GLIMPSES OF THE TRUTH AS IT IS
IN JESUS by Octavius Winslow
"The Coming of the
Lord in its Relation to Nominal Christianity"
"Our lamps have gone out." Matthew 25:8
It is a distinguishing feature of the word of God that it
is a record of stupendous and authenticated facts- a revelation of great and
glorious events, a large portion of which yet remains to be fulfilled, but
which will as certainly be accomplished as that God, whose Spirit in the
prophets predicted them, is true. To the contemplation of one of these great
transactions- the first in point of importance, and the greatest in point of
grandeur- the attention of the reader will in this chapter be directed. The
coming of the Lord in glory and majesty, is the event of unfulfilled
prophecy- the central point of hope to the Christian Church, and will be the
signal of terrible judgments upon nominal Christendom, and the unbelieving
world. Surely it becomes a question with each individual, of the most
serious moment, "What part will be assigned to me in the great transaction?
What will be my position, and shall I be able to stand when he appears?"
The reader will at once perceive that it is our present
design to view this subject in its practical bearing upon character, and
more particularly in its solemn relation to a false profession of Christ. No
statement in God's word can possibly be clearer than that which describes
the Lord as finding, when he comes, a portion of the professing church in a
state of actual unpreparedness for the event. They are not surprised in a
state of infidelity, or of atheism, or of open and gross ungodliness,
"eating and drinking with the drunken," but in the assumed character of
professing Christians, mingling with the true church of God, and dreaming-
alas! it is but a dream! -of an actual participation in the grace that is to
be brought unto the saints at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Our Lord thus
portrays their character and describes their state at his appearing- "And at
midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go out to meet
him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish
said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone (or, are
going) out." Let us, in attempting a spiritual and a practical improvement
of these solemn and searching words, direct our attention, first, to the
great event to which they refer; and then, to an analysis of the character
which they describe.
THE EVENT is none other than the SECOND COMING OF THE
LORD. We are left to no speculation or surmise as to the certainty of this
event. Not more clearly was the doctrine of the first advent one of express
revelation and distinct announcement, than is the doctrine of the second
advent. It is a doctrine of Scripture, and therefore to be studied and
believed. And never will the standard of spirituality in the Christian
church rise to its proper elevation, nor her serried ranks present so
formidable a front to her foes, until she has been brought as fully to
receive, and as joyfully to hail, the one advent as she has fully received
and joyfully hailed the other. The truth is, the discussions which have
agitated and divided the Christian church as to the mode of his coming,
have; tended, we fear, to avert the eye of the church from the fact of the
Lord's coming. And thus, the "blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the
great God our Savior," which should have been a truth uniting,
strengthening, and sanctifying the "one body," has been lost sight of amid
the strife of party and the conflict of opinion. But we will endeavor to
present to the believer's eye a scriptural glimpse of this great truth- a
truth, than which, none can be more earth-detaching and heaven-attracting to
a believing mind.
We have already gone at some length into the Scripture
testimony to the doctrine of the second coming; but as it is possible that
these pages may meet the eye of some who have not given to this line of
argument any lengthened attention, we will arrange a few Scripture proofs
under their proper heads, a candid and prayerful examination of which must
lead to the conviction of the great truth which they so clearly
substantiate. The reader is requested, at his leisure, to turn to the
passages in his Bible.
1. The doctrine of the second coming of the Lord was
fully believed and ardently anticipated both by the Old and New Testament
2. Christ will come in the clouds of heaven.
3. His coming will be sudden and unexpected.
4. The gathering together of the saints to meet the Lord.
5. The trial of the Christian Church previously to the coming of the Lord.
6. The sealing of the saints in anticipation of this time of trial.
7. The saints will reign with Christ.
8. The iniquity of the earth will be full at the coming of the Lord. (See an
analogy to this truth in the destruction of the wicked in the time of Noah.
And subsequently of the Amorites. And then of the Jews.)
9. The gathering together of the Jews, their restoration to their own land,
their conversion, and the judgment of God upon their enemies.
10. The coming of the Messiah, the signal of vengeance upon his enemies.
11. The doctrine of the second coming of our Lord, a holy influential truth.
A motive to godly sorrow.
To holiness of life and divine conformity.
To the mortification of sin in believers.
To spirituality of mind.
To patience and long-suffering.
To moderation and sobriety.
Against censorious judgment.
To ministerial fidelity and diligence.
To growth in grace and holiness.
To the study of prophecy.
