The belief in the speedy Advent of Christ, entertained both by the Apostles and the churches under them, indicates what Kingdom was believed in and taught by the first Christians.
PROPOSITION 74. The belief in the speedy Advent of Christ, entertained both by the Apostles and the churches under them, indicates what Kingdom was believed in and taught by the first Christians.
If it can be shown that the apostles and their converts believed in a speedy Advent, that they looked for it near at hand, as immediate and impending sooner or later, then it follows that the Alexandrian modern view of the Kingdom could not have been entertained by them. They then, of necessity, owing to the shortness of time intervening, must have linked the Kingdom they proclaimed with the Sec. Advent (e.g. 2 Tim. 4:1, etc.).[*]
Note. Let the student carefully consider this Prop. and following Obs. and notes, and he will find it logically proving that the Church-Kingdom view, and all other theories opposed to the Primitive one advocated by us, are radically wrong and unscriptural. Otherwise we are driven to the conclusion, that inspired men, the founders of the Ch. Church, were in gross error, and taught things irreconcilable with the idea of their mission and the perpetuity of their work; or that, in other words, directed by the Spirit and specially consecrated to proclaim the Kingdom of God, they still totally failed to appreciate the labor designed for them. By our line of argument, the intelligence, integrity, and authority of the apostles are fully sustained; by our opponents’ concessions and abject apologies in their behalf, they are in these particulars correspondingly degraded. Infidelity looks on and laughs—laughs at our credulity, but still more loudly laughs at the straits and subterfuges resorted to by our opponents to save the credibility and inspired ascendency of the apostles. Every writer of ability and learning—whatever theory he may adopt respecting the Kingdom—acknowledges the apostolic and early belief in a speedy Sec. Advent. We append a few: Rothe (Dogmatic, 2 P. p. 58) remarks: “The apostles unanimously expected the return of Christ, to enter upon this Kingdom (Chiliastic) on earth.” Donaldson (editor of Ante-Nicene Library), in his His. Ch. Doc. and Lit., vol. 2, p. 261, declares, respecting the Pre-Mill. doctrine advocated by Justin: “The opinion just adduced is one in which the whole Church shared. All expected Christ to appear on earth, to raise His saints, to grant them the possession of the earth, and to bless them with uninterrupted happiness.” Schaff (His. Apos. Church, p. 275) speaks of “the expectation of the speedy return of Christ in glory, as “probably one of Paul’s favorite themes; that he exhorts the Thessalonians “to be always ready to meet the Lord, who shall come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, and warns them, for this very reason, among other errors, against presuming to calculate the day and hour of His appearing.” Similar testimony will be quoted in following Props. We now give one from an unbeliever—many such exist—who presents a historical statement with the purpose of lowering the teaching of the N. Test, and Patristic theology. Fiske (“The Christ of Dogma,” in The Unseen World, p. 112) says: “The doctrine of the Messiah’s Second Coming was also received without opposition, and for about a century (?) men lived in continual anticipation of that event, until hope long deferred produced its usual results; the writings in which that event was predicted were gradually explained away, ignored, or stigmatized as uncanonical; and the church ended by condemning as a heresy the very doctrine which Paul and the Judaizing apostles, who agreed in little else, had alike made the basis of their speculative teachings.” Alas! how true in many respects is this presentation, and how merited the sarcastic allusion to the church’s departure from “the old paths,” once trodden in faith and hope. (Fiske’s statement is a revamping of Gibbon’s, ch. 15, Decl. and Fall.) So Renan (Life of Jesus, p. 266), in view of this, says that “The first Christian generation lived entirely upon expectations and dreams,” but that it required “more than a century” for the church to disengage itself (however, p. 251, more or less held afterward) from such views and “a fantastic Kingdom of God.”
