« VorigeDoorgaan »
difficulty in fixing on the precise point whence the twelve hundred and sixty years are to be calculated. Let it cheer us to reflect, that, according to every system of interpretation, it is near at hand.
II. And how long shall it endure?
On this subject there have been three principal opinions.
1. Some have supposed that the term one thousand years, is a definite put for an indefinite number; and that it means only that this happy state of the church shall endure for a long time. But this is utterly improbable. The expression one thousand years is repeated in this connexion no less than six times; and there is nothing in the context, nor in the nature of the thing, that requires us to understand it in this indefinite sense.
2. Others have contended, that, as in this book a day is to be taken for a year, the millennium will endure three hundred and sixty thousand years. But this appears to me inconsistent with many passages which speak of the day of judgment, and consummation of all things temporal, as nearer than, on this supposition, it would be; and also with the language of scripture when it represents this world in its general course as evil and wicked; which it would not be, if for so many thousand years it was devoted to God. Besides, the language of prophesy does not lead to this conclusion. It is true that smaller things are symbols of greater, as days of years. But I do not recollect a single instance, in which the term year, the greatest periodical revolution known to the ancients, is not to be interpreted literally.
3. I therefore adopt the sentiment of the vast måjority of commentators, that it is literally a thousand years that this happy state is to endure.
Such then are the glorious days that are hastening on! What sentiments are excited by the contemplation of them! Do you regret that you shall not live in this happy period? Rather bless God for the advantages you enjoy over so many who reside in less favoured countries, or who have been born in less interesting times. You have every advantage for securing your own salvation, and heaven is still better than the millennial church. Instead then of indulging regrets, strenuously exert yourselves in the cultivation of your own holiness, and in extending the cause of the Redeemer. In introducing this period, God will use means. Are you members of those societies whose object is to prepare the way of the Lord? Arise, then, my brethren; "the bridegroom cometh." It is "high time to awake out of sleep;" salvation, the salvation of a world, is near! We who are older can depart in peace, hoping, in heaven, soon to hear of the accomplishment of these predictions, and to join in the joy that will there be universally felt. And you that are young, may see the day of which we have beheld the dawn. "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are already white for the harvest."
And what a harvest! Who can imagine the number that then will be saved? Under the peculiar blessing of God, without those judgments which our sins bring upon the world, free from war and those crimes and passions which destroy so many, it is surely to be expected that the inhabitants of the
world will double once in fifty years: I might say in half the time, as has been the case in our own country. But even on the former supposition, you will immediately perceive, if you take your pencil,
that at the end of the millennium there would be one million forty-eight thousand five hundred and seventy-six men on the earth, for every individual that was on it at the commencement of this period. Think of these and the intervening generations, and we cannot doubt that there will be hundreds of thousands more saved than has been from the creation of the world! It is emphatically indeed the day of salvation," of joy to heaven, and blessedness to earth!
ISAIAH Ixiv. 6.
We all do fade as a leaf.
THE God of the scriptures is also the God of nature. We are therefore in the holy volume frequently directed for instruction to the works of creation. "Ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: or speak to the earth and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee, that the hand of the Lord hath wrought all this." (Job xii. 7—9.) Thus Paul bids us trace the goodness of God in "rain from heaven and fruitful seasons;" thus the Saviour teaches us that the sparrow and the lily of the field proclaim to us the care of providence; and thus, in the text, we are directed to the falling leaf, as an emblem of our feebleness and frailty.
It would be easy to show in how many respects the leaf is emblematical of the life of man. Youth is the opening leaf of the flower in spring; beautiful and lovely, and promising future luxuriance; but, alas! how often is this promise delusive! how often
instead of arriving at maturity, is it blighted by the insect, crushed or devoured by the beasts of the field, broken down by the storm, or borne away by the wind! Bereaved parents, who, while watching the expanding faculties and the opening virtues of your children, have been overwhelmed with anguish, while your fond anticipations have been buried in their tomb! Youths, who have poured your tears over the tombs of those youthful associates who have been torn from you in the bloom of their years! with what energy will the words of the text strike your hearts; with what deep feeling will you acknowledge its truth. Manhood is the full-grown leaf, or rather the tree, on which all the leaves appear in their maturity. The good man affords to those around him refreshment and nourishment from his shade and from his fruit; while the bad man, like the poisonous manchineel, or the fabled upas, destroys those tender plants over which his influence extends, and diffuses pestilence and death around him. The leaf shaken by every wind, trembling at the gentle whisper of the breeze, well represents the mind of man agitated by anxiety, ruffled by cares, always discomposed and restless.
But leaving these and similar points of resemblance, let us apply the words of our text to the successive generations of men, to our bodies, and to our minds.
I. "We all do fade as a leaf." It is true of whole generations of men. These rapidly flit across the surface of the earth, and having acted their parts for a few years, have sunk into the grave, while their places have been occupied by a new generation, as short lived and as transitory as themselves. The earth, on which they indulged their passions, for