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time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation."i This is generally interpreted to refer to the whole period of divine forbearance under the Gospel dispensation; which is therefore called—“the day of salvation. In another place the Apostle says, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,'k which words night and day have a double meaning; for first they evidently refer to the character of two different dispensations, the one being a time of darkness and trial, the other of light and glory; and they as clearly refer to duration of time, the night being spent, and the day approaching. This night is the whole period of trial to the Church, and the day is the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour.
Some further object, that in John v. 28, 29, the resurrection and judgment are limited to an hour;—"the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation;"—and therefore they argue) that the day of judgment must necessarily be limited to a small portion of time. It happens however that the term hour has precisely the same indefinite sense attached to it, in a great variety of instances, as the word day. It is obvious that in the text containing the objection, it is not to be limited to the twentyfourth part of a day; but corresponds with the day of the resurrection and judgment, whatever period of time that may prove to be. Owing however to the word hora (upe) not being always translated hour, but sometimes rendered by the words season and time, the mere English reader is not aware of those numerous passages, in which it is placed for an independent period. I must therefore instance a few. It is translated season in the following passages; John v. 35; 2 Cor. vii. 8; Philemon v. 15. In the first instance it signifies the whole period of John Baptist's ministry; in the second, the time which elapsed between the reception by the Corinthians of the two Epistles of St. Paul written to them; and in the third instance, the whole term of the desertion of Onesimus from his master Philemon. In John xvi. 2, and 25, 26; also 1 John ii. 18; it is translated time. In the first instance it applies at the least to the whole period in which the Christians were persecuted by the Jews, who blindly thought they were doing God service. In the second instance it relates to the whole period (according to Beza's interpretation) from the ascension of Christ to the end of time; in which the Lord teaches men by his Spirit, and
i2 Cor. vi. 2.
* Rom. xiii. 12.
they pray to the Father in his name. And here it is to be remarked, that the phrase "the time (üpse) cometh" in verse 25, is from the context exactly equivalent to the words "at that day” in verse 26, and applied to the very same period. The third instance, “Little children it is the last time,” (upe) is interpreted by Scott and other commentators to signify “the last dispensation;" and therefore must be taken to extend through the whole space
from the time of John to the second Advent of our Lord.
The conclusion therefore at which I arrive is this: that as the whole period of depression and vengeance on the Jews is the day of their visitation; so the day of judgment is the period of their restoration and triumph. And again, that as the whole Church of Christ has been conflicting through a long night of trial in various ways: so, 'that great day' is to consist in bringing all her enemies under her feet;--she shall be no more oppressed, but triumphant and glorious to the end.
II. Having shewn that the Judgment of Christ will consist in the deliverance of his people, and in a rule or reign of righteousness, I have now to show that it is also a period of VENGEANCE on his enemies.
The passages are so numerous in the prophets, which speak of a time of signal wrath upon the ungodly, and of awful slaughter and bloodshed, that the most cursory reader must be acquainted with them. My present object therefore will be, not to bring before the reader the mere fact of this period of tribulation; but, in order that he may form some notion of the uniform testimony of the prophets to this event, to select a few of the more remarkable passages, which are linked and tied together, like the curtains in the tabernacle, by certain obvious and peculiar expressions. And I will further beg him to observe, that this vengeance or indignation is in many instances so connected with the period of the glory which the Church shall enjoy, as to justify me in saying, that it will immediately precede or usher in that dispensation.
First we will take Isaiah xxiv, of which I shall give the principal features. It opens by solemnly inviting the attention of all flesh. “Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people;- let the earth hear, and all that is therein;—the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them: he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall
* Beza on this place says, "Spiritus sanctus ab ascensione Christi in Apostolos effusus, summa quæque mysteria et solutis nostræ arcana, tum ipsos, tum etiam Ecclesiam per ipsos, erudiit, et ad finem usque seculorum erudiet."
come up out of their carcasses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.” Then at verse 5: “Behold it shall come down upon IDUMEA; (i. e. Edom;) and upon the people of my curse, to JUDGMENT.”—The sword of the Lord is filled with bloodfor the Lord hath a great sacrifice in Bozrau, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea, the land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness-for it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.” Then (after dwelling upon the manner in which the land shall be desolated) it bursts out, in the next chapter, with a rapturous description of the way in which the earth shall afterwards be renewed for the righteous.
In this passage I will chiefly call attention to the circumstance, that the judgment therein spoken of falls on Idumea, (or Edom, *) of which Bozrah was the oapital. This will clearly connect the prophecy with another in Isaiah Ixiii. 1-5; which informs us also who is to be the great actor in the tribulation.