Obs. 1. Let any one, for a moment, consider the covenanted and prophetic portrayal of the Messianic Kingdom here on earth—its extension, universality, blessing, etc.,—and then regard the comparative brief period (in expectancy), allowed for the Advent by the Primitive church, and it becomes absurd to crowd the fulfilment of covenant and prophecy respecting that Kingdom into the supposed brief period of time. Take it for granted even, as we will show, that the apostles anticipated a longer time than their successors did to intervene; yet the very language, expressive of shortness of time, used by them still amply sustains our position. This expectancy of the Sec. Advent indicates (1) that they had no idea of an existing Messianic Kingdom; (2) that they looked for such a Kingdom to follow the anticipated Advent; (3) that they did not regard the church as the covenanted Kingdom, but as simply provisionary.[*]
Note. How strangely those who refuse to accept of the Primitive faith seek for apologies to shield their modern notions—to give them, if possible, an odor of traditional sanctity. Thus e.g. Pressense (The Early Years of Christianity, p. 407) says: “The destruction of Jerusalem was to have yet a further effect—it was to enlarge the views of the Christians as to the future of the church, and to give indefinite expansion to the horizon of prophecy. They had until now been living in daily expectation of the end of the world and the immediate return of Christ.” He argues that, owing to this destruction, now Christians put off the Advent to the distant future, and that they believed “that a long future of conflict was before the church.” To prove this last assertion he refers to “Hegisippus (Eusebius’ His. Eccl. 3:20.), relating that the Emperor Domitian, on questioning some Christians in Palestine (who were connected with the Saviour by ties of kindred) as to the Kingdom of Christ and His return, received this reply: ‘His Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom or of this world, but a heavenly and angelic Kingdom, which will come in the fulness of the ages, when He shall return to judge the quick and the dead.’ ” But (1) the indisputable fact is, that the destruction of Jerusalem greatly confirmed the church in its Millenarian faith, for such a literal fulfilment of Christ’s predictions led to an increased belief in His near coming and Kingdom. But this Pressense himself—contradicting his own theory—fully admits, when (p. 308) he says that “the Millenarian doctrine became in the second century so widely diffused.” Hence it was not the destruction of Jerusalem that checked it, but the later Alexandrian opposition. (2) In reference to the alleged proof, it is only necessary to say that it is the very language that a Millenarian can hold, who, for prudential reasons, does not enter into details—seeing that every Millenarian holds it to be a Theocratic Kingdom of Divine institution, etc., “which will come in the fulness of the ages.” (Comp. Prop. 73, note.)”
Obs. 2. The Scriptures abundantly testify to this belief in a near Advent, and all of the apostles testify to the same, as e.g. Paul, Rom. 13:11, 12; Phil. 4:5; Heb. 10:25, 36, 37; Tit. 2:13, etc.; James 5:7–9; Peter, 1 Pet. 4:7; John, Apoc. 22:12, 20, etc. The most eminent writers, believers and unbelievers, candidly acknowledge this feature, however they may differ in accounting for it. It is doing violence to deny that which is so plainly stated. Neander (Ad. to His. Plant. of Ch. Church, vol. 2, p. 65, Bohn’s Ed.) urges the fact that the apostles did not look for the conversion of the world but for the speedy Advent of Christ, and remarks: “Every unprejudiced reader of the New Test. cannot fail to perceive that such an expectation filled the souls of the apostles.” Then showing how this view affected their notion of the church, he adds:—“It was not the idea of a renovated time that Christianity first attempted to realize, but everything appeared only as a point of transition to a new, heavenly, eternal order of things which would commence at the Sec. Advent.”[*]
Note. We admire the candor of Neander, who so frankly gives us what is antagonistic to his own system. For additional statements on the Apostolic belief in the nearness of the Advent, see e.g. vol. 2, p. 5, his Antignosticus, or the Spirit of Tertullian, p. 251, Com. on James, Eng. tr., p. 106, etc. (comp. Prop. 49, Obs. 7, note 1). Prof. Bush (Mill., p. 23), in referring to the early church looking for the Sec. Advent, says: “For aught we know, in fact, the apostles themselves might have been of the prevailing belief, as we have met with no reasoning which convinces us that they always understood the full reach and import of their own writings.” (Thus the apostles are, to sustain a theory, reckoned ignorant of their own language! And these too are inspired men!) Renan (Life of Paul, p. 250) tells us: “The two Syriac words Maran-atha (the Lord is about to come) became the watchword of the Christians among themselves; the short, animated expression, which they passed from one to another to encourage themselves in their hoping.” The Westm. Review (Oct., 1861, Art. 5, p. 249) declares: “Gradually there grew up in the early Christian community, grounded, it may be, on half-remembered sayings of the crucified Jesus, an expectation of a Second Advent, in which, as the mysterious being announced by Daniel, the rejected Hero of the human race should reappear, throned on a white cloud, to overthrow the last representative of the impious world Empire, and to institute the eternal Kingdom, so long desired, so often announced, so repeatedly postponed.” The reader scarcely need be reminded that such quotations might be indefinitely extended. The sarcasm of the infidel and the reluctant, apologetic admissions of believers form a mass of material interesting to the investigator, but too unwieldy for our limits. In our researches we confess to surprise and pain that such a writer as Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 272) should sarcastically write of the early believers in this rude style: calling them “men who remained quietly at home, waiting the Sec. Coming of the Lord, instead of going forth to meet Him on the grand highway of human history.” It will be a blessed lot, if Reuss, either in abundant labors or in journeyings for the good of man, will be found equal to many of the men that he ridicules.
