Page images

direction, and be with the design, of God's own, to be truly successful and permanently efficient. It would be just as legitimate here to suspect, were it proper so to do, that much of the fickleness and spasmodic action of many friends of Missions, who avow their expectation of the world's conversion by such instrumentality, may be referred to such causes.

Suppose, now, on the other hand, that a man believes in the approaching speedy personal coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, to destroy the guilty nations of the earth by positive acts of retributive violence, to raise the bodies of his dead saints, to quicken the living, and to establish the kingdom of Heaven in their joint dominion, and that in the mean time, he will have his gospel preached as a witness to all nations, that he may visit the Gentiles, and take out of them a people for the glory of his own name,-with what peculiar emotions, and invincible energy, will he address himself to the great design and business of his Christian life ? He looks upon the kingdoms of this world as being under the dominion of the god of this world,".. the great enemy and avenger," that foe of Jesus Christ, the old"roaring lion” which goeth about seeking whom he may devour. The kingdom of Heaven, he is persuaded, is designed to supersede this accursed dominion, and to fill the earth with joy and blessedness. Its honors, and privileges, and rewards, as administered by the subordinate agency of the saints, he believes can only be attained by the contempt of this world's wealth and greatness, power and glory, and by a life of suffering, devoted, and faithful attachment unto Jesus Christ. He may, indeed, in common with others, be blinded by a false philosophy, which will not permit him to make a right estimate of human agency, obligation, and instrumentality, in carrying on the designs of God. In this respect, he is, however, no otherwise affected than are multitudes, who do not believe in the personal, visible appearance of Christ, to introduce the reign of Heaven. Whatever inaction and indifference to the Missionary enterprise he may evince, must be referred to his system of philosophy, not to his faith in this matter. With right views of human obligation and instrumentality, and with intelligent views of the great scheme of providence, of which the coming and kingdom of Christ form

the grand result, he will find in his millenarian faith, not only a solace in the midst of sorrows, distresses, and disappointments, but an incentive to ever-active effort in bearing testimony to the glory of his Saviour, and in swelling the triumphs of his heavenly kingdom.

He is met, at the very moment of enlisting in the service of Christ, by a solemn question—whether to renounce his hopes and prospects, his pleasures and plans, so far as they stand connected with the kingdoms of this world, and are inspired by the promises of earth, to cast in his lot, for time and eternity, with the people of God, and to prefer the reproach of Christ to the treasures of Egypt. Till this question is decided, and with all his heart and soul he gives himself to Jesus Christ, he is none of his. There can be no neutrality here. Indifference and lukewarmness-an attempt to reconcile God and Mammon, Christ and Belial-will only cause him to be spewed out of the mouth of Christ, and to have his name blotted out of the book of life. It is “to him that overcometh," and to him alone, that the promise will be verified, that Christ will give him “ to sit down with him on his throne, as he hath sat down with the Father on his throne. He feels that as he enters on the service of Christ, he enlists as a soldier, commences a warfare, and that both the service and the war are for life, He is not dazzled by great and brilliant prospects of sharing with the world in its honors, and enriching himself by its spoils. He knows that victory is certain, and that nothing can more effectually promote his honor, and swell his share in the triumphs of the Great Captain of salvation, than to fall a sacrifice, as he did himself. He looks not on the governments of the earth, expecting them to be grasped, and under this dispensation subjected to the supremacy of Jesus Christ, but knows that they are under the influence and direction of intrigue and duplicity, of falsehood and treachery, of selfishness and corruption ;-fit illustrations of his character, who has usurped the dominion of earth, and claimed its kingdoms as his own. He is thus fortified against their seductive influence.

If, in the providence of God, he is called to take a part, and to share in the obligations devolving on those who administer that rule which God has made essential to the welfare and existence of society, he is reminded of an authority superior to that of man, and of the necessity of keeping a conscience void of offence towards both. He is a witness for Christ, let him be where he may or do what he will. Having made his choice, and preferred the glory of the heavenly kingdom to that of the kingdoms of this world, he is willing, if needs be, to seal his testimony with his blood, knowing that this will increase the brilliancy of his crown. Firmness, decision, uncompromising fidelity and attachment to Jesus Christ, are promoted by the views he takes, not of the blending, but of the contrast, of Christ's kingdom with those of this world. Believing that in the present dispensation of his grace, his Lord and Master is calling out a people from the Gentiles for his own glory, and preparing the whole elect company of his priests and kings, who are to share with him in the triumphs of his dominion ; feeling the oligation of his Master's command to preach the good news of his kingdom to every creature, and to enlist recruits in his service; and not being paralyzed by a false philosophy relative to human agency, which has long pervaded the church, irrespective of millenarian views, he becomes, in fact, a Missionary, wherever he is and wherever he goes, telling of the doom of a guilty world, of the authority, glory, and claims of the Saviour, and of his grace and promises of pardon and blessedness to all that will come to him.

