2Thess. 3.5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ
My dear hearers!—The subject on which I mean to occupy your thoughts this day as God may enable me, is one to which I have hitherto directed very little of your attention. I have more than once merely referred to it and made some statements concerning it; but I have never fully entered into it, chiefly because I never was in a condition to do so before. The subject is the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this verse we find reference to two things—the love of God and the coming of Christ. The love of God is that into which the Apostle prayed that the Lord would direct their hearts—that which he prayed they might have dwelling in them; and the coming of Christ was the thing to which they were to be patiently looking forward.
I have hitherto spoken to you on the subject of the love of God. If I were to select any expression from the Bible as characteristic of that teaching which I have been accustomed to adopt in this place, it would be this of our text: my great object having been to direct your hearts into the love of God. Whether directing your hearts into the love of God—whether in this one main subject of love, I have been drawing you away from the truth of God let that man answer who has been taught to know the meaning of this expression, “God is love,” and that this is the law, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all they strength, and love they neighbour as they self;” who has been taught to know what it is to “owe no man anything: but to love one another.” Such a man knows that love is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, because Jesus Christ is the alpha and Omega, because Jesus Christ is the first and the last, because Jesus Christ is the beginning and the ending, because Jesus Christ is the gift of the Father’s love, because Jesus Christ is God who is love, manifested for the transforming of us into the same love, and to make the same mind be in us which was in God from eternity, and which was in Christ when on earth, and which will be in the members of Christ’s body through all eternity. To direct your hearts there into the love that God has, I conceive been the object for which God who is love was manifested in the flesh. To direct your hearts into the love of God, has been the object, too, of all those sufferings to which he submitted—sufferings for which we have no key, unless we see that God is love. For how else shall we explain that he should make atonement for our sins? How else shall we explain that he should have suffered, the just for the unjust? There is no explanation but this, “God is love.”
If you have misunderstood my teaching, you are without excuse, for there is no reason for this misunderstanding. Let no one understand the love of God as if it were not also true that God is holy—that God is righteous—that God is unchangeably true. But how shall you know God’s holiness? How shall you know what it is which God rejects and what it is which God would draw towards himself unless you know that God is love? And how shall you know his righteousness, that is, God’s manifestation of wrath and favour—God’s infliction of punishment and bestowing of reward unless you understand that the thing which God rewards is love? And how shall you know God’s unchangeable truth unless you see that that which God has pronounced a curse upon is the spirit of enmity? “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his own and whose heart does parteth from the Lord,”—unless you know that what he has pronounced a blessing on is love—”Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord.”—What has desolated this earth and polluted us and spread sackcloth over us? Is it not the spirit of enmity? What is said to be the evil of the heart, but the carnal mind which is enmity against God? It is this hatred which makes man stand off from God, and seek to stand above his fellow men, that God has put his curse upon. And why does he put his curse upon it? Because “God is love.”
What is the meaning of that trusting on God which is pleasing to God? Is it the power merely we trust? Is it to strength merely? To me who is mightier than me, if of whom, therefore, we are afraid because he is a being who could destroy us? Such homage springing from these apprehensions of his power, God acknowledges not. Such homage as springs from the feeling “I am dependent upon him,” God acknowledges not. It is offering an insult to God: it is saying if I could be independent and I would not depend upon him. What then is trusting upon God? Is it merely by trembling because he is stronger than I? Is not his trusting in God? No, surely to trust in God is to recline in the bosom of infinite and eternal love.
Now, my dear hearers! there is, I am anxious to impress upon you, no one part of God’s acting, from the beginning to the end, that any man can have right apprehension of who does not know that God is love. Men in their darkest—men in their blindness—men in their sinful enmity to God—men in their anxiety to enjoy a happiness apart from God, have invented a doctrine equally hateful to God and to his people. They say that God does all things for his own glory: that for his own glory he makes one man miserable, and for his own glory he makes another man happy; that for his glory he gives this blessing to me, and sends that suffering to you; and they have thus set forth a doctrine by which they make the living God, the fountain of living water, to be a fountain, which, at the same time, to send forth sweet and bitter waters.
Now, man never declared a more certain truth than this, that God has done all things for his own glory. It is a true statement, that for his own glory he has for ordained whatsoever come to pass. But we must know that the glory of God is, before we can understand what we are saying when we use such language, as that his own glory is the object of God’s actings.