“Who is this that cometh from EDOM, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?” Answer. -"I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”_"Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth the winefat?" Answer.—“I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with me. For I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and—the year of my redeemed is come." Here, in addition to Idumea and Bozrah, is introduced the treading of the wine-press, and that evidently by MESSIAH, and the staining of his garments thereby with blood: now mark how this identifies the words of Isaiah with those of St. John.
In Rev. xiv. we have a description of "the vine of the earth, which is cast into the great wine-press of the wrath of God; and the wine-press is trodden without the city, and blood comes out of the wine-press even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs:"-a symbolical and figurative description; but calculated to afford us a most awful notion of the great slaughter and destruction alluded to! In Rev. xix. we may recognise further circumstances: Messiah is introduced “clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, and his name is called THE WORD OF God, &c. and he treadeth the wine press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, captains, mighty men, horses, &c."
* The ancient, as also the modern, Jews, and after them various expositors, interpret Edom to be Rome; but as my object is not now so much to apply the prophecy, as to mark its character, I enter not into this question.
I add the latter part of the above passage, in which the fowls of heaven are called to a great supper, for the purpose of shewing, that this again connects St. John with a well known prophecy in Ezek. xxxix. concerning the destruction of Gog and Magog, the slaughter of whose armies will be so great as to require seven months to bury the dead. At verse 17 are these words: “And thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God; speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of princes of the earth-ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war saith the Lord God. And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid
them.' In this manner we might glance at many other prophecies, and shew their evident relation to the same period of destruction, by similar internal and conspicuous marks: particularly a variety of passages, which shew the destruction to be sudden as well as extensive, coming upon the nations with the fierceness and rapidity of a whirlwind; which is the figure frequently used to describe it. “He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked: so that a man shall say, verily there is a reward for the righteous; verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.”*
III. There is another important feature connected with the judgment, which must also be noticed; viz. the effect to be produced by the supposed agency of FIRE at this period.
Most christians admit, that there is to be a conflagration of the world; and it was the opinion of the early Millennarian Fathers, as also of many of the Reformers, that it would be the great agent employed to regenerate the material globe, to purify and restore it to its pristine state (yea more than its pristine
* Psalm lxviii. 9—11. See also Prov. i. 23–33; Isa. xvii. 12–14; xl. 18– 24; xli. 14–16; 1xvi. 15, 16; Jer. xxv. 15—38, but especially verses 31–33. Compare also 'Jer. xxiii. 19, 20, with xxx. 23, 24; Hab. iii. 'throughout, but especially verses 12-15.
state) of beauty and salubriousness, and thus to fit it for the abode of the righteous. But it has been and is disputed, whether this conflagration is to take place before or after the Millennium; and secondly, among those who believe it to be premillennial, it is further disputed, whether it is to burn up the whole world, or only the prophetical earth, or only the region of Palestine in its utmost limits.
As to the extent of the conflagration, while I incline from various considerations to conclude, that there will be a judgment by fire before the Millennium; (whatever may take place after it;) yet I confess, that great difficulties present themselves, and much may be said on the other side of the question. So that on this point I submit certain particulars more in the way of inquiry, and of communicating what may be gleaned from Scripture, than as a demonstration of the truth.
First then let me observe, that a judgment by fire is not always in the Scriptures to be understood literally; but it is a figure used by the prophets to denote tribulation and wrath. Thus Isaiah says, “The Lord shall purge the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the Spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning:" upon which bishop Lowth observes, that these are bold figures to set forth the Lord's wrath. Of this we have a convincing proof in the promise which Moses makes to the children of Israel, just previous to their taking possession of the land under Joshua. “Understand therefore (he says) this day, that the Lord thy God is he which goeth over before thee: as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, (thine enemies,) and he shall bring them down before thy face." It is not unlikely therefore, that some places, which speak of fire, only respect that time of bloodshed and trouble we have considered: as where it is said in Zephaniah, “All the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy."
It is also worthy of remark, as proving fire to be frequently a symbol, that whereas in St. Luke's Gospel Jesus says, “I am come to send fire on the earth;' the parallel place in St. Matthew is—“I came not to send peace, but a sword.”r And indeed Luke himself afterwards explains it of the divisions and persecutions which would accompany the Gospel. I cannot however understand St. Paul as speaking otherwise than literally, when he says, “that the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”q Nor can it be figure when St. Peter says, “that the heavens and the earth, which are now, are reIsa. iv. 4. Deut. ix. 3. • Zeph. iii. 8. Chap. xii. 49. Chap.
92 Thess. i. 7, 8.