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CHAPTER IX



PLYMOUTH ESCHATOLOGY, OR LAST THINGS



This school of theologians dwells at great length upon the future history of Christianity as it is unrolled to their anointed eyes in prophecy. They differ from the ordinary Adventists, inasmuch as they believe in a second and a third coming of Christ — the first for the saints, the second with them. In the first, Christ will not appear to the world, which will be in utter ignorance of that great event. At some day — not fixed in the Plymouth scheme, but at near at hand — Jesus will come down with noiseless footfall, like a thief, and raise the righteous dead, and change the righteous living, and snatch them all up in the twinkling of an eye; and no unbeliever will notice any disturbance in the graveyard or see his believing wife or child slip out of this world into the glorified state. He will miss them, and wonder where they are. This "rapture of the saints" is foretold in 1 Thess. iv. 17. But in the 16th verse there are three words indicating noise — a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God. But Plymouth exegesis easily explains this little objection. Dr. Tyng, the younger, says the shout is, in the Greek, a command, heard only by the living and the dead saints. The invisibleness of the resurrection and the rapture are argued from Christ's resurrection, and the translation of Enoch and Elijah, all of which were unobserved by the wicked world.

Again, all you know about the burglar is that your treasures are gone. You did not hear his wool-shod feet; you did not see his form while he was gliding about your bed. All that ordinary readers have seen in the simile, "as a thief," is the suddenness and unexpectedness of His advent. The Plymouth brethren add the perfect secrecy of His coming, work, and departure, thus making the comparison teach more than Christ ever intended.

The saints caught up into the air will be re viewed by Christ with a view to the distribution offices under His millennial reign. It seems that the question of patronage meets Christ at the opening of His kingdom on earth, just as it vexes every new president of the United States. But Jesus will have no hostile senate to conciliate. His civil service appointments will be made according to merit, after a rigid examination. In this way the works of the saints, but not their persons, will come to judgment. The question of their personal relation to the divine government was forever adjusted when they put forth the first act of faith in Christ. All the thrones, presidencies, governorships, secretaryships, judgeships, mayoralties, etc., down to the office of justice of the peace and constable, in all nations, will then be considered as vacant. The time occupied by this inquest into the works of the saints and their assignment to office, is supposed to occupy about seven years. Then when the state of the future millennial administration is made up satisfactorily to all concerned, the King descends with all His retinue of saints in all the pomp and majesty of royalty, impressing every beholder with awe and wonder. Now He appears. (See App.)

But the world to which He comes is in a sorry condition. The devil and Antichrists have driven rough-shod over the earth in the absence of the saints, and all the woes of the book of Revelation have been experienced; all the events of that book after the third chapter take place — the trumpets, the seals, and the vials.

By this time the world is sadly in need of a universal king, to bring order out of chaos. King Jesus makes Jerusalem His capital, and sends His appointees to their respective countries to enter upon their various offices. Perhaps St. Paul may mount the throne of Great Britain and the Indies, or become the President of the United States, without the bother of an electoral college. The Jews are all going to wheel into line by sudden conversion like that of Saul of Tarsus, and become Christ's right-hand men — the inner circle nearest the throne. They will become the great missionary agency, travelling through all lands, and preaching Christ, the Jews' Messiah and the world's Saviour. Satan will be bound in his prison-house a thousand years, and the Gospel, which was a failure for eighteen hundred years, will now begin its real conquest of the world. In fact, it never was Christ's design that the world should be converted through the great commission, "Go ye into all the world and preach," etc. That was designed only to keep alive on earth a testimony for Christ, not to inaugurate a victory.

In the absence of Satan, and in the presence of so many Hebrew Christian missionaries steaming over every sea and traversing all lands, impelled by their new-born zeal for the Nazarene, the work of conversion goes on very rapidly, and a nation is born in a day. At the close of the thousand years there is a review of the nations, and the inquiry is made how they have treated Christ's brethren, the Jewish evangelists. This review of the nations — not of individuals, in a general judgment, is described in Matt. xxv. 31-46. If you wish to embarrass a Plymouth brother, ask him to expound the whole passage, carrying through it from beginning to end the idea that nations, and not individuals of the human family, are there judged and eternally sentenced. The brother's embarrassment will be painful, and his makeshifts will be pitiable.

At the end of the millennium Satan is loosed for a season and makes sad havoc with the converts made in his incarceration. He raises an army and encompasses the camp of the saints, is conquered, and, with Antichrist, is cast into the lake of fire, the latter being a living man.