That the apostles believed in a speedy Advent is the opinion of Hodge (Sys. Div., vol. 3, p. 876), Olshausen (Com., makes the extreme that even Paul expected to live until the Advent, vol. 4, p. 399, vol. 5, p. 280), Conybeare and Howson (Life, etc., of St. Paul, vol. 1, p. 401), Oosterzee (Theol. N. Test., p. 333, etc.), Meyer’s Com., and Coms, generally. But Rees’ Cyclop., Art. Mill., following the guiding of Whitby, asserts, without a particle of proof to sustain it, (1) that the apostles never believed in this personal reign of Christ or in Chiliasm (over e.g. against first preaching of Kingdom, and Acts 1:6); and (2) “that the apostles never entertained the delightful hope of seeing their Master coming into the world again” (which is too sweeping, unless we confine it, as the writer probably intended, to their day or lifetime; this, as we shall show, may be true, and yet does not affect our argument). Hase (His. Ch. Church, ch. 2, s. 43), to weaken the antiquity and authority of our doctrine, remarks on “Ecclesiastical Life:” “All hope of an earthly Theocracy was apparently destroyed by the death of Jesus, but Christians generally believed that Christ was to return to the world a second time, and many indulged the hope that they would live to witness His advent. This faith gave birth to the boldest expectations, partaking generally of a sensuous character, and while it seemed a national necessity and a religious consolation to the Jewish, it was a source of anxiety and perplexity to the Grecian congregations.” To this we briefly reply: (1) The correspondence with Jewish faith is acknowledged; (2) a Theocracy on earth was postponed to the Sec. Advent; (3) this made the Advent itself so desirable; (4) many of the alleged “sensuous” expectations are only such to those who spiritualize the covenants and predictions; (5) that the Grecian, as well as the Jewish, congregations loved this Advent, and had correct views concerning it; (6) that Hase contradicts himself as to the universality and effect of the belief, as we shall show hereafter by quotation from him. Hagenbach (His. of Doc., sec. 75), usually careful in his statements, falls into an error, when speaking of the Apologetic era extending to A.D. 254, saying: “The disciples of Christ having received from their Master the promise of the Second Coming, the first Christians looked for this event as near at hand, in connection with the general resurrection of the dead and the final judgment.” The facts are, as he himself afterward particularizes, that the doctrine of a general resurrection was of later origin, developed by the Alexandrian school; the first Christians, as far as known, not advocating it, but holding to a first and second resurrection. Hagenbach impartially vindicates Justin holding to two separate resurrections, declaring (p. 214) “that Chiliasm did not come into the orthodox Church through Cerinthus,” that (p. 215) “Justin (Dial., p. 306), writing at the time of Papias, says that it was the general faith of all orthodox Christians; and that only the Gnostics did not share it (comp. Irenĉ. 5:25, 26, Tertul. c. Marc. 3:24).” He then quotes Giesseler’s (Ch. His., 1, 156, Dog., p. 231) emphatic declaration, that “in all the works of this period (the first two centuries) Millenarianism is so prominent that we cannot hesitate to consider it as universal in an age when such sensuous motives were certainly not unnecessary to animate men to suffer for Christianity.” (Thus making “sensuous” error necessary to sustain the martyrs!) Hagenbach, to save his own Church theory, and give it some kind of ancient support, endeavors to weaken Giesseler’s statement by saying: “Compare, however, the writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Tatian, Athenagoras, and Theophilus of Antioch, in none of which Millenarian notions are propounded.” Macdill (“The Instructor,” May, 1879) reproduces this assertion, and says “no traces” of our doctrine are to be found in them. This is misleading and unfair, as will appear in a brief reply: (1) these writers have left but little concerning their views on Eschatology, and that little corresponds with Pre-Mill. views; (2) the correspondence is so great that many of our opponents concede these Fathers to us, as we shall show under Prop. 75; (3) the simple fact they all looked for a speedy Advent is pre-eminently in our favor; (4) they do not give the slightest hint of being opposed to our views; (5) they present no trace of the modernized notions; (6) the general statements of Irenĉus, Justin, and Tertullian respecting the universality of our belief includes them, for otherwise—being prominent Fathers—an exception would have been indicated; (7) the burden of showing by direct quotations from them, that they were not Millenarian, has never been assumed by any critic or writer. Our opponents, by a resort to such subterfuges, making the impression on the ignorant that these men were in opposition to Millenarianism, only evidence the weakness of their cause. A scholar certainly will not permit himself to be deceived in this manner by so shallow an artifice, unworthy of the men who produce them.
