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doctrine of works of supererogation. When the foolish virgins wanted to borrow oil from the wise, the latter refused to lend; alledging that they had none to spare from their own lamps, or no works more than sufficient for their own salvation.
12. In the fourth, the different orders in the ministry, according to the different talents or work allotted to each, suited to their ability, and their appropriate rewards, according to the uses made of them; to be dispensed on their Lord's return from a far journey, after a long absence, to reckon with them in the regeneration. When the idle servant of the lowest order, to whom a single talent was entrusted, not for abusing that talent, (for he brought it safe and sound wrapt up in a napkin,) but for not using it, (or putting it to interest,) was called a wicked servant, deprived of his talent altogether, which was bestowed upon the highest order that laboured most, and cast out of the kingdom of heaven into outer darkness and despair, Matt. xxv. 14-30; Mark xiii. 34.
13. These awakening parables, though primarily addressed to the Apostles and their successors, the ministers and stewards of the GOSPEL, and of the divine mysteries, are not confined to them exclusively, but include all Christians. "Watch, therefore, for ye know not when THE MASTER OF THE HOUSE is to come; (late, or at midnight, or at cock crow, or early,) lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, [Apostles,] I say unto all, WATCH," Mark xiii. 35—37; Luke xii. 41.
This second branch of our Lord's response seems chiefly designed to guard against two opposite errors; 1. of those enthusiasts who expected that the kingdom of CHRIST, and reign of the Saints, foretold by Daniel and the prophets, would immediately appear in the course of that generation, as promised by the false Christs and false prophets; 2. of those scoffers who were disappointed at the delay of CHRIST's glorious appearance, and either denied it entirely, or postponed it to the end of the world, and general judgment.
To remove the former error, which was prevalent among the Apostles themselves, (Acts i. 7,) and the early Christians, (2 Thess. ii. 1, 2,) he states, that it was not to be till after the tribulation of those days," or toward the conclusion of the long continued period of the second Jewish captivity, when ven
geance should have been first inflicted upon all their oppressors, and upon all apostate and corrupt nations, as foretold by the prophets, Dan. ix. 27; Isa. li. 22, 23; Numb. xxiv. 24, in a dreadful slaughter, described by that terrible proverb, "Wheresoever the carcase is," &c. * in the language of ancient prophecy, Isa. xxxiv. 6, xlvi. 11, lxi. 1, lxvi. 24; Ezek. xxxix. 17-22; Habak. i. 8; Deut. xxxii. 35; and adopted afterwards in the Apocalypse, Rev. xix. 17, 18.
In the ensuing parables CHRIST intimated his departure to a far country, Heaven, after his resurrection, whence he was not to return until after a considerable "delay," Matt. xxiv. 48, xxv. 5; a long time after," Matt. xxv. 19.
2. The finest commentary on the awful signs destined to precede his second appearance at the end of the desolation; (the precise time of which, however, was not then revealed by THE FATHER to any one, not even to THE SON † himself, Matt. xxiv. 36; Mark xiii. 32; Acts i. 7,) is delivered in the same figurative language by Peter, to the scoffers, objecting, "Where is the promise of His presence? For ever since the Fathers, [Abraham, David, &c. to whom the promise was made] fell asleep, all things continue [as they were] from the beginning of the creation," 2 Pet. iii. 3, 4.
In answer to this common-place objection, the Apostle observes, that the CREATOR of the world, and also the destroyer of the wicked, does not count time like mortals; for that "with HIM one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," (as formerly remarked by Moses, Psalm xc. 4,) and he assigns a merciful reason for the apparent delay. "THE LORD delayeth not His promise, as some count delay: but He is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance," ver. 5—9.
He next states its suddenness and unexpectedness, like our LORD. "For the day of THE LORD shall come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with an explo
Commentators in general misapply this proverb, by confining it to the slaughter of the Jews in the Jewish war, contrary to the general term "wheresoever;" and to the context, the reference to that war ending Matt. xxiv. 26. This mistake also has materially contributed to embarrass the harmony of the Evangelists.
We may humbly presume it was fully revealed to THE SON after his ascension, in his prophetic character of "the LAMB with seven eyes," who revealed the Book of fate in the Apocalypse, Rev. v. 1-10.
sion, and the elements shall be dissolved with heat, and the earth and the works therein shall be burnt up," ver. 10.
The explosion of the heavens and dissolution of the earth and its works, (or earthly workers) in the highly figurative language of prophecy denotes great political convulsions, (Isa. li. 6, Joel ii. 30-32,) destined to precede "the new heavens and the new earth," or new order of things in the regeneration, springing up from the old, like the Phoenix from her ashes. This appears from the Apostle's inference, "Since then all these are to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought ye to be in holy conversations and religious exercises? expecting and hastening the appearance of the day of GOD, (during which the heavens shall be dissolved with fire, and the elements consumed with heat :) for according to His promise we do expect a new heaven and a new earth, wherein righteousness shall reside.
"Wherefore, beloved, expecting these, strive to be found by Him in peace, [not quarrelling and fighting, like the bad stewards, Matt. xxiv. 49,] unspotted and unblameable; and count OUR LORD's delay your salvation,” ver. 11—15.
