The GOSPEL TRUTH
THE PREMILLENNIAL ADVENT DOCTRINE.
By Henry Cowles.
From his Commentaries on the Bible.
[Book of Hebrews]
[This doctrine is discussed here, partly to bring out more fully the bearing of our epistle (Hebrews 8:6-13 and 12:26-28) upon it, and partly because the doctrine is rife, aggressive and therefore challenges discussion; also, because it is believed to be unscriptural, false and pernicious.]
The millennium is the thousand year-period (of Rev. 20:1-6) in which Christ is supposed to conquer the world and hold it under his sway--the era of his supreme reign upon the earth and of fulfilled prophecy as to the world's conversion.
"Premillennial Advent" means simply that Christ comes in visible person for a visible reign with his risen saints at the beginning of this thousand years; not at or after its close; and moreover, not to find the world converted, but to convert it--at least, that portion which he does not destroy in the glorious brightness of his coming.
Hence "Premillennial Advent" carries with itself these collateral points of belief: viz., the gospel dispensation inaugurated by the gift of the Holy Ghost and under Christ's command to evangelize the nations, will not convert the world, and Christ never expected it would. It has failed hitherto; must fail to the end: was never any thing but a waiting (not a working) dispensation, its one supreme Christian duty being to pray and wait for Christ's visible coming to evangelize the nations. Also, that this coming will develop new agencies and powers, specially in the line of desolating judgments upon the wicked; of appalling majesty and splendor; and of the co-operative work of the risen, immortal saints, ruling and reigning with Christ. These are the cardinal points of the system; to these I propose to restrict the present discussion.
There are many minor points, held variously and vaguely, too vaguely to justify the waste of time inevitable to their discussion; e. g., as to the wicked on the earth at Christ's coming--how many and who are to be destroyed, and who are to survive to be subsequently converted: as to the raised saints, whether all the sainted dead, or only a part, and what part. As to the new converts--whether to be made at once immortal like the raised saints, or left (as now) in their mortality; as to the incompatibility of adjusting this one planet to the natures and wants of both mortals and immortals--how this incompatibility is to be obviated; how the laws of the heavenly world are to be mixed up with the laws of this earthly world.--All these questions it were vain to ask, for a scheme born of fiction and baseless of fact should not be expected to concern itself with either defining or proving such points. Sober-thinking men have indeed a right to demand definite answers to these questions, for if the premillennial scheme be true, all these questions must be met. It must be very reasonable to withhold confidence from a scheme which encounters not only such shadowy indefiniteness, but such obstinate incompatibilities.
Passing, however, all these minor points, we come to the main points as above presented--viz.:
Christ's next coming is to be before the millennium; for the purpose of converting the world; bringing with him some (or all) of the righteous dead, raised to life immortal and to wield evangelistic forces with success never known before.
Against this scheme, I maintain:
I. It is extra-scriptural, and therefore necessarily built on misinterpretation and perversion of scripture, and upon human fancy. By "extra-scriptural" I mean that it lacks scriptural authority at every point where, if true, it ought to have it.
To make this statement definite and to verify it, I specify three general heads:
1. It lacks authority in the only passage which speaks of the millennium and gives us the scenes at its opening.
2. It lacks authority in Old Testament prophecy.
3. It lacks authority in the teachings of Christ.
1. It lacks authority in the only passage which speaks of the millennium and gives the events at its opening, viz., Rev. 20:1-6.--Let it be well considered that if the system is taught in the scriptures it should be here, this being the only passage which even names the millennium or gives its opening events. Here ought to be (if true) the glorious coming of the Son of God, breaking through the heavens; here, the risen bodies of saints, seen bursting open their graves; here, the evangelistic work which they are to do with such surpassing power.
This is the passage:
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall he priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."--Rev. 20:1-6.
Now since these six verses have to bear the weight of this whole premillennial system, they ought to be strong; ought to be explicit, outspoken, unambiguous, unmistakable. What are the facts?
(1) Christ's visible, personal coming is not here--not a word of it. The revelator saw no such coming at the opening of the millennial period. He tells us what he did see, viz., a mighty angel coming down from heaven with a great chain in his hand; also the old serpent; but not a hint that he saw the glorious Son of God bursting through the heavens.