From this line of Scripture testimony, to the truth of
the doctrine of our Lord's second appearing, let us proceed to take a rapid
glance at some of its more interesting and prominent CHARACTERISTICS. The
first point that strikes us is, the long interval which transpires
previously to the accomplishment of the event. But in this we see an
illustration of the wisdom and mercy which have ever been so conspicuous in
the Divine government. Immediately after the apostle had announced the truth
of the Lord's coming, he found it necessary to guard the individuals to whom
he had written against the idea of the Lord's immediate appearing- an error
into which they had evidently fallen- and which, in a second letter, he thus
corrects: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus,
and by our gathering together unto him, that you do not be soon shaken in
mind, nor be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from
us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." Thus it clearly appears that, so
far from the doctrine of the Lord's coming being a strange and a novel idea
to the early church, it was not only an article of their belief, but it was
the theme of their joy, and the cherished object of their anticipation. The
apostle, however, found it necessary to check this ardent feeling of the
early Christians, by reminding them, that certain great events must
transpire, preparatory to the coming of the Lord. He then proceeds to
specify two in particular- a season of great spiritual declension, and the
temporary ascendancy of the papal power. "Let no man deceive you by any
means: for that day will not come, except there come a falling away first,
and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
And is there nothing, we earnestly ask, in the events
which are now transpiring, identical with these two remarkable premonitions
of the advent of the Son of God? Are there not a sad waning of spirituality,
a declension of vital godliness, of heart-felt religion? And are there not
also a painful defection from the doctrines of grace, and a revival of
Popery in a form the most specious and seductive, and therefore the more
alarming? Let the reader make himself intelligently acquainted with the
history of his own times, read, compare, and judge, and be found prepared
for the final issue.
We may regard the delay attendant upon the second coming,
in yet another and an interesting point of view, namely, as illustrating the
dispensation of mercy under which we live. As in the antediluvian world,
"the patience of God waited in the days of Noah," thus affording to the
impenitent space for repentance before the Lord came in the terror of his
judgment; so, as it regards the coming of the Son of Man, -the interval
between the prediction and its accomplishment, is an interval of mercy to
the ungodly and impenitent world. The patience of the Lord now waits. God
has ever shown himself slow in the execution of judgment, but quick in the
exercise of mercy. His wrath has been wont to linger, as if reluctant to
break forth; but his goodness has ever gone before us, as if by
anticipation, meeting and providing for our need. The coming of the Lord,
while it will consummate the blessed hope of the Church, will, to an
ungodly, infidel world, be the fearful signal of overwhelming judgments.
Hence the delay. Mercy stays the uplifted arm of vengeance, and cries,
"Forbear!" The Lord "waits to be gracious." "I gave her space for
The divine banner is extended, an armistice is
proclaimed, proposals of peace are made, a plan of reconciliation is
announced- rebel sinners are urged to ground their arms, and to submit to
the government of God. Yet, see how the scoffers requite this merciful
delay! "There will come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own
lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers
fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the
creation." "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily,
therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." But
Christ will come, and "Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall
stand when he appears!" Not those who Christian walk in the counsel of the
ungodly, and stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of the
scornful. They 'shall be like the chaff which the wind drives away; the
ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of
But in what character, with especial relation to his
Church, will our Lord appear? It will be twofold. He will come, first, as a
triumphant King. As a victorious King, he is now enthroned in glory. "You
have ascended on high; you have led captivity captive." He returned back to
heaven as a conqueror over sin, hell, and death. Never did a Roman victor
return from the battlefield bearing such spoil, nor amid such glory and
acclamation, as that with which Jesus returned to his kingdom. The Captain
of our salvation had gotten himself the victory over every foe of his
Church. He met and battled, single-handed and alone, the combined hosts of
his enemies, and hers. And although he fell in the conflict, he yet won the
battle. He conquered by submitting to conquest; he overcame in being
overcome. He slew death in being slain by death.
Do you want a confirmation to your belief in the
essential Deity of your coming Lord? Behold it, beloved. Where will you turn
to the record of a battle so strange, between combatants so opposite, and
attended by results so wondrous? That, in the greatest weakness, our Lord
should demonstrate his greatest strength; that, by a decided defeat, he
should prove the victor; and that, in succumbing to the power and dominion
of death, he should be the death of death! Oh! how truly divine does he
appear! Believer in Jesus! the King, whose banner waves over you, has fought
and won all your battles. One with him, every believer is victorious.
Treading in his Lord's footsteps, he overcomes, even as he overcame. It is
impossible but that the weakest believer must obtain the victory in the
severe conflict which he is waging with the foe. He may at times be foiled,
embarrassed, and overcome, but he will ultimately triumph. The battle may go
against us, but not the war. Faith realizing its union with the Lord,
obtains the victory. And never does the believer go forth to face the enemy
in the name of Jesus, but with the disciples he may exclaim, "Lord, even the
devils are subject unto us through your name." Come, you faint and exhausted
warriors! and refresh your spirits and renew your strength with this
precious truth- your Captain is victorious! He who lives for you upon the
throne- he who dwells in you by his Spirit, is he who rose to glory with
your every foe chained in defeat and humiliation to his chariot, "carrying
Do you still hesitate to believe so great a truth? Hark
how his angelic escort heralded his approach to glory! "Lift up your heads,
O you gates, even lift them up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory
shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the
Lord mighty in battle." "Hark, ten thousand harps and voices
Sound the note of praise above!
Jesus reigns, and heaven rejoices
Jesus reigns the God of love;
See, he fills yon azure throne!
Jesus rules the world alone."
"King of glory, reign forever!
Yours an everlasting crown
Nothing from your love shall sever
Those whom you have made your own;
Happy objects of your grace,
Destined to behold your face."
"Savior, hasten your appearing;
Bring, O bring the glorious day!
When, the awful summons hearing,
Heaven and earth shall pass away,
Then with golden harps we'll sing,
Glory to Our REIGNING KING."
