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66 Tell us,
the question which the disciples asked the divine master, in the 3d verse of the 24th chapter : when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the (aioonos) world?” Now we have proved that the end of the aioonos, in the 24th chapter meant the end of the Jewish dispensation. It follows therefore, by fair analogy, that if the aioonos, which came to an end in the generation that Jesus lived on the earth, meant a dispensation or order of things, that which followed meant the same (viz.) a dispensation or order of things.
The plain simple truth is this; The dispensation and order of the Jewish economy ended, and the gospel dispensation and economy commenced ; and so did the dispensation of that long and severe judgment on the house of Israel, under which they have groaned until this day.
We therefore render the text thus ; “ These shall go away into a dispensation of punishment, but the righteous into a dispensation of life, or into the gospel dispensation. This gospel dispensation or aioonos, is mentioned by the Saviour, in Matt. xxviii. 20, “Where Jesus sent forth his disciples to preach, and said to them; Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the (aioonos world."
The hearer is referred to PARKHURST's Greek Lexicon, where on this word he will find the following; “ An age, period, periodical dispensation of divine Providence. In Matt. xxiv. 3, it evidently refers to the Jewish age, or age under the Mosaic law. (See Whitby, Dodridge, and Macknight on that text.) But in Matt. xxviii. 20, it seems plainly to denote the age under the Messiah.”
When this subject is seen in its own clear light, when we look at it with the eye of unprejudiced candor, and view it in its relation to the threatenings denounced by Moses on the rebellious house of Israel, we see that Jesus denounced on the Jews no other punishment than such as Moses and the Prophets had foretold. If the hearer will examine the 26th chapter
of Leviticus, the 28th of Deuteronomy, the 4th of Lamentations, and compare them with the 24th and 25th of Matthew, he will be satisfied that neither Moses, the Prophets, nor Jesus spake any thing of punishing the house of Israel in a future state of existence; but he will be convinced that not only Moses and the Prophets, but Jesus likewise did denounce the most awful and distressing calamities on the Jews, that we can possibly conceive of human sufferings in this world of misery and woe.
When Pilate, being convinced of the innocence of Jesus, would have released him, all the people answered, saying, “ His blood be on us and on our children.' They pronounced the dreadful imprecation and were taken at their word. God has visited the iniquity of the fathers
the children of them who have hated him, and has executed on the wicked the judgments which were foretold by the prophets.
But all this seems nothing in the eye of that blind superstition, which can see no punishment for sin in this world, and which applies the threatenings to a future state. But in the judgment of reason, and in the light of divine revelation, the punishments which have been inflicted on the Jews for the wickedness with which scripture and history charge them, have been according to their sins.
As to the argument, that punishment must be as durable as happiness, it not only seems to be destitute of any evidence, but repugnant to reason. Punishment is designed to reclaim from sin, that happiness may succeed; but if punishment be endless it certainly is the end of divine Providence, and not the means by which he brings a more glorious end to pass.
To conclude : my friends, the dealings of God with. his children in past ages, should be regarded by us as examples of his faithfulness to his promises and his threatenings. As our heavenly Father has always rewarded the righteous, and punished the wicked in a way to make his approbation of the former and his disaprobation of the latter evident to every observing mind, let us be wise for ourselves and for our children, If we approve the opportunity which God has offered us, to throw off error and superstition, and to receive Christ and his pure religion, we shall enter into life; and our children after us, in room of inheriting from us, error and darkness, will bless their fathers and their mothers, who resolved to throw off the doctrine of despair, and to espouse the hope of the gospel of God our Saviour.
Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more the
wicked and the sinner.
Among the reasons for calling your attention at this time, to the consideration of this subject, the following may be named :
i. This passage having been made the subject of one of our discourses on the 1st Sabbath of November last, a number, who heard the discourse at that time, have since requested that it might have a place among the lectures. And
2. This subject seems so nearly allied to our last, that it is thought advisable to place it next in course, that it may operate in some measure as a farther illustration of it.
Our text gives evident support to the following particular subjects:
1. There is righteousness in the earth. 2. There is wickedness in the earth. 3. There is a sure recompense for righteousness. 1. There is a sure recompense for wickedness. 5. The recompense of righteousness is in the earth. 6. The recompense of wickedness is in the earth.
These particulars may be said to be fully proved by the text; for there can be none righteous, unless there be righteousness, and there can be none wicked, unless there be wickedness; nor can righteousness be recompensed when there is none, nor can wickedness be recompensed where it does not exist.
The hearer's attention is now invited to an inquiry, which will be directed to ascertain how to make a proper distinction between the righteous and the wicked. The way in which this subject is generally held, supposes that there is one class of men who are exclusively righteous, and another class exclusively wicked. Hence we hear so much about two classes of mankind. Christian preachers and commentators have filled their sermons and their volumes with lengthy and intricate descriptions of these two classes of people. If we say any thing of the divine favor to all mankind, if we express the least hope that God will have compassiorf on all men, if we bring plain scripture to testify and say, “ The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works,” we are severely rebuked by those who call themselves righteous, who tell us that the scriptures every where make two classes of people, the righteous and the wicked.
That the scriptures speak of two characters is freely acknowledged; but that they every where or even any where give support to the notion that one class of mankind is exclusively righteous, and another class exclusively wicked is by no means acknowledged.
It is worthy of special notice that the testimony of scripture agrees with matter of fact. For instance, scripture says: “While the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.” Now the matter of fact testified by the passage quoted, perfectly agrees with what we know by experience to be true. But should we find that the scriptures any where say, that while the earth remaineth there shall be a certain class of people, from generation to generation that shall be exclusively righteous, and another class exclusively wicked, could we say that this is evidently true ? could we say that these two classes have always been as distinguishable as seed time and harvest, as cold and heat, as summer and winter, and as day and night?
My friends look round you: do you know who these righteous are? Can you distinguish this righteous class