Is it glory in God to create one man for misery and another for happiness? Is this glory? Do men know what glory means? Glory is neither more nor less than the manifestation of his excellence. glory has no meaning if is be the setting forth of a bad thing. It must be an excellence that comes forth, otherwise it is no glory. Glory is excellence manifested: Glory is excellence discovered: this is glory. And what is that excellent thing in God, the manifestation of which is glory? It is this that “God is love.”
It is true then, we say that everything is for God’s glory; but the person who will sit down and under this indefinite word “glory” without any distinct conception of God’s character—without knowing whether God is hating or loving him—the person who will sit down under this and say, “I must submit to this statement that God will do all, not for my happiness, but for his own glory, is running away with a word. And what shall I say of that word when used in such a way? It is the invention of the sinful heart for the purpose of screening itself from the full blaze of God’s love and behind this screen enjoying some peace in its state of rebellion against God.
No man can live under the feeling that every distinguishing attribute of God tells one tale and that is what God desires to help him—no man can live under the feeling that this is true, not only of himself, but of every child of Adam around him without experiencing a mighty and constraining power in this habitual apprehension of God, that causes his heart to rise in praise and thanks to God, who is love: if he would be miserable if made to feel that he is rebelling against this love it would be such a condemnation upon him as the child can know; such fear under him shall men have power in their rebellion in their daring impiety they will deny his love; and thus they will have peace. They will not deny that God is love but through God’s love at a distance, they will cast a mist around it and as they reduce themselves to the condition of serving as proof that God loves them. There is they say love in God in some persons; they do not know who; but they have no proof that they themselves are the objects of that love; and after they know this, in their daring impiety, accomplished the object of having a conception of God’s character without including in it everything external to themselves; then they say it is all a mystery; and with this word they shut out inquiry, appear to themselves humility, and thus escape from experiencing of the manifestation of the glory of God as it shines in the face of Christ Jesus.
My dear friends, I have not seduced my brethren of the human race, I have not gone one word beyond the truth. There is one thing I would observe that appears the most awful and complete establishment of the certainty of what I have been stating and it is this, that while men have thus acted they have given a full circle to every attribute in the Godhead but love. They would narrow this which is the foundation of all and extend the rest. Why treat the attribute of love in this way? Why, but because this was the attribute which rendered them uncomfortable in their sins. Does nay man deny that the holiness of God is opposed to his sin? No man denies it. Wherever there is sin every man see that there the holiness of God is offended; for God is of purer eyes that to behold iniquity, and he cannot look upon sin without abhorrence; and this everyone admits.
Does any man say that there is so much as one person who does come within the circle of God’s justice? Nobody says so. They law they say condemns every man, and exposes every man to punishment. They do not limit God’s justice. The law is perfect, you have broken law, therefore the justice of God who places you under this law is against you. Neither do any men make limitation of the holiness of God. God is holy, you are unholy, therefore the holiness of God is against you. So with the truth of God: they look upon this also as a thing the extension of which is universal. Now, how is it, that when you admit that God’s holiness—that God’s justice, and a demand against every offence—when you admit that God is love as a truth of universal extent— how is it when you come to talk of God’s love that will not extend it to every sinner? While you make a complete circle of God’s other attributes, why will you make this attribute of love but a part of the circle? The secret is this—it is not God’s justice—it is not God’s holiness—it is not God’s truth that is the instrument of convincing a sinner of his sins—that is the instrument of forcing him out of his sins and bringing him back to God; but its God’s love. You cannot realise that God so loves you, as to give his only begotten Son for you—that with the death of his Son he has taken away your condemnation—that God is not now imputing sin to you—this love you cannot realise and not be reconciled to God.
But, my hearers, I have said there is another subject with which I mean to occupy your attention this day—”The patient waiting for of Christ;” and I wish you to understand that I am going to speak of a matter of which I believe very little has been known since the first ages of Christianity. The thing I speak of, was, I believe, in the primitive ages of Christianity the universal feeling of the people of God. Of late attention has been drawn to it in a way which has not hitherto been done, if though my voice has been almost silent; many voices have spoken calling on people to know that the Lord is at hand. People not anticipating this coming, have been ignorant of a most important part of the truth of God, and have had their attention directed to things different from those to which the first Christians attended.