Obs. 3. A number of ways have been devised to meet and interpret these expectations of a near Advent. (1) To receive them as the truth; (2) to designate them as “Jewish fables;” (3) to pronounce them mere human utterances, designed for a purpose, and unworthy of credence; (4) to call them “a husk,” which contains a germ of truth to be afterward developed; (5) to define them as an accommodation to a transition period; (6) to hold them forth as longings inspired by enthusiasm and love for Christ; (7) to explain them as denoting an expected spiritual, instead of a personal, coming; (8) to interpret them as indicative of an anticipated providential coming in judgment. The system of interpretation adopted by us (Prop. 4), and the principles underlying the same (Props. 5, 9, 16, 17, etc.), exclude all these methods of explanation excepting the first.[*]
Note. It is not necessary to examine these theories in detail, seeing that our argument, as we proceed, fully meets them. Some few, as Noyes, the “Perfectionists,” etc., hold that the Sec. Coming took place about 40 years after the crucifixion; others that (as Prince, Thomas, etc.) it was to be manifested in themselves; while still others contend that Christ, in some way unexplained, had come or was to come in and through them, either spiritually or by the conference of power, etc. The latter view is found in some mystical sects, who have even gone so far as to claim that, in virtue of such a coming, the New Heavens and New Earth, the New Jerusalem itself, was to be created and erected by themselves, or else was manifested through themselves (e.g. Swedenborgians, Shakers, etc.). We only now refer to a strange effort on the part of Pressense (The Early Days of Christianity, p. 308) to make the impression that Millenarianism arose in the Thessalonian church, and was from thence disseminated. He says: “The Thessalonians were in daily expectation” (see Prop. 160) “of the return of the Saviour, 1 Thess. 4:11, 2 Thess. 2:2, and 3:10. This was the first manifestation of the Millenarian doctrine, which became in the second century so widely diffused, and so strongly imbued with Judaistic elements.” This is flatly contradicted (1) by the Scriptural basis of our doctrine; (2) by the history of it among the Jews, and its existence at the First Advent; (3) by the history of the doctrine in the church at Jerusalem (as e.g. the teaching of James in the Council); (4) by its history in all the churches as given in these Propositions; (5) by the teaching of the apostles, as Pressense himself admits, concerning the nearness of the Advent, etc.;* (6) by the fact that this teaching of Millenarianism had permeated the whole church before the Gospels and Epistles were given, for otherwise we cannot account for its universality, as testified to in these pages by eminent men of all shades of opinion. Pressense, by this effort to give it an earthly and fanatical parentage, is not candid. We can well imagine, if he had been in Paul’s place, what a letter he would have written to these Millenarian Thessalonians, censuring them for starting a doctrine found in God’s oath-bound covenants, and the subject of a thousand prophecies.