But our Lord, although a victorious, is not a triumphant
King. Nor will he be, until he comes the second time to receive his kingdom,
and to reign in undisputed and universal supremacy in the bosom of a
gathered church, and over a subdued and renovated world. He will then appear
"more than a conqueror " -even TRIUMPHANT. He is represented as having,
"after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right
hand of God; from henceforth waiting until his enemies be made his
footstool." What are we to gather from this statement? Much that is deeply
and gloriously significant. It describes the Redeemer in the interval
between the victory and the triumph- the victory which signalized his past
humiliation, and the triumph which will aggrandize his coming glory. It
defines his position of repose, and his attitude of expectation. It is
impossible not to perceive, in these remarkable words, a reference to
another and a final conflict- the issue of that conflict being the crowning
act of his glory.
Are his enemies yet his footstool? Are all things yet
subdued under him? Is the world subdued? Is sin subdued? Is Antichrist
subdued? Are the powers of darkness subdued? Is death subdued? No! But they
shall be. At what time? When Christ "shall appear the second time without
sin," or a sin-offering, and therefore no more as a Priest who is to die;
"unto salvation" -and therefore as a King who is to reign. "Then comes the
end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father;
when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and power. For he
must reign, until he has put all enemies under his feet." Then, then will
our Lord appear as a TRIUMPHANT KING to your eye.
Picture the scene! Every foe now falls before him. Death,
the last enemy, is destroyed. All his enemies are "consumed with the word of
his mouth" -the universal diffusion of his gospel, "and with the brightness
of his coming" -the kingly power of his advent. All Antichrists retire-
their imposture exposed, and their pretensions confounded- and CHRIST
remains in triumph. All earthly kingdoms are dissolved- their dominion
destroyed, and their glory passed away- and the kingdom of Messiah fills the
world. All principalities and powers lay down their sovereignty at his feet,
and Immanuel triumphantly reigns, having on his vesture and on his thigh a
name written- "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
"He shall reign from pole to pole,
With illimitable sway;
He shall reign, when, like a scroll,
Yonder heavens have passed away.
Man's last enemy shall fall,
Hallelujah, Christ in God,
God in Christ, is all in all."
But our Lord will appear in another character- one
particularly endearing to his Church. He will come as her BRIDEGROOM.
"Behold, the Bridegroom comes!" Jesus sustains no relation to his Church
more expressive than this. From all eternity he betrothed her to himself,
and forever. He asked her at the hands of her Father, and the Father gave
her to him. He entered into a covenant that she should be his. The
conditions of that covenant were great, but not too great for his love to
undertake. They were, that he should assume her nature, discharge her legal
obligations, endure her punishment, repair her ruin, and bring her to glory.
He undertook all, and he accomplished all- because he loved her. The love of
Jesus to his Church is the love of the most tender husband. It is single,
constant, affectionate, matchless, wonderful. He sympathizes with her,
nourishes her, provides for her, clothes her, watches over, and indulges her
with the most intimate and endearing communion.
"Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word;
that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or
wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
Reader, do you know what this union with Jesus is? Apart from its
experience, pride not yourself upon any other union. The dearest, choicest
ties of human affection are but as brittle glass. They are easily broken,
and soon destroyed. No union, but that which is with Jesus, and in Jesus,
extends beyond the grave. He must share in every tie of creature love, if it
be holy and permanent. Think not that the union of holy hearts is dissolved
by death. O no! -death does not sever, death unites the sanctified. The
bonds of the holy are beyond his ruthless power to break. The love which the
image of Jesus, reflected in his people, inspires, is as deathless as the
love of Jesus himself. It is as immortal as their own redeemed, transformed,
and glorified nature. And in reference to a more divine and elevated
sentiment than that to which the poet refers, we apply his beautiful words,
"They sin who tell us love can die
With life all other passions fly,
All others are but vanity;
But love is indestructible.
Its holy flame forever burns;
From heaven it came, to heaven returns."
But the Lord Jesus will come in the clouds of heaven, and
this will be the occasion of his public espousal of his Church. Her present
union to him is secret and unknown, invisible to the world, and often
concealed to herself. But he will appear, openly and visibly, to take her to
himself; and before his Father and the holy angels, he will solemnize her
eternal union. O what a time of splendor and of rejoicing will that be!
Arrayed in his nuptial robes, Jesus will descend to make her his own; and
she, ''prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, will go forth to meet
him." Then will be heard the song of angels, "Let us be glad and rejoice,
and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife
has made herself ready." Yes! "blessed are they who are called unto the
marriage-supper of the Lamb." May the writer and the reader, through grace,
sit down together there!
But there will be those whom the coming of the Lord will
surprise in a state of TOTAL UNPREPAREDNESS. Our allusion now is to NOMINAL
PROFESSORS of Christ. To such the words of our Lord's parable unquestionably
refer. That the "five foolish virgins" were professors of the Gospel, cannot
admit of a doubt. They, too, like the true disciples of Jesus, had their
lamps. But they were lamps merely, and nothing more. When the Bridegroom
came, they were found empty, without one particle of oil, and the despairing
cry was- "Our lamps are going out!" But let us, with all solemnity, portray
In attempting to describe the case of a mere professor of
the Gospel, we will commence with his religious creed. Herein, we fear, lies
his deepest self-deception. He is, perhaps, a profound theologian, is well
schooled in the 'five points' of divinity, is an acute reasoner, a skillful
debater, and an able and vigilant defender of the outposts of Christianity.