Now having opened up to you the love of God in the fulness of the work of Christ, I come to speak to you on a subject, the coming of our Lord, which though it has in all ages been the great ground of comfort to the people of God, yet has comparatively speaking been shrouded in darkness, having been seen sometimes in a fainter, at other times in a stronger light. Having been prevented by indisposition from meeting you for some Sabbaths in this place, I have had my thoughts directed to the subject. And while God has been thus directing my mind, you, on your parts, do not surely think that there is nothing farther to be known. Neither I trust are you in the condition of thinking that if I have not formerly seen this, I cannot now understand it. Understanding it now, however, in some measure, there is no reason why I should not declare it unto you. I would conceive it an awful thing indeed, if the fear of having it said, “Why did you not explain it sooner, why did you not know it before?” Should be any reason why I should not give you, as God gives me, fuller insight into the scriptures.
Now, what I would explain shortly—the great principle to which I refer—is this, that an event expressed by the words, “the coming of our Lord,” occupied that precise place in the exhortations of the first Christians which the event of death—the prospect of going to heaven—occupied in the thoughts of Christians of the present day.
I have heard it said, “Do you see that this event (the coming of our Lord) as a more powerful motive, or a stronger consolation than the prospect of going to heaven?—Is there any object to be accomplished by fixing our thoughts rather on the one than on the other?” With answering this I have nothing to do, though I might answer it if I say, I do think it the mightier motive. The greater is, What has God revealed for this purpose? What do the apostles teach for this purpose? What comforted them in their trials? What comfort had they in hearing their sorrow? What was their consolation when their friends died and fell asleep? What was it that brought them light beyond the present darkness? What was it to which their expectations turned? If I find it was the coming of Christ, and not their own individual death, then you and I and every one of us are called on to know—what is meant by this coming, that we may be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises; that we may be found in the path of truth, in which they walked who have gone to blessedness before us.
I do not expect to enter much into this subject today—but my feeling is just this—that God having for a short season, prevented me from speaking to you from this place, and made me realise more the truth on the subject about which I have been speaking, I am not at liberty to lose any time in directing your thoughts into the same channel. That which was spoken eighteen hundred years ago, must have weightier meaning now, much more as the signs of the times and the fulfilling of the prophecies, indicate that the coming of the Lord is near at hand. Its nearness however, I do not mean to enter into at present; but this I would press on you, that this coming of the Lord is the great object of Christian hope.
Today, I will not travel out of these two epistles to the Thessalonians, and I shall show you how impossible it is ever to sympathising the feeling of the first Christians, if we do not enter into this matter. See Paul’s account of the conversion of the Thessalonians and of the condition into which they came on conversion: or in other words, what it is to be converted as the Thessalonians were converted, or what was the history of the conversion of that people “For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in, we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God (1Thess 1.9). This every person who knows of Christ understands; because every such person knows that idolatry was not the sin of a particular period of country: but of humanity; and that conversion is the turning from idols to serve the living and true God, as certainly when conversion is an event in the history of any of the people of this parish, as it was in the case of the Thessalonians.
This much every Christian can go along with. Every Christian may say, “I once worshipped idols and followed idolatry in the light of God. My idols were various, but as truly idols as blocks of wood or stone which these people worshipped: but I have been turned to serve the living and the true God.” Thus far every Christian would go in reading this verse: but what manner of sympathy have you with the following verse: “And to wait for his Son from heaven whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus which delivered us from the wrath to come?” I ask the converted among what sympathy have hitherto had in this experience “to wait for his Son from heaven.” Were you converted to wait for God’s Son from heaven? Was this the thing to which your hopes were directed, and in bringing about which God would be accomplishing the desires of your hearts? Examine the matter and you will find that when you have been afflicted, when you have been oppressed and cast down with the various trials of the present time, your consolation has been that time is short, and that you might soon be called away to join those who are singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Is not this the expectation which has been your comfort? I know it has been my own—and I believe it has generally been the comfort of the converted: but this is waiting for my own going to heaven, not waiting for Christ’s coming.