Obs. 4. Among those who are believers in a literal Sec. Advent, various theories are proposed by way of explanation. Fairbairn’s (On Proph., p. 445) idea is, “that the real explanation of the matter lies in their singular strength of faith, and which led them, in a manner, to overleap the gulf of ages, to identify the present with the future, and to realize great events, whether near or remote, in their pressing magnitude and importance.” But we see in this far more than mere faith and personal presentation of the truth. Neander’s notion (Com. on James, p. 106) that it arose from a longing desire of the Apostolic church in a “transition point,” and (Ch. His., vol. 2, p. 65) that it was natural for them to do so, not yet being fully acquainted with the truth; and Olshausen’s view (Com., vol. 2, p. 222) of its being an accommodation to Old Test. language, inspired by the lively ardor and desire of the Apostles:—these give but a low estimate of inspiration, and make the wishes and circumstances of the Apostles the criterion of truth. Olshausen also (Com., Matt. 24) suggests that the predictions of Christ’s speedy coming are conditional, being dependent on the repentance of those to whom they were addressed. But the positive language in which they are couched, and the events, continuous, connected with them forbids such a view (Prop. 18), which otherwise, with varied and constant repetition, would be well adapted to lead astray. The Apostles in their public and private instructions never give the least hint that it is to be thus understood, and none of their hearers or immediate successors entertained such a notion. There is, however, force in the suggestion, as we shall show, if the number of the elect is taken into consideration. Oosterzee (Theol. N. Test., 126) says: “It cannot be denied that the Lord throughout His teaching, as well as in His last eschatological discourses, represents His coming as very near at hand. This was the natural consequence of the prophetic form of conception, in which the difference of time and space falls into the background, the exhortation to watchfulness and active labor receiving greater force from reference to the near, unexpected, and decisive future.” There is propriety in the reason thus assigned, but it does not cover the entire ground, failing to tell us why this is “the prophetic form of conception.”[*]
Note. To indicate how the leaven of infidelity is working, see the Art. of Rev. Dr. Buckley in the Independent (Dec., 1878), on “The Proph. Conference.” He admits that the apostles frequently refer to the nearness of the Sec. Advent, saying, however, “As a result of this extraordinary language and other causes, the apostles and early Christians fell into the error of supposing that Christ’s final coming would take place before that generation should pass away,” and he quotes Isaac Watts and Albert Barnes to show that the apostles were in error. Now if these inspired men were in error on so important a point, what assurance have we that they are not equally in error on other important matters? We venture to say that on a missionary platform, advocating the conversion of the world by the present instrumentalities, Buckley will totally overlook this assertion of his, and eulogize the apostolic conceptions of the extent and perpetuity of their work in this Whitbyan direction. Watson (Apol. for Christianity) takes the same view of error, and then presents this exceedingly lame apology in behalf of the apostles: “Their mistake in this respect ought not in any wise to diminish their authority as preachers of the Gospel.” Why not? Preachers, appointed to preach the Kingdom, specially enlightened to proclaim the truth, affirming that they received and gave only that which is true, to delude a vast body of believers by express affirmations, which are only personal conjectures,” “mistakes,” “errors of judgment,” and all this is in no wise to diminish our confidence in their authority, etc.? The apology is self-contradictory and insulting to the apostles. Better make none than to give one which degrades apostolic teaching, bringing them to an uninspired level. Beecher (Ch. Union, Sep. 5, 1877), in a sermon on “The Future Life,” says: “He (Paul) expected to see Christ in this world before he departed; and all the apostles believed that they should; and there are some in our day who believe that they shall. I think that you will see Christ; but you will see Him on the other side. You will go to Him, He will not come to you. And your going to Christ will be spiritual, and not carnal. But the faith of the apostles, and of others, was that they should see Christ in their day. In this matter, however, they were mistaken. They believed that which facts and time overthrew. Their conviction was founded on a misinterpretation of the language of our Master.” Alas! when eminent ministers thus deliberately degrade the apostles! What then becomes of the prayer and assurance of Jesus that they should be led into the truth? What value then can be placed upon the special bestowment of the Spirit to guard them against error? What assurance have we that they are not in error on other important points? No! never can we receive such dishonoring sentiments; and a system of faith which needs them is most certainly defective.
