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thing, which can warrant the opinion, that St. Paul in the second Epistle is referring to the advent which he had mentioned in the first Epistle, and thence that the advent which destroys the man of sin is identical with the literal second advent of Christ.
The Thessalonians, it appears, subsequent to their reception of St. Paul's first Epistle, were led to imagine, that the day of Christ, whatever precise day may be meant by the expression, was at hand. But to this notion they could not have been conducted by any thing which is said in the first Epistle for, so far as I can find, not a hint of such a nature does the first Epistle contain '.
What, then, it will be asked, could have induced them to take up such an opinion?
I answer: Some forged letter, which they had received as purporting to come from St. Paul, but
'It will scarcely, I think, be said, that the Thessalonians could be so obtuse, as to mistake St. Paul's generalising we for any intimation, that he himself expected to be alive at Christ's second coming. 1 Thess. iv. 15. Nor will it be said, that, from his general address to their community, they could have fancied, that that day should be witnessed by their own still living individual selves. 1 Thess. v. 4. Yet, except this mere generalising phraseology, the use of which is too familiar. in every language to create any misapprehension, I can discover nothing, throughout the entire first Epistle, which could give the Thessalonians any just reason to imagine, that St. Paul was announcing a speedy occurrence of the literal second advent of the Lord.
which St. Paul himself in his second and genuine Epistle takes occasion to disavow'.
This spurious letter, written, like the first and genuine Epistle, not in the Apostle's own chirography, but in that of an apparent amanuensis, occasioned their alarm: for it led them to imagine, that the advent of Christ to destroy the little horn or the man of sin, so graphically described by Daniel, was close at hand. To prevent any such impositions in future, therefore, while he assures them that that advent was still remotely distant and that the man of sin was not as yet even revealed, he tells them, at the close of his second and genuine Epistle, that the token, by which they might always distinguish his own proper letters, was his appended concluding salutation, written with his own hand, and not in the chirography of the amanuensis whom he might happen to employ 2.
Hence, I contend, we have no sufficient evidence, that St. Paul, in his second Epistle, refers to the literal second advent of Christ which he had announced in his first Epistle: and, consequently, I contend, that the vital fact of identicality still remains, as Mr. Mede left it, altogether unsubstantiated.
5. Hitherto I have considered the question only
2 Thess. ii. 2. Μήτε δι ̓ ἐπιστολῆς ὩΣ δι ̓ ἡμῶν: Nor by epistle AS IF from us. That is to say: Be not troubled by an epistle, as if it had come from us; for, in truth, no such epistle did we ever write to you.
2 2 Thess. iii. 17.
negatively and the result has been, that, since the predicted advent of Christ to judge the apostate Roman Empire immediately before the commencement of the Millennium has never been demonstrated to be identical with the literal second advent of Christ to judge both the quick and the dead; we cannot justly be required to admit a circumstance, the truth of which has never yet by any sufficient testimony been established.
At this point of the discussion, therefore, though we cannot reasonably be expected to beliere, that the literal second advent of Christ will occur immediately before the commencement of the Millennium; inasmuch as the fact of that occurrence has not been prored by evidence from Holy Scripture: yet neither can we legitimately deny, that the literal second advent of Christ may take place at that particular epoch; for a matter may be perfectly true in itself, although its truth may be incapable of antecedent demonstration.
Such being the present state of the inquiry, I shall now proceed to shew positively, that the speculation, respecting the occurrence of the literal second advent of Christ immediately before the commencement of the Millennium, is encumbered with so many difficulties and contradictions, that, upon the principles of sound reasoning, its admission is rendered altogether impossible.
(1.) In our Lord's own account of his literal second advent, the universal judgment, both of the quick and of the dead, of the just and of the unjust,
is described as taking place immediately upon the occurrence of that literal second advent: while not a hint is given of any long-antecedent resurrection of the martyrs, as if such resurrection were their peculiar and exclusive privilege'.
But the speculation before us places the literal second advent of Christ at the least a thousand years anterior to the universal judgment: and it causes it to be distinguished, at the epoch of its occurrence, not by the universal judgment itself, but by a prior resurrection of the martyrs, who literally reign with the Lord a whole millenary upon the renovated earth ere the universal judgment itself takes place.
The advocates for the present speculation will here doubtless plead the authority of St. John in the Apocalypse, who places a resurrection of the martyrs at the commencement of the Millennium synchronically with the alleged literal second coming of Christ, and who fixes the universal judgment to an epoch which follows the Millennium2.
With respect to this argument, we cannot allow Scripture to be so interpreted as to contradict Scripture.
Whenever, in Holy Writ, we find an apparent diversity of statement: that, which is mystical and obscure, must be expounded, so as to agree with that which is simple and perspicuous; not that,
Matt. xxv. 31-46.
2 Rev. xx.
which is simple and perspicuous, distorted from its natural and obvious meaning, for the purpose of making it accord with our own arbitrary exposition of that which is mystical and obscure.
On this legitimate principle, St. John's prophecy in the Apocalypse must be interpreted by our Lord's prophecy in the Gospel; not our Lord's prophecy in the Gospel, by St. John's prophecy in the Apocalypse.
The adduction, indeed, of St. John's prophecy, for the purpose of settling the present dispute, is neither more nor less than a complete begging of the question. That prophecy cannot justly be brought forward in argument, until it shall first have been proved, that the announced resurrection of the martyrs at the commencement of the Millennium is a literal resurrection. But this matter has never yet been proved: and, as (I trust) we shall hereafter find, the very opposite is capable of a full and direct demonstration'. Hence, even to say nothing of the necessity of interpreting St. John's obscure prophecy by our Lord's perspicuous prophecy, we cannot allow a mere arbitrary exposition of an obscure and mystical prediction to be adduced as any conclusive argument against what is certainly the plain and natural import of our Lord's simple and perspicuous prediction. Now the plain and natural import of that simple and perspicuous prediction is, that the universal judg