He can subscribe fully to the Thirty-nine Articles, to the Westminster
Confession, and to the general truths of revelation. He has no doubt of the
divinity of the Bible, his creed is well balanced, and his general views of
truth would be considered evangelical and orthodox. And yet, thus far may he
proceed in the deepest self-deception. With all this "form of knowledge,"
this lodgment of the truth in the understanding, this subscription of the
intellect to the doctrines of revelation, he is an utter stranger to that
heart-transformation, that inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, without
which the soul is spiritually dead, the heart is unrenewed and unholy, and
the whole moral man is unfit for the kingdom of heaven. In short, we have
here the case of one who, while his judgment assents to the truth, his heart
entirely rejects it. The Gospel is to him a thing of intellectual
subscription, and not of heart experience. Not a single truth of the Bible
has become an element of life and holiness in his soul.
The word, in its letter, is an instrument of light; but
not, in its spirit, is it an instrument of quickening. With such
deep-meaning declarations as these, he is experimentally unacquainted- "The
law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord
is sure, making wise the simple." "Your word has quickened me." "Being born
again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God,
which lives and abides forever." "Of his own will begat he us, with the word
of truth." "Sanctify them through your truth." Thus far will the religion of
intellect extend. The grand point at which this religion rests short, is
REGENERATION, a word mighty in its import, although entirely excluded from
the theological vocabulary of the man of mere intellectual subscription to
Divine truth. Yet, what a mighty doctrine is this! There it stands in the
Bible, and it cannot be erased. We tell the man proud of his orthodoxy, and
boasting of his well-poised creed- we tell the man of sound philosophy, and
of high intellectual attainments, that though he had the gift of prophecy,
and understood all mysteries and all knowledge, yet without the regenerating
grace of the Holy Spirit, and supreme love to God, the light within him is
darkness, and that darkness is the certain prelude to the "blackness of
darkness" of despair. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he
cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Shall we describe him in his general conduct? This,
perhaps, is exemplary and commendable. As a member of a Christian church,
holding, it may be, an office of distinction and responsibility, as a
parent, as a master, as a citizen, men admire and commend him. He is a
zealous partizan, is the man of societies, of committees, and of meetings.
His name may be found high upon the subscription list, and appended to
generous donations. He is a religious patriot. He will devote his talents,
his time, and his wealth, to the erection of public sanctuaries, or to the
propagation of the Gospel, or in promoting various benevolent and popular
enterprises. In the more retired walks of domestic life, the same species of
religion may be seen. He will bend his knee in family worship, catechize his
children, instruct his domestics, and seek to inculcate and exemplify that
which is lovely and of good report.
But follow this Christian professor into the world. Is it
evident that the great separation has taken place? Is he there a witness for
God? Ah, no! He can mingle with the world, and be of the world, and be as
the world, and yet not misplace a single fold of the silken robe with which
his religion invests him. He talks of its innocent recreations as sources of
high and justifiable enjoyment. He can devour the contents of a novel, or
contemplate the transactions of a play, with the same interest with which he
bends over the pages of inspiration. The dizzy mazes of the dance, and the
voluptuous music of the oratorio, and the delirious excitement of the cup,
are sources of enjoyment greater and more frequent than the hallowed
engagements of the sanctuary. This is the man of mere religious profession.
Have I exaggerated the picture? Ah, no! I have drawn from life. That there
are innumerable cases of false profession, not so glaring, or so strongly
marked, or so easy of detection and of analysis as this, I readily admit.
Instances, many of an external putting on of Christ, and of a very zealous
engagement in his service, and of apparent consistency of walk, of much
acquaintance with Scripture, and fluency of religious phraseology, in which,
nevertheless, the great separation of the man from his own righteousness has
never taken place; the conviction of sin, never felt; brokenness of heart,
never experienced; faith in Jesus, never exercised; the pardoning love of
God, never realized; the preciousness and graciousness of the Lord, never
Even this may, by some, be thought too strong a picture
of self-deception. Not stronger than that which Jesus himself drew- "Not
every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of
heaven, but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many shall
say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and
in your name have cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful
works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me,
you that work iniquity." These are searching, solemn words! Who can read
them with composure, without fixing his eye of faith upon the cross of
Jesus, exclaiming, as he looks, "Sinners, of whom I am chief?" Who has not,
at times, been overwhelmed with the self-agonizing thought, "What, if I
should be found at last to have possessed nothing but the empty lamp of a
Christian profession?" Happy are they whom the searching inquiry may lead
more entirely from themselves, to look to Christ, to rest in Christ, to walk
in Christ- in the truth of Christ, in the love of Christ, and in the spirit
But the dim and flickering light which a mere informed
judgment, or which an external profession gives, sooner or later is
extinguished. A season of prosperity often proves fatal to a profession of
godliness. Divine Providence smiles, riches increase, and with them the
temptations and the snares, the luxury, indulgence, and worldly show, which
are inseparable from the accumulation of unsanctified and unconsecrated
wealth. And what are the results? In most, cases, the entire relinquishment
of the outward garb of a religious costume. Found to be in the way of the
full indulgence of the carnal mind, it is laid aside altogether; and thus
freed from all the restraints which consistency imposed, the heart at once
plunges deep into the world it all the while secretly loved, sighed for, and
worshiped. Oh! what a severe, but true, test of religious principle is this!
