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the world of mankind ? If God possess an attribute of anger which is to be eternally exercised in administering positive pain and misery to the creatures whom he has made, why should the Holy Ghost speak, by the mouth of David, and say, “ His anger endureth but a moment ; in his favour is life : weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
The better to expose at one view the error of supposing that the condemnation and punishment woich divine revelation has attached to those who receive the inark of the beast is endless misery, let us place together the following passages. Rev. xiv. 9, 10, “ And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation ; ani he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the lamb." Chap. xiii, 16, 17, And he caused all, both small great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their forehead :* and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Crap. vii. 9, 10, “ After this I beheld, ani, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the lamb, cloathed wito white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb." Chap. v. 13, 14, “ And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that site terh upon the throne, and unto the lamb, for ever and ever. And the four beasts said amen. And the four and twenty Elders fell down and worshiped him that liveth for ever and ever."
OF CHRIST'S PREACHING TO THE SPIRITS IN
PRISON. THE passage which speaks of this preaching is found in 1 Peter iii. 18, and on - For Christ also hathonce suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, (that he might bring us to God) being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit : by which also be went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; which some time were disobedient when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the Ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.” On the above passage, there has been much contention between commentators, whose aim, as it appears, was to accommodate the text to their respective opinions, so as to favour their general sentiments. Protestant commentators, in general, are agreed that the preaching, noticed in the text, was the preachir g of Noah to the old world. It is evident, however, that the Protestants were rather driven to such a far-fetched explanation, in order to avoid an idea which they found in the Papal faith, though that idea was more consistent with some of the ancient fathers, than the one they adopted. As long as men are disposed to learn the scriptures how to talk, before they are willing to be tanght by them, the scriptures will be forced to speak as many different languages as were spoken at the building of Babel, and with as much confu. sion, . Our duty is plain, and as easy as it is plain. It is only to let the scripture speak its own most naturai language, connecting the divine testimony, and permitting one part to explain to us, what may appear enigmatical in another. It may be proper, in the first place, to carefully examine the passage in Peter with a view to see what it says; and in the second place it may be proper to allow that the passage says what it really means, and then illustrate the text by the assistance of other passages. The text says 1st. That Christ has once suffered for sins. 2d. That be being just, suffered for the benefit of the unjust. 3d. That the benefit which was designed to result to us, as the unjust, from the sufferings of Christ, is, our being brought to God. 4th. Christ being put to death in the flesh was his suffering for sin, and his being quickened by the Spirit enables him to bring us to God. 5th. Christ having been put to death in the flesh, and quickened by the Spirit, by which he had power to bring sinners to God, he went and preached to the spirits in prison. 6th. These spirits in prison, to whom Christ preached, were disobedient when the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah. 7th. The preaching to those spirits in prison was performed, by Christ, after he was put to death in the flesh and quickened by the Spirit The foregoing seven particulars are as plainly expressed in this text as we could reasonably expect that they might be in so few words, nor does it appear that there are any words wanting to carry those ideas with plainness to the mind. A's was proposed, we will now allow that the text really means what it says, and look for an illustration of the disputed part, in other scriptures. The opinion which modern commentators oppose to that of the ancient fathers of the church, is, that the preaching noticed in the text, was performed by the spirit of God in Noah, to the inhabitants of the earth in the days before the food, while those to whom this preaching was sent were in the flesh.