Here my argument is that if such a visible coming at this precise point were to become a fact, it was entirely too great and vital to be omitted in this foreshowing of the fact. Is it credible that John should see the mighty angel and the old serpent, and yet not see the Son of God himself--beyond all comparison the most august spectacle of the entire scene--the most august indeed in its nature which the world was ever to see?--After the thousand years had passed--after observe; not before--John did "see a great white throne and Him that sat on it, whose presence he dare not attempt to describe save by its effects--so majestic that "from his face the earth and the heavens fled away, and there was found no place for them."
Plainly it is a capital lack in the scripture testimony that the only passage which speaks of the things to be seen at the opening of the millennium says not a word of Christ's visible coming then.
(2) Next, what does this standard passage say of the raised bodies of the sainted dead?--It must be a very easy thing to show in vision the risen bodies of the martyrs. Of course, as compared with souls, bodies are very visible objects--very prominent, and one would suppose quite unmistakable. Did John see any risen bodies? Not at all. He says he "saw the souls" of the martyrs--a fact which virtually excludes the idea of seeing risen bodies. How could he have seen their souls if those souls had been imprisoned in material bodies? Moreover, when the real resurrection was reached--after the millennium, John did see rising bodies: "The sea gave up the dead which were in it" (v. 13).--On this point, therefore, the testimony is more than merely wanting. It is squarely hostile--not to say fatal.
(3) But perhaps the third point of the system--doing evangelistic work in the millennial world--will be better sustained.--Did the revelator see them going all abroad every-where, preaching the gospel; pushing evangelistic work to the ends of the earth? He says no such thing. He says only that "they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." This is very far from saying definitely that they were fulfilling the great commission: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." In fact, the statement looks more like rest than like labor; more like repose after victory than the struggle and conflict of battle.
Thus we see that on each and every fundamental point of this system, this standard passage--the only one which speaks of the millennium by name--altogether breaks down. Where we ought to find statements, clear, definite, decisive--we find absolutely nothing of the sort. It would have been exceedingly easy for John to have said: "I saw the glorious Son of God coming in the clouds of heaven"--if it had been so; "I saw the risen bodies of the martyred dead "if this had been the fact; "I saw those risen saints sallying forth, going all abroad with the gospel to evangelize the nations:" but he does not say this at all.
Now it is perhaps barely possible that the outlines of the great gospel dispensation--the grand scheme of God which is to be the consummation of the world's redemption--might be compressed within six verses; but I think we may demand that, if so, those verses should give the salient points of the system; should at least say the things claimed to be the chief and distinctive elements of the scheme, and state them intelligibly and somewhat explicitly, so that the passage, fairly interpreted, shall not break down on absolutely every distinctive and important point.
2. It lacks authority in Old Testament Prophecy.--Let it be remembered carefully that the premillennial scheme makes these points vital and distinctive; viz., Two gospel dispensations instead of one; these two entirely, not to say totally, diverse in character and distinct in time, separated indeed by an event too stupendous and momentous to be omitted in prophecy; viz., the visible coming of the Lord down from the upper heavens.--Now my argument here is: This particular scheme is extra-scriptural in that it lacks authority in Old Testament prophecy. This large body of prophecy gives not a hint of two gospel dispensations. It very minutely describes one, worked by the power of truth and the presence of the Holy Spirit--the gospel preached by Jesus and by his people. Before his Jewish persecutors Paul vindicated himself for preaching the gospel to Gentiles by appealing to their own prophets as foretelling the very thing he was doing. [See Acts 26:17-23 and Rom. 15:8-12]. But Hebrew prophecy, having set forth this one gospel dispensation, is silent as to any other. Especially it gives not a hint of this premillennial coming of the Son of God from the heavens to open a new gospel age; not a hint of risen saints, made immortal, to become its instrumental forces. On all these vital points of the system, its pages are silent as the grave.
That the old prophets should describe the gospel scheme so fully and minutely, devoting to it scores of chapters, and yet should pass unnoticed its most striking, salient, distinctive features, is incredible. That they tell us so emphatically that the first gospel age, worked by God's truth and Spirit, is to be absolutely, gloriously successful (when according to the premillennial scheme it is not) is a fact to be specially noticed.
3. The scheme lacks authority in the teachings of Christ.
Let it be well kept in mind that, if this premillennial gospel scheme be true, it should appear very distinctly in Christ's teachings. We reasonably depend on him to give us the great elements of the gospel scheme.
