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first beams of the rising sun before he comes above the horizon, whilst the people in the glens and valleys below are involved in complete darkness, so the students of the signs of the times, diligently comparing what history records with what the Apocalypse predicts, may justly form a proximate estimate whether they are distant from or near to that great continent of glory to which earth, this broken-off island, shall be united, in order that heaven and earth may be one again.
The Redeemer will come at a time when there will be scoffers asking, with infidel scorn, “Where is the promise of his coming?” “There shall arise scoffers walking after their own lusts." These men have neither the candour of reasoners, nor the humility of men. Their scepticism is not the product of severe, if erroneous, intellectual reasoning, which their judgments compel them to accept, but an exhalation from the swamps of a corrupted heart. No earnest mind would scoff at religion or religious doctrines accepted by the devout but doubted by itself. A scoff is a miserable substitute for argument, and it persuades only those whose moral condition is akin to that of the scoffer. Yet these scoffs have underlying them a presentiment of the truth of the very hope that provokes them. The “carnal mind is enmity against God,” whose existence it cannot deny, and in its measure enmity also against those glorious truths and hopes that are radiations from His brightness. It cannot endure being disturbed or checked in its indulgences, or made to feel responsible at that tribunal from which
there is no appeal ; it therefore offers scoffs for arguments and scorn for evidence, “walking after its lusts.” Nor will such scoffers be left without help and encouragement in their career. Satan, who is the usurper, as “ Prince of the power of the air,” dreads the return of the lawful sovereign, and his resumption of rule and authority over a world out of which the evil one will be ejected and cast into the fiery abyss, and therefore he labours to darken what he cannot destroy, and to encourage all on his side, and to drag down with himself to the depths of ruin as many as he can corrupt and direct. The consequence is, the scoffers denounce what their evil hearts dislike. They look at truth through their distorting prejudices and by the media of corrupt passions; and whilst they profess to defer to reason, they view all through the foggy atmosphere of their own corrupt hearts. As clearly may one see the sun, or the moon, or the stars through a London November fog, as God's truth through the atmosphere of a depraved and unregenerate heart. What men need in order to be decided believers is less greater light in their heads, and far more richer grace in their hearts. When these men scoff at truth, it is specially when the truth of the Redeemer's advent is most preached and pressed upon the world's attention. As long as a truth sleeps in a library, or is banked up in a large folio, the world is not touched; but the instant that the truth locked up in the folio takes the shape of the tract or the pamphlet, and read of old by tens, it comes to be read by tens
of thousands, and is spoken of, and preached, and pressed home by a great company of preachers; when it begins to kindle dead hopes in some, and to animate, and stir, and glorify living hopes in others; in other words, when the atmosphere of social and national life comes to be laden with a grand hope and the world to reverberate with great truths ; then these unhappy men begin to scoff, and say, “Where is the promise of his coming ?” Then they bring all the artillery of satire, and invective, and misrepresentation to bear on the writers and preachers of such truth, walking after their own lusts. But they cannot prevent the spread of truth; their attacks give wings to its words. The very ferocity of the onslaught calls attention to the subject, and some that read to scoff learn to pray
These scoffers express their scoffs in some such way as this :—Christ says, “ Behold, I come quickly ;” these scoffers say, What nonsense ! Eighteen hundred years have rolled away, and he is not come;
and yet he says, “Behold, I come quickly.” Another says, “He cometh with clouds, and he will send out his angels, and every eye shall see him,” but the clouds have only come with rain, and no eye has seen Him; and angel visits to the earth have been few and far between. They read that the heavens and the earth shall be burned up, and that the elements shall dissolve with fervent heat; but they answer, The earth is cooling instead of warming; and the heavens seem as fresh as if they had been made yesterday. It is
“The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall
be turned into blood, and the stars shall fall from the heaven ; ” but, say they, the sun shines just as he has done all along, and the moon pursues her silvery way, and the stars stand out in all their magnificence and glory overhead. It is said, “He will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance of them that know him not ;” they say, No flaming fire is come; no vengeance has been taken ; where, then, you enthusiasts, methodists, fanatics, evangelical fools, and babblers, where is the promise of His coming ? There is no evidence of it; it is all fanaticism; no such advent is to be expected ; and as for the promise, God must have made a mistake when he inspired a prophet and an apostle so plainly and clearly to record it. These scoffers either impeach the truth or the power of God; either God has inspired a promise which has no truth in it; and, therefore, the apostle is in error when he says, "There are two immutable things, an oath and a promise, in which it is impossible for God to lie; or they say, God inspired the promise, but events have proved too mighty for omnipotence. Their scoffs, unable to darken the truth, will all recoil on themselves. Yet the scoffs they utter are predicted signs of the nearness of that glorious advent at which they scoff, and, alas, too certain and significant proofs that they are not in a condition to meet the King of kings.
Nevertheless, far back of these scoffs there lies a latent and ill-suppressed presentiment of the certainty and truth of these things.