Finally, the wicked dead are raised and judged according to the description of the judgment of the dead, in Rev. xx. 12-15. To make out that only the wicked dead are judged, the book of Life which is brought into the judgment is assumed to be blank. This is a very violent assumption, as the reader of the passage will see.

After the sentence of the wicked dead, come the new heavens and the new earth — the eternal abode of the saints, if I can make out the meaning of the Plymouth doctrine on this point.

The effect of this teaching is, first, to belittle the Christian agencies now in operation by asserting that they are inadequate to the conversion of the world. Secondly, it gives a Jewish and highly materialistic turn to the kingdom of Christ, and leads to a depreciation of the spiritual manifestation of Christ by the Comforter in this life. Thirdly, it calls off the attention from the great saving truths of the Gospel, and leads believers to dwell upon airy and baseless speculations, and profitless argumentation. Fourthly, unless the laws of mind are all changed in this generation, we predict from the history of Adventism in past ages, that the Plymouth Brethren will soon begin to fix a definite time for the Advent, which will be followed by disappointment and all the moral and spiritual disasters of Millerism.


PESSIMISM



One of the most depressing doctrines of the Pre-Millenarians, especially of the "Brethren," is the hopelessness of the world under the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. They always and everywhere assume that this dispensation is a stupendous failure. "From the Cross to the Second Advent there is nothing but a parenthesis." I shudder at the disrespect which is thus shown to the Paraclete, the personal successor to the risen Lord Jesus.

It is, moreover, an imputation of a lack of goodness on the part of God to let the world wax worse and worse, and generation after generation go down to hell, who might have been saved or their existence prevented by the earlier coming of Christ to set up His earthly kingdom, converting the Jews in a day, and, through them, converting the Gentiles in a wholesale way by sheer omnipotence. But if the world is growing better under a purer and more widely preached Gospel, there is a merciful reason for the delay of the second coming of Christ to wind up the period of human history by judging the quick and the dead and assigning them to eternal destinies.


THE PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN



Every one of the Plymouth expositors, with out exception, attempts, by a wonderful exegesis of the parable, to show that the world is steadily and certainly going to the bad. Here the exposition: "The leaven does not mean the Gospel; it everywhere, in the language of the Spirit of God, which is always beautifully consistent with itself, means something evil. In twenty places, we have mention of leaven, and it always denotes evil. Into the 'three measures of meal,' not into the world, not into society at large — no, but into the new, unleavened lump — into the church — a leaven-like mystery of iniquity is introduced by the 'woman,' the seducer, the mother of harlots. The very hiding of it looks suspicious. Could this mean the public preaching of the Gospel? The whole lump — sad announcement! — was to be leavened. Has not this announcement been fulfilled?" Then follows a dismal picture of Christianity, painted with a brush dipped in the blackness of darkness, ending with this question, "Is there one single Christian here whose garments are not soiled, in whose heart 'leaven,' in one form or another, is not working?" (Eight Lectures on Prophecy.)



Let us now turn to Matt. xiii. 31-33. The mustard seed certainly represents the kingdom of heaven in this one aspect, its inherent self-developing power from a small vital germ. The leaven just as certainly represents, not a foreign, corrupting principle thrust into the kingdom of heaven, but that kingdom itself in another aspect, its power to penetrate and assimilate a foreign mass. As the yeast transforms the heavy and indigestible dough into light and wholesome bread, so does the Gospel transform wicked hearts. For the leaven has its good side as well as its bad, and to this good use the Gospel is compared. This is the traditional explanation of this parable, which is certainly full of good sense.

Let us examine the Plymouth view. The meal is the church. This is a pure assumption. The form of words, in both parables, is the same. The kingdom is like a grain of mustard-seed, and like leaven. If it is like it in its progress of corruption and deterioration, surely "there is," as Alford well says, "an end of all the blessing and healing influence of the Gospel on the world."


THE GRAIN OF MUSTARD-SEED.



Not content with a pessimistic perversion of the parable of the leaven, they attempt to foist an entirely new meaning upon the preceding parable. The mustard-plant grows in order to attract to its branches the carrion-eating birds, "the vulture, the cormorant, the night-owl and the bat." These "unclean birds" typify the gross abominations predicted by Christ as nesting in His Church. But what is the proof? The Lord himself tells us, in the previous parable, who are the "fowls" or "birds of the air"; for it is the same word that is used in both places. "Then cometh the wicked one and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart." Therefore, the birds which picked up the farmer's seed scattered on the sidewalk, were not clean, grain-eating birds, such as pigeons and doves, but were vultures and owls! "Thus the kingdom of heaven, as it purports to be, or nominal, national Christianity, becomes a vast and monstrous worldly system."