People say we do wait for his coming—the death of the Christian is the coming of the Lord to him. There never was a bolder liberty taken with the word of God that this. Man’s death is never spoken of as the coming of Christ. The coming of Christ is an event of which it is said, “this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Without travelling from these epistles you may soon be make to see that the coming of Christ is not that which is thus conceived of. See 1Thess. 4.13. What I mean to show you is the patient waiting for Christ—the waiting for God’s Son from heaven, was not waiting for one’s own death. Read from the 13th verse to the end of the chapter. “But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even though them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” Now let us examine this. Let us suppose that the coming of Christ means the hour of death, and see what you make of the passage. The passage is one in which the Apostle is giving them comfort concerning their friends who had died, who had fallen asleep in Jesus. And what would be the comfort concerning their friends who had died—who had fallen asleep in Jesus, supposing that the coming of Christ was their own death?—What would the Apostle have said then? “You know my friends that you yourselves are waiting for the coming of the Lord; the coming of the Lord to them was when they died;—so you are to be comforted now with his thought.” Does he give the least hint of this? On the contrary, he speaks of the coming of Christ as a thing still future, and of those who had died, as coming back with Christ: Even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” So the coming of Christ was a future event even to those who had died. And when he says “that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep: that is, if we should be alive and remain upon the earth until the Lord comes, we shall not before hand with them,—we shall not anticipated them—we shall not enter into joy before them—we are not to feel as if we who are on the earth are to be the only sharers in such a blessedness; as if our friends who had died are to be excluded from the happiness—because when he comes they will come with him—because we who are alive and remain until this event shall not take precedence of—shall not be beforehand with—shall not have any advantage over those who are already dead. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” This is not in the least like the account of a man’s death. “And the dead in Christ shall rise first.” First means before we are changed.—It means that they will have the precedence. The dead in Christ shall rise first then we which are alive and remain “shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Now I trust I have made it clear to you that this thing spoken of as the coming of the Lord, concerning which it was said that they were to be comforted with the expectation of it, was not the death of individual Christians; but a coming back of Christ to this earth. I know many will say that Christ will come to judge the world at the last day but you have to learn what is meant by the last day; you have to learn what is meant by judging the world. Today, however, I do not mean to open up this topic; I mean only to try to shake you loose from the notion that the prospect of death is the prospect on which the Christian’s hope is intended to rest. I do not mean to say that the intermediate state between death and the resurrection is not a blessed state. Those who are not on the sea of glass in the presence of God and of the Lamb are with the golden harps singing the praises of Emmanuel. But this I say that however precious a prospect this is, it is not the great thing on which the first Christians kept their attention fixed; and therefore it is not the great thing on which our attention is be fixed.
Then we which are alive and remain shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Now this means that the coming of our Lord is an event in which there is involved, not only his coming in this manner; but also these two things; first, the resurrection of the people of God, who had gone before, and, second, the change of those who have not died.
You may see the same thing referred to in every part of this epistle, not set forth, but stated as the very thing they were familiar with. You are not to find in the Bible disquisitions about things not debated in the days of the Apostles—not objections answered or considered before they were made. You may expect to find the truth shining out, but not in the shape of a discussion when it was not disputed at that time. This is an important fact in reference to faith, and to the assurance of faith—you find no discussions about it.—It is implied but not discussed, therefore it is not by such things. I expect to make out that the prevailing errors are errors and to vindicate the truth of God.—It is not by showing you scriptures directly pointing out the errors respecting faith etc.—It is just by showing you that the true doctrine is implied in every part of the word of God, that I hope to convince you, for this is a far more distinct and powerful thing than if it were a discussion about words.