How soon it detects the spurious and the false! How soon does the verdure
wither away! "The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,
choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." "The prosperity of fools shall
But if a professing man passes through this trial, and
still retains his integrity- still walks closely and humbly with God- still
adheres to the lowly cross- bearing path of Jesus- is still found as
diligent in waiting upon God in public and private means of grace- is still
as meek, lowly, and kind, increasing in devotedness, liberality, and love,
with the increase of God's providential goodness around him, such a man has
the "root of the matter in him;" and "he shall be like a tree planted by the
rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf shall
not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." His prosperity has not
A time of adversity is often equally as fatal to a
profession of religion, founded upon no true Christian principle. If, in the
smooth path, we are apt to slide, in the rough path we may stumble. Periods
of great revolution in the history of the Christian Church, when God tries
the principles, the conscience, the love, and the faith of his people, are
testing-periods. What numbers make shipwreck then of their high profession!
And when God enters the pleasant garden of a man's domestic blessings, and
blows upon the lovely blossom, or blights the fair flower, or severs the
pleasant bough, or scatters the hard-earned wealth of years, or wastes the
body's vigor, or frustrates the fond scheme, how does an unrenewed man
deport himself? Is his carriage humble, submissive, childlike? Does stern
Christian principle now exhibit itself, in beautiful contrast with the trial
that has called it forth? Does Divine grace, like the aromatic flower, now
appear the sweeter and the lovelier for its being crushed? No, does not
every feeling of the heart rise in maddened rebellion against God and
against his government? Ah, yes! how accurately does Christ describe his
case!- "he has not root in himself, but endures for a while; for when
tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is
It is impossible to blind the eyes to the truth, that a
time of trial, such as the Christian Church has never yet experienced, is
fast approaching. Our Lord foretells it. "There shall be great tribulation,
such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever
shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh
be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." Daniel's
"horn" is yet to "make war with the saints, and prevail against them until
the Ancient of Days come, and judgment is given to the saints of the Most
To this period of trial, just previously to the Lord's
second coming, the same prophet again refers in language similar to
Christ's. "At that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands
for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such
as there never was since there was a nation even to that same time." Then
will the Lord bring the principles of his people to the touchstone of truth.
Then will he sift professors as corn is sifted, and the storm will scatter
the chaff of mere profession, while not a grain of the true wheat shall fall
to the ground. The trial thus so clearly predicted, and so evidently
approaching, will be, not so much a trial of separate branches of the
Christian Church, as it will be a trial of the whole body. It will be a
battle for the great essential truths of the gospel, held in common by all,
and in which general and severe conflict, all the minor and indifferent
things that have so long divided and dismembered the church of Christ, will
be lost sight of and forgotten, merged in one great common cause, against
one great common foe. This period of trial, while it thus will drive the
sheep of the one fold more closely together- now alas! so widely separated
and scattered- will be pre-eminently distinguished for its development of
truth. The occasion for its investigation will be peculiarly favorable. It
will be a conflict for the truth. "What is truth, what is the whole truth?"
will be the inquiry of every lip. Christians will be placed in a better
position, and be surrounded by more favorable circumstances, for its study.
Truth has never so clearly and powerfully developed
itself- its nature and its energies- as in periods of trial and of
suffering. What may be said of the growth of the believer in a personal
knowledge of the truth, will, with equal propriety, apply to the advancement
of truth in the world. The time of trial makes the truth more precious to
the heart, and clear to the mind. The affections entwine more closely around
it then, and the judgment more distinctly perceives its meaning and its
bearings. What believer has not learned more of his Bible in a season of
affliction than he had ever learned before? "It is good for me that I have
been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes." Then let the dark cloud
lower, and the tempest that will shake the Church of Christ to its center,
come, it will but develop the nature, and accelerate the advancement of the
pure truth as it is in Jesus. Men of different views, driven beneath the
same shelter by the common storm, finding themselves bending before the same
mercy-seat, and addressing their petitions to the same Father, deriving
their consolation from the same source, and realizing their oneness in the
same Lord, all the mists of prejudice and the congealings of coldness now
melted away, they will read, and examine, and compare together; and the
happy result will be a clearer unfolding of the mind of the Spirit in the
word, and a more perfect harmony of judgment and of affection in those who
are one in the heart and mind of God. Then will the truth, the divine,
precious truth as it is in Jesus, spread, replenishing this sorrowful earth
with gladness, and girding this dark globe as with a zone of heavenly light.
There are two periods of awful solemnity, which will be
found utterly to extinguish the mere lamp of a Christian profession. Will
you follow me, reader, to the dying bed of a false professor? It is an awful
place! It is an affecting spectacle! No hope of glory sheds its brightness
around his pillow. There is no anchor within the veil, to which the soul now
clings in its wrenchings from the body. No Divine voice whispers, in
cheering, soothing accents, "Fear not, for I am with you." No light is
thrown in upon the dark valley as its gate opens, and the spirit enters.
Coldness is on his brow, earth recedes, eternity nears, the vaulted damps
ascend and thicken around the parting spirit, and the last wail of despair
breaks from the quivering lip, "My lamp is gone out!"