But notice--as to the time of opening his gospel reign, Christ never taught that (instead of being then "near at hand," "the time fulfilled" Mark 1:15) it was at least eighteen hundred years in the remote future. This the premillennarian scheme affirms; Christ did not. He said no word that can possibly admit such a delay in the setting up of his gospel kingdom.
As to its character; Christ never taught that it would come "with observation" (Luke 17:20,21)--with such astounding splendor that men on every side would shout "here," or "Lo! there." Christ never taught that his kingdom should be in these respects "of this world" (John 18:36) like other human kingdoms, resting upon its visible display and imposing external magnificence.
As to its agencies and working forces, Christ never spake disparagingly of gospel truth; never hinted that witnessing to the truth was not likely to prove availing and was not among his special objects (John 18:37).--And particularly, he never taught that the Holy Ghost would be inadequate to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8-11), nor that it would be "expedient" for himself to return to the world bodily (John 16:7) for a visible reign, to supersede the invisible Spirit, the latter having been proved quite insufficient to convert the world.
Christ never told his disciples that the dispensation of the Spirit was to be merely provisional, preliminary to another mightier and better, and therefore transient (John 14:16).--Christ never hinted that his promised presence by his Spirit with his missionary disciples to the end of the world (Matt. 28:20) would be unsatisfactory, insufficient for their spiritual support and for their glorious success in preaching the gospel to every creature. He never intimated that their going forth into all the world at his command to preach his gospel to every creature was only a tentative experiment, never on his part designed or expected to be successful, but to be superseded by a totally different plan of operation and by entirely new working forces.--He never taught that they would need for their complete success to have this gospel treasure, not in earthly but in heavenly vessels (2 Cor. 4:7);--never hinted that it was a mistake to suppose (as Paul did) that the Lord was pleased with weak human vessels because the excellency of his own power shone through them the more brightly.--Yet again: Christ never taught that sinners, refusing to hear Moses and the prophets, would be readily persuaded when men should rise from the dead to preach to them the gospel (Luke 16:31).--Comprehensively put: Christ never said or suggested that the gospel dispensation, inaugurated then, was to be not for working but for waiting; not for evangelizing the world by any means, but rather to reveal its own impotence and so prepare the way for his own visible reign in all subduing majesty.
Now obviously, Christ might have said all these things (which he did not say), and so might have taught all the vital points of the premillennial scheme if he had really believed in them--that is--if this had been his scheme. It is unfortunate for this scheme that it should lack precisely the support which, if it had been Christ's, he should and would have given it. It ought to be with all sensible men a grave question, how this scheme can support itself, missing as it does the decisive testimony which Jesus Christ only is supremely competent to give.
II. The premillennial scheme is not only extra-scriptural, (as above shown); it is also anti-scriptural, and therefore can not possibly be true.--To justify this statement I make the following points:
1. It squarely confronts and overrides the teachings of Jesus Christ.
2. It misinterprets Old Testament prophecy.
3. It is in direct collision with the doctrine of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
1. As to the teachings of Jesus. It confronts and overrides them in these several respects:
(1) The nature of his kingdom. Jesus said "My kingdom is not of this world." The premillennial doctrine assumes that it is--is even to the extent of absorbing all civil power.
Jesus said: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:" the premillennial doctrine makes utmost account of its coming with observation--as truly external as earthly kingdom can be; gloriously visible; filling the mortal eye and impressing men with its outward splendor and majesty.
Jesus taught that the chief working forces of his kingdom are truth and the divine Spirit. The premillennial brethren insist that these forces are inadequate to convert the world; have proved themselves to be so for 1800 years; that the coming dispensation will bring in new and far greater forces--in the glorious majesty and appalling splendors of Christ's visible person and royal state--coupled with overwhelming judgments.
(2) It contravenes and even squarely reverses what Jesus said as to the relative efficiency of his own visible presence on the one hand, and of the Spirit's invisible presence on the other. Jesus said: "It is expedient for you that I go away and the Comforter come." The premillennial doctrine proclaims: It is expedient that Christ should return to the earth and manifest himself again in his visible person.--Jesus said: "Greater works than these which I have done shall ye do, because I go to the Father" (John 14 12) and send down the Spirit; but the premillennial brethren say: "The greater works" are to be done, not by the Spirit in the personal absence of Christ, but by Christ in his personal presence.--In this point the premillennial doctrine makes a square issue with Jesus Christ, denying what he affirms, and affirming what he denies--and this, be it observed, on a point which bears vitally upon the honor due to the Spirit of God by virtue of his efficiency and power.
