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THE WORD IN THE WORLD.
Here a deep and grand subject opens upon us at which I can but glance, though I must glance at it. That Word Who is said to be dwelling with these young men, to be upholding them against the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, that Word Who is to keep them at one with the forgiving Father they knew in childhood, and Who has promised to be with them till the end ; that Eternal Word is declared in St. John's Gospel to be the same by Whom the worlds were created, and without Whom was not anything made that was made. He is affirmed to be that form or type after whom the Divine Artist fashioned the whole universe. And He it is Who, as St. John speaks again, was made flesh and dwelt among us. He is that only begotten Son which taketh away the sin of the world. Therefore the young men, who by this Word are kept from that false selfish love of the world which is so dangerous to their faith and their freedom, may look for a blessed reward. They may come now or hereafter to know the world, not in its fleeting fashions, which pass away, but as it is constituted in Him who is to abide for ever and ever. They may know it with a true divine knowledge; they may love it with a true divine affection. I have quoted some lines from Cowper already. I will quote one more passage from the same poem. It is in a higher measure, I think, than that of his ordinary song. I wish that all divines, and all naturalists, and all artists would ponder it. I would commend it to you as containing truths in which every human being has a right to share :
So reads he nature, whom the lamp of truth
Which whoso sees, no longer wanders lost,
THE WINTER MORNING WALK.'
And adds his rapture to the general praise.
THE LAST TIME; THE CHRIST; THE ANTI-CHRIST;
1 JOHN II. 18—23.
Little children, it is the last time : and as ye have heard that antichrist shall
come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us ; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father : [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
How could St. John say that his time was the last time ? Has not the world lasted nearly one thousand eight hundred years since he left it? May it not last yet many years more?
You will be told by many that not only St. John, but St. Paul and all the Apostles laboured under the delusion that the end of all things was approaching in their day. People say so who are not in general disposed to undervalue their authority ; some adopt the opinion practically, though they may not express it in words, who hold that the writers of the Bible were never permitted to make a mistake even in the most trifling point. I do not say that; it would not shake my faith in them, to find that they had erred in
THE PERIODS OF HISTORY.
135 names or points of Chronology. But if I supposed they had been misled themselves, and had misled their disciples on so capital a subject as this of Christ's coming to judgment, and of the latter days, I should be greatly perplexed. For it is a subject to which they are continually referring. It is a part of their deepest faith. It mingles with all their practical exhortations. If they were wrong here, I cannot myself see where they can have been right.
I have found their language on this subject of the greatest possible use to me in explaining the method of the Bible; the course of God's government over nations, and over individuals; the life of the world before the time of the Apostles, during their time and in all the centuries since. If we will do them the justice which we owe to every writer inspired or uninspired,—if we will allow them to interpret themselves, instead of forcing our interpretation upon them,—we shall, I think, understand a little more of their work and of ours. If we take their words simply and literally respecting the judgment and the end which they were expecting in their day, we shall know what position they were occupying with respect to their forefathers and to us. And in place of a very vague, powerless, artificial conception of the judgment which we are to look for, we shall learn what our needs are by theirs ; how God will fulfil all His words to us by the way in which He fulfilled His words to them.
It is not a new notion, but a very old and common one, that the history of the world is divided into certain great periods. In our days, the conviction that there is a broad distinction between ancient and modern history has been forcing itself more and more upon thoughtful men. M.Guizot