Withdrawing from this affecting scene, let us in
retirement read and ponder, with an earnestness and self-examination which
we have never done before, the appropriate warning of Jesus, "Not every one
that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he
that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in
that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name; and in your name
have cast out devils; and in your name done many wonderful works? And then
will I profess unto them, I never knew you- depart from me, you that work
iniquity. Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I
will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the
rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that
house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that
hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened unto a
foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended,
and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it
fell; and great was the fall of it."
And so will it be when the Son of Man comes. This great
event will fix unchangeably the destiny of each individual of the human
race. It will break like the loud artillery of heaven upon a slumbering
church, and a careless world. It will find the true saints with "oil in
their vessels with their lamps," though in an unwatchful state. It will come
upon the nominal professor, grasping firmly his lamp of profession, but
utterly destitute of the oil of grace, and in a state of as little
expectation of, as preparedness for, the advent of the Lord. And it will
overtake and surprise the ungodly world as the flood did in the days of
Noah, and the fire in the days of Lot- "they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage, they bought, they sold, they planted, they
built, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and until the same day
that Lot went out of Sodom." "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son
of Man is revealed."
The true saints will arouse from their slumber- the
spirit of slothfulness and lethargy into which they had fallen- and,
trimming their lamps by a fresh exercise of faith in Jesus, will go forth as
the "children of the light," to welcome their approaching Lord. False
professors, too, startled by the cry which breaks upon the awful stillness
of midnight- solemn as the archangel's trumpet- will eagerly feel for
their lamps- their evidences of acceptance based upon an outward profession
of the gospel, when lo! to their surprise and consternation, they find
themselves destitute of one drop of oil with which to feed the flickering,
waning flame, and they exclaim in despair, "Our lamps are going out!" And
now the intellectual light goes out, and the moral light goes out, and the
professing light goes out, and the official light goes out; and while they
have fled to human sources to procure the grace they needed- their backs
being thus then turned upon Christ, the "Bridegroom comes; and those who are
ready go in with him to the marriage, and the door is shut."
They return with what they suppose the needed evidences,
but now they learn- O that they should have learned it too late! -that to
have had a mere professing name to live- to have outwardly put on Christ by
baptism -to have united externally with the church of God- to have partaken
of the Lord's Supper- to have promoted his truth, and to have furthered his
cause- to have preached his Gospel, and even to have won converts to the
faith, will avail nothing- alone and apart from union to Jesus by the
Spirit, obtaining admittance to the marriage supper of the Lamb. "Afterward
came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered
and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not." In view of such a
catastrophe, O how poor, contemptible, and insignificant, appears
everything, however splendid in intellect, beautiful in morals, or costly in
sacrifice, except the humble consciousness of having Christ in the heart the
hope of glory!
But, there are those, whose lamps of Christian profession
will not go out when the Lord appears. They are his own chosen, redeemed,
and called people. Their light, by reason of manifold infirmities, may often
have burned but dimly through life; but there is vital religion in the soul-
the golden, precious oil of grace, flowing from Jesus into their hearts. And
this can never be extinguished. Many were the hostile influences against
which their weak grace had to contend; many were the trials of their feeble
faith, but the light never quite went out. The waves of sorrow threatened to
extinguish it; the floods of inbred evil threatened to extinguish it; the
cold blasts of adversity threatened to extinguish it; and the stumbling of
the walk, and the inconstancy of the heart, and the declension of the soul,
often, for a while, weakened and obscured it; but there it is, living,
burning, and brightening, as inextinguishable and as deathless as the source
from where it came.
The grace of God in the heart is as imperishable, and the
life of God in the soul is as immortal, as God himself. That light of
knowledge enkindled in the mind, and of love glowing in the heart, and of
holiness shining in the life, will burn in the upper temple in increasing
effulgence and glory through eternity. The divine light of Christian grace,
which holy grief for sin has enkindled, which love to God has enkindled,
which the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has enkindled, will outlive and
outshine the sun in the firmament of heaven. That sun shall be extinguished,
those stars shall fall, and that moon shall be turned into blood, but the
feeblest spark of grace in the soul shall live forever. The Lord watches his
own work with sleepless vigilance. When the vessel is exhausted, he stands
by and replenishes it; when the light burns dimly, he is near to revive it;
when the cold winds blow rudely, and the rough waves swell high, he is
riding upon those winds, and walking upon those waves, to protect this the
spark of his own kindling. The light that is in you, is light flowing from
Jesus, the "Fountain of light." And can an infinite fountain be exhausted?
When the Sun is extinguished, then all the lesser lights, deriving their
faint effulgence from him, will be extinguished too- but not until then. Who
is it that has often fanned the smoking flax? Even He who will never quench
the faintest spark of living light in the soul. "You will light my candle."
And if the Lord lights it, what power can put it out? Is not his love the
sunshine of your soul? Is he not he himself your morning star? Is it not in
his light that you see light, even the "light of the glory of God, in the
face of Jesus Christ?" then, "Arise and shine, for your light has come, and
the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!"
Of this holy and encouraging subject- the imperishable
nature of true grace- let us take yet another view. And let it be remembered
by the reader, that I am now referring especially to the weakest degree of
grace ever found in a gracious soul- that grace cannot die. The divine life
of a believer, from its very necessity, is deathless. The life of Adam was
never so secure, even when he lifted his noble brow in spotlessness to God.