Such dishonor done to the Spirit of God is unutterably revolting, and ought of itself to seal the condemnation of this system of doctrine forever.--I do not say that all the advocates of this system mean this or even see it; I hope they do not. But the system means it--implies it; we might even say--must mean this, and make it fundamental. The very animus of the system is: The present gospel dispensation, a failure; a better one demanded; the higher, the all-conquering forces of this better one lie in the visible Christ instead of the invisible Spirit.--Allow me here to introduce a noteworthy sentence from Rev. J. C. Ryle ("Expository Thoughts" on Matt. 24): "Let us learn to moderate our expectations from any existing machinery in the church of Christ, and we shall be spared much disappointment." If the words "existing machinery" represent truthfully the ground of expectation for spiritual fruits in the case of the evangelical church, they mean the truth and the Spirit of God. If this be not their meaning, they slander every true gospel laborer. Mr. Ryle will thank us for rejecting the interpretation which makes them a slander. But what shall we say of the doctrine that the great moral forces of the New Testament are not to be relied on to convert the world?
(3) Yet again: Jesus taught his disciples that the Spirit would be the revealer of Christ to their souls: "He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you" (John 16:14). Jesus even went so far as to call this revealing of himself by the Spirit, a coming of himself and of the Father, to abide in the Christian soul (John 14:21,23).
Now the tendency of the premillennial doctrine--not to say its inevitable result--is to ignore this invisible coming of Jesus into human souls by his Spirit, and to exalt into its place of spiritual power his visible manifestation through a personal appearing.
(4) Jesus taught that this dispensation of the Spirit is to be--not temporary--not simply a preparatory, John-Baptist arrangement, to be superseded soon by the far more effective and glorious visible appearing; but that the Spirit should abide with them forever (John 14:16). "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever." Beyond all question it was only in and by the Spirit, revealing Jesus to the soul, that he said: "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." He said this just as he was personally going away for at least eighteen hundred years. He therefore did not mean--could not mean--I am with you bodily, visibly to your eyes of flesh--to the end of the world.--All these facts, taught by Jesus, are ignored and ruled out of the gospel system in this premillennial doctrine.
(5) Jesus "preached the gospel of the kingdom saying, The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:14,15). And his apostles, immediately after his ascension, said he was already "by the right hand of God exalted;" "raised up to sit on his throne;" "made both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:30,33,36); "exalted to be a Prince and a Savior" (Acts 5:31);" "raised from the dead and set at God's right hand in heaven, far above all principalities," etc. (Eph. 1:20-22); "gone into heaven and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him" (1 Pet. 3:22).
Squarely in opposition to this, the premillennial doctrine holds that Jesus has not opened his gospel reign yet, and will not, till he shall come again in the clouds of heaven. In the apostolic teaching, the throne of his gospel kingdom is now long since established, being located in the heavens. In the premillennial teaching it is to be located on this earth (at Jerusalem they say), but is not set up yet! Which doctrine shall we believe? Which rests on the best authority?
(6) Yet once more: When Jesus was among men, the Jewish doctors held the modern premillennial notions as to the Messiah's kingdom. They would have it visible; "of this world;" including and wielding all civil power. They would fain "take Jesus by force and make him such a king." They interpreted Old Testament prophecy to mean a kingdom like that of David, save that its bounds were to be the ends of the earth.--These notions were perpetually cropping out among the disciples; but observe, Jesus never taught or even tolerated them. And now, shall we be asked to go back to Pharisaic Judaism, to take up and enthrone in power the very scheme which worldly Jews admired and maintained; which Christ's disciples found so ensnaring and damaging; and which Jesus opposed persistently, strenuously, and to the uttermost?
If the scheme is good now, why did Jesus condemn it as unqualifiedly bad then?
