon earth. The time is not yet arrived for swords to be beaten into plough-shares, and spears into pruning-hooks. The garment rolled in blood has pot yet become a burning, even fuel for the fire. Christ's reign seems not, as yet, to have assumed the character of a glorious rest : hitherto, it has borne a greater resemblance to that of David, who was engaged in continual wars, than to that of Solomon, to whom the Lord gave rest on every side, and who was therefore employed in building a temple for his name. It is said of the promises made to Abraham and his posterity, that The Lord gave unto 1srael all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers : and they possessed it, and dwelt therein: and that The Lord gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers. -There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel: all came to pass. But, if things continue much the same as they now are to the end of time, I do not perceive how this language could apply to the promises made to Christ and the church. In this case, the prophets must bave dealt largely in hyperbole, and their words, when reduced to meaning, amount to but little, in comparison of what they would seem to convey.
It is farther observable, from the foregoing prophecies, that, whatever evils may precede the triumph of the gospel, yet that the thing itself will take place without bloodshed, treachery, intrigue, tumult, or parade. The overturning of those government
which set themselves against the preaching of it may be necessary to prepare the way; and this may be accomplished by wicked men and wicked means : but this will be only as the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, to the still small voice. The ne ise of hammers and axes, though necessary in preparing for the temple, was not to be heard in the building of it. The kingdoms of this world are commonly founded either in violence, or in deceit, and often in both; but that of the Prince of Peace will correspond with his character : justice and judgment will be the basis of his throne. He himself hath done no VIOLENCE, neither was any deceit in his mouth ; and, however he may turn such measures in his enemies to the advantage of his cause, he will never allow his servants to have recourse to them. The peace produced by other conquerors is merely the effect of fear. It is the stillness of the oppressed, who dare not complain, lest their oppression should be increased : but the peace promised under the reign of Christ, is ascribed to the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. His conquests are those of the heart. His subjects will be such from conviction and choice.
The kingdoms of this world are introduced and supported by parade: but it will not be so with the kingdom of Christ. This, as he told the Pharisees, came not by observation, or outward show, neither should they say, Lo, here, or lo there; for it was already among them. And thus, we may conclude, it will come, when it shall fill the whole earth. Men shall not be able to point to this place, or that, and say, 'Lo it is here, or lo it is there :' for, before they are aware, it shall be among them. Worldly men may, at the time, be pursuing their shemes with such earnestness as to think no more of it than Festus did of one Jesus, who was dead, and whom Paul affirmed to be alive: but, while they are pursuing their schemes, God will have so pursued his, as that they sball find themselves surrounded by it in every direction, and as unable to stop its progress as the Jewish rulers were, when they complained of the apostles for haring filled Jerusalem with their doctrine. la this silent and imperceptible way the gospel continued to operate in the early ages, when it was left to its own evidence, and the power of the Holy Spirit, to recommend it. In the days of Ter;
tullian, that is, in less than two bundred years after the death of Christ, that apologist could tell the Roman senate, that it had overspread their empire. “Your cities, islands, forts, towns, and assemblies; your very camps, wards, companies, palace, senate, forum, all,” said he,“ swarm with Christians." Yet all appears to have been conducted without violence or tumult, save that which was found among unbelievers.
We read of the stone cut oui of the mountain breaking in pieces the great monarchies of the earth ; of the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; of his judging the people righteously, and governing the nations upon earth; and of the kingdom under the whole heaven being given to the people of the saints of the Most High. But it does not follow, that governments will be destroyed as governments, but merely as idolatrous or antichristian governments.
We have no reason to think, that Christ will abolish civil authorities, and set up a government of his own in their stead. His kingdom never was, and never will be, of this world. If the government of nations, as well as that of lesser societies, be conDUCTED ON CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES, then will Christ reign ; then will the kingdoms of the world be. come the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, and then may the nations be glad, and sing for joy. These principles, existing in the hearts of governors and governed, would shortly burst the bands of oppression, still the tumults of the people, and cause wars to cease unto the ends of the earth. The dæmon of discord might then be addressed in the language of the psalmist : 0 thou enemy! destructions are come to a perpetual end; and thou hast destroyed cities ; their memorial is perished with them. But the Lord shall endure forever ; he hath prepared his throne for judgment.
And now, things being reduced to this peaceful state, itstead of the earth being smitten with a curse, we are given to expect, that it will be loaded with blessings : Then shall the earth yield her increase, and God, even our own God shall bless us. And all the ends of the earth shall fear him. Nor do I see any objection to the increase here predicted being literally understood. It is a fact, that, from the day that man departed from God, the earth was cursed
with barrenness, in comparison of what it was before ; and it is not unnatural to suppose, that, when the greater part of men shall have returned to him, this curse may be, in a manner, removed. At present, the system of depravity which prevails among men, renders it unnecessary. Sin counteracts the tendency to increase and multiply, with which we were created. The world is, in a manner, depopulated by selfishness, intemperance, and war; and a great part of it inhabited by wild beasts and other noxious creatures. But, when men shall know the Lord, and these widewasting evils shall subside, population will increase ;' and he that
; sends men will amply provide for them: In that city will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the bow, and the sword, and the battle, out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me forever ; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord. And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth ; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.
Moreover, at present, the system of depravity which prevails among men would render any considerable increase of earthly fulness exceedingly dangerous. There appears to be as much wisdom and goodness, as there is justice, in the sentence passed on man,
to eat bread by the sweat of their faces. Were there no necessity for hard labour, every day might be taken up in riot and debauchery. The deeds of the people of Sodom and of the Canaanites might be reacted. The bacchanalian revels wbich are seen at some of our contested elections, (where men can indulge free of expense,) afford a specimen of what might be expected, if God, while men are what they are, were to cause the earth to yield her increase. It would be nothing less than furnishing them with the means of being seven times more wicked. But, when men sball know the Lord, the danger will have subsided ; and then, he will take pleasure in pouring fourth his blessings upon them, and then, instead of those blessings being abused, as beretofore, they