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The Believer's Hope.
T was indeed a great mistake to supersede the preaching of the truth as it is in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, with the higher subject of the
risen Christ. In the freshness of this new-found truth, and thinking that the want of it was the secret of our depression, I was urged on to press it upon the people, and took in connection with it the life and walk of the believer. I exhorted my hearers to pray with me, that God would cleanse our hearts, and even our very thoughts, "by the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love Him, and worthily magnify His name." This suited some of the earnest and devoted people; but the majority did not think Sanctification essential to salvation-salvation was all they wanted and all they cared for; nothing else, they said, was necessary.
It was a time of bright light and dull darkness. I was very happy-also disappointed. It was as if the influence God had given me in the parish, and on the people as a whole, was being taken away, and that I was not to be the leader any more. I did not see this at the time, nor indeed did I wish to do so, for I thought I had found in this
CHRIST'S SECOND COMING.
place my life-work and my sphere of labour. I had even selected a piece of ground in the churchyard for the final resting-place of the weary body.
One day a Christian friend came on a visit, and we had much sympathy and communion together, and discussed. all these subjects. He begged me to be patient with the people, as God had been with me, and exhorted me not to scold or discourage them, but rather to lead them out of the low standard of truth in which they lived to a higher and deeper one. His visit was a great comfort at this juncture, and encouraged me very much; but before leaving he plunged me into another gulf of difficulty. At the railway station, as he was going away, he said to me, "Brother, do you believe the Lord is coming again?" Certainly," I replied.
"What will He come for, do you think?"
"Why," I said, "to judge the quick and the dead, of course." Seeing he was not satisfied, I added, "What else would you have me say?"
He replied quietly, "I thought you would say that; but there is not time to speak about it now. Good-bye! goodbye!" And so saying, he stepped into the train, and was soon out of sight. I was left behind, wondering what he could mean.
One morning the postman brought me a packet of tracts on the Second Coming; but somehow I did not connect this with my friend's question. I merely thought that they were some "Plymouth" effusions, and put them aside. Then a stranger came to church, and, in conversa tion after the service, asked me if I would read a little book, and give him my opinion of it. It was called "Jesus Comes Quickly." But even this did not enlighten me I told him that I thought the writer considered the end of the world very near, but that I did not care to dwell on
such gloomy subjects while we had the brightness of a present Saviour before us. Thus I went on a little longer, till one morning I awoke with a strong impression on my mind that I ought to read those tracts which had been sent me. I therefore rose earlier than usual, and taking up the packet, went into the church to consider them. The first one I read was on Prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus, in which the writer modestly stated that it was reasonable to suppose that those predictions which had not yet been accomplished would certainly be so; and that, as literally and distinctly as those which had been fulfilled. If the prophecies concerning the Lord's humiliation were fully accomplished—and they did literally pierce His hands and feet, stood staring and looking at Him, parted His garments among them, and cast lots for His vesture; if He actually had His death with the wicked and His grave with the rich (what impenetrable enigmas these must have been in the old time! The very angels desired to look into these things, and could not see them)-if, then, these were so absolutely fulfilled, we may expect other distinct prophecies to be so, at least as fully and clearly. He who came in "weakness" shall come in "power;" He who came "lowly, and riding upon an ass," shall come "in the clouds of heaven;" and "His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives." These are the words of Scripture.
The tracts spoke of the Lord's coming for His saints, and then with them, to deliver His people the Jews, and eventually to convert the Gentiles.
I. He said in John xiv., "I go to prepare a place for you," and "I will come again and receive you unto Myself." This departure of the Lord referred, not to His death, but to His ascension into heaven, where He is now engaged making intercession, and whence He will come to change our vile bodies, and take us to Himself, that we may be ever with
the Lord. I was as one awaking from a dream when my eyes were open to see these things. I had had an idea that the Jews were all done with, and that there was nothing more to come but the last Judgment. But now I saw that the Jews were to return to their own land; that Jerusalem was to be rebuilt, and even to be besieged by a great army! (I had thought that this was all over long ago); that in the midst of the terrible siege the Lord would come, and by His appearing convert the people, a whole nation in a day, and deliver them by the destruction of their enemies; that there was to be a restitution of all things, and a Millennial reign (Zech. xiv. ; Rev. xx.).
Altogether I had come into a new region of thought, and wondered where I had been all my life, that I had never seen these things. How could I have misunderstood or overlooked such clear and plain Scripture words? It was surprising. I gave up all engagements that day, and applied myself to investigating texts, and read over again the tracts which had been sent me; they were well selected, and referred all statements to the Bible itself for verification.
Before I saw the Christian hope, I had, instead of it, some idea about dying and going to heaven, "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." As to my body, I expected that it would rise at the last day. --that great day of doom, when the trumpet would sound, and there would be a simultaneous resurrection of all, good and bad. I expected that, as a saved one, I should then enter into a higher glory than that of the intermediate state. I had no idea of expecting Christ as a Bridegroom, or of looking forward with hope and joyful anticipation to His coming, as an event which might be expected at any moment. I thought the coming of the Lord, the Judgment, and "the end of things created," were one and the same thing; and as
I was sure they were not likely to happen in my time, I did not bestow much consideration on them. Such a "coming" was not an object of hope, but of dread and wonder, according to the common tradition which I had received. Like too many others, I confused together the judgment of believers for their works (2 Cor. v. 10), the judgment of the quick or living nations (Matt. xxv. 31-46), and the judgment of the wicked dead at the solemn "great white throne" (Rev. XX. 12). I had not the remotest idea that these three judgments referred to three classes of persons, and were distinctly separate from one another. I was profoundly in the dark about the believer's hope, and therefore confused in my ignorance—the Parousia, the Apocalypse, and the Epiphaneia. In short, the coming of the Lord at any time, to take up His saints, and to reward them according to their works, was not the object of my hope. I was looking rather for a Judge than a Bridegroom.
I felt now that I had possession of a secret which very few would believe, and I could not help seeing the startled or suspicious look with which people regarded me, when I ventured to utter it. I saw and felt another thing, that whenever I referred to prophetic subjects in preaching, I lost hold of the people, and their attention was gone. I was perplexed; for I wondered that God did not help me in this, as He did in the Gospel truth which I proclaimed. I could not doubt these truths; for the more I read the Word of God, and particularly the prophetic parts, the more firmly convinced I was about them. For some passages could have no other signification than that which they litera' y declared. The Christian hope, that Christ was coming, in person, to take us to Himself to live with Him for eve', was a most cheering prospect, and brought the Saviour Himself more vividly before the mind.
To think that soon (and no one knows how soon) I shall