His story is very simple. His testimony is full, and it strikes as directly against the intrigue, selfishness, violence, and oppression of the haughty potentates of earth, as it does against the ambition, cupidities, and lusts of individuals. The native influence of his faith in this wondrous matter, is to disencumber him from earth, to relieve him of a thousand embarrassments, to fortify him against the ensnarements and fascinations of a world that lieth in wickedness, to enkindle his zeal and devotion to Christ and his cause, to direct him to the source of all inspiring influences, and to the treasures of wisdom and strength laid up for him in Jesus Christ. He is not to be excited and stimulated by the prospect of immediate and speedy or partial success, nor in danger of intriguing with princes, and rulers, and nobles of the earth, to secure the temporary triumph of Christianity. He falls back upon the re

sources of his Saviour. He knows the end to be secured. Every sinner saved is a soul added to the number of the heavenly kingdom. He works in detail, and whether in the full tide of the Spirit's gracious influences, or in seasons of rebuke and blasphemy, of disappointment and disaster, he feels that the march is steady and onward, and that the triumph is to be hastened by the delivering of his testimony, in common with the whole company of the faithful, and the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world.

Thus did the apostles feel and act. Thus, too, did the primitive Christians. There was a simplicity, a moral sublimity of character, a transparency of principle, which kept them unharmed by the polluting influence of governmental intrigues, and ever true and faithful to their suffering and crucified Redeemer. To him they looked, and not to kings, and courts, and cabinets, for the success and triumph of their cause. Nor was it till the church construed herself into the kingdom of Christ on earth, the hierarchy rose, and governmental powers were claimed as best adapted to promote the Saviour's cause,ấtill reliance was placed more upon an arm of flesh than upon the grace and omnipotence of Jesus Christ and the influence of his Spirit, that the work of Missions became almost exclusively that of the officers of the church, and the object of Missions, not so much the conversion of souls, as the subjugation of dominions to her authority. There is no want of powerful motive to Christian activity, and to Missionary enterprise, in the millenarian faith. It exalts Christ, lifts the heart high as Heaven, and fires with the prospect of entering into the joy of our Lord, of living and reigning with him, if so be that we suffer with him; and thus reconciles us to toil and sorrow-nay, gives us a complacency in these very things, and helps us, as Paul did, to glory in tribulation.

It is ungenerous, and we feel it to be especially unkind to attempt to charge a faith so fertile in motive, with an ineffi. ciency that might have been referred, legitimately, to other causes than to millenarianism, even to those which have more or less for centuries paralyzed the church, and which still affect the minds of many, whether believing or not in the pre-millenial advent of Christ.

The author of the following pages has deemed these remarks necessary, to bespeak a candid attention to the subject presented in them. He has not enlarged on the practical bearing of the millenarian faith, believing that it was unnecessary, and that the good sense and piety of professing Christians, under the guidance of God's Spirit, will make the proper use of them, whenever and wherever they are seen and felt to be the truth of God. He commends the work to the Christian public with much deference, and requests that the attention which the subject merits may be given, if not to these pages, certainly to their great and glorious theme. He offers no apologies for the imperfections which must necessarily mark a performance, prepared in the midst of extended pastoral care and labors, and with but limited means of access to the works of the learned, and especially those which are but rarely to be met with, except in large public libraries. The candid and discerping reader will make all due allowance.

The course of lectures, of which the dissertations are the substance, comprised a wider range, embracing, as well the objects or designs, as the reality of the Saviour's personal and pre-millenial coming. The author has thought it proper to preserve the unity of the work, by confining attention to the latter. Many and very interesting details, in the exposition of prophecy, have, by this course, been excluded. But should the providence of God indicate it, they may at some future day be given to the public.

« PreviousContinue »