The new life is more secure in a state of imperfection, than his was in a
state of innocence. He stood in his own righteousness, upheld by his own
power, and yet he fell. But we are more secure, because we stand in the
righteousness, and are kept by the power, of God. His life was hidden in
himself; our life is hidden in Christ, and is as secure in Christ, as
Christ's is in God. It is truly remarked by Charnock, that "Adam had no
reserve of nature to supply nature upon any defect;" but out of Christ's
fulness we receive grace upon grace.
How much more ready are we to complain against this small
measure of grace, than to praise God for the weakest grace, and to thank Him
for an inexhaustible source, on which we may at all times fall back! The
believer ever has a reserve of grace. His resources may often be exhausted,
but he has a stock in Christ's hand, and which, for the wisest end, is kept
solely in Christ's hands, upon which he is privileged at any moment to draw.
Well is it that that supply of grace is not all in our hands, else it would
soon be wasted; and well is it that it is not in angels' hands, else they
would soon be weary with our continual coming. But the covenant was made
with Christ, he being the Mediator as well as the Surety; and in him it
pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell. Thus, in his hands the
Father has intrusted the keeping of his weakest child, even your soul,
beloved, though you are the weakest of the weak. An infant as much belongs
to the family as the most matured member. Its place in the parent's heart is
as strong, and its claim upon its share of the inheritance is as valid. So
is it with the feeblest child of God.
And most faithfully does our Lord Jesus discharge his
office. Is the church a garden? Jesus goes early to the vineyard, to see
"whether the tender grapes appear, and the pomegranates bud." Is it a flock?
Jesus "feeds his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs with his arm,
and carries them in his bosom." Can any imagery more affectingly set forth
the tenderness of Christ towards weak grace- the weak lamb carried, not on
the shoulders, not in the arms, but in the bosom of the Shepherd? Yes, there
is one image, the most expressive and tender in the universe of imagery a
mother's love for her infant. Does God compare His love to this? Hearken to
His words "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have
compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet will I not
O that you would, in the simplicity of faith, press this
precious truth to your trembling, doubting, fearful heart! Nothing does the
Holy Spirit seem to take such pains in comforting and strengthening, as real
grace in its greatest weakness. Would he indulge our weak faith and our
limited measure of grace? O no! But while he would have us sue for the
highest degrees, he would yet watch over the lowest degree of grace in the
soul. Remember, too, that the weakest grace has a throne of grace to supply
it, and the God of grace to delight in it, and the Mediator of grace to
influence it, and the Spirit of grace to brood upon it.
Though our grace be weak, yet the grace of all these is
sufficient to preserve us. The weakest grace in Christ's hand shall stand,
when the strongest nature without his guard shall fail. It is not our hold
of Christ that so much preserves us, as Christ's hold of us; though the
faith we hang by be a weak thread, yet Christ has a strong hand. Had you the
grace of a glorified saint, you could not maintain it without his help; and
that is sufficient to conduct through the greatest storms into the safe
harbor. The 'preserved in Christ,' is the happy title of those who are
"sanctified by God the Father."
But while I speak thus, it is in my heart, beloved, to
urge you to aim after more than the glimmering light; in other words, to
seek larger degrees of grace. Let your standard be the loftiest, and your
aim the highest. Place no limit to that which God has not limited. Never
cease expecting, until He ceases giving. If you are satisfied with your
present measure of grace, a worse sign you could not have. To be content
with being stationary in the divine life, places you in a doubtful position.
It is an essential property of grace that it grows; it is the immortal seed
of God, and must, from its very nature, germinate. If your faith does not
increase, your doubts will increase; and if your grace does not strengthen,
your fears will strengthen. Fill the measure with pure wheat, as one has
said, and there will be no room for chaff. Aim after elevated principles if
you desire elevated practice. Low principles inevitably lead to low
practice. Watch against that which tends to impair the vigor of your grace.
Watch against your most besetting sins- your greatest infirmities- your
strongest temptations. Beware of your own heart- beware of self-confidence-
beware of creature idolatry- beware of the world. Beware, too, of any
neglect of the means of grace.
Nothing will more tend to keep your grace at a low ebb
than this. God has appointed His channels of conveyance. They are the
ministry of the word, and the reading of the word, prayer and praise,
meditation, ordinances, and Christian communion. Beware that you do not
despise any one of them. A neglected sanctuary- a forsaken throne of grace-
an unread Bible- will soon bring leanness into your soul. The priests under
the law were to bring fresh fuel to the altar, morning and evening, for the
nourishment of the holy fire. "The fire shall ever be burning upon the
altar; it shall never go out." It is thus God keeps alive the holy fire on
the altar of our hearts in the use of His own appointed means. He has as
much ordained the means of grace, as He has promised the grace of the means.
You will invariably find, that grace languishes with duty. If, we are
listless in duty, we shall soon become lifeless in duty. Therefore let us
thirst after God, as the hunted deer pants for the water-brook. Especially
draw largely by faith on Jesus. He is the great Reservoir from where all the
conduits are supplied. All means of grace are just what Jesus makes them.