It has been hinted before that this far-fetched explanation was a mere shift to which Protestant divines were driven ; and on a candid view of the text, it is natural to suppose that something very formidable must have attacked them, to have driven them to such an unwarrantable shift. There is nothing said in the text about the Spirit's preaching, or of Noah's preaching. To how many inhabitants of the old world is it supposeable that Noah could have preached ? The number must have been very few, in comparison with the whole. And yet if he hau had the power to preach to every individual of the old world, it ought not to be used to prove that Christ did not preach to their spirits, after he was put to death in the flesh and quickened by the Spirit, as stated in our text. That Jesus Christ does actually possess, as Lord of all, the dead as well as the living. St. Paul shows in Rom. xiv. 7, 8, 9, “ For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord ; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord : whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." St. Peter, seemingly with a design to make this subject as plain as possible, alluding in bis 4th chapter, to what he states in his 3d, speaking of those who should give an account to him who is ready to judge both the quick and the DEAD, says, verse 6th, “ For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the fiesh, but live according to God in the spirit." By this the apostle tells us what was preached to the spirits in prison, and what it was preached for. It was the gospel that was preached, and it was preached to those who were not in the flesh, that they might be judged as if they were in the flesh, but that they might live according to God in the Spirit ; 'even that Spirit which quickened Christ and gave him power to bring us to God. In this subject there is not the least ambiguity, nor is there any other difficulty than that it is as plain and direct a contradiction of the commonly received or
pinion, i. e. that there is no mercy to be communicated to those who die in unreconciliation to God,or in unbelief of the gospel, as can possibly be stated. It may be proper, by way of indulgence, to ask which appears most warrantable, either to allow this subject , to stand exactly as the scriptures, above quoted, state it, or to
contradict those scriptures by limiting the goodness of God without any authority from scripture for so doing! It is a thing much to be desired and fervently prayed for, that those who so frequently and so earnestly labour to limit the holy one of Israel, in the dispensation of his grace, would pause, and inquire into the authority by which they are to be supported.
The pretension that the sentiment, so plainly taught in those scriptures, which have been considered, is a sentiment which tends to make sinners careless about their future and eternal welfare, not only treats the word of God with impertinence, but is subject to a fair refutation. What right have we to do violence to the scriptures under the pretension that the doctrine taught by them is unwholesome ? If that were the case, where would the blame lie ? It is conceived that Christian modesty ought to silence such impertinent objections ! It is, however, found in the scripture which we have considered, that those spirits, to whom the gospel was preached, with a design that they might live according to God in the spirit, were JUDGED as they who were in the flesh, by him who is the proper judge of the quick and the dead. This judge says, “ I will give unto every one of you according to your works." Far be it from the word of God either to encourage the sinner in wickedness, or to discourage him from hopeing in divine mercy. God is a just God and a Saviour.
OF THE TIME, COMMONLY CALLED THE MIL
LENNIUM. This period of time seems immediately to succeed the reign and kingdom of the beast. Of course, this thousand years may be supposed to have begun, when it may be supposed that the forty and two months, the one thousand two hundred and three score days, the three years and an half, the time, times and half a time, (which all agree in one thousand two hundred and sixty natural years,) closed. Or if it better suit to put the close of antichrist's kingdom in the now future tense, every one may have his opinion ; though it seems reasonable enough to suppose that satan is so bound now, (as to deceiving the nations, that he has but little more to do than to vent his spite at the chain of divine truth with which his deceptions are discovered and lim. ited. One important circumstance, which distinguishes tliis period of time, is noticed in Rev. XX. 4, “ And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and Judgment was given unto thein : 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 on their foreheads, or in their hands, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”.
This passage is misunderstood and misapplied when used to prove that all who have been believers in Christ, in this life, will be raised from the dead, and live here on the earth a thousand years; for there are none spoken of in the text but those who were BEHEADED for the witness of Jesus. Nor does it well com- port with the general character of this book of Revelations, to suppose that those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus should LITERALLY rise from the dead, and live PERSONALLY on the earth. This notion is no better founded than an opinion would be, that the two witnesses of whom notice has been taken, were two individual persons, who were killed by a literal beast, and whose dead bodies lay above ground in the street of some great city, for one thousand two hundred and three score days ; after which they literally rose from the dead, and ascended up to heaven. Our Christian scribes are subject to error as well as the Jewish scribes. The scribes of old who professed to know the law and the prophets, taught the people to expect Elias the prophet, according to the prophecy of Malachi, but they so misapplied the scripture that they knew him not when he come, and finally he was put to death. See St. Mat. xvii. 10-13, “ And his disciples asked him, saying, why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew himn not; but have done unto him whatsoever they Histed : likewise shall also the son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.”. Those scribes of the Jewish church expected old Elijah would come into Jerusalem and espouse their doctrines and principles, and make such a display of divine power in defence of their tenets and traditions, that it would put their opponents to