A meaning utterly different from that intended by the great Teacher is read into His words by a style of reasoning which would pervert and subvert the whole Bible, if it were universally applied. Yet this sophistry is eagerly swallowed by those who desire to prove that the world is on the down grade, nearing the brink of destruction, and the church is crowded with a plethora of sins, and is so far gone in wickedness as to be past praying for, and deserves nothing but vilification and denunciation by all true lovers of Christ's appearing. We do not wonder that "the Brethren" are all come-outers after they have accepted this interpretation of these two parables.


PROBATION CLOSED IN ADAM'S FALL



One is surprised, in reading Plymouth theology, by the declaration made by all the writers that human probation closed with the fall of Adam. The idea seems to be that, since legal justification is impossible to the fallen race, that "the era of probation has been finally foreclosed." "The Holy Spirit," says Dr. R. Anderson, "has not come to re-open the question of sin and righteousness and judgment, but to convince the world that it is closed forever." How different is this from St. Peter's exordium at Caesarea! "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him." This looks like probation on the plane of natural theology, the religion of the conscience. St. Paul seems to endorse Peter's doctrine in Rom. ii. 6-16. No one can study this whole passage without admitting that pagans, without the law, and without the knowledge of the Gospel, are being put to the test by God to show whether they have the spirit of faith; i.e.. the disposition to grasp Christ, the object of faith, were He revealed to them; and the purpose of righteousness, i.e., the disposition to walk by the perfect law, were it disclosed to them. This I call probation. I do not see how the "Brethren" can, by any possible theodice, justify God for bringing countless millions of fallen beings into existence in a state of hopelessness implied in probation "forever foreclosed."

If they mean to say that no man since Adam's expulsion from Eden is under the dispensation af mere justice expressed in law, but that all men ever since that sad event have been under justice tempered by mercy, as revealed in the Gospel, and that they are still on probation but under changed conditions, no one would object. For all sound theologians reckon the Gospel dispensation as dating from the promise, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head."

A little reflection will show that the denial of human probation is a logical antecedent of the negation of a general judgment of the race. If the race is not on trial in probation, there is no need for such a day. The two errors are yoke fellows. They stumble and fall together.

But the doctrine of the general judgment at the end of the world, strongly implying, as it does, that all men are now on probation, must be explained away by the Brethren, for the two doctrines cannot both be true. Let us see how they succeed.


NEVER UNDER CONDEMNATION


The constant assertion of the Plymouth Brethren is, that a person, once "in Christ," by a momentary act of faith, is forever removed from the possibility of Divine, judicial disapproval. Let us examine their Scriptural proofs.

Romans viii. 1, as translated in the Revision, which omits the last clause, is frequently cited as an absolute and unconditional deliverance from present and future condemnation. I have elsewhere shown that this exemption is conditioned on the relative clause, in the fourth verse, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," i.e., while we walk thus. This conditioning clause has as much force in the fourth verse as it would have had in the first.

John iii. 18, "He that believeth on Him is not condemned." Here the word believeth is in the Greek, in the present tense, which denotes a continuous state of faith. He who believes perseveringly is not, at any point of his faithful life, under condemnation.

The same explanation applies to Rom. viii. 33-39. The "we" and "us" of this passage refer, not to all men, but to persevering believers. In Gal. iii. 18, "Christ redeemed us from he curse of the law." The persons included in "us" are fully described in the eleventh and twelfth verses, those who constantly live by a faith which bears the fruit of obedience. "The just shall live by faith."


THE SAINTS WILL NOT BE JUDGED IN THE LAST DAY



This doctrine is really included in the preceding. The word for "condemnation" is often translated "judgment" in the Revision. The great proof-text of the "Brethren" is John v. 24: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent Me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." (R. V.) Here the "judgment" evidently means the condemnatory side of the great tribunal. The life begins with the believing, and continues, and becomes eternal on the condition of faith persisted in through human probation. As Dean Alford well says: "Where the faith is, the possession of eternal life is; and where the one remits, the other is forfeited. But here the faith is set before us as an enduring faith, and its effects described in their completion." (See Eph. i. 19, 20.)

In all of God's promises of eternal life to the righteous, there is an implied condition which is sometimes expressed, as in Heb. iii. 6, 14; 2 Pet. i. 10, 11, Rev. xxii. 14 (R. V.)