Behold, then, the coming of the Lord in its solemn
relation to a nominal profession of Christianity. In a land where the
institutions and the ordinances of religion are so strictly and so properly
observed; where religious training from infancy, and the habit of an early
connection with the visible church, and the consequent observance of the
Lord's Supper is expected and enjoined, are such marked characteristics,
would it be overstepping the bounds of propriety and delicacy, if, in view
of this solemn event, we press upon the professing reader the importance of
close self-examination, and of trial by the word of God touching the GREAT
CHANGE, apart from which, the most splendid Christian profession will but
resemble the purple robes and the fine linen with which Dives moved, in
grandeur and in state, to the torments of the lost.
Professors of religion! Church communicants!
office-bearers! -have you the root of the matter in you? Have you Christ in
you? Are you temples of the Holy Spirit? Are you walking humbly with God?
Are you born from above? Rest not short of the great change- the heavenly,
the divine birth. Place no reliance upon your external relation to the
church of God. Do not be deceived by a false semblance of conversion. You
may go far, as we have shown, in a Christian profession, and even may live
to see the Lord come in the air, and yet have not one drop of oil in your
vessel with your lamp.
Have you sometimes trembled under the powerful exhibition
of the truth so did Felix, and yet he never truly repented. Have you heard
the Gospel gladly, and under its momentary influence, have done many things?
so did Herod, and yet he kept Herodias, and beheaded John! Do you show much
apparent zeal for the Lord? so did Jehu, but it was zeal for himself! Are
you the associate and the companion of good and holy men? so was Demas, and
yet he loved this present evil world! Have you been united to the church
upon a profession of faith and by baptism? so was Simon Magus, and yet he
was in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity! Do you desire to
die the death of the righteous? so did Balaam, and yet he died as the fool
O look well to your religion! Take nothing for granted.
Think less of polishing your "lamp," than of having a large supply of oil,
that when the Lord sends or comes, you may not be found in darkness, not
knowing where you go! Without converting grace in your heart, your church
relation is but the union of a dead branch to a living stem; and your
partaking of the Lord's Supper, an "eating and drinking of the Lord's body
and blood, (as symbolically represented therein,) unworthily." Receive in
love these faithful admonitions, penned by one whose only hope, as the chief
of sinners, is in the finished work of Immanuel, and let them take you to
prayer- to the word- to Christ.
"The coming of the Lord draws near." If the apostle, in
his day, could thus exhort the saints, how much stronger reason have we for
believing that "the Lord is at hand!" Every movement in the
providential government of God, indicates the near approach of great events.
The signs of the times are significant and portentous. The abounding
profession of Christianity- the advancement of human science- the increase
of the papal power- the spirit of despotism, of infidelity, and of
superstition, these three master principles- at this moment expanding
through Europe, and struggling each with the others, and all with the
gospel, for supremacy- and the extraordinary movements now going forward in
reference to the return of the Jews- are heralding the approaching chariot
of the King of kings. The Church of God will yet pass through severe trials-
"many shall be purified,' and made white, and tried;" nevertheless Jesus
lives, and Jesus shall REIGN, and the church shall REIGN with Jesus.
Let the thought of his coming be an influential theme of
meditation and joy, of hope and action. The present is the suffering state
of the Church. It is through much tribulation that she is to enter the
kingdom prepared for her by her coming Lord. But, amid the sorrows of the
pilgrimage, the perils of the desert, the conflicts of the field, the
blasphemies, the taunts, and the persecutions of the world, the pangs of
disease, and the wastings of decay, we will have our "citizenship in heaven,
from where also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will
change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,
according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto
himself." He, "whom not having seen, we love," will soon appear, and then he
will chase away every sorrow, and dry up every tear, and annihilate every
corruption, and perfect us in the beauties of holiness. Then there will be
no more rising of inward corruption, no more exposure to temptation, no more
solicitations of evil, and no more wounding of the bosom upon which we
recline. The heart will be perfected in love; and the mind, developing its
faculties, enlarging its knowledge, and yielding up itself to those
intellectual revelations, to that everlasting sunlight of the soul," which
all will enjoy who love, and long for, Christ's appearing- will merge itself
in the light and glory and holiness of the Eternal Mind.
O that the reign of Christ may be first by his grace in
our hearts, then we may indeed expect to reign with him in glory! The cross
below, is the only path to the throne above. The crucifixion now, the glory
then. The sword in our hearts here, the crown upon our heads hereafter.
Precious Jesus! hasten your coming! We love you, we serve you, we long for
you, we look for you. Come, and perfect us in your likeness!
"Oh! loved, but not enough- though dearer far,
Than self and its most loved enjoyments are
None duly loves you, but who, nobly free
From sensual objects, finds his all in Thee."
"Glorious Almighty, First, and without end,
When will You melt the mountains and descend?
When will You shoot abroad your conquering rays,
And teach these atoms you have formed, your praise?"
"My reason, all my faculties unite
To make your glory their supreme delight;
Forbid it, Fountain of my brightest days,
That I should rob you, and usurp your praise!"
"My soul! rest happy in your low estate,
Nor hope, nor wish to be esteemed or great;
To take the impression of the will divine,
Be that your glory and those riches Thine!"
"Confess him righteous in his just decrees,
Love what he loves, and let his pleasure please;
Die daily- from the touch of sin recede;
Then you have crowned Him, and he reigns indeed!"