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This volume contains a fourth series of lectures on prophecy, preached in London during the season of Lent; the first at West-street Episcopal Chapel, and the others at St. George's, Bloomsbury. The first series treated of the prophecies which refer to the Jews, and the three others, including the present volume, relate immediately to the second coming of our Lord. This great hope of the Church has been considered, first, as a doctrine of our faith ; next, as a motive for practical holiness; and, lastly, as it is presented in one of the earliest epistles, inwrought into the whole texture of the Word of God.
The attempt to revive a truth, so prominent in the Scriptures, and yet so much neglected by Christians, ought to require no excuse. The message may have been feebly uttered; traces of human infirmity may adhere to it in every part; but still it is little else than an echo to the voice of prophets and apostles, which no serious Christian will venture to despise.
The Epistle to the Thessalonians, on which the Lectures in this volume are founded, is probably the first and earliest which was sent by the Spirit to the Churches. The infancy and first upspringing of the blade is here joined with the promise of the harvest home; and the Church, scarcely launched on its long and dangerous voyage of eighteen hundred years, has the haven towards which she is steering set full in her view. In a time of such weighty conflicts as are now around us, and which involve the welfare or ruin both of our Church and our country, it may be well to turn aside a moment from the battle-field, and, in the mirror of this short and heavenly Epistle, to contemplate that glorious hope of the Apostolic
Christians, which will soon put an end to the conflict with evil, and usher in the everlasting kingdom of righteousness and peace.
The coming of the Lord is indeed set before us with peculiar prominence in this first message of the Spirit to the Gentile Church. Each of the five chapters into which the Epistle has been divided closes with a distinct mention of this glorious hope. It may be a preface, not unsuitable to the work, to unfold briefly the various aspects in which it is here presented to us by the Spirit of God.
And, first, the hope of the Advent, as here exhibited, is the crown and completion of all Christian graces. Very lovely and beautiful is the picture here offered us of the early Church. The distractions of later times had not yet begun. Questions of form and discipline, of rites and ceremonies, had scarcely come in, or quenched with sounds of strife and variance, the first glow of love to the incarnate and suffering and risen Saviour. They were abiding “ in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
blessed communion and fellowship, which linked their hearts with an unseen world of light, love, and holiness. Their life was hidden with Christ in God, and the infinite goodness of the Lord was become the true and secret dwelling-place of their souls.
Such was the fountain-head of their religion, and the streams answered to the nature of that fountain. The souls of these idolaters, who were bowing down so lately to stocks and stones, were now become as a watered garden, and all the pleasant fruits of righteousness were to be found in them. Their faith was resting on the unseen God, and on the one Mediator, who had died for their sins, and was now entered into glory. This faith was not idle or lifeless, but wrought in them a deep and fervent love to the Lord himself who had bought them, to the people of Christ, and to all their brethren of mankind. While they mused ever on the goodness of the Saviour, who had called them out of darkness into marvellous light, the fire of love burned in their hearts, and prompted them to laborious efforts for the salva