Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

"The kingdom of heaven is at hand." promise of his coming."

THE DOCTRINE

To be supported on this occasion, is as before, that the kingdom of heaven at hand, as preached by Christ and John, was and is the everlasting kingdom of God, &c., and that it is still at hand, according to various of the signs of it at present fulfilling.

"Where is the

But as there are doubtless many, in these "last days," as Peter foretold, who would rather "be scoffers" at this doctrine on hearing it stated, and many perhaps of the more serious, who being "blinded" may join with the scoffers, and say "Where is the promise of his coming?" it is no more than reasonable, in attempting to "prove all things," that the testimony on the other side should be fairly heard and answered, so far as can be done in a single discourse.

THE PROPOSITION,

Therefore, is, to examine some of the most common and supposed weighty OBJECTIONS against the doctrine that Christ, with his everlasting kingdom, is now verily "at

hand;" and against the belief that Christ, John, or any other prophet, meant to be understood as preaching such a doctrine.

OBJECTION 1. "Where is the promise of his coming?" By this question, as foretold by the apostle in the text, and its connexion, the unbelievers of the doctrine now before us, would seemingly be understood as considering it one of their strongest arguments, that there are no scripture promises, or predictions of any such day, or of Christ's coming "at hand."

But Peter himself has most effectually answered this cavil of the "scoffers," in the same connexion. Before stating this question, he informs us of his object in both his epistles, and that it is to stir up our "pure minds by way of remembrance," i. e. to "be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets," and by "the apostles.” (2 Pet. 3: 2, 3.) Here, as his subject of the Lord's coming and day of judgment, he seems to say at first, that the prophets, and apostles before, had foretold the same. Thus he considered that there was a "promise," repeatedly spoken by the Old and New Testament prophets, of the Lord's coming with the great day. These promises of Christ's coming have been so fully noticed in the preceding discourses, that it seems needless now to repeat them; yet it may be mentioned again, that this same Peter, on another occasion, said that God had foretold, or promised Christ's coming again at "the restitution of all things, by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began, (Acts 3: 20, 21.) Then Peter, in answering this cavil, immediately says,— "But the day of the Lord [Christ] will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise," &c., (2 Pet. 3: 10,) describing also, in terrible figures, the events of that great day.

OBJECTION 2.

"For since the Fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." (2 Pet. 3: 4.)

This, as Peter informs us, is another of the scoffing cavils of "the last days," against Christ's coming " at hand." Like infidels indeed, they roundly deny the Lord's having done any thing since the "creation," which can be understood as a sign that such a day is any nearer now, than it ever was. But Peter proceeds at once, to answer the cavil, and says "For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God [or according to prophecy] the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water, and in the water, whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished;" (2 Pet. 3: 5, 6,) giving us next to understand, that the destruction of the flood is a sure sign since "the creation," that the day of "fire," of "judgment and perdition of ungodly men," will surely "come as a thief in the night." (3:7.) But of all this, the unbelievers preparing not for it are willingly ignorant, i. e. their ignorance is wilful, and their guilt is none the less for their wilfully closing their eyes against the truth. Peter here might have mentioned many other awakening things since "the creation," which have taken place, as sure signs that Christ will yet so come to destroy his enemies; and on many other occasions he did so, some of which we have already noticed. The first coming of Christ-of John-Christ's wonderful works-his offering himself a sacrifice for his people-his resurrection-his ascension, and subsequent pouring out of the Spirit on the church, &c., were great things. In Peter's day these were great signs, which had but just begun to exist, showing the day of the Lord "at hand." And now there are many additional things which are not as they were from

"the creation," showing the kingdom verily "at the doors." But these are reserved for another occasion.

OBJECTION 3. It is said, that all these predictions were given two or three thousand years ago, and not fulfilled yet in the Lord's coming; and that, therefore, they cannot be understood as foretelling an event then "at hand," which has not yet come.

In the blind conceptions of spiritual things, by carnal men, this argument looks plausible. For it implies that if the Lord were really, on those occasions, giving a promise of his own coming and kingdom at hand, he has, to say the least, been very "slack concerning" such a promise in not having come before now. But Peter also answers this specious cavil, and says " The Lord is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3: 9.) Here Peter indirectly affirms, that the promise of the Lord to come, is for his coming finally to judgment; and that although he has waited so long before coming, it is not to be imputed to him as slackness, as "scoffers," or "some men count" it, but rather, because of his great mercy, he is "not willing that any should perish," &c. But though he has waited in mercy now 1800 years longer, he will not always wait, so that this long waiting is no sign that he will continue to wait-" But the day of the Lord WILL come as a thief in the night," &c. (3:10.)

OBJECTION 4. It may be urged still that there is an impropriety in saying that an event is "at hand” thousands of years before its coming.

Although this argument may be viewed as a direct impeachment of the Lord's perfect and holy ways of instructing us on spiritual things, in supposing him necessarily

like short sighted and carnal beings, a word of explanation may here be given in answer to the objection.

(1.) In a sense, infinitely more important than mortals can conceive, from the language of those predictions they have been fulfilled to all who have since met their Judge, and that, too, immediately after first hearing them. And could the real condition of sinners already perished, be seen by scoffers as it is, or could those sinners come back for a moment to tell living "scoffers" how they met the Judge in a "great day" to them, would it not be likely to hush the present flattering song of the great day yet “far away."

(2.) "The great day" must be so preached "at hand," because of the dreadful threatening against a contrary course,- "Wo to them that are at ease in Zion-ye that put far away the evil day," &c. (Amos, 6: 1—3.) "If that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming," &c. He must "have his portion with the hypocrites, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat. 24: 4851.) Who then shall dare openly to avow this infidel doctrine?

(3.) Peter has himself still further explained the Lord's waiting so long after declaring the great day" at hand," by saying that, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Pet. 3: 8.)

(4.) The prophets spake prophetically, or prospectively, in declaring "the day of the Lord at hand," i. e. they almost uniformly connected it with the previous" signs," as Christ did, so that when those "signs" shall appear, then it may be positively known to believers that the day "is near, even at the doors." (Mat. 24: 33.)

OBJECTION 4. "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Mat. 24: 34.) By many

« PreviousContinue »