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If then the view of the nature of the promised Second Advent of the Lord and descent of the New Jerusalem which has now been imperfectly sketched, should be deemed probable and satisfactory, I might urge, that the publication, in the present day, of a system of Christian doctrine in which such a view is afforded, alone gives reason to apprehend, upon the principle that the prophecies of Scripture are never exactly understood till the time of their accomplishment, that the time for the accomplishment of these great prophecies has arrived, or, at least, must be near at hand. It is indeed true, as has been shewn, that many have before concluded, from the known signification of Jerusalem in prophetic language, as denoting the church, (a signification explicitly assigned it by the apostles,)* that the New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse must signify a new and greatly improved state of Christianity in the world: our explication then of this sublime prophecy is not new, except regard to the greater precision with which the particulars of its signification are unfolded: but the explication of the prophecy of the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, as denoting his presence in the literal sense of his Word and the unfolding of the bright glory of its spiritual or internal sense, was never known in the church, till delivered in the doctrines which we believe to be those of the "New Jerusalem:" if then this is the true explication, (and that it is so is capable of being proved with a weight of evidence that makes negation difficult,†) this circumstance alone affords a sign, that the time for the accomplishment of these predictions, in their true sense, which is their spiritual sense, has arrived. The mere statement of this argument here may not appear to carry much weight: but when it is connected with a knowledge of what the doctrines which we believe to be those of "the New Jerusalem" are; when these doctrines are seen to exhibit all the great truths of pure Christianity in a clearer light than ever they were placed in before, and to discover with demonstrative evidence the errors of the sentiments by which
* Gal. iv. 26; Heb. xii. 22.
See some of this evidence in "The Plenary Inspiration," &c. in the passage referred to in a former note, and in the Appendix to that work, No. iv.
their genuine lustre has been long obscured; when, together with the doctrines of pure Christianity, the spiritual sense of the Scriptures is seen to be truly unfolded, its existence demonstrated, and the Word of God proved in consequence to be the Word of God indeed:-When,
say, these truths are seen, as they may be seen, in the Writings of the Author we so highly esteem; every mind which duly appreciates them will be apt to conclude, that such discoveries could never have been made by any unassisted human intellect, and that the only probable way of assigning them an origin, is, to regard them as a consequence of that Second Coming of the Lord which they announce. I do not however insist upon this argument at present; but I trust that some of the considerations which give it weight, will appear in the progress of this Appeal.
But beside such evidences that the present is the era of the Second Coming of the Lord as require examination to discern them, are there none which may be obvious even to the superficial observer? It is said, that every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him;" words which imply, that his coming must be attended with signs perceptible to every understanding, even to those who do not and will not acknowledge him, how palpably soever the signs may declare his advent: Are there then any such signs as these exhibited before the world at this day? I answer without hesitation, such signs are abundant and obvious; so much so, that there is not one person in this country, possessing a share of information and observation sufficient to raise him above the most stupid of the vulgar, who has not remarked them with astonishment,-who does not behold them making continually fresh calls upon his attention. It is true, that, though the signs are obvious, the true cause from which they proceed is not generally adverted to: Because the manner of the Lord's second coming, like that of his first coming, differs from the common expectation, his presence is not generally discerned now, any more than it was then: But this only strengthens the parallelism of the case; since the Lord rebuked that generation also, because they could not "discern the signs of the times." But whether discerned,-rightly weigh† Matt. xvi. 8; Luke xii. 56.
* Rev. i. 7.