2. This scheme misinterprets and therefore misrepresents Old Testament prophecy.
The subject is uncomfortably large and hard to compress. In addition to what has been said to show the scheme to be extra-scriptural, I make but two points:
(1) The scheme repeats the grand mistake of the Pharisaic Jews in the Savior's day, viz., taking the mere costume and drapery of the old prophets for the reality, and ignoring the reality itself. The costume and drapery were drawn from the theocratic kingdom as seen under David and Solomon. This stood before the ancient Jews as the symbol, the model, type--the drapery and costume we might call it--which sets forth the kingdom of their Messiah. The Jews of Christ's time held on to the drapery, but dropped out the sense; they carefully saved the husk, but threw the grain away; they kept the external, but lost the inwardness--the real meaning of the old prophets. The premillennial advent interpreters do the very same thing. By this means they think to find in those prophets the visible reign of Christ on the earth the central element in their scheme. They find it only by totally misinterpreting prophecy.
(2) My second point relates to the permanent, all-conquering moral forces of the gospel. The premillennial scheme holds that these forces are embosomed in Christ's personal presence and visible reign, and consist fundamentally in consuming judgments and overawing majesty and glory, coupled with the co-operation of the risen, immortal saints.
Over against this, the potent, all-conquering forces, as given in prophecy, are:
(a) Truth taught--God's "word that goeth forth and shall not return void" (Isa. 55:11); "Many nations " (say Micah in 4:1-4 and Isaiah in 2:2-4) "shall say, Come and let as go up to the mountain of the Lord; He shall teach us of his ways," etc.--"He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment" (the right knowledge of God) "in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law" (Isa 42:4). "Shall be a light to the Gentiles" is one of the standard phrases.
(b) Coupled with light, truth, the correlated and all-conquering force is the Spirit of God. We find this made prominent in most of the great prophecies of the gospel age: e. g., Isa. 11:2: "The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him," etc.; Isa. 42:1 : "Behold my servant, I have put my Spirit upon him," etc.; and the never-to-be-forgotten Isa. 60, which runs: "Arise, shine, for thy light is come;" "Violence shall no more be heard in thy land;" "Thou shalt call thy walls salvation;" "Thy people shall be all righteous." This wonderful, towering prophecy is embosomed on each side, before and after--flanked we might say--with promises of the Spirit. Immediately before it we read--"This is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever."
Then opens chapter 60, with an implied and most emphatic therefore: Therefore, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come; and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee," etc.--At the other end of this majestic prophecy we read: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good things to the meek," etc.--of which you will remember that Jesus said at Nazareth (Luke 4:17-22): "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
The Spirit of God upon Jesus and upon his people, their crowning glory, the high tower of their strength--such is the strain of Old Testament prophecy.
I need not pause to say how thoroughly this harmonizes with Christ's own teaching and with the whole genius of the gospel age; nor how utterly it refuses to harmonize with the distinctive points of the premillennial scheme.
3. The premillennial scheme is peremptorily negatived and exploded by two passages in the Epistle to the Hebrews, viz., 8:7-13 and 12:18-29.
(1) In the first passage (8:7-13) God's whole redemptive work for man is put into two great dispensations--two only, observe--called "covenants," then spoken of as the "first" and the "second." In the first God wrote his law on tables of stone; in the second, on tables of human hearts: "I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts . . . and all shall know me from the least to the greatest." Observe that this repeats a prophecy given through Jeremiah (31:31-34); that it puts in contrast the Mosaic and the gospel dispensations; that it manifestly excludes every other sort of dispensation--premillennial or whatsoever; for this gospel one is a perfect consummation--does a perfect work and leaves nothing more to be done; beyond it is no more want; beyond it there can be nothing better nor can there be occasion for any other. "This is life eternal--to know thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." There is no premillennial advent here and no demand for it thereafter. Truth and the Spirit--the Spirit being indicated here by the finger of God writing his law in the heart--do all the enlightening, sanctifying work, and beyond all question, do it well.
Let me notice in passing that Paul in a letter to Corinth (viz., 2 Cor. 4:13-18) puts a similar antithesis between the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations, the specially contrasted points being that under the former things were seen dimly as if with a vail over the face, but in the latter: "We all, with unvailed face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord [Jesus] are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
We notice that this passage, compared with Heb. 8, is at once parallel and explanatory; equally with that, it makes the efficiency of the gospel dispensation perfect, leaving nothing beyond it to be even desired; the spiritual renovation achieved is wrought by visions of Jesus--but not at all by visions of his body (not the premillennial scheme), but by visions revealed through the Spirit, thus giving due and supreme honor to his mission as the great revealer of Jesus. It explains to us how God writes his law in human hearts, his finger tracing this holy law in letters of light and fire being only and precisely his Holy Spirit.