I am anxious you should understand this. If the Galatians had not been temples of Satan to think it necessary to be circumcised, we would never have had the discussions on that subject—but it would left to be inferred. And so has there been no errors springing up, we should have no discussion. There is little difference between the errors of the Galatians about circumcision, and ours about faith. What I wish you to see is—that errors were not pointedly met by the Apostles before they came into existence; and in matters of doctrine when these, not having been controversies, did not form the subject of discussion in the Apostolic times, it is to the principles of acknowledged truth alone that we are to look for an authority. Suppose there were in a country a people who had never heard of God—and that there I had come preaching among them that there was a God; and that some believed me—and that there was but one living and true God and they believed this also; I suppose that I told them certain things of his character and they believed the whole; and that after I had left them and wrote certain epistles to those who had believed what I told them, referring to these circumstances, calling them to love and serve God because he loves them, had created them. Well suppose that some time after I had written some had arisen disputing and attempting to prove that God was not the Creator of all men, but only the Creator of those that believe, because these epistles were written only to those who had believed. Don’t you see how absurd it would be for people to say that because the Epistles or letters were written only to believers and since I told them that God was their Creator, therefore He was not the Creator of unbelievers: and yet this is precisely the same thing which is now believed of the atonement. In the process of time it has come to be debated whether Christ died for the rest of mankind, besides the believers. Some say these epistles are only written to believers and hence the conclusion—he came to die only for believers. Now the absurdity of this way of proving that Christ died only for believers is quite obvious, nevertheless he may have died only for believers, and how am I to ascertain the true doctrine on this subject seeing that the extent of the atonement was not a matter of dispute in Apostolic times, and consequently I cannot expect to find in the writings of the Apostles anything that will directly contradict the erroneous doctrine that has now got into the church which teaches that Christ died only for believers? Though I cannot expect to find in the Scripture a direct condemnation of the false doctrine; yet I may expect and will find a clear reference to the true doctrine.
From the first epistle to the Corinthians, the 15th chapter, where you have a very beautiful illustration of what I have been stating to you. At the beginning of that Chapter, it is said, “Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you; and them in the 3rd verse (the intermediate words being parenthetical) “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” Now, my hearers, what is the meaning of this passage? The Apostle wrote the Epistle to the Church at Corinth, and you will say he is writing to believers, for he addresses the church as such, and he calls them brethren in the passage we have read. True, in this passage he is writing to believers: and what does he say to them? Look at the passage again. In the first verse he tells them that he going to declare unto them the gospel. What gospel? Why the gospel that preached unto them when he went first among them, for at the 3rd verse he says “I delivers unto you first of all” that is, the first thing I delivered unto you, when I went first among you “that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.” that is, the sins of those to whom he then spake as well as his own sins “according to the scriptures.” Now the question is simply, were the Corinthian Christians when the Apostle Paul went first among them? Nobody will dare to assert this, and yet by the Apostle Paul’s own letter, we find that he declared to them when he went first among them, even when they could not be in any other state than that of unbelief—them, we find, he told them, that Christ died for their sins according to the Scriptures.
But you might say, true, Christ died for them, but it was according to the scriptures which say “whosoever believeth in him” but this is mere sophism for the New Testament Scriptures were not then written. He must have referred to the Old Testament writings which were at that time . . . . . were then known all over the world as the written scriptures and we can have very little difficulty with Corinthians, when the Apostle wrote the first epistle to them, in finding out to what place of the Old Testament, (the only Scriptures to which they would have referred to) the Apostle referred, for it is written in Isaiah 53.6 “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Now in reference to the coming of Christ, we find the doctrine everywhere pervading the Epistles, though not in the way of discussion. Meanwhile, see 1Thess. 3 and read from the 11th verse. “Now, God himself and our Father of our Lord Jesus Christ directs our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love, one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you: To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” When? Is it when we die? No! “At the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” So it was that there should be kept unto the coming of the Lord. See 23rd verse of the 5th chapter “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and I pray God your whole Spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This way of speaking shows clearly it was not a thing he was to teach them but a thing they knew and to which he refers. We have here, you see, the same kind of reference.
You will be struck to find how constantly the coming of the Lord is referred to in the Epistles—how constantly the expectations of believers rest upon it. An error, however, had sprung up in these times regarding it, and the apostle immediately met it and put it right. See 2Thess. Here it appears that they had supposed that Christ was instantly to appear and therefore he writes to them to put them right in the matter. But he does not put them right in the way of saying, you mistook my meaning. You know before Christ comes we must have the millennium: he does not put them right in that way; but observe he first repeats his doctrine, and then beseeches them that there may be no mistake. As if he had said however people may delude you, it is still the point to which I turn your thoughts 2Thess 14-5; “So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions which ye endure; which is a manifest token of the righteous judgement of God that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.” Now this kingdom of God was a thing of which they were to be accounted worthy. It is only within them that he comes to them in the Spirit; but not in manifestation: and so a future thing was spoken of as the Kingdom of God.
