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appear, the glories and meaning of His death and resurrection have awakened an unending song among the sons of men. When Jesus uttered “It is finished,” then the song began, and the expiring breath of the Son of the Highest upon Calvary blew into a lasting flame the ardent love of His disciples-a flame that on the altar of men's hearts persists and grows, propagating itself through century after century, with a constancy and victory that confounds philosophy, and makes sport of every other faith and want of faith.
John's work was in the highest degree necessary. It was to prepare a people whose minds were imbued with simply carnal notions of the Messiah's kingdom for a Deliverer from evils and bondage of which they had a most inadequate conception. The redemption of man and of man's world must begin at the core of man's being-his spiritual nature. From the seat of his capacities as a worshipping child of God must proceed, as from the centre and energy of the whole, the renovation of his being and the restitution of all things. Hence Christ's first kingdom must needs be a spiritual and invisible one, and the work of the Forerunner must be a preparation of men's hearts. John in effect preached : “It is not subjection to Rome that you are suffering from. The independent kingdom you long after is not the kingdom you have lost. The oppressions you groan under are not your heaviest yokes. The contempt you endure is not your deepest degradation. Look within ! look without ! at your neighbours--he that hath no coat and no meat. Was it your unrighteousness towards him that gave you two coats and a full larder ? If so, make restitution. You farmers of the revenue, stop your extortions ! exact no more than is appointed you. You soldiers, who are regularly fed and clothed, and are in constant pay (good things that millions sigh for in vain in Christendom to-day!] dare not by violence and false accusation to add unto your wages.
Oh, generation of vipers, ye do well to ask me, What shall we do? for the axe is now laid at the root of every one of you, and every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
Fear drove the listeners to their first good works, which worked themselves clear of the impurity of motive as they were continued. For in all obedience to the will of God, if it be only from the dread of God, there is an immediate reward, and what begins under a base constraint is repeated from a new affection, and is finally clung to as a principle of life, and connected inseparably with the love of God. Laws these of a spiritual kingdom owing their origin and energy to the “ Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” John the Baptist, in fact, introduced a new and brief dispensation--the dispensation of repentance towards God, which was to be succeeded by the present dispensation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John's plough went up and down the hearts of men, uprooting their old notions of Israel's salvation, and begetting tears and cries and resolves in his hearers, which made them crane their necks heavenward for a healer of hearts, a forgiver of sins, a restorer of righteousness. Under his preaching mountains of pride were laid low, the depressions of the humble-minded were uplifted, the “crooked ways of the worldly and the covetous were made straight. Jordan's rapid stream was stemmed by the multitudes that came to be baptized, and ere it reached the Sea of Death it was salted by the tears that fell. It was a dispensation unto life for those who got no further. Apollos was saved under it, but the brighter light was always the better, and Apollos was to see it before he died.
Water is a sign of the “faith ” which "purifies,” but fire is the far stronger symbol. “I indeed baptize you with water : but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner ; but the chaft He will burn with fire unquenchable.” Thus did John prepare a highway for his Lord.
And Elias is to come again. Again, when the very opposite work will require to be done, but by the same kind of preaching, as a preparation for the Second Advent and the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. When men shall have made of Christ's religion, not a practical workday principle of righteousness and family life, all men being to one another as Father and children, but a thing for Sundays and the world to come. When the kingdom of God will be relegated to the region beyond death, and the idea of its practical exhibition in Time be derided as Utopian. When the salvation of men will have really come to mean the salvation of angels, and the notion of the human race being redeemed by the coming and sacrifice of Christ to a glorious life upon the very spot which has been drenched with their blood, their sufferings and their sin, be scouted and condemned as the carnal dreams of enthusiasts who lack the heavenly wisdom.
In those days—when the support of creeds and doctrines shall be made the vantage ground for the ostentatious display of piety and benevolence; when offerings to God, costly enough to make men gape, shall smell offensively of fraud and oppression—the future of saved humanity will still be thought of as mainly consisting of hymns and wings and clouds. To the Christian philosopher faith will grant a lute whereon to whistle throughout eternity, and to the Christian statesman will be accorded a pretty palm to wave up and down for ever and ever. All the heroes and martyrs will fill niches somewhere in the clouds, and formal ceremonial praise will not even be diversified by prayer. While these will be expectations entertained respecting the future of the privileged few, the great broad stream of humanity untouched, unblessed, unredeemed by Christ, will continue to roll on its tragic course, suffering under all the ills of time, and under the manifold disabilities and injustices of a civilisation only varnished instead of interpenetrated with the principles of the Gospel. To such an age Elias shall come to preach the kingdom of heaven upon earth, to preach a material regeneration as a demonstration and result of a spiritual, to proclaim that the human race is not to end as a failure, a history reflecting an inscrutable shadow upon the character of God, in which the victories remain with Satan and the overthrows with Christ; the harvests with the Destroyer, and the gleanings with the Saviour ; but that its triumphant and blest career as a lung-breathing species standing at the head of creation has yet to commence, and will start from the day when Christ shall sit upon the throne of David the Shepherd King; when, through the establishment of the sermon on the mount, as the law of His kingdom, government and politics and trade shall be entirely transformed, and wars shall cease. When, as a consequence, men shall be led into green pastures and beside still waters, while every year will see that kingdom broaden until the ends of the earth shall be knit together in the bonds of one fond fed family. But judgments must inaugurate this reign. Mary speaks of it in her inspired Psalm : “He hath shewed strength with His arm : He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy, as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever."
Israel will certainly be restored in that day. We see then the Forerunner in the first Advent had to uproot false carnal notions of an earthly kingdom, which it was not possible to establish in the glory of righteousness until a foundation had been laid for it in the regeneration of man's spiritual being : and this, which was the greatest, as it was the first work essential to the redemption of the world, was accomplished by Christ at His first coming, by His life and truth and sacrificial death. When also He won for man admittance to a world beyond the grave, to an "inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. But the conquest over sin and evil is not complete which appoints to human life sin, misery, and degradation, and only beyond the grave its path of honour, peace, and plenty. The history of humanity as a distinct department of creation, appointed a career upon this earth, would remain, we repeat, a dark and tragic failure, a reproach to its Creator, were it not destined to run through cycles of triumphant bliss under the reign of Christ and His saints, a period of honour and dignity and happiness to human beings, in the enjoyment of which the story of past degradation will appear as incredible, as we know it to be too true.
It is this period, this kingship, this kingdom of heaven, when God's will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, that Elias shall proclaim when preparing for the Advent of the King. The foundations laid in the truth and the faith which purifies, behold the day approaches when the lovely edifice of a society of men living together after the example and according to the laws, and under the Shepherd-rule of Christ shall arise to gladden the face of the universe of God. Then will an answer be given to the sneering question, “ Can the maxims of Christianity become operative prin. ciples in the stern battle of life?” Then will be vindicated the creation and the career of the family of man, as age after age
it continues to be a delightsome history, and the whole earth a garden of the Lord. And yet perfection will lie beyond, for the seeds of sin still lurk, and the Shepherd King is also ruler with & rod of iron. Another king still reigns, although with crippled power, man's life being lengthy as a trees'. The dayspring in those days shoots not high enough to kill that_shadow, though it will deepen the peace of every “God's acre.” But the perfect day succeeds when after the final struggle and subjection Satan and next the “last enemy,” Death, shall be destroyed. Then, and then only, can God wipe away all tears from off all faces. Bristol.
A VISION OF THE MILLENNIUM.
Which heaven has heard for ages, have an end.
Sweet is the harp of prophecy ; too sweet
But when a poet, or when one like me,
O scenes surpassing fable, and yet true,