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and yet all will agree as to the general outline and results. It is just so in the prophetic descriptions given us of the day of judgment. It is therefore manifestly improper for us, to single out the description, as given by any one writer, and assume it to be the grand and leading view, according to which we must judge of all the rest. All are but parts of one great whole, and it behoves us so to ponder and place the different facts, that they shall all harmonize with each other. This requires labor and study; and especially to have our minds divested of any preconceived notions. The facts must be admitted, just as stated by the writer, so far as his testimony goes; and must also be viewed in connection with the specific design which he had in communicating them.
It is the easiest thing imaginable to excite suspicions, and to make false impressions, in relation to the testimony of a witness, by taking it out of the immediate connection, and viewing it, either entirely apart from the circumstances to which it refers, or in the light of others never contemplated by him. These things are well enough understood, by those accustomed to examine and weigh the import of testimony. We claim, on this subject, the application of the same general principles and rules, admitted to be appropriate and deserving of attention in matters of ordinary interest.
Following these principles we find that the sacred writers crowd together an immense variety of incidents and events; denominate and designate the period during which they occur, by different titles, as “that day," "the day of the Lord,” “the day of judgment,” “the great day of God," and the like. Hence we remark :
2. That neither the usage of speech common among the prophets, nor the specific character of their descriptions of the day of judgment, requires us to believe, that the phrase designates a day of twenty-four hours or even a very short space. Sometimes the word day is used prophetically, to designate a year, as by Daniel, Eze. kiel, and others. At other times it is used to denote an indefinite period of time, a dispensation-a long series of years possessing the same general characteristics.
Christ called the period of his personal ministry, "a day" lamenting that the Jews had not known in that their day the things which make for their peace.* The whole period of the children of Israel's forty years' journey in the wilderness, was called a day -the day of temptation, and the apostles called the Gospel dispensation a day, saying, "now is the accepted time, and to-day is the day of salvation.”
Isaiah and others of the prophets, but especially the former, use the emphatic phrase, “In that day,” to denote the period of the judgment, though not accord, ing to the popular idea ; but, on the contrary, in such way as to show that it was regarded as a season or dispensation during which many wonderful events were to transpire in the world.
With these preliminary remarks, we are prepared to appeal to the laws and to testimony, on the subject of the great day of judgment.
One of the most common and striking portions of the Sacred Scriptures referred to, which, it is object. ed, conflicts with the idea of Christ's pre-millenial coming to judgment, is the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, the parable of the sheep and goats. In this context, it is contended, there is manifestly a description of the great day of final retribution, the post-millenial judgment, for the Judge, the Son of Man, is viewed as seated on his throne of glory, all nations, and all the holy angels with him, as gathered before him, the sheep and the goats as separated, and sentence pronounced on each according to their deeds.
Luke, 19. 42.
| Heb. 3. 13, 15.
2 Cor. 6. 2.
In reply to this objection, we admit and feel the obligation to adhere strictly and fully to the words of Christ, and in doing so we remark
1. That the Saviour evidently does not so immediately intend to give a description of judicial processes in the judgment scenes, as of certain circumstances connected with his coming.
In Matthew he asserts the general fact of his coming with his holy angels and the gathering of his elect.
“ And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of Heaven to the other.'
These events, he states, shall occur after the appearance of certain signs which he details.
“ Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from Heaven, and the powers of the Heavens shall be shaken.”+
The appearance of these signs should as certainly foretoken his coming, as the budding of the fig-tree does the approach of summer. This idea he illus. trates in the parable of the fig-tree. * Matt. 24, 30-31.
† Matt, 24. 29.
“ Now learn a parable of the fig-tree: when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors—verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
Having stated the certainty of his coming, he refuses to give information as to its precise time“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but my Father only ;''+ but remarks, that the world would be found in the same careless, sensual, unbelieving, and supposed secure condition, it was in the days of Noah before the deluge.
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For, as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. There shall two be in the field, the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill, the one shall be taken and the other left.”I
The obligation to watchfulness, he enforces by comparing his coming to the approach of a thief.
“ Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord shall come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief should come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as you think not the Son of Man cometh.'
* Matt. 24. 32-35.
† Matt. 24. 36.
* Matt. 24. 37-41.
The importance and obligations, to be faithful in the discharge of trusts and duties, he urges, by the parable of the servant, that during his lord's absence was inattentive and oppressive.
" Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken ;-the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”+
In all this context, therefore, he is pressing the fact of his coming, for practical uses, instead of describing the process of judgment. He continues the same in the next chapter, with the evident design of guarding against the incredulity and indifference, on the subject of his coming, which he foresaw would affect even the church at the time of his coming. In the parable of the ten virgins he sets forth the slumbering condition in which half the church would be at that time; and how an immense body, one half of the professors of religion, would be confounded, ashamed, rejected, dismayed, overwhelmed, at his coming, when a portion
Matt. 24. 42–44.
† Matt. 24. 45-51.