(2) The second passage which unfolds the doctrine of this Epistle to the Hebrews is 12:18-29. Like the former, this puts in contrast the Mosaic system and the Christian. The former placed men before Mt. Sinai; the latter before Mt. Sion. The motive forces of the former were great; those of the latter, far greater. The awful voice on Sinai then shook the earth; but now hath he promised (i. e., in Haggai 2:6-9): "Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven." Here mark the comment of the writer to the Hebrews on this prophecy of Haggai "And this word 'yet once more' signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken as of things that are made" [made in the sense of being gotten up for temporary use like an oriental tent or a temple built by human hands] "that those things which can not be shaken may remain. Wherefore we, having received a kingdom which can not be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear."
Here the things shaken are the Sinai dispensation; the things which remain and can never be shaken are the Mt. Zion dispensation--the real kingdom of Messiah which, let it be carefully noted, the Hebrew Christians had already received. The first system had even then waxed old and was vanishing away; the second already begun--"received" is his word--could not pass away, was "a kingdom that can not be moved."
According to the premillennial doctrine the kingdom which the Hebrew Christians had then received--common to them and to us to-day--has not the least stability. It may come down with a crash any moment. It was never made to stand; was not constituted with the forces requisite for the conversion of the world to Christ. His people therefore on this theory can find nothing better to do than to pray that he would come in the clouds of heaven; brush away this imperfect preparatory structure and set up a kingdom that really can not be shaken. Very manifestly the writer to the Hebrews was not a premillennarian in doctrine, for he held that the kingdom never to be shaken was already received by believing souls. This all premillennial men must and do deny, and therefore teach us to wait and pray for it as soon to come.
My conclusion therefore is that this premillennial scheme is not only out of harmony with the scriptures of truth, but in all its vital points stands to the Bible in relations of irreconcilable antagonism.
To some minds this premillennial scheme has attractions and even fascinations, especially to men weary of hard work and impatient of slow progress. To such it is sweet to anticipate easier work and quicker fruitage. The men who seem gifted to see all the bad and only the bad in our world, and so persuade themselves that all is growing worse and the devil at this rate is sure to conquer, may almost be excused for their impatient longing for a better system. But chiefly the fascination of this scheme lies in bringing down to earth the better things of heaven and mixing them together with gospel labor on this earth--e. g., the visible presence of the glorified Jesus; exemption from frail mortal flesh; the immortal vigor of the resurrection state.
It may seem hard and heartless to break such bubbles of pleasing fancy--may seem cruel to call them unscriptural vagaries and baseless dreams; but truth is better than fiction, yielding always better results in the end.
For truth's sake, these notions are to be reprobated because they misconceive the agencies provided by Christ for converting the world; because, hence, they disparage the power of gospel truth preached by mortal lips; because they rule out the best and most wholesome of all human agencies--the social, the sympathetic, the witnessing power of entreaties, compassions, tears--as of him who was with men "in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling" (1 Cor. 2:3) "warning men night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31), yet whose words and tears were mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). Most of all, let this scheme be discarded because it dishonors the Holy Ghost, building itself upon the assumption of his virtual inefficiency and inability to "reprove the world of sin, righteousness and judgment" unto the conversion and salvation of the nations.
It is with utmost reason we say that if Christians are to help in the gospel as instruments of God, they must work within and under his system, not outside of and against it; must honor his appointed agencies and powers (truth and the divine Spirit), and not disparage and disown them; must work with confidence in the powers God provides and presents to their faith and their prayers; and must consent to forego the open visions of heaven and exemption from mortal frailties till their earthly work has been honestly done. And let them beware of putting forth their hand to smite down the faith and hope of the great missionary host, moving forward under the marching orders of their risen Lord! Let them not attempt to foist into God's scheme for evangelizing the nations, new elements and forces of which Jesus never spake and for which the scriptures, legitimately interpreted, give no warrant, but stand in total, irreconcilable antagonism.
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