“Seeing that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. And to you who are troubled, rest with us, When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power when he shall come.” Here we have the same thing referred to. “When he shall come to be glorified in the saints and to be admired among all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you” Now this prayer is just the same as the prayer which he expresses in the text (2Thess. 3.5) “The Lord direct you hearts into the patient waiting for Christ.” Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Having thus repeated his former exhortation he now goes on to refer to the error which had crept in, and against which he warns them.—Now we beseech you brethren by (the right translation is “concerning” “in respect of”) the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that we be not soon shaken in our mind or be troubled, neither by spirit nor by word, nor by letter as from us as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you, by any means, for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition: who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped: so that he as God showing himself that he is God. Remember ye not that when I was yet with you I told you of these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he that letteth will be, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that wicked one be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of his mouth and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. Even him who is coming is after the working Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
Observe the amount of the qualification which is here added to the doctrine of Christ’s coming. It is simply this, that he was not to come till the man of sin was revealed. By the man of sin is meant the Papal apostasy—the Antichrist. This was the only thing that delayed his coming, and this has already come. This is the only sign—and my reason for saying so is that the Spirit of Christ in the Apostle Paul would not have fixed your attention on this were it a fad that there is to be a thousand years of millennial blessedness before the Lord’s coming. And when these thousand years are past that men may be looking for Christ’s appearance. Does he speak in this way? No, but yet he fixes their attention on a fact in regard to which it was quite obvious that the Apostle did not know—when it would be accomplished. It might for anything he knew be accomplished in his own life time. Here was stated simply a fact— no time; that fact was the manifestation of the man of sin and Christ is to destroy him at his coming: but whether this will be after a long or a short time, he does not say. If, however, he knew that there was another event besides the manifestation of the man of sin, to take place—event that was to occupy a thousand years, what would be the meaning of his speaking as if there was a possibility of his being alive then? Had he known this, he could not have supposed that by any possibility be could be alive at his coming.
Besides, how is Christ to come? “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God.” If the millennium had taken place, how then could there be these at his coming? People may say that those who know not God may be the small number, and those on whom he is to take vengeance may be the little portion; but look to these portions of the word of God, in Matthew and in Luke, in which the coming of the Son of Man is referred to and see to what things it is compared. One of them is the flood and the other is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As to the flood, we are told, “the flood came and took them all way; so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” He does not give us to understand that when the Son cometh he shall find men glorifying God, but, on the contrary eating and drinking; by which he means, he shall find men’s thoughts in a state of alienation from God living under the power of the evil one. This will be the condition of the great mass of mankind; and they will be a small number to whom his coming will be a joyful event. Again, in respect of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day in which Lot went out, we read that “God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.” Here we have Lot with his two daughters saved and all the inhabitants of the plain destroyed. In the former we had eight persons saved and the whole world destroyed. And so Christ says, “But when the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?” plainly pointing out that it would be a rare thing.
I beg you to observe these things. And in conclusion I beseech of you to observe this in the first place that it is no good argument this truth to say, that it has been little known what it is a new doctrine and therefore it cannot be true. This is one of Satan’s lies. It is like all the rest of Satan’s lies. If it be absolutely new it cannot be true but it does not necessarily follow that it is not true because it is new to you. It does not follow that is is not true although few have thought of it for many years. There is a great principle here connected with the fundamental truth—Christ first coming; that we are to judge from the history of man in times past, it is no presumption against the truth of a doctrine, that the great mass of mankind have fallen into ignorance about it. We know that at the creation, men knew the true God; and that in the first ages of the world men had intercourse with the true God, and we know that afterwards all flesh corrupted themselves, and departed from the true God; and when Noah, a preacher of righteousness which is by the faith of Christ for it is not changed, they all had departed from the living God. Noah’s preaching of Christ and the flood was just the judgment to which they were directed to look forward. Would it have been thought a reasonable thing for the people of that period to have said, How can Noah be right with this new doctrine and all the world wrong? Noah would be the object of much scoffing and obliging, and it would have been thought a triumphant argument then as I grieve to say it is now, How can Noah be right and every person wrong. The solitariness of the witness is no proof that the thing witnessed is false. It shows you the tendency to depart from revealed light into darkness: for the Apostles speaking of the heathen, says, “As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”
Suppose I were going into a heathen country and say to them, you are all in the wrong—you are worshipping stocks and stones—this is all delusion—I prove to you by the rain that falls down from heaven—I prove to you by the variable seasons—I prove to you by the sun shining for your good that God is love. By these things is God calling you to repentance which is in truth telling you that he forgives you. Here is God for I see him, I hear him in all I see and hear around me. It might be said to you. Suppose you are the first person who knew that the sun is shining and the rain falling and they might give me a long discussion about the origin of the rain, how it was taken up into the clouds, and dropped down again from them, and I might be a solitary person testifying against many. Have we not we, they might say, the book of nature as well as you? But my reply would be that they did not read the book of nature in the manner in which I read it, I may be right and they wrong.