Thence he concludes.
"Ye then, beloved, foreknowing [the promise of THE LORD] be on your guard, that ye be not perverted by the error of lawless [scoffers,] and fall off from your proper stedfastness [of expectation;] but [rather] grow in grace, and in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST. To Him be glory, both now and for ever, Amen," ver. 17-19.
The new heavens and new earth, or new order of things to take place at the regeneration is also the symbolical language of ancient prophecy, Isa. lxv. 17, lxvi. 22; in which the Church of CHRIST is represented as a bride adorned with her jewels, Isa. Ixi. 10. Whence the same imagery is also adopted in the Apocalypse, Rev. iii. 18, xxvii. 1, 2.
Such a harmony of language and sentiment between our BLESSED LORD and his Prophets and Apostles seems to esta
We have here endeavoured, at full length, to restore the genuine interpretation of this highly figurative and most important prophecy of the regeneration, or restitution of all things, conformable to Peter's doctrine in the Acts, iii. 19-21; and as expounded by the first reformers in Edward VIth's reign, (as shewn before,) because it has been mistaken by later commentators and critics, even Macknight, Bishop Porteus, &c. for the final dissolution of the world.
blish the validity of the interpretation here humbly offered of this most momentous branch of His ORACULAR PROPHECIES, coming home to the present times! May it contribute under GOD to encrease the faith, the hope, and the patience of pious and rational believers, and to reclaim scoffers and infidels; in this boasted age of reason, but declining age of faith, fulfilling prophecy. "Nevertheless, when THE SON OF MAN cometh shall He find faith [established] upon the earth?" Luke xviii. 8.
III. SIGNS OF THE CONCLUSION OF THE WORLD, AND OF
THE GENERAL JUDGMENT.
These signs OUR LORD omitted in the present discourse, perhaps, as not being so immediately necessary to be known. He graciously communicated them afterwards to the beloved disciple in the Apocalypse.
After the establishment of CHRIST'S millenary kingdom in the regenerated world, piety and virtue shall flourish, and peace and happiness prevail till the end of that blessed period. Then we are told, that Satan, who was to be bound at its beginning, is to be let loose, for the last time, to deceive the nations, and instigate them to a grand apostacy and rebellion against GOD, in which they shall march into the Holy Land, and besiege the Holy City; but shall be miraculously destroyed, and Satan, his angels and abettors, be finally cast into Hell, Rev. xx. 1—10.
On this occasion, however, OUR LORD directly proceeded to the general judgment, of which he gave a most lively scenical representation, Matt. xxv. 31-46.
1. THE SON OF MAN is then to appear as KING in all His glory, and all the Holy Angels with Him, and is to sit in judgment upon the throne of His glory, ver. 31-34.
2. Before Him are to be assembled all nations, after the general resurrection, who are to be separated into two classes, the sheep and the goats, or the good and the bad, ver. 32, 33.
3. The good, on account of their charitable works done for CHRIST'S Sake*, to the least of His brethren, imputed as done
These are beautifully recommended by Jerom. "Clothe CHRIST in the poor; visit Him in the sick; feed Him in the hungry; lodge Him in those that lack lodging; and especially such as are of the household of faith." Homily against the peril of idolatry, Part III. p. 153.
to Himself; are to be rewarded with admission into the kingdom of heaven, prepared for them by THE FATHER from the foundation of the world, ver. 34-40.
4. The bad, on account of their omission of charitable works, &c. to be cast into Hell fire, prepared for the Devil and his Angels.
5. The reward of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked, to be both eternal, ver. 46.
In this, the most interesting, awful, and tremendous description that can enter into the heart of man to conceive, the duration of the happiness of the one, and of the misery of the other, is expressed by the same common term, awvios, which ought not, therefore, in our English Bible, to have been variously rendered, "everlasting" and "eternal," but uniformly, either one or the other. Those philosophizing divines who deny the strict eternity of punishment on the ground of the BENEVOLENCE of THE DEITY, if they wish to be consistent, and argue upon rational principles, must equally deny the eternity of reward, as infinitely beyond all human pretensions to merit; since "we are all but unprofitable servants," Luke xvii. 10; of which the voice of conscience also must clearly inform every one of us.
The following profound reflections on such short-sighted, presumptuous reasonings, we owe to Bishop Butler.
Perhaps, DIVINE Goodness (with which, if I mistake not, we make very free in our speculations,) may not be a bare single disposition to produce happiness; but a disposition to make the good, the faithful, the honest man happy. Perhaps, an infinitely PERFECT MIND may be pleased with seeing His creatures behave suitably to the nature which he has given them, to the relation which He has placed them in to each other, and to that which they stand in to HIMSELF. (That relation to Himself, which, during their existence, is ever necessary, and which is the most important one of all.) Perhaps, I say, an infinitely perfect mind may be pleased with this moral piety of moral agents, in, and for itself; as well as upon account of its being essentially conducive to the happiness of His creation: or, [rather] the whole end for which God made and thus governs the world, may be utterly beyond the reach of our faculties. There may be somewhat in it as impossible for us to have any conception of, as for a blind man to have a conception of colours." Analogy, p. 49.