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PRESERVATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS DURING THE CONFLAGRATION
OF THE EARTH AND DESTRUCTION OF THE WICKED.
We are sometimes ready to wonder that God has permitted so long and so general a resistance to his will, together with so awful a defiance of his power, under the present dispensation. What then will be the astonishment of the children of God towards its close, to behold the great mass of mankind still absorbed in earthly concerns,—still living in iniquity,-still dwelling in the tents of unrighteousness, --still despising and rejecting the light of revelation-unmoved by the evidence of supernatural gifts, and utterly disregarding the prophetic accomplishment of those judgments with which they will have been visited! Such is the potent and unchangeable malignity of sin, which will be aggravated to its utmost extent by the mighty efforts of Satan, whose chief artifices will consist in beguiling mankind through infidelity into a listless contempt of their impending destruction. But the Holy Spirit “will not always strive with man :" "the Lord will come as a thief in the night;" and “when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as upon a woman in travail, and they shall not escape."
“ It has been concluded by judicious divines," says Archdeacon Woodhouse, “ that these partial prophecies and particular instances of the divine vengeance, whose accomplishment we know to have taken place, are presented to us as types, certain tokens and forerunners, of some greater events which are also disclosed in them. To the dreadful time of universal vengeance, they all appear to look forward, beyond their first and more immediate object. Little, indeed, can we doubt that such is to be considered the use and application of these prophecies, since we see them thus applied by our Lord and his apostles. See Acts 11. 20; Heb. x. 27, 37; Rom. II. 5; 2 Pet. III. 2-14; where the prophecies of the Old Testament are applied in a more spiritual and extended sense, than in their first and primary designation."
This, then, is the awful crisis which must for ever determine the condition of the ungodly! The Saviour suddenly appears" in power and great glory, and all the holy angels with him,"—the trumpet sounds,--the departed saints are “raised and changed,"—and “those who remain alive, are caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." At this decisive juncture, commences the final extirpation of the ungodly, “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” Now is the season of discriminating justice; "two shall 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.” In a word, there shall be gathered out of the kingdom of Christ all things that offend. Yet while the wicked and their works shall be consumed, we conceive there will not be a total dissolution of the earth; but that while “ the reapers, or angels, bind the tares," or wicked, “ in bundles
to burn them,” the children of God will be preserved and blessed with his presence. See Isai. Li. 6; Psalm Lxxv. 2, 3.
We shall first consider those passages which seem more especially to describe the terrors of the Lord at this fearful period, and then advert to the security and blessedness of the righteous.
The following is an epitome of Divine wrath against sinful, unrelenting rulers and kings, whose souls shall be shut up in hades, “where indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, will be experienced by every soul of man that doeth evil;" and "after" the expiration of “many days” (we think, the days of Millennial glory) “they shall be visited,” or brought to final judgment.
“ From east to west they fly,—from pole to line,
Imploring shelter from the wrath divine;
Or rocks to yawn, compassionately deep." Isaiah xxiv. 17–22. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare : for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake. The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again, (i. e., as we understand, in its previous state and condition). And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish (Heb. visit upon) the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, (or, dungeon,) and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited (or, found wanting.)
See Job. xxi. 30 ; 2 Peter 11. 9; Jude 13; Psalm xlvi. 6; Nah. 1. 5-6.
Deuteronomy xxxi. 22. Notwithstanding that the verses which immediately follow this passage in Deuteronomy describe the temporal calamities of the Jews, by which they should be justly overtaken for their sins, we think it evident that it relates to the same period which forms the subject of the present Chapter. In the two preceding verses, the Lord declares that he would “hide his face from them," and "see what their end" should " be."' This is partly fulfilled, and partly to be accomplished, as has been fully described in preceding portions of this work. Moreover, the Lord says, that he would "move them to jealousy with those which are not a people, and provoke them to anger with a foolish nation,” clearly predicting the Roman empire; i. e., " divided,” (as Daniel interpreted the vision of Nebuchadnezzar,) or, as “iron mixed with miry clay, -partly strong and partly broken," (or, brittle,) "not cleaving one to another,"—i. e., the ten kingdoms represented by the toes of the image. Thus, after having seen or guided them by his providence to their final destination, after having moved and provoked them to sustain the knowledge of himself amid the idolatries and persecutions of the Roman empire, and throughout the world,--after having moved them in the end, more emphatically to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ, “the true God and eternal life,"-he then foreshows, that “a fire is kindled in” his "anger, which shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains,"—and this, as we think, immediately preceding and operating the renovation of all things.
Psalm civ. 35. Let sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.
Psalm xcvi. 3—5. A fire goeth before him, and burneth
enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the LORD of the whole earth.
“ The fatal period, the great hour is come,
And Nature shrinks at her approaching doom.
From heaven's four regions with immortal force,
See also Heb. x. 27; Matt. XIII. 40–42, 49, 50; Rev. VI. 12–17; 1 Sam. 11. 10 ; Psalm cxlv. 20; xxxv11. 22, 28 ; Prov. x. 30; Rev. xi. 18. 2 Peter 111. 7, 10–12. The heavens and the earth, which are
are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, . . . But the day of the Lord will come, &c., in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned
up. “ There is not only the most terrible sublimity and solemn grandeur, but also much philosophical propriety in the description ' given us by the apostle Peter' of the awful dissolution of the heavens and the earth; when · The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.' As the heavens mean here the whole atmosphere, in which all the terrestrial vapours are lodged; and as water itself is composed of two gases, oxygen and hydrogen; and as the electric or ethereal fire, is probably that which God will employ in the general conflagration; the noise occasioned by the application of this fire to such an immense congeries of aqueous particles