So it is with revelation, men have departed from its true meaning, and they will be condemned for not knowing it: and the solitariness of the person who says, this is the true meaning of the Bible, if it be the true meaning, is no objection to the truth which it states, and will be no apology for those who do not receive it. We know men, immediately after the flood, corrupted their ways—God then took out from the world the Jewish people as a portion for himself. He called them to serve him; they were distinguished by their privileges and they enjoyed the light, the manifestation of the true God: and yet read the prophets especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel—read the book of Kings and Chronicles; and see how corrupted they were—how dark and blind the became. They were carried away captive because they had forgotten God; they had worshipped the queen of heaven, and this captivity was God’s judgment upon them for so doing. And how did they take it? They were so dark as to say, We continued in our land when we worshipped the queen of heaven, and if we had done so still, we would have been there still. Instead of being benefited by God’s judgment, it was bestowed on them in vain. You see how constantly the witnesses of God were the smaller number, and how those who departed from God were the greater in number. If in times past this has been the case, it can then be no argument against a doctrine, that but a few men teach it, and the rest teach something else. The mere fact of a man’s being alone, is not the slightest proof that he is wrong.
There is a passage often allured to in connexion with this, I mean that respecting Elijah, and those who bowed their knee to Baal. Did Elijah see the truth of God attested to by the Priests and Prophets of the land? No such thing? God does not in his consolation to the Prophet, say to him, you are mistaken in thinking the other prophets wrong; but he tells him that he had reserved certain obscure unknown ones who had not bowed the knee to Baal. I can see the Lord is saying here, “Be comforted, my son, for I have still some bowing the knee to me.” It is a passage written for the consolation of God’s people intimating that Christ has many hidden ones in the land but let it not be viewed as sanctioning false doctrines. The last of God’s judgments upon the Jewish Church was the desolation of Jerusalem, and what will the next be? It will be the judgment of Christendom. What are we to expect? That in proportion as we have the greater light, so shall we have the more awful judgment. We have every sign, and everything to anticipate what manner of thing it is to be that it is to be the destruction of a great multitude, the salvation of a very few.
My hearers, do you hear these things? Do you hear them peacefully? I call on you to consider whether you are walking in the expectation of the coming of the Lord. I call on you to consider whether you are testifying to others of his coming. Are you keeping your garments unspotted from the world? Are you watching until the coming of the Lord? The uncertainty of his approach he himself makes a reason for being on the watch. What are you doing according to the light you have received?
But as there are few of you who have yet seen this truth, I would ask the Christians who know God and have not seen this; Does the Devil say to you, what is the end of pursuing this opinion too? What is the use of this further thing? If he admits that we are saved by the love of Christ, why pursue this farther thing? You that put this question are under a delusion from the devil. Many raise an outcry against this doctrine just because of its holiness. It is God who causes us clearly to know this, to put us into possession of all things to life and godliness. And if the anticipation of Christ’s coming is a thing pertaining to life and godliness—if it was a thing know to and believed in, by the first Christians, surely they sustain much of who do not now live in this belief.
Consider, then, that God says, I call you not servants, but friends, “these things have” I told you that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them”
Come to this subject remembering that a special office of the Comforter was that he should show you not only present things—Christ’s present gory but the thing to come that you might live by faith—by the power of the world to come, that you might be sufferers with Christ and reign with Christ.