The grand reason why the saints will not be judged, lies in the fact that their sins were judged on the cross, and condemned once for all; and the believer need not have any concern about his sins past, present and future, since in the sight of God they are blotted out forever. Very comforting doctrine, this! The future immoralities of the saints are annihilated by the blood of Christ; and we are the saints. We have a certificate of our heavenly standing signed and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This is my paid-up, non-forfeiting insurance policy. An occasional outburst of unholy tempers or indulgence in the lusts of the flesh may becloud my communion for an hour, but they cannot damage my standing in Christ, or vitiate my title to life everlasting. If one should fall into habitual sin, "he only sleeps." As sleep does not affect the validity of a man's title-deeds to his farms, so spiritual sleep the most profound does not damage my title to the skies. Precious doctrine! Who is so unbelieving as not to fall in love with it at first sight, especially if he be a periodical Christian, and is most of the time at the aphelion?

But on what is this doctrine built? On these two words — in Christ. Let us hear what Jesus Himself says: "If any man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered, and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." The minuteness of this description of a branch of the true Vine, once vitalized by its sap; the pictorial and impressive portrayal, just before the apostasy of Judas, of these five particulars, — the withering, the cutting off, the gathering, the casting into the fire, and the burning, — have an import of deep and awful solemnity, disclosing, as they do, that the most intimate unity with Christ, in probation, does not shut out the possibility of a perverse use of our free agency, entailing eternal perdition.


A JUDGMENT OF PERSONS AND A JUDGMENT OF WORKS



Before leaving this topic, we should notice the Plymouth distinction between a judgment of persons and a judgment of works. They teach that the persons of believers were judged at the cross, and they were acquitted once for all. Their works are to be reviewed by Christ, not to determine the question of destiny to heaven or to hell, but to decide on each one's amount of rewards. This, they say, is not properly called a judgment. But the Scriptures make no such distinction. We are to be judged and assigned to a destiny of bliss or woe, according to the deeds done in the body.

When a criminal act is condemned, the criminal actor is condemned. Human courts know nothing of a fancied judgment of works aside from the worker. The purpose for which they administer law is to reach persons by their judgments.

A radical error in Plymouth ethics seems to be a forgetfulness that a moral agent is a unit incapable of division into parts, as the old man and the new man, the person and the works, one of which segments may be innocent, and the other guilty. This error we have refuted in the discussion of the two natures.


THE GENERAL JUDGMENT DENIED


The General Judgment at the last day is very stoutly denied by the "Brethren," as may be inferred from the last paragraph. If the reader wishes to confound them and make them writhe in pain, ask them to explain St. Paul's words in Rom. xiv. 10-12: "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (God — Rev. Ver.) For it is written, as I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God." Here the "Brethren" must choose one of the three horns of the following trilemma: —

The words "we all," "each one of us," "every," must mean (1), all mankind, saints and sinners, or (2), the saints only, or (3), the wicked only. If either of the first two is chosen, the saints will be judged. But if the third is chosen, how do you account for the fact that St. Paul deliberately includes himself (" we" and "us ") among the wicked? His constant habit is to use these pronouns either referring to all men, more commonly to believers. There is no instance of his classifying himself with unbelievers.

The same reasoning applies to 2 Cor. v. 10, with the addition of the fact that Paul here analyzes the words "we all" into two classes, those who have done good, and those who have done evil. This unanswerably demonstrates that the saints are not on the judgment seat as associate judges, but before that august tribunal. In Heb. ix. 27 — " It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" — it is manifest that the judgment is co-extensive with death, and is in no way conditioned on character. Hence the saints will come into judgment after death. The strength of this argument is immediately perceived by the Greek scholar when he sees that the word for "men ' is
νθρωποι, a term so broad as to comprehend the whole race. Then to make surety doubly sure, it is preceded by what grammarians call "the generic article," which must often be left untranslated in English, but means the human race (Hadley, § 529).

We could hardly keep from laughing in the face of the venerable Christian scholar, when, at my request, Mr Darby gave an exposition of Matt. xxv. 31-46. What pitiable make-shifts to explain away this most solemn and awful passage in the Holy Scriptures! "It was not a final and universal judgment, but a review of the Gentile nations. Individuals are not here judged, but nations other than the Jews. The point to be determined is, how these nations have treated the Christianized Jews whom Christ will send forth to convert the Gentiles after His coming and setting up of His visible kingdom on the earth. 'My brethren' are Jews. Jesus never called anybody brother but a Jew." But when pressed to explain more particularly the sheep and the goats, and the final sentence, the wriggling and floundering of this great evangelist was something wonderful to behold. May I never see another man, manifestly of so great genius and learning, compelled to crawl through orifices so small. There is something very depressing to a generous mind to witness such an intellectual humiliation in the attempt to save a baseless dogma from a manifest overthrow.