ed and discriminated,— -or not, the signs have been such as to force themselves on the notice of all. Does not every voice confess that we are living in a most extraordinary era of the world? Is not every mind impressed with the conviction, that there is something almost preternatural in the character of the present times? Has not the change which has taken place during the last thirty or forty years, the seeds of which had been fermenting for twenty or thirty years previously, in the whole aspect of Europe, of Christendom, of the world, such as has filled with amazement every one who has witnessed it, every one who contemplates it? After every section of the great family of mankind has been seen struggling through convulsions which seemed to threaten the dissolution of all human society, does not order,-a new and improved order,-appear again to be emerging out of chaos? Are not extraordinary improvements, in everything connected with the comforts of human life, and the advancement of the species in civilization, in knowledge, and, ultimately, in virtue, continually springing up? and are they not continually calling forth, from every quarter, exclamations of surprise, and expanding every bosom with the hope, that the opening of a new and happier day than the world has ever before seen is now dawning on mankind? But I forbear to enter more particularly into this delightful part of my argument at present, as it will be necessary to turn to it again when I come, in the next Section but one, to treat of the Last Judgment,-a subject intimately connected with that of the Second Coming of the Lord. Meanwhile, this slight hint may suffice, perhaps, to open new ideas in the minds of the Reflecting, when they turn their attention to these striking facts. At present I will only say, that in the wonderful visitations of Providence, both in the way of judgment and of mercy, which the present generation has witnessed and is witnessing still, we behold plain signs of the times of the Second Advent. They are such, unquestionably, as are commensurate with the grandest cause which can be assigned for their production: and how can they so worthily be considered, as by beholding in them the results of the fulfilment of the last great predictions of Holy Writ, as by viewing them as harbingers of the Second Coming of the Lord?
Ultima cumai venit jam carminis ætas :
III. But, in the third place, while there are many circumstances and signs in the political and social aspect of the world at this day, which indicate that the time for the divine interference described in Scripture as the Second Coming of the Lord has arrived; are there not also circumstances in the situation of the world in regard to religion, which evince, that the restoration of true religion, promised under the figures of a Second Coming of the Lord and establishment of a New Jerusalem, cannot be much longer delayed without the most serious injury to the human race? It may at first perhaps appear paradoxical, that I should, on the one hand, advert to signs of the times which promise to the human race a new career of improvement and happiness, and draw thence an argument for the present being the era of the long expected Second Coining of the Lord; and, on the other hand, that I should point to signs which threaten to the human race most serious injury, to deduce thence also an argument in proof of the same position. But when the matter is accurately inspected, it will be found that there is here no inconsistency, and that the two arguments, instead of neutralizing, do in reality strongly support each other. For all the pleasing circumstances that have been alluded to only refer to man as a rational being and an inhabitant of this world; his state in regard to religion refers to him as a spiritual being also, and the destined inhabitant of eternity: an improvement of his condition in the former respect evinces an increased action of the divine influences in his behalf, the ultimate aim of which is to effect an improvement of his condition in the latter; but could the designs of Providence in this respect be frustrated, no improvement of the lower kind could bring real blessings, or could possibly be permanent. When a piece of new land is to be brought into cultivation, the first thing to be done is to clear the surface of its useless products, and to prepare the soil; the next is, to sow the seeds from which is to be produced the desired harvest. All improvements in the general condition of the human race, and in the natural powers and attainments of the human mind, answer to the process of the preparation of the
soil; and when it is thus prepared, unless the seeds of genuine Divine Truth be sown in it, the rankest weeds will spring up in abundance, and all the pains of the preparation be made abortive.
Do the views
Here then let us ask a few questions. of religion generally entertained afford these seeds? Are the seeds which they do afford such as the soil of the human mind, in its present improved state of preparation, finds congenial to itself, and which it will willingly admit into its bosom? If not, is there not a manifest necessity, if man continues to be an object of regard to his Maker, that a new dispensation of Divine Truth, adapted to the present state and wants of the human mind, should be communicated from its Divine Source;— a dispensation by which the veil of error, in which the doctrines of genuine Christianity have been too long involved, should be torn away, and the face of pure Religion, in all the glory of her native beauty, should De again discovered to mankind? And should such a dispensation be too long withheld;-in other words, should the Second Coming of the Lord be too long delayed; is there not reason to apprehend that the rank weeds of Infidelity, which have already, in copious abundance, begun to appear, would overspread the whole field of the human mind, and blast all hopes of any real improvement, in wisdom and happiness, for the hu
To consider each of these questions with the attention which its importance demands, would require more space than can consistently be allowed to this portion of our Appeal: I shall therefore answer them very briefly, and leave you, to whose reflections my Appeal is addressed, more maturely to weigh them for yourselves.
The first of them,-Do the veiws of religion now generally entertained afford the pure seeds of Divine Truth?— will perhaps receive a conclusive answer in some of the future Sections of this Appeal: for if it shall then appear that the Doctrines of Genuine Truth on the most momentous subjects of faith and life are different from those commonly maintained, it is evident, that pure divine truth is not in these to be found: and I had rather this should thus appear by inference, than enter into a