Stop not then till you come to see clearly these things to be called upon to be looking for and hastening unto (it would have been more properly translated “hasting” on) the coming of the day of God. You may be anticipating it without longing for it. But you cannot be hastening it on without longing for it. It is from the earth that the cry is to discover. God will hear his own elect though he beens long with them. The cry of the souls under the alter is “How long Lord, how long wilt thou not avenge our blood on them, that dwell on the earth.” Even in that state they have not reached the object of their hope—for what do they see? they see Christ who washed them in his blood—who made them kings and priests unto God, and with whom they shall reign on the earth, so that their return to the earth is that in the prospect of which even those who have gone away are rejoicing. Unless, therefore, you are a part of that body which is feeling that until he come their blessing and their glory will be incomplete, it plain that you are not groaning under the darkness and crying out for the morning light—that you are not instruments in hastening on the coming of the Lord.
Your cry must join the cry of the redeemed in glory, to destroy them that destroy the earth, and bring in his kingdom of everlasting joy.
And now I would ask those who have not received the doctrine which I have been accustomed to preach. How are you listening to this? Are you saying in your hearts, “He has got another new doctrine now—another new thing now that he is to press upon us? Are you saying in your hearts all our old notions are going to be overturned? People will say I will die in the religion of my fathers—I will die in the religion I have been taught from my infancy—But what is the meaning of such speeches? The Apostle said to the Christian converts, What profit had ye in these things of which ye are now ashamed? They were in a light in which they could see clearly the worthlessness of these things in which they had formerly believed, and in which they formerly loved. But I would say in regard to every one of you, even though ye are not ashamed of your false doctrines, and of your fears—though ye ignorantly think not of your making God a liar—though you are not yet ashamed of your sins—yet I will not spare you seeing that unbelief is your sin—It is soul damning sin—a sin for which no manner of education—for which nothing in creation can furnish the slightest shadow of an excuse—and yet you will not call it a sin—and while I charge it upon you, you excuse it. Yet would I ask you what profit have you in this thing of which you are not ashamed? What spiritual profit have you in those views in which you say you have been brought up, and in which you say you will die.
I know one thing you get out of them and it is this, an excuse for remaining undisturbed in your present state—an apology for your uncertainty—an apology for your want of religious peace and joy. You say you see many good people who have died without this confidence; and if so, why should we have it? How does this kind of language work? I know how it works—it works in the way of evil—it leaves you at peace in your evil ways. It works in the way of making it easier for the drunkard to drink on—for the worldly men to pursue his worldly gains, for the formalist to continue in his formalities. It works in the way of making it easier for people to be conformed to the present evil world. But what good does it work? Is it by coming to the conclusion that you were well enough before that you be drawn towards God? Most unquestionably it is not.
I appeal to your experience: when you have at any time been anxious to study the scriptures, has it not been just at a time when you began to suspect I might be right—when you are brought to say to yourselves, “I cannot say he is wrong, there seems to be some truth in what he says?” Again the times in which you have been able to indulge in excesses—the times in which you have been able to join in the self at serious things. Have not these been the times in which you have been able to comfort yourselves by coming to the conclusion that the doctrines I taught were novelties; and that therefore you would not trouble your heads about them (I speak in homely way, because I desire to reach your consciences)—I charge you before God, in whose strength I have come forth in much weakness, to say if it has not been your uniform experience that the tendency of every doubt has been to produce indifference, and the tendency of every approach to believe that what I testified to you is true has been to produce seriousness. Though you cannot put to yourself that God is true, yet many of you have come to the length of knowing that the tendency of the truths I teach is, to compel you to seek excuses for sin.
Therefore let no man raise up his voice against the doctrine by saying it is now.—Let him first say what the fruit of his experience has been. Let the young—the old—the middle life consider what likeness to Christ they have gained by the things they have hitherto held.—And your own experience will testify against you, that you have been altogether wrong.—you have been in a state of unbelief in which there has been in you no glory to God.
Are you then prepared for Christ’ coming? I put the question however serious it may be. If Christ should now appear are you prepared to meet and welcome him?
Attend to this subject the coming of Christ. I rest the demand on the attention of everyone here to the coming of Christ not on the comparison of what men think more or less useful; but on this that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was the object of belief, the hopes, the confidence and the consolation of the first Christians. AMEN.