Obs. 5. The announcements made of a near Advent in such phrases, “the Lord is at hand,” “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh,” etc., has excited the ridicule of infidels as evidence of grave error; has provoked, in some instances, from professed believers reluctant acknowledgments of “mistakes,” and, in other cases, lamely produced apologies derived from the personal status of the Apostles. The real ground for the usage of such language has been too much overlooked. A remarkable feature in this contest over the expressions and meaning of the Apostles is the following: unbelievers and believers both refer to the fact that the language is given in the old Jewish prophetic form. The ancient prophets (as e.g. Isa., Joel), spoke of the promised Salvation, the day of the Lord, the Coming of the Mighty One, as being near, close at hand, etc., when the fulfilment of prophecy shows that centuries upon centuries must intervene before it is fully realized. No one has objected to these forms of prophetic expression, on the ground that they represented remote events as near because it was reasonably supposed that such phraseology was in strict accordance with a professed prophetic revelation given in the largeness of time which must characterize the utterances of the Spirit of God. Precisely so with the Sec. Advent; being a doctrine given by the self-same Spirit, it would illy correspond with His previous utterances to pronounce it remote, even if many (according to human measure of time) centuries intervened. For the latter, although distant to man, would not be so with God, to whom “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We must, therefore, judge the Apostles’ language, not by a human, but by the Divine standard. The Spirit—if of God,—does not measure time as we do; and it is only fair and honest to weigh expressions regarding time given under the direction of that Spirit by the largeness of view which characterizes God Himself. If the Spirit in the consciousness of Omniscience, Omnipresence, Eternity, the Infinite,—of previously given declarations corresponding to these,—had in the prophetic announcements of the Apostles employed, even to designate thousands of years, the language (to accord with human ideas) “remote,” “far distant,” “long time,” etc., unbelievers would, probably, be the very first to point out the inconsistency of such phraseology with the Divine attributes, and justly claim that such expressions are indicative of human infirmity. We hold, consequently, that the declarations of the Apostles respecting the nearness of the Advent, are in strict accordance with the truth, and that, in themselves properly apprehended, they contain decided evidence of the Spirit having given them. And, as they sustain an intimate relation to the perfection of the Spirit, they cannot be interpreted, without undue violence, as an accommodation to human imperfection.[*]
Note. God’s Word is not man’s that presents this nearness; hence God, and not man, informs us according to His own view, whether it is near or distant. To God it is but a brief period, and this principle relating to time still future is recorded in various Scriptures. Thus e.g. that long (to man) period of Jewish tribulation, extending from the Babylonian Captivity down to Christ, down to our own times, is called in Isa. 54:7, “a small moment.” This whole dispensation is called “a day,” etc. Now, the Primitive Church, after the apostles, instead of grasping this Divine mode of speaking, took the language as if characteristic of man’s ideas of nearness, and apprehended this nearness as imminent, impending. What possibly increased this feeling in the early churches was the adoption of the defective (Sept.) chronology, by which it was supposed that nearly six thousand years had elapsed, and the Sabbatism was expected (compare candid remarks of Prof. Bush, On Mill., p. 23 and p. 4). But against this, it may be alleged, that the apostles looked for the Advent during their lifetime. In answer, see Obs. 8. Two additional points may be suggested: (1) Prophetic time, either as to beginning, or ending, or both, is reserved by God as specially pertaining to Himself, and, therefore, any references to such time will be given according to God’s own estimate of time. (2) The language is also adapted to the capability of salvation. Before the Advent and Kingdom appears, a certain predetermined number of the elect must first be gathered. As the destined seed of Abraham is raised up, the work, which to human estimation is a long one, to God is but a short one, and will be—to use the Spirit’s estimate—speedily accomplished. Hence we can, and do, receive the comments of unbelievers, etc., excepting their deductions that the apostles were mistaken. Thus e.g. the author of The Beginning of Christianity (p. 366) says in reference to the speedy Advent: “This expectation is expressed by all the apostles in terms which fairly admit of no other interpretation. It is found in Paul (Rom. 13:11, 12; 1 Cor. 7:29–31; and 10:11; Phil. 4:5; 1 Tim. 6:14).” “The same expectation is expressed in the Epistle to the Hebrews (10:25, 37); in the Epistle of James (5:3, 8); in the Epistles of Peter (1 Pet. 4:7; 2 Pet. 3:3); in the first Epistle of John (2:18); and in the Apocalypse (1:1; and 2:11; and 22:7, 12, 20). To put any other construction on these passages, as if the parousia to which they refer was anything else than the Sec. Advent of the Lord to Judgment, would introduce a dangerous license in the interpretation, and one which might be employed to subvert the principal doctrines of the Christian system. Under the general expectation of the apostles, mistaken though it might prove to be in the one particular of time, there lay a fundamental truth.” From our standpoint, the apostles need no apology for employing such language; for its use proves them to have been inspired.