St. Paul, a thorough student of the Old Testament prophecies, and illumined by plenary inspiration, never interprets the Old Testament as predicting the literal return of the Jews. He spiritualizes the seed of Abraham, the sacrifices, the circumcision, and Jerusalem, and he distinctly foretells the spiritual salvation of the Hebrews, not before "the fulness o{ the Gentiles be come in," but after that event (Rom. xi. 25). The faith of the Gentile world receiving Jesus as their Saviour will drown out the unbelief of the Jews, and they will receive Him as their Messiah. Is not this great Apostle, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a more accurate interpreter of the prophets than any uninspired man, or class of men, in modern times?

The universal Church of Christ, from the beginning to the present hour, has never formulated pre-Millenarianism in its creed statements of Christian truth. They all speak of Christ. as coming "to judge the quick and dead," but never to set up an outward and visible kingdom "with Jerusalem for the centre of worship and of blessing." Examine that summary of Christian faith, the Apostles' creed, so called, not because it was made by them, but because it is a compend of their doctrines, and you will find no trace of Chiliasm contained therein. The judicious Bishop Pearson, in his Exposition of the Creed, says, "That the end for which He shall come, and the action which He shall perform when He cometh, is to judge all those which shall then be alive, and all which ever lived."

The Nicene Creed, better known and more generally recognized than any other, except the Apostles', teaches exactly the same doctrine with respect to the purpose of Christ's Second advent, "to judge the quick and the dead." There is even a verbal agreement.

The next most important symbol of the early church, the Athanasian Creed, has these words: "Whence He shall come to judge the quick and dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account of their works."

All these three great creeds agree in four points : —

1. That Christ will come again.

2. The object of His advent will be "to judge the quick and the dead." This they testify with one voice, and as preliminary, all confess the resurrection of the dead, meaning all the dead.

3. All imply what the Athanasian distinctly states, that this resurrection and judgment will be at His coming.

4. All are silent about any pre-millennial coming, or personal reign, or any of the peculiar tenets of millenarians. Now these creeds universally received, in ancient and modern times, by Roman, Greek, and Protestant churches, must be presumed to accord with the Divine Word.

The Augsburg Confession, A. D. 1530, says: "It is taught that Christ will appear at the end of the world to sit in judgment, and that He will raise all the dead, and will give to the righteous and elect eternal life and endless joys; but wicked men and devils He will condemn, and they shall be tormented without end."

It adds this significant item: "Others are also condemned, who are now scattering Jewish notions, that prior to the resurrection the righteous will possess a temporal kingdom, and all the wicked will be exterminated."

Substantially the same clause, "to judge the quick and the dead," is found in the Metropolitan, 1530; Basle, 1534; Second Basle, 1536; Second Helvetic, 1564; Heidelberg, 1562; Belgic, 1562; Scotch, 1560; Anglican, 1551-1562; Westminster, 1643-48; Catechism of Trent, 1566; and Orthodox Confession, 1642.

This array of creeds, ancient and modern, Protestant, Papal, and Greek, teaches a doctrine wholly irreconcilable with the first principles of millenarianism, or modern Second Adventism. If it is true that all men are wiser than one man, it is true that all churches are more correct in a doctrine held in common than one small sect which sets up a doctrine inconsistent with it.

The prophecies adduced as teaching the return of the Jews, and the temporal reign of Christ at Jerusalem, present a view of Christianity so grossly materialistic as to be absolutely irreconcilable with 0hrist's spiritual kingdom. Isaiah xiv. l, 2, a commonly-quoted proof-text for the restoration of the Jews, declares that they will be slave-holders. "The house of Israel shall possess them (strangers) in the land of the Lord, for servants and hand-maids." After the spirit of philanthropy, kindled in men's hearts by the Gospel, has led them to sweep every form of involuntary servitude from the earth, it is utterly repugnant to all our ideas of moral, not to say of Christian progress, to read that chattel slavery, the possession of slaves, will be re-established under the eye of Jesus, the visibly enthroned King. What a moral absurdity!

Again, Zech. xiv. 21, teaches that the returned Jews will offer animal sacrifices in Jerusalem, and boil the flesh in pots. How can this be reconciled with the abolition of the Levitical law, as taught by Paul? What would be the significance and efficacy of bloody sacrifices after the Lamb of God has been slain as a sufficient atonement for sin?




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