Obs. 6. In accord with the truthfulness of the Divine statements in reference to time, a decided advantage is derived from them in the form given. The estimate of nearness given by God Himself, in measuring prophetic periods, throws around the Sec. Advent a purposed indefiniteness, a sufficiency of uncertainty, an impression that it may be near, to be conducive to watchfulness and piety, to excite vigilance, energy and labor, to impart wisdom, prudence and character, to incite to patient, diligent and faithful study. The evidently designed chasms in chronology, the selection of signs which more or less attend the history of centuries, the concealment of the number of the elect, the withholding the day and the hour, the speaking of things present owing to their certainty of arrival, although still future, the brevity of dispensations when compared with the ages of eternity,—these are all in the same line, suggestive that time is given to present motives of caution and action.[*]
Note. The salutary influence of this style of prediction in the first centuries has been admitted by infidels (e.g. Gibbon, etc.), by believers (e.g. Bush, etc.), and, we are told, was eminently adapted to confirm the early Christians under persecution. But it is just as available, just as hope and strength imparting to-day as ever; and many, who sympathize with us or who reject our doctrine, forcibly acknowledge this feature. We append two illustrations. Van Oosterzee (Theol. N. Test., sec. 29), speaking of Peter and the apostles generally looking for the Advent, remarks: “The day of the Lord’s Parousia, not more nearly defined by the Lord Himself, remained and remains a point of individual expectation, upon which only time can shed the true light. If Peter shared in this respect the expectation of the whole apostolic age, the event which he looked for remains not the less the object of expectation for all future ages, and the hope commended by him is still an inexhaustible fountain of consoling and sanctifying influence.” Fairbairn (On Proph., p. 77) says: “The day itself was, therefore, purposely left in concealment; it remained among the undiscovered secrets of the Godhead, and nothing more than probable and proximate signs were given of its approach, as of an event to be ever expected and looked for, yet never, as to the period of its actual occurrence, to be certainly foreknown.” (Well may it be asked, How can Fairbairn reconcile his Mil). age of definite time to precede such an Advent, with the posture indicated by his language?) Hence it becomes us, if we wish to imbibe the apostolic spirit portrayed, to occupy the attitude assumed by the apostles and their converts (comp. Prop. 182).
Obs. 7. In view of the inestimable purposes of Salvation connected with the Sec. Advent, the latter cannot be held up too prominently, being, as Holy Writ expresses it, “the blessed hope.” The nearness connected with the preciousness, makes the Advent so extremely desirable and the object of inspiring hope. Many who receive, and many who reject our doctrinal position, hold to the exceeding worth of this Advent, both to its imminency (may at any time occur), and to its desirableness (i.e. ought to be desired by the true believer).[*]
Note. Thus e.g. Lange (Com., vol. 1, p. 433) says that it may occur “at any moment,” and in various places speaks of its being the great object of heartfelt desire and hope. Neander (vol. 1, p. 182, Ch. His.) designates it as “fitted to be, not an object of dread, but of joyful, longing hope.” So Barnes (Com., 2 Pet. 3:12) and Dr. Brown of Glasgow (Ch. Sec. Coming) calling it “the polar star,” besides a host of others (comp. Props. 173 and 182). Hence it is not correct to say, what a writer in the Westminster Review (Jan., 1873, p. 88) sneeringly asserts, viz.: that Christ represented His religion as “new wine,” but “now it is old wine that has lost some of its original ingredients by evaporation,” and among the things “evaporated” or lost he numbers “the anticipation, not to be laid aside for a moment, of the immediate return of Christ.” Admitting that multitudes have removed, ignored, or perverted this doctrine, yet it is also true (aside from its unchangeable relationship to the Word) that many, even of our opponents, cordially receive it while antagonistic to their own system of belief—i.e. to their Millennial theory.
Obs. 8. To invalidate the credibility of the Apostles, some allege (even believers, as Olshausen, etc.) that “the apostles expected the return of Jesus in their lifetime.” But this remains unproven, being only inferred from the phrase (1 Thess. 4:15) “we, which are alive and remain,” and from the account given by John 21:22, 23. But the former, as afterward explained in the Second Epistle, and the latter as evidenced by John’s own interpretation (v. 23), and afterward by the events delineated in the Apoc., forbid such an inference.[*]
Note. The “we” appears only indicative of fellow-believers, of Christians who should be successors—for the exhibition of the apostasy and Antichrist by Paul (including a series of events not to be compressed in a lifetime), the portrayal of future events in the Apoc. by John which were to transpire previously, the allusions to their own coming death as something to occur before the expected Advent—are sufficient evidence that the apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, regarded the period of the Advent as indefinite in the future to follow certain events, which they knew (as seen by references to their own departure) were not to take place during their lifetime. (The passage Mark 9:1, Matt. 16:28, Luke 9:27, will be noticed in Prop. 153, on the Transfiguration.) One of the editors (either Dr. Brown or Dr. Valentine) in the Quarterly Review for July, 1874, in Art. “Did the Apostles expect the Sec. Coming of Christ in their own day?” ably answers the unwarranted deductions of Olshausen, Oosterzee, Meyer, and others, conclusively showing that they did not anticipate the Advent before their own departure. This Art., overlooking what we have stated in relation to the Spirit’s estimate of time, gives the following solution to the language employed: “The apparent nearness of this event may result from its transcendent importance and its relations to us as individuals. In such a matter the element of time is almost lost sight of, and we stand as in the presence of the august reality.” This is enforced by illustrations and a quotation from Lange (Life of Christ, vol. 1, p. 81, 82).
Obs. 9. The apostles, after the res. and ascension of Jesus, never used the formula “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand;”—thus accepting of the change in the manner of Christ’s teaching (Prop. 58, etc.), and linked by the phraseology adopted (Prop. 71, etc.), the Kingdom with the Sec-Advent. For, instead of the previous formula, they now tell us that “the Coming of the Lord draweth nigh,” “the Lord is at hand,” etc. They guard us thus, by the very choice of words, against the notion that the Kingdom was already established, or that it possibly could be set up during the absence of the King. Under the former preaching, Jesus being present, the Kingdom was announced; under the apostolic, Jesus being absent and the Kingdom postponed, His Coming again, as the requisite prelude, is prominently proclaimed.[*]
Note. A singular feature which has attracted the critical student is this: Owing to the belief in the speedy coming, the rapid development of Antichrist and his overthrow, the expected approach of the anticipated Kingdom, the history of the Church for several generations is, notwithstanding the progress made, almost a blank on questions now regarded as highly important, as e.g. those relating to church government, the exact progress, triumphs, and conflicts of Christianity. So much is this the case, that the first and second centuries have become a kind of battle-field between the various theories of church government. No documents, such as appeared later, defining forms, looking toward perpetuity, etc., appeared. This very state—this very lack—supports our position. Uhlhorn (Conflict of Christianity with Heathenism, p. 337) refers to this, saying: “The Coming of the Lord was then believed to be quite near, and this hope dominated the whole life. No provision was made for a long continuance of the Church on earth, and all efforts were exclusively directed toward remaining in the world without spot till the day of Christ’s Coming.” (To which we add: and to urge others to receive this Jesus and be saved, for the spread of the Gospel indicates their missionary zeal, not as Reuss (Obs. 2, note) has it that they stayed “at home,” etc.)
Obs. 10. The Apostles occupied the very position regarding the Sec. Advent, enjoined by the Divine Master; to have employed any other language (e.g. in accord with modern ideas) than that used, would have been a violation of His commands (as e.g. presented Matt. chs. 24 and 25).[*]
Note. In the Scriptures referred to, in connection with the exhortations to watchfulness, we find an epitomized history of events running from the destruction of Jerusalem down to the Advent, and, in strict accordance with our argument, it gives no hint, not even the slightest, of a Kingdom until the period of the Advent arrives. The declarations of Jesus and those of the apostles are in harmony. The same will be found in other respects as we advance in the argument. If the modern views engrafted on the New Test. are correct, then we ought to find, instead of these exhortations, that “the coming of the Church in greater power and glory draws nigh,” with cautions not to look and watch for the Advent, but for larger and still larger triumphs of the Church. The two positions are utterly antagonistic, and it is absurd to endeavor to blend them together. Either the New Test. teaches the one or the other—both are irreconcilable unless violence is done to the language. Let the critical student answer the following question, and it will be decisive: If inspired apostles were in error respecting the Sec. Advent, so that they could not locate with their views of it (as conceded by our opponents, as quoted) a conversion of the world, or even a long-extended missionary work with it, what would such inspired men, who professed to understand the prophecies, do with e.g. Ps. 22:27, 28, and a thousand similar predictions? Does it not, consistently and logically, follow, that if in their estimation fulfilled at all, they must of necessity be realized after the Sec. Advent, as held by the Primitive Church, and not before that Advent, seeing that they give no room for the same?